This article is part of our DraftKings USFL series.
As was expected, Week 1 of the USFL threw us several curveballs both in terms of team and individual performance. This should be a key week to find values based on role, before DK's pricing algorithm catches up. At this early point in the season, I'd prefer to focus on projected volume rather than efficiency or matchup due to the small sample. With that in mind, let's dive into the top plays for Week 2 of the USFL.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson ($9,700) vs. HOU
The New Orleans' offense predictably ran through its veteran quarterback in Week 1, as Bethel-Thompson took to the air 41 times. He posted 303 passing yards, with the next-closest quarterback in the league reaching only 215. While the Breakers may look to get more balanced offensively as the season progresses, we should expect Bethel-Thompson to remain the primary driver of the offense in the short term.
Brady White ($9,000) at BHAM
White had a fairly poor Week 1 performance based on passing efficiency, but Memphis' coaching staff showed no hesitation in putting the ball in his hands in a comeback effort. The Showboats are currently seven-point underdogs to Birmingham, so we can expect more of the same Saturday night. In addition to projecting some improved efficiency, White also contributed on the ground and could continue to provide value as a dual-threat option.
C.J. Marable ($7,500) vs. MEM
Marable isn't a punt option, but he does project as a good value because his price point suggests he's still sharing the backfield with Bo Scarbrough. However, Scarbrough was placed on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in the opening game, paving the way for Marable to work as the lead back. He managed only 24 yards on nine carries in Week 1, so the hope will have to be for improved efficiency.
T.J. Pledger ($8,000) at NO
Pledger's price spiked from the minimum to its current point after he served as the clear lead back in Week 1 and found the end zone twice. While we won't be expecting two touchdowns, Pledger was second in the league with 16 carries and was one of only four running backs to earn double-digit rush attempts. He's priced the cheapest of that group and remains a good value as a result despite his jump in price.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Bailey Gaither ($7,800) vs. NJ
Tre Walker looked to be the top pass catcher for Pittsburgh heading into Week 2, but he was added to the inactive list late in the week for undisclosed reasons. Gaither was hardly an afterthought in Week 1 as he commanded seven targets of his own. He didn't capitalize on that opportunity but should get even more volume in Week 2. This early, I'm willing to forgive inefficiency in exchange for excellent volume, particularly at his relatively affordable cost.
Johnnie Dixon ($9,200) vs. HOU
Dixon commanded targets as expected, but he stood out as leading the Breakers' loaded receiving corps. There's always risk that Jonathan Adams or Sage Surratt – a good value this week at $4,200 – usurps Dixon for his role, but it makes sense to stack Bethel-Thompson with one or more of his elite weapons. He looked for Dixon often in Week 1, so that's the default choice for now.
Devin Gray ($6,800) vs. MICH
Philadelphia remains one of the better offenses, led by quarterback Case Cookus. Cookus himself is the most expensive player on the slate, but some of his offensive weapons present more value. What was more surprising was that Gray emerged as Cookus' favorite target, ahead of 2022 standout Jordan Suell. Suell entered last week's contest with a hamstring injury, so it's possible he rebounds to retake the top role in the Stars' passing attack. On the other hand, if Gray is once again the top option, his price will undoubtedly rise moving forward.
Michigan Panthers ($3,800) at Philadelphia
The matchup for the Panthers isn't ideal, but they showed an excellent combination of ability to rack up sacks, turnovers and limit points in Week 1. That's a limited sample and they are facing one of the best offenses in the league, so there's reason to look early on. However, early on in sports that aren't widely covered, roster rates typically converge around a few players. Playing the Panthers will likely not be contrarian for the sake of it, but instead serve as direct leverage off of one of the teams that is most likely to be stacked.