The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 1

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

As an answer to “The Fade,” this space will be dedicated to identifying unpopular plays that can still be profitable. And just like with fades, there’s a method to being contrarian. We’ll never advocate going against the grain in the name of being different. Doing so is bad process, which is laid out in the introduction to both of these ideologies.

The value of going against the grain in tournaments exists solely in roster uniqueness. Without uniqueness, it is virtually impossible to win a large GPP. It’s also impossible to win a GPP without lots of points. In what follows we’ll take ownership percentages from FanDuel’s $100K Thursday NFL Snap. This data gives us an idea of which players the early crowd is favoring. In turn, we can pivot towards lesser owned players with similar potential, in the hopes of spacing ourselves from the majority.

Quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Sam Bradford $7500 PHI@ATL 14.8 Ryan Tannehill $8000 MIA@WAS 1.6  
Tyrod Taylor $5000 IND@BUF 7.8 Drew Brees $8900 NO@ARI 1.4  
Aaron Rodgers $9700 GB@CHI 5.8 Andy Dalton $7100 CIN@OAK 1.3  
Andrew Luck $9200 IND@BUF 4.5 Kirk Cousins $6000 MIA@WAS 1.3  
Tony Romo $8700 NYG@DAL 4 Marcus Mariota $7100 TEN@TB 0.9  
Matt Ryan $8800 PHI@ATL 3.4 Alex Smith $6600 KC@HOU 0.8  
Matthew Stafford $7800 DET@SD 3.3 Jameis Winston $6900 TEN@TB 0.8  
Peyton Manning $9100 BAL@DEN 2.4 Philip Rivers $8100 DET@SD 0.8  
Cam Newton $8400 CAR@JAC 2.1 Ryan Fitzpatrick $6800 CLE@NYJ 0.7  
Russell Wilson $8800 SEA@STL 2.1 Colin Kaepernick $7900 MIN@SF 0.6  
Teddy Bridgewater $7200 MIN@SF 2.1 Jay Cutler $7900 GB@CHI 0.3  
Carson Palmer $7700 NO@ARI 1.8 Joe Flacco $8200 BAL@DEN 0.3  
Eli Manning $8300 NYG@DAL 1.6          

Per usual, Carson Palmer is being ignored by the crowd. His salary of $7,700 is certainly a turnoff, as his is injury history. But a healthy Palmer is a one we want in our lineups. Last year, from Week 6 to Week 10, he was the 10th highest scoring quarterback. He opens up against a bad Saints defense, with several playmakers at his disposal. His exposure and potential ceiling is exactly what we’re looking for in tournaments.  

We always want a part of high-scoring games, especially between division rivals on opening night. Eli Manning isn’t cheap but the fact that the crowd is off of him means he’s valuable. The Cowboys defense won’t show much improvement from last year, at least not in the early stages of the season, and with Orlando Scandrick out Manning will have no trouble finding an opening. Vegas likes this game enough to give an over/under of 51.5 points. There will be no shortage of scoring on Sunday night.

While Tyrod Taylor and his discounted service has everyone’s eye, Jameis Winston, and his $6,900 salary, is flying under the radar. The Titans secondary is one we’ll target every week. Even if there’s some uncertainty surrounding Winston and how he’ll will perform in his first start as a rookie, he has a trio of large targets and a collection of pass-catching running backs to bail him out. He’s the ultimate contrarian play, assuming the crowd ignores him on Sunday like they did on Thursday.  

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Eddie Lacy $8500 GB@CHI 23.2 Alfred Morris $7400 MIA@WAS 2.1  
Lamar Miller $7300 MIA@WAS 14 Darren McFadden $6600 NYG@DAL 2  
Adrian Peterson $9200 MIN@SF 13.2 T.J. Yeldon $7000 CAR@JAC 1.8  
Doug Martin $6900 TEN@TB 12.8 Melvin Gordon $7100 DET@SD 1.7  
DeMarco Murray $8500 PHI@ATL 12.7 Giovani Bernard $7200 CIN@OAK 1.6  
Jeremy Hill $8600 CIN@OAK 9.7 Ryan Mathews $5900 PHI@ATL 1.4  
Christopher Ivory $6400 CLE@NYJ 8.4 Danny Woodhead $6000 DET@SD 1.2  
Jonathan Stewart $7100 CAR@JAC 7.6 Reggie Bush $5500 MIN@SF 1.1  
Marshawn Lynch $8600 SEA@STL 7.6 Bishop Sankey $6300 TEN@TB 0.9  
Alfred Blue $5800 KC@HOU 5.7 LeSean McCoy $8400 IND@BUF 0.8  
Justin Forsett $7800 BAL@DEN 5.3 Shane Vereen $6500 NYG@DAL 0.8  
C.J. Anderson $8400 BAL@DEN 5.2 Ronnie Hillman $5400 BAL@DEN 0.7  
Jamaal Charles $8900 KC@HOU 4.9 Joique Bell $6500 DET@SD 0.6  
Ameer Abdullah $5900 DET@SD 4.1 Benny Cunningham $5100 SEA@STL 0.5  
Matt Forte $8800 GB@CHI 4.1 Fred Jackson $6200 IND@BUF 0.4  
Frank Gore $7500 IND@BUF 3.6 Denard Robinson $5800 CAR@JAC 0.2  
Latavius Murray $7400 CIN@OAK 3.3 Andre Williams $5500 NYG@DAL 0.1  
Carlos Hyde $7300 MIN@SF 3.2 Charles Sims $6200 TEN@TB 0.1  
Andre Ellington $7900 NO@ARI 3.1 Christine Michael $4500 SEA@STL 0.1  
Rashad Jennings $6600 NYG@DAL 3 David Johnson $5300 NO@ARI 0.1  
Darren Sproles $5800 PHI@ATL 2.8 Devonta Freeman $6500 PHI@ATL 0.1  
Joseph Randle $6900 NYG@DAL 2.8 Duke Johnson $5800 CLE@NYJ 0.1  
Mark Ingram $7800 NO@ARI 2.8 Tre Mason $7300 SEA@STL 0.1  
Isaiah Crowell $6100 CLE@NYJ 2.4 Javorius Allen $5400 BAL@DEN 0  
Tevin Coleman $6700 PHI@ATL 2.2          

If you choose to stay away from Palmer, you might want to consider Andre Ellington. There will always be workload concerns, along with goal line concerns, but he should benefit as a pass-catcher who is always a threat for a big play. Conversely, the Saints defense is always a threat to allow a big play.

In that same game, the crowd appears to be afraid of Mark Ingram. Perhaps the threat of a negative game script has them squeamish, which is fair. But he is still going to get the majority of carries and there’s no obvious threat of him losing goal line touches. The Interactive Value Chart projects him to be as the 11th-highest scoring running back for Week 1.

The crowd will be eternally spooked by injuries. LeSean McCoy was on just 0.8 percent of rosters. That may change for Sunday but we’re willing to bet he’s one of the least owned, and highly talented, running backs in DFS this week. Let’s not forget that his situation has a positive correlation for running back production. The Bills defense is one of the best in the league and they are playing at home. McCoy is going to see a ton of volume both as a runner and a pass-catcher, meaning he won’t be erased by games script. Mixing him with Taylor could make for a fun Sunday, especially considering the Colts inability to stop running backs. His salary is less desirable, and all the more reason to believe the crowd will stay away.

Risky plays win tournaments. Rashad Jennings, despite his friendly salary, is a risky play. We always want to avoid crowded backfields, and there may be none more crowded than the Giants backfield, but Jennings is at least listed as the starter. The crowd is going to fade him despite his matchup. We think he finds the end zone and sees plenty of work up and down the field in a high-scoring contest.

In the bargain bin, we find Ryan Mathews. You’ll want a piece of the Eagles offense in just about every week. The crowd is going to chase DeMarco Murray, as they should, but Mathews proved in the preseason that he has plenty of snaps coming his way. He looks to be the goal line back while Murray carries the team down the field. And since Chip Kelly runs a no huddle more often than not, it’s always possible Mathews stays on the field for an entire series. All he needs to hit tournament value of 3x is 17.7 points. That may look like a tall order, but with this offense, it’s well within reach.

If you’re into base jumping, then you’ll love Benny Cunningham. The matchup is tough but the price and opportunity are there. We won’t expect the greatest show on turf against the Seahawks on Sunday, but we won’t expect Nick Foles to Peyton Manning his way to a victory either. Okay, that’s a terrible example. And Cunningham is a tough play, but he doesn’t need much to hit value thanks to a $5,100 price tag.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Davante Adams $5500 GB@CHI 27.5 Sammy Watkins $7600 IND@BUF 1.7  
Jordan Matthews $6800 PHI@ATL 20.2 DeSean Jackson $7100 MIA@WAS 1.2  
Julio Jones $9000 PHI@ATL 15.7 Mohamed Sanu $5200 CIN@OAK 1.2  
Dez Bryant $8700 NYG@DAL 11.3 Pierre Garcon $5500 MIA@WAS 1.2  
Odell Beckham Jr. $8900 NYG@DAL 10 Cole Beasley $5000 NYG@DAL 1.1  
Brandin Cooks $7400 NO@ARI 9.9 Tyler Lockett $4800 SEA@STL 1.1  
Calvin Johnson $8500 DET@SD 9.4 Michael Crabtree $5600 CIN@OAK 1  
A.J. Green $8300 CIN@OAK 8.6 Torrey Smith $6100 MIN@SF 1  
Golden Tate $7100 DET@SD 8.5 Kenny Stills $5400 MIA@WAS 0.9  
Jarvis Landry $6900 MIA@WAS 8.3 Allen Hurns $4600 CAR@JAC 0.8  
Andre Johnson $6900 IND@BUF 6.5 Malcom Floyd $5900 DET@SD 0.8  
Jeremy Maclin $7600 KC@HOU 6 Andrew Hawkins $4700 CLE@NYJ 0.6  
John Brown $6000 NO@ARI 6 Percy Harvin $5600 IND@BUF 0.6  
Demaryius Thomas $8800 BAL@DEN 5.7 Greg Jennings $4900 MIA@WAS 0.5  
Amari Cooper $7100 CIN@OAK 5.6 Harry Douglas $4600 TEN@TB 0.5  
Nelson Agholor $5500 PHI@ATL 5.1 Dorial Green-Beckham $5100 TEN@TB 0.4  
Steve Smith $6700 BAL@DEN 5 Brian Quick $5400 SEA@STL 0.4  
Larry Fitzgerald $6000 NO@ARI 4.6 Jermaine Kearse $5300 SEA@STL 0.4  
DeAndre Hopkins $7800 KC@HOU 4.2 Mike Evans $8300 TEN@TB 0.4  
Allen Robinson $6100 CAR@JAC 4 Cecil Shorts $5400 KC@HOU 0.3  
Mike Wallace $6400 MIN@SF 3.8 Kamar Aiken $4600 BAL@DEN 0.3  
Terrance Williams $5300 NYG@DAL 3.4 Miles Austin $5000 PHI@ATL 0.3  
Brandon Marshall $7400 CLE@NYJ 3.1 Roddy White $7600 PHI@ATL 0.3  
Charles Johnson $5600 MIN@SF 3.1 Alshon Jeffery $8400 GB@CHI 0.2  
Eddie Royal $5000 GB@CHI 3.1 Kenny Britt $5400 SEA@STL 0.2  
Eric Decker $6000 CLE@NYJ 2.6 Phillip Dorsett $4600 IND@BUF 0.2  
Kendall Wright $5800 TEN@TB 2.6 Cody Latimer $4900 BAL@DEN 0.1  
Steve Johnson $4700 DET@SD 2.5 Jaelen Strong $5300 KC@HOU 0.1  
T.Y. Hilton $7800 IND@BUF 2.5 Jarius Wright $5300 MIN@SF 0.1  
Anquan Boldin $6600 MIN@SF 2.4 Jeff Janis $4500 GB@CHI 0.1  
Rueben Randle $5300 NYG@DAL 2.3 Justin Hardy $4900 PHI@ATL 0.1  
Emmanuel Sanders $8200 BAL@DEN 2.1 Justin Hunter $4700 TEN@TB 0.1  
Marques Colston $5500 NO@ARI 2.1 Robert Woods $5400 IND@BUF 0.1  
Randall Cobb $8400 GB@CHI 2.1 Stedman Bailey $5000 SEA@STL 0.1  
Vincent Jackson $7200 TEN@TB 2.1 Ty Montgomery $5000 GB@CHI 0.1  
Doug Baldwin $6100 SEA@STL 2 Andre Holmes $5200 CIN@OAK 0  
Keenan Allen $7900 DET@SD 1.8 Marqise Lee $5600 CAR@JAC 0  

There are few things we need to watch for Sunday morning. The first is whether or not Mike Evans is going to play. If the answer is yes, it’s likely the crowd still forgets about him and nothing changes. If the answer is no, then we should have Vincent Jackson in every lineup. In fact, if Evans is cleared, it’s possible Jackson ends up being less owned, despite what the Thursday numbers say. Either way, one of these two players should be in your lineup.

Odell Beckham Jr. is going to get all the attention from DFS players and NFL defenders alike. Meanwhile, Rueben Randle will be quietly soaking up targets and probably a touchdown or two. His $5,300 salary makes him one of the best values in Week 1.

Guess who’s back together again? Yeah, James Jones and Aaron Rodgers. While the crowd has made Davante Adams the highest owned player, Jones is floating third on the depth chart with a bottom floor salary of $4,500. Remember that time he scored 14 touchdowns in a season? Yeah.

Of all the receiving options Marcus Mariota has at his disposal, none may see more targets and receptions than Kendall Wright on Sunday. He’ll be forgotten by almost everyone but we can’t ignore how his well his skill-set blends with Mariota’s. There are a lot of good options within the $5,500-$6,000 price range. None may see more volume than Wright. Touchdowns aren’t his specialty, to be sure, but if he slips in for one he’ll easily come close to tournament value.

Roddy White is just a few weeks removed from surgery but is practicing in full. Where Julio Jones’s production may suffer due to the pressure sure to be allowed by the offensive line, White will thrive. Matt Ryan is going to have defenders in his face all night so he’ll be looking for quick throws and dump-offs. White’s age dictates short-to-medium yardage routes, perfect for said quick throws and dump-offs. Since the Falcons will have to utilize their tight ends as blockers, that leaves him as the primary receiver, especially in the red zone. We’d be a lot happier if his salary wasn’t $7,600, but considering he might catch eight passes, we’ll be happy to plug him in as a fine and dandy contrarian play.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Greg Olsen $5900 CAR@JAC 18.5 Charles Clay $5000 IND@BUF 1.6  
Jimmy Graham $6900 SEA@STL 5.7 Vernon Davis $5300 MIN@SF 1.5  
Martellus Bennett $6200 GB@CHI 4.7 Larry Donnell $5300 NYG@DAL 1.3  
Jason Witten $5800 NYG@DAL 4.6 Jordan Reed $5000 MIA@WAS 0.9  
Owen Daniels $5500 BAL@DEN 3.5 Josh Hill $5200 NO@ARI 0.8  
Delanie Walker $5400 TEN@TB 3.3 Austin Seferian-Jenkins $4700 TEN@TB 0.7  
Jordan Cameron $5500 MIA@WAS 3.2 Andrew Quarless $5200 GB@CHI 0.6  
Tyler Eifert $5000 CIN@OAK 2.8 Benjamin Watson $4600 NO@ARI 0.5  
Travis Kelce $6000 KC@HOU 2.3 Ladarius Green $5700 DET@SD 0.5  
Coby Fleener $5100 IND@BUF 1.7 Mychal Rivera $5100 CIN@OAK 0.3  
Kyle Rudolph $5300 MIN@SF 1.7 Crockett Gillmore $4700 BAL@DEN 0.2  
Richard Rodgers $4900 GB@CHI 1.7 Eric Ebron $5000 DET@SD 0.2  

Injuries to the Vikings offensive line are cause for concern. In Teddy we trust, of course, but should the pressure come tumbling down, he’ll need a quick answer. Enter Kyle Rudolph. Without question the 49ers defense is as vulnerable as it has ever been. Rudolph, though in a crowded mix of receiving options, stands out as an end zone threat and mid-field check-down for Bridgewater.

The same can be said for Larry Donnell. We’re expecting lots of points between the Cowboys and Giants, and even though Manning has no shortage of weapons, Donnell has proven he is a reliable end zone target. His $5,300 salary will keep the crowds away for the most part.  

The Baltimore Ravens primary receiver is 36-years-old and barely 5’9”. No offense to Steve Smith, but his best days are behind him. Their next best receiver is Justin Forsett, who will benefit greatly from Marc Trestman’s offense. So too, should Crockett Gillmore. Whether or not he gets the Martellus Bennett treatment remains to be seen. But he does get the benefit of TE1 on the Ravens depth chart. We get the benefit of the crowd not even knowing who he is, and his salary being just $4,700. It wouldn’t take much for him to score 14.1 points and reach tournament value.

The threat of Evans not being able to play provides an immediate and underappreciated boost to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The 6’5” 262 pound phenom will be relied upon by Winston throughout the game should Evans not play. Even if he does play, Seferian-Jenkins still checks in as one of the best offensive weapons the Buccaneers have and will always be a touchdown threat. You could do a lot worse for $4,700.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
New York Jets $4400 CLE@NYJ 16.9 Cleveland Browns $4600 CLE@NYJ 1.9  
Miami Dolphins $4700 MIA@WAS 15.9 Dallas Cowboys $4200 NYG@DAL 1.6  
Seattle Seahawks $5000 SEA@STL 10.2 Indianapolis Colts $4300 IND@BUF 1.4  
Carolina Panthers $4800 CAR@JAC 8.5 Buffalo Bills $4500 IND@BUF 1.3  
Houston Texans $4500 KC@HOU 6.3 Arizona Cardinals $4300 NO@ARI 1.2  
Kansas City Chiefs $4300 KC@HOU 3.9 San Francisco 49ers $4600 MIN@SF 1.2  
Denver Broncos $4200 BAL@DEN 3.8 St Louis Rams $4300 SEA@STL 1.2  
Green Bay Packers $4500 GB@CHI 3.5 Jacksonville Jaguars $4200 CAR@JAC 1.1  
Cincinnati Bengals $4600 CIN@OAK 2.8 Tennessee Titans $4500 TEN@TB 1  
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4500 TEN@TB 2.5 Baltimore Ravens $4100 BAL@DEN 0.7  
Oakland Raiders $4000 CIN@OAK 2.4 Detroit Lions $4300 DET@SD 0.7  
Philadelphia Eagles $4300 PHI@ATL 2.4 San Diego Chargers $4200 DET@SD 0.4  
Minnesota Vikings $4400 MIN@SF 2.2          

If you’re not going to play the Jets or the Dolphins defense, and are keen enough to not pay up for the Seahawks, you should consider the Eagles. Obviously, we’d rather target games with lower point totals, but the front seven of Philly will get to Ryan a lot. Sacks should be in high order. And where there are a lot of sacks there are sure to be a few turnovers.

For $4,200, you can get a home team and an over/under of 41 points. There’s nothing sexy about the Jaguars. They are, in fact, expected to lose. But the Panthers offense is in shambles. An upset in Jacksonville wouldn’t be surprising. Upsets of this nature usually require a defensive score, and always require turnovers and sacks.