The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 8

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Last week, Todd Gurley demonstrated the importance of knowing when to be a contrarian and when to join the crowd. We have to pick our spots and remember that there’s a difference between roster uniqueness and simply chasing players with low ownership. It’s possible to draft highly owned players and still create uniqueness within our rosters by using lesser owned combinations. This is where stacking a quarterback with two or more of his receivers can be so valuable.

In addition to roster uniqueness, it’s important to note the difference between being unique and selecting under-owned players. Maurile Tremblay wrote at length about that difference over on the Cracking FanDuel blog, in which he argues uniqueness, in terms of ownership percentages, doesn’t even matter.

Seeking out under-owned plays has been our practice all season long and we’ll continue in our stubborn ways. 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 %

Philip Rivers $8500 SD@BAL 10.2 Teddy Bridgewater $6900 MIN@CHI 2.3
Andy Dalton $8100 CIN@PIT 8.5 Ben Roethlisberger $8200 CIN@PIT 2.1
Cam Newton $8000 IND@CAR 8.3 Aaron Rodgers $9000 GB@DEN 1.9
Carson Palmer $8100 ARI@CLE 6.6 Jay Cutler $7300 MIN@CHI 1.6
Matt Ryan $8000 TB@ATL 5.1 Joe Flacco $7400 SD@BAL 1.1
Ryan Fitzpatrick $7400 NYJ@OAK 4.7 Peyton Manning $7600 GB@DEN 1
Eli Manning $7300 NYG@NO 3.9 Russell Wilson $7800 SEA@DAL 0.9
Drew Brees $7900 NYG@NO 2.4 Andrew Luck $8800 IND@CAR 0.6

Over the last two weeks the Jets have faced a pair of exploitable defenses. Ryan Fitzpatrick ranks as QB5 during that span, reaching 4.3x and 2.9x value with FanDuel scores of 26.22 and 20.7. His salary has climbed for a third straight week but still provides value as the 12th most expensive quarterback. His offensive line has been one of the best in the league, allowing just four total sacks (the fewest), the net result of which is the sixth highest passer rating in the redzone. The Raiders aren’t a cake matchup, but they are easier to throw on than run on. Outside of Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler, they’ve allowed 21.4 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and haven’t faced a duo like Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. Fitzpatrick might not set the world on fire this weekend, but he makes for a nice tournament play. 

For a $100 less and an equal amount of risk we have Eli Manning. We generally avoid players that have scored 26 percent of their fantasy points in one game, and have otherwise failed to crack more than 14 points per game. His floor is about as scary as it gets. But his outlier Week 5 performance where he thrashed a bad 49ers’ secondary for 441 yards and three touchdowns is why he’s a great contrarian play this week. The Saints, though tougher at home, are allowing a wonderful combination of yards and touchdowns to quarterbacks. Only the Ravens have allowed more FanDuel points per game. Manning’s salary is the lowest it has been all season; his matchup is the best it has been all season. Stack him with Odell Beckham Jr., and remember that outliers win tournaments.

Staying with the all-risk team, Joe Flacco might want to put on some Derek Carr tape and take down some notes on how to beat the Chargers. The Ravens have a huge advantage in this game with a west coast team traveling east after getting their tails handed to them by a division rival. We’ve seen Flacco and his receivers put up huge numbers more than once this season. This week lacks a solid bargain bin quarterback unless you want to take a chance on Nick Foles, so Flacco represents good value and the crowd won’t even consider him.

 

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Todd Gurley $8100 SF@STL 40.2 Adrian Peterson $8900 MIN@CHI 2.1
Devonta Freeman $9100 TB@ATL 17.1 Ronnie Hillman $6100 GB@DEN 1.8
Justin Forsett $6900 SD@BAL 16.3 Latavius Murray $6900 NYJ@OAK 1.7
Chris Johnson $7300 ARI@CLE 16.2 Eddie Lacy $6700 GB@DEN 1.6
Danny Woodhead $6100 SD@BAL 11.4 Jeremy Hill $6300 CIN@PIT 1.6
Doug Martin $7500 TB@ATL 10 Antonio Andrews $5300 TEN@HOU 1.2
Jonathan Stewart $6600 IND@CAR 8.6 Frank Gore $6700 IND@CAR 0.9
Christopher Ivory $7700 NYJ@OAK 5.7 Duke Johnson $5800 ARI@CLE 0.5
Le\'Veon Bell $8900 CIN@PIT 5 Charles Sims $5100 TB@ATL 0.5
Matt Forte $8200 MIN@CHI 4.8 Shane Vereen $5500 NYG@NO 0.4
Darren McFadden $6400 SEA@DAL 4.4 Orleans Darkwa $5100 NYG@NO 0.3
Mark Ingram $8000 NYG@NO 3.6 C.J. Anderson $6300 GB@DEN 0.2
Giovani Bernard $6700 CIN@PIT 3.2 Melvin Gordon $6200 SD@BAL 0.2
Marshawn Lynch $8300 SEA@DAL 2.7 Dexter McCluster $5200 TEN@HOU 0.2
Alfred Blue $6500 TEN@HOU 2.4        

It’s strange to consider that Mark Ingram has been the third highest scoring running back since Week 3 but yet the mass public has an aversion to him. He is easily doubling the amount of snaps Khiry Robinson is playing, and tripling that of C.J. Spiller. He leads the team in redzone looks by a wide margin. The problem, on the surface, is that Robinson eats into goal-to-go situations with Ingram getting just 50 percent of team carries inside the 5. Despite that, his five rushing touchdowns ties him with Jeremy Hill for the second most, he is 10th in rushing yards and sixth in receiving yards. The Giants were initially tough against the run but have given up 24.8 fantasy points per game over their last three.

The Cowboys defense has allowed more fantasy points per touch than all but two other teams. This despite having allowed only 566 rushing yards. Marshawn Lynch looked a lot like Marshawn Lynch last week with 27 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown. We always want elite players, with no threat to their workload, when their salaries and exposure are down.

We haven’t done the research on this, but there’s likely a psychological connection between fantasy owners that drafted a bust player in season-long and their aversion to using that player in daily. Jeremy Hill may or may not be experiencing some of that aversion given his ownership percentages over the year. Cleary, he has been a disappointment. The good news for us is that the crowd is off of him and his salary is as low as it has been since Week 9 of last year (the week he took over as the starter and tore apart the Jaguars). The Steelers have been tough to run on but Charcandrick West proved anything can happen when he pounded them for 110 yards and a score last week. Here’s the thing we need to consider with this game: the Bengals have a great offense and will move the ball without issue. Hill has out-snapped Giovani Bernard two of the last three weeks (Bernard still has more snaps in total over that time span). Hill has received nine redzone looks to Bernard’s 13. That looks like a slanted offense in favor of Bernard, but for $6,300, Hill is a sneaky, albeit risky, GPP play in a game with a lot of volume. Bernard, for $400 more, is definitely in play as well, especially if you think the Bengals will fall behind and forced to pass.

Along those same lines, C.J. Anderson has been one of the biggest busts of the football season. Some of his lack of production can be blamed on the offensive line, the rest of it falls on him. Regardless, he is consistently getting the most snaps at running back and has seen twice as many redzone looks over the last four games in comparison to Ronnie Hillman. It may be a longshot, but is it possible that a game between the Packers and Broncos turns into a defensive showdown? Maybe not. But the Packers can be exploited by pass-catching running backs, of which both Anderson and Hillman fit the bill. Anderson benefits as the goal line option so he makes for a risky GPP play.

Speaking of risk, in the bargain bin we find Antonio Andrews. This is nothing more than a cheap player used for roster-building flexibility, but for $5,300, and the promise of more playing time, Andrews has a decent matchup against the Texans. Be warned, of course, that the Titans offense isn’t reliable, especially with all of their offensive line issues. But all he needs is a couple of successful redzone carries to hit value.

 

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Stefon Diggs $6700 MIN@CHI 29.5 Amari Cooper $7500 NYJ@OAK 3.8
Keenan Allen $8000 SD@BAL 12.8 Travis Benjamin $6300 ARI@CLE 3.8
Steve Smith $6700 SD@BAL 11.7 Michael Floyd $4900 ARI@CLE 3.8
Alshon Jeffery $7700 MIN@CHI 11.2 Donte Moncrief $6400 IND@CAR 3.6
Martavis Bryant $7200 CIN@PIT 11 Michael Crabtree $5700 NYJ@OAK 3.5
Julio Jones $9200 TB@ATL 10.1 Kendall Wright $5900 TEN@HOU 3.4
James Jones $6200 GB@DEN 9.2 Willie Snead $5800 NYG@NO 3.3
Larry Fitzgerald $7700 ARI@CLE 9 Brandin Cooks $6800 NYG@NO 3
Antonio Brown $8400 CIN@PIT 8.9 Demaryius Thomas $8100 GB@DEN 2.5
DeAndre Hopkins $9000 TEN@HOU 7.7 Randall Cobb $7600 GB@DEN 2.3
A.J. Green $8200 CIN@PIT 7.5 Rueben Randle $5600 NYG@NO 1.7
Mike Evans $7800 TB@ATL 7.4 Steve Johnson $5900 SD@BAL 1.4
Brandon Marshall $8300 NYJ@OAK 7 Emmanuel Sanders $7800 GB@DEN 1.2
Eric Decker $6400 NYJ@OAK 6.1 Anquan Boldin $6000 SF@STL 0.7
Nate Washington $5400 TEN@HOU 6.1 Doug Baldwin $5500 SEA@DAL 0.6
John Brown $6700 ARI@CLE 5.7 Roddy White $5200 TB@ATL 0.6
Marvin Jones $5400 CIN@PIT 5.7 Eddie Royal $5100 MIN@CHI 0.6
Ted Ginn Jr. $5300 IND@CAR 4.6 Mike Wallace $5300 MIN@CHI 0.5
Odell Beckham Jr. $8700 NYG@NO 4.4 Davante Adams $5300 GB@DEN 0.4
Tavon Austin $5300 SF@STL 4.2 Marquess Wilson $5000 MIN@CHI 0.2
T.Y. Hilton $7700 IND@CAR 4.1 Kenny Britt $5000 SF@STL 0.1

It’s odd that Andy Dalton is the second most popular quarterback on Thursday but A.J. Green falls all the way to 11th among receivers. His salary of $8,200 is anything but prohibitive, and his ceiling against the Steelers is almost impossible to ignore. He’ll likely see more exposure in the Sunday Million, but not enough to warrant a fade. He’s a great tournament play.

Nate Washington exploded in garbage time last week with Cecil Shorts sidelined. Shorts has been ruled out this Sunday, awarding Washington the role as WR2. His 6.1 percent exposure will grow as a result, but it doesn’t matter. The Titans rank 30th against team’s second wide receiver per Football Outsiders. Since taking over in Week 4, Brian Hoyer is our third ranked quarterback in points scored, giving us confidence that he’ll be able to take advantage of single coverage while the Titans’ defense spends all afternoon trying to stop DeAndre Hopkins.

We’ve already plugged a Giants stack featuring Odell Beckham Jr. His seasonal rank is disappointing, especially for those that drafted him in the first round last summer. But a date with the Saints is all he needs to stoke is stock. In the meantime, we’ll happily take advantage of his salary while it’s down, and fade the crowd while we’re at it. The Saints passing defense isn’t as exploitable as years past, but Beckham is matchup proof so long as his quarterback can find him.

While the crowd is all over Keenan Allen, Steve Johnson represents the value play. His $5,900 salary buys us a piece of the Chargers offense and what may be the highest scoring game of the week. He ranks fourth in team targets even after missing a pair of games. We especially like his value should Antonio Gates be limited.

 

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Tyler Eifert $6000 CIN@PIT 18.5 Delanie Walker $5400 TEN@HOU 3
Greg Olsen $6400 IND@CAR 12.2 Jimmy Graham $6100 SEA@DAL 2.3
Ladarius Green $5300 SD@BAL 9 Crockett Gillmore $5000 SD@BAL 1.3
Martellus Bennett $5700 MIN@CHI 5.8 Antonio Gates $5900 SD@BAL 1.2
Gary Barnidge $6300 ARI@CLE 4.3 Richard Rodgers $5000 GB@DEN 1.2
Benjamin Watson $5400 NYG@NO 3.8 Kyle Rudolph $4900 MIN@CHI 0.8
Jason Witten $5500 SEA@DAL 3.7 Heath Miller $5000 CIN@PIT 0.5

We don’t want to get too carried away with the Titans/Texans contest, but Delanie Walker is, once again, under-owned. Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen and Julius Thomas have shown how exploitable the Texans defense is against tight ends, combining for 19 catches, 254 yards and three touchdowns. Jordan Cameron wasn’t needed last week otherwise he would have further proved the point. Walker may not be on the same level as two of those players, but he trails only Kendall Wright in team targets (by one) and has the most redzone looks over their last three games. We can afford his $5,400 salary.

Crockett Gillmore has the second most team targets since returning from injury. We’re still waiting for him to prove that Week 2 wasn’t an outlier. But like we’ve mentioned, outliers win tournaments. We’re all over this game and want as much exposure as possible. If you choose to fade Chargers’ tight ends, Gillmore makes for a nice pivot.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

St Louis Rams $5100 SF@STL 27.2 Green Bay Packers $4800 GB@DEN 3.6
Arizona Cardinals $5400 ARI@CLE 8.1 Minnesota Vikings $4700 MIN@CHI 2.8
Carolina Panthers $4800 IND@CAR 7.7 Tennessee Titans $4500 TEN@HOU 2.5
New York Jets $4800 NYJ@OAK 7.5 Houston Texans $4700 TEN@HOU 2.4
Seattle Seahawks $5200 SEA@DAL 6.8 New York Giants $4400 NYG@NO 2
Atlanta Falcons $4800 TB@ATL 4.1 San Francisco 49ers $4000 SF@STL 1.7
Denver Broncos $4700 GB@DEN 4.1 Pittsburgh Steelers $4600 CIN@PIT 0.5

As usual, fading the chalk play at defense is a tricky look this week. The Texans hosting a bad Titans team that features no running game and virtually no play-makers look like a nice contrarian option, but only if we can confirm that J.J. Watt is active. As mentioned, the Titans offensive line is in shuffle mode so there should be sacks aplenty.

If you want to totally punt the position and save some cap space, the 49ers are for you. They’re on the road against the Rams in clash of horrible offenses. Even though St. Louis is favored by 9.5 points, the over/under of this one is the only below 40. Here’s to hoping Nick Foles makes a few terrible mistakes.