As we head into Week 6, it’s becoming pretty clear which players are dialed in thus far in 2016, as well as the ones that are clearly off. On the firing on all cylinders side, we can look towards players such as Ben Roethlisberger and David Johnson. On the downside, it’s been a pretty challenging start to the season for Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick, among others.
This is one more tool for the contrarian arsenal, as we can be confident that players playing at a high level will have healthy ownership percentages from here on out unless they hit a serious rough patch. On the opposite side, those that are struggling present interesting contrarian possibilities in anticipation of a potential breakout. However, it’s important to be aware that you may be chasing a breakout that’s simply not coming this year.
For example, last week we featured Eli Manning as a potential contrarian selection. All of the boxes we like to look for from a contrarian perspective were checked, and signs pointed to the game against the Packers as a potential shootout. Anyone that watched last Sunday Night’s snooze fest is well aware that failed to materialize, and the season is quickly getting long in the tooth for Manning and his Giants brethren.
So does that mean we keep chasing Manning and Odell Beckham stacks until the breakout happens? That’s certainly one way to approach it, but the better advice would be to pick your spots wisely. This week, the Giants face off against a Ravens squad that has been fairly stingy defensively, but they did allow a big day to Derek Carr a few weeks back. A Manning-Beckham combo could find paydirt, but it’s far from a sure thing that we’ll see the monster game we’ve been hoping for.
The reality is that the breakout - if any - is becoming increasingly hard to pinpoint. The Giants have a wealth of talent at wide receiver, but challenges along the offensive line and within the running game have helped the offense stagnate. Add in the overall poor play from Manning, and it becomes fairly easy to look past the Giants offense until play improves. That can be tough to do, as it’s pretty natural to have a fear develop that you may miss out on some massive upside if they breakout.
If that happens, it may sting a little, but if you’ve focused your research to the point that you do a fairly solid job of pinpointing quarterbacks on a weekly basis, you likely won’t miss out on as much as you fear. For those that simply can’t resist chasing the breakout, use Manning and the Giants offense as part of a multiple lineup strategy, and be content with the knowledge that the lineup is in the realm of boom-bust.
Manning and the Giants are just one example, as we can replace the names with plenty of other early season disappointments. The same reasoning applies to the other disappointing situations: pick your spots wisely, and don’t chase a breakout that may or may not be around the corner.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contrarian selections to keep on your radar, starting with the quarterback position.
Matt Ryan, $6,700
We’re going back to the well with Matt Ryan, and he still falls in the realm of a contrarian selection for a pair of reasons. For starters, a road date at Seattle is a pretty simple way to have the masses bypass a specific quarterback for the week. Second, it doesn’t seem like many are sold on Ryan this season, despite the fact that he’s playing at an MVP level. Playing the opposing quarterback in a hostile environment may seem like a crazy proposition, but Ryan is playing at an incredibly high level. While asking him to walk in there and set the world on fire is far too much to ask for, simply delivering a solid return at a reasonable salary is well within reason.
Blake Bortles, $6,300
If we rewind to the preseason for a moment, the Jaguars were somewhat of an ‘it’ team that many viewed as a team to keep on the radar. That hasn’t translated into a stellar start, but they were able to eke out a win in London against the Colts prior to their bye week. A win followed by a week off could allow enough time for things to further settle in for the Jaguars offense, and it starts at the top with Bortles. He delivered a nice return against the Colts, and he could be in line to do the same this week against the Bears.
Tyrod Taylor, $5,300
After a lackluster start to the season, the Bills have turned it around and ripped off three straight wins. They welcome a far-from-imposing 49ers squad to town this week, and the DFS community smells blood. LeSean McCoy will be one of the more popular plays at running back, and the team’s defense should have plenty of supporters as well. We’ll take an alternate approach, and look to a quarterback that provides some nice fantasy upside. Taylor can make things happen through the air and on the ground, and we like his chances to do just that against the 49ers.
Ezekiel Elliott, $7,000
Elliott continues to impress in his rookie campaign, but he has an imposing defensive matchup on the docket against the Packers. The Packers have held opposing running backs thoroughly in check, but they also haven’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of running backs - with the exception of Adrian Peterson in his final appearance of 2016. In short, the vaunted Packers run defense will be put to the test in Week 6, and we like the stellar rookie to come out on top. Many will bypass this matchup due to its imposing appearance, so we can swoop in and get some sneaky upside at a low ownership percentage.
Ryan Mathews, $4,900
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Washington has not done a good job of stopping the run this season. That will typically point DFSers towards focusing on opposing backs, but enthusiasm will likely be tempered on Mathews. He’s not off to the greatest of starts either, but we’ll look for him to bounce back in a good spot. The week shapes up as one in which most will pay up at running back, so we’ll use the running back spot as one of our places to zag this week.
Chris Ivory $3,500
Ivory saw limited action prior to the bye as the Jaguars eased him back in from his time off due to illness, but the kid gloves should be off coming out of the bye week. Unfortunately, the Jaguars backfield situation points to a clear RBBC between Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, but signs point to Ivory being the preferred choice for goal line work. There’s plenty of risk here due to the rep split, but a halfway decent amount of yardage and a trip to the end zone will work just fine at this bargain basement price.
A.J. Green, $8,600
The Patriots are a big favorite at home against the Bengals, and that makes for a fine time to look for some upside courtesy of the road underdog. If things go according to plan, the Bengals will be playing from behind, and that points to a boatload of targets sailing in the direction of Green. We all know what he’s capable of with the ball in his hands, and it’s not too hard to envision him racking up the stats in a hurry during garbage time. The price is a little concerning, but we’ll consider it a risk worth taking due to Green’s solid floor of production.
Jarvis Landry, $6,800
The Dolphins are another of the week’s top underdogs, and the target hog that is Landry could have himself a day based on projected target volume alone. He was held in check by the Titans last week, but we envision a similar scenario playing out as in the game between the Patriots and Bengals. For the Dolphins to have a prayer of keeping pace or catching up, they’ll need to be slinging the rock. That points to a solid day for the team’s top target, regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard.
Michael Thomas, $4,300
When the Saints have a home game, we want some exposure to one side or the other. Many will look towards the Panthers this week, but there’s a good portion of players that will shy away from the Saints due to a seemingly tough matchup. We’re not too concerned about that, as this isn’t your 2015 version of the Panthers. Add in the fact that Thomas has been targeted 20 times over the past two weeks, and he represents a low-cost way to gain exposure to a game that could turn out to be a shootout.
Jason Witten, $4,200
Similar to the running back position, it looks like it may be a good week to pay up at the tight end position. Several tight ends in the $4,500 and above tier look to be appealing options, so we’ll look a little further down south on the salary scale for some appealing options. Dak Prescott continues to look Witten’s way a decent amount of times each game, but it would certainly help if he gave him some more red zone looks. We’ll look for that to start this week against the Packers.
Gary Barnidge, $3,300
The Browns are bad, but they still get the ball on offense as per NFL rules. Barnidge has delivered double-digits in points over the past three games, and he’s been targeted 21 times over that time span. In short, he’s one of the few reliable sources of production from the Browns offense. He’ll fly under the radar until there’s an absolutely stellar matchup on paper, but we’ll look his way for some cheap production this week, and enjoy the salary cap flexibility that goes along with it.
Charles Clay, $2,900
Clay makes for a nice pairing with the aforementioned Tyrod Taylor, as the duo has an underrated rapport. We can pencil him in for between five and seven targets per game, and Taylor is not afraid to look his way for a deep strike. That could prove to be a fruitful decision against a poor 49ers squad, but we like him to produce regardless of whether that materializes or not. A simple line of 5/50/1 from Clay offers us a fantastic return at this miniscule price.
Pittsburgh Steelers, $3,400
Many DFSers will look in the direction of the Steelers offense this week, but there’s a good chance that their defense is bypassed altogether. That’s a mistake if it happens, as the Dolphins have allowed some big fantasy performances to opposing defenses thus far in 2016. The Steelers defense is in a weird spot on the salary scale this week. For just another $300, you can pay up for the week’s chalk in the Bills. We’ll look for the masses to take that approach, and enjoy some under the radar upside courtesy of the Steelers.
Detroit Lions, $3,000
The Rams are another club that has allowed some big games to opposing defenses, so we’ll look the Lions way in Week 6. The Lions can generate pressure against quarterbacks, and that bodes well when they’re facing off against a club that is prone to giving up sacks. Add in the Rams proclivity for turning the ball over, and a pick six or fumble return touchdown is squarely on the table. The Lions are another way to save some money from the week’s chalk defense, and walk away with some uniqueness to boot.
Baltimore Ravens, $2,600
The Ravens pop up on the radar for a few reasons: They’ve been solid defensively, they’re cheap, and they’re facing off against an offense that’s struggling. As we outlined in the opening, the much-anticipated breakout from the Giants offense has yet to come into play. Could this be the week? Of course, anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. That being said, there’s no clear signs that the struggles of the offense will be subsiding anytime soon. The Ravens are one of the more appealing inexpensive options at defense this week, and we’ll look for the upside of some turnovers bouncing in their direction in this matchup.
Thanks for reading The Contrarian for Week 6. 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.