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USFL DFS Picks: Week 3 USFL DraftKings Strategy

Matt Gajewski



With two weeks of USFL action in the books, the rosters and usage in this league is finally starting to take form. Week 3 again features four games of action and a variety of USFL DFS contests available to take advantage of. This piece will dig into the particulars of each game, pointing towards the best DraftKings USFL DFS picks this week.

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Week 3 DraftKings USFL DFS Picks

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Tampa Bay vs. Houston USFL DFS Picks

Tampa Bay Bandits

The Bandits enter this game with a 1-1 record after getting slaughtered last week. They’re now a 1-point underdog in a game with a 38.5-point total, which is tied for the lowest on this slate. Tampa Bay ranks fifth in plays per game fourth in pass rate.

At quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu ($11,000) hasn’t shown the same ability with Todd Haley calling plays. The former Ole Miss and Battlehawks quarterback has completed just 56% of his passes for 4.94 yards per attempt. Making matters worse, Ta’amu also isn’t running. He has just five total rushing attempts this year, removing the floor that made him elite for fantasy in the XFL. Ta’amu played so poorly last week that former Memphis quarterback Brady White ($6,500) played 26% of the snaps. He was also horrific, meaning Ta’amu likely gets another shot. Either way, both played so poorly that this isn’t a strong situation to target outside of Houston allowing the most yards per pass attempt to start the season.

At running back, the Bandits feature a two-man committee consisting of B.J. Emmons ($9,300) and Juwan Washington ($4,500). Emmons has handled 55% of the attempts and out-targeted Washington 7-5. However, neither back has been particularly efficient and both are below 2.6 yards per carry on the year. For what it’s worth, Washington did participate in 46% of the team’s routes, compared to 41% for Emmons. This backfield appears to be trending towards a pure timeshare. The Bandits also gave gadget player John Franklin III ($3,200) four carries last week, further muddling the backfield. Emmons doesn’t offer much value at that price tag and Washington is a pure dart.

This receiving room is a complete disaster. Derrick Willies played the most snaps in Week 1 among receivers before getting demoted to the practice squad. Jordan Lasley led the team in routes each of the first two weeks, but he has now been released. It tentatively appears that the Bandits plan to use Franklin as their top receiver moving forward. On top of his four rush attempts, he saw three targets all coming around the line of scrimmage. Vinny Papale ($3,200) and Rashard Davis ($8,400) are also candidates to take on larger roles. However, this team has frustratingly used at least five receivers in each of the first two games. Derrick Dillon ($5,200) has also played a rotational role at receiver, hurting the others above him, while not contributing anything significant himself. At tight end, De’Quan Hampton‘s ($2,500) return from injury also thrust Cheyenne O’Grady ($5,800) into a timeshare. Both had three targets last week. Outside of a cheap contrarian option, this is a situation to avoid.

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Houston Gamblers

Also 1-1, Houston lost last week as well. Now playing as the favorite, Houston ranks fifth in pass rate and dead last in plays per game. Fortunately, both teams play below average defense. Tampa Bay allows the third-most yards passing per attempt, while Houston allows the most yards passing per attempt, making this a sneaky shootout situation.

Houston could eventually end up with a quarterback controversy after Clayton Thorson‘s ($7,600) start to the season. The former Northwestern product also hasn’t been great from an efficiency perspective. So far, he is completing 50% of his passes for 4.86 yards per pass attempt. Only rushing the ball three times this year, Thorson also doesn’t bring much mobility. Even at this cheap price, he is a consideration only in the largest of GPPs. Thorson only had a 72% snap share, while Kenji Bahar ($6,100) mixed in for 28% last week.

At running back, both Mark Thompson ($5,700) and Dalyn Dawkins ($6,100) have been involved this year. DraftKings whiffed on pricing here, with Thompson functioning as the lead back. Last week he had a 66% snap share and a 51% route rate, while Dawkins had a 34% snap share and a 35% route rate. On the year, Thompson has 29 carries to Dawkins’ 17, but neither player has a target. Thompson averages 5.7 yards per attempt, which dwarfs Dawkins’ 3.1 mark. This backfield should continue to trend towards Thompson and he is one of the best price-adjusted plays on the slate.

Unlike the Bandits, the Gamblers appear to have an alpha receiver in Isaiah Zuber ($9,600). Zuber only has an 18% target share this year, but he ran nearly every route for the second consecutive week. The team played without JoJo Ward ($6,300) last week, which should be noted. However, Tyler Simmons ($3,900) stepped into a full-time role, catching two of 10 targets for 53 yards and a score. Tyler Palka ($3,000) and Anthony Ratliff-Williams ($4,700) functioned as the WR3 and WR4 last week but remain clearly behind the big three. The Gamblers do not feature their tight ends, but Brandon Barnes ($3,500) has a slight edge over Julian Allen ($2,500). Zuber is the safest receiver here with Simmons and Ward (if active) behind him. If Thorson develops a pulse, this situation could be awesome for DFS.

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Birmingham vs. New Orleans USFL DFS Picks

Birmingham Stallions

The only two unbeaten teams in the league, unfortunately one has to lose here. Birmingham has scored more points than any other team, but also allowed more than any other team. The Stallions rank sixth in plays per game, but second in pass rate behind only the Stars. In this particular game, the Stallions are 4-point underdogs in a contest with a slate-leading 44.5-point total.

At quarterback, the Stallions have turned to J’Mar Smith ($8,600) with Alex McGough injured. Smith came back down to Earth a little bit after winning offensive player of the week honors in Week 1. However, he still performed well above expectation, considering the putrid quarterback play some of these teams have displayed. On the season, Smith has completed 61% of his passes for 7.6 yards per attempt. Improving matters further, Smith has also rushed 11 times for 44 yards through two games, giving him a solid rushing floor. He is a top-three quarterback on the slate.

The Stallions use a two-man committee consisting of C.J. Marable ($6,000) and Tony Brooks-James ($6,900) at running back. This backfield is close to a 50/50 split, but Brooks-James took a slight edge last week. He had a 52% snap share and a 41% route rate. Similarly, Marable had a 48% of the snaps and a 29% route rate. Marable also out-touched Brooks-James 18-12. Brooks-James averages 5.2 yards per attempt, compared to 4.3 for Marable, so perhaps this backfield continues to move towards Brooks-James. For now, it looks like a pure split.

The pass heavy Birmingham Stallions have provided plenty of fantasy upside already this season. The team essentially only uses three receivers, making it easy to evaluate for DFS. Former NFL player Victor Bolden ($9,500) has a 33% target share but only 84 yards receiving. He plays more of an intermediate role, but the targets have consistently gone his way. Former Mississippi State receiver, Osirus Mitchell ($8,200) has functioned more as the downfield threat. He has a 23% target share but will run a route on almost every down. Marlon Williams ($4,400) will function as the third receiver. While he only has eight targets to his name, Williams will also participate in almost every route. At tight end Cary Angeline ($6,400) is one of the more involved tight ends in this league. However, Birmingham uses fullback Bobby Holly ($3,000) a decent amount, with those snaps coming at Angeline’s expense. He should be the fourth receiving option in this offense in most weeks.

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New Orleans Breakers

The highest implied team total on the slate, the undefeated New Orleans Breakers throttled the Tampa Bay Bandits last week. The Breakers play with the highest tempo of any team in the USFL, while passing at the sixth highest rate (48%). Still, this team could have untapped potential in terms of pass rate when forced to play competitive games. Head coach Larry Fedora has a history of uptempo, pass-heavy play.

At quarterback, the Breakers also sport a top three quarterback in Kyle Sloter ($9,700). After a forgettable Week 1, Sloter showed solid growth, throwing for 266 yards and a pair of scores. On the year, Sloter is completing 64% of his passes for 6.3 yards per attempt. Sloter also has legitimate mobility, with five rushing attempts for 31 yards and a score. Again, New Orleans dismantled Tampa Bay, likely reducing his output on the ground. In this high-volume offense and solid game environment, Sloter is a top three quarterback option here.

Like most teams in this league, the Breakers have also embraced a committee at the running back position. Last week, Jordan Ellis ($5,400) moved slightly ahead of T.J. Logan ($7,700), but the game was completely out of control. Ellis had a 60% snap share and a 45% route rate, while Logan had a 40% snap share and a 38% route rate. Ellis profiles more as the clock-killing back, so this usage makes sense. On the year, Ellis has 39 carries to Logan’s 25. However, Logan has nine targets to Ellis’ 1. This team likes to utilize the running back regardless of game script, so both Ellis and Logan are solid plays moving forward with Ellis carrying more touchdown equity. Ellis is the superior price-adjusted play. Birmingham also allows the most yards rushing per attempt and it isn’t particularly close.

Overall, the pace and potentially pass-heavy nature of the Breakers in competitive games make them desirable to stack. However, they haven’t played with as much consistency in their receiver room. Former Ohio State receiver, Johnnie Dixon ($6,700) leads the team with a 22.7% target share, followed by Jonathan Adams ($3,800) at 19.7%. However, Adams has been far more productive with 102 yards receiving to Dixon’s 79. The team released Chad Williams, solidifying Shawn Poindexter ($8,500) and Taywan Taylor ($4,200) as the WR3 and WR4. Poindexter had a 78% route rate and saw five targets, while Taylor had a 63% route rate and also saw five targets. Moving forward, it looks like Adams will function as the WR1, Dixon as the WR2 and very little separating Poindexter and Taylor as the WR3 and WR4. At tight end, Sal Cannella ($5,400) took a step back after Week 1, but he still saw three targets and an 85% route rate. He is a fine bounce-back candidate here.

Pittsburgh vs. Michigan USFL DFS Picks

Pittsburgh Maulers

A battle between the USFL’s two worst offenses, neither team in this game has a win. Making matters worse, Pittsburgh has only scored 26 points, while allowing 47. As an offense, the Maulers rank fourth in play volume and third in pass rate. Don’t be fooled. Severe negative game script forced this offense into those favorable numbers. They enter this game as a 2.5-point underdog in a contest with a 38.5-point implied team total.

At quarterback, the Maulers already benched their initial starter in favor of former San Jose State quarterback Josh Love ($7,300). While Love hasn’t been elite, he has certainly outplayed Kyle Lauletta. So far, Love has completed 55% of his passes for 6.5 yards per attempt. Most of this came in Week 2, when Love put up 236 yards, two scores and two interceptions. Unfortunately, Love isn’t the most mobile quarterback with two rush attempts on the year. However, he seems to have found a connection with former teammate Bailey Gaither ($4,800), making him an interesting contrarian stack in a league with few pivots off the chalk.

After splitting the backfield in Week 1, former Wisconsin do-it-all back Garrett Groshek ($7,200) moved ahead of Madre London ($6,200). Groshek handled 19 touches on 63% of the snaps and a 60% route rate. London checked in with 12 touches on 37% of the snaps and had a 31% route rate. This looks like Groshek’s backfield moving forward. However, the overall efficiency of the backfield should be below average. Groshek has 34 carries and one target through two games, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. London averages a horrific 2.9 yards per attempt on his opportunities.

While the Maulers would like to play run-heavy football, they haven’t been able to. Gaither and Delvon Hardaway ($3,600) currently look like the top two options. Gaither has a 25% target share already this season with 117 yards receiving. Hardaway has been just as involved with a 20% target share, but he only has 48 total yards receiving this year. The team played without Jeff Thomas ($8,700) in Week 2, who functioned as the WR3 in Week 1. In his place, Tre Walker ($3,100) and Branden Mack ($5,100) ran 62% and 57% of routes, respectively. Walker saw seven targets, making him the favorite for WR3 duties moving forward. At tight end Hunter Thedford ($2,500) surprisingly had an 81% route rate and saw five targets. Matt Seybert ($4,700) did suffer an injury, so there could be some noise here. Hardaway and Gaither are easily the two safest pass catchers in this offense.

Michigan Panthers

The Michigan Panthers have been a complete disaster on offense with their moronic tight end centric offense. Like the Maulers, they rank second in play volume, but seventh in pass rate. While they may be favored here, that brings little security when targeting the Panthers for DFS purposes.

At quarterback, the Panthers have remained true to Shea Patterson ($10,600) after Paxton Lynch made a fool of himself in limited action in Week 1. Truthfully, Patterson hasn’t been much better, completing 57% of his passes for 5.9 yards per attempt. The former Michigan product does have some mobility working for him and rushed 11 times through the first two games. However, Patterson is priced like an elite quarterback, which he simply is not. He is a GPP-based dart throw based on Pittsburgh’s putrid defense that currently allows the second-most yards per pass attempt into their coverage.

Unfortunately for DFS, the run-heavy Panthers morphed into a three-man committee with Cameron Scarlett ($4,600), Stevie Scott ($8,200) and Reggie Corbin ($3,800) all factoring into the backfield. Scarlett led the way with 53% of the snaps and a 67% route rate with all three active in Week 2. However, he only saw 13 touches, which likely won’t cut it without a touchdown moving forward.

The Panthers have played through multiple injuries at wide receiver already this year. Ray Bolden ($3,500) missed Week 1 but returned to a 30% route rate last week. Jeff Badet ($5,400) missed Week 2 after a horrific showing in Week 1. Finally, Joe Walker ($3,400) could only manage a target-less 9% of the snaps in Week 2 after seeing six targets on a 61% route share in Week 1. Regardless, this offense belongs to Lance Lenoir ($8,100). Lenoir plays every snap and boasts a 32% target share and 18 total targets this year. Behind him, Devin Ross ($3,500) has consistently been the WR2. He only has eight targets and a 14% target share, but he is involved on every route. Part of the reason only two receivers are involved, Michigan runs two tight ends on almost every play. La’Michael Pettway ($3,000) and Marcus Baugh ($2,500) each had an 85% and 70% route rate, respectively. Baugh has a 12.5% target share and Pettway comes in at 3.6%. Both of these players can be ignored. Lenoir is an excellent play, despite his horrific team.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia USFL DFS Picks

New Jersey Generals

Sitting at 1-1, the New Jersey Generals have scored exactly 34 points and allowed exactly 34 points. They’re currently 1-point underdogs in a game with a 40.5-point total, giving them some DFS appeal. As a team, they have the highest rush rate in the league, while running the third most plays.

Unfortunately, the Generals run a quarterback platoon between Luis Perez ($7,800) and De’Andre Johnson ($7,700). While both would become better plays in a full-time role, neither is viable on the four-game slate with this time share. Leave Perez and Johnson for showdown.

While the Generals lack a predictable passing attack, their rushing attack is viable on a weekly basis. While Johnson has handled double digit rushing attempts each of the last two weeks, the run-heavy offense has also allowed Trey Williams ($5,600) and Darius Victor ($4,100) to also average just over 10 rushing attempts per game. Between the two, Williams is the superior DFS option based on his pass catching ability. He has also out-targeted Victor 9-0 on the year. Still, this backfield is more of a three-man committee when considering Johnson’s involvement, making it best left to GPPs.

With Derrius Shepherd ($4,600) getting healthier in Week 2, it appears the Generals have settled on their preferred three receivers. The former Green Bay Packer saw his route share rise to 81% and he led the team with six targets. Week 1 hero Randy Satterfield ($4,900) has been battling a hamstring injury, but he was a full-time player in Week 2. Alonzo Moore ($3,700) rounds out three wide receiver sets, with KaVontae Turpin ($7,400) playing a gadget role. The main issue here is that no player has more than seven targets on the year. Shepherd and Satterfield look like the best bets for the occasional spiked week, but this is a situation to avoid overall. This team will also use multiple tight end sets, with Woody Brandom ($2,500), Braedon Bowman ($3,600) and Wes Saxton ($2,500) participating in 67%, 63% and 11% of routes. None of them look like consistent enough options to target regularly.

Philadelphia Stars

Like the Generals the Stars are 1-1. They’ve scored 47 points on offense and allowed 46 on defense. The league’s premier shootout team, only one other squad has allowed more points. The Stars have the highest pass rate, but rank seventh in plays per game. Still very efficient, this looks like the USFL’s top offense to stack.

Former Division II quarterback Bryan Scott ($10,100) leads the team. Running a dink and dunk offense, Scott has completed 71% of his passes for 6.6 yards per attempt. While these stats are middle of the pack, the Stars elevated pass rate make Scott the best quarterback option in the league. Scott also has nine rushing attempts through two games, giving him a decent floor and making him Week 3’s top quarterback play.

This backfield looks like the most fluid situation moving forward. Matt Colburn ($4,700) appeared on the injury report last week, before failing to see a snap. Darnell Holland ($8,500) appeared to aggravate his hamstring injury on special teams and now appears on the injury report this week as a limited participant. Paul Terry ($3,400) also made his first appearance after being inactive in Week 1. He led the backfield with a 64% snap share and a 58% route rate. However, the pecking order with a full stable of backs is unclear. As the pass heaviest team in the league, this backfield is GPP viable at best with a priority to the cheaper options.

Legitimately the best offense to stack, the Stars have also unfortunately battled injuries. In Week 1 Devin Gray ($7,900) and Chris Rowland ($3,400) each had an 80% and 73% route rate while seeing four and eight targets, respectively. Neither played in Week 2, thrusting Jordan Suell ($7,200) and Maurice Alexander ($4,500) into the top receiver positions. Each saw nine targets and a 100% of the drop backs. Diondre Overton ($4,000) also had a 100% of the drop backs, but he only saw three targets himself. Another beneficiary of the available opportunity was “tight end” Bug Howard ($4,100). Howard saw five targets and an 81% route rate, lining up in the slot or out wide on 82% of his snaps. He played behind Gray and Rowland in Week 1, so his role looks more volatile. Alexander also played behind this pair. However, his 87 yards and two score eruption bodes well for his playing time moving forward. Gray, Suell, Alexander, Overton, Rowland and Howard would be the order of preference for these pass catchers for now.

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Matt Gajewski graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Economics. Matt has worked in the fantasy industry for the past four years, focusing on DFS and Sports Betting. Matt specializes in NFL, College Football, College Basketball, XFL, and MMA. With GPP victories across the major sports, Matt also qualified for the DraftKings 2020 Sports Betting Championship and won a seat to the College Basketball Tourney Mania final.

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