Somebody will take home $2 million dollars this week by finishing in 1st place in the NFL $10M Millionaire Maker tournament on DraftKings. Allow that to sink in for a moment. The DFS industry has grown tremendously since its inception and is poised to smash all records this season. What started as a ‘niche’ part of fantasy sports has become an essential part of our NFL weekend routines.
As the prize pools get bigger and bigger, so do the number of users. The larger tournaments will welcome entries numbering in the hundreds of thousands this season. Regardless of the size of the tournament, you will need some uniqueness within your lineup to truly make some noise. A lineup consisting of the consensus top plays and/or safe plays will not get it done. It may very well cash depending on the week, but for GPPs we’re looking for a little bit more. Safe plays should be a mainstay in our cash game lineups and can be used to round out our GPP rosters, but to separate ourselves from the pack we’ll need to dig a little deeper.
One strategy that can be beneficial is to fade a player or players that project to be highly owned for that particular week. Choosing to fade a player outright will carry some risk of course, but making the right call could pay some nice dividends. Besides, who doesn’t like feeling like a genius when they fade the quarterback that is over 20% owned that goes out and lays an egg?
Let’s take a look at some player’s for this week’s games that should perhaps be left on the sidelines when we construct our rosters.
Andrew Luck, $8,300
Fade the consensus No.1 quarterback for 2015 according to Footballguys season-long rankings? You must be mad! But let’s flash back to Week 14 and 15 of last season when the Bills had the pleasure of facing Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks. Total TD passes for two of the NFL’s best? Zero. Total Yardage? 358. Combined. Not only did the Bills hold both of them in check, but Manning and Rodgers each threw 2 INTs in their respective games. For the entire 2014 season, the Bills only surrendered one huge performance to an opposing quarterback when Tom Brady torched them for 361 yards and 4 TDs in Week 6. Fast forward to 2015 and we have an already solid Bills defense under the tutelage of defensive mastermind Rex Ryan. Love him or hate him, Ryan knows how to dial up a gameplan and has had all offseason to devise a scheme to slowdown Luck and the Colts. Combined with what will be a raucous crowd for the Bills home opener and we have a perfect recipe for Luck to fail to live up to expectations in Week 1.
Cam Newton, $7,600
At first glance, Cam Newton may make the short list of potential targets with a date with the Jaguars on the docket. But when we dig a little deeper, the matchup may not be so appealing. After their bye in Week 11 of 2014, the Jaguars did not allow a 300-yard passing performance and surrendered multiple TDs through the air in only one of their final six games. The Jaguars closed out the season playing some pretty decent defense and should continue to show improvement in 2015. Over on the Panthers side of the ledger, we have a wide receiver depth chart that is led by Corey Brown, Ted Ginn and Devin Funchess after Kelvin Benjamin’s season-ending ACL tear. Brown struggled with drops throughout the preseason and Ginn has shown very few flashes of being a threat throughout his career. The rookie Funchess failed to impress enough to earn one of the top two jobs and will start the season as the Panthers’ WR3. Newton still has tight end Greg Olsen to lean on, but chances are opposing teams have caught on to that and will pay him a little extra attention. By digging a little deeper, Newton moves from the short list to failing to make the cut for DFS.
Matt Forte, $7,800
Matt Forte was an especially appealing weekly play in 2014 on DraftKings with its full PPR scoring, exceeding 20 fantasy points ten times. He was quite the weapon last year, both on the field and for DFS purposes. All good things must come to an end and a new year brought a new regime to the Windy City. The Marc Trestman era came to an end and gave way to a staff led by veteran head coach John Fox. Whereas the running back is a staple of the passing game for a Trestman offense, Fox is more of a ground and pound guy when it comes to backs. Fox is also not shy about mixing carries up amongst his backs. Forte will still be the man in Chicago, but it’ll be tough for him to touch 2014’s numbers. For Week 1, the Packers are a 7-point favorite which points to the Bears playing catch-up in the 4th quarter. Fox’s desire to ground and pound may have to wait a week or so.
Marshawn Lynch, $7,300
There are a couple of reasons to keep Lynch on your sidelines for Week 1, starting with the Rams defense. The Rams defense projects to be one of the best in the league this season and mostly held opposing rushers in check for DFS purposes in 2014. In two meetings with the Rams last year, Lynch was held to 9.1 points per DraftKings scoring in Week 6 and 17.6 points in Week 17. Next, Lynch was listed on the injury report for Week 1 with a non-injury designation. He’s reportedly just under the weather, but news to keep an eye on nonetheless. Finally, price. At $7,300, we’d like Lynch to return at a minimum 3x value or 21.9 points on DraftKings – a number he achieved only seven times last season. Right in the same neighborhood, we have Eddie Lacy at a price of $7,500 and C.J. Anderson at $7,000. Both backs have better matchups on paper and may get us closer to the multiples we desire.
Calvin Johnson, $8,500
Calvin Johnson had a relatively disappointing 2014 by his standards, barely breaking 1,000 yards receiving and scoring 8 touchdowns. Fine production from a normal receiver, but we have come to expect more from the man they call Megatron. Johnson was banged up and slowed by ankle issues in 2014 but is fully recovered and ready to go for Week 1. Last season aside, Johnson’s price is pretty prohibitive for Week 1 and we may be able to find better value elsewhere. The Lions have a legitimate compliment to Johnson in the offense as well, as Golden Tate emerged last year to become one of the better WR2’s in the league. Tate will still be involved heavily, even with Johnson at full strength. Johnson may very well return to his Megatron ways in 2015, but for Week 1 you may be better served by saving some salary.
Emmanuel Sanders, $7,900
Emmanuel Sanders did not play during the preseason as he was dealing with a hamstring injury. He’s good to go for Week 1 but may need a few games to get up to speed. The Broncos will also be featuring a more run-heavy attack in 2015, courtesy of new head coach Gary Kubiak. Any team that employs Peyton Manning will never be a full ground and pound team, but we can expect to see more balance on offense. Sanders had 11 games with at least 6 receptions in 2014 but will not be targeted as heavily in 2015. A drop in targets and catches impacts his appeal at this price for DraftKings. For $800 less, we can look to either Keenan Allen or Brandin Cooks – both of whom will see plenty of targets in their respective offenses.
Jimmy Graham, $5,600
Jimmy Graham is the most expensive tight end for games beginning on Sunday. His price is reflective of his stellar production as a member of the Saints, production that will most likely go down in 2015. Graham will still have games where he reminds us of his freakish ability but the days of 15+ DraftKings points may be on hold for awhile. For Week 1’s purposes, a wait and see approach may be in order to see how Graham fits into the Seahawks offense. There are several tight ends priced more reasonably that have similar upside potential, notably Martellus Bennett at $4,300 and Travis Kelce at $4,800.
Greg Olsen, $5,300
Greg Olsen will be one of the higher-owned tight ends of Week 1 and for that reason presents a fantastic fade opportunity. He will receive plenty of targets with the Panthers’ issues at wide receiver, but targets do not guarantee production. However, targets do equal opportunity and Olsen will have plenty of that on Sunday. Olsen has also received the dreaded ‘must-play’ label, which is not always the greatest predictor of DFS success. He will produce on Sunday, but you will be able to find similar production at a lower price point. You will also gain a leg up on a large portion of the field if he fails to return his expected value.
Seattle Seahawks, $3,400
Many will pay up for the most expensive defense of the week. The Seahawks produce on defense and had eight games with at least 10 points on DraftKings in the 2014 regular season. But what if they don’t produce this week? We will have blown nearly 7% of our salary cap budget, precious dollars that can make the difference between cashing and not cashing. In two games against the Rams last season, the Seahawks defense scored -1 in Week 7 and 23 points in Week 17. Of the eight games when they failed to reach 10 points last year, they scored 7 points or more in only three of them. Save some salary and gain some uniqueness on Sunday, there are several defenses with similar upside at a lower price point.
New York Jets, $2,900
The New York Jets will be very highly-owned this week and it’s easy to see why. We have a team with a questionable offense visiting what should be one of 2015’s stronger defenses and one of the lowest over/unders of the week at 39 ½. Thoughts of Josh McCown and the Browns’ passing game are probably not impacting the sleep patterns of Darrelle Revis and company. This is solely an ownership percentage play – the Jest defense should produce and may produce big. But if by chance they do not, you could position yourself for a serious advantage over a large portion of the field. For just $100 more, we have another very tempting defense to consider when the Dolphins visit the Redskins on Sunday. Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are undoubtedly salivating at the opportunity to face the Redskins’ offensive line. In this case, we can fade the chalk, stay in the same salary neighborhood and have similar upside. Could be a win-win situation for DFS.
By digging just a little deeper, we’ve identified ten players to consider fading for Week 1 – some of whom will be among the most popular plays of the week. The right call on a couple of fades each week can make all the difference between cashing in GPPs and reloading your bankroll on Tuesday. Best of luck this weekend!