The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 9

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Outliers win tournaments. We mentioned that last week when we plugged an Eli Manning/Odell Beckham Jr. stack. And as nice as that turned out, identifying outliers is next to impossible. All we can do is follow our noses and stick to the process.

Seeking out under-owned plays has been a part of that process 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 %

Tom Brady $9500 WAS@NE 16.1 Peyton Manning $7700 DEN@IND 3.2
Drew Brees $8500 TEN@NO 13.4 Jay Cutler $7100 CHI@SD 2.8
Eli Manning $7800 NYG@TB 8.4 Tyrod Taylor $7200 MIA@BUF 2.6
Philip Rivers $8600 CHI@SD 8.1 Cam Newton $7900 GB@CAR 1.7
Derek Carr $7000 OAK@PIT 7.6 Aaron Rodgers $8900 GB@CAR 1.2
Ben Roethlisberger $8300 OAK@PIT 4.5 Ryan Tannehill $7400 MIA@BUF 1
Matt Ryan $8000 ATL@SF 3.7 Kirk Cousins $6600 WAS@NE 0.5
Jameis Winston $6700 NYG@TB 3.7 Andrew Luck $8700 DEN@IND 0.1

Even if he was the fifth most popular quarterback per Thursday night data, Derek Carr is under-owned in a good matchup. The Steelers defense has allowed the fifth most passing yards despite having faced the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles and Joe Flacco. The Raiders offense is shaping up to be one of the best, giving Carr plenty of weapons. If he can nuke the Jets defense for 333 yards and four touchdowns, imagine what he can do to the Steelers defense in a potential shootout.

On other sideline we have Ben Roethlisberger, who was predictably rusty in his first game back last week. His performance sets us up with a nice recency bias situation to take advantage of. The loss of Le’Veon Bell can be viewed as a bump in passing volume, which is the best way to beat the Raiders anyway. They’ve allowed the fifth most points per game to quarterbacks. Roethlisberger’s $8,300 salary isn’t prohibitive, especially in a game with a 48-point over/under.

In the bargain bin we have Jameis Winston. It’s uncomfortable to roster a quarterback that’s thrown 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions. But six of those interceptions came in two games and he hasn’t thrown one in three weeks. This week he gets a Giants defense that just surrendered over 500 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Expecting those numbers would be foolish, but this game has all the makings of a shootout. The over/under of 50 points is our second highest of the week, and the spread is 2.5 points, meaning Vegas is expecting lots of points in a high scoring game. Winston is surrounded by talent, hopefully including the return of Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Stacking the two gives us tons of roster flexibility.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Devonta Freeman $8900 ATL@SF 25.2 Lamar Miller $6900 MIA@BUF 3.2
DeAngelo Williams $6500 OAK@PIT 24 Adrian Peterson $8400 STL@MIN 2.8
Todd Gurley $9000 STL@MIN 14.4 LeSean McCoy $7800 MIA@BUF 2.6
Christopher Ivory $7500 JAC@NYJ 12.4 C.J. Anderson $6000 DEN@IND 1.8
Mark Ingram $7700 TEN@NO 12.2 Shane Vereen $5700 NYG@TB 1.5
Dion Lewis $7400 WAS@NE 11.3 T.J. Yeldon $6400 JAC@NYJ 1.4
Doug Martin $7100 NYG@TB 11.2 Melvin Gordon $6100 CHI@SD 1.2
Darren McFadden $6500 PHI@DAL 9.7 Antonio Andrews $5700 TEN@NO 1.2
Jeremy Langford $6400 CHI@SD 7.5 C.J. Spiller $5500 TEN@NO 1.2
Ronnie Hillman $6400 DEN@IND 6.2 Eddie Lacy $6700 GB@CAR 1.1
Danny Woodhead $6000 CHI@SD 5.7 Frank Gore $6700 DEN@IND 0.5
LeGarrette Blount $6400 WAS@NE 4 Ryan Mathews $5600 PHI@DAL 0.4
Jonathan Stewart $6600 GB@CAR 3.7 Darren Sproles $5500 PHI@DAL 0.4
DeMarco Murray $7500 PHI@DAL 3.5 Matt Jones $5800 WAS@NE 0.2
Latavius Murray $7000 OAK@PIT 3.2 Alfred Morris $5400 WAS@NE 0.1

We hate injuries but we love taking advantage of “the next guy up”. This week that guy is Jeremy Langford who is starting in place of Matt Forte. Langford is perfect for the Forte role in the Bears offense. He’s not particularly agile or overly powerful, but he has top level speed and played some wide receiver college, which bodes well for PPR formats. Metrics aside, he’s an unquestioned lead back playing against a defense that has allowed more fantasy points to running backs than any other team. They’ve allowed the second most yards and touchdowns, and only the Falcons have given up more receiving yards. For $6,400, Langford is a solid tournament play.

There’s never a bad time to stroll down narrative street. DeMarco Murray is traveling to Dallas for the first time since he left last season. Of course, he didn’t do much against them the first time these two teams met in Week 2, but a lot has changed since then. The Cowboys have allowed the third most points per touch to running backs and the fifth most FanDuel points overall. There is concern with the Eagles offensive line, having lost their starting right tackle and shuffling players around as a result. We think that actually means more rushing attempts for Murray. It also helps that Ryan Mathews is dealing with a groin injury and may be limited.

Both of the Bills running backs are healthy again, as is their quarterback, so it’s all systems go. The Dolphins have given up 25.4 points per game to running backs over their last three. LeSean McCoy looks like he could pick up where Dion Lewis left off (six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown last week). This isn’t to say that the Dolphins defense can be pushed around. But we like a home team that’s favored to win and fresh off of a bye. The crowd will stear clear of his $7,800 salary.

In the bargain bin we find C.J. Anderson, who found the endzone for the first time all year last week and averaged 7.2 yards per carry on his way to 101. We generally want to avoid committee backs, especially those being used sparingly in goal-to-go situations, but the Colts have a soft rushing defense and their offense is going to be pushed around. He’s a longshot, but Anderson may work his way back as the lead dog in Peyton Manning’s offense, starting with Sunday’s game in Indianapolis, especially with Ronnie Hillman banged up.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Alshon Jeffery $7900 CHI@SD 20.3 Brandon LaFell $5200 WAS@NE 4.3
Odell Beckham Jr. $9000 NYG@TB 19.7 Rishard Matthews $6500 MIA@BUF 3.7
Malcom Floyd $6100 CHI@SD 18.1 James Jones $6000 GB@CAR 3.3
Julian Edelman $8000 WAS@NE 16.8 Randall Cobb $7400 GB@CAR 3.3
Julio Jones $9200 ATL@SF 15.4 Ted Ginn Jr. $5300 GB@CAR 2.9
Antonio Brown $8700 OAK@PIT 13.2 Allen Hurns $6800 JAC@NYJ 2.2
Michael Crabtree $5800 OAK@PIT 13.2 Jordan Matthews $6300 PHI@DAL 1.5
Amari Cooper $7300 OAK@PIT 12.7 Robert Woods $4900 MIA@BUF 1.5
Tavon Austin $5700 STL@MIN 10.9 Dez Bryant $7900 PHI@DAL 1.2
T.Y. Hilton $7700 DEN@IND 9.7 Donte Moncrief $6400 DEN@IND 1
Mike Evans $7500 NYG@TB 9.6 Pierre Garcon $6300 WAS@NE 1
Steve Johnson $5400 CHI@SD 9.3 Brandon Marshall $8100 JAC@NYJ 0.7
Brandin Cooks $7100 TEN@NO 9 Dwayne Harris $5300 NYG@TB 0.7
Demaryius Thomas $8400 DEN@IND 8.6 Davante Adams $5100 GB@CAR 0.7
Jarvis Landry $7000 MIA@BUF 8.6 Dorial Green-Beckham $4900 TEN@NO 0.6
Willie Snead $6100 TEN@NO 8.6 Sammy Watkins $6200 MIA@BUF 0.5
Eric Decker $6300 JAC@NYJ 7.1 Terrance Williams $5600 PHI@DAL 0.4
Martavis Bryant $6900 OAK@PIT 6.9 Roddy White $5300 ATL@SF 0.4
Stefon Diggs $7400 STL@MIN 5.6 Marquess Wilson $4800 CHI@SD 0.3
Emmanuel Sanders $7600 DEN@IND 5.3 Rueben Randle $5500 NYG@TB 0.2
Allen Robinson $7200 JAC@NYJ 4.6 Riley Cooper $5300 PHI@DAL 0.1

We expect Steve Johnson’s ownership to be higher come Sunday, but not so high that we shouldn’t take advantage of his $5,400 salary in what will be a Monday night shootout. Only the Ravens have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers. Johnson should see plenty of targets in the Eddie Royal role.

Speaking of Royal, he’s unlikely to play in this contest so that means more snaps for Marquess Wilson. We’ve seen what he can do when featured in the Bears offense. In Week 4 and Week 5, he caught 12 of 16 targets for 165 yards and a touchdown. This week he’ll benefit from single coverage as the Chargers focus on Alshon Jeffery. You won’t find a better option for less than $5,000.

Unless, of course, you think Dorial Green-Beckham will finally make use of his size and opportunity. The report from Nashville is that the Titans want him to block better. We just want him to receive better. He’ll have his opportunities against the Saints—who were just thrashed by the other Beckham last week—with Kendall Wright injured. The return of more accurate, more mobile Marcus Mariota should help, though we’ll miss out on the gun-slinging ways of Zach Mettenberger. In any case, if the Titans can get their offense going in the wake of firing their head coach, Green-Beckham might find the endzone once or twice. His $4,900 salary does a lot for the rest of our roster.

In his first game since Week 1, Dez Bryant caught only two passes for 12 yards. But he was anything but quiet. Matt Cassel targeted him six times, more than any other receiver including Jason Witten. Unfortunately, Richard Sherman was all over Bryant, who may not be full speed just yet. He’ll have an easier time against the Eagles, who look a lot better on the stat sheet (they lead the league in takeaways) than they do on the field. They’re allowing only 31.5 FanDuel points per game to receivers, but when they’ve faced a true No. 1 they’ve been burned. Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and even Brandin Cooks/Willie Snead have had their way against this secondary. Bryant’s $7,900 salary is the lowest it has been since 2011—long before Bradley C. won his $349. Fire Bryant up as a contrarian play and pray Cassel gets things turned around.   

Now might be the time to take advantage of Brandon LaFell. His $5,200 price tag is a steal considering the Patriots are projected to score 33 points and are favored by two touchdowns. He has been targeted 15 times over the last two games and played on 87 percent of snaps last week. The Washington secondary has been getting pushed around lately, having allowed 400 yards and four touchdowns in their last two games. This a great week for LaFell to get back. His salary makes it possible to roster Touchdown Tom and still build a quality lineup

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Benjamin Watson $5700 TEN@NO 17 Jacob Tamme $5200 ATL@SF 2.7
Rob Gronkowski $8500 WAS@NE 10.9 Delanie Walker $5500 TEN@NO 2.1
Antonio Gates $6000 CHI@SD 10.8 Charles Clay $5700 MIA@BUF 1.6
Greg Olsen $6400 GB@CAR 6.3 Jason Witten $5600 PHI@DAL 1.2
Jordan Reed $5700 WAS@NE 5.1 Austin Seferian-Jenkins $5200 NYG@TB 1
Heath Miller $5800 OAK@PIT 5 Zach Ertz $5000 PHI@DAL 0.7
Martellus Bennett $5400 CHI@SD 3.4 Julius Thomas $5600 JAC@NYJ 0.4
Vernon Davis $4900 DEN@IND 3.3 Jordan Cameron $5200 MIA@BUF 0.3

We’d like to see the Falcons offense pushed but that’s not a realistic situation in San Francisco this week. In any case, Jacob Tamme is coming off of a career day in which he caught 10 of 12 targets for 103 yards and a score. It’s possible, even in a low-scoring contest, that the 49ers spend all their defensive resources trying to stop Jones and Devonta Freeman; the natural progression of which funnels extra targets to Tamme. Among low-cost options, he projects the highest.

If you needed proof that the Giants are horrible at defending tight ends, Ben Watson gave you a smoking gun and a detailed description of the crime scene last week. Austin Seferian-Jenkins return is perfectly timed, assuming he plays. And in case you need a reminder, he’s the other Tyler Eifert. Fire him up if he is listed as active and maybe even stack him with Winston.

Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker and Rob Gronkowski have all proven that the Dolphins defense can’t hang with quality tight ends. Charles Clay proved that himself back in Week 3 when he hung 85 yards and a touchdown on them. In fact, he was cruising through the first four weeks of the season, ranking fifth among all tight ends during that timespan. But then Tyrod Taylor got hurt. Thankfully, Taylor has practiced in full all week and is ready to go. We like Clay at home when the crowd looking elsewhere.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Denver Broncos $5300 DEN@IND 18.2 New York Giants $4500 NYG@TB 2.1
New England Patriots $4900 WAS@NE 10.9 Dallas Cowboys $4500 PHI@DAL 1.6
Atlanta Falcons $4900 ATL@SF 10 Pittsburgh Steelers $4600 OAK@PIT 1.3
New York Jets $4700 JAC@NYJ 8.9 Minnesota Vikings $4700 STL@MIN 1.1
New Orleans Saints $4200 TEN@NO 7.9 Buffalo Bills $4700 MIA@BUF 1
St Louis Rams $5100 STL@MIN 4.8 Miami Dolphins $4700 MIA@BUF 1
Philadelphia Eagles $4700 PHI@DAL 4.7 Green Bay Packers $4800 GB@CAR 0.7
Carolina Panthers $4400 GB@CAR 3        

The Broncos, Patriots, Jets and Falcons are all excellent options this week, so ignoring ownership percentages here isn’t a bad idea. But there are a couple of contrarian plays we can spin.

Both the Eagles and the Cowboys look interesting. The Eagles lead the league in takeaways. They’re a good bet to intercept Cassel and prance into the endzone. The Cowboys are tied with the Ravens for the fewest takeaways in the league with four, but Sam Bradford could fix that. The Eagles will be without their Pro Bowl left tackle, causing them to do the offensive line shuffle. The Cowboys underrated defensive line shouldn’t have much trouble getting to the quarterback.

The best play on the board might be the Minnesota Vikings. They do have some defensive injuries that might make this pick look foolish come Monday, but hosting a Nick Foles led Rams unit that will be playing from behind suggests the Vikings are in a good spot. Of course, there’s that Todd Gurley guy, who could win this game by himself. But the over/under of 40 points is the lowest on the board, and there’s just a two percent differential between how much money is on the over and how much is on the under (51 percent on the over, 49 on the under), which means Vegas has it set correctly (they want equal action on both sides).