Congratulations! You’ve officially made it through another off-season! After eight long months and four separate instances where you woke up in a cold sweat, terrified that your starting quarterback was arrested and thrown off the team, we’re here. And the best part is, that same QB beat the charges and is playing Week 1!
Anyway, this year we’re going to try something different at Outkick: In addition to weekly against the spread picks (which ran Monday of this week), we’re also going to provide a “DraftKings Daily Fantasy” preview each week as well. The simple truth is that over 50 million of you will play daily fantasy this year, but as best we can tell, no one is doing anything like this, nor serving you with the kind of daily fantasy preview that will help win you cash each weekend. Basically, the hope is that by the end of the season, we become the go-to daily fantasy college football preview on the web.
In case you’re wondering, we will be using the same standard DraftKings procedure as everyone else. You can sign up here.
– $300,000 prize pool
– $100,000 first place prize
– Free for new users or $3 to enter
– Top 25,930 scores win money guaranteed
– Starts Saturday, September 5th at 12:00 PM EST
– Salary cap drafting style to select 9 players
– Roster format: 2 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 2 Flex
In addition to sharing our picks, we’re also going to give you one extra player at each position that we “love” and “hate,” just to give you a little extra added depth. Most importantly we’re going to give you those picks in the fun, easy-going manner that Outkick has become known for…although make no mistake: These are real picks, and we are wagering real money here.
Anyway, let’s get to this week’s picks.
Please note that we have skipped the Thursday contests in favor of simply focusing on Saturday. The simple truth is that there weren’t enough games, with enough good players for us to make give you solid advice on Thursday.
Here’s how we’re filling out our lineup card on Saturday:
Who I’m Picking – Quarterback
Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas, $6500:
The reason I love Brandon Allen is because in essence, I love the way Bret Bielema handles early season games. While most coaches throw caution to the wind, Bret Bielema instead hops up on the bar, takes his shirt off, waves it around and says “come after me, bro.”
Simply put, he likes running up the score on overmatched opponents and makes no bones about it (in a related story, he also likes taking off his shirt at the bar too). Last year the Hogs put up 73 points on poor little Nicholls State, and Bielema is also the same guy whose Wisconsin teams put up 83 and 70 points respectively against Indiana and Northwestern back in his Big Ten heyday. And this year Arkansas’ victim will be UTEP.
Look for Allen to stay in the game late, and continue to put up stats until the bitter end.
He’s your play at QB.
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State, $5,600:
Here’s the thing about Christian Hackenberg: Just about everyone either loves or hates the guy. There is no middle ground. You either see him as the guy that the NFL Draft experts adore, the one who is 6’4, has the look of a future pro, and puts Mel Kiper on the brink of a heart attack every time he sees him, or you see the guy who was woefully un-impressive at Penn State last year, the guy who threw just 12 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions.
Again, there is no middle ground on Hackenberg. But in this case, I think there should be one.
As bad as Hackenberg was, a big part of his problem was Penn State’s offensive line. They were atrocious. At one point, I seem to remember James Franklin telling reporters that Penn State had one healthy, scholarship offensive tackle on their entire roster last season. How can you expect any quarterback to throw for 300 yards, when he’s got a bunch of nobodies blocking for him?
Therefore, if Hackenberg is ever due for a big game it’s right here. Yes, Temple’s defense is way better than people realize, but this is also the healthiest Hackenberg’s offensive line is going to be all year.
I’d be wary of Hackenberg going forward. But he seems like the right fit here.
Another Guy I Like:
Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford, $5,900:
So here’s the thing: Everyone remembers Stanford’s offense as being unwatchable last year (in their defense, it was unwatchable), but what few remember is that they actually turned things around late in the season. Over the final three games the Cardinal went 3-0, including a road win at UCLA (which cost the Bruins the Pac-12 South championship), and a bowl win over Maryland. Hogan meanwhile was the breakout star (or at least better than he had been), with four touchdowns and just one interception over that stretch.
With four offensive linemen returning, and playing against a lousy Northwestern defense, Hogan is going to pick up right where he left off.
Stanford is way better than people realize. Take advantage of it, before everyone figures out how good they are.
Stay Away From:
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss, $7,000:
I’ve always had a strict, company policy when playing daily fantasy, one that has been crafted through decades of fine-tuning my strategy.
That policy is this: “Never trust a QB who got thrown out of one major college, then transferred to another one, but almost got thrown out again after getting into a bar fight… especially when that QB barely wins the starting job, to the point that the head coach said that his playing time isn’t locked in stone.”
Ok, so maybe that policy isn’t decades old. Maybe I made it up right now.
But I’m sticking to it and staying away from Kelly until further notice.
Who I’m Picking – Running back
Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas, $9,200:
Remember everything I said about Bret Bielema earlier? Well apply all that here, add two things, and you’ll understand why I love Collins so much.
1. With Jonathan Williams out, Collins is going to get the bulk of this team’s carries.
2. Arkansas’ starting offensive line averages 319 lbs. UTEP’s two starting defensive ends are 235 and 255 lbs. respectively.
Normally, I’d be hesitant to spend this much on a running back. But not here. Collins is going to run wild.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee, $4,400:
You know what’s great about the internet? Whenever an idiot (like myself, for example) writes something stupid, it stays online, for fans to make fun of for years to come.
Take for example, the time that I wrote that Butch Jones would never recruit well enough to win at Tennessee… a quote that has turned out to be absolutely preposterous, and basically the equivalent of some music writer back in 2012 saying, “I just don’t think this Taylor Swift girl is going to make it. She’ll never come up with enough catchy songs for people to buy her albums.”
Well, safe to say that three top recruiting classes (with another one on the way), and one 1989 world tour later, I’m an idiot. Please forgive me Tennessee fans. You too, if you’re reading T-Swift.
At the same time, if there’s one example that shows just how good a recruiter Butch Jones is, it might be Kamara. The former Alabama signee has been getting rave reviews all camp long, and is ready to break out in Week 1. Sure, Jalen Hurd might get all the hype, but expect Kamara to put up similar stats, at a much cheaper price (Hurd is starting at $6,900 this week).
Go ahead and grab Kamara.
And please forgive me for being an idiot.
Another Guy I Like:
Jon Hillman, RB, Boston College, $6,900:
It’s funny how things work sometimes in sports.
About six or seven years ago Steve Addazio was the offensive coordinator at Florida that everybody loved to make fun of, the guy who was calling plays when the program completely fell apart in Urban Meyer’s last year in Gainesville.
But then a funny thing happened: Adazzio got the head coaching job at Temple, and then went to Boston College, where he has put together a pretty darn good program. Remember, this is a team that beat USC straight up last year, and probably should have beaten Florida State as well.
And really, the thing I love about Adazzio and BC is this: They know who they are. There’s no switching offenses, changing coordinators, trying to become “modern” or go with “tempo” or any of those other stupid buzz words you always hear head coaches spitting out.
Instead, Boston College is the exact opposite. They’re a blue collar, Northeast, punch you in the gut, then go home and eat clam chowder kind of team. They’re going to run the ball at you, then keep running the ball at you, then do it some more.
And Hillman — who rushed for 13 touchdowns last year — is the star of that offense, and will have a huge day against Maine.
I know you’ve never heard of him, and sure it’s alarming how little his name comes up when you run a Google search. But the guy will put up stats Saturday.
Stay Away From:
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, $10,200:
Chubb is the most expensive running back in DraftKings this week, and my problem with him isn’t his production, but how Mark Richt will use him.
Basically, Richt approaches early season games the exact opposite way Bret Bielema does. While Bielema likes to run up the score and get his players stats, Richt likes to just play them a couple snaps, get their feet wet, then get them out of the game. Frankly, I’d be surprised if Chubb gets more than 10 or 12 carries on Saturday.
Look I love Chubb, and sign me up as one of the 2,387,486 people who think he is going to be a star this season.
But there will be other weeks to play him.
Stay away here.
Who I’m Picking – Wide Receiver
Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA, $4,700:
If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I’m one of those guys who reads an inordinate amount in the preseason, and takes the smallest nugget of information, blows it way out of proportion, then tries to find way more meaning behind it than there probably is. In other words, I’m like your mom who hears about a hurricane warning in Florida on the news, then decides to call just to “check in on you.” Even though you live in California.
Anyway, in doing my “way-too-much-reading” routine this preseason, I learned two very interesting things about Payton and UCLA’s program in general.
1. Because school hasn’t started at UCLA yet (they are on the quarter system, not semester), the Bruins aren’t subject to NCAA rules limiting practice time, and can basically practice as much as they want. Meaning that even though Virginia is stuck practicing an archaic 20 hours a week, Jim Mora is basically running a pro camp out in Westwood. Heck he’s probably got his team on the practice field more than some NFL coaches.
Speaking of which, you know who probably benefits most from all that extra practice time? How about the true freshman UCLA plans on starting at quarterback? You think this isn’t an advantage for Josh Rosen?
2. Speaking of Rosen, he and Jordan Payton were also roommates in fall camp. That might mean nothing to you, but in my head I’m just going to assume they have that creepy, QB-to-wide receiver roommate telepathy that Tim Tebow and Riley Cooper used to have back in the day.
Add those two otherwise meaningless notes with the fact that Payton had 67 catches last year, and it’s why I feel like he’s a steal at just $4,700.
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee, $4,700:
Speaking of a “steal” somebody call the police, because I just got away with robbery grabbing Marquez North at this price!
Ok, that was an awful joke, but at the same time I love North here.
Yes, he was injury plagued last year and has had some nagging issues in fall camp this year. But make no mistake, the guy will be ready for Week 1. And not only will he be ready, he’ll be going against a pair of cornerbacks at Bowling Green that are 5’9 and 5’11 respectively.
Add in the stability at quarterback in Knoxville, and North really is a steal at this price.
D’haquille “Duke” Williams, WR, Auburn, $5,800:
I know, I know, Williams had a shaky off-season. And I know, I know, he could blow up at any time.
But Gus Malzahn listed Williams on Auburn’s initial depth chart Tuesday, meaning he’ll play Saturday. And if he plays, well, Duke Williams will have a big game (even against a Louisville defense which is better than I think people realize). That’s just what Duke Williams does.
On talent alone Williams might be the best receiver in college football.
And mark my words, this is the cheapest you’ll get him all year.
Another guy I like:
Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss, $4,000:
Laquon Treadwell is the big name wide receiver for Ole Miss, but with Treadwell coming off that awful injury last season, and with a lousy FCS opponent Week 1, you know that Hugh Freeze is going to ease him back into action.
And if Freeze eases Treadwell back into action, you know who that’s an advantage to? Yup, Cody Core is your answer.
He made 41 catches last year, and with Vince Sanders gone, will be more of the focus of this offense in 2015.
Stay Away From:
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, $5,900:
For the same reason I listed above: Treadwell is basically “the franchise” at wide receiver, and coming off that injury, and with just two weeks until they play Alabama, Hugh Freeze isn’t going to go crazy trying to pad his stats. Instead, he’ll probably get him a few reps, throw him a few balls, then get him out of the game.
Like I said with Chubb above, there will be weeks to invest with Treadwell, but this just isn’t it.
Who I’m Picking – FLEX
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford, $4,800:
Since this article is running long, I’ll make this quick: Stanford wants to run the ball and will run the ball against Northwestern Saturday, which had the 75th ranked rushing defense in college 2015. And when they want to run the ball, they’re going to give it to McCaffrey.
Bruce Feldman listed McCaffrey as a breakout star this year, and I’m buying what he’s selling.
Jay Warren, RB, Florida Atlantic, $3,900:
Warren is basically the equivalent of finding a copy of “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” for $1.99 in the bargain bin of DVDs at Target. You have no idea if he’ll be any good. But at the price you’re getting him at, he’s impossible to pass up. Especially when you find out that he is Florida Atlantic’s second leading returning rusher (the first is their quarterback) and that he is going up against a defense which ranked 114th nationally last season.
If you want to save some money, and spend the cash on a bigger name somewhere else (like Chubb, Treadwell or DeShaun Watson) this is your guy right here.