To date, the strategy behind this column consisted of sifting through PFF College’s statistical mountain of collected data from each week of the 2015 season and spotlighting the performances possibly triggering a trend. With the regular season behind us, we will now shift our focus to highlighting a list of contrarian plays who have emerged in the second half of the season, and will likely impact the opening week of the bowl season.
Tanner Mangum ($5,800) – BYU vs. Arizona
With only five games on this weekends slate, attempting to identify any of the options at quarterback with the potential of an underowned label is very difficult. We will likely see the return of Ohio QB Derrius Vick ($5,200), but he has struggled with a lower-leg injury for most of the season, and we would need his scrambling contributions in order to meet value. Georgia State QB Nick Arbuckle ($5,900) has a very attractive price-tag, but he has been a top-ten quarterback option all season, and will be a lineup favorite this weekend.
The list of sleepers was cut in half with the reported return of Arizona QB Anu Solomon ($6,400), preventing a follow-up performance from Brandon Dawkins ($5,600) after racking up 35.0 DraftKings points in relief of Jerrard Randall against Arizona State. The last man standing under center for consideration this weekend is Mangum. In spite of an elite run defense and fierce pass rush, Utah has performed in the bottom-third of FBS teams in defending the pass this season. PFF College analytics identify the Utes as having the 94th-best secondary and the fantastic play from Mangum this season should carry over into this game.
Mangum has slid under the radar after some early-season popularity, averaging 22+ points over his last two games, and, outside of tough matchups with Missouri and San Jose State, has scored 20+ in five of his last six games. Vegas has set the over/under at 51.5 points, but only one matchup this weekend extends into the 60’s, and Mangum will have a great opportunity to face the porous Utah secondary. Mangum will likely be overlooked and makes for a solid GPP-dart in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
Glenn Smith ($3,700) – Georgia State vs. San Jose State
Prior to Week 9, RBs Kyler Neal ($4,200) and DeMarcus Kirk ($3,300) were each given the opportunity the seize the lions-share of the carries. Neither were able to exceed 3.8 yards per carry during that time and the Panthers turned to Smith for a matchup with Arkansas State in Week 9. He responded with 82 rushing yards on 16 carries and has been fed with an average of 13.3 carries over the last six weeks.
An average of 9.2 DraftKings points, even at his reasonable salary, will likely fail to incur much excitement. Although, Georgia State’s opponent this weekend, San Jose State, ranks 117th in the FBS at defending the run based on our analysis. The Spartans have allowed 215.6 yards per game, at 5.3 yards per attempt, and 29 TDs to opposing RBs. Neal vulture a pair of TDs from Smith in Week 14, but Smith could present a good amount of sleeper potential.
Francis Bernard ($3,600) – BYU vs. Utah
While RB Algernon Brown ($4,900) has provided much more than his share of value this season and fueled many rosters to significant gains. The best part of Brown’s role, excluding rosters possessing Brown, has been his production despite a low touch total. After seeing 20-plus carries in Weeks 6 and 7, he’s only exceeded 12 carries once the rest of the way. While Brown hogged the DFS attention, Bernard has simply pushed each-and-every touch to the fullest.
While Brown impressively eluded a tackle once every 5.5 touches — Bernard submitted a rate of one every 4.92 touches. Brown has broken a run of 15-plus yards once every 12 attempts — Bernard has done so once every 8.8 attempts. In addition, Bernard posted an elite 2.01 yards per route run to Brown’s unproductive 0.58 value. Bernard has secured every catchable target this season and has enforced a monopoly of the passing snaps. The matchup with Utah’s front-seven is formidable, but the potential is there to provide value.
Jordan Reid ($4,600) – Ohio vs. Appalachian State
The current spread for this game sits at 7.5 points in favor of Appalachian State. Reid and teammate Sebastian Smith ($4,800) will likely see depressed ownership this weekend due to the questionable status of Bobcat QBs Derrius Vick and J.D. Sprague. The Vegas line was pushed to heavily favor of Mountaineers and presents us with an exploitable opportunity. With either Vick or Sprague under center, Reid has accumulated four TDs over his last three games, and averaging 20.6 DraftKings points per game during that time.
Reid has developed into Ohio’s top deep threat, securing all five catchable 20-plus yard targets this season, producing 187 yards, and three TDs. Appalachian State may only be in its second season in the FBS, but they have already offered notice of their worth as a menacing opponent. Their only defeats of the 2015 season came at the hands of Clemson and the Sun Belt conference champion, Arkansas State. Ohio will be hard-pressed to keep pace with the yard-churning ground game featured by Appalachian State and eventual looks will arise vertically for Reid to make big plays.
Carlos Henderson ($4,500) – Louisiana Tech vs. Arkansas State
In what will likely be the most balanced bowl matchup of the weekend, this clash provides us with the highest over/under at 68 points, and the only game reaching into the 60’s. Arkansas State began the season 1-3 then proceeded to run the table in the Sun Belt. The success was reached through the FBS’ 14th-ranked run defense and by limiting opposing ground games to less than 150 yards per game. That said, the Red Raiders secondary contains exploitable vulnerabilities for the Bulldogs passing attack.
With many of the DFS-attention likely to surround the rostering of WR Trent Taylor ($6,700), his teammate, Henderson, may slide under the radar despite a reasonable salary. Early season struggles for Henderson prevented him from catching his first TD until Week 8, but that game stands as the moment his season turned around. Since Week 9, Henderson has averaged 4.8 catches, 104 receiving yards (34% higher than Taylor), and one TD per game.