The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 7

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

The chalk plays last week—the highest owned player at each position—averaged 14.18 fantasy points. That won’t win tournaments.

What will win tournaments are under-owned players with positive games scripts and luscious matchups, like Matthew Stafford last week. His salary fell below $7,000 for the first time since 2010—basically the lowest of all time. Naturally, with no one looking, he turned in his best performance of the season and finished as QB1. The key takeaway from this is that his performance was predictable. We were all over Calvin Johnson as a contrarian play because the matchup was more than ideal. The natural progression of our process should have led us to a Stafford/Johnson stack. We have to be proactive in these situations, and not be scared to plug in players that make us uncomfortable when the matchup is encouraging.

This, of course is nothing nothing new. It has been our practice all season long and we’ll continue in our stubborn ways of seeking out under-owned players. Just like with fades, we’ll never advocate going contrarian for the sake contrarianism. That said, 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.

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 %

Carson Palmer $8200 BAL@ARI 17.2 Andrew Luck $8900 NO@IND 4.1
Philip Rivers $8000 OAK@SD 16.7 Landry Jones $6000 PIT@KC 3.9
Cam Newton $8100 PHI@CAR 6.7 Drew Brees $8400 NO@IND 2.7
Matthew Stafford $7400 MIN@DET 6 Ryan Fitzpatrick $7100 NYJ@NE 2.1
Tom Brady $9000 NYJ@NE 5.2 Eli Manning $7800 DAL@NYG 1.7
Brian Hoyer $6900 HOU@MIA 4.7 Ryan Tannehill $7700 HOU@MIA 1.4
Matt Ryan $8100 ATL@TEN 4.4 Matt Cassel $6400 DAL@NYG 1

With the majority of the crowd gathering around Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers, we can move to Matt Ryan for the same price and less exposure. Ryan is hardly a model for consistency but still ranks 11th overall among quarterbacks. This week he travels to Nashville to face a defense that looks better in the stat column than they do on the field. They’ve allowed an average of 17.9 points to quarterbacks, which ranks 16th, but are allowing the most fantasy points per attempt. Even if you remove rushing points, the Titans still rank third in points per attempt. For the first time in weeks, Julio Jones isn’t listed on the injury report. We like that the over/under in this contest is a healthy 47 points, third highest of the week, and we’ll take a Ryan/Jones stack.

Only four teams have allowed more passing yards than the Colts, who rank sixth in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. Drew Brees is showing his age but still capable of putting up big numbers when the game script calls for it. He has now thrown for over 300 yards in three consecutive games. We’d like to see a few more touchdowns to go along with those yards. The Colts have allowed 11 on the season, sixth most, and are favored in our highest over/under of the week at 58 points. Even though he’ll set us back $8,400, Brees looks like a nice tournament play.

As does his opponent Andrew Luck. It’s sort of confusing that the crowd is still shy with only 4.1 percent of Thursday rosters acquiring his services. His price tag of $8,900 is a discount, relatively speaking. Last week, in his first game back from injury, he dumped 312 yards and three touchdowns on the Patriots, threw the ball 50 times and rushed four times for 35 yards. It’s possible that Frank Gore sneaks in a touchdown, but we’ll fire up Luck with confidence against a Saints team that is allowing the third most fantasy points per attempt to quarterbacks.

In the bargain bin, we have a high-risk play with Landry Jones. He was excellent in relief of Michael Vick last week, in which he completed 67 percent of his passes for 168 yards and two scores. Be warned, however, that 88 of those yards and one of those touchdowns came on one big play. That aside, he couldn’t have a better defense to face in his first NFL start. The Chiefs’ secondary is awful, having allowed 14 touchdowns to four interceptions, and the third most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Of course, there is a reason the Steelers acquired Vick and pushed Jones down the depth chart. So there's a lot of implied risk here. But $6,000 gives us a world of roster flexibility. Asking Jones for 18 points isn’t exactly a longshot, considering he scored 16.3 last week in 1.5 quarters of football.   

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Devonta Freeman $8700 ATL@TEN 49.4 DeMarco Murray $7600 PHI@CAR 2.3
Todd Gurley $7400 CLE@STL 35 Dion Lewis $7000 NYJ@NE 2.2
Doug Martin $7200 TB@WAS 14.5 Chris Johnson $6900 BAL@ARI 2.2
Christopher Ivory $7800 NYJ@NE 12.6 Justin Forsett $7100 BAL@ARI 1.1
Le\'Veon Bell $8900 PIT@KC 7.4 Jonathan Stewart $6700 PHI@CAR 1.1
Lamar Miller $6700 HOU@MIA 6.4 Rashad Jennings $6300 DAL@NYG 0.8
Latavius Murray $7000 OAK@SD 6.1 Charles Sims $5700 TB@WAS 0.8
Danny Woodhead $6000 OAK@SD 5.8 Alfred Morris $5600 TB@WAS 0.5
LeGarrette Blount $6800 NYJ@NE 5.3 Melvin Gordon $6500 OAK@SD 0.4
Frank Gore $7100 NO@IND 4.4 Charcandrick West $5900 PIT@KC 0.4
Mark Ingram $7600 NO@IND 4.1 Andre Ellington $5200 BAL@ARI 0.4
Adrian Peterson $8900 MIN@DET 4 Ameer Abdullah $5700 MIN@DET 0.3
Arian Foster $8600 HOU@MIA 2.9 Duke Johnson $5600 CLE@STL 0.2
Christine Michael $5600 DAL@NYG 2.8        

Sometimes players coming off of injuries and bye weeks are lost in the shuffle. Latavius Murray is only 6.1 percent owned and has juicy matchup against the Chargers. The Raiders are on the road and will probably fall behind in this contest. But Murray’s skill set keeps him on the field regardless of game script. The Chargers have allowed more points per touch to running backs than any other team, and the second most touchdowns. For $7,000, a healthy Murray is a steal.

We’re guessing the price of Adrian Peterson, in combination with recency bias, is what has the crowd spooked. His four percent exposure is low considering the Vikings are facing a defense that has allowed the fourth most rushing yards and second most rushing touchdowns. We love getting elite talent when it is under-owned. As always, when the crowd fades the player, fade the crowd—even if it will cost you $8,900.

As we mentioned with Luck, it’s possible Frank Gore finds the end zone at least once in a high-scoring game. The fact that the crowd is off of this contest can’t be explained. Again, we have the Colts offense playing in the highest over/under of the week against a defense that can’t stop the run or the pass. We should be getting exposure to as many players as we can in this game. Maybe even throw an ultimate GPP dart at Ahmad Bradshaw while you’re at it.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Martavis Bryant $6900 PIT@KC 28.8 Tavon Austin $5800 CLE@STL 3.3
Larry Fitzgerald $7800 BAL@ARI 28.2 Danny Amendola $5400 NYJ@NE 3.1
DeAndre Hopkins $9200 HOU@MIA 24.8 Odell Beckham Jr. $9000 DAL@NYG 3
John Brown $6700 BAL@ARI 17.9 Rishard Matthews $6400 HOU@MIA 2.9
Stefon Diggs $5800 MIN@DET 14.5 Vincent Jackson $6800 TB@WAS 2.8
Donte Moncrief $6500 NO@IND 11.7 Mike Evans $7500 TB@WAS 2.7
Travis Benjamin $6600 CLE@STL 11.2 Michael Crabtree $5900 OAK@SD 2.7
Julio Jones $9100 ATL@TEN 9.7 Brandin Cooks $6700 NO@IND 2.6
Julian Edelman $8000 NYJ@NE 9.4 Ted Ginn Jr. $5300 PHI@CAR 2.5
Calvin Johnson $8400 MIN@DET 9 Michael Floyd $4900 BAL@ARI 2.2
T.Y. Hilton $7700 NO@IND 8.8 Golden Tate $6700 MIN@DET 1.8
Jarvis Landry $7100 HOU@MIA 8.6 Terrance Williams $5900 DAL@NYG 1.5
Amari Cooper $7300 OAK@SD 8.3 Kendall Wright $5700 ATL@TEN 1.4
Steve Smith $6900 BAL@ARI 8.2 Jordan Matthews $6600 PHI@CAR 1.1
Brandon Marshall $8200 NYJ@NE 8 Mike Wallace $5400 MIN@DET 1
Eric Decker $6200 NYJ@NE 7.6 Leonard Hankerson $5700 ATL@TEN 0.8
Antonio Brown $8300 PIT@KC 5.5 Jamison Crowder $5800 TB@WAS 0.6
Willie Snead $6500 NO@IND 4.7 Jeremy Maclin $6900 PIT@KC 0.5
Pierre Garcon $6100 TB@WAS 4.2 Rueben Randle $5700 DAL@NYG 0.5
Keenan Allen $8100 OAK@SD 3.9 Kamar Aiken $5600 BAL@ARI 0.5

Recent performance means so much to the general public. We all saw The Duel of Dumpster-Fires last week on Monday night football, as the Giants and the Eagles attempted to out-suck each other. The Giants ended up sucking the most with 251 yards of total offense. The net result of which was Odell Beckham Jr. supplying just 12.1 points. He has yet to score more than 20 in any game this season and is currently dealing with a hamstring. We think he plays aSunday and lights up the Cowboys defense in typical fashion. Let the crowd be cowards; plug him into your GPP lineup.

As mentioned in The Fade, the crowd is chasing voodoo Martavis Bryant points. So we’re going to do the smart thing and go with the better player in Antonio Brown. If we stack him with Jones, we can build our lineups with two stud receivers and a couple of consistent running backs. If we go with a Steelers power stack (Jones/Brown/Bryant), we can use the chalk play but still have roster uniqueness, albeit extra risky. In the process, we’ll have spent only 35 percent of our cap and have the freedom to pimp out the remainder of roster.

We’re still waiting for the 2014 version of Mike Evans to show up. Part of his slow start has to do with overcoming an injury and getting to game speed. The other part has been Jameis Winston’s lumbering performances as a rookie. And the fact that the running game has been excellent over their last couple of contests isn’t helping. The good news is Evans gets a Washington secondary this week that doesn’t have a cornerback capable of hanging with him. Duals of Rueben Randle/Beckham, and Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker have combined for 365 yards and four touchdowns against this defense. This is the week Evans shows us why he was such a high draft pick over the summer.

Michael Floyd is second among Cardinals’ receivers in redzone looks with five, and has 18 targets over the last three weeks. He is quietly becoming a bigger part of the game plan, despite all of the offensive weapons at Bruce Arians’ disposal. This week he faces a Ravens team that is allowing the second most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. We like Floyd to get some garbage time work, even in a blow out, as the starters might get pulled by the fourth quarter.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Antonio Gates $5800 OAK@SD 32 Delanie Walker $5500 ATL@TEN 2.4
Greg Olsen $6400 PHI@CAR 11.2 Jordan Cameron $5500 HOU@MIA 1
Gary Barnidge $5900 CLE@STL 7.2 Crockett Gillmore $5000 BAL@ARI 0.6
Benjamin Watson $5300 NO@IND 6.1 Heath Miller $5200 PIT@KC 0.5
Rob Gronkowski $8100 NYJ@NE 4.4 Kyle Rudolph $5000 MIN@DET 0.5
Jason Witten $5600 DAL@NYG 4.3 Jacob Tamme $5100 ATL@TEN 0.4
Travis Kelce $6000 PIT@KC 3.6 Jared Cook $5200 CLE@STL 0.2

The words Rob Gronkowski and contrarian play don’t belong in the same sentence. Yet, here we are, writing that sentence. At only 4.4 percent exposed, Gronkowski has disappointed the crowd so much that they won’t even look at him. This can only mean one thing: he scores three touchdowns.

The Romo-less Cowboys are desperate for a win and have made quarterback change. Matt Cassel isn’t going to deliver them from anything, but he will probably look for a safety net in this game as he shakes the backup rust off. Fortunately for him, there is no better safety net in the league than future hall of famer Jason Witten. Witten hasn’t logged a good box score since the first week of the season when he found the end zone twice, which incidentally was the last time the Cowboys faced the Giants. Now they’re on the road to face them again. Note that only two teams have allowed more yards to tight ends and only four have allowed more points per game.

Speaking of safety nets, Zach Mettenberger is taking the field in place of an injured Marcus Mariota. This sets up well for Delanie Walker who was TE15 in Weeks 8-14 last year with Mettenberger under center. The Titans will be forced to pass a lot. We like Walker to be heavily involved and find the end zone at least once.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

St Louis Rams $4500 CLE@STL 14.4 Miami Dolphins $4500 HOU@MIA 4
Carolina Panthers $4800 PHI@CAR 10 Philadelphia Eagles $4400 PHI@CAR 3.1
Atlanta Falcons $4700 ATL@TEN 9.6 New England Patriots $4700 NYJ@NE 2.4
Arizona Cardinals $5100 BAL@ARI 8.1 New York Giants $4500 DAL@NYG 1.5
Pittsburgh Steelers $4600 PIT@KC 6.7 San Diego Chargers $4400 OAK@SD 1.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4000 TB@WAS 5 Houston Texans $4800 HOU@MIA 1.2
Washington Redskins $4400 TB@WAS 4.2 Kansas City Chiefs $4600 PIT@KC 0.6

As usual, the chalk play at defense looks best. But we do have a couple contrarian options. The Chargers at home against the Raiders are a nice look at $4,400. Even though the Raiders offense is capable of straight up winning this game, they’re also capable of turning the ball over against a stingy Chargers’ pass defense.

Washington at home against a turnover prone Winston is also an interesting option. Even though we like Evans (and Vincent Jackson for that matter), a pick-six and a few sacks wouldn’t be surprising.

The Minnesota Vikings (not pictured) have generated nine turnovers (11th most) and have allowed the second fewest points to opposing teams. We like them better at home but we don’t mind them on the road when they’re facing the Lions. Detroit has a league-leading 18 turnovers and rank 21st in total points scored. The Vikings were 1.4 percent owned as of Thursday night.