Welcome back to another season of CFB DFS bargain-bin diving! In this column, going position-by-position, we’ll offer up one building-block DFS sleeper priced at $6,000 or cheaper ($6,500 and cheaper at QB) and three deeper bargains priced at $5,000 or cheaper (two QBs at $6,000 or cheaper). We’re plucking our dark horses from DraftKings. Player pool drawn from Friday and Saturday slates.
Affordable building block ($6,500 or cheaper):
Illinois QB Brandon Peters ($6,400) at UConn (Saturday main slate) -- Does that seem like a somewhat exorbitant price tag for Illinois quarterback? We wouldn’t put up much of a fight if you viewed it in that light. Our view, Peters accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) against Akron in a Week 1 blowout. Our view, UConn is fresh off barely beating Wagner and one year removed from having one of the worst defenses in the history of college football. Illinois may well spiral into the ground and explode in a firey wreck come conference play, but we think they put up a crooked number looking to improve to 2-0 on the season. Peters proves worth his price point.
And two from the bargain bin ($6,000 or cheaper):
Nevada QB Carson Strong ($5,900) at Oregon (Saturday night slate) -- Strong threw for three touchdown passes in a wild Week 1 win over Purdue while throwing for almost 300 yards. He attempted 51 passes in the victory. Meanwhile, Oregon is coming off an utterly deflating last-second loss to Auburn, one which may well have wrecked its season before it even got started. Strong can be had at a reasonable tag and we love the spot, here.
UCF QB Dillon Gabriel ($5,700) at FAU (Saturday main slate) -- Don’t even call it $5,700 on Gabriel, himself. Call it $5,700 against Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush showed a prototypical lack of accuracy in UCF’s Week 1 blowout of Florida A&M. We would like to reiterate, he was playing Florida A&M. Gabriel saw work in that contest, too, completing 9-of-13 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns. FAU will offer, presumably, more of a challenge, but if you’re going for a non-starting QB, you want one who at least can put up points in ostensible backup duty. Trevor Lawrence did it last season. We think Gabriel can do it, too.
Josh Heupel will presumably give Wimbush a little bit of a leash. It’s just that we’ve seen Wimbush get tangled up in leashing before. Our advice would be that even if you don’t roll with Gabriel this weekend, be ready to do so in the near future. Wimbush has real deficiencies as a quarterback in terms of accuracy which are going to prevent him from keeping his job for the entire season.
Affordable building block ($6,000 or cheaper):
USC RB Vavae Malepeai ($6,000) vs Stanford (Saturday night slate) -- The Cardinal held Northwestern to under 100 yards rushing as a team last weekend, but Northwestern’s offense utterly lacked for competence and we wouldn’t feel too skittish on rolling against David Shaw’s boys. Malepeai enters action on Saturday coming off a fantastic showing against Fresno State, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Perhaps just as notably, Stephen Carr received just six carries. Even while Carr was succeeding with those scant touches -- he averaged 9.3 YPC on the evening -- Malepeai is being treated like the lead dog in the USC backfield.
If you want to look at things just a touch darkly, Malepeai’s stock received a boost when the Trojans lost QB JT Daniels for the year in their opener. USC HC Clay Helton and OC Graham Harrell are going to have to scale back the offense for three-star true frosh Kedon Slovis. Look for a low-scoring game, one dominated by the run on both sides.
And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or less):
Boise State RB Robert Mahone ($4,900) vs Marshall (Friday night) -- Sometimes we see prices which are just wonky -- Pooka Williams and T.J. Hockenson come to mind from last fall -- and that’s the case, here. Weird, weird, weird. Mahone chewed up Florida State for 142 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. He saw a clear carry advantage over both George Holani (14) and Andrew Van Buren (just five) in the comeback win.
And that’s where the wonky weirdness comes in. Not only is Mahone oddly cheap coming off a strong showing against a traditional Power Five outfit (albeit, one which no longer plays like it), Van Buren actually costs more than him by $100. Holani at $4,400 is mighty tasty, too.
We’ll acknowledge that Marshall boasted a top-10 run defense on average last season, but Mahone is simply too cheap to ignore. This is an offense which should just continue to get better and better as frosh QB Hank Bachmeier settles in. We are bullish on the Broncos’ O in general.
Nebraska RB Maurice Washington ($3,700) at Colorado (Saturday main slate) -- An autoplay for us. If there was any question as to whether Washington would take the field in this game due to his ongoing legal issues, we might feel a little nervous, but that's not the case. The team has already announced that he will continue to play moving forward while his case works its way to conclusion.
While he saw just six carries in Week 1, he turned those into 39 yards, a 6.5 YPC clip. We think Washington receives double-digit touches on Saturday and we think Nebraska’s offense comes out absolutely firing after posting one of the low-key more embarrassing performances of the weekend. If Washington went over 100 yards with one or more touchdowns, we would not be surprised. Autoplay.
Illinois RB Reggie Corbin ($4,400) at UConn (Saturday main slate) -- Yeah, that’s right, back to the Illinois well with us. Back to the trailing-UConn’s-defense-like-a-shadow strategy which resulted in oh so many juicy results last season. Corbin was sidelined by a hip pointer during last Saturday’s domination of Akron, but he’s fairing a fair bit better than position room friend Mike Epstein, who was knocked out for the season altogether by a knee injury in that same game.
Epstein’s absence means all the more Corbin. The elusive back is going to destroy his price point. Corbin and Maurice Washington are cheap slam dunks in our mind.
Affordable building block ($6,000 or cheaper):
Tennessee WR Juan Jennings ($5,700) vs BYU (Saturday night slate) -- We know, we know, we know, the Volunteers are a mess. Everything’s falling apart. The sky is falling, etc etc until the end of time. That Georgia State loss in Week 1 was the essence of lol Tennessee, but concealed within it were multiple respectable offensive performances. Most notable among those came from Jennings, who caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s defeat. Vols QB Jarrett Guarantano also threw for 311 yards in the game.
Jennings makes for a buy-low steal who is being downgraded almost solely due to a team loss in which both he and his quarterback put up big numbers. We think that becomes a repetitive formula as the season progresses, even if Tennessee remains lol Tennessee.
And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or cheaper):
Miami TE Brevin Jordan ($4,900) at North Carolina (Saturday night slate) -- We saw Jordan dominate physically in spots against Florida in the opener on his way to catching five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. He’ll continue to serve as a baby blanket for QB Jarren Williams as the season rolls on. And while UNC did pull out a big, emotional win versus South Carolina in Week 1, Miami has had a week off to clean up their issues, and the Tar Heels remain a very young team.
Nebraska WR JD Spielman ($4,700) at Colorado (Saturday main slate) -- Sorry, we just don’t get this one. Spielman might have largely been shut down against South Alabama in Week 1, but that was a poor performance for the offense as a whole, not a Spielman issue. As we touched in writing about Maurice Washington above, we expect the Huskers to look considerably more able on offense this weekend. Spielman has logged over 800 receiving yards each of the past two seasons. Colorado, by-the-by, allowed three CSU receivers to top 65 yards in last weekend’s opener.
UCLA “WR” Demetric Felton ($4,500) vs San Diego State (Saturday night slate) -- We put “WR” in quotes, as Felton was largely used as a fill-in running back with Joshua Kelley (knee) out injured in Week 1. Felton went for 162 yards from scrimmage against Cincinnati to open the season and while at least some of that statistical output was inflated by a 75-yard touchdown grab, his volume (25 total touches) is all kinds of encouraging. The most complicating factor, here, is Kelley, who practiced in full, without limitation earlier in the week.
Felton’s output takes a ding if Kelley plays real minutes, but we think the gamble’s worth it, as UCLA figures to take it slow and easy to start out with Kelley when he returns. Those who are interested in Felton might want to wait until close to kickoff to lock in their lineup, as we should have an idea by then as to Kelley’s availability.