The first week of the regular season was pretty kind to contrarian thinking. Some of the players featured in last week’s column delivered quite well, and some of them even managed to finish among the highest-scoring players at their respective positions. There were a couple of whiffs as well - notably last week’s column cover boy, Robert Griffin III - but all in all, the tried and true principle of going against the grain based on some solid reasoning proved to be pretty fruitful.
As we move on to Week 2, we know that there’s a healthy amount of chalk selections available at each position on a weekly basis. While we’ll definitely want exposure to some of them on our rosters, we know that we need a decent amount of differentiation to help set our lineups apart from the pack. For example, you may find yourself so intrigued by the current over/under of 53.5 points for the game between the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants that you find yourself simply unable to build a roster that includes a few players from that game.
By all means, go ahead and include them. The same applies to some of the performers that look like they have stellar matchups this week, and also happen to be coming in off of fantastic Week 1 performances - i.e. C.J. Anderson vs. the Indianapolis Colts. While he’ll likely be highly-owned, his upside may simply be too good to pass up. We can look for uniqueness elsewhere, and there’s plenty of ways to attack it on a weekly basis. In fact, that’s one of the beautiful things about DFS. Each week is it’s own puzzle, but you’ll be able to find all of the pieces you need through our DFS coverage right here on Footballguys.
Let’s dig into this week’s contrarian selections, starting with the quarterback position.
Philip Rivers, $6,400. Rivers and the San Diego Chargers just lost their top offensive weapon for the year, Keenan Allen, and that’s a gigantic bummer for NFL fans in general. Allen looked absolutely stellar throughout the summer, and he looked like he was poised to take a sizable leap this year. His absence opens up a ton of question marks for the Chargers, as well as a ton of targets in their offense. While much of the DFS debate in relation to the Chargers for this week has centered on who will be the biggest beneficiary of Allen’s unfortunate injury, Rivers has been given nary a mention. That alone places him on the contrarian radar.
When we combine that with a potential shootout against the Jacksonville Jaguars, our interest becomes incredibly piqued. It’s not too hard to envision a scenario in which Rivers spreads the wealth among receivers to see if he can find a new number one, and also not too hard to see him slinging the rock all over the place in the Chargers home opener.
Marcus Mariota, $6,000. Mariota played decent in Week 1’s opener against the Minnesota Vikings, but his two turnovers were crucial blows to his team’s chances of securing a win. For fantasy purposes, he delivered a nice return of 18.7 points on DraftKings. The Titans hit the road to face the Detroit Lions this week, and Mariota has a high-upside matchup in front of him. Andrew Luck produced a monster line against them in one of Week 1’s more entertaining games, and there’s a pretty good chance that the Lions will find themselves in a few shootouts this season. While Mariota doesn’t offer Luck’s upside through the air, he can quickly close the gap with his mobility.
Jimmy Garoppolo, $5,900. Outside of two fumbles, Garoppolo actually looked pretty good behind center for the New England Patriots in last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. Now that the butterflies of the opener are out of the way, we can expect Garoppolo to grow more and more comfortable each week until Tom Brady returns. That will lead to the reins gradually being loosened on him as well, and what better week to kick that off than against a Miami Dolphins team that just suffered a tough loss on the other side of the country against the Seattle Seahawks. The Dolphins looked pretty good defensively, in Week 1, but we can rest assured that Bill Belichick will find a way to exploit them. That bodes well for Garoppolo for fantasy purposes, and his price is pretty attractive to boot.
Latavius Murray, $5,700. Similar to last week, we can expect to see a decent ownership percentage for Derek Carr and Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, but Murray should fly under the radar in what looks like a solid matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. The Raiders are currently a five-point favorite for their home opener, which also happens to have a sizable projected total of 49.5 points. There’s plenty of upside to be had on both sides of this matchup, but Murray represents a low-cost and slightly less popular way to take advantage of it.
Rashad Jennings, $5,600. We touched on the Giants and Saints game earlier, and it’s obviously at the top of the list for chalk matchups of the week. There will be stacks aplenty that include the signal callers from both squads, but we can still find a contrarian way to approach the proceedings. Last week, the Saints gave up 151 rushing yards and three touchdowns to the Raiders. Running backs for the Raiders were also able to haul in six of their seven targets for 51 yards. In short, there’s a huge opportunity in front of Jennings this week.
Duke Johnson, $4,500. While it’s only Week 2, it already looks like it’s going to be a pretty long season for the Cleveland Browns. Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III is down for the count, and veteran Josh McCown will man the reins for the offense. The visions of Griffin getting a little bit of his mojo back and throwing deep balls to the team’s young speedsters have gone by the wayside, and it’s pretty safe to say we can expect a conservative approach for the offense. That’s a boon for Browns running backs, and Johnson could easily exceed value if the game against the Baltimore Ravens doesn’t get out of hand.
Jarvis Landry, $6,400. I’ll preface this by saying that the New England Patriots defense looks like a solid play this week, as they are a pretty big favorite playing at home against a club coming off of a challenging loss. That being said, there’s still value to be had on the opposite side in games such as this. If all plays out as expected, the Dolphins will be behind and playing catch-up. That equates to them playing catch-up, and the team’s top wide receiver would be the biggest beneficiary. Landry is heavily targeted in this offense, and he’s a threat to make value even when he doesn’t find the end zone.
Tajae Sharpe, $4,100. Sharpe was one of the many terrific value plays available in Week 1. The rookie had an outstanding summer, and he’s clearly established himself as one of the top receiving options in the Titans office. Last week, he was targeted 11 times. He hauled in seven of them for 76 yards, and that was more than enough to pay off his miniscule salary of $3,000. The salary makers at DraftKings noticed and bumped him up a bit this week, but his salary is still low enough to make him one of Week 2’s top potential value plays.
Jeremy Kerley, $3,000. Kerley brings together both of the principles outlined in this week’s first two wide receiver selections. Similar to Landry, it’s widely expected that the San Francisco 49ers are headed to slaughter against the Carolina Panthers. As for similarity to Sharpe, Kerley also flew under the radar last week to deliver one of the week’s top value performances. His salary remains low, and there’s a pretty good chance that the 49ers will be playing catch-up this week. That bodes well for a receiver that was targeted 11 times in Week 1.
Antonio Gates, $4,500. As we mentioned when discussing Rivers, there’s a pretty big guessing game in terms of who will emerge as the top receiver for the Chargers. While that sorts itself out, it makes a ton of sense for Rivers to lean on a familiar weapon like Gates pretty heavily. Gates was only targeted four times last week, but we can expect the Chargers to find a much bigger use for him in Week 2. If that’s the case, it won’t take too much for him to return nice value.
Gary Barnidge, $4,000. Barnidge is one player from the Browns passing offense that can actually benefit from McCown lining up behind center. The pair displayed some nice chemistry in 2015, and it’s pretty easy to see McCown looking for his safety blanket often in Week 2. While there are several viable cheaper options at tight end this week, Barnidge is a solid under the radar target that could pay dividends for your lineups.
Kyle Rudolph, $3,100. Rudolph was the second most heavily-targeted player on the Vikings in Week 1, and that trend could continue for the foreseeable future until things settle down behind center. Sam Bradford could make his debut for the club this week, and it’s reasonable to expect him to look for a safety blanket in the offense. Rudolph can fulfill that role for him as he did for Shaun Hill last week, and his miniscule salary doesn’t require much production to deliver a nice return.
Arizona Cardinals, $3,500. The Cardinals are one of the pricier defenses for Week 2, but there’s also a fantastic chance that they come nowhere near the ownership percentage of the week’s other pricey squads. They also happen to be a 6.5-point favorite playing at home, and they made some noise on the defensive front last week against the Patriots in the form of two sacks and two fumble recoveries. They gave up too many points in Week 1 to offer up a nice return, but they could have more success in that department against the Buccaneers this week.
Kansas City Chiefs, $3,200. The Chiefs defense was one of the bigger letdowns of Week 1. Not many were expecting one of 2015’s top units to open the season by giving up 27 points at home. That will lead many to shy away from them for this week’s road date against the Texans, and that makes for a great opportunity to look at them for contrarian purposes. We’ll look for a unit that more closely resembles the 2015 version to emerge this week.
San Diego Chargers, $2,500. There aren’t too many intriguing options on the lower-end of the salary scale for defenses in Week 2, but the Chargers look like one of the few exceptions. They’ll be facing off with a Jaguars squad that surrendered three sacks and a pick to the Packers last week, and the Chargers defense just happened to deliver the same output against the Chiefs. Playing at home as a small favorite also points to some potential upside, and we’ll look to the Chargers if we’re looking to save money at defense in Week 2.
That’s a wrap for The Contrarian for Week 2. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.