Last week was one of the higher-scoring weeks for DFS in recent memory. Looking back at Week 3’s $7M Millionaire Maker, we find a winning score of 301.0 points – an incredible 6x return on the $50,000 salary cap. The winning roster was a mix of well-regarded top plays of the week and some under the radar selections. Specifically, five of the players selected were owned on less than 10% of all rosters in this tournament while four of the players were owned on at least 12% of rosters.
While taking down the top spot is always our goal, a finish in the top 500 will net us a return of $500 – not bad for a weekend of DFS. A little further down the leaderboard, we find two rosters tied for 499th place with scores of 254.04 – more than 5x return on the salary cap. Looking at both rosters, we again find a solid mix of chalk plays and lower-owned selections. Five players on these rosters were owned on less than 10% of rosters while four players were owned on at least 11.5% of rosters.
So what do the above examples illustrate? A well-constructed and balanced roster of top plays of the week and some under the radar selections can work out nicely. To further illustrate it, let’s look at two of the top scoring quarterbacks in Week 3. The highly-owned Aaron Rodgers had a phenomenal week in throwing for 333 yards and five touchdowns. The much lesser-owned Andy Dalton also put forth an impressive performance as he threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a touchdown. Results? Comparable, as Rodgers scored 37.92 points on DraftKings while Dalton scored 35.32. Ownership percentage? Rodgers came in at 6.2% for the Millionaire Maker while Dalton checked in at 2.5% ownership. In short, Rodgers was owned on nearly 2.5x times as many rosters as Dalton.
Finding the lesser-owned players like Dalton that also happen to be much cheaper can make a ton of difference for your rosters. Looking back at the top 10 finishers in the tournament, Dalton was selected for six of the lineups while Rodgers only appeared on one. All of these examples show the benefits of a little contrarian thinking. A roster constructed solely of chalk plays will likely not make too much noise, especially in a high-scoring week such as Week 3. A lineup consisting solely of outside-the-box plays could strike gold, but is also a very boom-bust strategy that will need everything to break just right in order to cash.
Balance is the key. A nice mix of high-floor chalk plays and some lower-owned high upside players in great matchups can provide just the right mix for huge tournaments like the $7M Millionaire Maker. On to this week, let’s see if we can find a few diamonds in the rough, starting with the quarterback position.
Philip Rivers, $6,100
Rivers and the Chargers are looking to get back on track after two consecutive road losses when they welcome the Browns to town on Sunday. After posting 24.92 points on DraftKings in Week 1, his production dropped to 16.14 points in Week 2 and 11.84 points last week. Rivers has become somewhat of a forgotten man in DFS circles but a little home cooking may be just the thing to get the Chargers offense back on track.
The Browns have allowed two touchdown passes in each of their first three games. Yardage totals for opposing passers have climbed each week, from a low of 179 yards against the Jets in Week 1 to last week’s 314 against the Raiders. The Chargers are a 7 ½-point favorite with an O/U of 45, telling us that the Chargers should put some points on the board and be ahead. Rivers and top target Keenan Allen have connected 29 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns thus far, look for the duo to have a big hand in the Chargers building their lead. He should fly under the radar this week and has a very reasonable price. Rivers is a great candidate for a contrarian selection in Week 4.
Blake Bortles, $5,100
The Jaguars travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts this Sunday as nine-point underdogs. Bortles has thrown for two touchdowns in consecutive weeks while the Colts have allowed two touchdowns passes in back-to-back weeks. Quite simply, the Colts are not the dominant force in the AFC South that they were expected to be and are ripe for the picking. They were widely expected to come to life last week against the Titans and while they held on for the victory, it was certainly more difficult than most anticipated. This week could be a similar story.
The Jaguars are probably still at least a year away from contending, but they have collected some pieces at the skill positions that point to a bright future ahead both on the field and for DFS. Allen Robinson is averaging 17.0 points per game on DraftKings while Allen Hurns is averaging 11.9. Prices check in at $5,500 and $3,900 respectively, making for an intriguing low-cost stack with Bortles. The line shows the Colts favored by nine points and an O/U of 48, although that may change depending on the status of Andrew Luck. Regardless of Luck’s status, Bortles is an intriguing low-cost option that figures to fly under the radar.
Melvin Gordon, $4,900
Gordon has yet to have his breakout game as a pro but it may be coming soon. The rookie is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has broken three runs of 20+ yards so far. The Browns have been a little Jekyll and Hyde in defending the run this year, allowing big performances to the Jets and Raiders on the ground but holding the Titans in check. Part of that was due to game script, while part was due to the talent of the opposing backs. There’s no denying Gordon’s talent as evidenced by his first-round pedigree and stellar collegiate career. Gordon simply needs a game to set up in his favor, meaning the Chargers need to gain and try to hold a lead by pounding the rock. That game could come this week against the Browns with the Chargers a 7 ½-point favorite.
T.J. Yeldon, $4,400
Similar to Gordon, Yeldon has yet to have his first big game as a pro. It’s not for lack of opportunity though as the Jaguars have wasted no time in getting him the ball. Through three games, Yeldon has carried the ball 48 times and been targeted for 11 passes. The Colts have allowed four touchdowns to opposing backs this year, two of them just last week. Yeldon has yet to find the end zone as a pro but that streak may end this week. For $4,400, he makes for an intriguing contrarian and value play this week.
Odell Beckham Jr., $9,100
A little strange to include one of the top receivers in the game on the contrarian list, but in this case it’s applicable. The Bills are regarded as one of the top defenses in the league and many will shy away from playing opposing players. Dig a little deeper and we see that maybe they shouldn’t be so worried. The Bills have surrendered 652 yards and five touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season. In a game in which the Giants are a 5 ½-point underdog, we can expect Beckham Jr. to receive plenty of targets. Factor in his price and you will find an elite-level wide receiver that is potentially under-owned this week. Sometimes the contrarian plays can be expensive. In this case it just may pay off handsomely.
Ted Ginn Jr., $3,400
Ginn Jr. has been the most productive wide receiver for the Panthers this year and can be purchased for a song. Through three games he is averaging 11.6 points on DraftKings, more than 3x value on his current salary. The Buccaneers have shown some improvement on defense since being lit up by the Titans in Week 1, but have still allowed plenty of production to opposing wide receivers over the past two weeks. The salary savings gained by rostering Ginn Jr. can provide you with a ton of flexibility as you’re trying to get all the pieces in place for a winning lineup. At $3,400, we have a contrarian and a value play all rolled into one.
Charles Clay, $3,300
Clay and quarterback Tyrod Taylor are beginning to develop some chemistry. The duo has connected 12 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns so far. Sunday’s game against the Giants has an O/U of 46 ½, one of the higher totals of the week. This game could be a nice source of fantasy points and Clay should fly under the radar. Taylor and running back Karlos Williams will receive a ton of attention this week. In the case of Williams, he’ll probably be one of the higher-owned running backs. Clay provides you with some exposure to an offense that is better than most people realize on the cheap and makes a solid candidate for a contrarian play at tight end.
Richard Rodgers, $2,500
Rodgers is a little risky as he’s only been targeted 11 times so far this year, but some more targets could be opening up this week. Davante Adams is questionable after leaving Monday Night’s game early with an ankle injury. While the absence of Adams didn’t pan out for Rodgers on Monday, there could be a little overflow as Randall Cobb should draw some extra attention after his three touchdown performance. With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense expected to have their way with the 49ers this week, the other Rodgers offers some exposure to the offense at a discount.
Atlanta Falcons, $2,900
The defenses of Seattle and Arizona will be popular choices this week and you can easily make a case for selecting either of them. But as we know for huge tournaments, we need to find a little uniqueness and defense can be a great place to start. A lower-owned defense that knocks it out of the park coupled with a solid mix of contrarian and chalk plays can make some serious noise on the leaderboards. The Falcons deserve consideration for that role this week. They are a 6 ½-point favorite at home against the Texans, a team that has allowed seven sacks and turned the ball over four times. Keep the Falcons in mind, could be the sleeper defense that makes all the difference.
Green Bay Packers, $2,700
While the focus for the Packers and 49ers game on Sunday revolves around how much damage Aaron Rodgers can do, the Packers defense could be just as productive. The Cardinals were the play of the week at defense in Week 3 when they faced the 49ers. Although we can’t just plug-and-play the Packers and expect a repeat, there is some intriguing upside here to consider. If the Packers are up big as expected, they’ll be defending a struggling quarterback as he tries to bring his team back from a deficit. That could mean some sneaky points for the 49ers offense in DFS, but that could also be a recipe for turnovers to the benefit of the Packers defense.
That’s a wrap for The Contrarian for Week 4. We have ten selections to consider while building our lineups, ten selections that are a little against the grain but could provide just the right amount of uniqueness for our lineups. We’re not looking to be unique just for the sake of being different or trying to roster a lineup full of boom-bust plays, rather we are looking for the hidden gems of the week. When those gems are combined with some of the better chalk plays of the week, we just may have a winning lineup. Best of luck this weekend!