We’re already knees deep in this week’s college football action, with the usual group of 5 schedule getting us startedd a few days ago. Now, our eyes our firmly fixed on everything Saturday has to offer, with several notable contests on the horizon. Week 9’s main slate is highlighted by some marquee programs with playoff aspirations, as well as several fantasy studs still gunning for this year’s Heisman Trophy. Wherever your allegiances lie, this week guarantee to delivers excitement.
We’ve got you covered for DFS purposes, highlighting our preferred players from Saturday’s main slate.
Or if cash games are more your speed, you can build your lineups alongside our projections with our Lineup Builder. From there, you can hand-build your lineup or lock in a few guys and let the builder optimize the rest based on our projections.
Here’s a brief snippet of what our models look like:
Let’s dive into this week’s slate!
CFB DFS Quarterback Picks
Caleb Williams (USC Trojans): $10,500 DraftKings
There’s a reason that Caleb Williams’ salary is over $1,000 more than the next closest quarterback. The USC Trojans signal-caller is trying to re-invigorate his Heisman Trophy candidacy against the porous California Golden Bears. Williams was stymied by two elite defenses over the past couple of weeks but will have more free range against Cal.
The Golden Bears are getting absolutely torched in Pac-12 conference play. Cal has given up at least 430 yards in four straight games, with opponents averaging 475.8 yards per game over that stretch. Predictably, those yards have precipitated an increase in scoring as the conference foes have totaled 166 points over that four-game sample.
Williams and the Trojans only add to those woes. USC averages over 480 yards per game against FBS opponents, and Williams accounts for most of those yards. Through eight games, the senior is averaging 284.6 passing yards per game, picking up an additional 17.9 with his legs.
Naturally, Williams has been the Trojans’ top fantasy producer, throwing for 23 touchdowns and adding seven rushing scores. Consequently, he’s putting up 30.9 fantasy points per game while surpassing that benchmark in four of his last six. Williams leads our median and ceiling projections by a wide margin and could exceed our loftiest expectations.
Max Johnson (Texas A&M Aggies): $6,500 DraftKings
We are meandering a little further down our list to highlight an often-overlooked quarterback from the Texas A&M Aggies. Max Johnson has quietly established himself as the starter following Conner Weigman’s foot injury. Granted, the imposing 6’6″ pivot had made some typical underclassman mistakes, but there’s a lot more wiggle room against the South Carolina Gamecocks secondary in Week 9.
Johnson has thrown for at least 210 yards and ran for 29 or more in three straight contests. At face value, those metrics don’t captivate, but they look much better when adjusted for opponent. The Aggies are coming off consecutive games against the top 25 ranked Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide, letting him sharpen his teeth against some of the best defensive units in the conference. Now, Johnson gets to dissect the Gamecocks lackluster defense.
South Carolina is one of the worst defenses in the country. They rank sixth-last in passing yards allowed (314.2) and 71st in rushing yards allowed (153.0), resulting in the 109th points allowed per game (33.5). Worse, two of those three metrics are climbing over their previous three outings. Opponents up to 286.7, 176.3, and 38.7, respectively, over that three-game stretch.
We’re taking a stance on Johnson for a few reasons. First, he represents one of the top values across the board. Second, he and the Aggies get to beat up on a very welcoming Gamecocks side. Lastly, there’s an ‘overtraining principle’ that can be applied to his recent performances. Johnson has held his own against some of the top teams in the nation, and now he gets to flex his muscles against one of the worst.
We like him to reach his ceiling and end the day as one of the top fantasy producers on the slate.
CFB DFS Running Back Picks
Jonathan Brooks (Texas Longhorns): $7,500 DraftKings
Jonathan Brooks might not be in the Heisman conversation, but he remains at the forefront of our running back projections. Week after week, the Texas Longhorns halfback rates as one of the elite rushers available. That’s the case again this week as Texas hosts the BYU Cougars.
Brooks has one of the heaviest workloads in the country. The sophomore has accumulated 128 carries for 825 rushing yards, with 18 catches on 21 targets for an additional 172 yards in the passing attack. More impressively, most of his passing usage has come over the past couple of weeks, adding a new dimension to his fantasy appeal.
Last week, Brooks hauled in all eight of his targets for 51 yards. That was the second straight week in which he’s exceeded six targets, five catches, and 34 yards. He and his Longhorns teammates will be able to exploit the Cougars in a number of ways.
Opponents have trounced BYU over the past few weeks. Over their last three games, BYU is allowing an average of 313.0 passing yards and 177.3 rushing yards per game, both of which are increases over their regular season benchmarks. Further, the Cougars have failed to contain running backs over that stretch, with several rushers from all three opponents gouging BYU.
For some reason, Brooks isn’t even the highest-priced running back on the main slate. Nevertheless, we like him to live up to our slate-leading expectations in a home matchup against a very beatable Cougars defense.
RJ Harvey (UCF Knights): $6,200 DraftKings
We’re taking a similar approach to our preferred running backs as we did with our quarterbacks, albeit from a less pronounced standpoint. RJ Harvey represents one of the best value plays on the board, sitting second in median and ceiling projections, with the 13th-highest salary.
Harvey has been a fixture on offense for the Knights this season, amplifying his role on the team more recently. The senior has totaled 612 rushing yards on 112 carries this season. However, 60 of those carries and 329 of those rushing yards have come over the last three contests. Moreover, Harvey has been a factor in the aerial attack, grabbing ten receptions and going off for 180 more yards.
The Knights can go after the West Virginia Mountaineers in a number of ways. West Virginia gives up an average of 165.3 rushing yards per game, jumping to 185.3 since Week 6. Likewise, the Moutaineers have been burned by the passing game on the road, giving up an average of 294.3 yards through the air as the visitors.
Any way the Knights decide to attack the Mountaineers, Harvey will be a primary contributor. The Florida native’s role with team is evolving, and that only means more fantasy relevance for Harvey.
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CFB DFS Wide Receiver Picks
Troy Franklin (Oregon Ducks): $8,300 DraftKings
We swung and missed with Troy Franklin last week, but that’s not stopping us from going back to the well in Week 9. Franklin put up a below-average 11.9 fantasy points in a win over the Washington State Cougars. Still, he should start working his way back up toward his 26.5 fantasy point average against the Utah Utes.
Franklin’s outing versus the Cougars was the outlier in an otherwise, Heisman-esque campaign. The Ducks wide receiver caught an uncharacteristic 4-of-8 targets, still managing 79 yards while leading the team in targets. That was just the second time that Franklin was held to fewer than 103 receiving yards this season, breaking a three-game touchdown streak.
Further, Franklin has been one of the most reliable pass catchers in the FBS ranks, with one of the steepest target shares. Prior to last week, the junior had a noteworthy 75.5% catch rate, soaking 24.1% of the passes thrown. Those marks should only improve after last week’s disappointing effort.
Utah is running the Pac-12 gauntlet right now, playing some of the best teams the conference has to offer. Since the end of September, they have narrowly escaped with wins against the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans, getting bested by the Oregon State Beavers. The Ducks are the latest challengers, entering Saturday’s showdown as -7 road chalk.
That confidence is also reflected in our wide receiver rankings, placing Franklin atop the list.
Samuel Brown (Houston Cougars): $6,300 DraftKings
In a conference dominated by pre-eminent programs, NFL-caliber players and National Champion contenders Samuel Brown and the Houston Cougars have flown under the radar. Houston is fighting for bowl eligibility, relying on a stable of elite pass catchers to stay relevant. Brown has been the go-to wide receiver in the Cougars offense and sits near the top of our weekly projections.
Already this season, Brown has three 100-yard receiving games, surpassing the 80-yard threshold in all but two of his seven outings. Consequently, the sophomore leads the team in receiving yards (629), also setting the standard in targets (62) and receptions (40), with a 64.5% catch rate.
The Cougars are going to be forced to lean into their passing game to keep pace with the Kansas State Wildcats. K-State enters the contest as prohibitive -17.5 chalk, implying that Houston will be playing from behind for most of the contest.
That’s not all bad news, as it lends itself to another top-tier fantasy effort from Brown. Additionally, the Wildcats haven’t been effective at stopping the pass, allowing 259.8 passing yards per game, putting them 109th among FBS teams. We’re expecting Brown to reach his fantasy ceiling and remain the primary option in the Cougars’ aerial assault.
Ainias Smith (Texas A&M Aggies): $5,300 DraftKings
Our correlated wide receiver play comes from an unsuspecting angle in Week 9. Although we could choose from a number of Trojans pass catchers to pair with Williams, we’re sticking with our value approach and dubbing Ainias Smith as the wideout to stack with Max Johnson.
We rolled the dice with Smith a few weeks ago, only to be let down by him in his worst game of the season. Coming off a bye week and loaded with robust underlying metrics, we like Smith to shine against South Carolina.
Week 7 notwithstanding, Smith has emerged as the primary receiving weapon with Johnson under center. From Week 3 to Week 6, the senior was targeted 30 times, representing a 25.4% target share. Smith made the most of those looks, reeling in 20 catches for 364 yards, with no fewer than 71 receiving yards in a game.
Still, Smith has yet to reach his fantasy ceiling, suggesting that he’s a natural progression candidate in the latter part of the campaign. The Aggies wide receiver should snap out of his scoring slump versus the Gamecocks while maintaining his usual workload. Consequently, we’re expecting Smith to end the day as one of the top-performing pass catchers on the main slate.