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The Fade: FanDuel Week 4

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

When we say Week 3 was one of the highest scoring weeks in fantasy football history, we’re not merely being romantic. There were 15 players, not including quarterbacks, that had multi touchdown games, five of which found the end zone three times. As such, the cash line for last week’s Sunday Million was 151.2 points, a 29 percent increase from the 116.64-point cash line in Week 2. You needed 158.9 points just to double your investment, and 252.1 to take down the top prize.

That’s the GPP lifestyle in a nutshell: one week 180 points puts your roster in the top 20 with a respectable $7,500 payday. The next week it’s worth only $70.

The unpredictable nature of football is what keeps us guessing and keeps the playing field even. Not a single game last week had an over/under above 50 points, and only four had an over/under of 47 or more. Yet nine games hit the over, four of which combined for at least 64 points. Outliers will happen. And we’re in the business of chasing them. But our process can’t predict when A.J. Green is going to have the biggest fantasy day of his career. Just like it can’t predict injuries or fluky tipped-ball touchdowns (we’re looking at you Rueben Randle). It can, however, give us a compass to help navigate the unpredictable landscape of large tournaments.

If you’re new around here, you may be wondering what that process entails. Below is an excerpt from “A Contrarian’s Guide to DFS”, which details our tournament strategy. Data and analysis for Week 4 follows.

The Fade: Balancing Chalk Plays and Loss Leaders

Every good tournament strategy is comprised of three basic components: projecting ownership percentages, fading popular plays, and identifying contrarian plays.

The concept of fading a player is basic: you identify a player the crowd is hot on—whether it be because of his matchup or salary or both—and you fade that player in hopes of creating a unique lineup. You will have done this successfully if the players you chose outscores the player you faded.

Thursday night ownership percentages provide a great foundation for that strategy. The numbers aren’t perfect but they do give us a map of groupthink. Chances are, if Rob Gronkowski is 38% owned in GPPs that include the Thursday night game, he will have similar exposure in the Sunday/Monday GPPs. The numbers for Week 4 are charted below and broken down by position.

But as helpful as they may be, it’s important to take a logical approach. We will never fade a player just because he is highly owned. That’s a bad strategy and not something we will ever advocate. We fade players because we don’t think they are as good of a play as everyone else does, regardless of their exposure.

This is where the idea of loss leaders comes into focus. A loss leader is exactly what it sounds like—a player that will be in our lineups even though he might be highly owned. If Gronkowski is playing the league’s worst defense and is projected to score a healthy amount of points, we want him in our lineups even if he is 40% owned. He’s a loss leader in this situation. We’re not getting a jump on the crowd by using him, but we’re not falling behind the crowd either. It’s better to be in the 40% of lineups that stand to benefit from his projected points than the 60% of lineups that chased a less desirable option.

Beyond exposure, the fade strategy includes avoiding bad matchups, avoiding bad game scripts, and avoiding questionable injury situations. These are the fundamentals, and when combined with projected points and projected ownership percentages, we have a great recipe for building successful tournament lineups.

On to Week 4:

 quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Aaron Rodgers $9200 GB@SF 19 Peyton Manning $8200 MIN@DEN 2.3
Andy Dalton $7600 KC@CIN 11.6 Eli Manning $7800 NYG@BUF 0.8
Derek Carr $7000 OAK@CHI 11.5 Sam Bradford $7100 PHI@WAS 0.8
Cam Newton $8300 CAR@TB 11.2 Blake Bortles $6800 JAC@IND 0.7
Tyrod Taylor $7600 NYG@BUF 8.8 Brandon Weeden $6400 DAL@NO 0.5
Matt Ryan $8400 HOU@ATL 5 Kirk Cousins $6100 PHI@WAS 0.5
Carson Palmer $8200 STL@ARI 5 Ryan Mallett $6300 HOU@ATL 0.4
Philip Rivers $7400 CLE@SD 2.9 Colin Kaepernick $7500 GB@SF 0.3
Andrew Luck $9100 JAC@IND 2.7 Drew Brees $8400 DAL@NO 0.1
Russell Wilson $8200 DET@SEA 2.3 Josh McCown $6400 CLE@SD 0.1

It’s no surprise to see Aaron Rodgers as our most popular quarterback. After a five-touchdown performance last week, he now is the highest scoring player in all of fantasy. He’s also the second most expensive player on the board in Week 4. But nonetheless, he travels to San Francisco this Sunday to face a defense that poses no threat, and all but promises three more touchdowns and a bushel of yards. This contest has the highest projected over/under of the week with the Packers heavy favorites (-8.5). So there is a possibility that the game script favors clock-grinding via the ground game for Rodgers and Co., but until we see them actually take their foot off of the gas, he’s loss leader material.

Perhaps the biggest surprise through three weeks is Andy Dalton’s stellar player and third place ranking among quarterbacks. He is averaging 288 yards per game and has thrown eight touchdowns to just one interception. This week he hosts a team that just allowed Rodgers to pile on 300 plus yards and five scores. As such, no team has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks all season. Really, the matchup is as good as you’ll find but if there’s a reason to fade Dalton, it’s his $7,600 salary. That’s not a lot for a QB1, per se, but there are plenty of good options in the bargain bin. They’re risky options, but so is Dalton. At any point, Turn Over Andy could show up and hand the game, and your roster, to the competition.

And besides, for $600 less you could go with everyone’s favorite waiver wire player in Derek Carr. No question, both come with risk, but Carr and the Raiders have been playing better than anyone could have guessed. He has developed a great connection with Amari Cooper, and even Michael Crabtree, who is the 10th highest targeted player in the league. If you need more evidence that this team has become fertile for fantasy points, when was the last time the Raiders were road favorites? The answer, according to Oddsshark.com, is September 16th 2012. They were road favorites against Miami by 1.5 points. And, of course, lost 35-13. This week they are three point favorites in Chicago. The Bears haven’t allowed much for passing yards. In fact, they rank fourth in the fewest yards allowed to quarterbacks. They also rank second in the most touchdowns allowed to quarterbacks. Oh, and they just traded away two of their best pass rushers. Make no mistake, this team is easy to throw on and even easier to run on. This tells us that as nice as it looks on paper for Carr suitors, there is a concern that the volume won’t be there and the running game does all the work. He’ll need 21 points to reach tournament value. That’s well within reach but we’ll need the Bears offense to generate some volume, just as the Browns did last week. That said, for $7,000, he may be the best value among quarterbacks.

Without Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers are the Jacksonville Jaguars but worse. Newton has earned his fair share of criticism over the years, spending time on and off waivers in fantasy leagues thanks, in part, to consistency issues. What’s clear is that he is the entire offense: quarterback between the 20s, and goal line back in the red zone. His ceiling is everything we’re looking for in tournaments. His salary, however, is prohibitive. The Buccaneers have allowed an average of 19.5 points to opposing quarterbacks. Some of that is a result of competition. A broken Drew Brees and inconsistent Ryan Mallett will make any defense look good. But even if the Panthers are road favorites, the over/under is lowest of the week with just 40 expected points. For $8,300, we can do better.

running backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Karlos Williams $6300 NYG@BUF 26 Thomas Rawls $6000 DET@SEA 1.8
Latavius Murray $7500 OAK@CHI 23.6 Alfred Blue $6400 HOU@ATL 1.6
Joseph Randle $7400 DAL@NO 19.4 T.J. Yeldon $6400 JAC@IND 1.3
Devonta Freeman $7200 HOU@ATL 15.5 C.J. Anderson $6900 MIN@DEN 0.9
Jamaal Charles $8700 KC@CIN 9 Jeremy Hill $6700 KC@CIN 0.8
Matt Forte $8300 OAK@CHI 8.5 Jonathan Stewart $6300 CAR@TB 0.7
Frank Gore $7300 JAC@IND 7.7 Ameer Abdullah $6100 DET@SEA 0.7
Chris Johnson $6700 STL@ARI 6.1 DeMarco Murray $7600 PHI@WAS 0.4
Eddie Lacy $7800 GB@SF 5.8 Isaiah Crowell $6400 CLE@SD 0.4
Melvin Gordon $6800 CLE@SD 5 Alfred Morris $6200 PHI@WAS 0.4
Darren Sproles $6000 PHI@WAS 5 C.J. Spiller $5500 DAL@NO 0.4
Adrian Peterson $9000 MIN@DEN 4.4 Marshawn Lynch $8600 DET@SEA 0.3
Lance Dunbar $5600 DAL@NO 3.4 Doug Martin $6400 CAR@TB 0.3
Danny Woodhead $6100 CLE@SD 3.1 Shane Vereen $5800 NYG@BUF 0.3
Mark Ingram $8100 DAL@NO 2.8 Ronnie Hillman $6300 MIN@DEN 0.2
Carlos Hyde $7400 GB@SF 2.1 Khiry Robinson $4800 DAL@NO 0.2
Ryan Mathews $5900 PHI@WAS 2.1 Andre Ellington $7000 STL@ARI 0.1
Matt Jones $6300 PHI@WAS 2 Fred Jackson $6100 DET@SEA 0.1
Giovani Bernard $6700 KC@CIN 1.8 Todd Gurley $5900 STL@ARI 0.1

Everyone’s sweetheart this week, in daily and seasonal alike, is Karlos Williams. He has scored a touchdown in every game this season and finally has the backfield all to himself thanks to LeSean McCoy’s bum hamstring. Even if McCoy does somehow remain active for Sunday, he’s no threat to Williams usage and goal line work. The Bills have seen an offensive surge thanks to Tyrod Taylor, ranking 12th in total yards and third in total points. The net result of which is them fielding two running backs that currently rank 14th (Williams) and 18th (McCoy) in PPR standings. Pay Williams’ $6,300 salary and pay no mind to his exposure.

As mentioned, we’ll gladly target the Bears defense every week at every position. Latavius Murray has averaged 18.2 points per game in a rare non RBBC backfield. He’s the fourth highest owned player and we don’t even care. Only six teams have allowed more rushing yards than the Bears, and the Raiders offensive line is turning out to be one of the best lines in football. Murray should have no trouble justifying his $7,500 price tag.

Joseph Randle is our third most popular running back. You may be familiar with the concept of recency bias. After turning 14 carries into 87 yards and three touchdowns, Randle recently becomes a good play. Unless, of course, you can see the forest for the trees. And Matt Harmon says:

 

Exactly. Let the crowd pay his $7,400 salary and chase outliers in an offense that’s being led by Brandon Weeden and keeps a fairly even rotation in snaps counts for their running backs. Easy fade.

Fading Devonta Freeman isn’t as easy. Even with Julio Jones absorbing the majority of attention, Freeman exploded with 193 total yards on 30 carries and five receptions for three touchdowns. The Texans defense is a lot stiffer than the team the Falcons faced last week, but at home, Freeman should put together a decent afternoon with no threat to his usage.

The Cincinnati Bengals have yet to allow a rushing touchdown, but have allowed the second most receiving yards to running backs and two receiving touchdowns. Jamaal Charles’ ownership percentage would be in the double digits if not for his tough $8,700 salary. But he is the fifth most popular back and we can’t fault the crowd. If you’re paying up for a ball carrier, he is by far the best option.

Chris Johnson has pushed his way into 6.1 percent of lineups. He has been playing well and benefitting from one of the best offenses in the league. His salary has yet to reflect either of those things. As much as we’d love to fade him, for $6,700 it’ll be hard to find a better option in a better situation. The Rams have allowed the sixth most points to running backs, getting beat up on the ground and through the air.

Another week, another strong showing from Darren Sproles. He just missed on a huge play that would have likely been a third score for him last week after an uncharacteristic drop. His salary is still as cheap as they come so the crowd will continue to employ his services. But missed plays aside, his offensive output last week wasn’t great—just 36 yards on 11 carries and four receptions. His rushing touchdown was the result of Jordan Matthews being stopped about an inch short of the goal line. Typically, those carries go to Ryan Mathews. His other touchdown was an 89-yard punt return. This week he travels to Washington to face a team that has allowed the fewest rushing yards, and seventh fewest receiving yards to backs, along with only one touchdown. We’ll fade Sproles even if his salary is enticing.

wide receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

James Jones $6000 GB@SF 28 Golden Tate $6600 DET@SEA 1
Larry Fitzgerald $7400 STL@ARI 27.1 Terrance Williams $5900 DAL@NO 1
Julio Jones $9400 HOU@ATL 22.9 John Brown $5800 STL@ARI 1
A.J. Green $8400 KC@CIN 22.6 Ty Montgomery $4700 GB@SF 1
Amari Cooper $7200 OAK@CHI 20.3 Allen Hurns $5300 JAC@IND 0.8
Randall Cobb $8200 GB@SF 19.7 Brandin Cooks $7000 DAL@NO 0.7
Donte Moncrief $6300 JAC@IND 11.3 Anquan Boldin $6400 GB@SF 0.6
Keenan Allen $7700 CLE@SD 8 Leonard Hankerson $5600 HOU@ATL 0.6
DeAndre Hopkins $7900 HOU@ATL 7.6 Nate Washington $5200 HOU@ATL 0.6
T.Y. Hilton $7600 JAC@IND 7.5 Cole Beasley $5200 DAL@NO 0.6
Emmanuel Sanders $7900 MIN@DEN 7.2 Vincent Jackson $6800 CAR@TB 0.5
Demaryius Thomas $8500 MIN@DEN 5.8 Roddy White $5600 HOU@ATL 0.5
Odell Beckham Jr. $9100 NYG@BUF 5.3 Jermaine Kearse $5600 DET@SEA 0.4
Allen Robinson $6500 JAC@IND 5 Willie Snead $4700 DAL@NO 0.4
Jordan Matthews $7000 PHI@WAS 4.5 Robert Woods $5400 NYG@BUF 0.3
Percy Harvin $5700 NYG@BUF 4.3 Malcom Floyd $5400 CLE@SD 0.3
Jeremy Maclin $6500 KC@CIN 4 Andre Johnson $5400 JAC@IND 0.3
Marvin Jones $5500 KC@CIN 3.9 Alshon Jeffery $7600 OAK@CHI 0.2
Travis Benjamin $6000 CLE@SD 3.8 Torrey Smith $6200 GB@SF 0.2
Michael Crabtree $5800 OAK@CHI 3.5 Marques Colston $5400 DAL@NO 0.2
Ted Ginn Jr. $5500 CAR@TB 2.3 Mike Wallace $5400 MIN@DEN 0.2
Steve Johnson $5800 CLE@SD 1.7 Phillip Dorsett $5400 JAC@IND 0.2
Mike Evans $7500 CAR@TB 1.6 Cecil Shorts $5300 HOU@ATL 0.2
Pierre Garcon $6100 PHI@WAS 1.4 Michael Floyd $5000 STL@ARI 0.2
Rueben Randle $5700 NYG@BUF 1.4 Nelson Agholor $4900 PHI@WAS 0.2
Doug Baldwin $5700 DET@SEA 1.4 Kenny Britt $5600 STL@ARI 0.1
Calvin Johnson $8100 DET@SEA 1 Brandon Coleman $5000 DAL@NO 0.1

Go figure. James Jones signed with the Packers one week before their first game, and here he is in Week 4, ranking eight among wide receivers and first in popularity. There’s not much to overthink. Injuries have paved the way for him to be Rodgers’ No. 2 and Jones had flourished in that role. For $6,000, you won’t find more value. Chalk him up as a loss leader.

After all those years of horrible quarterback play, Larry Fitzgerald is finally getting what he deserves: targets and touchdowns. He ranks third in fantasy points and is easily Carson Palmer’s go-to. This week the matchup gets a little tougher. The Rams have allowed only one touchdown to receivers and the fifth fewest yards. That’s not to say their secondary should be avoided for fantasy purposes. They’ve hardly been tested in that category. It’s more a reflection of how teams are attacking them. Their defensive front is vulnerable to running backs of all shapes and sizes, especially those that can catch. The Cardinals have a solid group with Johnson and Johnson, and may even get Andre Ellington back from the infirmary. They are more than a touchdown favorite in this contest, which looks to us like Palmer won’t be needed as much. Same goes for Fitzgerald. We won’t blame the crowd for paying his reasonable price tag since he’s such a major part of the offense, but don’t be surprised if he falls short of tournament value.  

With each passing week, it becomes more and more obvious that Julio Jones is the best receiver in the league. If you’re into extrapolations, he is on pace for 181 receptions, 2,346 yards and 21 touchdowns. Clearly historic numbers. But we’re not into extrapolations around here. We’re into regression. What goes up must come down. We’re not saying Jones is going to crash and burn. But a return to Earth is going to happen at some point. Thanks to being the focal point of the offense, he is dealing with a litany of injuries, from his hamstrings to his toes. The Texans pass rush may flatten Matt Ryan, causing the offense to go underneath. We love Jones more than you love your own family, but this is a good week to fade both his $9,400 salary (the most of all players), and his heavy exposure.

A.J. Green scored the most fantasy points of any game he has played since joining the league in 2011. This week he gets a defense that just allowed five touchdowns to three different receivers, bringing their 2015 total to a league-leading 10. But we won’t chase outliers when it comes to the Bengals offense for the same reason we’re a little bearish in regards to Dalton. For $8,400, Green will need something along the lines of 100 yards and two touchdowns to provide tournament value. Let the crowd chase that.

Making a strong case for Rookie of the Year, Amari Cooper has seen double digit targets in his last two games, and converted those targets into 15 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown. This week he gets a Bears defense who, as mentioned, are down a pair of pass rushers and already bad at football. If you’re ignoring Carr’s ownership, you might as well ignore Cooper’s as well. We’ll just add that the shark play is Crabtree.

There’s no evidence that Randall Cobb should be faded in any given week. His salary hasn’t seen a spike, despite his performance, and he’s a better/cheaper option than Green. We wont’ expect three touchdowns, but against the 49ers, we won’t rule it out either.

Things haven’t gone well for the Colts through three games this season. It’s clear Andre Johnson is washed up. Andrew Luck is banged up. Frank Gore has screwed up. But through all of that, Donte Moncrief has scored a touchdown in three straight games and leads the team in receptions. Desperate for a statement game, Luck and Co. are back home to host a bad division rival and the second highest over/under of the week. For $6,300, all Moncrief needs to come close to tournament value is to maintain his average of 5.6 receptions, 67 yards and one touchdown per game. That’s not too much to ask of a Jaguars secondary that has allowed an average 23.5 points to receivers. We’ll ignore his ownership in favor of a good matchup and low price-point. (note that he becomes a liability should Luck be ruled out)

tight ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Greg Olsen $6300 CAR@TB 23.2 Richard Rodgers $4900 GB@SF 1.8
Charles Clay $5200 NYG@BUF 11.8 Owen Daniels $4600 MIN@DEN 1.8
Jordan Reed $5600 PHI@WAS 11 Gary Barnidge $5000 CLE@SD 1.5
Martellus Bennett $5500 OAK@CHI 8.5 Kyle Rudolph $5000 MIN@DEN 1.1
Tyler Eifert $5700 KC@CIN 7.4 Zach Ertz $5200 PHI@WAS 0.6
Jimmy Graham $6600 DET@SEA 6.2 Larry Donnell $5200 NYG@BUF 0.5
Jason Witten $6000 DAL@NO 6.1 Jared Cook $5400 STL@ARI 0.4
Travis Kelce $6400 KC@CIN 5.5 Jermaine Gresham $5300 STL@ARI 0.3
Eric Ebron $5100 DET@SEA 2.4 Ladarius Green $5600 CLE@SD 0.2

There are a few factors that explain Greg Olsen’s popularity. The first is that Gronkowski is on a bye. The second is that Olsen finally exploded in Week 3 as Newton’s favorite target—something we’ve expected all season long. The third is that he is basically a low-cost wide receiver that you play in the tight end spot. He should be good for his usual double digit targets and a score, even if the matchup is less than friendly.

But if there is a reason to fade Olsen, it’s Charles Clay. The Bills offense ranks third in points scored thanks to the emergence of Taylor. Clay may rank third in team targets, but he’s second in receiving yards and his two touchdowns are more than any other player outside of quarterback. The Giants have allowed the third most yards to tight ends, to go along with three scores. We’ll gladly ignore his somewhat high exposure and take the $1,100 discount gives us from Olsen.

Until DeSean Jackson returns, and even when he does return, Jordan Reed is going to get fed by Captain Kirk. Only Gronkowski has more targets and only Jason Witten has more receptions. Reed ranks third in yards and gets a defense this week that has allowed the third most yards to tight ends. It’s impossible to fade him, despite his ownership.

We can fade Tyler Eifert, simply because both Reed and Clay provide the same upside but cheaper. The same can be said for Jimmy Graham. Until we see him become apart of that offense in the same way Olsen is a part of the Panthers offense, there isn’t a reason to pay his $6,600 salary.

 Kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Brandon McManus $4900 MIN@DEN 10.6 Adam Vinatieri $4900 JAC@IND 3.1
Matt Bryant $4800 HOU@ATL 9.8 Chandler Catanzaro $4800 STL@ARI 2.6
Josh Brown $4800 NYG@BUF 8.7 Dan Bailey $5000 DAL@NO 2.5
Mason Crosby $5000 GB@SF 7.9 Dan Carpenter $4700 NYG@BUF 2.4
Steven Hauschka $5100 DET@SEA 6.8 Mike Nugent $4700 KC@CIN 2.2
Josh Lambo $4500 CLE@SD 6 Zach Hocker $4500 DAL@NO 2
Robbie Gould $4600 OAK@CHI 4.7 Cairo Santos $4600 KC@CIN 0.9
Sebastian Janikowski $4800 OAK@CHI 4.3 Dustin Hopkins $4700 PHI@WAS 0.4
Graham Gano $4700 CAR@TB 3.4 Randy Bullock $4700 HOU@ATL 0.3

As always, we don’t want to overthink kickers. It’s generally favorable to move away from the crowd. As such Brandon McManus should be avoided. Although, it’s worth noting that the Vikngs defense is better than they get credit for, which could create field goal opportunities. But there are a ton of good options this week, enough to fade McManus.

Matt Bryant is in the same situation. The Texans defense could do enough to slow down the Falcons eighth ranked offense and create volume for Bryant in the process. But we’d rather fade the crowd and chase lower owned options.

defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Arizona Cardinals $5000 STL@ARI 19.6 Atlanta Falcons $4200 HOU@ATL 3.1
Denver Broncos $4700 MIN@DEN 15.4 San Diego Chargers $4400 CLE@SD 1.9
Carolina Panthers $4800 CAR@TB 8.9 Dallas Cowboys $4500 DAL@NO 1.8
Seattle Seahawks $5300 DET@SEA 8.4 Cincinnati Bengals $4700 KC@CIN 0.9
Green Bay Packers $4700 GB@SF 6.4 Kansas City Chiefs $4300 KC@CIN 0.7
Philadelphia Eagles $4500 PHI@WAS 4 Houston Texans $4900 HOU@ATL 0.3
Oakland Raiders $4500 OAK@CHI 3.9 Cleveland Browns $4600 CLE@SD 0.3
Buffalo Bills $4800 NYG@BUF 3.7 Minnesota Vikings $4400 MIN@DEN 0.3
Indianapolis Colts $4400 JAC@IND 3.3 New Orleans Saints $4500 DAL@NO 0.2

The Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos are the chalk plays this week, and both are great options. Between the two we prefer the Broncos since they save us $300 and project to score more points.

We can fade the Panthers since they’re banged up and most of their production has been the result of facing three bad offenses. The Buccaneers have yet to find a rhythm and it’s likely Jameis Winston sends a few passes into the hands of Josh Norman that could go for six. But we’d still rather chalk it up and go with the Broncos, Cardinals or Seahawks.