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The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 4

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

 Before getting into Week 4, let’s look back at the chalk plays through three weeks. The table below displays the highest owned player, per Thursday GPPs, and their subsequent fantasy points.

Week

Position

Player

Own %

Price

FPs

1 QB Sam Bradford 14.8 $7500 15.44
1 RB Eddie Lacy 23.2 $8500 16.9
1 WR Davante Adams 27.5 $5500 7.9
1 TE Greg Olsen 18.5 $5900 1.6
1 K Brandon McManus 14.7 $4500 18
1 Def New York Jets 16.9 $4400 17
2 QB Drew Brees 13.9 $8900 13.1
2 RB Carlos Hyde 33.4 $7000 8.1
2 WR Julio Jones 37.7 $8800 20
2 TE Rob Gronkowski 16.8 $8300 20.8
2 K Josh Brown 13.7 $4500 9
2 Def St Louis Rams 17.2 $4900 4
3 QB Tom Brady 31.5 $8700 22.72
3 RB Dion Lewis 20.9 $6700 15.2
3 WR Julian Edelman 38 $7700 12.5
3 TE Rob Gronkowski 32.3 $8400 12.1
3 K Stephen Gostkowski 11.1 $5000 17
3 Def New York Jets 17 $4500 3

There’s plenty to learn from this. On average, our chalk plays are scoring just 13.02 points through three games, but costing us $6,800—a return of 2x value. Based on these numbers, you have a fine argument to fade the crowd often and turn to more against the grain plays.

But 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. Below is an except from “A Contrarians Guide to DFS”, which details the how and why of our process:

The Contrarian: When It’s Cool to be Cool

Sort of the opposite of fading, the contrarian play means selecting a player that isn’t on anyone’s radar, or is being faded by the crowd for whatever reason. The trick is to identify a player that is low owned but has a good shot at hitting tournament value. Without a few good contrarian plays, your lineup has no chance of taking home first place.

But, like with fades, you have to pick your spots. If you want to take the most literal definition of the philosophy, there would be 1,000s of contrarian plays each week. But there’s a huge difference between a contrarian play and someone like Shaun Draughn. Even though Draughn is cheap and going to be on virtually zero lineups, he’s a lock to score zero points. There’s nothing contrarian about scoring zero points even though you selected a player the crowd didn’t.

A good contrarian approach doesn’t always have to be about cheap salaries and longshot tournament plays either. In Week 15, for example, Antonio Brown was a hot play despite his $9,100 salary. His recent performance combined with what appeared to be a saucy matchup against the Falcons created a stampede; Brown ended up being the sixth highest owned player that week (21.86%). He did what Brown does and caught all 10 of his targets for 123 yards. Not bad, but not good enough to win a tournament considering his price.  

Meanwhile, Dez Bryant had an equally good, if not better, matchup against the Eagles and was $600 cheaper. Yet, he ended up on just 8.61% of lineups. He did what Dez does and caught 86% of his targets for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Now that’s a contrarian play.

Those are the exact situations we’re looking to find every week: someone that’s equal to or cheaper in salary but will score as many or more points. You should also use injury scares to your advantage. The crowd gets easily spooked when a player pops up on the injury report. Chances are, if he doesn’t practice much during the week, his ownership will be low regardless of cost and matchup.

A perfect example of this occurred in Week 5 of last year. Arian Foster, after being sidelined in Week 3 with a hamstring injury and clearly hampered by that injury in Week 4, ended up on just 1.3% of lineups. He proceeded to tear up a bad Cowboys defense to the tune of 152 yards and two touchdowns—the third best performance by a running back that week.

Managing the injury report and using it to your advantage is risky and tough to do, to be sure. But the weeks you get it right will cover the weeks you get it wrong.

In summary, it’s cool to be contrarian. And everyone wants to be cool. But don’t forget what happens when we try too hard to be cool: we end up looking like clowns. Clowns are definitely not cool, especially when they cost us our entry fee and a portion of our bankroll.      

Back to Week 4.

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 %

Aaron Rodgers $9200 GB@SF 19 Peyton Manning $8200 MIN@DEN 2.3
Andy Dalton $7600 KC@CIN 11.6 Eli Manning $7800 NYG@BUF 0.8
Derek Carr $7000 OAK@CHI 11.5 Sam Bradford $7100 PHI@WAS 0.8
Cam Newton $8300 CAR@TB 11.2 Blake Bortles $6800 JAC@IND 0.7
Tyrod Taylor $7600 NYG@BUF 8.8 Brandon Weeden $6400 DAL@NO 0.5
Matt Ryan $8400 HOU@ATL 5 Kirk Cousins $6100 PHI@WAS 0.5
Carson Palmer $8200 STL@ARI 5 Ryan Mallett $6300 HOU@ATL 0.4
Philip Rivers $7400 CLE@SD 2.9 Colin Kaepernick $7500 GB@SF 0.3
Andrew Luck $9100 JAC@IND 2.7 Drew Brees $8400 DAL@NO 0.1
Russell Wilson $8200 DET@SEA 2.3 Josh McCown $6400 CLE@SD 0.1

After all the preseason talk of Eli Manning settling into Ben McAdoo’s offense and setting the league on fire, we finally saw some evidence of that. Over the last two games, Manning has completed 69 percent of his passes for 571 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. This week he gets a defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks:

His salary isn’t the friendliest but his matchup is excellent and the crowd is scared. As always, when the crowd fades the player, fade the crowd.

For $700 less we have Sam Bradford and Chip Kelly’s supposedly unstoppable offense. It seems the crowd has learned their lesson and are steering clear of Bradford and his bottom-ranked 5.8 yards per pass attempt. Indeed, we’d like to see him throw it down the field a bit more. We’d especially like it if his receivers and running backs would secure a few more targets. In any case, Bradford isn’t expensive and the matchup isn’t the best. But they are favored going into Washington and we don’t think they’ll be able to run the ball. There’s a rebound coming from Kelly’s offense this week.

Without question, the 49ers offense is garbage even in garbage time. But the Green Bay Packers have allowed more rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks than any other team, and rank 15th in average points allowed overall. Here’s what John Lee (@tipandpick) had to say about the situation:

“Kaepernick is only 0.3% owned. From a game strategy point-of-view, he needs to score 22.5 points only 4 times out of 1000 in order to be a profitable play for GPP's. A player of his skill set can score 22.5 points 50 times out of 1000, let alone 4 times out of 1000.”

There is a ton of risk with Kaepernick. But his ceiling can swing tournaments.

In the bargain bin, we find Kirk Cousins, who just dropped 316 yards and a touchdown on the Giants. He also dropped a pair of interceptions, but it was still enough to hit 2.6x value. This week he gets an Eagles defense that has allowed the 10th most passing yards to opposing quarterbacks and five touchdowns through three games. Washington’s offensive line took a major hit thanks to injuries. So the Eagles pass rush could create problems. But 16-18 points is well within reach for Captain Kirk.

running backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Karlos Williams $6300 NYG@BUF 26 Thomas Rawls $6000 DET@SEA 1.8
Latavius Murray $7500 OAK@CHI 23.6 Alfred Blue $6400 HOU@ATL 1.6
Joseph Randle $7400 DAL@NO 19.4 T.J. Yeldon $6400 JAC@IND 1.3
Devonta Freeman $7200 HOU@ATL 15.5 C.J. Anderson $6900 MIN@DEN 0.9
Jamaal Charles $8700 KC@CIN 9 Jeremy Hill $6700 KC@CIN 0.8
Matt Forte $8300 OAK@CHI 8.5 Jonathan Stewart $6300 CAR@TB 0.7
Frank Gore $7300 JAC@IND 7.7 Ameer Abdullah $6100 DET@SEA 0.7
Chris Johnson $6700 STL@ARI 6.1 DeMarco Murray $7600 PHI@WAS 0.4
Eddie Lacy $7800 GB@SF 5.8 Isaiah Crowell $6400 CLE@SD 0.4
Melvin Gordon $6800 CLE@SD 5 Alfred Morris $6200 PHI@WAS 0.4
Darren Sproles $6000 PHI@WAS 5 C.J. Spiller $5500 DAL@NO 0.4
Adrian Peterson $9000 MIN@DEN 4.4 Marshawn Lynch $8600 DET@SEA 0.3
Lance Dunbar $5600 DAL@NO 3.4 Doug Martin $6400 CAR@TB 0.3
Danny Woodhead $6100 CLE@SD 3.1 Shane Vereen $5800 NYG@BUF 0.3
Mark Ingram $8100 DAL@NO 2.8 Ronnie Hillman $6300 MIN@DEN 0.2
Carlos Hyde $7400 GB@SF 2.1 Khiry Robinson $4800 DAL@NO 0.2
Ryan Mathews $5900 PHI@WAS 2.1 Andre Ellington $7000 STL@ARI 0.1
Matt Jones $6300 PHI@WAS 2 Fred Jackson $6100 DET@SEA 0.1
Giovani Bernard $6700 KC@CIN 1.8 Todd Gurley $5900 STL@ARI 0.1

Hovering around a modest exposure of five percent, Melvin Gordon checks in with an affordable salary and a date with a team that has allowed a league-leading 464 rushing yards, and ranks third in points allowed to running backs. We think he satiates his appetite and finds the end zone for the first, and maybe second, time on Sunday. He maybe out-snapped by Danny Woodhead 108-93 thus far, but he has 20 more carries. All he needs is a few opportunities in the redzone.

With Drew Brees standing on the sideline, Mark Ingram became the focal point of the offense, gathering a combined 99 yards and a touchdown. Even though the Saints have a steady rotation of running backs, with C.J. Spiller expected to get more action, Ingram leads the team by a far stretch with 11 redzone opportunities. This week he is at home against a defense that just made Devonta Freeman look like Marshawn Lynch. The crowd has shied away but we’re happy to pay his $8,100 salary, especially if Brees ends up playing.

Andrew Luck wasn’t seen at practice Friday putting his availability in question. Even if he plays, we like the fact that the Colts defense has allowed the 10th most points to running backs. As such, we like T.J. Yeldon and his friendly $6,400 salary. Last week’s game script pretty much erased him against the Patriots, and it’s possible that happens again on the road against the Colts, but should the Jaguars even so much as keep this game close, Yeldon will get plenty of work.

We mentioned C.J. Spiller should get more work as the weeks progress. As of now, it’s hard to have much faith in that crowded backfield, especially with Ingram hogging all the goal line packages. But it sounds like Spiller will finally get into the fray Sunday night against Dallas:

The Cowboys are vulnerable to pass-catching backs, ranking sixth in receiving yards allowed. Spiller is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward GPP play.

Thankfully, the Falcons/Texans game is in the early slate. According to Twitter, Arian Foster is a game time decision:

He’s not listed in the table above because he’ll have a low exposure no matter when he’s cleared. And if he is cleared, get him in your lineup. There are two things we need to remember in regards to this situation: The first is the example detailed in the intro of him coming off of an injury and shredding the Cowboys defense last year. The second is what the Cowboys offense just did to the Falcons last week: their running backs combined 245 yards and four touchdowns.  

wide receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

James Jones $6000 GB@SF 28 Golden Tate $6600 DET@SEA 1
Larry Fitzgerald $7400 STL@ARI 27.1 Terrance Williams $5900 DAL@NO 1
Julio Jones $9400 HOU@ATL 22.9 John Brown $5800 STL@ARI 1
A.J. Green $8400 KC@CIN 22.6 Ty Montgomery $4700 GB@SF 1
Amari Cooper $7200 OAK@CHI 20.3 Allen Hurns $5300 JAC@IND 0.8
Randall Cobb $8200 GB@SF 19.7 Brandin Cooks $7000 DAL@NO 0.7
Donte Moncrief $6300 JAC@IND 11.3 Anquan Boldin $6400 GB@SF 0.6
Keenan Allen $7700 CLE@SD 8 Leonard Hankerson $5600 HOU@ATL 0.6
DeAndre Hopkins $7900 HOU@ATL 7.6 Nate Washington $5200 HOU@ATL 0.6
T.Y. Hilton $7600 JAC@IND 7.5 Cole Beasley $5200 DAL@NO 0.6
Emmanuel Sanders $7900 MIN@DEN 7.2 Vincent Jackson $6800 CAR@TB 0.5
Demaryius Thomas $8500 MIN@DEN 5.8 Roddy White $5600 HOU@ATL 0.5
Odell Beckham Jr. $9100 NYG@BUF 5.3 Jermaine Kearse $5600 DET@SEA 0.4
Allen Robinson $6500 JAC@IND 5 Willie Snead $4700 DAL@NO 0.4
Jordan Matthews $7000 PHI@WAS 4.5 Robert Woods $5400 NYG@BUF 0.3
Percy Harvin $5700 NYG@BUF 4.3 Malcom Floyd $5400 CLE@SD 0.3
Jeremy Maclin $6500 KC@CIN 4 Andre Johnson $5400 JAC@IND 0.3
Marvin Jones $5500 KC@CIN 3.9 Alshon Jeffery $7600 OAK@CHI 0.2
Travis Benjamin $6000 CLE@SD 3.8 Torrey Smith $6200 GB@SF 0.2
Michael Crabtree $5800 OAK@CHI 3.5 Marques Colston $5400 DAL@NO 0.2
Ted Ginn Jr. $5500 CAR@TB 2.3 Mike Wallace $5400 MIN@DEN 0.2
Steve Johnson $5800 CLE@SD 1.7 Phillip Dorsett $5400 JAC@IND 0.2
Mike Evans $7500 CAR@TB 1.6 Cecil Shorts $5300 HOU@ATL 0.2
Pierre Garcon $6100 PHI@WAS 1.4 Michael Floyd $5000 STL@ARI 0.2
Rueben Randle $5700 NYG@BUF 1.4 Nelson Agholor $4900 PHI@WAS 0.2
Doug Baldwin $5700 DET@SEA 1.4 Kenny Britt $5600 STL@ARI 0.1
Calvin Johnson $8100 DET@SEA 1 Brandon Coleman $5000 DAL@NO 0.1

With Sammy Watkins ruled out, Percy Harvin becomes an interesting play. Stacking him with Tyrod Taylor is an obvious risk against a Giants team that has allowed only one touchdown to receivers this season. But their combined salary and ceiling could swing tournaments. Harvin currently ranks 25th among all receivers in PPR scoring and is consistently being targeted.

While the crowd pays up for A.J. Green, we can look the other way to the guy that is going to see single coverage all afternoon. Marvin Jones is our 24th ranked receiver over the last two weeks after scoring in back-to-back games and logging 142 yards in the process. If the Chiefs defense is as bad as they’ve looked so far, Jones’s $5,500 salary is too good to pass on.

In that same price range we have a receiver tied for 10th in targets and has as many receptions as Green. Michael Crabtree is finding a resurgence in Oakland thanks to Derek Carr, and lines up against a bad Bears defense this Sunday. While the crowd filters towards Cooper, Crabtree is the contrarian’s delight.

Odell Beckham Jr. may be our 13th most popular receiver, but he registered on only 5.3 percent of Thursday night rosters. That’s absurdly low for a guy that’s just now hitting his stride. Over the last two weeks he has been targeted 21 times and caught 14 of them for 225 yards and two touchdowns. $9,100 is a steep price, but a Manning/Beckham stack is in order this weekend.

The Panthers defense is missing some key players on the line and in the middle (Luke Kuechly has been ruled out). The one player they do have is Josh Norman, who will likely attempt to remove Mike Evans from the game. Whether or not he finds success remains to be seen. What is clear is that Vincent Jackson will be left in single coverage. He leads all Bucs receivers in targets, receptions, touchdowns and redzone looks. A lot of that is the result of Evans missing time, but Jackson will still be plenty busy, especially in scoring situations.

If you choose to roll the dice on Kaepernick, you might as well stack him with one of his receivers. Torrey Smith registers as the true boom/bust option, while Anquan Boldin is the possession guy and end zone threat. Neither will set you back much in terms of salary cap, and both are against the grain plays the crowd won’t consider.

We have a sub-5k option in the bargain bin that most won’t have the courage to start. This is similar to the aforementioned Kaepernick situation; Bradford is a risky play but if you go that direction, best grab one of his receivers too. While the crowd huddles around Jordan Matthews, the shark move is to save the cash and roll with Nelson Agholor. He may only have 12 targets on the season but he has played just as many snaps as Matthews. With opportunity comes fantasy points. Eventually he and Bradford are going to connect for a big game and we think it happens in Week 4. It wouldn’t take much for him to return value off of his $4,900 salary.

tight ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Greg Olsen $6300 CAR@TB 23.2 Richard Rodgers $4900 GB@SF 1.8
Charles Clay $5200 NYG@BUF 11.8 Owen Daniels $4600 MIN@DEN 1.8
Jordan Reed $5600 PHI@WAS 11 Gary Barnidge $5000 CLE@SD 1.5
Martellus Bennett $5500 OAK@CHI 8.5 Kyle Rudolph $5000 MIN@DEN 1.1
Tyler Eifert $5700 KC@CIN 7.4 Zach Ertz $5200 PHI@WAS 0.6
Jimmy Graham $6600 DET@SEA 6.2 Larry Donnell $5200 NYG@BUF 0.5
Jason Witten $6000 DAL@NO 6.1 Jared Cook $5400 STL@ARI 0.4
Travis Kelce $6400 KC@CIN 5.5 Jermaine Gresham $5300 STL@ARI 0.3
Eric Ebron $5100 DET@SEA 2.4 Ladarius Green $5600 CLE@SD 0.2

We are little surprised that Richard Rodgers isn’t getting more action. He’s the lone healthy tight end and was already playing 66 percent of snaps. With Davante Adams hobbled, and most of the attention being filtered towards Randall Cobb, Rodgers will be the underneath option. He comes with a lot of risk since this offense has a lot of mouths to feed, but he’s worthy of a GPP longshot.

If Ladarius Green is cleared to play, he’ll be a solid start against a mediocre Browns defense. Week 1 is a perfect example of what he capable of (five catches, 74 yards, 1 touchdown). Hence, his salary has remains a touch high. The crowd has completely forgotten about him.

defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Arizona Cardinals $5000 STL@ARI 19.6 Atlanta Falcons $4200 HOU@ATL 3.1
Denver Broncos $4700 MIN@DEN 15.4 San Diego Chargers $4400 CLE@SD 1.9
Carolina Panthers $4800 CAR@TB 8.9 Dallas Cowboys $4500 DAL@NO 1.8
Seattle Seahawks $5300 DET@SEA 8.4 Cincinnati Bengals $4700 KC@CIN 0.9
Green Bay Packers $4700 GB@SF 6.4 Kansas City Chiefs $4300 KC@CIN 0.7
Philadelphia Eagles $4500 PHI@WAS 4 Houston Texans $4900 HOU@ATL 0.3
Oakland Raiders $4500 OAK@CHI 3.9 Cleveland Browns $4600 CLE@SD 0.3
Buffalo Bills $4800 NYG@BUF 3.7 Minnesota Vikings $4400 MIN@DEN 0.3
Indianapolis Colts $4400 JAC@IND 3.3 New Orleans Saints $4500 DAL@NO 0.2

It’s hard to separate from the pack with so many good chalk plays. One such option is the Cincinnati Bengals defense at home. The Chiefs are on a short week after getting blasted by the Packers and are tied for sixth in team turnovers. That said, the Bengals aren’t exactly creating a lot of turnovers.

The same can be said for the Falcons but they have a massive home field advantage. Dan Quinn’s crew has only four takeaways and four sacks, but Ryan Mallett and Co. could change that (assuming Foster doesn’t play).