FanDuel Saturday early lineup
Quarterback- Marquise Williams, North Carolina vs Miami (FL) ($8,900)
Analysis: Williams is coming off his best performance of the season, a masterful demolition of Duke in which he accounted for five touchdowns (four through the air, one on the ground). In his last four games, he's thrown for nine touchdowns against just three interceptions. That's not to say there's no risk with Williams. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior has failed to throw for any touchdowns, at all, in three of nine games. Still, UNC is rolling right now and if it weren't for a silly loss to South Carolina in their season-opener, they would rightly be in the Playoff discussion. The Tar Heels operate the best offense Miami has faced this season other than Clemson. Clemson destroyed the Hurricanes 58-0. Williams and company probably won't soar to such operatic heights, but the quarterback should justify his high price tag unless UNC reverts to their Dr. Jekyll form from earlier in the season.
Alternate- Connor Cook, Michigan State vs Maryland ($8,400). Despite his talent, Cook was an uninspiring option in daily leagues for much of the season. He's turned up the heat as the weather's chilled, though, with four touchdown passes against both Indiana and Nebraska in his last two contests. Sparty lost a heart-breaker to Nebraska on Saturday, but they're a well-coached outfit and Cook's a veteran. They should rebound against a Maryland team that's looked lost at times during the 2015 campaign. Just be aware that prior to his recent scoring explosion, Cook had five games in he threw for two or fewer touchdowns. Low floor/high ceiling play, but a safe play more than anything.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Dak Prescott, Mississippi State vs Alabama ($9,800). There's no arguing with Prescott's numbers this season. He's thrown just one interception, compared to 18 touchdowns. 10 of those touchdown passes have come in his last three games. He's also rushed for seven scores over the course of nine contests. The trepidation here, of course, comes courtesy of the defense Dak Attack's going to be dueling. Outside of Alabama's September 19 loss to Ole Miss in which they surrendered 43 points, the Crimson Tide has not allowed more than 23 points in any other contest. Prescott's never beaten Alabama, either, and was picked off three times in last season's match-up. With the superlative numbers he's posted to this point, he costs more than every quarterback on the early board other than Deshaun Watson (same $9,800) and Trevone Boykin ($10,400). This just isn't a good spot for him. There's too much risk given the way Nick Saban's crew is playing.
Running Back- Derrick Henry, Alabama @ Mississippi State ($8,900)
Analysis: Henry received more than 20 carries just once in Alabama's first four games, apparently the amount of time that it took OC Lane Kiffen to understand that giving the ball to Henry more often magically results in points. Since that first quartet of games, Henry's carried the ball 151 times across five contests. That includes the 38 that he took in last week's win over LSU. The results have been stellar. In those five games alone, he's rushed for 832 yards while scoring nine touchdowns. He's gone over 200 in two of his last three games with multiple touchdowns in each of his last three. Mississippi State's allowing a just-fine 167.67 rushing yards on average, but Henry's posted numbers against every legitimate contender in the SEC that Alabama's faced this season. He's close to match-up proof.
Running Back- Aaron Green, TCU vs Kansas ($6,200)
Analysis: Green's been held under 100 yards rushing in each of TCU's last three games, though he did chip in 97 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's stinger of a loss to Oklahoma State. He received 24 carries in that one, the first time HC Gary Patterson's unleashed him for 20-plus since September 19. That this came in a game where the team trailed from the word “Go” is an encouraging sign for those looking for reasons to roll with Green. And if there's any balm for your first loss of the season, it would be Kansas, who's still looking for their first win. The Jayhawks are dead last in the country in terms of scoring defense, surrendering a horrifying 48.44 points per game on average. Also horrifying, the 253.11 yards rushing they tend to cough up. Green's always at risk to lose scoring chances to Trevone Boykin and the passing game, but with star wideout Josh Doctson ($8,600) nursing a wrist injury, a run-heavy game plan makes sense for Saturday's showdown.
Alternate- Chris Swain, Navy vs SMU ($6,100). Swain rushed for 100-plus in Navy's first two games and 100-plus in their last two. His work in the four contests in-between resulted in a high-yardage day of 59 against Notre Dame. The inconsistency's irritating, to be sure, but his strong play of late makes him a more intriguing option than would have been the case several weeks ago. Most recently, he scored three touchdowns in Saturday's upset of Memphis. Another nice effort could be in store when the Midshipmen take on the Mustangs on Saturday. This season, SMU has allowed 260 yards rushing on average, which places them seventh from the bottom in the country. When you're in the same statistical defensive bracket as Idaho, you have issues. There are flashier names on the board, but Swain's combination of price, match-up and recent production rank among the best of any running back in the early slate.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Demario Richard, Arizona State vs Washington ($7,100). Richard has rushed for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns over his last two games, but that production came against the somewhat thin defense of Oregon and Washington State. This time around, he'll play host to a Washington squad that's limiting opposing running games to under 145 yards on average. Given the sometimes sketchy play of the Sun Devils as a team and the fact that Richard's only found the end zone six times in eight games on the ground, there are other more friendly options on the board. Both Swain and Green offer cheaper prices and more favorable match-ups.
Wide Receiver- James Washington, Oklahoma State @ Iowa State ($7,600)
Analysis: Coil like a cobra and strike here before the universe figures out that Washington should be priced above $8,000. He's gone over 100 yards receiving in four of his last five games. Zooming even further in, Washington logged lines of 4-200-2 and 5-184-3 in wins over Texas Tech and TCU these last two weekends. All seven of his touchdown catches this season have come over the course of the Cowboys' last five games. Nice trends all the way around. Iowa State's unlikely to stop the good vibrations. In losses to Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, the Cyclones surrendered at least 45 points to all involved. While Oklahoma State's offense is slightly more hit-and-miss than those outfits, they should find similar success on Saturday.
Wide Receiver- Artavis Scott, Clemson @ Syracuse ($5,300)
Analysis: For the season, Scott's caught 56 passes for 554 yards and four touchdowns. Relatively unassuming numbers, to be sure, hence his very low price tag. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound wideout has just one game of more than 100 yards receiving as Clemson's worked its way to a 9-0 record. None of this is particularly encouraging, but Deshaun Watson's been looking his way a ton over the last four games. Scott has 27 catches in that span. He last scored a touchdown on October 17, but if Watson keeps throwing to him like he has been, that lull should end soon enough. Syracuse's defense has been more successful against the run than the pass this season and at $5,300, you're not biting a huge financial bullet here.
Wide Receiver- Ryan Switzer, North Carolina vs Miami (FL) ($5,400)
Analysis: Another low cost receiving option, Switzer's 35-535-4 receiving line is eerily similar to the aforementioned Scott's. Unlike Scott, though, Switzer's been at his best over his last two contests, having caught a combined 10 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh and Duke these last two weeks. Prior to the recent statistical outburst, he had failed to crack the 100-yard receiving mark. There's no guarantee of a huge day here, but as with Marquise Williams, Switzer's playing in an offense that's hitting on all cylinders right now. If you like Williams to have a big day, Switzer makes for a nice side-add in a game where the Tar Heels should score their fair share of points.
Alternate- Michael Thomas, Ohio State @ Illinois ($6,000). In J.T. Barrett's ($9,300) lone start of the season, Thomas caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers. Barrett subsequently missed last weekend's win over Minnesota due to a one-game suspension stemming from an alcohol-related incident, but he'll be starting against the Illini on Saturday. While Thomas has just two games of more than 100 yards receiving, he's scored a touchdown in seven of the Buckeyes' nine contests during the 2015 campaign. The best offense Illinois has faced this season would be North Carolina's, and they were lit up for 48 points in that one. With the Playoff picture beginning to crystallize, expect HC Urban Meyer's boys to come out with a strong offensive effort as they look to solidify their position in the rankings.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Josh Doctson, TCU vs Kansas ($8,600). Ah, if only Doctson were healthy. He would be a lock for big numbers against Kansas if that were the case. As is, he injured his wrist against Oklahoma State on Saturday and the case is decidedly different. Doctson did practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday, which is certainly a positive, but there's no guarantee that he plays any significant amount of snaps on Saturday. The Horned Frogs should carve up the Jayhawks whether or not Doctson takes the field, which gives HC Gary Patterson little reason to push his megastar. If TCU wants to have any chance to keep their Playoff hopes alive, they'll need Doctson as close to 100% as possible for their dances with Oklahoma and Baylor to close out the regular season.
Tight End- Kody Kohl, Arizona State vs Washington ($2,700)
Analysis: It's always a nice feeling when you have no money remaining after you slot in your tight end. Like you solved a monetary Rubik's Cube. Tis the case with my lineup this week. Kohl has more than three catches in just one of the Sun Devils' nine games during the 2015 campaign, but he's also caught two touchdowns in his last four games. It would be nice if QB Mike Bercovici ($8,100) looked his way a little more often, but he could serve as a nice safety blanket against a tough Washington defense.
Alternate- Josiah Price, Michigan State vs Maryland ($2,800). Price, unfortunately, is priced out of my lineup by a mere $100. He missed two games due to injury earlier this season, but in his seven healthy contests he's caught five touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end's logged just 13 catches for 171 yards across those seven games, so if he's not scoring, you're unlikely to receive much in terms of yardage. As that's generally the case with most guys at the position, focus on the touchdowns and cross your fingers that Maryland's weak passing defense allows him to camp in the end zone. Sparty should be making a home in the red zone in this one.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Jerell Adams, South Carolina vs Florida ($3,300). With 270 receiving yards, Adams outpaces both Price and Kohl. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the joy of facing Maryland like Price. No, he draws the tough assignment of Florida. Both Adams and Kohl face lockdown defensive squads in the Huskies and the Gators, but Kohl at least plays in an occasionally explosive passing offense. South Carolina is not that. The Gamecocks are averaging a pitiful 21.67 points per game. That's not a great recipe against a ferocious Florida defense. If you have the loose change, Michigan's Jake Butt also draws a $3,300 tag, but faces an Indiana defense that's one of the worst in the country. He makes for a more palatable option at that price.