Welcome back to college football DFS on DraftKings, and while this opening Saturday slate is part of what’s called Week Zero, there are no duds when it comes to contests. The main draw for this first weekend of the season is a three-game slate with a $15 buy-in and a $20,000 first prize. The three games are all early, with Illinois hosting Nebraska, UConn playing at Fresno State, and Hawaii coming to California to face UCLA.
Nebraska is a 7-point favorite in what is expected to be the only close game on the slate. Fresno State is a whopping 27.5-point favorite over the Huskies, while UCLA is a 17.5-point favorite against Hawaii.
That Fresno State line, as well as a 63-point over/under, is going to lead to heavy ownership on the Bulldogs’ skill players, but let’s see if we can survive eating the chalk on such a short slate and find some hidden gems to balance out our construction.
The player expected to garner the highest ownership at the position comes from the game with the lowest team total, but when factoring in salary it makes sense. Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez is running the show after the departure of Luke McCaffrey, and his running ability ensures a safe floor in a game expected to remain close by comparison. Martinez is just $6,800 on DraftKings, a substantial discount from Fresno State’s Jake Haener ($9,700) and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson ($8,500), who will both be highly-owned, as well. There should be enough value on the slate to absorb the high salaries here, and Haener in particular should have no trouble against the hapless Huskies.
The sneaky play is going to be Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro ($7,500), who is only slightly more expensive than Martinez and will have just a fraction of the ownership. Like Martinez, Cordeiro has a dual-threat ability that could help pay off his price tag. He’s the GPP play, for sure.
There are a pair of backs who are projecting as well ahead of the field, and with that comes extreme chalkiness. UCLA’s Brittain Brown and Ronnie Rivers of Fresno State are the class of the position, and with Brown at just $5,600, he is a steal given his likely workload. However … there is a decent chance Brown cedes the goalline work to Zach Charbonnet, which would lower Brown’s floor enough to make him fadeable. Rivers is priced up at $7,800, but he feels like good chalk in a spot where he should eat. The value smash of the slate could well turn out to be Nebraska’s Sevion Morrison, who is at the minimum price ($3,000) but who has been hinted as having a major role in the offense. It appears to be Morrison or Gabe Irvin Jr., also a fine value option at ($4,100). Check your Nebraska Twitter feeds on Saturday morning to see who has been declared the starter. If Morrison, he is a free square. On the other side of the ball, Illinois’ Chase Brown is a fine option at $5,000.
Because of the value at running back, and because we can play two quarterbacks in DraftKings’ lineup options, it will be hard to avoid the Fresno State passing game. If we’re using Haener, you almost have to stack him with Jalen Cropper ($7,300), who is by far the top wide receiver option on the slate. The targets will come early and often. For the full stack, Josh Kelly ($4,400) is your best salary-saver.
The value play on this slate is UConn’s Cameron Ross, who checks in at $4,800. Ross is going to be the focal point of an offense playing catch-up all day. He makes a terrific correlation play in lineups utilizing a Fresno State stack.
If we’re running Cordeiro at quarterback, Jared Smart ($6,000) is his top stacking partner, with either UCLA’s Kyle Phillips ($7,000) or Greg Dulcich ($6,000) the top bring-it-back options.