The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 15

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

We have five games this week with an over/under of at least 48 points What this means is that we can expect the crowd to flock to these games as a source of fantasy gold. Mining for under-exposed players in these contests is the sharp move, while the crowd chases obvious options.

But building rosters with elite players that the crowd is afraid of because of recency bias or tough matchups is also a sharp move. Tournaments are won on the backs of outlier performances. A lot of the time, those performances are contributed by players that logic and good process would shun. We have to leave our comfort zone if we want to take advantage of those outliers, and trust that uniqueness will give us a positive return.  

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 $8800 CLE@SEA 23.7 Ben Roethlisberger $8000 DEN@PIT 2.2
Blake Bortles $7900 ATL@JAC 9.4 Alex Smith $7000 KC@BAL 2
Cam Newton $9400 CAR@NYG 8.5 Aaron Rodgers $9000 GB@OAK 1.9
Matthew Stafford $7800 DET@NO 8.3 Philip Rivers $7400 MIA@SD 1.5
Drew Brees $8000 DET@NO 7.5 Matt Ryan $7200 ATL@JAC 1.5
Carson Palmer $8700 ARI@PHI 7.3 T.J. Yates $6000 HOU@IND 1.1
Tom Brady $9500 TEN@NE 5.5 Derek Carr $7200 GB@OAK 0.9
Tyrod Taylor $7500 BUF@WAS 2.7 Brock Osweiler $6700 DEN@PIT 0.3

It should be expected that these two players will be a lot higher owned come Sunday, but Drew Brees and Carson Palmer have two of the best matchups of the weekend. The latter has been as consistent as they come, having thrown for at least 300 yards in nine of thirteen games this year, and failing to score at least two touchdowns in only three games. He’s on the road to take down an Eagles secondary that gets out of bed and allows three touchdowns. As it stands, they rank second in fantasy points allowed per game. Palmer’s $8,700 salary isn’t all that friendly but he’ll have no trouble hitting value.

Brees hasn’t been nearly as consistent but is a solid play at home against the Lions on Monday night. This game features our highest over/under of 51 points and two of the leagues worst passing defenses. The Lions have been better as of late, but the Saint offense is perfectly designed to take advantage of Detroit’s weaknesses.

At some point, Aaron Rodgers is going to put together one of his signature 400-yard, three-score games. We think he’ll flirt with that this weekend in Oakland. The Raiders are tough to run on but susceptible to the pass, especially when faced with elite talent. His salary is nearly prohibitive at $9,000, but as always we want an elite player when the crowd is shy.

In the bargain bin we find T.J. Yates. His only start came back in Week 11 against the Jets during which he managed to complete only 16 of 34 passes but still did enough to get the win thanks to his 229 yards and two scores. He finished as QB18 that week. This week he takes on the Colts needing only 18 points to hit tournament value. He’s a clear risk given limited sample size and the fact that the Texans offense looked terrible last week, but his $6,000 salary does wonders for our lineup. The Colts have allowed 26 passing touchdowns—sixth most—and rank 10th in fantasy points per game.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

David Johnson $6500 ARI@PHI 22.1 Giovani Bernard $5600 CIN@SF 2.5
Adrian Peterson $8600 CHI@MIN 19.9 Latavius Murray $5900 GB@OAK 2.3
Lamar Miller $6700 MIA@SD 15.3 Foswhitt Whittaker $4800 CAR@NYG 2.3
DeAngelo Williams $7000 DEN@PIT 11.6 Matt Forte $7900 CHI@MIN 2
Eddie Lacy $6900 GB@OAK 11.1 Javorius Allen $6600 KC@BAL 1.6
Denard Robinson $6300 ATL@JAC 10.2 Frank Gore $6100 HOU@IND 1.3
Tim Hightower $6300 DET@NO 7.3 Danny Woodhead $5300 MIA@SD 1
Charcandrick West $5900 KC@BAL 7.1 Darren Sproles $5600 ARI@PHI 0.9
LeSean McCoy $7900 BUF@WAS 7 Shaun Draughn $6100 CIN@SF 0.5
Jeremy Hill $6000 CIN@SF 6.5 DeMarco Murray $5700 ARI@PHI 0.5
Devonta Freeman $8400 ATL@JAC 6.4 Matt Jones $5200 BUF@WAS 0.5
James White $6400 TEN@NE 5 Ameer Abdullah $5300 DET@NO 0.4
Brandon Bolden $5500 TEN@NE 4.1 C.J. Anderson $5900 DEN@PIT 0.2
James Starks $5800 GB@OAK 3.7        

We’re going to start this week in the bargain bin with Fozzy Whittaker. Whittaker is first in line for carries with Jonathan Stewart on the sideline. Last week we saw Lamar Miller crush a Giants’ defense that has given the ninth most fantasy points to running backs. The Panthers are much better team than the Dolphins and Whittaker should get plenty of opportunities to punch in a few scores assuming, of course, that Mike Tolbert doesn’t vulture those opportunities. In relief last week, Whittaker managed 4.25 yards per carry and made good on one of his three red-zone looks. His $4,800 salary won’t require much to return value.

After losing to the Steelers last week, the Bengals have a narrow two-game lead in the AFC North and will be without Andy Dalton for the foreseeable future. In his place we have A.J. McCarron, a raw passer who the Bengals will likely try to hide as they travel to San Francisco in a must-win game. Enter Jeremy Hill. He’s their best option to ride out a win against a bad defense. The 49ers have allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs, including 14 rushing touchdowns, which ranks as second most, and 1,557 yards—also second most. Even on the road with a questionable quarterback, this sets up as a positive game for Hill. His $6,000 salary is the lowest it has been since Week 9 of the 2014 season.  

Since Week 10, Matt Jones has led Washington with 10 red-zone looks. Over the last two weeks he has seen snap counts of 40 and 44, and has out-touched all other Washington running backs 19-11 and 20-14. Unfortunately, the yards and touchdowns haven’t been there for him. He had a decent game last week with 86 total yards in a winning effort. If he gets the same usage this week against the Bills, who have allowed 13 total touchdowns to running backs, he’ll easily return value on his $5,200 salary.

It’s hard to recommend any running back that is trapped in a three-headed rotation. Such is the case in Detroit. But there’s a good chance the Lions want to see what their rookie is made of and push him into a heavier usage to close out the season. That, of course, is pure speculation. As it stands, Ameer Abdullah’s touches have declined over the last two weeks. That might change this week as the Lions travel to New Orleans. The Saints have allowed the second most receiving yards to running backs and the third most fantasy points per game. One of these runners is going to have a good game. Theo Riddick might be the one to own, but Abdullah has natural talent and should get double-digit carries. If anyone is capable of hitting a homerun, it’s him.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Doug Baldwin 7400 CLE@SEA 37.4 Willie Snead 6000 DET@NO 4.2
Tyler Lockett 6000 CLE@SEA 14.9 Allen Hurns 7000 ATL@JAC 4
Sammy Watkins 7200 BUF@WAS 14.7 Danny Amendola 7000 TEN@NE 3.1
Jeremy Maclin 6700 KC@BAL 14.7 Demaryius Thomas 7700 DEN@PIT 2.7
Ted Ginn Jr. 6600 CAR@NYG 14.3 Alshon Jeffery 7900 CHI@MIN 2.3
Allen Robinson 8100 ATL@JAC 13.5 Michael Crabtree 6700 GB@OAK 2.1
Calvin Johnson 8000 DET@NO 12.9 T.Y. Hilton 7000 HOU@IND 1.8
Julio Jones 8600 ATL@JAC 12.8 Brandon LaFell 6300 TEN@NE 1.5
Michael Floyd 6100 ARI@PHI 12.8 James Jones 5300 GB@OAK 1.5
John Brown 6300 ARI@PHI 11 Marques Colston 5700 DET@NO 1.1
DeAndre Hopkins 8700 HOU@IND 10.4 Emmanuel Sanders 7100 DEN@PIT 0.9
Golden Tate 6900 DET@NO 9.1 Amari Cooper 6900 GB@OAK 0.9
A.J. Green 8700 CIN@SF 8.2 Malcom Floyd 5600 MIA@SD 0.9
Brandin Cooks 7000 DET@NO 7 Rueben Randle 5600 CAR@NYG 0.8
Odell Beckham Jr. 9100 CAR@NYG 6.4 Kamar Aiken 6300 KC@BAL 0.7
Antonio Brown 8800 DEN@PIT 6 DeVante Parker 5900 MIA@SD 0.4
Larry Fitzgerald 7200 ARI@PHI 5.1 Pierre Garcon 5600 BUF@WAS 0.4
Randall Cobb 7200 GB@OAK 4.8 DeSean Jackson 6400 BUF@WAS 0.3
Martavis Bryant 7100 DEN@PIT 4.6 Keshawn Martin 5400 TEN@NE 0.3
Jarvis Landry 7100 MIA@SD 4.5 Anquan Boldin 5700 CIN@SF 0.2

Last week we discussed how it’s easy to put too much emphasis on matchups, both good and bad. This week we’re back to facing the exact same issue with Odell Beckham Jr. facing Josh Norman. As such, his ownership his fallen to the lowest we’ve seen in a while. This is a great opportunity to roster an elite player while the crowd is spooked. Beckham is one of the most talented receivers the league has seen in a while. His double-move is probably the best in the NFL and his ability to accelerate out of his cuts is nightmare even for the best of cornerbacks. We’re not afraid of the negative matchup and will happily pay his salary in what will be a high scoring game.      

Once a lock for yards and touchdowns, Larry Fitzgerald ranked as WR3 through the first eight weeks of the season. Since Week 9 he has fallen all the way to WR29. Week 8 was the last time he visited the end zone and he has only one game with at least 100 yards since. This week he takes on the Eagles who have allowed the third most points to wide receivers this season. The Cardinals have a lot of options as one of the best offenses in the league, but Fitzgerald has a wonderful history against the Eagles:

 

History, of course, can’t predict what might happen on Sunday night. But the fact that the Eagles have been getting killed by No. 1 receivers gives us lots of confidence that his $7,200 is, in fact, too low. As is his ownership. He’s a solid contrarian play this week. Fire up the Palmer/Fitzgerald stack this week.

For that same price we have Randall Cobb. Head coach Mike McCarthy took over play calling duties last week, resulting in Cobb having his highest yardage and reception totals since Week 9. The Raiders defense struggles against the smaller, slot-type receivers: see Steve Smith, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. As we eluded to with Rodgers, we think this game turns into a shootout. A Rodgers/Cobb stack isn’t a terrible idea.

It’s not clear if Demaryius Thomas is an elite talent or a product of elite quarterback play. One thing that is clear is the fact that Brock Osweiler prefers him as the go-to. He has targeted him 41 times since taking over as the starter in Week 11—more than any other player. Thomas hasn’t been able to do much with those targets, with just 251 yards and two touchdowns to show for it. But this week the duo gets a Steelers defense that has allowed the fifth most passing yards and second most receptions. His $7,700 salary is more than reasonable, especially if you stack him with Osweiler.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Jordan Reed $6300 BUF@WAS 17.7 Gary Barnidge $6400 CLE@SEA 3.5
Rob Gronkowski $8500 TEN@NE 11.8 Travis Kelce $6000 KC@BAL 3.1
Antonio Gates $5800 MIA@SD 11.3 Eric Ebron $4800 DET@NO 1.8
Benjamin Watson $5600 DET@NO 11.3 Heath Miller $5600 DEN@PIT 1.3
Julius Thomas $6200 ATL@JAC 8.6 Will Tye $4900 CAR@NYG 1.1
Richard Rodgers $5500 GB@OAK 6.5 Tyler Eifert $6500 CIN@SF 0.4
Delanie Walker $6300 TEN@NE 4 Jacob Tamme $5100 ATL@JAC 0.4
Greg Olsen $6800 CAR@NYG 3.5        

There’s nothing dynamic or even special about Richard Rodgers. He’s just a guy that benefits from having Rodgers as his quarterback. Pounding home our expectations of this game being high-scoring, we like Rodgers, Richard to take advantage of a defense that is much better at stopping the run than the pass. The Raiders 10 touchdowns conceded to tight ends ties the Saints and Lions as the most, and their 822 yards ranks fifth. Rodgers has seen 17 targets over the last three games and is the sixth highest scoring tight end over that span. Of course, a big chunk of those points came on a 61-yard Hail Mary touchdown for the win against the Lions two weeks ago. But as we always say, outliers win tournaments. You could do worse for $5,500.

The Saints have allowed more yards to tight ends than any other team. The Lions are coming to town without Brandon Pettigrew, leaving Eric Ebron as the clear starter. There’s not a lot of data to support the claim that he’ll be a main target on Sunday for Matthew Stafford. Tight ends just aren’t a big part of the game plan for the Lions. But the soft matchup up and kicker-level pricing of $4,800 is enough for us to give Ebron contrarian consideration.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Seattle Seahawks $5400 CLE@SEA 25.1 Minnesota Vikings $4600 CHI@MIN 2
Kansas City Chiefs $5200 KC@BAL 11.4 Indianapolis Colts $4100 HOU@IND 1.8
New England Patriots $5000 TEN@NE 7.4 Buffalo Bills $4500 BUF@WAS 1.2
Cincinnati Bengals $4900 CIN@SF 7.3 Denver Broncos $5000 DEN@PIT 1.1
Carolina Panthers $5100 CAR@NYG 7 Green Bay Packers $4800 GB@OAK 1.1
Pittsburgh Steelers $4600 DEN@PIT 4.8 Miami Dolphins $4700 MIA@SD 0.9
Houston Texans $4800 HOU@IND 4.2 San Francisco 49ers $4400 CIN@SF 0.8
Arizona Cardinals $5200 ARI@PHI 2.2        

As usual, it’s difficult to ignore the top five or six defenses. The Minnesota Vikings standout as a possible tournament play. They’re favored by 5.5 points at home against a Bears team that ranks 22nd in points scored and 17th in total yards. The Vikings offense will likely rely on Adrian Peterson to keep the game in check in what should be a low-scoring contest.

We can also punt this position by taking the Colts at home against a backup quarterback. The Texans have one of the least effective offenses in the league. The Patriots proved last week that if you neutralize DeAndre Hopkins, you force the ball into the hands of unspectacular role players. Even though we plugged Yates as a risky contrarian play, we also like the Colts as a salary-friendly option at defense.