USFL DFS Picks: Week 5 USFL DraftKings Strategy

With four weeks of USFL action in the books, the rosters and usage in this league are finally starting to take form. Week 5 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.

Week 5 DraftKings USFL DFS Picks

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Michigan vs. Tampa Bay USFL DFS Picks

Michigan Panthers

Now 1-3 to start the season, the Michigan Panthers have somehow outscored opponents 67-53. They’ve been the third fastest team in the league, while passing at the second lowest rate in the USFL (40.2%). Michigan enters Week 5 as a 2.5-point underdog to Tampa Bay in a game with a 34-point total. This ranks the Panthers sixth in implied team total on the slate.

Despite a 1-3 start, the Panthers have fully committed to the run at this point. With Paxton Lynch ($8,200) injured, Shea Patterson ($10,100) took every snap at quarterback for the Panthers. However, Patterson played horribly, completing nine of 17 passes for 67 yards, one touchdown and an interception. This marks two straight weeks where Patterson failed to eclipse 20 pass attempts or crest 100 yards passing. Fortunately, Patterson did rack up 79 yards rushing and a score on the ground. Lynch previously occupied this role, but his injury opened the door for extra Patterson carries. The Panthers also claimed Josh Love ($7,000) off waivers this week from the moronic Pittsburgh Maulers. Love has completed 54% of his passes for 6.0 yards per attempt. He would likely be an upgrade over Patterson, but he only joined the team a few days ago. Love is a name to monitor in the future, but Patterson should draw another start here. The Bandits have allowed the second most yards per pass attempt this year, for the little it is worth.

After missing Week 1, Reggie Corbin ($5,500) has clearly ascended up Michigan’s running back depth chart. The Illinois product now has back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances and leads the USFL in yards per attempt. For what it’s worth, he faced two bottom three run defenses in these contests. It should also be noted that Corbin hasn’t dominated the backfield in either contest. In Week 4, Corbin played 36% of the snaps, while Stevie Scott ($8,200) and Cameron Scarlett ($5,700) played on 36% and 28% themselves. Making matters worse, Corbin’s 13% route rate trailed both Scott (33%) and Scarlett (38%). Corbin has easily been more efficient to this point, but Jeff Fisher’s continued use of three running back is an issue. Corbin is a scary fade due to his recent play, but other backfields have a clearer path to opportunity. However, if playing anyone in the Michigan run game, Corbin makes the most sense due to a laughably cheap salary after DraftKings again failed to update pricing.

In the receiving room, Lance Lenoir ($8,600) continues to function as the Robby Anderson of the USFL. Lenoir’s 31 targets rank only behind Birmingham’s Victor Bolden ($10,200). However, Lenoir has just 13 catches for 135 yards. He topped in off by going catchless on four targets while rushing for negative yards in Week 4. Again, Lenoir tops the hypothetical buy low model for those brave enough to target him again on this recently run-heavy team. Outside of Lenoir, Devin Ross ($3,500) had the same percentage of routes (83%) and received five targets. The Panthers use 12 personnel as their base package, so Joe Walker ($3,800) and Ray Bolden ($3,000) only had 38% and 17% route rates, respectively. Meanwhile tight ends Marcus Baugh ($2,800) and La’Michael Pettway ($2,500) had a 75% and 71%. Both saw exactly two targets. Baugh suffered an injury and the team subsequently promoted Ryan O’Malley to the active roster in his place. This passing attack is so broken that leaving it alone is probably the best option. However, if necessary, Lenoir and Ross are the top options in that order.

Tampa Bay Bandits

Ranked third in the South, the Tampa Bay Bandits sit at 2-2. They’ve been outscored by opponents 79-57 but are a 2.5-point favorite in this game. The Bandits rank fifth in both pace and pass rate, making them a middling to target across the board. As a team, their 18.25 implied team total ranks fourth on this slate.

After a rough start to the season, Jordan Ta’amu ($11,000) has somewhat cleaned up his play. On the year, he is completing 57.4% of his passes for 5.8 yards per pass attempt. Fortunately, Ta’amu has exactly six rushing attempts in each of the last two games, elevating his floor. With the rule changes allowing the clock to run after incomplete passes through the first three quarters, this rushing upside is crucial. Ta’amu is egregiously expensive, but little salary restrictions exist in USFL DFS. For that reason, he can still be targeted in GPPs. The Panthers have allowed the second fewest yards passing per attempt so far this year, making Ta’amu’s rushing even more important.

Week 4 finally saw the Bandits somewhat commit to B.J. Emmons ($9,400) on the ground after previously splitting time with Juwan Washington ($3,900). Emmons plays on 66% of snaps and had a 52% route rate, while Washington played on 36% of the snaps and had a 17% route rate. Unfortunately, Emmons played horribly, notching just 18 yards on 11 carries. He also struggled in the pass game, catching two of four targets for an additional eight yards. At this point, Washington’s 3.1 yards per carry actually ranks ahead of Emmons’ 2.5 yards per carry on the year. The Bandits did list Emmons as questionable, making this a situation to watch ahead of game time. The Panthers do allow the third-most yards rushing per attempt. However, with Ta’amu siphoning off a decent chunk of the carries as well, this backfield looks best left to GPPs.

Consistent with their approach all year, the Bandits have continued to rotate their pass catchers. Interestingly, Derrick Willies ($3,000) jumped back up to a 90% route share after participating in just 14% of routes in Week 3. He still only saw two targets, continuing his poor performances. Even more interesting, the Bandits moved him to the inactive roster ahead of this upcoming week. Coming off the solid Week 3, Derrick Dillon ($4,500) had a 76% route rate, but only saw three targets and -1 (!!) air yards on the week. From there, Rashard Davis ($7,900) and Vinny Papale ($3,200) had 55% and 38% route rates, seeing one and four targets, respectively. Papale’s four targets actually tied Emmons for the team lead. At tight end Cheyenne O’Grady ($5,600) and De’Quan Hampton ($2,600) split time, participating in 52% and 48% route rate, respectively. This passing attack is a disaster, but Dillon and Davis present the top two DFS options.

New Orleans vs. New Jersey USFL DFS Picks

New Orleans Breakers

Rebounding from a Week 3 loss at the hands of the Birmingham Stallions, the New Orleans Breakers enter this game with a 3-1 record. They also have a sizeable 93-58 positive point differential. The Breakers also run the most plays per game and run nearly eight plays more than the next fastest team on average. New Orleans also ranks third in pass rate (54%), giving them plenty of DFS viability. In Week 5, the Breakers are 3-point favorites over the New Jersey Generals in a game with a slate leading 36.5 over/under. With a 19.75 point implied team total, the Breakers are tied with the Houston Gamblers for the second-highest implied team total.

The top quarterback performance of the USFL thus far, Kyle Sloter ($10,800) completed 26 of 42 passes for 397 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions last week. On the year, Sloter is now completing 60.6% of his passes for 6.8 yards per attempt. Sloter has been banged up, limiting him to just eight carries on the year. However, he also benefits from the up-tempo, pass heavy scheme. Among the quarterbacks above $10,000 on DraftKings, Sloter looks most deserving of that price tag. With a middling New Jersey defense on the other side, Sloter should be a top three quarterback option again this week.

After releasing T.J. Logan, the Breakers have fully committed to Jordan Ellis ($8,000) as their feature back. One of the lone bell-cow backs in this league, Ellis played on 81% of the Breakers’ snaps and had a 66% route rate in Week 4. Ellis ended with 104 yard and a score on the ground behind 19 carries, while adding four catches for 17 yards on seven target in the pass game. Change of pace back Larry Rose ($3,700) played on just 19% of snaps, making Ellis the USFL’s premier three down back. The Breakers did recently add Anthony Jones ($3,000) to the roster, but this should be Ellis’ job regardless. The Generals are the league’s top run defense to this point, but volume keeps Ellis among the top price-adjusted running back plays on the slate.

Somewhat of a change at receiver occurred in New Orleans’ last game. Previously, Taywan Taylor ($5,400) played only a part time role in this offense. However, his route share jumped to 68% in Week 4, coming at the expense of Johnnie Dixon ($8,100) and Shawn Poindexter ($8,200). Poindexter also had a 68% route rate, but Dixon saw his route share drop to 62%. Ultimately, Taylor and Dixon both received five targets, while Poindexter checked in with three. The only player who didn’t lose snaps, Jonathan Adams ($5,500) still had a 91% route rate and tied for the team lead with nine targets. Adams ultimately finished with six catches for 101 yards and a score, which ranked just behind Taylors 112 yards on four catches. The only other player to eclipse an 80% route rate was tight end Sal Cannella ($5,300) at 85%. Cannella also saw nine targets, which he turned into a serviceable 82 yards on five catches. Overall, this offense has four legitimate receiving options in Adams, Cannella, Dixon and Taylor. For now, they should be preferred in that order from a projections standpoint. However, any of the five can be targeted for tournaments in this strong offense.

New Jersey Generals

On the other side of this game, the New Jersey Generals enter this contest with a 3-1 record and a 79-63 point differential. The Generals possess the lowest pass rate in the USFL (39.8%), but they rank second in pace of play. Even with solid underlying metrics, the Generals have a tough test ahead against the USFL’s top defenses in the Breakers.

Like many teams in this league, the New Jersey Generals have employed a quarterback platoon between Luis Perez ($7,300) and De’Andre Johnson ($8,700). At this point in the season, the split doesn’t make much sense. Johnson has outperformed Perez in every statistical category. On the year, Johnson leads the USFL with a 71.9% completion percentage and 10.5 yards per pass attempt. Conversely, Perez has completed 60.9% of his passes for 6.0 yards per pass attempt. This also doesn’t take into consideration Johnson’s rushing ability. Johnson ranks fourth in overall yards rushing (230), averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the statuesque Perez has yet to carry the ball through four games. Ultimately, this timeshare looks likely to continue. However, even in a timeshare, Johnson’s legs give him enough upside to target for tournaments. If Perez ever finds the bench, Johnson will become the best quarterback play on the slate. Complicating matters further, the Breakers rank first in yards passing allowed per attempt (4.9).

The Generals failed to get much going on the ground last week, but Darius Victor ($5,000) appeared to move slightly ahead of Trey Williams ($8,800). Ultimately, Victor carried ten times for 57 yards and a score, while Williams rushed six times for five yards. Victor also caught all three of his targets for 21 yards, while Williams caught both of his targets for a yard as well. Ultimately, Victory played 54% of the snaps to Williams 43%. However, Johnson actually led the team in overall rushing attempts, making this a pure three back committee. Exacerbating matters further, the Generals also gave gadget receiver KaVontae Turpin ($7,100) four carries, further spreading the backfield work. For the time being, Victor looks like the slightly better play in this backfield based on recent efficiency, volume and a much cheaper price. With that said, New Orleans allows the second fewest yards per rushing attempt, making this a tough matchup for all New Jersey runners.

Mentioned above, the Generals pass at the lowest rate in the USFL. However, they actually run a fairly tight receiving corps between Alonzo Moore ($5,200), Darrius Shepherd ($4,200) and KaVontae Turpin ($7,100). In addition to his rushing attempts, Turpin also led the team with seven targets in Week 4 on a 70% route rate. Most of these targets occur near the line of scrimmage, but they also afford Turpin strong run after catch potential. Behind Turpin, Williams actually ranks second in targets, but Shepherd ranks third with 13. Shepherd had a 78% route rate in Week 4 and ranked second on the team with five targets. However, he only managed three catches for 15 yards. Moore actually led the team in receiving, catching all three of his target for 104 yards and a score. Moore only has ten targets on the year, but he had an 85% route rate last week, which led the team. At tight end, the Generals use a pure timeshare between Braedon Bowman ($3,000) and Woody Brandom ($2,800). Bowman had a 59% route rate, compared to 44% for Brandom. Overall, this isn’t the best situation to target, but any of the starting three receivers can be used in contrarian tournament builds.

Birmingham vs. Philadelphia USFL DFS Picks

Birmingham Stallions

Pacing the USFL with a 4-0 record, the Birmingham Stallions have a 99-75 positive point differential. The Stallions rank fourth in pace of play and pass rate (51.7%). As a team, they enter this game as a 5.5-point favorite over the Philadelphia Stars in a game with a 35.5-point total. This gives the Stallions a slate leading 20.5-point implied team total.

Frustrating to DFSers, the Stallions moved J’Mar Smith ($9,700) to the bench and instead started Alex McGough ($8,400) in Week 4. McGough played average, completing 14 of 26 passes for 126 scoreless yards. Fortunately, McGough salvaged him low passing output with 39 yards rushing and a score on nine ground attempts. The reporting out of Birmingham hasn’t been ideal. Smith dealt with an illness last week, but reportedly recovered enough to play. Instead, the Stallions opted to go with McGough. For whatever reason, it appears the Stallions view McGough as the preferred option. Unless Smith’s battle with the illness limited him, it looks like McGough will start moving forward. This will also be a strong matchup for the Stallions against a Stars defense that ranks bottom two in the USFL.

After using a running back split to start the year, the Stallions have slowly begun to feature C.J. Marable ($7,000) over Tony Brooks-James ($6,200). Last week, Marable carried 17 times for an inefficient 55 yards, while Brooks-James added 32 yards on five carries himself. Marable also caught one of three targets for seven yards in the pass game. Ultimately, Marable finished with 75% of the snaps and 53% route rate, compared to 25% of snaps and 13% of routes for Brooks-James. However, the Stallions released change of pace back Jordan Chunn and signed former Alabama star and Patriots practice squad participant Bo Scarbrough. Marable has only averaged 3.4 yards per carry this year, so perhaps the Stallions would like to see more juice. Brooks-James has averaged 5.2 yards per carry, but the Stallions seem content on using him and a change of pace. With the added risk, Marable looks like pure GPP option this week. Philadelphia ranks dead last in yards rushing allowed per attempt, which should at least keep this backfield alive in GPPs.

At receiver, the Stallions continue to use three receiver sets for the most part. Mentioned above, Bolden leads the USFL with 43 targets and a 34.4% target share. Osirus Mitchell ($9,100) ranks second with 17 targets, while Marlon Williams ($4,700) is tied for third with the recently deactivated Cary Angeline ($6,000). Most of Mitchell’s targets were front loaded into the first two games, seeing just four combined targets of the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Williams’ role continues to ascend with nine targets in that same span. Interestingly, Williams also had a 91% route rate, while Mitchell’s route share dropped to 75% in Week 4. That came with Michael Dereus ($3,000) participating in 25% of routes. At tight end, the Stallions moved forward with Sage Surratt ($2,700) in Week 4. He had a 94% route rate, but only saw two targets. Angeline was reportedly dealing with an illness, so he could easily be inserted back into the lineup. Overall, Bolden is the clear WR1 in this offense, with Williams moving ahead of Mitchell from a price adjusted perspective. The tight end position doesn’t have clarity at this point in the week, but Angeline should get activated, if healthy. Either way, one of these tight ends will likely play close to 100% of the snaps and be viable for DFS.

Philadelphia Stars

On the other side of the Stallions, the Philadelphia Stars’ 15-point implied team total ranks second to last. As a team, the Stars are 2-2, but they’ve allowed 95 points and only scored 89 themselves. Interestingly, the Stars rank dead last in play volume, but they pass at the highest rate in the league (66.5%). This game still has a solid total overall, which should make it one of the more popular games to stack.

It looks like Bryan Scott will be out for the foreseeable future, making Case Cookus ($8,000) the continued starter. Cookus played reasonably well in his first outing as the full-time starter. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 190 yards and a pair of scores. Cookus also rushed four times for 35 yards, giving him a stronger floor in terms of USFL DFS. On top of the quarterback friendly offense, there’s a decent chance that Cookus is simply a better player than Scott. While the sample is small, the two have both completed at least 70% of their passes, with Cookus holding a slight edge in yards per attempt 6.7 to 6.6. The Stallions possess a top three pass defense so far this year, but the Bart Andrus offense continues to produce. At just $8,000, Cookus will be the top price-adjusted quarterback for the second straight week.

After dominating touches in Week 4, Paul Terry ($4,900) worked in more of a committee with Matt Colburn ($4,400) in Week 4. Terry played on 64% of the snaps and had a 56% route rate. Conversely, Colburn played 36% of snaps and had a 36% route rate the Stars. Terry played much better than Colburn with 62 yards rushing on 11 attempts, while catching three of five targets for nine yards receiving. Unfortunately, Terry did lose a fumble, but the Stars went back to him right away on the following drive. Colburn only rushed for 16 yards on six carries, while snatching his lone target for -1 yards receiving. With Darnell Hollard ($8,100) still out, Terry should be the focal point of this run game and is a strong price-adjusted DFS play.

The Stars suffered through multiple wide receiver injuries to start the season, but it looks like their starting group has finally taken form. Jordan Suell ($7,800), Devin Gray ($7,500) and Diondre Overton ($5,100) had 89%, 83% and 78% route rates. Gray led the team with seven catches for 70 yards and a score on seven targets. Overton managed four catches for 73 yards and a score on five targets. Suell had previously functioned at the WR1, but he only managed two catches for 12 yards on three targets. Of the three, Suell currently leads the group with 21 targets. However, Suell is tied for a team leading 21 targets with “tight end” Bug Howard ($4,100). Howard actually plays a majority of his snaps in the slot or out wide. He also had a 92% route rate, seeing five targets. Behind the big four, Chris Rowland ($3,400) and Maurice Alexander ($3,000) had a 25% and 22% route rate after popping up for big games earlier this year. Overall, Gray, Suell, Howard and Overton look like the top options to target in that order.

Pittsburgh vs. Houston USFL DFS Picks

Pittsburgh Maulers

The USFL’s only winless team, the Pittsburgh Maulers have been outscored 39-92 on the year. After attempting to establish the run, negative game scripts have forced the Maulers into the second highest pass rate in the league (55.4%). However, their inefficiency shows up in a pace of play ranked third lowest in the league. In Week 5, the Maulers have a 14.25 implied team total, which ranks lowest on the slate. Overall, they’re 5.5-point underdogs to the Houston Gamblers in a game with a 34-point total.

One of many questionable decisions, the Maulers gave Kyle Lauletta ($7,500) full run in Week 4 after a poor start to the season. Lauletta completed 15 of 32 passes for 169 yards, marking one of his better performances. However, Lauletta has completed a sorry 48% of his passes for 4.1 yards per attempt to this point. For reference, Josh Love ($7,000) has completed 54% of his passes for 6.0 yards per attempt. The Maulers did bring in free agent Vlad Lee this week, so the quarterback position could change hands again. Overall, this situation is incredibly volatile. For those with brave souls, Lauletta could be a target in the largest of tournaments based on the volume he receives when Pittsburgh inevitably gets pounded. For what it’s worth, Houston allows the most yards passing per attempt in the league (7.8).

Again, Pittsburgh confused DFSers by running out Garrett Groshek ($7,200) as the team’s lead back after previously using a timeshare with Madre London ($6,100). Groshek played on 70% of the snaps and had a 63% route rate, while London played on 31% of snaps and had a 29% route rate. Groshek continued his horrific inefficiency with 37 yards rushing on 14 attempts, while London rushed for 43 yards on five attempts. On the year, London averaged 4.5 yards per attempt, while Groshek checks in at 3.4 yards per attempt. With the coaching staff mixing up this rotation weekly and unable to evaluate their personnel, this largely looks like a situation to avoid.

At receiver, the Maulers have been forced to play without Bailey Gaither ($5,800) over the last two weeks as he battles an illness. In his place, fellow San Jose State alum Tre Walker ($4,000) has taken on a massive role. On top of participating in 100% of routes, Walker received 17 targets and 229 air yards in Week 4. Walker only converted that into nine catches for 110 yards, but that level of opportunity is mind blowing in this league. Alongside Walker, Branden Mack ($3,900) also had a 100% route rate. Mack only saw four targets, catching one of them for eight yards. However, he played well ahead of Delvon Hardaway ($3,600), who had a 63% route rate. When/if Gaither returns, Gaither and Walker should function as the top two receivers, with Mack and Hardaway splitting the third spot. At tight end, Pittsburgh used a rotation in Week 4 between Hunter Thedford ($2,900) and the newly signed Artayvious Lynn ($2,500). Thedford had a 51% route rate, compared to 46% for Lynn. While the passing attack may not be the most efficient, Walker and Gaither (when healthy) should continue to function as the clear top two options.

Houston Gamblers

With the worst opponent in the league on deck, the Houston Gamblers’ 19.75-point implied team total ranks second on the slate. Overall, Houston is the second slowest team in the league, while ranking sixth in pass rate. This team generally struggles with efficiency, but a matchup against the Maulers should get the 1-3 Gamblers back on the right track. Overall, they’ve scored 87 points, while their opponents have scored 95.

Another middling quarterback, Clayton Thorson ($7,800) continues to function as a game manager for Houston. On the year, Thorson has completed 54.3% of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt. Unfortunately, this team doesn’t run many plays and they prefer to prioritize their ground attack. Thorson offers little rushing upside himself, making him a fade worthy quarterback outside of the largest of fields. Pittsburgh does allow the third most yards per pass attempt, giving Thorson at least one positive heading into this matchup.

After a dominant start to the year, Mark Thompson ($7,100) came crashing back to earth with 14 carries for just ten yards in Week 4. In fact, change of pace back Devwah Whaley ($3,200) rushed for 11 yards on three carries and caught the team’s only target out of the backfield. Thompson still played on 67% of the snaps and had a 29% route rate. Conversely, Whaley played on 20% of the snaps and had a 14% route rate. With the inept Pittsburgh Maulers on deck, Thompson looks like a solid buy low candidate in this spot.

At receiver, the DFS community received another surprise when JoJo Ward ($6,000) suited up for the first time since Week 1. Not only that, but Ward had a 100% route rate and received four targets. One of the better talents in this league, Ward previously saw nine targets in Week 1 and should now give Thorson a solid secondary option behind Isaiah Zuber ($9,800). Like Ward, Zuber also had 100% route rate, but he led the team with seven targets. Zuber managed to snag five of the seven for a team leading 46 yards receiving. Outside of Ward and Zuber, the Gamblers fully embraced four wide receiver sets. Anthony Ratliff-Williams ($4,400) and Tyler Palka ($3,000) each had 89% and 71% route rates. Behind them, Tyler Simmons ($5,000) and tight ends Brandon Barnes ($2,800) and Julian Allen ($2,500) all failed to crack a 30% route rate. For now, Zuber and Ward are the clear top two options in this offense, with Ratliff-Williams and Palka making more sense in large field tournaments.

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Matt Gajewski
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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