The Fade: FanDuel Week 15

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

The season is winding down so we’ll cut right to the chase. Unlike last week, we have a lot of value options and positive matchups to source out. Five games have an over/under of at least 48 points, which makes being accurate where we fade and where we jump on the bandwagon as important as ever.

Per usual, we’ll use Thursday ownership data to assist us in making those decisions. Those numbers are listed below and broken down by position. 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.

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

There seems to be some discussion hanging around about whether or not Russell Wilson elevates the players around him, or some question as to how good of quarterback he actually is. None of that matters here. The only thing that matters is if he elevates your tournament lineup. Lately, that has been the case. He enters Week 15 as our fourth highest scoring passer in FanDuel scoring, and the highest scoring passer since Week 10. The matchup is once again a thing of beauty. The Browns are coming to town having allowed 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions and the eighth most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The game script might limit how necessary it will be for Wilson to air it out but, as has been suggested, the Seahawks are shaping up for the playoffs and aren’t taking their foot off of the gas regardless of what the scoreboard says. And let’s not totally write off their opponent. Johnny Manziel is capable of igniting an offense. Yes, the Seahawks defense has been playing outstanding football lately, but they’ve also had no answer for good tight ends, which is a strength for Manziel and Co. Combine all of this with the fact that the Seahawks running back situation is a major question mark, and you have every reason to pay Wilson’s $8,800 salary as a loss leader. Just realize that there are a lot of good options at quarterback this week so it’s possible to hit value and build a better roster without his services.

Our second most popular and second highest scoring quarterback over the last three weeks is none other than Blake Bortles. He has 901 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception over that span. This week he is at home taking on a defense that has been stingy against the pass. The Falcons have allowed just 17 touchdowns, tied for eighth least, and their 14 interceptions rank sixth. All told, they’ve allowed the fifth fewest points per game to quarterbacks. So is this a reason to fade Bortles? Not necessarily. The Jaguars offense is well rounded with two solid wide receivers, including one that ranks in the top five, a good tight end and a great running game. If anything, it’s the running game that serves as a reason to fade him. The Falcons 18 touchdowns allowed to running backs is the most in the league and they currently rank second in fantasy points per game. The Jaguars might be without T.J. Yeldon but Denard Robinson is more than capable of carrying the load. Our preference would be to select his services and fade Bortles and his $7,900 salary.

Cam Newton’s salary is as high as it has ever been in the modern DFS era. There isn’t a defense out there that can convince us to sit him. But $9,400 is a tough one to design a roster around. The game is in the Meadowlands and should be high scoring. The Panthers are favored by 4.5 points with a 48-point over/under. It helps that the Giants are making a playoff push, which limits the likelihood Newton gets benched because they’re blowing them out, as was the case last week. He’ll need 28 points to hit tournament value—a mark he has met five times this season. If you’ll recall, we like it when a player is hitting tournament value at a higher percentage than his ownership. In other words, Newton has scored at least 28 points in 38 percent of his games this season. He enters Week 15 just 8.5 percent owned.

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        

There’s value and then there’s just flat out disrespecting a player. David Johnson’s $6,500 salary seems disrespectful to his usage and skill set and the fact that he plays for the best offense in football. Under no circumstances can we recommend a fade. He’ll need 19.5 points to hit tournament value. That’s well within reach. Fire him up as a loss leader and fade chalk somewhere else.

Our second most popular running back is age and injury-defying Adrian Peterson. He enters the week as our second highest scoring running back and highest scoring since Week 8. The matchup doesn’t look particularly inviting. The Bears come into Minnesota ranking 17th in points allowed per game to rushers with just five rushing touchdowns surrendered. There’s also this little nugget from our fellow FBG:

Matchup and history aside, Peterson’s $8,600 salary is the biggest reason to look elsewhere and pray that the Bears’ defense somehow keeps him in check. There is a ton of value at running back this week so it’s possible to fade a high-priced—albeit, fair-priced—player and still hit the necessary value, while also building a roster with legs.

The story coming out of Monday night wasn’t about how Lamar Miller averaged 7.4 yards per carry on his way to 89 yards and two touchdowns. It was how he was inexplicably pulled from the game in the second half:

“He had just six more carries over the final two and a half quarters and wasn't targeted in the passing game. Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, threw 41 passes and averaged 5.8 yards per attempt in a 31-24 loss.”

There was some concern that perhaps an ankle injury contributed to the baffling play calling. He is practicing on a limited basis as of Thursday, so there are some maintenance issues going on, but nothing that suggests he’ll be coddled against the Chargers on Sunday. The Chargers, by the way, are one of the league’s softest run defenses having allowed the fifth most total yards and 13 total touchdowns. As such, Miller’s $6,700 salary makes him one of the most desirable plays of the weekend. Note, however, that over their last five games the Chargers have allowed just three touchdowns and a total of 874 yards to running backs. That equates to 145 yards a game, which is everything we hope for, but only two running backs have 100-yard games during that stretch. The Chargers rank 29th in fantasy points allowed over their last three games, thanks, in part, to facing the Broncos, Chiefs and Jaguars. But have they suddenly turned into a decent-to-above-average running defense? Probably not. That said, if there is some question regarding Miller’s health, and we know there’s plenty of doubt regarding the effectiveness of the Dolphins’ offense, then perhaps it’s best to avoid him. As mentioned, there are a lot of good options this week; uncertainty is a good tie-breaker.

We’re somewhat impressed by the crowd being as bullish as they are with DeAngelo Williams despite a tough matchup against the Broncos. Or maybe they know that the Broncos have allowed as many touchdowns to running backs as the Saints, Chargers, Cowboys, Colts and Bills. Yards have been much harder to come by; they rank fourth in that category. But the Steelers offense is one of the best in the league, and even if this contest doesn’t promise to be the highest scoring (44.5 over/under), Williams is still going to get a lot of work including goal line looks. Furthermore, with the Steelers defense as bad as it is against passing, it’s arguable that they’ll attempt to slow the game down via a ground-and-pound approach. Note, that they’re favored by 6.5 points with an implied team total of over 25.

“He’s back!” they exclaimed on the broadcast as Eddie Lacy bowled over defenders on his way to his first rushing touchdown since Week 8. Indeed, Lacy is back. He dominated snap counts and out-touched James Starks 25-15. As a result, his salary jumped $700. But regardless of his price increase, he’s still an affordable $6,900 which naturally has the crowd all over his services. The Packers are headed to the Black Hole where rushers have managed just three touchdowns and a little over 100 yards per game this season. In total, they’ve allowed the 12th fewest rushing yards, but rank 12th in fantasy points allowed per game. The matchup is neutral to Lacy, who should see opportunities in goal line packages. But this sets up as a much friendlier game for Aaron Rodgers. The Raiders have allowed the fourth most passing yards and second most completions. The Packers defense will be without Sam Shields suggesting that this game is going to eclipse the over/under of 48 points in a possible shootout. We’ll fade Lacy in favor of Rodgers and his receivers.

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

No one is surprised to see Doug Baldwin as the most popular player of all. With the Seahawks offense missing running backs and Wilson playing outstanding football, Baldwin has reaped the benefits and now ranks as the highest scoring wide receiver since Week 10 with 30 receptions for 515 yards and nine touchdowns over that span. Eight of those touchdowns and 321 of those yards have come in the last three weeks. There’s not a lot to suggest he hits a regression wall in Week 15 as they host an exploitable Browns’ defense that has allowed 16 touchdowns and the seventh most yards to receivers. For $7,400, he is priced as WR10. There’s little doubt he’ll come close to that ranking come week’s close, but with his exposure being as high as it is, we’re going look elsewhere and break our rule of fading players just because they are highly owned.

Next up is Baldwin’s teammate, Tyler Lockett. With the Seahawks passing offense soaring, the speedster has climbed to WR8 since Week 11, amassing 280 yards, four touchdowns on 20 catches. If you’re looking for a Baldwin fade, and still want a part of this offense, Lockett is the answer. For $6,000, it’s hard to ignore his matchup and value. He has seen 22 targets over the last four weeks (Baldwin has 30) and caught all but two of them. Of course, expecting multiple touchdowns and 100 plus yards for a second straight week is foolish. But his salary does wonders for the rest of our roster.

Last week we suggested to let the crowd grab Sammy Watkins. He ended up hitting a big play early on his way to 81 yards and one touchdown, and ultimately finished as WR13. Per usual, 58 percent of his yards came on one play—a 47-yard touchdown down the right sideline midway through the first quarter, but he caught just three more passes for the rest of the game. This is what we’ve come to expect from Watkins. He has the explosiveness to beat any defender, but he’s either going give us a monster day on a few big plays, or nothing at all, such as in Weeks 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11—a stretch during which he combined for 200 yards, two touchdowns on 17 catches. Of course, he has been on fire as of late with 348 yards and four touchdowns over his last three games—WR4 numbers. This week he takes on a Washington defense that’s easily burnable. Brandin Cooks, Devin Funchess, Odell Beckham Jr. and Alshon Jeffery have all had their way with this defense lately. Watkins is a fine play for $7,200, but given his inconsistencies, we’ll let the crowd chase and go with one of the many other great plays in that price range (such as Baldwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Jarvis Landry).

Only five receivers have scored more points than Jeremy Maclin over the last three games. Most of that production came in Weeks 12 and 13 when he had a combined 255 yards and three touchdowns on 18 receptions. He turned in a disappointing day last week in Jason Verrett’s coverage. The wet and windy conditions didn’t help either, but all things considered, he still led the team in targets with nine and was able to convert six of them into 68 yards. This week the weather is of no concern and neither is the coverage. The Ravens 24 touchdowns allowed to receivers is the most in the league, as is their fantasy points per game in FanDuel scoring. You have to love Maclin’s $6,700 salary, and his cupcake matchup is almost too good to pass on. But note that the Chiefs are a run-first team. They rank 28th in pass attempts and 27th in passing yards. They also rank 31st in pace, per Football Outsiders, so his ceiling has enough limitations for us to fade this offense in favor of a much higher scoring contest. As it stands, this game as 41-point over/under, the second lowest of the week.

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        

We generally try to avoid clichés around these parts, but Death, Taxes and Jordan Reed. He now has as many receiving touchdowns as Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. His 92 targets rank fifth among tight ends, and his 694 yards rank seventh. He is our most popular tight end for a reason. The Bills rank 11th in the fewest fantasy points allowed, but Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski have proven that this team can be exploited when the talent is right. Reed’s floor is enough to ignore his ownership.

We weren’t sure how much he was going to play. We weren’t sure how effective he would be even if he played a lot. We weren’t smart enough to ignore all of those doubts as Rob Gronkowski smashed the Texans by catching all four of his targets for 87 yards and a score. Analyzing the defense he is facing is a waste of time; Gronk is matchup proof. His salary, however, cripples the rest of our roster. It’s difficult to pay up for him and still grab an elite receiver. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dick Lebeau try to double-cover Gronkowski in hopes of eliminating him in this game (good luck). We won’t recommend fading him, but it’s a lot easier to do so this week given the other options we have at tight end.

One of those options is Antonio Gates. The Dolphins don’t pose any threat at any level defensively. And you know Philip Rivers and Gates are dying to get a win having lost eight of their last nine games. The Chargers offense is getting healthy so it’ll be hard for the Dolphins to isolate any one receiver. Gates has seen 23 targets over the last three games and visited the end zone twice back in Week 12. He’ll be busy on Sunday and his $5,800 salary is more than ideal.

Kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Stephen Gostkowski $5100 TEN@NE 9.6 Brandon McManus $4800 DEN@PIT 3.8
Chris Boswell $5000 DEN@PIT 9.2 Mike Nugent $4700 CIN@SF 3.3
Matt Prater $4500 DET@NO 7.6 Kai Forbath $4500 DET@NO 3.3
Graham Gano $5000 CAR@NYG 6.8 Jason Myers $4700 ATL@JAC 3.2
Cairo Santos $4800 KC@BAL 6 Mason Crosby $4800 GB@OAK 3.1
Blair Walsh $4600 CHI@MIN 4.4 Dustin Hopkins $4500 BUF@WAS 3.1
Steven Hauschka $5000 CLE@SEA 4 Dan Carpenter $4700 BUF@WAS 0.5
Chandler Catanzaro $5000 ARI@PHI 3.9        

The only reason to fade either Stephen Gostkowski or Chris Boswell is Matt Prater, who is on the road in one of the highest over/unders of the week and will cost us just $4,500. The only reason to fade Prater is because Kai Forbath is playing in the same game for the same price but gets the benefit of playing for the home team.

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        

It’s the all-Seahawks show as three of the most popular plays per Thursday data are represented by Seattle, including their defense—the second highest owned overall. It’ll be hard to fade such a good looking option with the Browns in town. But like we mentioned with Wilson, Manziel has the ability to ignite an offense and keep a defense on its toes. Sure, he’ll probably commit a few turnovers, but unless one of those turnovers gets returned for six, we’re committing a lot of cash to our defense ($5,400).

The Chiefs are only $200 cheaper than the Seahawks but not nearly as good of a play. If you can afford $5,200 to commit to you defense, figure out how to squeeze out $200 more and go with the Seahawks.

The crowd consistently flocks to the Patriots defense hoping Touchdown Tom will keep the game script friendly. But the Patriots defense ranks 18th in FanDuel scoring since Week 10 and 14th over the last three weeks. The Titans offense has been as hit or miss as they come (mostly miss), but we’ve seen what Marcus Mariota can do when the team around him stays awake. That said, it’s also possible this offense comes out totally flat in their second straight road game after an ugly loss to the Jets in which the scored only three points.