The Fade: FanDuel Week 1

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

When building tournament lineups, it’s important to know who to fade and how to structure a unique roster. But it’s also important to know when to side with the chalk play. The chalk play, if you are unfamiliar, is the play the crowd is going to be all over. Knowing when to fade the crowd and when to join them is key.

To get a better understanding of the backbone strategies that will be implemented in this article weekly, go here. The basic signal flow is this: use a Thursday night GPP to project ownership percentages. Use those ownership percentages to identify fades and loss leaders. Build unique rosters but not at the expense of fading good options just because they may be highly owned.

The percentages that follow were taken from FanDuel’s $100K Thursday NFL snap, which filled all 57,471 seats. This data provides a map of groupthink. But it’s important to remember that these numbers can change a lot by Sunday’s kickoff. So take them as they are, not as they could be.

There will also be a complimentary article focusing on contrarian plays using these same numbers. For now, let’s dig in and see where the crowd should be avoided.  

Quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Sam Bradford $7500 PHI@ATL 14.8 Ryan Tannehill $8000 MIA@WAS 1.6  
Tyrod Taylor $5000 IND@BUF 7.8 Drew Brees $8900 NO@ARI 1.4  
Aaron Rodgers $9700 GB@CHI 5.8 Andy Dalton $7100 CIN@OAK 1.3  
Andrew Luck $9200 IND@BUF 4.5 Kirk Cousins $6000 MIA@WAS 1.3  
Tony Romo $8700 NYG@DAL 4 Marcus Mariota $7100 TEN@TB 0.9  
Matt Ryan $8800 PHI@ATL 3.4 Alex Smith $6600 KC@HOU 0.8  
Matthew Stafford $7800 DET@SD 3.3 Jameis Winston $6900 TEN@TB 0.8  
Peyton Manning $9100 BAL@DEN 2.4 Philip Rivers $8100 DET@SD 0.8  
Cam Newton $8400 CAR@JAC 2.1 Ryan Fitzpatrick $6800 CLE@NYJ 0.7  
Russell Wilson $8800 SEA@STL 2.1 Colin Kaepernick $7900 MIN@SF 0.6  
Teddy Bridgewater $7200 MIN@SF 2.1 Jay Cutler $7900 GB@CHI 0.3  
Carson Palmer $7700 NO@ARI 1.8 Joe Flacco $8200 BAL@DEN 0.3  
Eli Manning $8300 NYG@DAL 1.6          

It’s not surprising to see Sam Bradford check in as the crowd favorite. He shined in preseason play, particularly in Week 3 when he completed 100 percent of his passes (10 attempts) for 121 yards and three touchdowns. He opens the season as a road favorite in Atlanta with an over/under of 55.5 points. Feel free to side with the crowd and pencil him in as a loss leader.

Our next most popular quarterback brings a bottom tier price tag and Konami Code upside. Tyrod Taylor won the starting job in Buffalo thanks to his combination of accuracy and explosiveness. You won’t get many options throughout the year to spend only 8.3 percent of the salary cap on your quarterback, especially one whose ceiling is pushed with a dual-threat skill-set. The Bills backfield is hampered by a series of injuries, leaving Taylor as their healthiest ball-carrier. As much as we’d like to fade the crowd here, we recommend having at least one lineup with Taylor’s services.

Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck have similar exposure. If you’re going to pay up for either one it should be Rodgers, who has a much better matchup against a division rival. Although, it could become the Eddie Lacy show. In truth, even if Week 1 is a great time to go with a safe option, there is just too much value at the quarterback position to pay top dollar for an elite option.

Said elite option includes Drew Brees. The crowd is off of him for good reason. His salary doesn’t blend with his situation. He is the seventh most expensive player overall; an easy fade.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Eddie Lacy $8500 GB@CHI 23.2 Alfred Morris $7400 MIA@WAS 2.1  
Lamar Miller $7300 MIA@WAS 14 Darren McFadden $6600 NYG@DAL 2  
Adrian Peterson $9200 MIN@SF 13.2 T.J. Yeldon $7000 CAR@JAC 1.8  
Doug Martin $6900 TEN@TB 12.8 Melvin Gordon $7100 DET@SD 1.7  
DeMarco Murray $8500 PHI@ATL 12.7 Giovani Bernard $7200 CIN@OAK 1.6  
Jeremy Hill $8600 CIN@OAK 9.7 Ryan Mathews $5900 PHI@ATL 1.4  
Christopher Ivory $6400 CLE@NYJ 8.4 Danny Woodhead $6000 DET@SD 1.2  
Jonathan Stewart $7100 CAR@JAC 7.6 Reggie Bush $5500 MIN@SF 1.1  
Marshawn Lynch $8600 SEA@STL 7.6 Bishop Sankey $6300 TEN@TB 0.9  
Alfred Blue $5800 KC@HOU 5.7 LeSean McCoy $8400 IND@BUF 0.8  
Justin Forsett $7800 BAL@DEN 5.3 Shane Vereen $6500 NYG@DAL 0.8  
C.J. Anderson $8400 BAL@DEN 5.2 Ronnie Hillman $5400 BAL@DEN 0.7  
Jamaal Charles $8900 KC@HOU 4.9 Joique Bell $6500 DET@SD 0.6  
Ameer Abdullah $5900 DET@SD 4.1 Benny Cunningham $5100 SEA@STL 0.5  
Matt Forte $8800 GB@CHI 4.1 Fred Jackson $6200 IND@BUF 0.4  
Frank Gore $7500 IND@BUF 3.6 Denard Robinson $5800 CAR@JAC 0.2  
Latavius Murray $7400 CIN@OAK 3.3 Andre Williams $5500 NYG@DAL 0.1  
Carlos Hyde $7300 MIN@SF 3.2 Charles Sims $6200 TEN@TB 0.1  
Andre Ellington $7900 NO@ARI 3.1 Christine Michael $4500 SEA@STL 0.1  
Rashad Jennings $6600 NYG@DAL 3 David Johnson $5300 NO@ARI 0.1  
Darren Sproles $5800 PHI@ATL 2.8 Devonta Freeman $6500 PHI@ATL 0.1  
Joseph Randle $6900 NYG@DAL 2.8 Duke Johnson $5800 CLE@NYJ 0.1  
Mark Ingram $7800 NO@ARI 2.8 Tre Mason $7300 SEA@STL 0.1  
Isaiah Crowell $6100 CLE@NYJ 2.4 Javorius Allen $5400 BAL@DEN 0  
Tevin Coleman $6700 PHI@ATL 2.2          

The second-highest owned player overall happens to be our highest projected running back per the Interactive Value Chart. We typically prefer running backs that are home favorites but we have no problem making an exception for Lacy. The crowd is all over him but that’s not a good enough reason to leave him out of your lineups. He is the loss leader of the week.

Lamar Miller checks in as the next-highest owned ball carrier. We have planted our flag on Miller having a breakout season and that could very well begin in Week 1. His salary is friendly and so is his floor. But it wouldn’t hurt to wait a week and let the crowd test out the Dolphins offense. Washington was surprisingly good against the run last year. They ranked eighth in points allowed and ninth in Football Outsiders DVOA. That aside, Miller is a great cash game play. For tournaments we need more upside in a less crowded situation.

The 49ers defense that we feared for years in fantasy football is gone. They are now an easy target for most weeks and most players. Enter Adrian Peterson. He is our third most popular running back and tied with Luck as the second most expensive player. There are plenty of narratives we can bake into our expectations, along the lines of revenge games and chips on shoulders and such. In reality, the Vikings offensive line is in shambles. They’ve lost their starting right tackle and starting center. As a result, they’ve dropped to 30th in our offensive line rankings. That’s not to say Peterson won’t find the end zone. But hitting tournament value seems unlikely. Feel free to fade his $9,200 salary.

The freight train carrying Doug Martin hype has rumbled all the way into DFS. Reports in June inflated his ADP thanks to buzzwords like faster and stronger. All he needs is support from his coaches: 

Well then. It’s hard to ignore his favorable salary and favorable matchup. We love our running backs at home, especially against a bad defense. We’ll side with the crowd and pivot from Miller to Martin.

Rounding out the list of double-digit ownership is DeMarco Murray. It’s important to get some exposure to the Eagles/Falcons game. Murray has massive upside and is, without a doubt, the most talented back the Eagles have. They are going run the ball a ton. And even when they don’t, Bradford is a check-down machine. There will be no shortage of volume, making Murray a solid play Monday night. But from a value standpoint, we might be better off taking one of his teammates.

Just falling out of the top-five most popular plays, Jeremy Hill hits the ground against a team that allowed more points to running backs than any other in 2014. The Bengals, known for their run-first tendencies, are one of eight road teams favored to win. On the surface, the matchup for Hill meets all the criteria we look for in running backs: favored to win, bad defense, competent offense. Unfortunately, his salary is nearly prohibitive. For $8,600 he’ll need more than a hundred yards and two touchdowns to score 25.8 points and hit tournament value. Not impossible, but even though the fantasy community has sworn off Giovani Bernard, he is not going anywhere and will get his share of snaps. Meanwhile, Lacy and Murray are both $100 cheaper than Hill. Fade.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Davante Adams $5500 GB@CHI 27.5 Sammy Watkins $7600 IND@BUF 1.7  
Jordan Matthews $6800 PHI@ATL 20.2 DeSean Jackson $7100 MIA@WAS 1.2  
Julio Jones $9000 PHI@ATL 15.7 Mohamed Sanu $5200 CIN@OAK 1.2  
Dez Bryant $8700 NYG@DAL 11.3 Pierre Garcon $5500 MIA@WAS 1.2  
Odell Beckham Jr. $8900 NYG@DAL 10 Cole Beasley $5000 NYG@DAL 1.1  
Brandin Cooks $7400 NO@ARI 9.9 Tyler Lockett $4800 SEA@STL 1.1  
Calvin Johnson $8500 DET@SD 9.4 Michael Crabtree $5600 CIN@OAK 1  
A.J. Green $8300 CIN@OAK 8.6 Torrey Smith $6100 MIN@SF 1  
Golden Tate $7100 DET@SD 8.5 Kenny Stills $5400 MIA@WAS 0.9  
Jarvis Landry $6900 MIA@WAS 8.3 Allen Hurns $4600 CAR@JAC 0.8  
Andre Johnson $6900 IND@BUF 6.5 Malcom Floyd $5900 DET@SD 0.8  
Jeremy Maclin $7600 KC@HOU 6 Andrew Hawkins $4700 CLE@NYJ 0.6  
John Brown $6000 NO@ARI 6 Percy Harvin $5600 IND@BUF 0.6  
Demaryius Thomas $8800 BAL@DEN 5.7 Greg Jennings $4900 MIA@WAS 0.5  
Amari Cooper $7100 CIN@OAK 5.6 Harry Douglas $4600 TEN@TB 0.5  
Nelson Agholor $5500 PHI@ATL 5.1 Dorial Green-Beckham $5100 TEN@TB 0.4  
Steve Smith $6700 BAL@DEN 5 Brian Quick $5400 SEA@STL 0.4  
Larry Fitzgerald $6000 NO@ARI 4.6 Jermaine Kearse $5300 SEA@STL 0.4  
DeAndre Hopkins $7800 KC@HOU 4.2 Mike Evans $8300 TEN@TB 0.4  
Allen Robinson $6100 CAR@JAC 4 Cecil Shorts $5400 KC@HOU 0.3  
Mike Wallace $6400 MIN@SF 3.8 Kamar Aiken $4600 BAL@DEN 0.3  
Terrance Williams $5300 NYG@DAL 3.4 Miles Austin $5000 PHI@ATL 0.3  
Brandon Marshall $7400 CLE@NYJ 3.1 Roddy White $7600 PHI@ATL 0.3  
Charles Johnson $5600 MIN@SF 3.1 Alshon Jeffery $8400 GB@CHI 0.2  
Eddie Royal $5000 GB@CHI 3.1 Kenny Britt $5400 SEA@STL 0.2  
Eric Decker $6000 CLE@NYJ 2.6 Phillip Dorsett $4600 IND@BUF 0.2  
Kendall Wright $5800 TEN@TB 2.6 Cody Latimer $4900 BAL@DEN 0.1  
Steve Johnson $4700 DET@SD 2.5 Jaelen Strong $5300 KC@HOU 0.1  
T.Y. Hilton $7800 IND@BUF 2.5 Jarius Wright $5300 MIN@SF 0.1  
Anquan Boldin $6600 MIN@SF 2.4 Jeff Janis $4500 GB@CHI 0.1  
Rueben Randle $5300 NYG@DAL 2.3 Justin Hardy $4900 PHI@ATL 0.1  
Emmanuel Sanders $8200 BAL@DEN 2.1 Justin Hunter $4700 TEN@TB 0.1  
Marques Colston $5500 NO@ARI 2.1 Robert Woods $5400 IND@BUF 0.1  
Randall Cobb $8400 GB@CHI 2.1 Stedman Bailey $5000 SEA@STL 0.1  
Vincent Jackson $7200 TEN@TB 2.1 Ty Montgomery $5000 GB@CHI 0.1  
Doug Baldwin $6100 SEA@STL 2 Andre Holmes $5200 CIN@OAK 0  
Keenan Allen $7900 DET@SD 1.8 Marqise Lee $5600 CAR@JAC 0  

Well, would you look at that: the most popular player is none other than Davante Adams.  At 27.5 percent, our natural reaction is to fade him altogether. But it’s impossible to ignore the opportunity and price. His $5,500 salary frees up a lot of cap space, and his role as Rodgers’ No. 2 inflates his ceiling. All he needs is 16.5 points to hit tournament value (although, Value Expectations suggest he needs 3.9x rather than 3x per his salary). If you pay up for Rodgers, you almost have to stack him with Adams.

Our next most popular receiver, and third most popular overall, is Jordan Matthews. This is another situation where opportunity, volume and price all blend perfectly. The Eagles up-tempo offense, and reluctance to kick field goals, provide fertile grounds for fantasy points. Matthews stands to deliver a top-10 performance against a soft Falcons secondary. His ownership should be ignored.

Conversely, Julio Jones night is threatened by Byron Maxwell. Whether or not Maxwell shadows Jones, or even proves capable of covering No. 1 receivers on a weekly basis, remains to be seen. But it’s at least worth noting that the Eagles defense isn’t a walk through. The Falcons offensive line won’t provide Matt Ryan with a lot of time either. Still, Jones’ season outlook projects to be one of the greatest we’ve seen. So we won’t blame the crowd for seeking his services in Week 1. Just be warned that this is not an automatic start.

For $300 less, Dez Bryant is more automatic. Gone are the days of Murray chewing up offensive volume. The return of 40 plus pass attempts from Tony Romo is imminent, which means Bryant could have his best ever season. We’ll gladly pay his price tag against the Giants in the Sunday night opener.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s first multi-touchdown game came against Dallas in Week 7. He then proceeded to rip apart secondaries for the remainder of the season in one of the most impressive stretches we’ve ever seen for a wide receiver. He’ll open the year against the Cowboys, who will be without their best cornerback. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t hit value. But his price and popularity might be worth fade considerations. Or, pay up for both him and Bryant. Low priced options like Adams and Taylor allow for this.

Brandin Cooks nearly saw double-digit exposure. He’ll likely be Brees’s No. 1 target. He’ll also be the No. 1 target of the defense. Patrick Peterson is not a cornerback we’ll steer our drafts around, but Cooks is not a receiver that we can advocate as a good tournament play. We’d rather have one of his teammates.

Staying in that price range, Golden Tate emerges as ninth most popular pass-catcher. The theory, we presume, is that Calvin Johnson will soak up the majority of defensive attention, and Tate will soak up the resulting looks in single-coverage. The problem we have with this thinking is that the over/under is a moderate 46 points with the Chargers favored by three. Basic math tells us a 24.5 to 21.5 game is in order. While it’s good that the Lions are projected to score three touchdowns, it’s bad that Tate managed to score only four touchdowns last year despite Johnson’s absence from three games. He’ll need at least 100 yards and a score to reach value. Let the crowd chase that.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Greg Olsen $5900 CAR@JAC 18.5 Charles Clay $5000 IND@BUF 1.6  
Jimmy Graham $6900 SEA@STL 5.7 Vernon Davis $5300 MIN@SF 1.5  
Martellus Bennett $6200 GB@CHI 4.7 Larry Donnell $5300 NYG@DAL 1.3  
Jason Witten $5800 NYG@DAL 4.6 Jordan Reed $5000 MIA@WAS 0.9  
Owen Daniels $5500 BAL@DEN 3.5 Josh Hill $5200 NO@ARI 0.8  
Delanie Walker $5400 TEN@TB 3.3 Austin Seferian-Jenkins $4700 TEN@TB 0.7  
Jordan Cameron $5500 MIA@WAS 3.2 Andrew Quarless $5200 GB@CHI 0.6  
Tyler Eifert $5000 CIN@OAK 2.8 Benjamin Watson $4600 NO@ARI 0.5  
Travis Kelce $6000 KC@HOU 2.3 Ladarius Green $5700 DET@SD 0.5  
Coby Fleener $5100 IND@BUF 1.7 Mychal Rivera $5100 CIN@OAK 0.3  
Kyle Rudolph $5300 MIN@SF 1.7 Crockett Gillmore $4700 BAL@DEN 0.2  
Richard Rodgers $4900 GB@CHI 1.7 Eric Ebron $5000 DET@SD 0.2  

Without having Rob Gronkowski available to us for the Sunday-Mondy slate, the chalk play becomes Greg Olsen. The Panthers receiving options are the worst Cam Newton has ever seen, so the natural transition is for Olsen to see an increased market share of targets. It won’t be an exciting game but a pair of scores for him is not out of the question. Olsen is loss leader material.

We all want to know what will become of Jimmy Graham without the volume he saw in New Orleans. It’s safe to say the Seahawks didn’t trade to use him as a blocker. And it’s not as if they’re rich in receiver depth. We think the touchdowns will still be there even if the yards and receptions aren’t. That said, his $6,900 salary and the fact that he’s the second most popular tight end on Sunday, against a good defense in St. Louis, in what is sure to be a low-scoring contest, makes him fade material.

For $700 less, Martellus Bennett has a great matchup and a good situation considering the Bears’ current injury issues. Despite the loss of Jordy Nelson, the over/under is 49 points with the Bears home dogs by seven. Playing catchup is a good way to secure garbage time points (we see you Antonio Brown). If you’re going to pay $6,000 or more for a tight end, be sure it’s Bennett.

Clustered around 3 percent exposure and a $5,500 price range are Owen Daniels, Delanie Walker and Jordan Cameron. Walker is the easy man out here. Considering the other two have a much better situation from every standpoint, it’s best to fade the Titans offense.

Daniels could be the dump-off security blanket we so desire in Peyton Manning’s offense and offers a cheap option to get a piece of that contest. But there are a lot of mouths to feed and someone is going to go hungry. Plus, there’s no guarantee as to how many snaps Daniels will see and how many Virgil Green will siphon.

Which leaves us with Cameron. The Dolphins offense could become a dink and dunk style that plays beautifully with what Ryan Tannehill can do. Add an athletic stud like Cameron and you have a perfect blend of skill-sets. Cameron is why we can fade Miller and still gain an advantage using an offense that is built to be a top-10 unit.

Kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
Brandon McManus $4500 BAL@DEN 14.7 Blair Walsh $4700 MIN@SF 2.1  
Dan Bailey $5000 NYG@DAL 6.6 Josh Lambo $4500 DET@SD 2.1  
Adam Vinatieri $5000 IND@BUF 5.1 Dan Carpenter $4800 IND@BUF 1.9  
Cody Parkey $5000 PHI@ATL 4 Justin Tucker $5200 BAL@DEN 1.8  
Mason Crosby $5100 GB@CHI 3.9 Randy Bullock $4800 KC@HOU 1.7  
Graham Gano $4600 CAR@JAC 3.8 Robbie Gould $4800 GB@CHI 1.5  
Sebastian Janikowski $4700 CIN@OAK 3.6 Andrew Franks $4500 MIA@WAS 1.4  
Matt Bryant $5000 PHI@ATL 3.5 Cairo Santos $4800 KC@HOU 1.3  
Matt Prater $4700 DET@SD 3.5 Greg Zuerlein $4800 SEA@STL 1.3  
Nick Folk $4600 CLE@NYJ 3.5 Connor Barth $5100 TEN@TB 1  
Steven Hauschka $5100 SEA@STL 2.8 Josh Brown $4500 NYG@DAL 0.9  
Chandler Catanzaro $4700 NO@ARI 2.5 Phil Dawson $5000 MIN@SF 0.9  
Mike Nugent $4800 CIN@OAK 2.5          

Nothing to see here. Just pay the $4,500 for Brandon McManus and ignore the fact that he’ll be one of he highest owned players in Week 1.

Also, be hesitant to start any Eagles kicker in any given week. Chip Kelly likes touchdowns, not field goals. He also likes two-point conversions, not extra points. Even if he was the second highest scoring kicker last year, Cody Parkey isn’t worth $5,000 when we can save by siding with the crowd and McManus.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

 
New York Jets $4400 CLE@NYJ 16.9 Cleveland Browns $4600 CLE@NYJ 1.9  
Miami Dolphins $4700 MIA@WAS 15.9 Dallas Cowboys $4200 NYG@DAL 1.6  
Seattle Seahawks $5000 SEA@STL 10.2 Indianapolis Colts $4300 IND@BUF 1.4  
Carolina Panthers $4800 CAR@JAC 8.5 Buffalo Bills $4500 IND@BUF 1.3  
Houston Texans $4500 KC@HOU 6.3 Arizona Cardinals $4300 NO@ARI 1.2  
Kansas City Chiefs $4300 KC@HOU 3.9 San Francisco 49ers $4600 MIN@SF 1.2  
Denver Broncos $4200 BAL@DEN 3.8 St Louis Rams $4300 SEA@STL 1.2  
Green Bay Packers $4500 GB@CHI 3.5 Jacksonville Jaguars $4200 CAR@JAC 1.1  
Cincinnati Bengals $4600 CIN@OAK 2.8 Tennessee Titans $4500 TEN@TB 1  
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4500 TEN@TB 2.5 Baltimore Ravens $4100 BAL@DEN 0.7  
Oakland Raiders $4000 CIN@OAK 2.4 Detroit Lions $4300 DET@SD 0.7  
Philadelphia Eagles $4300 PHI@ATL 2.4 San Diego Chargers $4200 DET@SD 0.4  
Minnesota Vikings $4400 MIN@SF 2.2          

Nothing surprising here, either. The Jets and the Dolphins rank as the top options and the most popular as a result. For $4,400, the Jets are especially desirable. Josh McCown is coming to town the interceptions are sure to follow. You can ignore their ownership.

The Dolphins, on paper, are a better defense. The addition of Ndamukong Suh makes their defensive line one of the best, which should naturally assist a not-so-great secondary. We would be more confident about the matchup if RG3 was starting since he donates sacks, but we’ll take what we’ll get from Cousins.

The fact that the Jets and Dolphins have great matchups renders paying up for the Seahawks nearly useless. Granted, a Rams offense led by Nick Foles should always be a target when picking defenses, but the cash we save by fading Seattle is more valuable.

Next most popular is the Panthers. It’s important not to underrate the Jaguars. They have some playmakers from both the backfield and the receiving corps. There’s just no reason to take the Panthers on the road, even if it’s sure to be a low-scoring game, when we have two better options.

We’ll extend that warning to Houston Texans suitors. We know that J.J. Watt and company create turnovers and any one of them could be a defensive score. But the Chiefs, with Alex Smith under center, are conservative and project the ball well. Plus, with Maclin in town, and a solid combo of Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce, this offense can hang points on anyone.