The Fade: FandDuel Week 3

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

“I believe luck is a concept invented by the weak to explain their failures” – Ron Swanson

Some folks felt unlucky after Week 2. As they should. It’s not often that Vegas is going to be off by 17 points—as they were with the Saints game. Justin Forsett isn’t reaping the Trestman rewards, and Mark Ingram got sniped on the one-inch line by the fullback. The Eagles offensive line ruined a whole acre of fertile fantasy crops. Tony Romo was off to a good start until he broke a bone. In fact, outside of Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowski, the chalk play at each position (Drew Brees, Carlos Hyde, John Brown, Rams defense) combined for 34.2 points.

That’s why we fade the crowd.

But what Mr. Swanson is teaching us is that we are to be held responsible for our decisions. There’s nothing noble about blaming an undesirable outcome on something completely out of our hands. Luck, the dark matter of fantasy football, often ends up in the crosshairs of hindsight—either our own bad luck or our opponent’s good luck. By whichever definition you see fit, luck exists, especially in Tournaments of 100,000 plus entries. But it’s generally given too much credit. If anything, luck is unbiased and spread equally among the willing.

We’re only only two weeks into the season and still very much in trendspotting mode. As much as we’ve learned already, we only think we know which defenses and offenses to target or avoid. By Week 5, the picture will be a lot clearer. Until then, in the process we trust.

The numbers presented in the tables below are taken from a $2 Thursday night GPP with 86,206 entries. 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.

As always, this data isn’t meant to be the foundation of our tournament strategy for the weekend. For that matter, fading any player based solely on ownership percentage is never part of the strategy. Think of this as more of a guide to tiebreakers and pivot plays. In this space, we’ll use that guide to identify a few players that should be faded and few that are worth their chalk-heavy projections. There will be a follow up piece focusing on the contrarian side of things.

And be sure to 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.

On to Week 3:

Quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Tom Brady $8700 JAC@NE 31.5 Philip Rivers $7700 SD@MIN 1.7
Ben Roethlisberger $8500 PIT@STL 8.8 Ryan Fitzpatrick $6800 PHI@NYJ 1.6
Carson Palmer $8100 SF@ARI 7.1 Andrew Luck $9000 IND@TEN 1.5
Cam Newton $7900 NO@CAR 5.3 Nick Foles $6500 PIT@STL 1.2
Russell Wilson $8400 CHI@SEA 5.2 Brandon Weeden $6500 ATL@DAL 1
Tyrod Taylor $7000 BUF@MIA 5.2 Alex Smith $6500 KC@GB 1
Aaron Rodgers $9100 KC@GB 4.3 Teddy Bridgewater $6800 SD@MIN 0.8
Peyton Manning $8200 DEN@DET 3.3 Joe Flacco $8100 CIN@BAL 0.3
Matt Ryan $8300 ATL@DAL 2.1 Ryan Tannehill $8000 BUF@MIA 0.3

It’s no surprise to see the season’s highest scoring fantasy football player as the most popular quarterback for Week 3. In fact, the New England Patriots have the three most popular players overall, and the most popular player at every position except defense. Suffice it to say, the crowd loves them some Patriots. And there just isn’t any evidence that suggests you should fade Tom Brady. Even though the Jaguars rank 8th in fewest points allowed, their run defense is much better than their pass defense. But in truth, it would take an elite defense for us to shy away from Touchdown Tom. The over/under in this one is a healthy 48 points—second highest of the week—with the Patriots favored to score 31 of those points. Feel free to chalk Brady up as a loss leader.

The Steelers offense provides volume for two reasons: A) they’re rife with playmakers, B) their defense is horrible. Ben Roethlisberger is our second highest exposed quarterback at 8.8 percent. He’s a great pivot play from Brady if you want to turn against the crowd. But the Rams defensive line may end up spending a lot of time in the Steelers backfield flushing Roethlisberger from the pocket. Only the Patriots (11) have more sacks than the Rams (8). You’re better off paying the extra $200 for Brady who has a much better matchup.

Or, even better, taking the $600 discount offered by Carson Palmer—the second highest scoring fantasy football player in all the land. This week he gets a defense that just allowed Roethlisberger to complete 78 percent of his passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. The matchup suggests that the Cardinals should secure a lead and then grind the clock with running backs. But until further notice, they don’t have a bell cow capable of clock control. That role is reserved for David Johnson. In the meantime, this offense will go through Palmer. He’ll need 24.3 points to hit tournament value—a score he has reached, or exceeded, in both games this season.

Cam Newton has a great matchup this week. The Saints defense has injuries and personnel issues that opponents have exploited with ease. Newton has been the only offense the Panthers have had through two games, both on the ground and through the air. The only downside to his Week 3 matchup is volume. If Drew Brees ends up playing, that may change considerably. But a low over/under gives us concern that there may not be enough scoring in this contest to justify Newton’s $7,900 salary. Furthermore, if the Panthers ground game finds rhythm, his upside will be completely negated.

Our fifth most expensive and fifth most popular quarterback is Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are at home for the first time this season and looking for their first win. Don’t overthink it; Seattle is going to flex their muscle and let out their frustrations against the worst defense in the league (Da Bears). There should be plenty of touchdowns to go around.

running backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Dion Lewis $6700 JAC@NE 20.9 Frank Gore $7000 IND@TEN 2.4
Le\'Veon Bell $8800 PIT@STL 14.8 C.J. Anderson $7300 DEN@DET 2.3
Marshawn Lynch $8700 CHI@SEA 11 Justin Forsett $7200 CIN@BAL 2.3
Adrian Peterson $8900 SD@MIN 10.9 Mark Ingram $7900 NO@CAR 2
Jamaal Charles $8700 KC@GB 10.6 Jeremy Hill $7600 CIN@BAL 2
Latavius Murray $7000 OAK@CLE 9.5 T.J. Yeldon $6600 JAC@NE 1.9
Danny Woodhead $6400 SD@MIN 9.4 Ameer Abdullah $6000 DEN@DET 1.7
David Johnson $6000 SF@ARI 5.8 Bishop Sankey $6300 IND@TEN 1.4
Devonta Freeman $6500 ATL@DAL 5.4 DeMarco Murray $7800 PHI@NYJ 1.3
Joseph Randle $6500 ATL@DAL 4.4 Carlos Hyde $7800 SF@ARI 1.3
James Starks $6500 KC@GB 4.2 Lance Dunbar $4900 ATL@DAL 1.2
Christopher Ivory $7100 PHI@NYJ 3.8 Doug Martin $6600 TB@HOU 1
Giovani Bernard $7200 CIN@BAL 3.5 Chris Johnson $6200 SF@ARI 0.7
Melvin Gordon $6700 SD@MIN 3.1 Darren McFadden $6300 ATL@DAL 0.4
Jonathan Stewart $6500 NO@CAR 3 Eddie Lacy $7700 KC@GB 0.3
LeSean McCoy $7500 BUF@MIA 2.8 Tre Mason $6500 PIT@STL 0.2
Isaiah Crowell $6600 OAK@CLE 2.7 Todd Gurley $6300 PIT@STL 0.2
Matt Forte $8400 CHI@SEA 2.4 Lamar Miller $6600 BUF@MIA 0.1

It’s never easy to find comfort in a Bill Belichick running back, especially one that nobody saw coming. But here we are in Week 3 and Dion Lewis is the fifth highest scoring ball-carrier and our most popular on FanDuel. Everything about this screams loss leader, from the point spread to his affordable $6,700 salary, but the Jaguars have allowed only 147 rushing yards and zero rushing touchdowns. They also haven’t been tested on the ground, mostly because they’re so easy to throw on. Through two weeks, Lewis has five red zone opportunities to LeGarrette Blount’s two. The problem there is, Blount didn’t play in the first game. It’s unlikely that he is going to be held to just seven snaps every week. Herein lies the risk with the Patriots’ backfield: Lewis may get the majority of carries, but one more fumble and he may end up watching from the sideline. But regardless of that threat, you can’t ignore his friendly salary in a good matchup at home.

Le’Veon Bell is back and the crowd his happy to have him. He’ll immediately replace DeAngelo Williams as the team’s lead ball-carrier. Unfortunately, he’ll open against a tough Rams defense on the road. And we can’t be certain that the Steelers are going to force a heavy workload on him in his first return to meaningful action since January. This is a wait-and-see week for us. Let the crowd chase his $8,800 salary. And while we’re here, feel free to fade Williams’ $7,400 salary.

We’ve talked about how bad the Bears defense is and how the Seahawks home opener is something we should invest in. Marshawn Lynch is our third most popular and third most expensive running back. He’s worth every dollar as a loss leader. Feel free to side with the crowd and ignore his exposure.

The same can be said for Adrian Peterson. He looked terrible in Week 1 but turned things around last week compiling 192 yards. He has yet to find the end zone in 2015, which will be corrected against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Ameer Abdullah and Giovani Bernard exposed the Chargers defense both on the ground and through the air. Peterson will be the focal point as the Vikings attempt to grind out another win. But we still think we can do better for $8,900.

We often talk about negative game scripts with running backs. No position is more susceptible to the scoreboard, but players like Jamaal Charles are immune to game scripts. Charles is a major part of the offense regardless if the Chiefs are winning or losing. On Monday night he’ll travel to Green Bay and take on a Packers team that has allowed more rushing yards than any team not located in Cleveland. He has a nearly identical exposure to Peterson, but a better matchup in this week’s highest over/under (49 points) and he’s $200 cheaper.

Last week, Dexter McCluster racked up 98 rushing yards on 10 carries against the Browns. The week before that, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Enter Latavius Murray, who is quietly having a great season. He has virtually no competition for carries and is dominating snap counts (76% last week) as a result. All this translates to us getting an unquestioned RB1 for $7,000 against the worst rushing defense in the league.  

As they usually do, injuries have paved the way for a couple of value plays. For $6,500, the crowd is lukewarm on Devonta Freeman’s opportunity in the absence of Tevin Coleman. There’s no reason to trust Freeman against a decent, albeit surprising, Dallas front. There a plenty of better plays in that price range.

James Starks, for example, would be a better play. But without clarity on Eddie Lacy’s availability for Monday night, it’s overly risky to plug Starks into your lineup. Should news break that Lacy won’t play, Starks gets an immediate bump.

wide receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Julian Edelman $7700 JAC@NE 38 Sammy Watkins $6800 BUF@MIA 1.9
Antonio Brown $9300 PIT@STL 28.1 Kendall Wright $5900 IND@TEN 1.9
Larry Fitzgerald $6700 SF@ARI 25.2 Percy Harvin $5600 BUF@MIA 1.8
Julio Jones $9000 ATL@DAL 16.1 Keenan Allen $7600 SD@MIN 1.6
Travis Benjamin $5600 OAK@CLE 15.7 Ted Ginn Jr. $5200 NO@CAR 1.6
Donte Moncrief $6000 IND@TEN 13.5 Golden Tate $6800 DEN@DET 1.2
Brandon Marshall $7400 PHI@NYJ 13.4 Roddy White $6100 ATL@DAL 1.2
Emmanuel Sanders $8100 DEN@DET 11.7 Eric Decker $6000 PHI@NYJ 0.9
James Jones $5700 KC@GB 9.7 Vincent Jackson $7200 TB@HOU 0.8
Amari Cooper $6900 OAK@CLE 6.4 Anquan Boldin $6600 SF@ARI 0.8
Allen Robinson $6600 JAC@NE 6.4 Torrey Smith $6400 SF@ARI 0.8
Demaryius Thomas $8400 DEN@DET 6.3 Davante Adams $6400 KC@GB 0.8
Steve Johnson $5900 SD@MIN 4.5 Rishard Matthews $5700 BUF@MIA 0.8
Doug Baldwin $6000 CHI@SEA 4.3 Mike Evans $7400 TB@HOU 0.7
Randall Cobb $8200 KC@GB 4.2 Cole Beasley $5400 ATL@DAL 0.7
Terrance Williams $6500 ATL@DAL 4.2 Mike Wallace $5800 SD@MIN 0.6
Michael Crabtree $6000 OAK@CLE 3.9 Leonard Hankerson $5700 ATL@DAL 0.6
DeAndre Hopkins $7800 TB@HOU 3.6 Markus Wheaton $5200 PIT@STL 0.6
Jarvis Landry $7600 BUF@MIA 3.5 Allen Hurns $5100 JAC@NE 0.6
John Brown $6000 SF@ARI 3.5 Brandin Cooks $7000 NO@CAR 0.5
A.J. Green $8000 CIN@BAL 3.2 Andre Johnson $6800 IND@TEN 0.4
Steve Smith $7100 CIN@BAL 2.8 Kenny Britt $5400 PIT@STL 0.3
Darrius Heyward-Bey $5300 PIT@STL 2.4 Brandon Coleman $5100 NO@CAR 0.3
Jordan Matthews $7100 PHI@NYJ 2.3 Robert Woods $5300 BUF@MIA 0.2
Calvin Johnson $8200 DEN@DET 2.2 Charles Johnson $5200 SD@MIN 0.2
T.Y. Hilton $7600 IND@TEN 2.1 Alshon Jeffery $7500 CHI@SEA 0.1
Jeremy Maclin $6500 KC@GB 2.1 Kamar Aiken $5600 CIN@BAL 0.1

It’s going to be hard to say no to any one of the four highest owned receivers. Julian Edelman is always a volume player more reliant on receptions than touchdowns. In Week 1 he had 11 catches for 97 yards, barely hitting 2x value. Last week he again had 11 catches for 97 yards but this time found the end zone twice, hitting 3.7x value. Which one is more likely to repeat itself? We’ll let the crowd find out.

We like high-floor players that also provide a ceiling capable of swinging tournaments. As such, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are our type. And as long as Palmer is locked into Larry Fitzgerald, we have no reason to ignore his $6,700 salary.

Travis Benjamin is the opposite of these players. After a few splash plays the crowd is all over him at 15.7 percent. Last week two of his three receptions accounted for 95 percent of his yards. One reception went for 60 yards and a score. Another went for 50 yards and a score. Two out of three ain’t bad, but chasing those plays on a weekly basis is akin to digging for oil on a city street. He added a third touchdown on a punt return, decorating his FanDuel box score with 31 flashy points. To summarize, Benjamin is the definition of a high variance player. His speed means he could blow the top off of any defense he faces, especially the one he’ll host on Sunday, but averaging 34 yards per reception is unsustainable. He’s an easy fade.

Donte Moncrief, and his $6,000 salary, is a lot harder to ignore. It’s becoming obvious that Andre Johnson is washed up. As a result, the Colts young receivers are going to earn more playing time. Moncrief is a fine complement to T.Y. Hilton and we expect a major bounce back from Andrew Luck and Co. in Nashville. Moncrief is a good GPP play.

Brandon Marshall is anything but washed up. At age 31, he is still a headache to cover even with less than stellar play from his quarterback. With Eric Decker and Ivory hobbled, Marshall will be the focal point for both Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Eagles defense. We’re not overly concerned with either and will happily secure his loss-leader services for $7,400.

There is a lot of speculation that Peyton Manning doesn’t have the natural arm strength he used to and is forcing throws because of it. Whether or not that it is true (it certainly looks like it), Emmanuel Sanders is leading the team in targets, receptions and touchdowns. He gets a decent matchup in Detroit Sunday night. But for $300 more, we’d rather plug in Demaryius Thomas and fade the crowd in the process.  

The way to beat the Browns is on the ground. So where we love Murray, we hate Amari Cooper. The rookie has played well through his first couple of games as pro, and is beginning to develop chemistry with his quarterback. But the looming matchup with Joe Haden has us less confident that Cooper will hit tournament value, especially when we can plug in Fitzgerald is $200 cheaper.

tight ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Rob Gronkowski $8400 JAC@NE 32.3 Kyle Rudolph $5300 SD@MIN 1.6
Tyler Eifert $5900 CIN@BAL 11.8 Jared Cook $5400 PIT@STL 1.2
Travis Kelce $6400 KC@GB 6.2 Martellus Bennett $5600 CHI@SEA 1
Jimmy Graham $6300 CHI@SEA 5.3 Ladarius Green $5600 SD@MIN 1
Greg Olsen $5900 NO@CAR 5 Vernon Davis $5400 SF@ARI 0.9
Heath Miller $5800 PIT@STL 4.1 Jason Witten $6000 ATL@DAL 0.7
Crockett Gillmore $5400 CIN@BAL 3.6 Zach Ertz $5200 PHI@NYJ 0.4
Eric Ebron $5100 DEN@DET 3.1 Delanie Walker $5200 IND@TEN 0.2
Richard Rodgers $4900 KC@GB 2.1 Jordan Cameron $5400 BUF@MIA 0.1

Like all the other skill positions, a Patriot is the highest owned tight end. There is never a good time to fade Rob Gronkowski. Consider him a permanent loss leader.

Next most popular is tight end is Tyler Eifert, who is only 10 points behind Gronkowski in the standings through two weeks. Eifert has emerged as a top option in the Bengals offense, leading the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. This week he takes the road to Baltimore in a tough matchup against a division rival. The Ravens have allowed only 30 yards through two games to tight ends, but they haven’t faced anyone of note. We’ll never fade a player because of his popularity, but this contest doesn’t promise much for scoring, so we might be better off looking at other options in this price range.

After a great showing in Week 1, Travis Kelce managed just 58 yards and failed to score in Week 2. If Alex Smith wants to keep up in Green Bay Monday night, he’ll have to be both efficient and aggressive. A victory for the Chiefs will come via Kelce and Charles.

But for $100 less, we can buy into the Seahawks offense with a grumpy Jimmy Graham. We’ll see how this team handles an unhappy star player against a weak opponent. His exposure of 5.3 percent isn’t prohibitive. His $6,300 salary could scare off most of the crowd, but Graham is always a threat to score multiple touchdowns. He’ll have plenty of opportunities against he Bears.

kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Stephen Gostkowski $5000 JAC@NE 11.1 Steven Hauschka $5000 CHI@SEA 2.2
Brandon McManus $4900 DEN@DET 10.1 Andrew Franks $4500 BUF@MIA 1.8
Matt Bryant $4800 ATL@DAL 7 Graham Gano $4700 NO@CAR 1.5
Mason Crosby $5000 KC@GB 4.4 Josh Scobee $4600 PIT@STL 1.5
Justin Tucker $5000 CIN@BAL 3.6 Mike Nugent $4800 CIN@BAL 1.2
Robbie Gould $4800 CHI@SEA 3.5 Travis Coons $4500 OAK@CLE 1.1
Nick Folk $4600 PHI@NYJ 3.5 Adam Vinatieri $4900 IND@TEN 1
Dan Bailey $5000 ATL@DAL 2.7 Greg Zuerlein $4800 PIT@STL 0.9
Chandler Catanzaro $4700 SF@ARI 2.3 Randy Bullock $4800 TB@HOU 0.5

Kickers can be a bit of a secret weapon as they can hit tournament value without much opportunity. Last week, Stephen Gostkowski hit 3x value and Justin Tucker came close. There’s no reason to overthink ownership percentages at this position. But if you can identify a low-owned, underpriced option in a plus matchup, then it’s a great idea to fade the crowd.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

New York Jets $4500 PHI@NYJ 17 Cleveland Browns $4600 OAK@CLE 2.4
Seattle Seahawks $5300 CHI@SEA 14.4 Pittsburgh Steelers $4400 PIT@STL 2.3
Denver Broncos $4600 DEN@DET 11.1 Green Bay Packers $4600 KC@GB 1.1
New England Patriots $4700 JAC@NE 10.7 Oakland Raiders $4300 OAK@CLE 0.8
Carolina Panthers $4600 NO@CAR 8.2 Miami Dolphins $4600 BUF@MIA 0.7
Arizona Cardinals $4700 SF@ARI 4.9 Baltimore Ravens $4600 CIN@BAL 0.5
Atlanta Falcons $4300 ATL@DAL 3.7 Cincinnati Bengals $4600 CIN@BAL 0.5
Houston Texans $5000 TB@HOU 3.1 Indianapolis Colts $4500 IND@TEN 0.4
Buffalo Bills $4500 BUF@MIA 2.8 Minnesota Vikings $4400 SD@MIN 0.4

The New York Jets are going to destroy the Eagles offensive line. In fact, things could get ugly even if Darrelle Revis is banged up. But let’s not underestimate Chip Kelly’s ability to game plan around weaknesses. It’ll be hard to say no to the Jets friendly price tag, but the chalk plays on defense didn’t work out last week (Rams and Dolphins combined for four points).  

Even though the Seahawks will cost us $800 more, they may be the best play on the board. The Bears offense is worth targeting every week even when Jay Cutler is starting. This week they’re rolling into Seattle with Jimmy Clausen. There’s not much else to say.

If you want to fade the crowd and pivot away from the Jets, the Broncos have a great defense—even on the road. It’s unclear whether or not Matthew Stafford is gong to play, but it almost doesn’t matter. The Lions offense is averaging 22 points per game and has turned the ball over five times.