CFB DFS Picks: DraftKings Main Slate Week 4 Plays and Lineup Strategy
It’s Week 4 of the college football season. There was a slight chill in the air this morning here in Atlanta and it feels like football season is in full bloom. But there’s also an almost haunting air to everything. Something feels off. It’s not the spooky season setting in. No, no. There’s something far more unsettling and unfamiliar right in front of us.
That’s right; Kansas and Duke are undefeated and playing a meaningful game of football this weekend.
Kansas has gotten off to a wild start with impressive wins at West Virginia and Houston. SP+, which is a lot smarter than I am, isn’t quite ready to buy into the Rock Chalk lifestyle just yet – KU ranks just 81st overall by that metric – but I am. The trio of Jalon Daniels, Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw has been a revelation in Lawrence. Kansas ranks in points per game. Behind, of course, Michigan and James Madison.
On the other side, Duke checks in at 90th in SP+ and is a seven-point road underdog in this spot. the SMU-TCU game will undoubtedly draw a lot of DFS attention this week but this KU-Duke matchup has the second-highest total on the board and both teams are expected to score 29-or-more points.
Folks, we’ve got options on this slate. Let’s take a look at the matchups and the plays I’m targeting by position.
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College Football DFS Plays: Quarterback
Jalon Daniels ($7,900) Kansas vs. Duke
Daniels ranks seventh among FBS quarterbacks in fantasy points per game at 32.7 and he’s not just stacking numbers against FCS or low-level G5 teams. He’s doing it all, running for 237 yards at nearly a 9.0 YPC clip to go with a 67 percent completion rate, 8.1 YPA and a 7:1 TD:INT. Maybe those rates aren’t sustainable, but I don’t think Duke is the team to derail this train. His rushing production and ability to throw touchdowns will be key here because we can’t expect gaudy passing volume, so there’s some risk, but I think this game delivers on the hype (I can’t believe that’s a real sentence I’m writing about a Kansas-Duke football game).
Duke’s Riley Leonard is an interesting run-back option on the other side of this game; He’s completing over 70 percent of his passes and adding some rushing production (147 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts). I’m going to try to have multiple lineups with heavy exposure to this game and it starts with Daniels and, to a lesser extent, Leonard.
J.J. McCarthy ($7,700) Michigan vs. Maryland
McCarthy has looked great since taking over as Michigan’s starter, completing 26 of 30 passes for 443 yards (14.8 YPA) and three touchdowns. Sure, those starts have come against Hawaii and UConn, but that level of efficiency is impressive and it’s not like McCarthy is an unknown; he looked solid as a true freshman last season. Michigan is in a smash spot Saturday and while a lot of it may come on the ground, McCarthy should be set up for 25+ pass attempts with high efficiency and he can run a bit, too, with 34 career rushes for 197 yards and three scores.
Tanner Mordecai ($7,800) SMU and Max Duggan ($7,100) TCU
There’s no way around it. This game has everything we look for in a DFS slate. High total? Check. It’s 70.5, the highest by 5.5 points. Shaky defenses? Check. Neither rank in the top 60 in defensive SP+. SMU is the more up-tempo, pass-happy outfit at 76 plays per game and a 54.4 percent pass rate while TCU has been more methodical, though its sample is tougher to parse with just two games under its belt (Colorado and Tarleton State). TCU is coached by SMU’s coach from last year when the Mustangs averaged 74.2 plays per game with a 53 percent pass rate.
Both Duggan and Mordecai are strong plays this week; it’s not overly cost-prohibitive to put both in your lineup but once you add Rashee Rice, you start needing to get creative with the rest of your lineup. I’m more inclined to stack SMU pass-catchers because I trust SMU’s volume and Mordecai’s passing ability more than TCU’s and Duggan’s, though Duggan and his rushing upside make him a fine one-off.
In all, this is an important game to get exposure to, especially in cash games. Some GPP exposure will also be important in the event that this game really does pop off. But I’d stop short of having every lineup featuring this game in the interest of getting leverage on the field if it ends up being a dud. This is a big enough slate to where you can find other games to stack.
Cameron Ward ($5,000) Washington State vs. Oregon
This feels trappy. Just $5,000 for the quarterback at Washington State? Oregon is a strong team, last week showed that. But $5K? You can roster Ward for less than you can DJ Uiagalelei? Or Quinn Ewers with one arm? Hmm.
Ward’s numbers aren’t far off from where they were when he was at Incarnate Word in terms of completion rate (65.4 at Wazzu, 63% at IW, 7.0 YPA at Wazzu, 7.7 at IW). Of course, the touchdown rate isn’t as gaudy – he threw 47 in 13 games last season and has eight through three games this season, with seven coming against Idaho and Colorado State.
Still, it’s not unreasonable to expect that Ward can return value at $5,000. Asking for a performance like the one against Colorado State may be a bridge too far, but he should fare better at home against the Ducks than he did on the road at Wisconsin. 20 DK points and you’ll have done well for yourself by rostering Ward.
College Football DFS Plays: Running Back
Running back is a spot to pay up for this week. Mohamed Ibrahim ($9,600) was unstoppable last week and even if Michigan State has a pulse on defense in a way that Colorado did not, the Gopher workhorse is a lock to produce. Volume, explosiveness, touchdown upside; you name it, Ibrahim has it. Bijan Robinson ($8,300) is a strong option as well; he’s getting nearly 20 touches per game and has six total touchdowns through three games. Texas Tech isn’t slowing him down, I don’t care what its run defense metrics say after three weeks. Blake Corum ($7,900) is really interesting, too; he’s of course coming off a five-touchdown performance against UConn. With Michigan remaining mum on Donovan Edwards’ status, it would not be surprising to see the Wolverines unleash Corum in a game that they have often shown no mercy in under Jim Harbaugh. Kendre Miller of TCU is the wildcard; $7,700 is pricey for a guy with just 21 carries in two games but SMU might have trouble slowing TCU’s rushing attack.
Blake Corum ($7,900) Michigan vs. Maryland
This might be my favorite running back play of the week. Michigan is going to score north of 40 points Saturday and it’s not unreasonable to have a multi-touchdown baseline expectation for Corum. He averages nearly 7.0 yards per carry and has scored in every game thus far. If Maryland keeps this even mildly competitive through the first half, Corum should easily skate past his previous season-high for carries (13).
Audric Estime ($5,100) Notre Dame at North Carolina
UNC has a lot of problems on defense that won’t be solved by a bye week. This will be Drew Pyne’s first road start, so this sets up as a run-heavy game plan for the Irish. Estime hasn’t been explosive with his opportunities just yet (3.5 YPC) but he has seen double-digit carries in back-to-back weeks, including a career-high 18 in a close game vs. Cal last week. He’s rocked up at 5-foot-11, 227 pounds and should be able to start tearing off chunk runs as the UNC defense gets gassed. Chris Tyree has the more established track record in the Irish backfield but Estime might be starting to take over as the lead back, or at least carving out a featured role in a committee. Estime also caught all three of his targets for 43 yards last week.
Devin Neal ($7,200) Kansas vs. Duke
If I’ve spent this much time on Kansas, I’ve got to mention Neal as well. Neal has been one of the most explosive running backs in the country thus far, averaging 7.29 YPC and running for four touchdowns on 28 carries. He has also caught both his targets for 27 yards and a score. The volume has been frustrating relative to his per-touch efficiency, so that makes him somewhat risky at this price tag as there’s a chance we see him get an underwhelming workload. However, those volume figures are trending in the right direction as he’s gotten 10 and 14 carries in the last two games. 14 carries against the Duke defense should deliver far more than the 54 yards they did against Houston last week. Daniel Hishaw ($5,500) is a nice, cheap pivot who is also plenty involved in this offense with double-digit carries in back-to-back games.
Others to Consider: Will Shipley ($6,700) Clemson at Wake Forest; Nicholas Singleton ($6,400) Penn State vs. Central Michigan.
College Football DFS Plays: Wide Receiver
Rashee Rice ($8,600) SMU vs. TCU
The top receiver on this slate doesn’t need much of an introduction. Rice averages 11.2 YPT on 14.7 targets per game and has three touchdowns through three games. A 37 percent share of a team that throws it 41 times a game is uh, pretty hard to ignore. The only question with Rice on this slate is what you can do with the rest of your build while paying up for him.
If you’re looking for cheaper SMU options, Jake Bailey ($6,200) isn’t exactly a bargain but he was impressive against Maryland last week. Moochie Dixon ($3,000) is somehow still min-priced; he has at least four targets in every game. The efficiency isn’t great with eight grabs and a 4.8 YPT but he’s clearly involved in this passing game and has two touchdowns. That’s more than you can say for the vast majority of min-priced options.
Cam Camper ($5,600) Indiana at Cincinnati
A repeat recommendation from last week, Camper remains a viable value play Saturday thanks to his elevated target share. Camper has drawn double-digit targets in all three games thus far and has had 15-or-more in two of those. The explosiveness hasn’t been there with just 6.8 YPT but in PPR formats, his potential for giving you 10+ catches and the 100-yard bonus makes him appealing. Indiana is a pretty significant road underdog at +16.5 so a catch-up script should be in play. The Hoosiers have a 58.4 percent pass rate through three games as it is and are going with serious tempo at 77.7 plays per game. D.J. Matthews ($5,700) is an interesting GPP play as Camper should draw a higher roster percentage but Matthews is the more explosive player (8.4 YPT on 24 targets). AJ Barner is a GPP dart throw if you need salary savings at $3,400; he drew seven targets last week against Western Kentucky.
Donovan Ollie ($3,500) Washington State vs. Oregon
Washington State spreads it around a decent bit with four players over 10 targets on the season, but Ollie paces that group with 30 through three games and yet he’s still under $4K this week. Oregon’s pass defense has given up over 300 yards in both of its games against FBS opponents and now faces a Wazzu offense that throws it nearly 60 percent of the time. A Washington State passing stack is actually pretty affordable this week with none of its targets priced over $5K, including De’zhaun Stribling ($4,600). There’s one other Wazzu receiver catching my eye that I’ll discuss in the GPP section as well.
Parker Washington ($6,300) Penn State vs. Central Michigan
$6,300 is a lot to sink into a player with 10 catches and no touchdowns through three games. The breakout is coming for Washington, though, and this is a great spot for it to happen. Washington has been solid on a per-target basis (11.4 YPT, 77% catch rate) and quietly had an 800-yard season in 2021 behind Jahan Dotson. Penn State has the highest implied total on the slate (45.5) and it’s fair to wonder if Washington will be needed for all four quarters considering the spread (-28). Still, if Penn State comes close to hitting those figures, the passing game will play a big part in it. Central Michigan has been stout against the run – even against Oklahoma State – and dreadful against the pass. Taking the zoomed-out view of this game, $7,700 for Mitchell Tinsley is too rich for my blood. Washington is more talented in my opinion and a big game from him is inevitable.
Others to Consider:
- Ronnie Bell ($7,300) and Roman Wilson ($3,900) of Michigan, especially if you’re rostering J.J. McCarthy.
- Duke’s Jalon Calhoun ($6,100) and Eli Pancol ($3,500) are the passing game targets from that matchup.
College Football DFS GPP Plays
Robby Ashford ($5,000) Auburn vs. Missouri
I could go on about how Auburn should have gone with Ashford to start the season because we already know what T.J. Finley is at this point, but Auburn is getting piled on enough as it is.
Anyway, Ashford gets to make his first start in front of a home crowd against a bad Missouri team. He’s still developing as a passer but he’s a willing runner with athleticism to convert those carries into production. It’s not often you can get a viable starting quarterback at $5K on a favored team, so if you’re feeling like going contrarian with your build, Ashford differentiates you and saves you some coin.
Emani Bailey ($3,900) TCU at SMU
As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to parse out what TCU has done to this point in two blowout games. Colorado has taken the mantle as the worst Power 5 team and Tarleton State is an FCS program that got paid to take a whooping from TCU. That’s all we’ve got so far.
TCU coach Sonny Dykes is known for tempo and high passing volume but that doesn’t suit Max Duggan’s game completely, at least compared to the injured Chandler Morris. With that, I’m expecting TCU to be balanced in this spot, partially in an effort to keep SMU’s offense on the sidelines. That can be accomplished with leaning on the run game a bit. Kendre Miller is the lead back but at $7,700 and no guarantee to get 15 touches, I’ll hunt for value elsewhere in this backfield. That’s where Bailey comes in; Bailey was strong at Louisiana with 642 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He has just seven carries thus far but they’ve gone for 89 yards and a touchdown. There’s risk here, but the reward could be pretty sweet if Bailey gets even eight carries.
Nick Mardner ($3,800) Cincinnati vs. Indiana
The Hoosiers have a bad pass defense and that’s while even forgiving them for allowing 329 passing yards to Western Kentucky last week. It’s Western Kentucky. They do that.
Mardner, a 6-foot-6 Hawaii transfer, trails behind his teammates in targets with just seven on the year. He’s made the most of those looks, though, securing five of them for 94 yards and two touchdowns. He saw four targets last week and should continue to see a role here. At $3,800 with upside in what should be a high-scoring day for the Bearcats, Mardner presents a cheap path to exposure to the Cincy offense.
Robert Ferrel ($3,000) Washington State vs. Oregon
Ferrel came over with Cam Ward from Incarnate Word and made his first impact with Wazzu last week by catching all three of his targets for 64 yards. Was that a function of him playing in a blowout game against Colorado State, or was that the start of him having a role in this offense? At $3K, I’ll be willing to mess around and find out. Ferrel caught 74 passes for 815 yards and nine scores at Incarnate Word alongside Ward last season.