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The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 3

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

If ever there were an argument for fading the crowd, Week 2 gave us definitive proof. Outside of Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowski, the highest owned player at each position (Drew Brees, Carlos Hyde, John Brown, Rams defense) combined for 34.2 points. The chalk play was a bankroll killer.

Was it a fluke? Possibly. We’re still in the pre-trend era of the 2015 season. We are young and have a lot to learn. But regardless, the process will remain unchanged. 

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 %

Tom Brady $8700 JAC@NE 31.5 Philip Rivers $7700 SD@MIN 1.7
Ben Roethlisberger $8500 PIT@STL 8.8 Ryan Fitzpatrick $6800 PHI@NYJ 1.6
Carson Palmer $8100 SF@ARI 7.1 Andrew Luck $9000 IND@TEN 1.5
Cam Newton $7900 NO@CAR 5.3 Nick Foles $6500 PIT@STL 1.2
Russell Wilson $8400 CHI@SEA 5.2 Brandon Weeden $6500 ATL@DAL 1
Tyrod Taylor $7000 BUF@MIA 5.2 Alex Smith $6500 KC@GB 1
Aaron Rodgers $9100 KC@GB 4.3 Teddy Bridgewater $6800 SD@MIN 0.8
Peyton Manning $8200 DEN@DET 3.3 Joe Flacco $8100 CIN@BAL 0.3
Matt Ryan $8300 ATL@DAL 2.1 Ryan Tannehill $8000 BUF@MIA 0.3

It looked bad. We were nearing the two-minute warning and Peyton Manning had only 85 yards, one interception and no touchdowns. By halftime he put a pair of touchdowns on the board and finished the game with 256 yards and three scores. Imagine if the offense had things together for the entire game. Whether or not you’re worried about his arm strength, Manning is still one of the best in the league at reading defenses and pulling his team out of deficits. It doesn’t hurt that his own defense will keep fields short for him in the process. For just $8,200 we can get an elite passer that the crowd is snoozing on.

And if we consider Manning’s exposure snoozing, Andrew Luck’s 1.5 percent ownership has the crowd in a coma. Fantasy drafts would look a lot different if everyone knew that after two weeks he would have only three touchdowns to five interceptions. Recent performance hasn’t impacted his salary but it has scared off the masses. This week he travels to Nashville and will face a Titans secondary that made Travis Benjamin look like the second coming of Odell Beckham Jr. When the crowd fades the player, fade the crowd.

In the bargain bin, as always, we find Nick Foles. This will be his second straight appearance in this space. But this time, it’s personal (it’s not actually personal). In Week 1, at home, Foles led the Rams to an overtime victory, and clocked out with 297 yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown (10th most points of the week). After a horrible game on the road, he returns to the comfort of the Edward Jones Dome where he’ll face a defense that has allowed 579 yards and six touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks, and has yet to register an interception. Expecting tournament value from his $6,500 salary (19.5 points) is well within reason, setting Foles up as the contrarian play of the week.

running backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Dion Lewis $6700 JAC@NE 20.9 Frank Gore $7000 IND@TEN 2.4
Le\'Veon Bell $8800 PIT@STL 14.8 C.J. Anderson $7300 DEN@DET 2.3
Marshawn Lynch $8700 CHI@SEA 11 Justin Forsett $7200 CIN@BAL 2.3
Adrian Peterson $8900 SD@MIN 10.9 Mark Ingram $7900 NO@CAR 2
Jamaal Charles $8700 KC@GB 10.6 Jeremy Hill $7600 CIN@BAL 2
Latavius Murray $7000 OAK@CLE 9.5 T.J. Yeldon $6600 JAC@NE 1.9
Danny Woodhead $6400 SD@MIN 9.4 Ameer Abdullah $6000 DEN@DET 1.7
David Johnson $6000 SF@ARI 5.8 Bishop Sankey $6300 IND@TEN 1.4
Devonta Freeman $6500 ATL@DAL 5.4 DeMarco Murray $7800 PHI@NYJ 1.3
Joseph Randle $6500 ATL@DAL 4.4 Carlos Hyde $7800 SF@ARI 1.3
James Starks $6500 KC@GB 4.2 Lance Dunbar $4900 ATL@DAL 1.2
Christopher Ivory $7100 PHI@NYJ 3.8 Doug Martin $6600 TB@HOU 1
Giovani Bernard $7200 CIN@BAL 3.5 Chris Johnson $6200 SF@ARI 0.7
Melvin Gordon $6700 SD@MIN 3.1 Darren McFadden $6300 ATL@DAL 0.4
Jonathan Stewart $6500 NO@CAR 3 Eddie Lacy $7700 KC@GB 0.3
LeSean McCoy $7500 BUF@MIA 2.8 Tre Mason $6500 PIT@STL 0.2
Isaiah Crowell $6600 OAK@CLE 2.7 Todd Gurley $6300 PIT@STL 0.2
Matt Forte $8400 CHI@SEA 2.4 Lamar Miller $6600 BUF@MIA 0.1

It has been reported that Drew Brees won’t play in Carolina. The Panthers are home favorites against a shabby offense now missing its best player, and no shot of the defense keeping the Saints relevant in this contest. Jonathan Stewart will cost you only $6,500 and the crowd won’t even know. The ground game is going to be on full display in Charlotte.  

In that same price range we find Isaiah Crowell, who, despite being out-snapped by Duke Johnson last week, put together a respectable box score. It’ll be hard to predict which running back is going to provide the most value as the season grinds on. For now, Crowell is the getting the majority of carries and all of the goal line work. The Browns offensive line is one of the best in the league. The Oakland Raiders run defense is one of the worst. Crowell should find the end zone at least once. Or, if your looking for a high-risk value play, consider Johnson.

Like Manning, C.J. Anderson has lost the crowd’s trust. That’s just fine by us. We think he gets it going this week in Detroit.

There’s not much to be concerned about from a usage standpoint. The offensive line is worth worry but Manning covers some of those problems. The Lions have allowed the fifth most rushing yards this season and are susceptible to pass-catching running backs. Anderson should be good for three or four dump-offs, and few shots at the end zone.

Deep in the bargain bin we find Lance Dunbar. While it’s hard to be excited about anyone on the Cowboys offense after the injuries they’ve suffered, Dunbar will get a few extra snaps thanks to his pass-catching ability. This week he gets the Atlanta Falcons, who have allowed 199 receiving yards on 24 receptions to running backs this season. There’s nothing attractive about the 45-point over/under in this game, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cowboys fall behind and Dunbar soak up garbage-time snaps.

wide receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Julian Edelman $7700 JAC@NE 38 Sammy Watkins $6800 BUF@MIA 1.9
Antonio Brown $9300 PIT@STL 28.1 Kendall Wright $5900 IND@TEN 1.9
Larry Fitzgerald $6700 SF@ARI 25.2 Percy Harvin $5600 BUF@MIA 1.8
Julio Jones $9000 ATL@DAL 16.1 Keenan Allen $7600 SD@MIN 1.6
Travis Benjamin $5600 OAK@CLE 15.7 Ted Ginn Jr. $5200 NO@CAR 1.6
Donte Moncrief $6000 IND@TEN 13.5 Golden Tate $6800 DEN@DET 1.2
Brandon Marshall $7400 PHI@NYJ 13.4 Roddy White $6100 ATL@DAL 1.2
Emmanuel Sanders $8100 DEN@DET 11.7 Eric Decker $6000 PHI@NYJ 0.9
James Jones $5700 KC@GB 9.7 Vincent Jackson $7200 TB@HOU 0.8
Amari Cooper $6900 OAK@CLE 6.4 Anquan Boldin $6600 SF@ARI 0.8
Allen Robinson $6600 JAC@NE 6.4 Torrey Smith $6400 SF@ARI 0.8
Demaryius Thomas $8400 DEN@DET 6.3 Davante Adams $6400 KC@GB 0.8
Steve Johnson $5900 SD@MIN 4.5 Rishard Matthews $5700 BUF@MIA 0.8
Doug Baldwin $6000 CHI@SEA 4.3 Mike Evans $7400 TB@HOU 0.7
Randall Cobb $8200 KC@GB 4.2 Cole Beasley $5400 ATL@DAL 0.7
Terrance Williams $6500 ATL@DAL 4.2 Mike Wallace $5800 SD@MIN 0.6
Michael Crabtree $6000 OAK@CLE 3.9 Leonard Hankerson $5700 ATL@DAL 0.6
DeAndre Hopkins $7800 TB@HOU 3.6 Markus Wheaton $5200 PIT@STL 0.6
Jarvis Landry $7600 BUF@MIA 3.5 Allen Hurns $5100 JAC@NE 0.6
John Brown $6000 SF@ARI 3.5 Brandin Cooks $7000 NO@CAR 0.5
A.J. Green $8000 CIN@BAL 3.2 Andre Johnson $6800 IND@TEN 0.4
Steve Smith $7100 CIN@BAL 2.8 Kenny Britt $5400 PIT@STL 0.3
Darrius Heyward-Bey $5300 PIT@STL 2.4 Brandon Coleman $5100 NO@CAR 0.3
Jordan Matthews $7100 PHI@NYJ 2.3 Robert Woods $5300 BUF@MIA 0.2
Calvin Johnson $8200 DEN@DET 2.2 Charles Johnson $5200 SD@MIN 0.2
T.Y. Hilton $7600 IND@TEN 2.1 Alshon Jeffery $7500 CHI@SEA 0.1
Jeremy Maclin $6500 KC@GB 2.1 Kamar Aiken $5600 CIN@BAL 0.1

A.J. Green is a top-shelf wide receiver that the crowd generally fades. There’s always the Dalton Effect to be concerned about—that is, Andy Dalton on the road in a divisional game—but the Ravens secondary just surrendered 220 yards and two touchdowns to the combination of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Green is in a great spot for his first breakout game of the season.

If T.Y. Hilton plays Sunday, and it sounds like he will after practicing Friday, we’ll be happy to pay his fee of $7,600. There’s no one in the Titans secondary that can cover him, even if his history against them isn’t great. If the Colts are going to turn things around, and we believe they will, they’ll start by using their best playmakers early and often against Tennessee.

The idea behind identifying a contrarian play has more to it than just looking at exposure numbers and throwing darts at low-priced options. We need logic. Logic backed with historical data if we can find it. Historically, Bill Belichick’s defenses have targeted the best player an offense has and removed said player. Basically, a beat us some other way approach. We’ll see how that is and how well that works when they face Allen Robinson and the Jaguars. In any case, Allen Hurns could see plenty of action as Blake Bortles is asked to throw 40 times. There’s nothing sexy about Hurns. He is, without question, a high-risk value play. But he has been steady through two weeks, collecting nine receptions for 128 yards. Eventually, one of those receptions will be in the end zone, at which point he’ll hit tournament value. He hasn’t had many opportunities on that side of the field yet, but an increase in volume, which you would expect against the Patriots, should create those opportunities.

The Houston Texans pass rush may destroy any hope Jameis Winston and Co. have of building a winning streak before it even begins. But with their starting tight end out for several weeks, and Mike Evans finally off of a pitch count, now is the time to take advantage of his salary and limited exposure. We’re certain the Buccaneers won’t be able to run the ball, and we’re not worried about the Texans secondary. Evans has a good matchup and should finally payoff after being hampered for the first few weeks.

tight ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Rob Gronkowski $8400 JAC@NE 32.3 Kyle Rudolph $5300 SD@MIN 1.6
Tyler Eifert $5900 CIN@BAL 11.8 Jared Cook $5400 PIT@STL 1.2
Travis Kelce $6400 KC@GB 6.2 Martellus Bennett $5600 CHI@SEA 1
Jimmy Graham $6300 CHI@SEA 5.3 Ladarius Green $5600 SD@MIN 1
Greg Olsen $5900 NO@CAR 5 Vernon Davis $5400 SF@ARI 0.9
Heath Miller $5800 PIT@STL 4.1 Jason Witten $6000 ATL@DAL 0.7
Crockett Gillmore $5400 CIN@BAL 3.6 Zach Ertz $5200 PHI@NYJ 0.4
Eric Ebron $5100 DEN@DET 3.1 Delanie Walker $5200 IND@TEN 0.2
Richard Rodgers $4900 KC@GB 2.1 Jordan Cameron $5400 BUF@MIA 0.1

Basically, the only way to be a contrarian at tight end is by fading Gronkowski. He is the second highest owned player per Thursday night numbers. But if you’re looking for an upside play at a discount, Jared Cook is fifth in receptions and seventh in yards. The only thing missing from his game is a touchdown or two. Feel free to be courageous with a Foles/Cook stack.

Greg Olsen is the only receiver that’s going to consistently produce for the Panthers. It may not seem that way when you look at their box score, but he leads the team in targets despite only seeing three in Week 1. He’s also been targeted only two times in the red zone. The touchdown drought ends this Sunday against the Saints.

Before his injury in Week 1, Delanie Walker had converted all three of his targets into 43 yards and a touchdown. He’ll return to action just in time for the Titans first home game against a soft Colts defense that has yet to be tested by a tight end of his skill set. His salary of $5,200 gives us a plenty of roster flexibility with out sacrificing our floor at this position.

DEFENSE

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

New York Jets $4500 PHI@NYJ 17 Cleveland Browns $4600 OAK@CLE 2.4
Seattle Seahawks $5300 CHI@SEA 14.4 Pittsburgh Steelers $4400 PIT@STL 2.3
Denver Broncos $4600 DEN@DET 11.1 Green Bay Packers $4600 KC@GB 1.1
New England Patriots $4700 JAC@NE 10.7 Oakland Raiders $4300 OAK@CLE 0.8
Carolina Panthers $4600 NO@CAR 8.2 Miami Dolphins $4600 BUF@MIA 0.7
Arizona Cardinals $4700 SF@ARI 4.9 Baltimore Ravens $4600 CIN@BAL 0.5
Atlanta Falcons $4300 ATL@DAL 3.7 Cincinnati Bengals $4600 CIN@BAL 0.5
Houston Texans $5000 TB@HOU 3.1 Indianapolis Colts $4500 IND@TEN 0.4
Buffalo Bills $4500 BUF@MIA 2.8 Minnesota Vikings $4400 SD@MIN 0.4

Avoiding a chalk play is going to be difficult this week. The Jets, Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots and Panthers are all worth their respective price tags, despite ownership. The Texans will be under owned at home against a rookie quarterback. Even though we like Evans, it’s not unfathomable that Winston plants a few passes into the hands of defenders.

And for $400 less, a decent pass rush, a top cornerback and the threat of Benjamin returning punts for touchdowns makes the Browns a sneaky play the crowd won’t consider.