The Contrarian: DraftKings Divisional Round

Lower owned players with upside that you may want to use for your tournament lineups.

We are down to the final eight teams remaining in the quest for the Super Bowl and also down to our second-to-last weekend of DFS for the NFL this season. As we saw last weekend, a short slate that includes only four games can lead to some pretty bunched up leaderboards in most GPPs. Some players are simply too tough to fade and we wind up with ownership percentages that are through the rough.

That’s where some contrarian thinking can really help to set us apart. We can still find room for our favorite chalk plays of the week, but perhaps pivot off of a few of the week’s more popular plays to find the proverbial diamond in the rough that just may offer just as much upside if all goes well. Let’s take a look at each of this weekend’s four games from a contrarian perspective to begin our search for the week’s hidden gems.

Games at A Glance

Kansas City @ New England. Patriots -4 ½, 43.

The weekend’s first contest provides us with a few potential contrarian plays. On the Chiefs side, a questionable tag for Jeremy Maclin will spur many to roster Travis Kelce and expect him to be the biggest beneficiary of an absent or limited Maclin. While Kelce will be a popular choice at tight end, the Chiefs other receiving targets should fly under the radar and make for intriguing plays.

Chris Conley would likely slide into the Maclin role if he’s unable to give it a go. The rookie found the end zone last week after Maclin exited the game and the Chiefs have been pretty high on him, dating all the way back to training camp. Albert Wilson could also swoop in and see a bump in targets, presenting us with a nice upside opportunity at a low price.    

For the Patriots, we also have some injury concerns for Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Edelman appears likely to get the green light, while Gronkowski could be headed for a dreaded game-time decision. The rest of the Patriots receiving targets are question marks in terms of workload, limiting them to GPP flier status.  

Green Bay @ Arizona. Cardinals -7, 49 ½.

The Cardinals destroyed the Packers back in Week 16 by the score of 38-8 and offered up plenty of stellar individual fantasy performances in the process. The previous meeting – combined with the highest projected total of the week – will land plenty of DFSers in the Cardinals corner this weekend. We can safely remove the top plays form the Cardinals from contrarian consideration.

Aaron Rodgers could be slightly contrarian this week due to his horrific performance in the team\’s previous matchup. He did come back to life last week against Washington, which could give a little boost to his ownership percentage. James Jones was a nice contrarian play for a couple of weeks with his huge recent increase in targets, but the jig is up and the general public has caught on. He still makes for a nice salary saver play as a cost of only $4,600.

Seattle @ Carolina. Panthers -1 ½, 44.

Normally a team facing off against the Seahawks could be considered for contrarian purposes, but a short slate plus the Panthers success in the Week 6 meeting between these two clubs actually makes the Panthers look pretty intriguing and likely pretty popular this week. Despite his Week 6 success, we could consider Jonathan Stewart as a slightly against the grain pick due to the Seahawks thoroughly containing Adrian Peterson last week.

Doug Baldwin will likely be spending Sunday with Josh Norman as his shadow, so we can expect him to have the low ownership percentage to match his diminished prospects. Rostering Baldwin is slightly outside the box, but if he is able to find success against Norman, he could have a big impact on the GPP leader boards due to his projected low ownership percentage. If many DFSers take Baldwin off the table as expected, they may also just totally bypass the Seahawks receivers, pointing us to a potential contrarian opportunity with Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett.  

Pittsburgh @ Denver. Broncos -7 ½, 39 ½.

The Steelers head into Denver severely banged-up and without Antonio Brown and DeAngleo Williams. Ben Roethlisberger could still be limited due to last week’s shoulder injury, pointing us to a down week for the Steelers passing attack. Add in the fact that they match up with an elite-level defense in the form of the Denver Broncos, and the normally high-powered Steelers offense suddenly finds itself in the conversation of contrarian plays. A low projected total will lead to mixed-interest for the Broncos key players, but likely not low enough for them to be considered contrarian plays.  

Let’s take a look at this week’s top contrarian selections, starting with the quarterback position.

Quarterbacks

Alex Smith, $5,400

We’ll look to the lowest-priced quarterback of the week for a little differentiation. Alex Smith didn’t offer too much in the way of fantasy production in last week’s rout of the Texans, but with the Chiefs firmly in control throughout, there wasn’t much of a need to air it out. A date with the Patriots may present a different story, pointing to a larger need for the Chiefs passing game. While Smith and the Chiefs will not suddenly turn into an air-raid offense, he should have little trouble providing a solid return on his low salary against the Patriots.  

Other Quarterbacks Deserving Contrarian Consideration

Aaron Rodgers, $6,700 and Peyton Manning, $6,000: Both will have their share of supporters, just likely less than the top projected quarterbacks of the week. With a short slate, we have to zero in on even the slightest opportunities for a little uniqueness.   

Running Backs

Jonathan Stewart, $5,800

Despite his two-touchdown performance in Week 6 against the Seahawks, we can still consider Stewart as somewhat of a contrarian play for the Divisional Playoffs. The Seahawks shut down Adrian Peterson for the second time this season in last week’s victory and Stewart was one of the few backs who found a modicum of success this year. The toughness of the Seahawks rushing defense should be enough to scare just enough people away to provide us with a contrarian opportunity.

Other Running Backs Deserving Contrarian Consideration

James Starks, $4,000: For the Packers to have a chance to reverse their fortunes against the Cardinals, they’ll likely need a heavy dose of the passing game to keep pace, pointing us to some more reps for James Starks over Eddie Lacy and a low-cost under the radar option.   

Wide Receivers

Chris Conley, $3,000

This will depend on the final determination on Maclin’s status, but Conley shapes up to be pretty solid value at $3,000. He only caught one pass last week after stepping in for the injured Maclin, but it just so happened to be in the back of the end zone. As we touched on earlier, the masses will flock to Travis Kelce in the absence of Maclin, but we can save a ton of salary – and maybe find just as much upside – by rolling with Conley this weekend.

Other Wide Receivers Deserving Contrarian Consideration

Jermaine Kearse, $3,200: With Doug Baldwin likely destined to be blanketed by Josh Norman all day, Russell Wilson will have to find a new preferred target, pointing us to Kearse as a potentially low-cost hidden gem.

Tight Ends

Heath Miller, $3,200

Ben Roethlisberger may be pretty limited on Sunday, pointing us to a day of short passes and some extra reliance on his security blanket. Heath Miller has been pretty quiet of late, including last week against the Bengals, who held him to only two catches for nine yards. We’ll look for a bump in targets for Miller this week and also save a ton of salary by selecting him as our tight end.

Other Tight Ends Deserving Contrarian Consideration

Richard Rodgers, $4,000: This is definitely of the boom-bust variety as Rodgers has not been a large factor in the Packers passing game of late, but the Packers will need all hands on deck to keep pace with the high-powered Cardinals.  

Defense

Kansas City Chiefs, $4,000

Despite the Chiefs defense playing at an extremely high-level, it will be pretty tough for many DFSers to pull the trigger and roster them this weekend against the defending Super Bowl champions – which makes for a perfect contrarian opportunity. The Patriots offense sputtered as the season wound down by scoring only 20 points against the Jets in Week 16 and 10 points against the Dolphins in the regular season finale. Similar output to last week’s domination of the Texans may be asking a bit too much, but we can definitely look to the Chiefs as a potential diamond in the rough for the Divisional round.

Other Defenses Deserving Contrarian Consideration

Pittsburgh Steelers, $3,600: Many will look to the other sideline when selecting their defense for the week. Rostering the Steelers defense should provide us with plenty of uniqueness and potential upside against a Broncos offense that can be contained.

That’s a wrap for The Contrarian fir the Divisional Playoffs round. Best of luck this weekend and enjoy the games!