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USFL DFS Picks: Week 4 USFL DraftKings Strategy

Matt Gajewski



With three weeks of USFL action in the books, the rosters and usage in this league are finally starting to take form. Week 4 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 4 DraftKings USFL DFS Picks

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Philadelphia vs. Michigan USFL DFS Picks

Philadelphia Stars

Entering Week 4 with a 1-2 record, the Philadelphia Stars are among the most banged up in this league. Even with the Panthers also sitting at 1-2, the Stars are a 1-point underdog in a game with a 36-point total. The Stars popularly boast a league-high pass rate. However, they have also run the fewest play, minimizing the potential upside from a pass heavy system. They have also been outscored 70-63 this year behind their bottom three defense. Their 17.5-point implied team total ranks second lowest on this slate.

At quarterback, the Stars lost Bryan Scott ($10,400) to an injury. This allowed Case Cookus ($6,500) to step up and play 55% of the snaps. Scott has now left the team to address his injuries, leaving Cookus as the clear starter. Cookus completed 13 of 20 passes for 146 yards and a score in relief, showing some promise in real game action. Cookus is not really mobile, but Bart Andrus’ scheme should give him enough volume to produce. At such a reduced salary, Cookus looks like the top price-adjusted quarterback on the slate. Take that for what it is worth. There are basically no salary restrictions in USFL DFS. The Michigan Panthers have allowed the fewest yards passing in the league.

At running back, the Stars also played without Darnell Holland ($8,500) following his Week 2 hamstring injury. Similarly, Matt Colburn ($5,200) has barely played after an early-season injury. This has allowed Paul Terry ($3,300) to dominate usage out of the backfield in the USFL’s pass-heaviest team. In Week 3, Terry played 82% of the snaps and had a 79% route rate. This only led to 17 yards rushing on six carries, but Terry also caught eight of nine targets for 52 yards receiving. With this kind of receiving work out of the backfield, Terry could be one of the top backs on the slate. This is contingent on the Holland and Colburn injuries. However, Terry is so cheap that he still projects well even with the others potentially returning. Michigan ranks middle of the pack in run defense, for what that is worth.

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Another position shifting on a weekly basis due to injury, the only consistent options in the Stars’ passing game have been Jordan Suell ($7,500) and Diondre Overton ($4,000). Both have had at least a 85% route rate in all three games this year. Suell leads the team with 18 targets, while Overton checks in with 11. Devin Gray ($7,800) missed Week 2 due to injury, but he returned in Week 3 and had a 62% route rate. That mark ranked third highest on the team. Gary’s return ultimately forced Maurice Alexander ($3,000) back to his part-time role after his Week 2 explosion. In Week 3, Alexander ran just 38% of routes and saw two targets. Similar to Gray, Chris Rowland ($3,400) also returned from injury, however, he played only in a limited capacity, participating in 15% of routes. Instead of featuring Rowland or Alexander, the Stars opted to keep tight end Bug Howard ($4,000) on the field for 76% of routes. Labeled a tight end, Howard plays a vast majority of his snaps in the slot and out wide. He saw five targets last week and now ranks second on the team with 15. Ranking these pass catchers is difficult, but currently the order for now is Suell, Howard, Overton, Gray, Alexander, Rowland (not considering salary).

Michigan Panthers

Also 1-2, the Panthers are fresh off a 24-0 shutout over the Pittsburgh Maulers. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 42-27 this year, but a majority of that came against the worst team in the league. As an offense, the Panthers rank second in plays per game, but seventh in pass rate. As evidenced by Week 3, this will be a run-first offense when Michigan plays to their preferred strategy. The Panthers have allowed the fewest point in the league and appear to be one of the better defenses so far. They have a 1-point advantage over the Stars in a game with a 36-point total. This gives the Panthers an 18.5-point team total, which ranks fifth on this slate.

Paxton Lynch ($8,600) drew the start for Michigan last week and worked in a timeshare with Shea Patterson ($10,000). True to his Josh Allen comp, Lynch rushed twice for 21 yards and a score. He did sustain an injury, making this a situation to monitor moving forward. If he cannot play, Patterson should get full run here. Patterson has only completed 55% of his passes for 5.1 yards per attempt this year. The quarterback position for the Panthers does average six attempts rush per game, giving Patterson GPP viability if Lynch cannot play. Philadelphia allows the third-most yards passing per game.

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The run-heavy Michigan Panthers bamboozled the entire USFL community when “inactive” Reggie Corbin ($3,500) led the team in Week 3 rushing. Corbin played 46% of the snaps, compared to 31% for Stevie Scott ($8,400) and 24% for Cameron Scarlett ($5,500). However, Corbin rushed for 133 yards on 20 carries while Scott rushed for 54 yards on 13 carries and Scarlett had 33 yards on five carries. Scarlett saw the only target, but this backfield looks like a pure three-way committee. Even with Corbin’s breakout, teams using three backs should generally be avoided outside of the large GPPs. Fortunately, Corbin is cheap enough to potentially target here regardless. The Stars rank last in yards per attempt allowed on the ground, meaning Corbin could be chalky here at a dirt-cheap price.

While the Panthers prefer a run-heavy offense, their receiving corps is condensed. Lance Lenoir ($8,500) ranks among the top alphas in the league. Lenoir ranks second in the USFL with 27 targets on the back of his 34% target share. Unfortunately, this has only resulted in 14 catches for 135 real-life yards, but Lenoir sits atop the league’s buy-low players. Behind him, Devin Ross ($3,500) is the only other player running a full complement of routes. Ross ranks second on the team with 16 targets (20.5% target share). However, like Lenoir, Ross only has 88 yards receiving to his name in this inefficient passing attack. Behind them, Michigan rotates snaps between Joe Walker ($3,300) as their WR3 and a pair of tight ends in Marcus Baugh ($3,200) and La’Michael Pettway ($2,700). Jeff Badet ($4,400) and Ray Bolden ($3,000) have missed time due to injury as well and could potentially further damage this timeshare. Lenoir and Ross are the only legitimate options on a weekly basis.

New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh USFL DFS Picks

New Jersey Generals

The New Jersey Generals lead the north with a 2-1 record and a positive 58- to 50-point differential. The Generals ranks third in pace and first in run rate. With the lacking quarterback play in this league, the Generals’ elevated run rate has worked in their favor. On defense, the Generals rank middle of the pack in most metrics. With the USFL’s weakest opponent on deck, the Generals enter this contest as 9-point favorites in a game with a 35-point total. This gives the Generals the third-highest implied team total on the slate.

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At quarterback, the Generals have used a quarterback platoon, consisting of Luis Perez ($7,700) and De’Andre Johnson ($8,800) to start the year. Interestingly, the Generals gave the entire second half to Johnson, which had not happened all year. Johnson has been elite as a rusher, averaging 11 carries per game and 6.6 yards per attempt. He has also outperformed Perez as a passer. Johnson has completed 64% of his passes for 10.8 yards per attempt, while Perez has completed 56% of his passes for 5.7 yards per attempt. Even with a smaller sample size, Johnson has played well enough to get full run and hopefully the Generals give him that. With full run, he would instantly become the best quarterback play on the board.

New Jersey utilizes a three-way rushing attack featuring Trey Williams ($7,400) and Darius Victor ($4,000), in addition to Johnson at the quarterback position. Williams has played excellent football of late, with 110 yards rushing on 19 carries last week. He also caught four of five targets for 44 yards receiving. Unfortunately for Williams, Victor continues to be involved, including at the goal line. Victor carried 13 times for 51 yards in Week 3, but he also contributed both touchdowns. Even with the committee, this team runs so much that both Williams and Victor can be targeted in DFS.

The Generals’ target leader is Williams out of the backfield with 14. No pass catcher has more than 12 targets this year behind Williams. That honor belongs to gadget player KaVontae Turpin ($7,300), who has seen his routes fluctuate from 33% to 81%. Turpin will receive a handful of carries, making him the safest of this bunch. The other two somewhat consistent receivers have been Darrius Shepherd ($4,500) and Alonzo Moore ($3,700). Last week, Shepherd and Moore had 93% and 86% route rates, while Turpin had 72%. Unfortunately, both saw exactly one target, while Turpin logged five. Ultimately, there just is not enough production in this offense’s pass game to warrant consideration outside of the largest of GPPs. At tight end, Braedon Bowman ($3,500) had a 72% route rate last week and saw four targets. His 10 targets rank third on the team behind Williams and Turpin.

Pittsburgh Maulers

The laughingstock of the USFL, the Pittsburgh Maulers enter this game with an 0-3 record. They have also been outscored 71-26 to date. The Maulers rank sixth in plays per game, but second in pass rate. That comes directly as the result of negative game script. The Maulers often attempt to establish the run early before falling behind. Their 13-point implied team total easily ranks last on this slate.

After letting Josh Love ($7,200) cook in Week 2, the Maulers returned to a quarterback by committee between Love and Kyle Lauletta ($7,900) in Week 2. Neither quarterback runs and this offense can barely sustain one quarterback, to begin with. With two potentially playing moving forward, this is an offense to avoid. For reference, Love has completed 54% of his passes for 6.0 yards per attempt, while Lauletta has completed 50% of his passes for 2.3 yards per attempt.

The Pittsburgh backfield continues to shift on a weekly basis. Madre London ($5,900) and Garrett Groshek ($6,900) have alternated weeks leading this backfield. Groshek has 44 carries to London’s 35, but London has the edge in targets 9-2. London has been slightly more efficient on the ground, but Pittsburgh seems content taking the hot hand approach. his looks like a tough situation to target outside of large-field GPPs, with a horrific team facing the league’s best-run defense.

One of the weakest passing attacks in the league, the Maulers also bamboozled DFS players when they sat Bailey Gaither ($5,800) due to an illness. Gaither ranked among the USFL’s top receivers prior to his Week 3 absence. Watch the (misleading) injury reports this week, but Gaither should return to his top receiver role in Week 4. Interestingly, Pittsburgh did not really rotate receivers without Gaither in Week 3. Tre Walker ($3,100), Branden Mack ($4,900) and Delvon Hardaway ($3,600) all had at least a 75% route rate. Hardaway had worked ahead of Walker and Mack previously, making him a solid bet for WR2 duties. From there, Walker and Mack split WR3 duties in Week 2 with a slight edge going Walker’s way in targets and routes. Even with the missed game, Gaither still leads the team with 16 targets, followed by Hardaway with 15 targets. For those interested, it looks like Jeff Thomas ($8,300) has basically been benched after participating in just 25% route rate last week. At tight end, Hunter Thedford ($3,100) has also taken on a decent role. Thedford played on 96% of the snaps but had only a 69% route rate in Week 3. Still, that was good enough for Thedford to command five targets for this second consecutive week. Gaither, Hardaway, Walker and Thedford look like the top price-adjusted option in this poor offense in that order.

Tampa Bay vs. Birmingham USFL DFS Picks

Tampa Bay Bandits

Despite entering Week 3 with a 2-1 record, the Tampa Bay Bandits have been outscored 63-47 by their opponents. The Bandits rank fourth in plays per game and fifth in pass rate, making them one of the more balanced teams. However, Tampa Bay throws the ball more than a team like Pittsburgh in a neutral game script. They enter this contest as a 3.5-point underdog to the Birmingham Stallions in a game with a 41.5-point total. For reference, the Bandits’ 19-point implied team total still ranks fourth highest on this slate.

After struggling through the first two weeks, Jordan Ta’amu ($10,900) erupted for 255 yards passing and a touchdown on 36 attempts in Week 3. He also carried six times for 29 yards and an additional score. On the year, Ta’amu has a 57% completion percentage for 5.8 yards per attempt. Ta’amu also has 10 carries in his last two games after rushing just one time in Week 1. The Stallions have played decent defense, but Ta’amu pushed himself back into DFS consideration with his solid Week 3 play.

After starting the year as the lead back, B.J. Emmons ($9,400) has increasingly split time with Juwan Washington ($4,400). Last week, Washington carried 15 times on a 58% snap share, while Emmons logged nine carries on a 42% snap share. Emmons does have 11 targets this year to Washington’s five, but this backfield increasingly looks like a 50/50 timeshare. Birmingham does allow the second-most yards per carries, making this an attractive situation. Due to pricing, Washington looks significantly more attractive than Emmons.

The Bandits have been a revolving door at receiver with Jordan Lasley leading the team in snaps one week and getting cut the next. Tight end Cheyenne O’Grady ($5,900) leads the team with 17 targets. However, after a breakout Week 1, O’Grady has been reduced to a rotation with fellow tight end De’Quan Hampton ($3,400). Both had a 56% route rate in Week 3. At receiver, John Franklin ($3,200) seems to have emerged as the team’s top option. He now has 89% and 81% route rates over the last two weeks. He also tied for a team led six targets, while handling six carries out of the backfield. Behind Franklin, Derrick Dillon ($5,000) popped up as the team’s second-most active receiver. Dillon had a 74% route rate and saw six targets a week after handling an 11% route share. From there, Rashard Davis ($8,300) and Vinny Papale ($3,200) each had a 56% route rate. Derrick Willies ($3,000) had a 14%. This team will use upwards of seven pass catchers with little role consistency week over week. For those trying to decipher this situation for GPPs, Franklin narrowly edges Dillon in order of priority. From there, throwing darts might be the most accurate way to predict this receiving room.

Birmingham Stallions

The lone undefeated team in the USFL, the Birmingham Stallions also have outscored opponents 83-65. The Stallions rank fifth in plays per game and third in pass rate. As a 3.5-point favorite in a game with a 41.5-point implied team total, the Stallions boast the second-highest implied team total of the week at 22.5.

After Alex McGough ($8,100) went down with an injury in Week 1, J’Mar Smith ($9,500) has led the Stallions. On the year, Smith has completed 52% of his passes for 6.5 yards per attempt. Smith has struggled a little more in recent weeks, but his volume has kept him fantasy viable. In Week 3, Smith completed 15 of 38 passes for 197 yards, a pair of scores and an interception. Luckily, Smith has exactly eight carries in back-to-back weeks, making him a solid quarterback target assuming a full complement of snaps. McGough’s return to full health could render this a timeshare, but that has yet to be seen. The Tampa Bay Bandits also allow the most yards per pass attempt in the league.

After working in a timeshare with Tony Brooks-James ($6,000), the Birmingham backfield has increasingly moved in C.J. Marable‘s ($6,600) favor. Last week, Marable played on 76% of the snaps and had a 52% route rate. He also out-touched Brooks-James 22-5. Potentially functioning as one of the league’s true feature backs, Marable warrants consideration across formats behind this strong implied team total.

The USFL’s target leader Victor Bolden ($9,800) already has 33 targets (33.3%) to his name. While his 154 yards receiving leave a little to be desired, Bolden’s usage makes him among the top receiver options weekly. Behind him, Birmingham barely rotates their top three options, with Marlon Williams ($5,200) and Osirus Mitchell ($8,700) also running 90%-plus of routes. Mitchell and Williams have 17 and 14 targets respectively, with Mitchell narrowly out-gaining Williams 144-135. Tight end Cary Angeline ($6,300) has also been incredibly involved with 17 targets and 125 yards receiving this year. Angeline only had a 71% route rate last week, which fell at least 20% below each of the three receivers. However, all four pass-catching options can comfortably slide into DFS lineups this week with a priority to Bolden.

Houston vs. New Orleans USFL DFS Picks

Houston Gamblers

The only 1-2 team in the south, the Houston Gamblers have only been outscored by opponents 72-71 this year. The Gamblers have run the second-fewest plays this year while ranking sixth in pass rate. As 5-point underdogs in a game with a 41.5-point total, their 18.25-implied team total ranks sixth on this slate.

With Kenji Bahar ($6,100) out due to injury, Clayton Thorson ($8,000) took every snap for the Houston Gamblers last week. On the year, Thorson has completed 54% of his passes for 6.7 yards per pass attempt. A horrible defense has kept Thorson throwing the ball frequently. If Bahar returns, Thorson probably disappoints here. Also working against Thorson, the Breakers have allowed the second-fewest yards per pass attempt this season.

While the Houston passing game leaves much to be desired, the rushing attack features bell cow back Mark Thompson ($6,200). Thompson already has 53 carries this year, including his 24-carry, 147-yard rushing performance in Week 3. Thompson has also been fairly active as a receiver. Last week, he had a 28% route rate and saw three targets. The Gamblers target the running back position at the lowest rate in the USFL. However, Thompson’s position-leading route rate on the team bodes well for his pass-game involvement in negative game scripts. Thompson currently averages an absurd 5.8 yards per carry this year and now faces a middling Breakers’ run defense.

Perhaps the USFL’s premier wind-sprinter, Isaiah Zuber ($9,600) has also suffered through brutal quarterback play. He has had a at least 96% route rate in all three weeks, but he only has 12 targets to show for it. Meanwhile, Tyler Simmons ($4,200) and Anthony Ratliff-Williams ($4,600) have 16 and 13 targets, respectively. Zuber still leads the team with 136 yards receiving, but Ratliff-Williams has 123 and Simmons has 77. In Week 3, Ratliff-Williams had an 84% route rate, while Simmons managed a 64% participation rate. Still, Simmons out-targeted Ratliff-Williams 7-4. Interestingly, Tyler Palka ($3,000) also had an 84% route rate and saw just two targets. Even Teo Redding ($3,000) had 40% route participation as the Gamblers decided to almost completely remove the tight end position from their receiving game. Zuber still looks like the top option here, but Ratliff-Williams and Simmons rank a close second and third. Palka sits at a distant fourth.

New Orleans Breakers

With a 2-1 record to start the year, the New Orleans Breakers have impressively outscored opponents 70-42 so far. The Breakers rank first in play rate and fourth in pass rate. Their 23.25-point implied team total leads the slate.

Battling injury, Kyle Sloter ($10,200) played all of Week 3, completing 26 of 47 passes for 240 yards, two scores and an interception. Unfortunately, Sloter only carried one time after rushing five times combined in the Breakers’ first two games. One of the better signal-callers in this league, Sloter has completed 60% of his passes for 5.8 yards per attempt to start the year. Fortunately, no other team allows more yards passing per attempt than the Gamblers. Even at reduced health, Sloter should finish among the top quarterbacks on this slate.

After using T.J. Logan ($7,500) and Jordan Ellis ($6,400) in a timeshare to start the year, an injury to Logan forced the Breakers to use Ellis as their feature back in Week 3. Ellis carried 25 times for 90 yards while receiving an additional four targets in the receiving games. In the week prior, Ellis also out-carried Logan 21-10. However, Logan had five targets while Ellis had none. Without Logan last week, the Breakers used Larry Rose ($4,300) on 20% of snaps. However, it was Ellis that functioned as the true bell cow. If Logan misses again, Ellis should be among the top-scoring backs on the slate. If Logan returns, Ellis still is DFS viable, but his receiving floor would take a hit. Houston allows the third-most yards per carry.

Arguably a top-three receiver in this league, former Ohio State product Johnnie Dixon ($7,300) leads the USFL with 165 yards receiving. His 25 targets rank third, only behind Lenoir and Bolden. Interestingly, Dixon ranked third on the Breakers with a 78% route rate last week. He still led the team with 10 targets, but Jonathan Adams ($4,300) and Shawn Poindexter ($8,400) had 98% and 86% route rates, respectively. Poindexter started the year slowly, but he now has five and nine targets in back-to-back games. Adams was an early candidate for WR1 in this league. He averages six targets per game and ranks just behind Dixon with 112 yards on the year. All three receivers are legitimately solid options in one of the league’s best offenses. The Breakers also boast the USFL’s most involved tight end with Sal Cannella ($5,300). Cannella ranks fourth in the USFL in targets (20) and second on the team with 133 yards receiving. Cannella had a 94% route rate last week and is an elite stacking option within this offense. The predictability and strong pass game make the Breakers one of the best stacks to target in DFS.

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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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