The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 14

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

We all know that fantasy football is a game of matchups. In season long leagues we usually don’t have a choice when it comes to starting the best players. In DFS, obviously, the world is our oyster. As such, we can navigate matchups and cherry-pick the player pool to our liking. It is this logic and approach that has Julio Jones as one of the least exposed players per Thursday GPP data. The crowd is wise to the fact that Josh Norman is a shutdown cornerback capable of locking into any receiver of any talent level and holding them below their usual expectations. 

But this is also the situation that begets contrarian plays. The crowd is easily spooked by injuries and unfavorable matchups. For $8,800, they say, I can select a myriad of quality receivers in much better situations. And they’re right. They can. But what they miss out on is a chance to roster a great player, in this case, the best player per the author’s humble opinion, when 99 percent of DFSers are looking elsewhere.

Value and matchups are what sound strategies are built on. But we shouldn’t overvalue either. There has to be a logical line drawn that says, yes, Jones has very tough matchup and the fact that his quarterback has been playing like Matt Hasselbeck isn’t helping. But elite players rise above the chaos. Norman isn’t a machine; he’s a man. And if there’s one player capable of beating him, it’s Jones.

With that in mind, let’s move forward with our usual process. 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. Taking advantage of injury situations and over/under point totals from Vegas is.

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.

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 %

Russell Wilson $8500 SEA@BAL 10 Andy Dalton $8200 PIT@CIN 2.4
Jameis Winston $7800 NO@TB 9.6 Tom Brady $9300 NE@HOU 2.3
Blake Bortles $7700 IND@JAC 9.4 Aaron Rodgers $8900 DAL@GB 2.3
Cam Newton $9200 ATL@CAR 8.9 Alex Smith $6800 SD@KC 2.1
Ben Roethlisberger $8300 PIT@CIN 6.7 Johnny Manziel $6400 SF@CLE 1.5
Tyrod Taylor $7500 BUF@PHI 6.6 Marcus Mariota $7500 TEN@NYJ 1.4
Drew Brees $7900 NO@TB 3.3 Ryan Tannehill $6900 NYG@MIA 1.4
Ryan Fitzpatrick $7800 TEN@NYJ 3.1 Blaine Gabbert $6400 SF@CLE 1.4
Eli Manning $7500 NYG@MIA 2.7 Brock Osweiler $6900 OAK@DEN 0.9

The Saints had a tough week at practice. They lost Mark Ingram for the remainder of the season and then, a day later, they announced Brandin Cooks had concussion symptoms. Recent reports suggest that Cooks isn’t any danger of missing the game in Tampa Bay. But losing Ingram is a tough blow for an offense that hasn’t been able to close out games. What this means for Brees is more passing volume. Passing volume generally yields lots of fantasy points. We will warn, however, that passing efficiency is what we’re really after. But with the Saints defense getting shredded by every team they play, you have to like Brees in a high volume situation, especially when he has a pair of pass-catching running backs as check-downs. The Buccaneers aren’t the easiest to throw on. They’ve allowed just 17.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over their last three and shutdown Brees back in Week 2. But he has been a good fantasy asset over his last four games averaging 276.5 passing yards, accompanied by eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Those interceptions, of course, are the major concern here. In any case, he still hit 3x value against a tough Panthers defense last week. The over/under total in this one is set at 50.5 points—the highest of the week. You could do worse for $7,900.

Andy Dalton has scored at least 20 points in his last three games and has a combined eight touchdowns including one rushing during that stretch. This week he’s at home against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers pass defense, if you’ll recall, is bad. Only two teams have allowed more passing yards and they currently rank 10th in FanDuel points. Recently, the likes of Derek Carr, Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson have combined for 1,018 and 10 touchdowns. The Bengals offense is healthy after losing Tyler Eifert for a game last week. Everything about this matchup screams start Dalton and maybe even roll out a power stack of Dalton, Eifert and A.J. Green. His $8,200 salary is far from prohibitive. This a great week to fade the crowd with a former crowd favorite.

In the bargain bin we find Blaine Gabbert, who has hit at least 2.79x in all four games since becoming the starter. Last week he padded what would have been an ugly day with six carries for 75 yards and a rushing touchdown. As a result, he finished as QB10. This week he travels to Cleveland to take on one of fantasy’s friendliest defenses. The Browns have allowed 28 total touchdowns to quarterbacks—second most—and the third most fantasy points per attempt. Gabbert and the 49ers offense is hardly a trustworthy sell, but he seems to finding a rhythm with his receivers and the matchup couldn’t be better. His salary of $6,400 provides a tons of roster flexibility, all while the crowd looks elsewhere.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Thomas Rawls $7400 SEA@BAL 21.6 Devonta Freeman $8700 ATL@CAR 1.8
LeSean McCoy $7900 BUF@PHI 17.4 Eddie Lacy $6200 DAL@GB 1.8
Doug Martin $8000 NO@TB 15.6 Ronnie Hillman $6400 OAK@DEN 1.7
Shaun Draughn $6500 SF@CLE 13.1 C.J. Spiller $4800 NO@TB 1.7
Lamar Miller $6600 NYG@MIA 10.7 Jeremy Hill $6400 PIT@CIN 1.4
DeAngelo Williams $7300 PIT@CIN 8.7 DeMarco Murray $6700 BUF@PHI 1.2
Jonathan Stewart $7200 ATL@CAR 8.1 LeGarrette Blount $6300 NE@HOU 1.1
T.J. Yeldon $6400 IND@JAC 7.3 Tim Hightower $4500 NO@TB 1.1
Matt Forte $7800 WAS@CHI 5.6 Darren McFadden $6700 DAL@GB 1
Todd Gurley $7900 DET@STL 5.2 Giovani Bernard $5700 PIT@CIN 1
Christopher Ivory $7100 TEN@NYJ 5 James Starks $5600 DAL@GB 0.8
Charcandrick West $5800 SD@KC 4 Latavius Murray $6200 OAK@DEN 0.7
James White $6300 NE@HOU 2.7 Theo Riddick $5500 DET@STL 0.6
Javorius Allen $7000 SEA@BAL 2.3 Charles Sims $4900 NO@TB 0.3
Frank Gore $6100 IND@JAC 2.3        

Jonathan Stewart may be our seventh most popular running back per Thursday numbers, but given the matchup we feel he is under-owned. The Falcons have allowed 16 total touchdowns to ball carriers, and the eighth-most yards. The problem we run into is Cam Newton’s threat as a runner and even Mike Tolbert’s tendencies to vulture rushing scores when the Panthers are near the goal line. In any case, Stewart is our RB7 since Week 11 and has a great matchup at home in which his team is favored by 8.5 points. He’s a great mid-priced option at $7,200 thanks to multi-touchdown upside.

With similar exposure and much more affordability is T.J. Yeldon. He finished as RB3 last week on his way to hitting 3.5x value. His salary increased only $300 for his Week 14 tilt. The Colts have allowed 12 total touchdowns and the ninth most rushing yards to running backs. With the Jaguars offense fully healthy and Blake Bortles playing outstanding football, Yeldon is in line to see a boost in production and efficiency. He saw five red zone looks last week, which tied with Allen Robinson. There’s a chance he’ll see just as many this week and cashes in on a couple. His $6,400 salary is tremendous value when you consider the highly functional offense he plays in and the fact that he has no competition for carries.

Jeremy Hill is the better running back but Giovani Bernard is the better fit for the Bengals system, especially when they’re in pass-first mode. We can expect that as they take on the Steelers at home. This contest could turn into one of the highest scoring of the week thanks to great offenses taking on bad, or banged up, defenses. The net result is Bernard getting a lot of work as a receiver. Hill has seen more snaps and more red zone opportunities over the last couple of weeks, but only because the Bengals have floored their opponents by a combined score of 68-10. That’s not going to happen against the Steelers. It's a tough matchup, but for $5,700, there isn’t a better option on the board.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Odell Beckham Jr. $9300 NYG@MIA 20.9 Markus Wheaton $6100 PIT@CIN 2.3
Allen Robinson $8500 IND@JAC 20.8 Emmanuel Sanders $7100 OAK@DEN 2
Sammy Watkins $7200 BUF@PHI 19.9 Golden Tate $6400 DET@STL 1.9
Doug Baldwin $6800 SEA@BAL 17.4 Anquan Boldin $5900 SF@CLE 1.8
Antonio Brown $9300 PIT@CIN 15.7 Vincent Jackson $6800 NO@TB 1.7
Brandon Marshall $8200 TEN@NYJ 13.9 Travis Benjamin $5700 SF@CLE 1.6
Mike Evans $8000 NO@TB 13.1 Michael Crabtree $6700 OAK@DEN 1.5
Martavis Bryant $7400 PIT@CIN 13.1 Marvin Jones $6200 PIT@CIN 1.4
Alshon Jeffery $7500 WAS@CHI 11.5 Brandon LaFell $6400 NE@HOU 1.2
Jeremy Maclin $6900 SD@KC 11.2 James Jones $5300 DAL@GB 1.2
A.J. Green $8500 PIT@CIN 10.2 Dorial Green-Beckham $5100 TEN@NYJ 1.2
Jarvis Landry $7100 NYG@MIA 8.6 Julio Jones $8800 ATL@CAR 1
Danny Amendola $7000 NE@HOU 6.4 Dez Bryant $7400 DAL@GB 1
DeAndre Hopkins $8700 NE@HOU 6.1 Jordan Matthews $6100 BUF@PHI 0.9
Eric Decker $7300 TEN@NYJ 5.5 Davante Adams $6300 DAL@GB 0.8
Allen Hurns $6600 IND@JAC 5.3 Amari Cooper $6900 OAK@DEN 0.8
Calvin Johnson $7900 DET@STL 5 Donte Moncrief $6100 IND@JAC 0.7
Brandin Cooks $7100 NO@TB 4.7 Brian Hartline $5300 SF@CLE 0.6
Demaryius Thomas $7700 OAK@DEN 4.4 Torrey Smith $6100 SF@CLE 0.5
Ted Ginn Jr. $6000 ATL@CAR 4.2 Brandon Coleman $4600 NO@TB 0.5
DeVante Parker $5900 NYG@MIA 4.1 Robert Woods $5100 BUF@PHI 0.2
Randall Cobb $7000 DAL@GB 2.9 Terrance Williams $5700 DAL@GB 0.2
T.Y. Hilton $7000 IND@JAC 2.6        

We’re giving a lot of love to the Bengals this week. First with Dalton, then with Bernard and now with A.J. Green. He checks in as our 11th-most popular wide receiver when he really should be in the top five. The Steelers’ defense has been getting slapped around by talented receivers, including Green himself back in Week 8 when he tagged them with 11 catches on 17 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown. They looked better last week but gave up a combined 784 yards and eight touchdowns to the Seahawks, Browns and Raiders in the three weeks prior. Green’s $8,500 isn’t crippling to our roster and his upside can swing tournaments.

The New York Giants have given up the more receptions and more yards to receivers than any other team. And while it’s hard to trust the Dolphins’ offense, Jarvis Landry is our WR10 on the season. Of course, last week he had a dream matchup and laid an egg. But he also wasn’t needed as the Dolphins slowly beat the Ravens. This week, they’ll be forced to throw with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. coming to town. It wouldn’t take much for Landry to reach tournament value of 21.3 points, or at least come close.

No player has more targets inside the 20 than Eric Decker—accounting for 33.9 percent of the team total in that category, and 40 percent of the team total inside the 10. He either has 100 yards or a touchdown in every game this season except two. This week he gets a Titans secondary that has been getting shredded lately. They’ve allowed an average of 42.4 FanDuel points to receivers over their last three games. He is as safe of a play as there is in Week 14, especially considering his $7,300 salary still isn’t in sync with his usage. Let the crowd pay up for Brandon Marshall. Or, start them both with Ryan Fitzpatrick in a Jets power stack.

In the bargain bin we find Allen Hurns. Similar to Decker, Hurns is basically good for touchdown a game. His seven scores tie him with eight other receivers for seventh most. This, is all while missing a game-and-a-half and having Bortles throwing him the ball. The Jaguars offense is starting to get it together and they have a favorable matchup at home against the Colts this week. We have to wonder if Allen Robinson will command double-teams moving forward, leaving Hurns in single-coverage. For $6,600, it’s worth finding out.  

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Greg Olsen $6600 ATL@CAR 18.2 Antonio Gates $5700 SD@KC 4.9
Delanie Walker $6100 TEN@NYJ 14.5 Scott Chandler $5800 NE@HOU 3.8
Austin Seferian-Jenkins $5500 NO@TB 10.7 Tyler Eifert $6300 PIT@CIN 3.6
Travis Kelce $6000 SD@KC 6.7 Gary Barnidge $6200 SF@CLE 1.7
Richard Rodgers $5600 DAL@GB 6.7 Zach Miller $4900 WAS@CHI 1.2
Benjamin Watson $5300 NO@TB 6.2 Jason Witten $5500 DAL@GB 1
Jordan Reed $5900 WAS@CHI 5.4 Eric Ebron $4900 DET@STL 0.6
Julius Thomas $5900 IND@JAC 5 Jordan Cameron $5000 NYG@MIA 0.3

Surely it’s just the uncertainty of injury that has Tyler Eifert’s exposure down. There’s no reason to believe it will stay that low come Sunday now that he’s been listed as probable for the Steelers’ tilt. Now is fine time to remind everyone that Eifert leads the league in receiving touchdowns, while the Steelers pass defense is one of the worst. Even at $6,300, he’s one of the best plays avaiable. Think of him more as a cheap receiver and less of an expensive tight end (yes, we said the same thing about Greg Olsen).

Martellus Bennett is officially done for the season, leaving Zach Miller as the Bears default starter. It’s hard to say what to truly expect from him. It’s easy to get blinded by his Week 9 box score of five catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He’s done very little since and doesn’t have the sweetest matchup against Washington this week. Furthermore, the weather situation in Chicago isn’t stellar. There’s a heavy expectation of rain and wind, but that affects more downfield passing that short drops to tight ends. Miller is in play as budget-saving tight end for $4,900.

Another all-star on the all-risk team is Jordan Cameron. We like what he is as an athlete when healthy. The problem is that athleticism doesn’t always translate to good football. Cameron has a total of 49 receiving yards and one touchdown over his last five games. He’s basically invisible on a bad Dolphins’ offense. But he has a great matchup against the Giants at home on Monday night. Only one team has allowed more points to tight ends than the Giants. Of course, this logic ties right into the opening: we sometimes put too much value on matchups and not enough on quality players. That said, we know he’s capable of having monster games; we just haven’t’ seen it yet this year.  

Kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Graham Gano $4900 ATL@CAR 9.2 Mason Crosby $4700 DAL@GB 3.2
Cairo Santos $4700 SD@KC 8.1 Mike Nugent $4800 PIT@CIN 3
Stephen Gostkowski $5000 NE@HOU 7.6 Brandon McManus $5000 OAK@DEN 2.8
Chris Boswell $4700 PIT@CIN 6.7 Robbie Gould $4800 WAS@CHI 2.5
Matt Prater $4500 DET@STL 6.7 Dan Carpenter $4600 BUF@PHI 0.9
Connor Barth $4600 NO@TB 5.7 Randy Bullock $4700 TEN@NYJ 0.7
Steven Hauschka $5100 SEA@BAL 4.1 Ryan Succop $4500 TEN@NYJ 0.7
Josh Brown $4800 NYG@MIA 4.1 Caleb Sturgis $4600 BUF@PHI 0.4

We don’t usually include kickers in this space, so by request, they are making their first appearance. There are a couple of players that stick out: The first is Mike Nugent. He’s likely good for three extra points and a couple of field goals. The Bengals team total currently sits at 26.5.

Randy Bullock is also a good option. The Jets shouldn’t have any problems moving the ball against the Titans but, since they’re the Jets, they might have problems finishing the deal. Over the last three weeks Bullock has the 10th-most points among kickers.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Seattle Seahawks $5300 SEA@BAL 18.4 New England Patriots $4900 NE@HOU 1.6
Kansas City Chiefs $4800 SD@KC 15.1 Dallas Cowboys $4000 DAL@GB 1.6
Carolina Panthers $5000 ATL@CAR 9.4 St Louis Rams $4600 DET@STL 1.4
Denver Broncos $5400 OAK@DEN 9 Cleveland Browns $4300 SF@CLE 1.4
Green Bay Packers $4800 DAL@GB 5.2 New York Giants $4600 NYG@MIA 1.3
Detroit Lions $4700 DET@STL 3.6 Chicago Bears $4500 WAS@CHI 1.2
New York Jets $4800 TEN@NYJ 3.4 Cincinnati Bengals $4900 PIT@CIN 0.6
Buffalo Bills $4600 BUF@PHI 2 Miami Dolphins $4600 NYG@MIA 0.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4300 NO@TB 1.7        

Per usual, there aren’t a lot of great options in the contrarian department for defenses. The Packers are the first to stand out. You can avoid the majority of the crowd by selecting their services and still get a home team taking on a bad offense.

The Bears are also an interesting option. As mentioned, the weather in this game favors no one, so scoring could be few and far between. Add the potential for Kirk Cousins to turn the ball over and you have nice value play.   

Heavy risky and heavy value are the Dallas Cowboys. Their defense is quite good even if they’ve struggled against smaller receivers such as Randall Cobb. The Packers offense hasn’t been great, and the Cowboys know the only shot they have to win is by keeping Aaron Rodgers and Co. on the sideline, which as really been the case in all of their games. As such, they run the slowest pace in the league, and the sixth fewest plays. For $4,000, you can fill a roster spot and still have a prayer at double-digit points, especially if the Packers go into clock control in a needed victory.