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).
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The data in this piece is taken from DraftKings, Sports Reference and VegasInsider.com.
EARLY SLATE: Noon ET
Paying Up: Chad Kelly (Mississippi): $6,600
Kelly is the slate’s second-most productive quarterback and is available for only the 11th-highest quarterback salary. With an average of 40.7 points scored per game, Mississippi has the 12th-highest-scoring team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and Louisiana State has proven itself to be vulnerable the past two weeks, allowing over 30 points in each of its losses. Ole Miss is a 6.5-point home favorite over LSU and has an implied team total of 31.25 points. In the five games in which Old Miss has finished with 17 to 45 points, Kelly has passed for well over 300 yards per game, giving him a strong shot to earn the three-point passing yardage bonus against LSU, and his team-leading seven touchdowns rushing on the season give him a high floor.
Against LSU in Week 12, Kelly has a good chance of passing for 300 yards, rushing for 20 yards, and scoring three touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Kyle Postma (Houston) – $6,300
Last week’s “Digging Deep” recommendation, Kansas State’s Joe Hubener, scored five touchdowns — and I think that Postma has that kind of big game potential this week. If starting QB Greg Ward, Jr., in fact misses Houston’s game this weekend then Postma will be a strong speculative play, taking over an offense that has turned a 2014 part-time receiver into a Heisman candidate who is the slate’s most productive quarterback. When Ward suffered an ankle injury last week against Memphis, Postma stepped into Head Coach Tom Herman’s offense — as so many backup quarterbacks did last year at Ohio State — and had immediate success, finishing with 24.3 fantasy points in less than a full game of duty in relief for Ward against a top-25 Memphis team, passing for 236 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 49 yards and another touchdown. With no over/under set for this game (as of the time of writing), this game is hard to predict, but Houston is a high-scoring team with 43.5 points per game, and Connecticut has benefitted from a soft schedule.
Against UConn in Week 12, Postma has a strong chance — if he’s the starter — of passing for 300 yards, rushing for 50 yards, and scoring three touchdowns.
Paying Up: Royce Freeman (Oregon): $7,500
Freeman is the slate’s third-most productive running back and is available for only the sixth-highest salary at the position even though Oregon is a four-point home favorite over Southern California, has a high implied team total of 37.75 points for the game, is expected to be a in a high-scoring matchup, and should provide Freeman with favorable game script and ample opportunities to accumulate production. With production and reliability rivaling that of the more expensive Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette, the big-bodied sophomore has not once this year failed to reach 100 scrimmage yards in a contest, and in every game Freeman has either scored a touchdown or gone over 135 rushing yards. It helps that Oregon is the 10th-highest-scoring team in the FBS, with 41.8 points per game.
Against USC in Week 12, Freeman has a strong chance of rushing for 115 yards, catching a couple of passes for another 15 yards, and scoring at least one touchdown.
Digging Deep: Zac Brooks (Clemson): $3,000
The last few weeks I have been on fire with my “Digging Deep” recommendations of injury fill-ins at the running back position, first with Florida State’s Jacques Patrick a few weeks ago and then with Notre Dame’s Josh Adams last week. This week, the trend continues with Brooks, who is likely to fill in for starting RB Wayne Gallman, who suffered an ankle injury last week and is officially doubtful this week. Brooks was the team’s lead running back last preseason before suffering a severe foot injury that caused him to miss the entire season. This year, Brooks has been the team’s second-most productive runner behind Gallman, who has an average of 112.3 yards and 0.9 touchdowns from scrimmage per game. Most of that production is likely to go to Brooks, who is second at the position with 33 touches for 268 yards and five touchdowns from scrimmage and has scored in three of the four games this year in which he has managed at least five touches. Against Wake Forest this week, Clemson is a 29-point home favorite with the slate’s third-highest implied team total of 38.5 points. Brooks should be in a position throughout the game to receive touches in highly positive game script, and even if he doesn’t come close Gallman’s average of 20.9 touches per game Brooks is still a strong candidate for double-digit touches. On a team that scores the 15th-most points per game in the FBS, Brooks should have no problem producing as long as he gets his touches.
Against WF in Week 12, Brooks has a good chance of accumulating 60 yards and a touchdown.
And another strong injury fill-in this week is Utah RB Joe Williams, who should start because of Devontae Booker’s season-ending leg injury. Either of these players is a good cheap running back option for this week.
Paying Up: Darren Carrington (Oregon): $5,600
Carrington is the slate’s fourth-most productive wide receiver and is available for only the ninth-highest salary at the position. Four games ago, QB Vernon Adams, Jr., and Carrington both returned to health and the starting lineup, and since then Oregon’s passing offense has been highly productive, despite three of those games being on the road and two of them being against strong defenses. In his four games this year, Carrington is averaging four receptions per contest for 99.5 yards and a touchdown receiving on top of which he has added a carry for 21 yards. Additionally, Carrington has either scored a touchdown or gone over 100 yards in each game. And going back to last season, which was cut short due to a knee injury, he is averaging 26.3 fantasy points per game over his last six contests.
In a high-scoring offense in a high-scoring game against USC, Carrington has a good chance of catching at least four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Digging Deep: Jordan Leggett (Clemson): $3,400
Last week, I successfully went North Carolina State TE Jaylen Samuels as my “Digging Deep” recommendation at the receiver position, and I’m going back to the tight end well this week. Most importantly, Leggett is so cheap that he provides significant salary relief, but he also has a high chance of providing enough production for his salary. Leggett leads Clemson in touchdowns receiving, with just over 26 percent of the team’s receiving scores. And since ACC play started, Leggett has either a touchdown or 100 yards receiving in six of eight games and also has averaged 11.3 fantasy points across that span. Given that Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is the slate’s second-most expensive player, he is likely to be highly productive in this game, and if that happens then Leggett should be a primary beneficiary of Watson’s production.
In Week 12, Leggett has a good chance of catching three passes for 35 and a touchdown.
LATE SLATE: 7 PM ET
Paying Up: Jarrett Stidham (Baylor) – $7,100
Even with his “disappointing” 257-yard, two-touchdown performance last week against Oklahoma, Stidham is the fifth-most productive quarterback in this slate on a per-start basis, and he is available with only the 11th-highest salary at the position. A one-point road underdog to Oklahoma State and possessing an implied team total of 38.25 points, Baylor is in a matchup with the slate’s highest over/under at 77.5 points. In what is sure to be a fast-paced shootout, Stidham should throw the ball often in an attempt to outpace OK St.’s potent offense. Quarterbacking the highest-scoring team in the FBS, Stidham is not the runner that injured start Seth Russell is, but in his two starts he is averaging 20 completions for 338 yards and 2.5 touchdowns passing per game. Against an OK St. team that allowed Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Texas Christian’s Trevone Boykin to average 462.5 yards and 2.5 yards passing, Stidham should be able to produce comparably, given the similarities of their offenses.
In Week 12, Stidham has a good chance of passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) – $6,600
Rudolph is available at a slight discount, having the 16th-highest quarterback salary while being the 14th-most productive player at the position. Quarterbacking the seventh-highest-scoring team in the FBS, Rudolph has been a tremendous passer, averaging just over 316 yards per game. With OK St. as a one-point home favorite against Baylor and having an implied team total of 39.25 points, Rudolph should have ample opportunity to throw the ball as the Cowboys attempt to outpace the Bears. Rudolph’s upside is likely capped, on account of goal-line QB J.W. Walsh’s stealing valuable touches and scoring 17 touchdowns in OK St.’s seven Big 12 games. Still, given OK St.’s high implied team total and their matchup, Rudolph has a high floor, and in his Big 12 contests he has provided value at his current price point five out of seven games.
In Week 12, Rudolph has a strong chance of passing for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Paying Up: Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State) – $7,900
Pumphrey is fairly priced in that he is the slate’s third-most productive running back and is available with the third-highest salary at his position. Pumphrey is, however, undervalued when one looks at his matchup and game splits. San Diego State is a 16-point road favorite over Nevada-Las Vegas and has an implied team total of 35 points. Against UNLV, Pumphrey should benefit from extremely positive game script and have the opportunity to score multiple times. In the Aztecs’ six wins against FBS teams, all of which have been by at least 14 points, Pumphrey has averaged 24.2 carries and 1.7 receptions for 174.3 yards and 1.8 touchdowns per game. In all of those games, not once has he failed to hit 21 fantasy points.
Against UNLV in Week 12, Pumphrey has a strong chance of accumulating 150 scrimmage yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Chase Price (San Diego State) – $4,300
Yep, I’m recommending two running backs on the same team. Dynamic change-of-pace runners in high-scoring matchups have been favorite “Digging Deep” plays of mine all season long — I’ve recommended more times than I can count Texas Tech’s Justin Stockton (who had three touchdowns last week) — and Price is a runner who consistently gets the ball when the Aztecs win. While his overall seasonal numbers might not seem impressive, Price is in a highly favorable matchup and in the Aztecs’ six wins against FBS teams — which just happen to be the previous six games — Price has averaged 17.2 carries and 0.7 receptions for 98.2 yards and 0.83 touchdowns per game. Priced as just the 24th running back in the slate, Price has production rivaling a high-end RB2 across the last half season, and only once in the last six games has he failed to live up to his current valuation.
In Week 12, Price has a strong chance of accumulating 70 scrimmage yards and scoring a touchdown.
Paying Up: Corey Coleman (Baylor) – $7,600
I recommended Coleman last week — but he had his first game of the season without scoring a touchdown — and now he is $1,000 cheaper. This is the exact time to double down on Coleman. Not only is he easier to get on your team but also fewer people will be rostering him this week because of recency bias. Look at it this way: Even with his performance last week, Coleman still leads the FBS with 20 touchdowns — in only nine games. With TCU’s Josh Doctson out this week, Washington State’s Gabe Marks is the second-most productive receiver in the slate, and he trails Coleman in scoring by 10.4 fantasy points per game. In only one game all season has Coleman not put up at least 175 yards receiving or scored at least two touchdowns — and that game happened last week. That’s an outlier, and even if Coleman reverts some and has “only” a 5-125-1 stat line this week in a high-scoring close game against OK St., he would still provide value as the most expensive receiver in this slate.
This week, Coleman — as always — has a strong chance of having six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Digging Deep: Drew Morgan (Arkansas): $4,200
Yep, I also recommended Morgan last week too, and, like Coleman, he had his worst week of the season. The thing is that he is the slate’s 14th-most productive receiver and is available for only the 27th-highest salary at the position. And he is even further discounted because he is $400 less expensive than he was last week. Additionally, while Morgan has averaged 17.4 fantasy points per game across the entire season, Morgan has averaged a robust 21.2 fantasy points per game in his seven games against FBS opponents since taking over for the injured Keon Hatcher as Arkansas’ lead receiver in Week 3. In his seven games against FBS teams as the lead receiver, in only one games has Morgan not put up at least 110 yards or scored at least one touchdown — and that game happened last week. This week, Arkansas is a 4.5-point home favorite against Mississippi State and has an implied team total of 31.25 points. At his current valuation, even if Morgan only has a 3-35-1 stat line, he would still provide value. As the lead receiver against FBS opponents, Morgan as averaged 5.3 receptions for 74.5 yards and 1.1 touchdowns.
In Week 12, Morgan has a good chance of having five receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown.