The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 10

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

This is a repeat of what was posted in The Fade, but we feel the topic is important so we're going to post it here as well.

Is DFS a game of skill? That’s the question at the center of the war that has recently been declared by the current New York Attorney General. So let’s answer that question in brief.

Is it skillful to pour through hours of research and gigabytes of data? Not particularly. Unless you consider dedication and concentration a measure of skill. Even at that level you’ve separated yourself from someone who randomly throws out lineups or uses lineup generators. But most data is public and every player has access to it. The skill is in knowing how to interpret that data. Separating the signal from the noise and developing accurate projections is how profits are made in the long run. The best players have elite bankroll-management and game-selection discipline. To assume that discipline is being applied to a game of chance is utterly foolish.

Having access to ownership percentages is not a skill. Correctly using that data as part of your roster building process is a skill. You, of course, already know this. You know that the numbers presented below, taken from a Thursday night GPP, in no way are meant to be used as the basis of your strategy. As skillful players, we use the numbers to get a snapshot of groupthink. Even without the tangible data provided by Thursday GPPs, we’d still be able to project ownership percentages with a high level of accuracy. These numbers simply serve as confirmation.

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.

On to Week 10:

Quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Tom Brady $9100 NE@NYG 12.3 Eli Manning $7400 NE@NYG 2.6
Cam Newton $8200 CAR@TEN 10.9 Joe Flacco $7500 JAC@BAL 1.4
Andy Dalton $8100 HOU@CIN 10.4 Peyton Manning $7700 KC@DEN 1
Drew Brees $8600 NO@WAS 9.8 Landry Jones $6200 CLE@PIT 0.9
Blake Bortles $7800 JAC@BAL 9 Matthew Stafford $6900 DET@GB 0.8
Aaron Rodgers $9200 DET@GB 8.9 Matt Cassel $6300 DAL@TB 0.8
Derek Carr $7500 MIN@OAK 8.4 Carson Palmer $8000 ARI@SEA 0.6
Kirk Cousins $6500 NO@WAS 7 Russell Wilson $7600 ARI@SEA 0.4

Kirk Cousins is going to end up on a lot more rosters Sunday than his Thursday night ownership leads us to believe. But he’ll still be a worth tournament consideration. The Saints are the kind of defense we’ll target weekly for our quarterbacks. The league average touchdown passes allowed by 31 other teams is 13.3. The Saints have allowed 24 to go along with nearly 2,800 yards. Cousins is in a great situation with a healthy set of receivers and friendly over/under of 50 points. All he needs to hit tournament value is 19.5 points. The Saints are allowing a league-leading 24.9 per game.

The common belief is that the Patriots defense is centered around eliminating the opposing offense’s best weapon. But that only works when an offense is dedicated to just one player. The Giants have several options for Eli Manning to utilized, especially when his offense is pushed into high scoring games. He’s at home this weekend hosting the highest/over of Week 10 at 54 points. Last week the crowd flocked to Manning, hoping he’d deliver them another six-touchdown performance against a weak secondary. It didn’t work out. Now, they are once again shy. The Patriots haven’t been the best source of fantasy points, allowing only 18.3 points per game to quarterbacks. But this week has the makings of a monster shootout. Manning is a fair $7,400 and should be good for three touchdowns.

On the discount rack, we find Matt Cassel. And by discount rack we mean risk/reward rack. There is nothing comfortable about starting any Cowboys player save for maybe Darren McFadden, and even then how good do you feel when you look at your lineup? Cassel was a mess his first game in relief when he tossed three interceptions. But has steadily shown comfort as the starter. He wasn’t great against the Seahawks a few weeks ago, as it usually goes for quarterbacks against that defense. He did prove that, when needed, he can run (four scrambles for 43 yards). Last week we saw what he’s truly capable of. It took overtime and a busted defense for the Eagles overcome Cassel’s 299 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. This week he’s on the road to Tampa—a team that has allowed the second most passing touchdowns and sixth most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. It’s a risk, but his $6,300 salary frees up tons of flexibility.  

Along those same lines, and maybe even in a better situation as far as surrounding talent is concerned, we have Landry Jones. Ben Roethlisberger is listed as questionable so we’ll need confirmation that Jones is starting. Even if he does start, he may not be asked to do much. But it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to cross 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Doing so pushes his value to 2.6x. Should he near 300 yards he’s a lock to hit 3x. In any case, just like with Cassel, the cap we save with his services does wonders for the rest of our lineup.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

DeAngelo Williams $7600 CLE@PIT 30.9 Jonathan Stewart $6600 CAR@TEN 2
Todd Gurley $9200 CHI@STL 19.5 Charcandrick West $6400 KC@DEN 1.4
LeGarrette Blount $6900 NE@NYG 15.6 Chris Johnson $6800 ARI@SEA 1.2
James Starks $6000 DET@GB 14.7 Ryan Mathews $5600 MIA@PHI 1.2
Mark Ingram $7500 NO@WAS 11.5 Shane Vereen $5800 NE@NYG 1.1
Lamar Miller $7200 MIA@PHI 11.5 Matt Jones $5600 NO@WAS 0.6
Darren McFadden $7000 DAL@TB 10.3 Antonio Andrews $6000 CAR@TEN 0.5
Adrian Peterson $8600 MIN@OAK 10.1 Brandon Bolden $5900 NE@NYG 0.4
DeMarco Murray $7700 MIA@PHI 10 Latavius Murray $6700 MIN@OAK 0.3
Justin Forsett $7100 JAC@BAL 7.7 C.J. Anderson $5900 KC@DEN 0.3
Doug Martin $6700 DAL@TB 6.5 Eddie Lacy $6000 DET@GB 0.2
Jeremy Langford $6200 CHI@STL 4 Alfred Blue $5900 HOU@CIN 0.2
Giovani Bernard $6300 HOU@CIN 3 C.J. Spiller $5500 NO@WAS 0.2
T.J. Yeldon $6500 JAC@BAL 2.9 Theo Riddick $5300 DET@GB 0.2
Marshawn Lynch $8000 ARI@SEA 2 Matt Forte $7700 CHI@STL 0.1
Jeremy Hill $6600 HOU@CIN 2 Isaiah Crowell $5300 CLE@PIT 0.1

Even though he’s our 10th most popular running back per Thursday data, Justin Forsett is under-owned. The Jaguars defense hasn’t been allowing a lot of yards, but their 11 total touchdowns surrendered are tied with four other teams for the most in the league. Over their last four games they’ve allowed 628 total yards and six touchdowns. The Ravens are home favorites by 5.5 points with a 47.5-point over/under. The fact that, as of this writing, 51 percent of the money is on the over suggests the point total is set exactly where it should be. The Ravens offense is schizophrenic and hard to trust, but Forsett’s situation and palatable $7,100 salary makes him a great GPP option.

Recency bias is our friend as contrarians. Recently Doug Martin was a popular option headed into a decent matchup. He ended up with 15 touches for 33 yards and played fewer snaps than Charles Sims. As a result, his salary has dropped $400 dollars and the crowd has moved on. We’ll gladly pay his $6,700 fee against the Cowboys, who have allowed 165 yards per game to running backs over the last three weeks and will be without their best defensive player in Sean Lee. Football Outsiders ranks them 27th against the run per their DVOA metric. The over/under could be better than the current 43.5 points (we’ll gladly take the over), but this game looks good for Martin.

Though a major risk, Shane Vereen has played more combined snaps than any other Giants’ running back over the last three weeks. The Patriots have been great against the run but mostly because they typically hold a lead and force teams to throw. This is great news for Vereen, who will be facing his former team for the first time. Why not take a stroll down narrative street? This contest has our highest projected over/under of 54 points with the Giants 8.5-point underdogs. We expect Vereen to see a lot playing time as the best pass-catching back they have. He’ll need 17.4 points to hit tournament value, which is a lot to ask of a change of pace back, but four catches, 94 yards and touchdown is a plausible stat line in a high-scoring game.  

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Allen Robinson $7500 JAC@BAL 25.6 James Jones $5700 DET@GB 3.5
Michael Crabtree $6400 MIN@OAK 20.2 Willie Snead $6500 NO@WAS 3
Randall Cobb $7700 DET@GB 16 Cole Beasley $5600 DAL@TB 3
A.J. Green $8300 HOU@CIN 15.6 Emmanuel Sanders $7800 KC@DEN 2.9
Julian Edelman $8000 NE@NYG 14.8 Larry Fitzgerald $7400 ARI@SEA 2.5
Antonio Brown $8700 CLE@PIT 12 Pierre Garcon $6400 NO@WAS 2.1
Stefon Diggs $6600 MIN@OAK 11.3 Travis Benjamin $5700 CLE@PIT 2.1
Demaryius Thomas $7900 KC@DEN 9.7 Kenny Britt $5500 CHI@STL 2
DeAndre Hopkins $8900 HOU@CIN 9.6 Marvin Jones $5400 HOU@CIN 1.9
Odell Beckham Jr. $8800 NE@NYG 9.5 Allen Hurns $7300 JAC@BAL 1.8
Alshon Jeffery $7600 CHI@STL 9.5 Rishard Matthews $6000 MIA@PHI 1.7
Brandin Cooks $7200 NO@WAS 9.3 Nate Washington $5200 HOU@CIN 1.5
Jarvis Landry $7000 MIA@PHI 8.9 Calvin Johnson $8000 DET@GB 1.4
Amari Cooper $7100 MIN@OAK 8.1 Rueben Randle $5700 NE@NYG 1.1
Martavis Bryant $6500 CLE@PIT 6.5 Jeremy Maclin $6500 KC@DEN 1
Brandon LaFell $6200 NE@NYG 6.1 Michael Floyd $5900 ARI@SEA 0.9
Tavon Austin $6000 CHI@STL 6.1 John Brown $6100 ARI@SEA 0.8
Mike Evans $7700 DAL@TB 5.7 Golden Tate $6300 DET@GB 0.6
Jordan Matthews $6600 MIA@PHI 5.4 Dorial Green-Beckham $5200 CAR@TEN 0.6
Davante Adams $5800 DET@GB 5.3 Doug Baldwin $5400 ARI@SEA 0.3
Kamar Aiken $5400 JAC@BAL 4.1 Jamison Crowder $5600 NO@WAS 0.2
DeSean Jackson $6000 NO@WAS 4 Terrance Williams $5400 DAL@TB 0.1
Dez Bryant $8100 DAL@TB 3.7 Mike Wallace $5300 MIN@OAK 0.1

The loss of Steve Smith is going to be tough on an offense that was already struggling to move the ball. But at least gives them a chance to put a full workload on Kamar Aiken to see what he is capable of. Here’s what he has done in limited opportunities this season:

 

This week he gets a tasty matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed 612 yards and six touchdowns over their last three games. Full disclosure, DeAndre Hopkins contributed 148 of those yards and two of those touchdowns, so this is not an automatic start. That said, Football Outsiders ranks them 29th against the pass and 23rd against No. 1 receivers. Aiken is in a great spot as the go-to. His $5,400 salary is a steal.

If you’re going after Captain Kirk, you may as well go after one or more of his receivers. DeSean Jackson is back to near full health. He played 49 snaps last week and saw six targets. He’s a good bet to burn whichever cornerback has the misfortune of covering him. We also like Pierre Garcon as a steady possession receiver and endzone threat. He leads the team in targets and the return of Jackson helps deflect defensive attention. The only downside to his game is Jordan Reed, who is likely to get the majority of Cousins’ targets.

The Houston Texans, according to Football Outsiders, rank 28th against No. 2 receivers. The Bengals are projected to score upwards of 30 points, per their heavy 12-point favorite with a 47-point over/under. This suggests Marvin Jones is worth a look as a deep GPP candidate. He has seen 31 targets over the last four games and has a so-so stat line to show for it (21/246/1). But should the Texans spend their resources trying to slow down A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, Jones will easily justify his $5,400 salary.

Since Week 4 Tavon Austin is our WR10 thanks to his contributions as both a wide receiver and running back. It’s hard to peg when a big game is coming from him, especially now that Todd Gurley is running the show. It’s worth noting that Austin is getting 35.3 percent of team looks inside the 20, and 50 percent inside the 10—both rank second among all receivers. In their last three games, the Bears have allowed 563 receiving yards and four scores. We don’t expect the Rams to come out and force Nick Foles into a high volume situation. But that doesn’t mean Austin won’t be heavily involved in the game plan. Add to it the fact that he’s the kick and punt returner, and you have a positive correlation should you choose to stack him with the Rams defense.  

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Tyler Eifert $6200 HOU@CIN 23 Jimmy Graham $6000 ARI@SEA 1.5
Jordan Reed $5800 NO@WAS 16.8 Jason Witten $5600 DAL@TB 1.4
Greg Olsen $6300 CAR@TEN 13.5 Travis Kelce $5800 KC@DEN 1.2
Rob Gronkowski $8000 NE@NYG 13.2 Eric Ebron $5300 DET@GB 0.9
Benjamin Watson $5500 NO@WAS 7.4 Crockett Gillmore $5000 JAC@BAL 0.9
Delanie Walker $5900 CAR@TEN 4.1 Julius Thomas $5400 JAC@BAL 0.6
Martellus Bennett $5400 CHI@STL 2.2 Zach Ertz $5000 MIA@PHI 0.6
Richard Rodgers $5400 DET@GB 2 Austin Seferian-Jenkins $5300 DAL@TB 0.3

The chalk plays at tight end this week are worth sacrificing their high exposure for. But we can fade the crowd and still get plenty of action from Jason Witten. The Buccaneers have been up and down against tight ends this year, having recently been smashed by Jacob Tamme and Jordan Reed for a combined 175 yards and three touchdowns. But they’ve held virtually every other tight end in check. Witten is going to be busy again this week serving as the security blanket for Cassel. Dez Bryant might absorb some of those looks but Cassel has targeted Witten more than any other player since taking over as the starter. If the two connect in the endzone a few times we’ll have ourselves a sneaky tournament stack.

Kyle Rudolph (not pictured) was on about one percent of Thursday rosters. Now is a good time to remind ourselves that the Raiders have allowed more FanDuel points to tight ends than every team except the Giants. Most of those points came in the first half of the season courtesy of Tyler Eifert, Crockett Gilmore, Gary Barnidge and Martellus Bennett. They haven’t seen stiff competition since. Not that Rudolph offers said competition. He has seen only six targets over the last three games. So he’s a major liability should you choose his services. This would be purely a matchup call centered around a game that looks like it could be a shootout assuming Teddy Bridgewater is cleared to play.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Carolina Panthers $4700 CAR@TEN 17.6 Seattle Seahawks $4900 ARI@SEA 2.6
Denver Broncos $5200 KC@DEN 16.7 New England Patriots $4900 NE@NYG 2.3
St Louis Rams $5400 CHI@STL 7.7 Oakland Raiders $4300 MIN@OAK 1.8
Cincinnati Bengals $5000 HOU@CIN 7.5 Baltimore Ravens $4400 JAC@BAL 1.7
Green Bay Packers $4900 DET@GB 7.2 New Orleans Saints $4300 NO@WAS 1.3
Pittsburgh Steelers $4600 CLE@PIT 5.9 Dallas Cowboys $4600 DAL@TB 0.9
Philadelphia Eagles $4700 MIA@PHI 5.4 Minnesota Vikings $4500 MIN@OAK 0.8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4000 DAL@TB 4.1 Tennessee Titans $4000 CAR@TEN 0.7

This is a tough week to go contrarian at defense. Perhaps the best option is the Seahawks at home against the Cardinals. The problem with that, of course, is the Cardinals offense may be one of the best in the league. They’re coming off of a bye week and will be plenty eager to show some muscle against a division rival. But we have seen them sputter at times this season, such as when they put up only 13 points on the Steelers and 22 against the Rams.

Even though we pegged Cassel as a tournament option, the Buccaneers defense could be a good play against an imploding Cowboys team on the road. Their $4,000 salary is as roster-friendly as it gets.

The same can be said for the Titans, who have an underrated defense this season. The game against the Panthers is projected to be low scoring with an over/under of 44 points. The Panthers offense is capable of putting up lots of points when necessary, but we doubt the Titans offense will force them into it. For $4,000, they make for a nice punt play.