FanDuel Saturday early lineup
Quarterback- Vernon Adams, Oregon vs USC ($7,700)
Analysis: I love this game in terms of shootout potential. Oregon's righted their offensive ship, but their defense, not so much. Adams gets a boost from his shaky defense, of course, as he'll have to throw to keep up with the Trojans. He's done an impressive job since returning from a broken finger. In four starts since being sidelined, he's compiled 1,092 passing yards with a 12/3 TD/INT ratio. While he's not always pin-point in his accuracy—he completed over 60% of his passes in just one of those starts—the Duck offense has scored 26, 61, 44 and 38 points across that span. USC's defense has played fine in stretches, but it's not enough to scare me away from a game that might dent the scoreboard.
Alternate- Cody Kessler, USC @ Oregon ($7,700). If you're not sold on Adams, perhaps you'd like to take a spin with Cody Kessler, who carries the same price. Unlike Adams, Kessler has the joy of facing that aforementioned threadbare Oregon defense, and boy howdy, what a joy that should be. Only two teams have allowed more passing yards than Oregon on average. Those would be Kansas and poor, hapless Indiana. Side note: The Hoosiers made Jake Rudock ($7,900) look spectacular on Saturday. That takes a lot of doing. End side note. For his part, Kessler's 2015 campaign has unfolded in uneven fashion. He threw 15 touchdowns in his first four games, just three over his next four and five in his last two (including three against Colorado last time he took the field). While it's good to see him finding end zone targets of late, his last game of more than 300 yards passing came on October 17. Kessler might be a difficult guy to project given these inconsistencies, but the Oregon match-up is tempting enough that he makes for a playable option this weekend.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Josh Rosen, UCLA @ Utah ($8,000). Rosen's been respectable starting as a true freshman, completing 61.1% of his passes for 2,904 yards and an 18/7 TD/INT ratio over 10 games. 10 of those 18 touchdown passes came in a four-game stretch from late September through October. In his three games since, Rosen's tossed a total of three touchdown passes, including a goose-egg-of-a-game against Washington State on Saturday. Utah's surrendering 256.30 yards passing on average, but with just three games of at least three touchdown passes, Rosen's $8,000 price tag isn't particularly inspiring. He could be in for a monster year in 2016, though, given what he's shown as a frosh.
Running Back- Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia @ Kansas ($7,600)
Analysis: It's easy enough to stalk Kansas around the DFS landscape from week-to-week and rack up numbers solely based on the wretched Jayhawk running defense (seventh-worst in the country, allowing 255.7 rushing yards on average). It worked last week anyway, as Aaron Green gouged Kansas for 177 yards on 30 carries last Saturday. This weekend, Smallwood will have a chance to dance. On the whole, he's gone over 100 yards rushing in seven of 10 games. He's been even better of late, having posted rushing efforts of 163 and 165 yards against Texas Tech and Texas, respectively, over the last two weeks. Despite the nice yardage accumulation, he's only scored six touchdowns this season. If nothing else, though, he should have his fair share of red zone chances against Kansas.
Running Back- Doroland Dorceus, Memphis @ Temple ($5,700)
Analysis: Dorceus has scored five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in his last four games. Both of his 100-yard rushing games for the 2015 campaign have come in this recent stretch, too, including his 116-yard performance against Houston on Saturday. While Temple's been tough against the run this season, surrendering an average of 132.40 yards on the ground, and Dorceus has received 15-plus carries just three times, he's worth a gamble for $5,700. That goes doubly so if you're looking to invest more heavily in either quarterback or wideout. Just be aware that there's no guarantee of huge fantasy points here, especially if Dorceus is limited on his carry-number.
Alternate- LeShun Daniels, Iowa vs Purdue ($7,300). Both Daniels and Jordan Canzeri ($6,400) make for intriguing options in this match-up. Daniels was sidelined with an ankle injury for three games, but he's come back with steadily improving results over his last three contests, turning in rushing efforts of 60, 75 and 195 yards. He's also scored six touchdowns in that hot stretch. Canzeri returned from an ankle injury of his own in Saturday's win over Minnesota, though he rushed for just 31 yards in that one. Daniels received 26 carries to Canzeri's 10 in the 40-35 win. In his six fully healthy games prior to the injury, though, Canzeri had gone over 100 yards four times. Both backs carry the inherent risk of any time share, but Purdue's been leaky against the run (210.40 yards rushing on average). If you're choosing between the two, Daniels' recent production makes him the safer choice.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State vs Michigan State ($9,300). As is to be expected, Elliott owns the highest price tag of any running back in the early slate. He's gone over 100 yards rushing in all 10 of Ohio State's games this season, with 16 touchdowns scored. Michigan State is allowing an average of just 120.40 rushing yards, though, and Sparty's more susceptible to surrendering big pass plays than anything else. There's no shame in plugging in the top running back on the board. He could certainly put up his typically grand numbers. This just isn't the most advantageous match-up for him.
Wide Receiver- JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC @ Oregon ($7,500)
Analysis: Steal-of-a-price for Smith-Schuster, who's likely being knocked down a few hundred bucks due to his still-limited right hand (he underwent surgery to repair a broken bone on November 2). He's played through the injury and proven productive despite his limitations, though, having caught 11 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns combined in his last two games. For the season, he's working with a stellar 63-1160-10 receiving line. That Oregon defensive unit that's one of the worst in the country against the pass is more than porous enough to temporarily ease Smith-Schuster's pain.
Wide Receiver- Darren Carrington, Oregon vs USC ($6,400)
Analysis: I swear this is the last player I'll write up from this game. What can I say, it's a scrumptious offensive match-up all the way around. And an early Pac 12 kickoff, to boot, meaning that kiddies on the East Coast won't be forced to stay awake until 12:30 a.m. to follow their fantasy investments. Carrington missed the first six games of the season due to a failed drug test dating back to bowl season a year ago, but he's returned in mid-season form. He opened with three consecutive games of at least 100 yards receiving. This string was snapped against Stanford on Saturday, but he still registered a pair of catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in the 38-36 win. Through four games, he's caught 16 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. An added benefit for sharp DFS players is that Carrington's overall numbers look sub-par compared to the rest of the field, meaning that he could end up with a lower ownership percentage than his play would actually dictate.
Wide Receiver- Michael Thomas, Ohio State vs Michigan State ($6,000)
Analysis: Same logic that I applied to Ezekiel Elliott I apply to Michael Thomas, only reversed. Michigan State is more vulnerable to the pass than the run, which could make for nice numbers through the air behind J.T. Barrett ($8,800). Through 10 games, Thomas has caught 45 passes for 651 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. While he has just two games of more than 100 yards receiving, he's been a touchdown metronome, having caught scoring passes in eight contests, including each of his last four games. In Barrett's two games starting this season, Thomas caught five passes against Rutgers and six against Illinois. He should be considered a middle tier receiving option due to the number of looks he receives in the end zone. This is Ohio State's biggest game of the year to date and it wouldn't be a surprise if HC Urban Meyer tries to throw up a lopsided offensive number.
Alternate- Jehu Chesson, Michigan @ Penn State ($6,400). Trusting Michigan's passing game is always a tricky proposition, but signs are pointing up (or if not up, at least some sort of diagonal) for HC Jim Harbaugh's crew. They've scored 49 and 48 points against Rutgers and Indiana these last two weeks. Rutgers and Indiana aren't exactly fielding dominant defenses, but considering that the Wolverines scored more than 35 points just once in their first eight games, progress is progress. Chesson's been the beneficiary of Michigan's recent offensive explosion(?), catching all seven of his touchdown passes in the last three games, including three in last weekend's thrilling 48-41 win in double-overtime against Indiana. Chesson also had 207 yards on 10 catches in that one. Given that his previous best game was four catches for 58 yards against Michigan State, don't expect him to go crazy with the yardage for a second consecutive week. Still, he's been productive of late in the red zone, which will help against a Penn State defense that's limiting opposing passing games.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State @ Ohio State ($7,400). Burbridge has gone over 100 yards receiving in seven of 10 games this season. One of the three he failed to hit that mark came in last weekend's 24-7 win over Maryland. He caught just three passes for 27 yards in the victory. The game saw QB Connor Cook ($7,600) leave with a shoulder injury. Somewhat predictably, Cook immediately proclaimed that his shoulder wouldn't prevent him from playing the Buckeyes. Less difficult for Dr. Cook to diagnose, how the shoulder might perform in game action. Ohio State ain't Rutgers on defense, either. They're surrendering just 13.80 points on average while allowing opposing passing games to throw for 171.60 yards. Sparty could well play spoiler in Ohio State's bid for a title repeat, but a lot of things have to break right for Burbridge to have a productive day on the DFS end of things.
Tight End- Jake Butt, Michigan @ Penn State ($3,700)
Analysis: As with Chesson, Butt's getting in on the offensive action with Jim Harbaugh's newfound discovery that passing the ball is a viable option in the year 2015. In his last two games, Butt's caught a combined 11 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. He still has just two touchdown catches on the year, but unlike most tight ends, there's both yardage and scoring upside with Butt. The Wolverines are drawing a tricky offensive assignment against Penn State's defense, but if anything, that should benefit Butt as Jake Rudock will likely be limited to short-to-medium range passes.
Alternate- Harrison Handley, Utah vs UCLA ($2,900). Handley logged two catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in last weekend's 37-30 double-overtime loss to Arizona. The 69 yards equaled a season-high. Indeed, he has just two games this season in which he's gone over 30 yards. Cringe away, but he has caught three touchdowns in his last five games. UCLA offers a below-average pass defense and Utah's offense is somewhat limited beyond RB Devontae Booker ($8,000). Handley should continue to receive scoring opportunities in the passing game, even if he's not a yardage monster.
Option I wouldn't touch with my worst enemy's lineup- Cam Serigne, Wake Forest @ Clemson ($2,700). Serigne's caught 40 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns across 10 games. He had at least five catches in three of Wake's first five games, culminating with a 10-83-1 line against Florida State on October 3. It's mostly been darkness since then, as he's exceeded 40 yards just once in his last five games. His last three have been particularly horrendous, with yardage totals of three, 38 and 11 in contests against NC State, Louisville and Notre Dame. That would be cause enough for DFS avoidance, without even factoring in that Wake's playing the No. 1 team in the country.