In this column, going position-by-position, we’ll offer up one building-block DFS sleeper priced at $6,000 or cheaper ($6,500 or less at QB) and three deeper bargains priced at $5,000 or cheaper (two QBs at $6,000 or lesser). We’re plucking our dark horses from DraftKings. Player pool drawn from the Friday and Saturday slates.
Affordable Building Block ($6,500 or less)
Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson ($6,300) at Texas (Saturday main slate) — The Longhorns are not a team to fear these days, having surrendered at least 30 points in each of their past five games. Among the quarterbacks who have gouged them this season, WVU’s Austin Kendall (367 passing yards, three touchdowns), OU’s Jalen Hurts (shocker shocker, 253 passing yards, three touchdowns), KU’s Carter Stanley (310 passing yards, four touchdowns) and TCU’s Max Duggan (273 passing yards, two touchdowns).
While Thompson has just two games this season with multiple touchdown passes, he has been a beaut when rushing the ball in the red zone, having scored 10 times on the ground, with eight (!) of those coming in the last three games, including four against Oklahoma two weekends ago and three against the Jayhawks last Saturday. Thompson is one to watch down the stretch, as it’s clear that Kansas State is beginning to truly cook under the tutelage of first-year HC Chris Klieman.
And two from the bargain bin ($6,000 or less)
Virginia Tech QB Quincy Patterson ($5,900) vs. Wake Forest (Saturday main slate) — We went to bat for Patterson last weekend against Notre Dame, and in his first career start he came out and rushed for 77 yards while completing 9-of-28 passes for 139 yards, a touchdown and an interception. We suspect that even Donald Trump’s administration would have real issue spinning a completion percentage of 32.1, but Wake Forest’s defense is not Notre Dame’s defense and we suspect that Patterson will come out on a bit more sure footing versus the Demon Deacons. And if all else fails he can just take off running.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, comes into this one running hot off an impressive win over NC State last weekend. Even before that game had ended, pundits were talking up Wake’s matchup with Clemson, taking place two Saturdays from now. That’s perfect for Patterson and company, who get this matchup at home and might be able to catch Wake Forest looking ahead.
Alabama QB Mac Jones ($5,700) vs. LSU (Saturday main slate) — Are you crazy, man? Tua’s coming back! Crazy like a fox says your author. Recommending Jones, of course, comes with a caveat at every turn. All signs this week do have Tagovailoa coming back after missing one game while rehabbing from minor ankle surgery, and there’s no guarantee that Jones even plays. However. If you want to play maverick, like really play maverick, it’s difficult to ignore the contrarian appeal of Jones.
We do not know exactly where Tagovailoa is at health-wise. We do not know how his body holds up for a full football game, in a contest against an LSU team peppered with futured NFL talent on defense. It’s a game that should see a lot of plays, too, given how quickly both offenses score. More chances for attrition.
And picture this, too. What if Alabama starts out slow — Tua is knocking off the rust, and Alabama has started slow at times this season — and LSU does not. What if LSU leads 31-10 early in the third quarter? How long does Nick Saban keep Tagovailoa in the game at that point? Point of all these hypotheticals is that it’s not crazy to say that Jones might see the field a fair amount. He threw for three touchdown passes against Arkansas in his lone start.
You might take a goose egg if you slot in Jones, but if Jones plays, this game should see plenty of opportunities for him.
Affordable building block ($6,000 or less)
Louisville RB Javian Hawkins ($5,300) at Miami (Saturday main slate) — This is just an odd price point to us. We’ll give it that Miami possesses a rock-solid run defense, ranking 12th in the FBS in rushing yards allowed on a per-game average (just over 97 yards per game), but they are not a stone free of imperfections. Georgia Tech’s Jordan Mason, for instance split the Hurricanes for 122 yards rushing and a touchdown in a mid-October overtime upset.
Miami’s run defense is fine, even good. Hawkins is still being priced at least $700 less than he should be. Hawkins has received 20 or more carries in four consecutive games. He has received 15-plus carries in seven-of-eight games (the outlier was an 11-carry show against Eastern Kentucky in early September).
Hawkins has also found the end zone in five of his last six games. Finally, there’s the yardage. Hawkins has topped 100 yards rushing in five contests this season, including three of his last four. He put up 129 yards rushing and a touchdown against Clemson a few weekends back.
Our strongest recommendation, here.
And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or less)
West Virginia RB Kennedy McCoy ($4,800) vs. Texas Tech (Saturday main slate) — We won’t even pretend that we like Kennedy for reasons beyond his being affordable and Texas Tech being porous against the run. It’s the latter fact which truly appeals to us. The Red Raiders rank 83rd in the FBS in rushing yardage allowed, one slot up on UTEP. McCoy might be dragging at 2.9 YPC — WVU’s rushing offense is one of the worst in the country — but if he can pop us a touchdown against a wobbly defense we’ll count that as a win. Just keep your expectations down.
Virginia Tech RB Deshawn McClease ($4,900) vs. Wake Forest (Saturday main slate) — McClease was shuttered and boarded to the tune of just 32 yards on 13 carries against Notre Dame last weekend, but we’ll toss him a mulligan on that one. Prior to that flatlining, McClease had rolled for 196 combined rushing yards in his last two games. He had scored in three consecutive. Wake has given up a few big, big games to opposing runners this season, most notably to Cam Akers (157 rushing yards) and AJ Dillon (159 rushing yards).
Boston College RB David Bailey ($4,700) vs. Florida State (Saturday main slate) — Sure, you could pay $8,700 for AJ Dillon. Or, you could pay $4,000 less for Dillon’s heir apparent. Of course, that price difference accounts for the risk associated with each. You’re gonna almost certainly get nice numbers out of Dillon. Far less of a guarantee for Bailey.
At the price point, we don’t need a guarantee, though. We just want somebody with relative upside (Kennedy McCoy notwithstanding, sorry Kennedy McCoy; just get us a touchdown or two). Bailey comes with upside and then some. Bailey has rushed for at least 170 yards in two of his last three games, versus NC State and Syracuse. He scored a pair of touchdowns in each.
The game between those contests against NC State and Syracuse? A 16-yard performance against Clemson. But hey, that’s Clemson. Bailey makes for a fine AJ Dillon hologram at price.
Affordable building block ($6,000 or less)
Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk ($5,800) vs. USC (Saturday main slate) — Why just watch the vultures pick the flesh off USC’s decomposing corpse when you can be one of the vultures, digging your beak into a Trojans defense which has allowed a receiver over 100 yards each of the last three games? Aiyuk is plenty capable of adding to for-now HC Clay Helton’s miseries, having topped 100 yards receiving in three games of his own to date, and five over 80 yards receiving.
And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or less)
USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown ($5,000) at Arizona State (Saturday main slate) — A pure talent play, here. You’re not going to find better than St. Brown at $5,000. Now, talent and production are different things and St. Brown has failed to top 65 receiving yards in any of his last three games. He has also caught 15 passes in that space, and went for 8-112-1 in the contest prior to this recent skid. This is one which we feel is a pretty comfortable play at its price. St. Brown has it in him to erupt for strong output in any given game and while the Trojans are falling apart, their offense is not completely incapable of putting up points.
It’s not that Clay Helton’s squad is a complete disaster. It’s just really, really mediocre. USC is averaging 30.4 points per game this season, good for 59th in the country. That feels about right.
Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam ($4,800) at Georgia (Saturday night slate) — Albert-O has been something of a ghost this season. He still has a flair for the end zone, having caught six touchdown passes in eight games, but in terms of yardage, not much going on. Last time out against Kentucky, Okwuegbunam went catch-less, receiving just two targets. Missouri has had a bye week to, hopefully, figure out how to get in sync with their NFL-caliber tight end. There could be tough sledding against Georgia, but this is Okwuegbunam’s biggest primetime stage to impress for NFL scouts this season.
Even if he fails to rack up the catches or yards (O has yet to top 75 yards receiving in a game), he remains a legitimate touchdown threat.
Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle ($4,600) vs. LSU (Saturday main slate) — Waddle has not topped 50 yards receiving since the second week of the season and has just one touchdown to his credit this season, but in the Shootout of the Century, we want a piece of the pie. We trust the talent, here, especially at this price. Waddle’s contending with a number of stars, admittedly. He did have a season-high five catches against Arkansas last time out and it wouldn’t surprise us if he sparked for a nice final month as the Crimson Tide get fine-tuned for a likely Playoff run.