Here we go! Finally, football season is here, and we kick of “Week zero” with some very fun matchups, and good teams. While there’s varying degrees of “good” in college football, all four of the teams in the first CFB DFS slate of the year have impressive offensive players, and potential NFL prospects. This two game, opening day slate features two games that are headed in very different directions. Florida is expected to have a special defense once again this year, and Miami is no slouch either. Both of those teams have some reasonable talent offensively, but aren’t expected to be juggernauts by any means. Hawaii and Arizona are both offense-based teams, and were borderline embarrassing to watch play defense at times (most times) in 2018. The pricing is out, and it’s time to break it down.
Florida (0-0) vs. Miami (0-0)
Spread: FLA – 7.0
Again, as mentioned at the top, this game will be much, much lower scoring than the second game in the matchup. With an O/U difference of 23.5 points, on a bigger slate, this game would be bordering on being thrown out completely from my process. While the names on the jersey’s are much higher profile, this is an iron sharpens iron matchup, with two high-upside defenses facing off. Florida brings back a few players I’m excited for in 2019. WR Van Jefferson (DK: $5,100; FD: $8,100) enters his senior year with solid expectations and a talented skill set. The former transfer from Ole Miss should be in line to set career highs across the board, and could be an impact player in this game. The three headed monster at RB all have talent, and it’s going to be VERY interesting how they work Malik Davis (DK: $3,700; FD: $5,200) back into the rotation with him coming off a major injury. Davis played just three games in 2018. Davis is a speedster, who provided a ton of upside of their offense (when they were in dire need of it) in 2017.
While Davis’ ceiling is probably low considering it’s a three back rotation, he’s worth rostering as a value play, particularly on DK. The player I like the most in that back field as an NFL prospect, Dameon Pierce (DK: $4,800; FD: $6,400), is stuck in a weird situation that may not be optimal from a fantasy relevance standpoint, especially in this game. Miami allowed 143.1 rushing yards per game last year, and while that number is only slightly above average, it’s tough to chop up that amount of fantasy production between three players and end up happy. Because this is the first game of the year, we’re still in the mud with figuring out how these roles are going to be divided up, but my bets are being placed on the values. Lamical Perine (DK: $6,200; FD: $8,300) is entering his senior season, and is certainly the starter, but how much that’s worth, I’d argue, is inflated considering his pricing. Even with Davis out for the year in 2018, Perine barley held off Jordan Scarlett for the team lead in touches (147 to 141), and Pierce stole away 74 touches from that pie as a true Freshman. Considering QB Felipe Franks (DK: $7,200; FD: $8,800) is back, and will continue to run the ball at a fairly high rate (110 rushing attempts in 2018), it would appear once again that Florida will have a RBBC nightmare on its hands in 2019. For a two game slate all the RBs are in play, but Davis stands out, as the value that could be low owned. While Franks is facing a REAL uphill battle with the QBs he’s facing on this slate, there’s real opportunity for him to turn into a nice contrarian play if he can score a rushing touchdown, which is plausible. If looking for a long shot in Florida’s passing game, Tyrie Cleveland (DK: $4,300; FD: $6,900) has been one of the more frustrating WR prospects in the country over the last couple of years, because there’s clear talent in his skill set. He’s listed as a co-starter, and could absolutely make a big play or two.
Let’s get something straight, Miami’s defense was first in passing yards allowed in 2018 (135.6), and only allowed 19.4 points per game. They were a great defense, and only lost a few pieces that they’ll likely be able to fill in the gaps on. Florida will likely struggle to score for the majority of this game. Considering the positive season on that end, it was surprising to see that they weren’t ranked to start 2019. One of the reasons could be that offense….Actually, I KNOW it’s the offense, or at least the perception of it.
I don’t think I made any CFB DFS lineup decisions in 2018 that resulted in slotting players in facing Florida, and that appears like a pretty optimal strategy to pull off again in 2019. Because it’s a two game slate we’re going to get weird, but Florida’s defense against Miami’s offense could be really ugly from the get-go. Miami lost arguably its most explosive player, Travis Homer, to the NFL after 2018, and without him, it’s going to be fascinating to see how they transition.
Deejay Dallas (DK: $5,800; FD: $7,900) was second on the team in touches last year (119) and is currently listed as the starting RB. His prices are reasonable, but it’s going to be hard to break too many big plays… or find the end zone. Dallas and the Miami running game is a fade based on the information we know. Dallas doesn’t have as much speed or quickness as Homer, but does have solid power.
I’ll take Jeff Thomas (DK: $5,300; FD: $7,500) and his ability to break a big play against any defense, including this one. Thomas is an elite college deep threat, and should be a matchup problem for just about every defense in the nation, even if the QBs throwing him the ball aren’t effective. Miami QB Jarren Williams (DK: $6,100; FD: $7,500) has been named the starter for opening Week, but even at reduced pricing, it’s really hard to find a way to make a lineup with him in it that makes sense. I’ll play the variance of Williams through Thomas.
Favorite Plays: Van Jefferson
Value Plays: Malik Davis, Tyrie Cleveland
My Bet: UNDER 46.5
Hawaii (0-0) vs. Arizona (0-0)
Spread: ARIZ -11.0
And now for something completely different….
This game can go two ways. An absolute shootout that goes way over the 73.5 total, or Arizona puts the pedal to the metal in year two of Kevin Sumlin, and stunt Hawaii’s offense early and often. I’d lean with the former, but don’t be surprised if Arizona’s defense is better in 2019.
2018 was a season to forget for the Wildcats. Not only did I move to Tucson, but also Arizona had one of their worst years in the last decade for the Football and Basketball teams. I can’t help but feel I was at least partially responsible. REGARDLESS, Khalil Tate (DK: $9,000; FD: $10,100) is back, and hopefully won’t suffer a severe ankle injury in the first game of the season like he did in 2018. Khalil Tate fully broke out in 2017, rushing all over the field, and looking like one of the most dynamic players in college football. In 2018, Tate was a pocket passer for most of the season, and played essentially the inverse of what he was the year previous, and wasn’t as effective. Many connected that to the coaching change, but considering Sumlin was the coach of Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, this logic feels flawed. I can’t PROVE it, but if Tate runs wild this year and uses his dynamic ability to the fullest, it wouldn’t be shocking. Against this Hawaii defense, Tate should have one of the easier rushing matchups of the year, and has by far the highest upside of any QB on the slate.
J.J. Taylor (DK: $7,700; FD: $9,800) is entering his senior season, and is coming off a 1,567 yards from scrimmage season. Taylor should absolutely dominate in this matchup, and multiple long touchdown runs is certainly in play. On DK, I don’t know how you fade Taylor at that price, and on a two game slate, this is by far the best skill position player from a ceiling and floor standpoint. Cedric Peterson (DK: $5,900; FD: $8,400), Brian Casteel (DK: $5,500; FD: $6,100)and Drew Dixon (DK: $3,200; FD: $4,000) are listed as Arizona’s starting WRs, which is new from the Shun Brown/Shawn Poindexter combination they’ve been using over the previous couple of seasons. There isn’t much to go on there, but they’d be the good bets for receiving production.
Cole McDonald (DK: $8,800; FD: $10,700) is coming off a fantastic 2018 season where he threw for 3,875 passing yards and 36 touchdowns. McDonald also added 359 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. McDonald is undeniably a great fantasy option… in conference. Playing against Power-5 conference teams has been a struggle for Hawaii for that last two decades, and in their first game in three years without WR John Ursua, I’m not optimistic. Jojo Ward (DK: $6,000; FD: $9,300) and Cedric Byrd (DK: $6,900; FD: $8,700) are certainly capable if picking up the slack, but Ursua was a huge part of what they do offensively, and there’s likely to be an adjustment period. Ward on DK is what I’d be most interested in, and beyond that, stacking each individually in McDonald lineups is a solid way to build.
Nobody on Hawaii had above 500 rushing yards last year, and the two that had the bulk of the rushing yards in 2018, Freddie Holly (DK: $4,100; FD: $5,400) and Dayton Furuta (DK: $4,300; FD: $6,700) had a combined 18 receptions on the year. Unless there’s an unforeseen major bump in passing work for RBs this year, these two aren’t going to be great fantasy options this year either. I’ll play Furuta on FD, and Holly is a solid price on DK.
Favorite Plays: Khalil Tate, J.J. Taylor,
Value Plays: Drew Dixon, Jojo Ward (DK), Freddie Holly (FD), Brian Casteel (FD)
My Bet: ARIZ -11