Hayden Winks

Daily Fantasy Decisions

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CFB DFS: Alabama vs. Clemson

Friday, January 4, 2019

It's the last college football DFS slate of the year, and I appreciate all of you for following along this season. It's been a lot of fun grinding these CFB streets with all of you, and I hope to see you guys next August. If you aren't already following me on Twitter, I suggest you do (@Haydenwinks). I'll be working on various projects (CFB Fantasy Football and DFS, NFL Draft, and NFL Fantasy Football) this offseason leading into the next football season. 


But before we get to the offseason, we have a CFB DFS slate to cash. This column is set up differently because it's a showdown slate and not the DraftKings Classic format. (Read the paragraph below if you don't know what Showdown is.) This time around, I'll go position-by-position and rank the players with salary in mind. I'll also list players worthy of the Captain Spot, as well as my fringe FLEX options and my fades. Before you get to the rankings, I have listed some of my favorite advanced metrics regarding the matchup.


In Showdown, you select six players -- there is still a salary cap -- from a single game, but there is one Captain Spot. The player selected for the Captain Spot gets 1.5x the DraftKings points, but the player is 1.5x the price. Generally, we want to select a player with some upside for the Captain Spot.



Alabama 32.5 points (5.5-point favorite)



Offense S&P: 2nd vs. Clemson’s No. 1 S&P defense (Clemson advantage)

Passing S&P: 1st vs. Clemson’s No. 4 Passing S&P defense (Alabama advantage)

Rushing S&P: 4th vs. Clemson’s No. 1 Rushing S&P defense (Clemson advantage)

Success Rate: 1st vs. Clemson’s No. 1 Success Rate defense (tie)

Big-Play Rate: 2nd vs. Clemson’s No. 24 Big-Play Rate defense (Alabama advantage)

Pass Explosiveness: 5th vs. Clemson’s No. 12 Pass Explosiveness defense (Alabama advantage)

Run Explosiveness: 82nd vs. Clemson’s No. 1 Run Explosiveness defense (Clemson advantage)


Clemson's defense has obviously been phenomenal, but if there's a weakness, it's giving up big plays against the pass. Of the metrics listed above, the only two that are out of the top-five are Big-Play Rate (No. 24) and Pass Explosiveness (No. 12). If Alabama is going to score 32.5 points like Vegas is implying, then Alabama is going to be picking up chunk plays through the air, especially when Alabama's rushing attack is 82nd in Run Explosiveness. For these reasons, I'm going to have sub-20 percent exposure on both Alabama running backs (Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris) and instead be focused on the four wide receivers and TE Irv Smith.



Clemson 27.0 points (5.5-point underdog)


Offense S&P: 5th vs. Alabama’s No. 12 S&P defense (Clemson advantage)

Passing S&P: 17th vs. Alabama’s No. 5 Passing S&P defense (Alabama advantage)

Rushing S&P: 6th vs. Alabama’s No. 3 Rushing S&P defense (Alabama advantage)

Success Rate: 6th vs. Alabama’s No. 6 Success Rate defense (tie)

Big-Play Rate: 4th vs. Alabama’s No. 50 Big-Play Rate defense (Clemson advantage)

Pass Explosiveness: 50th vs. Alabama’s No. 56 Pass Explosiveness defense (Clemson advantage)

Run Explosiveness: 18th vs. Alabama’s No. 29 Run Explosiveness defense (Clemson advantage)


I could have copy and pasted the paragraph from above and flipped the names to save time... but I would have needed to delete the part about having sub-20 percent exposure to the running backs. Clemson's running back Travis Etienne is still a decent play against this Alabama defense because Etienne has big-play abilities and Alabama's defense isn't exactly perfect at limiting big runs (No. 29). I'm expecting Clemson to move the ball on chunk plays, not by grinding out 10-play drives for points, and all of the Clemson skill-position players who see volume are in play due to long touchdown equity.





1. Trevor Lawrence ($9,600) has at least 36 pass attempts in four of the last five games, as Clemson has began to use Lawrence as a weapon instead of a game manager. While he may not reach 36 attempts against Alabama (I don't anticipate a bunch of long drives this time around), we should project 30-34 pass attempts for Lawrence. If we put a discount on his season-long yards per attempt -- let's say from 8.0 to 7.5 -- and put a discount on his touchdown rate -- let's say from 7.3% to 6.5% -- then we can project 225-255 passing yards and 1.95-2.21 passing touchdowns. With just his arm, that equates to 20.7-23.5 fantasy points. Of course, there's upside for more, but that's a reasonable projection. ... But Lawrence has equity as a runner as well. As my pal Thor Nystrom writes in his Mega Preview, "Lawrence is a pocket-passer first, but his mobility is highly underrated. Clemson rarely asked him to run this season, but I would assume we’ll see more of that against Alabama, with a few designed runs and also more of a green-light for the youngster to take off if his primary reads don’t get open quickly against man coverage." I completely agree, so I'm projecting more rushing yards and giving him more rushing touchdown equity than his per game averages. ... In total, Lawrence is projected to fit in the 20-32 DraftKings points range, and at $9,600, he's a buy for me at the FLEX (and at the CPT spot to a lesser degree). My goal is to be overweight on Lawrence in tournaments, while basically being a cash game lock.

2. Tua Tagovailoa ($12,000) has the most upside on the slate, but there's risk with Tua for two primary reasons. The obvious one is his ankle. Tua will definitely be out there, but there's reinjury risk and it's fair to expect a little less from him while playing through a serious high-ankle sprain. It's not enough to scare me completely off, but there's a ton of variance with his projection to the point that it's not even worth trying to project a fantasy output like we just did with Lawrence. The second issue with Tua is the price. At $12,000, he's going to need at least 28 DK points to be worth it, something he's done in 7-of-14 games. And this is his toughest matchup yet. Tua and his loaded weaponary still have the ability to absolutely carve up the Clemson secondary that has been vulnerable at times, but I'm not sure that's the most likely outcome. ... Ultimately, Tua is still a great play for showdown as you build passing game lineups, but I prefer Lawrence to Tua on a per dollar basis. If building multiple lineups like myself, then you should get exposure to both Tua and Lawrence, including lineups with both quarterbacks rostered. ... Update: After building lineups, it became clear to me that there is enough value on the board to fit Tua into most lineups. I will have more exposure to him than I originally believed.


Captain Options: Trevor Lawrence ($14,400) and Tua Tagovailoa ($18,000)

Fringe Options: Jalen Hurts ($8,200) only if building 25+ lineups

Fades: Jalen Hurts otherwise




Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


The link to the targets and the last three weeks of data:


Alabama pass catchers: Ruggs, Irv Smith, Waddle, and Jeudy all have tons of 3x, 4x, and 5x equity at their price tags, but from a roster construction standpoint, I like Jeudy the least. At $8,600, Jeudy needs at least 20.0 DK points to be worth it, and it's been six games since he's reached that total. It's interesting timing since that aligns with Alabama's bye week, and that's when Ruggs and Waddle have increased their target share. Jeudy has 13-target upside, but he's been in the 5-8 target range for four straight games. It would take insane efficiency to reach 20+ DK points on 5-8 targets, so that's why Jeudy is lower on the list compared to Ruggs, Irv Smith, and Waddle. ... On the flip side, I'm really high on Ruggs, Irv Smith, and Waddle. As pictured above, they are much higher on a projection-per-dollar basis than Jeudy. Irv Smith actually has the highest (I'm pretending that Trevion Thompson doesn't exist) of all the pass catchers, and playing Irv Smith opens a lot of salary to fit in Lawrence, Higgins, Ross, Ruggs, etc. ... I  haven't built all my lineups yet, but Ruggs may end up being my most owned player on the slate. Thor calls Ruggs "Tua’s baby’s blanket, a reliable target almost used as a possession receiver in this offense." If Tua's ankle is buggin', then Ruggs may end up being called upon to be a quick outlet. That would be great. But that's not necessary for Ruggs to smash this price. Ruggs has been insanely effiecient all across the field. In fact, Pro Football Focus notes that Ruggs has the highest passer rating when targeted of any qualified receiver this season. ... Waddle is the third receiver behind Jeudy and Ruggs, but Waddle has the highest yards per target on the team. If Waddle rebounds from three targets to his usual 5-8 targets, then Waddle will smash his salary. I'm not sure why Waddle was only targeted three times (and why DeVonta Smith was targeted seven times) last week against Oklahoma, but I want to bet on that being an outlier performance. That's why Waddle is in Tier 1 and DeVonta Smith is in the tier below. ... Target Projection: Jeudy 8, Ruggs 7, Waddle 6, DeVonta Smith 5, and Irv Smith 4.


Tier 1

1. Henry Ruggs ($5,800)

2. Irv Smith ($3,600) 

3. Jaylen Waddle ($4,600)


Tier 2

4. Jerry Jeudy ($8,600) 

5. DeVonta Smith ($5,200)



Clemson pass catchers: Higgins and Ross are the two Clemson receivers who are clearly the freaks of the receiver group. Both 6-foot-4 with plenty of ability, Higgins and Ross have 4x and 5x upside even against a theoretically tough Alabama defense. As shown above, this Alabama defense doesn't have the same secondary as we are used. S Deionte Thompson is a first-round safety, but that's it from the secondary. There's not a shutdown corner. In fact, Thor believes that Clemson will attack CB Patrick Surtain like Oklahoma did last week. If that's the case (I agree with Thor), then both Higgins and Ross should be heavily involved on the outside. Of the two, Higgins has been more consistently targeted, but Ross has the much higher yards per target (shown above). Instead of choosing one over the other, I think it makes sense to roster both of them heavily. ... Rodgers is my wild card in this receiver group, as he has a high target share but a poor YPT (8.4). It makes sense for Clemson to take some of Rodgers' volume and give it to the emerging Justyn Ross, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. If Rodgers' volume remains in the 5-9 target range, then he's a decent option, but he hasn't shown the ability and upside of Higgins or Ross. As of now, I'm just sprinkling Rodgers in Lawrence-lineups, but he's a fade candidate. ... As Thor points out, Renfrow may have to do battle with first-rounder Deionte Thompson in the slot. For me, that's too much to handle, especially since Renfrow has a low YPT and little red zone equity. Renfrow is clearly in Tier 2 or Tier 3 and a full fade is in play. ... Thompson, Overton, Chase, and Richard are all 1-2 target near min-priced (arguably bad) punt plays that need a TD or a 40+ yard reception to have any value. ... Target Projection: Higgins 9, Ross 7, Rodgers 6, Renfrow 5, Thompson 2, Overton 1, Chase 1.


Tier 1

1. Tee Higgins ($6,800)

2. Justyn Ross ($7,200)

Tier 2

3. Amari Rodgers ($3,200)


Tier 3

4. Hunter Renfrow ($2,800)

5. Trevion Thompson ($1,000)

6. Diondre Overton ($1,400)

7. T.J. Chase ($1,000)



Captain Options: Henry Ruggs ($8,700), Jaylen Waddle ($6,900), Tee Higgins ($10,200), and Justyn Ross ($10,800)

Fringe Options: Hunter Renfrow ($2,800) and Trevion Thompson ($1,000)

Fades: Diondre Overton and T.J. Chase




Running Backs

Read the Alabama and Clemson paragraphs above for my thoughts on the RBs.

1. Travis Etienne ($10,400)

2. Damien Harris ($6,400)

3. Joshua Jacobs ($8,000)


Captain Options: Travis Etienne ($15,600), Damien Harris ($9,600), and Joshua Jacobs ($12,000)

Fringe Options: None

Fades: Najee Harris, Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice, Lyn-J Dixon, and Brian Robinson





1. Joseph Bulovas ($4,000) has scored 13, 5, 7, and 5 DraftKings points in the games Alabama has scored between 24-40 points. For Bulovas to be worth a valuable FLEX spot, then he needs at least 10 points. I'm projecting that happening about 20% of the time, and that's reasonable exposure if you plan on building multiple lineups.

2. Greg Huegel ($3,800) has scored 4, 10, 9, 5, and 7 DraftKings points in the games Clemson has scored between 20-35 points. For Huegel to be worth a valuable FLEX spot, then he needs at least 10 points. I'm projecting that happening about 15% of the time, and that's reasonable exposure if you plan on building multiple lineups.


Captain Options: None

Fringe Options: None

Fades: None

Winks' Exposures

It's still hours and hours away from kickoff, but I have built 25 lineups so far and here are my exposures thus far. I obviously can alter any one of these players, so only use this for entertainment purposes!


LAWRENCE 24% 64% 88%
TUA 20% 60% 80%
HIGGINS 12% 64% 76%
RUGGS 8% 60% 68%
JUSTYN 4% 56% 60%
WADDLE 8% 40% 48%
ETIENNE 8% 28% 36%
JEUDY 4% 32% 36%
DEVONTA 8% 20% 28%
IRV 0% 24% 24%
BULOVAS 0% 16% 16%
HUEGEL 0% 12% 12%
ARMARI 0% 12% 12%
JACOBS 4% 4% 8%
HURTS 0% 4% 4%
THOMPSON 0% 4% 4%
HARRIS 0% 0% 0%
RENFROW 0% 0% 0%
NAJEE 0% 0% 0%
FEASTER 0% 0% 0%
CHOICE 0% 0% 0%
LYN-J 0% 0% 0%
OVERTON 0% 0% 0%
HENTEGES 0% 0% 0%
CHASE 0% 0% 0%


At first glance, I have more Tua and DeVonta than I anticipated and have less Irv and Etienne than I anticipated. That's likely due to roster construction, but I might change that as we get closer to lock. The last thing that concerns me is being caught in the middle with Tua at Captain. Ideally, I should take more of a stance and bring that CPT exposure to at least the 30s or bring it down to around 10%. I'm not sure what I want to do with that yet.


I'll be completely dead if any of the Alabama running backs 3x their salaries. I'm fine with being underweight on them, but it's what I'm most concerned with. I also can't have Jeudy post 20+ DK points, as I anticipate him being one of the most owned players on the slate. If I don't adjust my exposures, then Tua and Jeudy going nuts would be really bad for me as well. Eat Arby's!

Email :Hayden Winks

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