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 less):
Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels ($6,100) vs. Colorado (Saturday night slate) -- Daniels opened the season with two games over 280 yards passing before Michigan State held him to just 140 yards through the air in Week 3. The appeal of this matchup comes not so much in Daniels, for all his talents as a true freshman, but more in the opponent. Colorado has proven exceedingly guttable through the air this season. They have allowed at least two passing touchdowns to all three of their opponents this season, a stat made all the more interesting given that CU was playing the pass-limited Air Force Falcons in Week 3. To sweeten the pot, here, Daniels will get this game at home. Consider this a slight play on the quarterback, himself, but a larger play against Colorado.
And two from the bargain bin ($6,000 or less):
Arkansas QB Nick Starkel ($5,900) vs. San Jose State (Saturday night slate) -- Strike with Starkel at this price, against this opponent, this week, because you’re not going to have a cushier matchup for the new Razorbacks starter for the rest of the season. Taking over for Ben Hicks as starter last weekend, Starkel threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado State. Subpar opponent, yeah? SJSU is worse. While we have just a two-game sample with the Spartans (against Northern Colorado and Tulsa) this season, looking back to 2018 -- when San Jose State owned the 127th worst passing defense in the country on a per-game basis -- gives you an idea of what Starkel will be working against on Saturday evening.
Louisiana Tech QB J’Mar Smith ($5,700) vs. FIU (Friday slate) -- Smith has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all three of his games to date, with two contests of two passing touchdowns a piece. That includes a strong season-opening performance against Texas in which he threw for 331 yards with a 2/1 TD/INT ratio. If you’re envisioning a passing ceiling for the Louisiana Tech gunslinger, that’s about what it would look like. FIU has been exceedingly wobbly this season, falling in the first two games of the campaign (against Tulane and Western Kentucky) before just barely squeaking out a win against New Hampshire last weekend. The Panthers have allowed two passing touchdowns in two of their three games. Look for Smith to put together a strong effort on Friday.
Affordable building block ($6,000 or less):
Cal RB Chris Brown ($5,800) at Ole Miss (Saturday main slate) -- We were also strongly considering Vandy’s KeShawn Vaughn ($6,000) in this pricing slot, but Vaughn will be running into the defensive maw of LSU. As much as we sometimes like to make plays against tough run defenses, as we did with Rico Dowdle last weekend against Alabama, we’ll be trying a different angle with this one. Brown appeals to us in that he is by-and-large the only real offensive weapon in Cal’s arsenal. You gonna trust Chase Garbers to sling it through the air? Didn’t think so. And Brown has come out stronger and stronger as the season has progressed, opening the year with 47 yards and a score against North Texas before stepping up his efforts with 80 yards against Washington before blasting off in earnest for 197 yards against UC Davis in Week 3. That’s UC Davis, sure, but we’ll trust the upward trajectory.
And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or less):
Pitt RB A.J. Davis ($4,900) vs. UCF (Saturday main slate) -- The Knights have blown the doors off all-comers this season and it’s possible that they sandblast Pitt, too, but Davis is a sneaky play, here. His upside as a pure runner has been very up-and-down, with rushing outputs of 25 or fewer yards in two of three contests. Enticing, yeah? His other contest went for 89 yards rushing. If this was all we were seeing, we wouldn’t be shining a light in Davis’ direction. But he has proven his worth as a receiver. And a receiver capable of breaking big gains. In two of three games this season, Davis has posted long catches of over 45 yards. No receiving touchdowns as of yet, but playing at the price margins, it’s the potential of a long score -- making up the value in one go -- that carries a certain appeal.
Georgia RB Zamir White ($4,100) vs. Notre Dame (Saturday night slate) -- We are diving deep with this one, but call it a sneaking suspicion that White’s going to flash big in his first prime time spot after missing the whole of the 2018 season with a torn ACL. Georgia boasts a Mariana Trench-deep running backs room, but don’t let that scare you away. White has hit the end zone in each of the last two contests and topped 50 yards rushing in each of UGA’s first two contests. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has proven saggy against the run, allowing 122 rushing yards to Louisville’s Javian Haskins in the opener and 69 yards and a touchdown to New Mexico’s Bryson Carroll this past weekend. There is no guarantee that White busts out in this spot, but he has made good use of his carries to date.
Northwestern RB Drake Anderson ($4,000) vs. Michigan State (Saturday main slate) -- While it looks like the Wildcats might get Isaiah Bowser back from a knee injury -- he can be had for an easy $4,900 -- we’re keen on his backup in Anderson. That’s because Anderson stepped in for the injured Bowser to rip apart UNLV for 146 yards and a touchdown last weekend. A healthy Bowser will probably see the majority of carries, here, but we would not be surprised if Anderson received a fair amount of run in his own right. It’s impossible to know just how spry Bowser will be on Saturday. This game has all the potential in the world to turn into a Big Ten rock fight, but at $4,000, Anderson is just being priced to low to ignore.
Affordable building block ($6,000 or less):
Nebraska WR JD Spielman ($5,600) at Illinois (Saturday night slate) -- The Cornhuskers offensive machine has been somewhat stop-start this season, but Spielman has performed well over the last two weeks, going for 9-186-1 combined versus Colorado and Northern Illinois. Already, the Illini have allowed three receivers at least 80 yards through the air (and Akron’s Nate Stewart came up just short of that mark with 79 yards in the opener). We could see this game developing into a little bit of a shootout.
And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or less):
Stanford TE Colby Parkinson ($5,000) vs. Oregon (Saturday night slate) -- The Cardinal have looked like a limp piece of undercooked fish this year, but even as they were being smashed in the face by UCF last weekend, Parkinson was doing his thing, catching six passes for 51 yards, this on the heels of a seven-catch, 89-yard performance against USC in Week 2. The volume is there even as the team has fallen mostly flat. This is a weird spot for the Ducks, though, and we think Stanford shows a little heart through the air in what is a big home spot for HC David Shaw and staff. Last season, Parkinson caught three passes for 50 yards and a score against Oregon.
The Ducks allowed a pair of receivers over 65 yards in a Week 3 win over Montana.
Southern Miss WR Quez Watkins ($4,800) at Alabama (Saturday main slate) -- Care to live dangerously? Like really dangerously? Well then, Watkins is your man for the weekend. The Southern Miss wideout sat out the first two games of the campaign for undisclosed reasons before returning with a vengeance in his season debut at Troy last weekend, when he caught seven passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. The step up in competition in Tuscaloosa is obviously quite stark, and if Alabama threw a shutout or close to it, here, that would not stun.
That said, this Crimson Tide defense has not been as invulnerable as in times past. In Week 3, South Carolina true freshman QB Ryan Hilinski went for over 300 yards passing versus Bama, leading both Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith to outputs of six-plus catches and 75-plus yards. We are less afraid of the Bama beast than in previous years. Famous last words, yeah?
Georgia WR Georgia Pickens ($4,800) vs. Notre Dame (Saturday night slate) -- We highlighted UGA RB Zamir White as a cheapo play in this matchup based on flash upside. Pickens has that, too, in spades. You’ve probably already seen some of the 6-foot-3, 190-pound freshman’s highlight reel catches. His body control is simply uncanny. Pickens has gone for at least four catches and at least 75 yards in each of Georgia’s last two games. The immediate production has been impressive.
Playing in a receiving corp which is relatively wide open, we’re endlessly intrigued by Pickens’ as a borderline No. 1 receiving option. He could be Justyn Ross from a year ago. Only difference being that Georgia does not have a Tee Higgins to push him into the passenger seat. Both Demetris Robertson ($5,700) and Lawrence Cager ($5,000) are more expensive options out wide for the Bulldogs and we don’t think that should be the case.