The Fade: FanDuel Week 7

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

You know, you’d think we’d learn our lesson. Trusting a Bill Belichick running back has never panned out. After a few good games, Dion Lewis was the crowd favorite last week. Naturally, he touched the ball only seven times for 39 total yards. Gross.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need to fade the crowd when there’s even a mere hint of doubt. To be fair, last week in this space we plugged Lewis as a fade in favor of his teammate. But things won’t always be that clear. The leaderboard of fantasy point producers will typically see high exposure most weeks. We can’t ignore those players just because of their ownership percentages, but finding lesser-owned options with similar results is how tournaments are won.   

As such, we’ll continue with business as usual. The numbers presented below are taken from a Thursday night GPP. They, in no way, are meant to be used as the basis of your strategy. We use them to get a snapshot of groupthink. Even without the tangible data provided by Thursday GPPs, we’d still be able to project ownership percentages with a high level of accuracy. These numbers simply serve as confirmation.

Again, 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.

On to Week 7:

Quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Carson Palmer $8200 BAL@ARI 17.2 Andrew Luck $8900 NO@IND 4.1
Philip Rivers $8000 OAK@SD 16.7 Landry Jones $6000 PIT@KC 3.9
Cam Newton $8100 PHI@CAR 6.7 Drew Brees $8400 NO@IND 2.7
Matthew Stafford $7400 MIN@DET 6 Ryan Fitzpatrick $7100 NYJ@NE 2.1
Tom Brady $9000 NYJ@NE 5.2 Eli Manning $7800 DAL@NYG 1.7
Brian Hoyer $6900 HOU@MIA 4.7 Ryan Tannehill $7700 HOU@MIA 1.4
Matt Ryan $8100 ATL@TEN 4.4 Matt Cassel $6400 DAL@NYG 1

Only three quarterbacks have thrown for more yards than Carson Palmer, and only Aaron Rodgers has thrown more touchdowns. Palmer, our most popular passer as of Thursday night, has a cake matchup this week against the visiting Ravens, who have given up the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. When fading quarterbacks, or any position, we have to be sure that we can get similar production from a cheaper player. Or better production from a more expensive/lesser owned player. Both of those options are available to us this week. Palmer is likely to put up nice numbers. In fact, he’ll be a top-5 option. But his team is a heavy 10-point favorite, and we’ve seen Bruce Arians pull his starters once already this year when the game was put away. We can’t expect the Ravens to push this offense, which may turn to the running game to close things out.

Here is where Philip Rivers finished in the rankings during the first three weeks of the season: 8th, 23rd and 23rd. Here is where he has ranked in the last three weeks: first, eighth and second. His salary, after he dumped 500 yards on the Packers last week, has jumped $500 and his exposure is at an all-time high. On paper, he has a decent matchup against the visiting Raiders. The over/under is scheduled for 46.5 points, which doesn’t exactly inspire a touchdown-fest but is healthy enough to provide plenty of offense. The key is determining how game plans shake out. If we’re the Raiders—fresh off of bye and trying to snap a two-game losing streak—we would go clock control with a heavy dose of Latavius Murray. The Chargers have one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. If the Raiders successfully win the time of possession battle, expecting Rivers to attempt 40-plus passes would be foolish. As much as we love the fact that he has his favorite tight end back (who is dealing with a knee issue), there are better options in his price range. And besides, if you’re going to expose your lineup with a top-owned quarterback, it might as well be Palmer.

Without Cam Newton, the Panthers are a bad version of the Jaguars. He has silenced a lot of critics through six weeks and ranks seventh among quarterbacks in FanDuel points scored. His threat as a rusher keeps his floor afloat: 37 percent of his fantasy points have come from rushing. Just to give us perspective, without those points he becomes Nick Foles and ranks below Bryan Hoyer at 29th overall. Newton’s completion percentage of 55.4 ranks 32nd, his 1,078 passing yards rank 26th, and for every one touchdown completion, he throws .5 interceptions. In short, if a defense were to somehow execute a game plan that forces him to throw instead of run, his fantasy return would be in ruins. We can’t say for sure the Eagles will be capable of that. They haven’t faced a quarterback with mobility. We can say that Chip Kelly is familiar with mobile quarterbacks and should have an idea of how to defend against them. In any case, the Panthers defense is going to beat the Eagles in what might be a low scoring game. We’ll fade his $8,100 salary.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Devonta Freeman $8700 ATL@TEN 49.4 DeMarco Murray $7600 PHI@CAR 2.3
Todd Gurley $7400 CLE@STL 35 Dion Lewis $7000 NYJ@NE 2.2
Doug Martin $7200 TB@WAS 14.5 Chris Johnson $6900 BAL@ARI 2.2
Christopher Ivory $7800 NYJ@NE 12.6 Justin Forsett $7100 BAL@ARI 1.1
Le\'Veon Bell $8900 PIT@KC 7.4 Jonathan Stewart $6700 PHI@CAR 1.1
Lamar Miller $6700 HOU@MIA 6.4 Rashad Jennings $6300 DAL@NYG 0.8
Latavius Murray $7000 OAK@SD 6.1 Charles Sims $5700 TB@WAS 0.8
Danny Woodhead $6000 OAK@SD 5.8 Alfred Morris $5600 TB@WAS 0.5
LeGarrette Blount $6800 NYJ@NE 5.3 Melvin Gordon $6500 OAK@SD 0.4
Frank Gore $7100 NO@IND 4.4 Charcandrick West $5900 PIT@KC 0.4
Mark Ingram $7600 NO@IND 4.1 Andre Ellington $5200 BAL@ARI 0.4
Adrian Peterson $8900 MIN@DET 4 Ameer Abdullah $5700 MIN@DET 0.3
Arian Foster $8600 HOU@MIA 2.9 Duke Johnson $5600 CLE@STL 0.2
Christine Michael $5600 DAL@NYG 2.8        

Devonta Freeman is on pace for a record-setting season. He’s about to set a DFS record in Week 7. At 49.4 percent, he is the highest owned player since we started tracking numbers. Should that figure hold up in Sunday-Monday contests, it will be, by far, the most exposed any player has ever been in any large-field tournament. It’s hard to fade a guy that has scored at least 32 points over the last four weeks. This week he gets the Titans, who haven’t been tested by a solid rushing attack yet this season and just made Lamar Miller look like Adrian Peterson. Regardless, Freeman’s heavy exposure and price tag of $8,700 goes against everything we target in a GPP back. We never want to fade a player just because of his ownership, but we’ll make a special case for Freeman this week and do just that.

It will be a lot harder to make a case for fading Todd Gurley. He has received a full workload over his last two games, carrying the ball 49 times for 305 yards. The yards should come easy against the Browns this week. They’ve surrendered the most rushing and receiving yards to running backs and the eighth most fantasy points per touch. Where they have been stingy is in the end zone, having allowed only five total touchdowns, which ranks right around the league average. Gurley has yet to find the end zone in his professional career. We think that changes this week. His exposure sets him up as a loss leader. We can’t ignore his luscious matchup and friendly $7,400 salary.  

Our next most popular running back has been a man on fire his last couple of games, racking up 301 total yards and four touchdowns. Only Freeman has more fantasy points over that same period (Week 4 and Week 5). This week Doug Martin travels to Washington to take on a rushing defense that started hot this season but has allowed 64.1 fantasy points over their last two games. We should take note of the style of runners having success against this defense. Freeman being one of them. Chris Ivory being the other. Do you see a pattern? Freeman is harder to explain (his entire season is difficult to understand), but Ivory is a hard nose bruiser that enjoys contacts and blasts defenders. As such, he ranks third in yards after contact this season. We’ve seen elements of that in Martin’s game. Over his last two he ranks fourth in yards after contact. He’s short and stalky but explosive, hence his nickname, Muscle Hamster, which he hates. So he came up with a better one: Dougernaut. But we shouldn’t worry about his name and focus on the fact that he could disappoint this week, despite his recent play. Neither of these offenses are built for high-scoring affairs. As such, the over/under is set at a middling 42.5 points with Washington favored to win. It’ll be hard to bypass his friendly salary but Dougernaut isn’t guaranteed much in a game that the Buccaneers may be forced to throw. That said, his $7,200 salary is hard to ignore.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Martavis Bryant $6900 PIT@KC 28.8 Tavon Austin $5800 CLE@STL 3.3
Larry Fitzgerald $7800 BAL@ARI 28.2 Danny Amendola $5400 NYJ@NE 3.1
DeAndre Hopkins $9200 HOU@MIA 24.8 Odell Beckham Jr. $9000 DAL@NYG 3
John Brown $6700 BAL@ARI 17.9 Rishard Matthews $6400 HOU@MIA 2.9
Stefon Diggs $5800 MIN@DET 14.5 Vincent Jackson $6800 TB@WAS 2.8
Donte Moncrief $6500 NO@IND 11.7 Mike Evans $7500 TB@WAS 2.7
Travis Benjamin $6600 CLE@STL 11.2 Michael Crabtree $5900 OAK@SD 2.7
Julio Jones $9100 ATL@TEN 9.7 Brandin Cooks $6700 NO@IND 2.6
Julian Edelman $8000 NYJ@NE 9.4 Ted Ginn Jr. $5300 PHI@CAR 2.5
Calvin Johnson $8400 MIN@DET 9 Michael Floyd $4900 BAL@ARI 2.2
T.Y. Hilton $7700 NO@IND 8.8 Golden Tate $6700 MIN@DET 1.8
Jarvis Landry $7100 HOU@MIA 8.6 Terrance Williams $5900 DAL@NYG 1.5
Amari Cooper $7300 OAK@SD 8.3 Kendall Wright $5700 ATL@TEN 1.4
Steve Smith $6900 BAL@ARI 8.2 Jordan Matthews $6600 PHI@CAR 1.1
Brandon Marshall $8200 NYJ@NE 8 Mike Wallace $5400 MIN@DET 1
Eric Decker $6200 NYJ@NE 7.6 Leonard Hankerson $5700 ATL@TEN 0.8
Antonio Brown $8300 PIT@KC 5.5 Jamison Crowder $5800 TB@WAS 0.6
Willie Snead $6500 NO@IND 4.7 Jeremy Maclin $6900 PIT@KC 0.5
Pierre Garcon $6100 TB@WAS 4.2 Rueben Randle $5700 DAL@NYG 0.5
Keenan Allen $8100 OAK@SD 3.9 Kamar Aiken $5600 BAL@ARI 0.5

Speaking of bad nicknames, Martavis Bryant checks in as our most popular receiver. He didn’t do much in his first game back last week. At least not until late into the second half when he exploded for 129 yards and two touchdowns. This week he gets a defense in Kansas City that has allowed the most receiving yards and touchdowns. For $6,900, he’s basically the new James Jones. Antonio Brown draws most of the defensive attention, allowing Bryant to range free in single coverage. Be warned, however, that 88 of his 137 yards last week came on one big play late in the fourth quarter in which excellent blocking set up a long touchdown. Without that play his day is worthless. If it were Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball this week, we’d be more confident. But Landry Jones, despite looking great in relief of Michael Vick, was third on the depth chart for a reason. This looks like a game where the crowd goes for the cheap play and the sharps pay up for Brown.

As usual, Larry Fitzgerald logs another week of heavy exposure. The crowd is still riding high on his first half of the season where he compiled a 23-333-5 stat line over three games. Things have cooled off a bit. His stat line over the last three games looks similar, 20-250-1, with the notable exception of a decrease in touchdown receptions. The Cardinals offense is one of the best in the league. The problem, at least for fantasy owners, is that they have so many talented players anyone of them could be the box score star of the day. Even though Fitzgerald has a dreamy matchup against the Ravens, we should fade the crowd and invest that $7,800 elsewhere.

For that matter, if you really want a piece of the Cardinals juicy matchup, John Brown is $1,100 cheaper, logs nearly as many snaps and has seen more targets than Fitzgerald over their last three games. For $6,700, it wouldn’t be hard for him to hit tournament value. But like we mentioned with Palmer, this may be a game where the Cardinals close things out with bench players and running backs.  

DeAndre Hopkins is the most expensive player on the board in Week 7, and our sixth most popular overall. No receiver has scored more fantasy points this season, with Julio Jones a distant second. Hopkins ranks high in about every category we treasure: targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns. All this despite inferior quarterback play. The Texans’ offensive line has done a good job in pass protection, which allows Hopkins to complete his routes or improvise where necessary. Those familiar with “Madden NFL” know his spectacular catch rating is one of the best; he has made some amazing grabs this season. He travels to Miami this week, who haven’t allowed a lot of touchdowns, but have struggled against No. 1 receivers, ranking 30th in that category with 85.4 yards per game allowed according to FootballOutsiders. Despite his salary and exposure, fading Hopkins is not advised (though, if you’re looking for a pivot play, Jones should have a similar box score).

Don’t. Get. Cute. We get it. Recency bias and all. Stefon Diggs, for $5,800 doesn’t need to do much to hit tournament value. But with the crowd all over him, he’s just not worth it. His salary increase of $1,300 is more than any other player. Yes, he has worked his way into a WR2 role in the Vikings offense, who matchup well against the Lions as road favorites. But we think Adrian Peterson does all the damage with Teddy Bridgewater and Co. serving as complements. For better or for worse, Diggs is this week’s Julian Edelman: he may rack up a fair number of receptions and yards, but touchdowns win tournaments, and his chances of scoring are low.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Antonio Gates $5800 OAK@SD 32 Delanie Walker $5500 ATL@TEN 2.4
Greg Olsen $6400 PHI@CAR 11.2 Jordan Cameron $5500 HOU@MIA 1
Gary Barnidge $5900 CLE@STL 7.2 Crockett Gillmore $5000 BAL@ARI 0.6
Benjamin Watson $5300 NO@IND 6.1 Heath Miller $5200 PIT@KC 0.5
Rob Gronkowski $8100 NYJ@NE 4.4 Kyle Rudolph $5000 MIN@DET 0.5
Jason Witten $5600 DAL@NYG 4.3 Jacob Tamme $5100 ATL@TEN 0.4
Travis Kelce $6000 PIT@KC 3.6 Jared Cook $5200 CLE@STL 0.2

For a second straight week, Antonio Gates is the crowd favorite. Since his return from suspension, he has led the Chargers in targets with 27. In fact, only Hopkins has more targets over that timeframe. Gates, despite missing four weeks, now ranks second in redzone looks for the Chargers, and has compiled at least 90 receiving yards in each game. This week he gets the Oakland Raiders who have allowed more fantasy points per game to tight ends than any other team, and lead the league with six touchdowns allowed. He is loss leader material. The only concern is his health, though the Chargers have said he’ll be ready regardless of practice time.

Greg Olsen is the only receiving threat the Panthers have, so he’s a great play every week regardless of matchup. The Eagles have allowed only one touchdown all season to tight ends, but they haven’t faced anyone of note, unless you count a Romo-less Jason Witten and a banged up Jordan Reed. For $6,400, you’re basically getting a No. 1 receiver. But there are better matchups for less of an investment available.

Over the last four weeks, only Freeman, Hopkins and Keenan Allen have scored more fantasy points than Gary Barnidge (not including quarterbacks). Just as planned, he is 2015’s number one scoring tight end, with five touchdowns to go along with 413 yards on 27 receptions. Are we fading him against a tough matchup in St. Louis? Of course we are. This game has the second lowest over/under at 41.5 points, with the Rams favored by seven. On average they are allowing 7.8 points per game to tight ends and have allowed the eighth fewest yards. The Barnidge carnage ends in Week 7.

Kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Stephen Gostkowski $5100 NYJ@NE 13.2 Adam Vinatieri $5000 NO@IND 2.3
Chris Boswell $4600 PIT@KC 9.2 Greg Zuerlein $4600 CLE@STL 2.2
Josh Brown $4700 DAL@NYG 6.7 Graham Gano $4700 PHI@CAR 1.9
Justin Tucker $4800 BAL@ARI 5.3 Andrew Franks $4500 HOU@MIA 1.9
Chandler Catanzaro $4900 BAL@ARI 4.7 Dan Bailey $5000 DAL@NYG 1.6
Connor Barth $4900 TB@WAS 4.3 Blair Walsh $4700 MIN@DET 1.1
Matt Bryant $4900 ATL@TEN 3.2 Caleb Sturgis $4900 PHI@CAR 0.9

As always, we won’t overthink this position. Stephen Gostkowski, once again, is one of the crowd favorites. This could be a game where he is asked to kick a lot of field goals as the Jets defense might be the only one in the NFL that can slow down Touchdown Tom.

We’re not as confident in Chris Boswell. Certainly, with Landry Jones leading the way, the Steelers offense could stall and provide a lot of field goal opportunities, but it’s not something we’re betting on. It is worth noting, though, that he has been perfect since winning the job.

Josh Brown ranks sixth among kickers and has converted 100 percent of his field goal attempts. He looks like a great play against Dallas.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

St Louis Rams $4500 CLE@STL 14.4 Miami Dolphins $4500 HOU@MIA 4
Carolina Panthers $4800 PHI@CAR 10 Philadelphia Eagles $4400 PHI@CAR 3.1
Atlanta Falcons $4700 ATL@TEN 9.6 New England Patriots $4700 NYJ@NE 2.4
Arizona Cardinals $5100 BAL@ARI 8.1 New York Giants $4500 DAL@NYG 1.5
Pittsburgh Steelers $4600 PIT@KC 6.7 San Diego Chargers $4400 OAK@SD 1.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4000 TB@WAS 5 Houston Texans $4800 HOU@MIA 1.2
Washington Redskins $4400 TB@WAS 4.2 Kansas City Chiefs $4600 PIT@KC 0.6

Fading the chalk play at defense works in some weeks and is a bad strategy in others. This week it’ll be hard to bench a $4,500 Rams team that has allowed the 10th fewest points and sixth fewest yards. They also rank third in sacks and are hosting a Browns team that has given up the fourth most.

For $300 more, we get a Panthers club that has one of the up-and-coming great cornerbacks in the league with Josh Norman. The visiting Eagles have cleaned up their pass protection a great deal, but it hasn’t mattered as Sam Bradford still makes bad decisions on the regular. Only Peyton Manning has thrown more interceptions, and only the Lions have turned the ball over more times than the Eagles’ 14. A pick-six in a low-scoring Sunday night game looks favorable.

Marcus Mariota won’t play against the Falcons. That leaves us with Zach Mettenberger, who came in for the final drive of garbage time last week and completed five his eight passes for 63 yards. He was good for an interception a game last year as the starter, and we know he’s eager to win his job back, so he could force some bad throws this week. But we’d still rather go with a chalk player in the Rams and Panthers, or go contrarian altogether.