The end of the 2023 USFL regular season has intrigue, as only one of four playoff spots is sewn up. So, there’s plenty of motivation for nearly everyone. The Stallions are the only exception. While they need a win or a loss by the Breakers to win the South Division, they’ve already clinched a playoff berth. In addition, the South Division Championship game will be played in Birmingham anyway. Thus, their primary motivation should be to get through this week’s game unscathed. The Stallions could pull players early for rest, and Alex McGough might run less to avoid unnecessary hits. Maybe, they’ll throw caution to the wind, but that would be coaching malpractice.
Pittsburgh’s and Memphis’s lousy offenses also aren’t represented in this week’s DFS Primer. Instead, the Breakers and Stars are the most well-represented teams, with the Gamblers and Generals also providing gamers with useful choices.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson is first in passing yards per game (245.1) and fourth in passing touchdowns (12) this year. He can add to his totals in a fantastic matchup this week. The Gamblers have allowed the most passing yards per game (204.7) this year. And in Week 2, MBT had 251 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and eight rushing yards.
However, Case Cookus is a slightly more appealing choice when factoring in the salary discount for using Philadelphia's signal caller. Philadelphia's offensive line took a step back after a strong run of keeping Cookus upright. Admittedly, the offensive line was in a compromised position, having to provide protection for most of the game in obvious passing situations. Thus, Cookus was sacked four times in Week 9.
Nevertheless, Cookus persevered through the challenging conditions and stayed hot. He completed 25 of 39 pass attempts for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Cookus also rumbled for 59 yards on seven attempts. He's thrown for multiple touchdowns in three consecutive contests and had at least 235 passing yards in four straight. Cookus has also rushed for 37.25 yards per game since Week 6. As a result, he's the most exciting quarterback in all game types this week.
Mark Thompson and Wes Hills are genuine workhorses. The former has had at least 14 opportunities (rushes and targets) in all seven games he's played, parlaying them into USFL highs in rushing yards per game (81.4) and rushing touchdowns (13). Thompson has also chipped in 13 receptions and 80 receiving yards.
Hills has had an even more robust role, getting at least 20 opportunities in all eight games he's played. Hills has rushed for 83.4 yards per game and 10 touchdowns. Additionally, he's a weapon in the passing game, averaging 4.1 receptions and 29.8 receiving yards per game. So, Hills is game-script proof. I rank Hills slightly ahead of Thompson, but the margin is tight. And since Hills has a meaningful role in New Orleans's passing game, he can be stacked with Bethel-Thompson. But using Thompson as a game-stacking pick with MBT is also appealing in GPPs.
Darius Victor isn't in the same tier of bell-cow running back as Thompson and Hills. Yet, he's had at least 10 opportunities in eight straight contests. He's also been in good form lately, averaging 9.3 rushes, 43.0 rushing yards, 5.0 targets, 3.7 receptions, and 1.3 touchdowns per game since Week 7. Victor is also on a touchdown streak, reaching paydirt in the previous three weeks. The bowling ball of a running back doesn't have an easy matchup this week, but the game script should be good. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Generals are 3.5-point favorites this week. And in Week 2, the Generals crushed the Maulers 20-3. In that contest, Victor had 15 rushes, 71 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Reggie Corbin was inactive last week after he was listed as doubtful on the injury report with a shoulder injury. Michigan's season is on the line this week. So, if Corbin is healthy enough to gut it out, he will do so in a cushy matchup. The Stars have allowed the most rushing yards per game (130.6). And Corbin steamrolled them for 131 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Week 2 on only two carries. Corbin also hauled in three receptions for nine receiving yards.
The dynamic running back also handled an eye-catching workload before missing last week. In Week 7 and Week 8, he had 25 and 14 opportunities, totaling 100 scrimmage yards and 64. Therefore, Corbin is the most attractive bargain running back.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
There are four Breakers and three Stars among the nine wide receivers and tight ends on the table. That shouldn't be a surprise since MBT and Cookus are the only two featured quarterbacks in this piece. The Breakers and Stars are first and second in pass attempts per game this season, giving multiple players from each team the potential to deliver for DFS gamers who use them this week.
Corey Coleman is the highest-ceiling pass catcher in the USFL. The speedster is a nightmare for opposing defenses, ranking first in the USFL in targets (71), receptions (47) and receiving yards per game (68.2) and tying for fourth in receiving touchdowns (four).
Diondre Overton and Cyril Grayson are also enticing options from the Stars. Since Week 7, Overton has had 23 targets. Additionally, he's had 10.0 and 16.2 DK points in the last two weeks. Grayson had only one target, one reception and six receiving yards in his debut for the Stars last week. Grayson has game-changing speed and previously flashed his big-play ability for the Buccaneers in 2021. Maybe, he'll have an increased role in the offense with another week to acclimate himself to the playbook.
Sage Surratt, Johnnie Dixon and Jonathan Adams are New Orleans's highest-ceiling pass-catchers. They've each popped up for massive showings this year. Surratt, Dixon and Adams have 60, 57 and 52 targets this year. Dixon's target total is even more impressive since he's missed two games.
Before last week's dud, Dixon had nine receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8 and six receptions for 97 yards in Week 7. Adams salvaged last week with a touchdown on his only reception for three yards. Like Dixon, Adams entered Week 9's blowout win in good form, producing six receptions for 88 yards in Week 7 and eight for 117 in Week 8.
However, Surratt is the most exciting pick from the trio. The pass-catching tight end was held under 40 receiving yards in four of his last five games. However, Surratt torched the Gamblers in Week 2, catching all 11 targets for 121 yards. Houston also demonstrated trouble when defending tight ends against Birmingham's talented options, permitting six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown to La'Michael Pettway and Jace Sternberger in Week 5 and yielding four receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown in the rematch in Week 9.
Lee Morris is a tier below Surratt, Dixon and Adams. Still, he's an affordable but meaningful piece of New Orleans's passing game. Morris has had at least four targets in five straight games and averages a respectable 8.7 DK points per game.
Isaiah Zuber and Cole Hikutini are easily the best punts on the slate. Zuber was an integral part of Houston's pass-catching corps last year but not only didn't rejoin the Gamblers until Week 4 this year but also began 2023 by playing defense. He's re-emerged as a meaningful weapon on offense since Week 8, garnering 10 targets and parlaying them into nine receptions for 78 yards.
Hikutini has a nose for the endzone. He's tied for second in the USFL in touchdown receptions (five). Hikutini stretched his touchdowns across five games. And he's emerged as a target sponge lately. In the last two weeks, Hikutini has had 13 targets, 11 receptions, 107 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Defense and Special Teams
Defense is volatile. So, it's not unreasonable for gamers to use more than one defense this week if they're entering more than 15 lineups. Otherwise, it's all about the Generals. Pittsburgh's offense is pathetic. The Maulers average the fewest yards per game (143.8) and only 16.8 points per game. They've also surrendered 15.0 sacks in their last four games. Meanwhile, the Generals have 22 sacks this year and have forced 11 turnovers. Finally, when these North Division rivals played in Week 2, New Jersey held Pittsburgh to three points, forced three turnovers and had five sacks en route to 18.0 DK points.