The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 2

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

As it was written in A Contrarian’s Guide to DFS, every good tournament strategy has three common ingredients: projecting ownership percentages, fading popular plays, and identifying contrarian plays. It is here where we’ll focus on the final ingredient of that strategy: uniqueness.

Going against the crowd and limiting exposure to chalk plays is the surest way to separate our lineups from the pack. Hitting tournament value with an unpopular player sets up our rosters to leapfrog payout tiers as tournaments grind to a close. Last week, the highest scoring lineup in FanDuel’s NFL Sunday Million had an average ownership of 5.7 percent—absurdly low. You can read a breakdown of that here.

Just like with fades, we’ll never advocate going contrarian for the sake contrarianism. There is a method to uniqueness. Throwing darts at low-floor, bottom depth chart players is not a part of that method. Taking advantage of injury situations and over/under point totals from Vegas is.

Going forward, we’ll have to leave our comfort zones a little bit. So be sure to protect your bankrolls and limit how much you invest as a contrarian. And definitely use the Interactive Value Chart as a part of your process. It incorporates the core of your roster with the ease of lineup optimization and top-20 stack rankings. Complete with strategy guides for both cash and tournament games, you won’t find a more comprehensive daily fantasy tool anywhere. Use it and abuse it. You can also check out our Cracking FanDuel blog for more information and updates.

The numbers presented in the tables below are taken from a $2 Thursday night GPP. We can use these exposure percentages to assist our ownership projections for Sunday/Monday GPPs. Doing so increases our accuracy and provides a clearer picture of groupthink—something we’ll almost always try to avoid.

Quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Drew Brees $8900 TB@NO 13.9 Andrew Luck $8900 NYJ@IND 3.2
Carson Palmer $7800 ARI@CHI 10.2 Aaron Rodgers $9300 SEA@GB 3.1
Marcus Mariota $7400 TEN@CLE 8.3 Ben Roethlisberger $8400 SF@PIT 3.1
Tom Brady $8300 NE@BUF 7.8 Joe Flacco $8100 BAL@OAK 2.4
Sam Bradford $7500 DAL@PHI 5.5 Philip Rivers $8200 SD@CIN 2.3
Nick Foles $6500 STL@WAS 5.2 Eli Manning $8000 ATL@NYG 1.1
Matt Ryan $8700 ATL@NYG 3.7 Russell Wilson $8500 SEA@GB 0.9
Tony Romo $8500 DAL@PHI 3.3 Johnny Manziel $6500 TEN@CLE 0.1
Ryan Tannehill $8000 MIA@JAC 3.3        

Sam Bradford wasn’t all that inspiring last week versus the Falcons. His timing was sloppy and his offensive line didn’t give him much of a chance to progress. But he still produced enough points, thanks in part to Chip Kelly’s system, to prove that his upside will always be enticing. He’s not exactly a contrarian play; most of everyone is considering him. But as far as Thursday night numbers are concerned, 5.5 percent exposure is low enough to make him a bargain in tournaments.

Nick Foles took on the Seattle Seahawks vaunted defense and turned in a top-10 performance. Not every series was impressive but he did enough to force an overtime victory and flashed moments of brilliance in the process. He completed 67 percent of his passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing. This week he gets one of the worst defenses in the league. He also gets a pair of healthy running backs to assist the Rams offense, which could keep him grounded, but we’ll be happy to build rosters around his friendly salary of $6,500.

Our favorite contrarian play of the week is Russell Wilson. The crowd is going to avoid him after last week’s fiasco. We like him on the road against the Packers, who don’t pose much of defensive threat for Wilson’s style (Jay Cutler managed 31 rushing yards against them last week). This primetime game features good weather and a healthy over/under set at 49 points. We’ll take the over and a Wilson/Graham stack.

As of this writing it is unclear who the starter will be for the Cleveland Browns. If the answer turns out to be Johnny Manziel then we have a nice tournament play against the Titans. No doubt, he’s a high risk guy that is going to turn the ball over. But he can also turn pressure into a chunks of rushing yards. He looked good in relief of Josh McCown (concussion) and has a full week of practice with the first team offense. Build a few tournament rosters with his services, and if he doesn’t end up starting simply pivot to Jameis Winston or Foles.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Carlos Hyde $7000 SF@PIT 33.4 Chris Johnson $5700 ARI@CHI 3
Christopher Ivory $6900 NYJ@IND 18.9 Tevin Coleman $6500 ATL@NYG 1.8
Ameer Abdullah $6400 DET@MIN 13.2 Benny Cunningham $5800 STL@WAS 1.8
Matt Forte $8900 ARI@CHI 12.2 Alfred Morris $7300 STL@WAS 1.6
Mark Ingram $8000 TB@NO 9.3 LeSean McCoy $8100 NE@BUF 1.4
Justin Forsett $7800 BAL@OAK 9.2 Doug Martin $6700 TB@NO 1.4
Bishop Sankey $6500 TEN@CLE 9.1 LeGarrette Blount $6400 NE@BUF 1.2
Marshawn Lynch $8500 SEA@GB 9 Rashad Jennings $6400 ATL@NYG 1.1
Jeremy Hill $8400 SD@CIN 7.9 Dion Lewis $5200 NE@BUF 0.9
Darren Sproles $5600 DAL@PHI 7.1 Frank Gore $7000 NYJ@IND 0.8
Lamar Miller $7300 MIA@JAC 6.5 Latavius Murray $6800 BAL@OAK 0.7
DeMarco Murray $8300 DAL@PHI 5.9 David Johnson $6600 ARI@CHI 0.7
Eddie Lacy $8100 SEA@GB 4.3 Tre Mason $7200 STL@WAS 0.4
DeAngelo Williams $7400 SF@PIT 3.6 T.J. Yeldon $6500 MIA@JAC 0.4
Adrian Peterson $9000 DET@MIN 3.1 Ryan Mathews $5700 DAL@PHI 0.3
Joseph Randle $6700 DAL@PHI 3 Terrance West $5300 TEN@CLE 0.1

We hear there’s a nice Airbnb for rent in Philadelphia on Narrative Street. It’s fully furnished with No. 1 running back upside and revenge-game potential. Yes, DeMarco Murray has more to play for this week than normal. Yes, he had the third lowest yardage total of his career last week. He also is riding the longest touchdown streak for any running back in the league. The last time he failed to find the end zone was against the Jaguars back on November 9th. That’s eight consecutive games (h/t Mark Eckel). We expected his ownership to be higher than what the Thursday numbers are telling us, but regardless, he is in for a huge game on Sunday. And not just because he’s playing against the team that refused to pay him. He is a perfect fit for Kelly’s system and will be a lock for several catches and yards, and if even when those numbers are low, he’s a constant multi-touchdown threat. You could do a lot worse for $8,300.

DeAngelo Williams opened the season as the Steelers starting back and looked young. He played with reckless abandon, fighting for yards and challenging defenders. This week he gets a 49ers defense that the Steelers will have no trouble exploiting. For $7,400, it wouldn’t be too much to ask of him to hit tournament value (22.2 points).

It only took three quarters of football for Andre Ellington to end up on the sideline with an injury. In his place we find Chris Johnson, who actually looked like a running back in limited reps last week, despite what we’ve been led to believe about him over the last few seasons. Now, it’s possible he is trap play and he turns in yet another horrible performance of shying away from contact and falling to the ground at the first sight of any defender, but it’s also possible he goes into Chicago and torches their defense with a few long scores. Or, David Johnson could be the one that gets all the work and all the touchdowns despite what Bruce Arians says about not putting too much pressure on the rookie. That’s the risk we run with either of these backs, but we’ll take the upside we get from Johnson, Chris as the starter and enjoy the flexibility of his $5,700 salary. It’s also worth noting that Arians was snubbed by the Bears so we think there will be some added bonus of running up the score.

There isn’t a running back in Chip Kelly’s offense that we should avoid in tournaments. Darren Sproles is the most popular this week, followed by Murray. But Ryan Mathews is worth consideration. We’d like him to see more than 6.3 percent of snap counts, but has any player done more with less? The nature of the Eagles up-tempo offense means that whichever running back is on the field for that series, stays on the field. Mathews has looked great in limited opportunities by powering his way to extra yards or finding a soft spot as a check-down option for Bradford. His box score would have reflected that if not for penalties erasing a few solid screen plays. Sproles is cheaper and will see more action, but Mathews has more touchdown upside and offers the contrarian play for big tournaments.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Julio Jones $8800 ATL@NYG 37.7 Pierre Garcon $5400 STL@WAS 2.6
Antonio Brown $9200 SF@PIT 19.7 Andre Johnson $6800 NYJ@IND 2.5
Jordan Matthews $7000 DAL@PHI 17.7 Roddy White $7400 ATL@NYG 2.3
Jarvis Landry $7100 MIA@JAC 15.3 Golden Tate $6700 DET@MIN 2.3
Brandin Cooks $7400 TB@NO 15.1 Eric Decker $6000 NYJ@IND 1.7
Julian Edelman $7600 NE@BUF 13.4 Mike Wallace $6200 DET@MIN 1.6
Terrance Williams $6300 DAL@PHI 13.1 Randall Cobb $8200 SEA@GB 1.3
James Jones $5400 SEA@GB 13 Markus Wheaton $5100 SF@PIT 1.3
DeAndre Hopkins $8100 HOU@CAR 11.8 Anquan Boldin $6400 SF@PIT 1.3
Kendall Wright $6100 TEN@CLE 11.4 Amari Cooper $6700 BAL@OAK 1.1
Keenan Allen $8200 SD@CIN 8.1 Sammy Watkins $6600 NE@BUF 1.1
John Brown $6200 ARI@CHI 7.7 Marques Colston $5300 TB@NO 1.1
Odell Beckham Jr. $8700 ATL@NYG 7.6 Tyler Lockett $5000 SEA@GB 0.8
Calvin Johnson $8100 DET@MIN 6.8 Alshon Jeffery $8100 ARI@CHI 0.8
Steve Johnson $5700 SD@CIN 6.5 Vincent Jackson $7200 TB@NO 0.7
Donte Moncrief $6000 NYJ@IND 6.4 Torrey Smith $5900 SF@PIT 0.5
Brandon Marshall $7400 NYJ@IND 5.9 Nelson Agholor $5700 DAL@PHI 0.5
Larry Fitzgerald $5900 ARI@CHI 4.9 Charles Johnson $5400 DET@MIN 0.5
A.J. Green $8100 SD@CIN 4.8 Rueben Randle $5400 ATL@NYG 0.5
Steve Smith $6700 BAL@OAK 4.8 T.Y. Hilton $7600 NYJ@IND 0.4
Percy Harvin $5700 NE@BUF 4.7 Doug Baldwin $6000 SEA@GB 0.4
Brandon Coleman $5000 TB@NO 3.3 Mike Evans $8100 TB@NO 0.2
Davante Adams $6400 SEA@GB 2.7 Phillip Dorsett $5200 NYJ@IND 0.2
Cole Beasley $5700 DAL@PHI 2.7        

Whether it’s via passing, rushing or receiving, we’re going to want a piece or two of the Saints offense this Sunday. Enter Brandon Coleman. He was on the field for 78 percent of snaps and saw seven targets. He converted four of those targets into 41 yards and a touchdown. We all wondered who would step up as a red zone threat for the Saints now that Graham has departed; Coleman is 6’6”, weighs 225 pounds and ranks in the 91st percentile in height-adjusted speed score. But the only metrics that matter this week are his salary ($5,000), and his exposure (3.3 percent). You won’t find better value on the board.

We can’t say with certainty who will end up under the shadow of Vontae Davis Monday night. We can say that Eric Decker spends a lot of time in the slot but also moves around enough to keep him free. The Jets are projected to score approximately 16 points, and even though the Colts are easier to run on than throw on, the game script will force a different story. Decker’s price-tag and exposure make him a nice tournament option.

Mike Evans says he is 100 percent and ready to play. If that turns out to be the case, then we’ll want to pay up for his services. The Saints defense is a target every week for fantasy plays; Evans would be a matchup nightmare for them and dream for us. If he is cleared to play his ownership will be much greater than what the Thursday numbers show (0.2 percent), but the general public is still going to be shy, or might forget to adjust their lineups altogether. Take advantage of this situation while you can (be sure to check his status Sunday morning and have a pivot play ready).

It’s only a matter of time before Nelson Agholor winds up with double-digit targets and converts one or two of them into long scores. That time may be at home against the Cowboys who don’t have the talent to cover him. The crowd is all over Jordan Matthews, as they should be, but Agholor is the sneaky tournament option.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Rob Gronkowski $8300 NE@BUF 16.8 Martellus Bennett $6100 ARI@CHI 3
Tyler Eifert $5900 SD@CIN 15.1 Heath Miller $5400 SF@PIT 2.5
Jason Witten $6000 DAL@PHI 14.9 Ladarius Green $5600 SD@CIN 1.9
Austin Seferian-Jenkins $4500 TB@NO 4.8 Jared Cook $5200 STL@WAS 1.8
Jordan Cameron $5500 MIA@JAC 4.6 Zach Ertz $5200 DAL@PHI 1.4
Jordan Reed $5000 STL@WAS 3.9 Dwayne Allen $5200 NYJ@IND 0.8
Greg Olsen $6000 HOU@CAR 3.4 Kyle Rudolph $5100 DET@MIN 0.7

Tight ends combined to score 22 touchdowns last week, the most in NFL history. Austin Seferian-Jenkins contributed two of those. We’re a little surprised by his low exposure to start the week (4.8 percent). We think that has more to do with Travis Kelce being in so many Thursday lineups and less to do with how obvious a play Seferian-Jenkins is. As such, his ownership percentage will be much higher come Sunday. But it will still be lower than the likes of Gronkowski, Eifert and Witten. We’ll be happy to save the cash and pencil in ASJ as a top tournament option.

We’ll be equally as happy to pay up for Jimmy Graham. There was a lot of preseason talk that suggested he won’t get as much usage between the 20s as he did in New Orleans. And that’s probably true. But Wilson attempted the most passes of his career last Sunday. This Sunday he travels to Green Bay and might again set a career high. Graham is the obvious target. It’s also possible we see more defense Sunday night than offense, but the over/under is set at 49 points with the Packers favored by three. That projects the Seahawks to score three touchdowns and not all of them will belong to Marshawn Lynch.

Someone is going to end up on Revis Island Monday night. That someone won’t be Dwayne Allen. It’s hard to trust the Luck-to-Allen combo but as the Jets pass rush invades the pocket, Luck will be looking for his big tight end bail him out. His value gets an added bump if T.Y. Hilton sits. But even if he plays we’ll at least know who gets the Revis treatment. Allen’s $5,200 salary is worth tournament consideration.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

St Louis Rams $4900 STL@WAS 17.2 New England Patriots $4300 NE@BUF 1.9
Miami Dolphins $5100 MIA@JAC 16.1 Seattle Seahawks $4700 SEA@GB 1.6
Baltimore Ravens $5000 BAL@OAK 11.9 Detroit Lions $4300 DET@MIN 1.6
New Orleans Saints $4500 TB@NO 6.2 Pittsburgh Steelers $4200 SF@PIT 1.4
Carolina Panthers $4700 HOU@CAR 6.1 Indianapolis Colts $4500 NYJ@IND 0.8
Tennessee Titans $4600 TEN@CLE 5.8 Cleveland Browns $4600 TEN@CLE 0.5
Houston Texans $4600 HOU@CAR 3.3 Cincinnati Bengals $4600 SD@CIN 0.4
Arizona Cardinals $4600 ARI@CHI 2.8 Minnesota Vikings $4400 DET@MIN 0.4

The Titans secondary played quite well thanks in part to how poorly the Buccaneers played. This week they get another bad offense in Cleveland. Even though we like Manziel as a tournament play, he is a turnover machine. We don’t mind spending just $4,600 and hoping for a few defensive scores.

Even though the Detroit Lions pass rush isn’t as good after the departure of Ndamukong Suh, they still created pressure and turned in a top-eight performance in Week 1. This week they travel to a division rival in Minnesota. The Vikings lost their two best offensive lineman and it was obvious against the 49ers. The Lions are going to be all over Bridgewater and company. Sacks and turnovers are all but guaranteed.