In this article I give six recommended plays each for the Noon ET and 7 PM ET slates of Saturday games. Within the six recommendations for each slate, three are “Paying Up” plays (top-12 salaries at their positions), and three are “Digging Deep” plays (non-top-12 salaries at their positions).
EARLY SLATE: Noon ET
Paying Up: Skyler Howard (West Virginia) – $7,500
With the seventh-highest quarterback salary in the slate, Howard might seem expensive — and he is in comparison to his total 2015 production — but Howard is cheaper than all the elite quarterbacks, he has a very good chance of providing elite production this week, and he should provide some salary relief as “only” a mid-tier QB1. Howard is not a great quarterback, but he has high-end QB1 production when playing in high-scoring games, and WVU’s matchup against Texas Tech should be a high-scoring affair. In the four games in which WVU has scored at least 35 points, Howard has been a near-elite producer with 301.3 yards and 3.3 touchdowns passing and 32.3 yards rushing, and in these four games, WVU has averaged 42 points.
Howard’s splits are important because WVU has an implied game total of 44 points, the highest implied total in the slate. As an eight-point home favorite over Tech, which has an explosive offense and porous defense, WVU will likely be in a fast-paced game-long shootout and that should necessitate Howard’s throwing the ball a lot and racking up the fantasy points. On average, Tech allows 302 yards passing and 2.3 touchdowns passing per game as well as 43.4 points per game, the sixth-highest total in the FBS.
Against Tech, Howard has an underappreciated chance of passing for 300 yards, rushing for 25 yards, and scoring three touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Chad Kelly (Mississippi) – $6,700
Kelly has the 15th-highest quarterback salary despite being the slate’s sixth-most productive player at the position, so he is available at a discount to his 2015 production. As the team leader in touchdowns rushing, Kelly has a high floor, and he is averaging 317.3 yards and 2.2 touchdowns passing per game. In his five SEC contests, four of which were victories, Kelly averaged 308.6 yards passing and two total touchdowns per game, and in his four SEC victories Kelly has 321 yards passing and 2.25 touchdowns per game with Mississippi scoring 30 points per game.
Ole Miss is a 10.5-point home favorite over Arkansas and has an implied game total of 32.25 points. Arkansas has an average defense, and Ole Miss’ top-15 offense should be able to control the flow of the game for most of the contest. Although Kelly won’t be in a fast-paced game requiring him to throw the ball 50 times per game, he should be able to accumulate low-end QB1 production by virtue of controlling the ball for most of the contest.
Against Arkansas, Kelly has a good chance of passing for 300 yards, rushing for 20 yards, and scoring at least two touchdowns.
Paying Up: Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) – $6,300
Last week’s late slate “Paying Up” selection, Hurd had 98 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns on the road against Kentucky. Truly one of the most impressive running backs in the country, Hurd is listed by Tennessee at 6’4” and 240 lbs. He is averaging 105.5 yards and 1.4 touchdowns per contest on the season and is the motor of Tennessee’s offense. He has a touchdown in six of eight games, and in his two non-scoring contests he has averaged 118 yards per game. Given his ninth-highest running back salary, he has an incredibly high floor and makes for a solid cash game play.
Tennessee is a 17-point home favorite over South Carolina and has the slate’s fifth-highest implied game total with 37.75 points. Tennessee, which is 24th in points scored per game, should be able to take advantage of positive game script and control the ball all game against a South Carolina team that allows 215.3 yards and two touchdowns rushing per game. Throughout the entirety of the game, Hurd should remain heavily involved and touch the ball around 20 times.
Hurd has a good chance of finishing Week 10 with 100 yards and a touchdown, and 135 yards and two touchdowns is possible.
Paying Up: Zack Langer (Tulsa) – $5,300
Langer is the slate’s 10th-most productive running back yet is available with only the 18th-highest running back salary. Langer always seems to be undervalued, either because he plays for a non-elite team in the American Athletic Conference or because he’s perceived to be an unathletic plodder dependent on positive game script for his production — but even if both of those points are true, Langer is still undervalued on account of his consistency. In his seven games played, Langer is averaging 24.6 touches for 97.9 yards and two touchdowns per contest. He has scored in each game, and has as many games with three touchdowns as with one touchdown. Last week, Langer had his worst rushing game of the season, with only 35 yards on 16 carries — and he still beasted with three touchdowns.
Tulsa is a 16.5-point home favorite over Central Florida and has the slate’s fourth-highest implied game total with 40.25 points. In Tulsa’s four wins — in which the Golden Hurricane averaged 40.25 points game — Langer has averaged 22.9 fantasy point per contest with no fewer than 18.9 points in any game. With the positive game script that this game should afford, Langer should have ample opportunity to touch the ball throughout the game, with 25 carries being a reasonable projection, especially given that Central Florida is vulnerable on defense, especially to the run.
In Week 10, Langer has a good chance of totaling 75 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns.
Paying Up: Josh Doctson (Texas Christian) – $8,300
The extent to which Doctson dominates the other receivers in this slate is notable. While a few quarterbacks (such as Greg Ward, Jr., and Patrick Mahomes) provide production comparable to that of TCU’s Trevone Boykin on a regular basis, Doctson dwarfs his peers. Doctson outscores the slate’s second-most productive receiver (Gabe Marks) by more than 10 fantasy points per game. Even with TCU already having had its bye week, Doctson is first and second in the FBS in yards and touchdowns receiving and is fourth in receptions with a 71-1,250-14 stat line. In only one game this year has Doctson not scored a touchdown, and in that early-season blowout victory against an FCS opponent he still finished with 81 yards on limited snaps.
TCU is a five-point road favorite against Oklahoma State in a game with a 76.5-point over/under, the second-highest in the slate. Playing in Stillwater, TCU will likely throw the ball a lot to outpace OK St., having the slate’s second-highest implied game total with 40.75 points. In (his most recent) six of eight games, Doctson has at least 125 yards and two touchdowns receiving. He has a high floor and a very high ceiling.
Against OK St., Doctson has an exceptional chance of having 100 yards and a touchdown, and 150 yards and two touchdowns is probably a more realistic (even if optimistic) projection.
Digging Deep: Shelton Gibson (West Virginia) – $5,500
I also like Drew Morgan of Arkansas as a good “Digging Deep” option, but anytime Gibson is not a top-12 salary wide receiver he is worth consideration because of his consistency. In seven contests, he is averaging 82.3 scrimmage yards and 1.1 touchdowns per game, and he has scored in every game this season except for one. In five of seven games he has totaled at least 80 yards and a touchdown. And in the four games in which WVU has scored at least 35 points, the team as a whole has averaged 42 points while Gibson has averaged 3.8 receptions, 105.3 yards, 1.5 all-purpose touchdowns per game.
The reasons for rostering Gibson are largely the same reasons for rostering Skyler Howard. WVU is an eight-point home favorite over Tech and has an implied game total of 44 points, the highest implied total in the slate. This game should be a shootout, and Gibson should have the opportunity to accumulate production throughout the game as WVU will look to outpace through the air Tech’s high-scoring offense.
Against Tech, Gibson has a good chance of finishing Week 10 with 100 yards and a touchdown.
LATE SLATE: 7 PM ET
Paying Up: Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) – $8,000
Mayfield has the second-highest quarterback salary in the slate, so he isn’t cheap, but he’s also the slate’s most productive quarterback, so he’s available at a slight discount to his 2015 production. Leading the team with the seventh-most points scored per game in the FBS, Mayfield is tied for second on the team with four rushing touchdowns in eight games, and he also averages 308.8 yards and 3.1 touchdowns passing along with 24.8 yards rushing per game. In only one contest this season has he had fewer than two touchdowns, and he has three or more touchdowns in six of his eight games.
Oklahoma is a 25.5-point home favorite against a vastly overmatched Iowa State team and has the slate’s second-highest implied game total with 43.25 points. The Cyclones are in the bottom-third of the FBS in allowing points to opposing teams, and OU should have no problem controlling the ball for most of the game and scoring points at will. In the six games in which OU has scored at least 35 points, Mayfield has passed for 345.3 yards, rushed for 26.2 yards, and totaled four touchdowns per game.
In Week 10, Mayfield is a strong play with a high chance of finishing his game with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Jerrod Heard (Texas) – $5,800
Recommending Heard kind of hurts my stomach, since he’s not much of a passer but he has a lot of upside this week for being only the 13th-most expensive quarterback. This suggestion is less about him and more about who he is playing — an 0-8 Kansas team that is horrible at scoring points and somehow even worse at allowing them to opponents. Only one team allows more points to opposing teams than the Jayhawks’ 47.1 points per game. Kansas also allows 334.5 yards and 2.5 touchdowns passing and 247.0 yards and 2.6 touchdowns rushing, so Heard should be able to have a productive day, despite his limitations.
Texas is a 28.5-point home favorite and has the slate’s third-highest implied game total with 40.75 points. Despite passing for only 839 yards and three touchdowns all season, in the two games in which UT has scored at least 40 points Heard has been a good producer, passing for 242 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 129.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. When UT scores a lot of points, Heard scores a lot of fantasy points, and vice versa. If UT actually is able to live up to the implied point total that Vegas has given it, then Heard should do well.
Against Kansas, Heard has a reasonable chance of passing for 200 yards, rushing 75 yards, and scoring two touchdowns.
Paying Up: Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) – $8,400
It’s tempting to pay up for Leonard Fournette of Louisiana State, and he could make a strong tournament play because people may be scared off by his tough matchup with Alabama, but Elliott is the second-most productive running back in the slate on a per-game basis and is available for “only” the third-highest salary at the position, so he is slightly discounted. Like Fournette, Elliott is the motor of his offense and accounts for far more of his team’s offensive production than the typical collegiate back normally accounts for. Like Fournette, Elliott has rushed for over 100 yards in each contest. Elliott is essentially “Fournette on a slightly subpar Fournette day.” In any given week, it’s possible that Elliott could outproduce Fournette, and that is possible this week.
Ohio State is a 24-point favorite at home against Minnesota and has the slate’s fifth-highest implied game total with 38.75 points. With a highly positive game script, Elliott should be fed the ball constantly throughout the game, especially with starting QB J.T. Barrett out for the game. Elliott is averaging 161.3 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game. In the seven games in which OSU has scored at least 28 points, Elliott has 168 yards and 1.9 touchdowns per game.
Against Minnesota, Elliott has a strong chance of finishing with at least 125 yards and a touchdown, and he has 150-yard, two-touchdown upside.
Digging Deep: Ronald Jones II – $4,200
Last week my “Digging Dip” injury fill-in recommendation of Jacques Patrick worked out, and I’m going back to the well this week with Jones, who could see more action in Week 10 than usual because of Tre Madden’s knee injury, which he suffered last week. Although Madden could still play in this game, Jones is likely to be involved, as he actually leads the Trojans in yards rushing, rushing average, and touchdowns rushing. In only one game this season — against Stanford — has Jones not rushed for at least 50 yards, and in five of eight games this year Jones has at least 65 yards and a touchdown.
USC is a 20-point favorite at home against Arizona and has the slate’s highest implied game total with 43.5 points. Because of positive game script and the injury to Madden, Jones has a chance of seeing double-digit touches in this contest, and he could be the featured back throughout the game. In USC’s five wins, in which the Trojans have averaged 45 points, Jones has averaged 10.2 touches for 78.2 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per contest. If receives even more opportunity because of the injury to Madden, he could have a huge game in what should be an easy blowout victory.
Against Arizona, Jones has a strong chance of finishing with 60 yards and a touchdown, and he has 100-yard, two-touchdown upside.
Paying Up: Darren Carrington (Oregon) – $5,200
Returning from an injury that cut short his promising 2014 freshman campaign, Carrington has 10 receptions for 232 yards and three touchdowns (and one rush for 21 yards) in only two games, so the sample size of his production is small, but both of those games came against Pac-12 opponents, and on the basis of that production Carrington is the slate’s highest-scoring wide receiver on a per-game basis. At the time of his injury last year, Carrington was becoming an increasingly important part of the offense, and in his last four games, dating back to last year, Carrington is averaging six receptions for 130.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per contest, which impressive production for the guy who is only the 10th-most expensive receiver.
Oregon is a 4.5-point home favorite against California and has the slate’s fourth-highest implied game total with 40.25 points. Because the game should be relatively close, Oregon will likely play its starters and run its offense as usual in order to outpace Cal, which has an implied total of 35.75 points. With that positive game script, Carrington should play his usual role in the offense.
Against Cal, Carrington has a good chance to finish the contest with five receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Digging Deep: Calvin Ridley (Alabama) – $4,800
Ridley has the slate’s 15th-highest wide receiver salary, so he’s not exactly cheap, but in his five full games as the team’s lead wide receiver — since WR Robert Foster suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3 — Ridley has averaged 6.4 receptions for 87.6 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game, good for 18.76 fantasy points per contest. Given his price, Ridley has been a strong value as Alabama’s No. 1 receiver. Perhaps most notable is that in those five games he has never had fewer than 12.2 fantasy points. For a freshman, Ridley has been amazingly consistent.
Alabama is a 6.5-point home favorite against Louisiana State and has an implied game total of 27 points. Although LSU has a good a good defense and should present a challenge to Alabama’s offense as a whole, LSU’s strength is defending the run and is most vulnerable against the pass, allowing 21 receptions, 222.1 yards, and two touchdowns through the air per game. As a result, Alabama could really on its passing attack more than it otherwise would, and when Alabama passes the ball Ridley is now generally the guy who catches it.
Against LSU, Ridley has a good chance of finishing with six receptions, 60 yards, and a touchdown.