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The Fade: Week 02

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

Before the season began I proposed the concept of loss leaders and explained how it applies to GPP lineups. We’ll utilize that approach by joining Thursday tournaments and cataloging ownership percentages, which is invaluable for when we set our Sunday lineups. Player exposure will tell us if we should fade someone in the name of diversity, or use him as a loss leader should the matchup dictate. I’ll use FanDuel as the basis, but for the most part, the percentages will translate to other sites.

Last week my favorite fade was Emmanuel Sanders. Thursday lineups showed Sanders to be owned by one-quarter of all teams. His low salary combined with his matchup, his quarterback and Wes Welker’s suspension made him an attractive play. Naturally, he was overexposed. By the time Sunday rolled around he was on nearly 28 percent of rosters in one of the biggest tournaments available (FanDuel $1M Sunday with 45,977 seats). He finished with a decent stat line, but in big tournaments we need monsters. I didn’t figure Manning’s offense would produce a monster via Sanders.

LeSean McCoy is another perfect example. Between his price and his exposure he was a bad tournament play. That’s easy to say in hindsight, especially when the matchup suggested otherwise. The Eagles falling behind early also didn’t help, but spending 15.7 percent of our cap on a player that’s 33 percent owned is a bad strategy unless it’s a top tier quarterback.

We need to find guys like Mark Ingram II (4.1%, 18.6 FPs), Le’Veon Bell (1.6%, 28.7 FPs) and DeAndre Hopkins (0.8% 16.9 FPs) every week. And, of course, owning the player that scores three touchdowns goes a long ways. It’s no simple task but with the right process you can put luck in your favor. Low exposure + high scores = profit. That’s the formula and that’s how we’ll set our sails in hopes of designing a 180-point roster.


Finding that sweet spot between a high-scoring game and an inexpensive salary is the key to selecting quarterbacks. I’ll invest top dollar in a signal caller if the matchup is right. But swimming against the current is the best strategy, especially if it means maximizing salary at other positions.

Week 2 has a lot of guys clustered right around the nine percent range. Peyton Manning checks in as the most popular at nearly 10 percent. The Broncos are hosting the Chiefs and enjoy the second highest over/under (51). But Manning is a must fade this week. His squad is favored by 12.5 points. To me that says we could see the Broncos grind the clock for a good chunk of this game. Manning’s salary will be the highest every week and I have no problem paying it under the right circumstances. But this isn’t likely to be a competitive tilt and I want my quarterbacks to be forced to throw.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck are registered on nine percent of teams and all cost north of $9,000. If I had to pay up for one of these guys I’d target Luck who gets the highest over/under of the week but is only favored by three points. I can see using him as a loss leader in a tight, high-scoring game that should be light on defense.

Jake Locker also checks in with an ownership percentage of 9.1. There’s a lot to like about his $7,400 salary and the fact that he gets one of the worst defenses. I’m much more inclined to select him over the aforementioned players and invest the savings elsewhere.

But if you really want to go against the grain and get all the bells and whistles we look for in a tourney quarterback (high scoring, playing from behind, good receivers etc.), you might want to check out Tony Romo. His salary is plenty affordable ($7,800) and as of Thursday night his ownership percentage is 1.8. The over/under of this game has climbed one point since it first opened at 48 with the Cowboys expected to lose. This could be a great week to stack Romo with Dez Bryant since the crowd is going to fade both.

Other notable percentages are Nick Foles (5%), Colin Kaepernick (3.6%) and Cam Newton (0.7%). I love Foles this week in a high-scoring road game. Kaepernick is equally enticing as he’s likely to tear apart a bad Chicago Bears defense. Eli Manning and his new bottom-shelf offense made the Lions defense look good—Newton should remind us that they are not. He checks in as the seventh most costly quarterback but it’s easy to offset his expense with a few discounts at other positions. His exposure alone makes him a great tournament play. His skillset makes him an elite tournament play. A Newton/Kelvin Benjamin stack is recommended.

wide receivers

I always want one or two name brand receivers in my tournament lineups—the guys that are red zone beasts and have good, or great, quarterbacks feeding them the ball.

Last week Calvin Johnson reminded us why he’s the No. 1 loss leader of all positions. His salary will always command a large investment but his return can bankroll your season. This week he’s showing up on 18 percent of teams. My guess is that number grows by Sunday. I’m not particularly thrilled by the game in Carolina so I won’t have Johnson in most of my lineups. But I won’t blame anyone for paying up regardless of matchup or exposure.

Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green are the next highest, both at about 13.5 percent. You have to love the defenses these players get to host on Sunday and both make for great loss leaders, even more so than Johnson.

But in order to diversify my lineup I’m going to push my chips towards some lesser-owned commodities. Dez Bryant is the first one on the list. Just like his quarterback, Bryant is being ignored after a poor Week 1 showing. He begins the week on only 5.7 percent of rosters. I’m happy to invest my money on a guy that’s a bully in the red zone. The Titans secondary may have had little trouble shutting down the likes of Donnie Avery, but I’m confident Bryant will provide a bit more of a challenge.

Second on my list is Andre Johnson. He has proven over and over that he can survive poor quarterback play and reward fantasy owners brave enough to stick with him. Last week he gathered six receptions on eight targets for 93 yards. This week he gets a bad Oakland secondary and his salary allows us to be aggressive elsewhere.  

A few percentages that I found surprising were Julio Jones and Justin Hunter. My guess is that Jones’s salary is prohibitive given his matchup against the Bengals in Cincinnati. But an ownership percentage just above 4.5 percent makes him an elite contrarian play.

Hunter is the biggest surprise. The Dallas Cowboys are widely touted as the weakest defensive group in the NFL, especially against receivers that couple elite speed with good size. His salary of only $5,700 makes him the ultimate tournament play. Yet, as of Thursday, his ownership percentage is only 3.1. I’m sure that’ll change by Sunday but not enough to ignore the value he offers. I’ll have him in almost every lineup.

running backs

There may be no position more reliant on matchups than running backs. In this case we can use the Vegas over/under projections by going with lower scoring games or with teams that are heavily favored. The Broncos laying 12.5 points to the Chiefs is a great example of how the sharps think the game script is going to play out. Math says an over/under of 51 coupled with a point spread of 12.5 means the Broncos are favored to win 38-13. I think it’ll be closer than that but the propensity for Manning and company to grind clock with Montee Ball is high, despite their tendency to throw. No matter what, we want to find games with positive game scripts for running backs.

I always look for discounts at this position simply because it can so easily backfire. Last week Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and McCoy all failed to justify their price tags. McCoy and Peterson at least cracked double digits but it wasn’t enough to swing a tournament paycheck.

The only player of those three to retain his exposure is Peterson. In fact, it went up. He checks in as one of the highest owned at 13.9 percent. It’s clear that the crowd loves his matchup and I love it too. But if I’m paying up for a running back this isn’t the game I want.

McCoy’s ownership plunged from 27.5 percent to 9.3. The Monday night game has the makings of back-and-forth barnburner, and even if the Colts run defense looked good against the Broncos, they are going struggle against the Eagles.

Charles checks in as one of the lowest owned studs available. The Chiefs offense is scaring players away and the game script, as noted above, doesn’t favor running backs playing against Denver. But with an exposure at less than two percent, I’m plenty willing to invest the cap space if it means I get one of the best players in the league while all other DFS degenerates sleep on him.

I’m altogether fading Marshawn Lynch (12.9%) and Arian Foster (11.8%). There are better tournament plays available to us and we’re better off taking a discount even if it means missing out on these two players.

The running backs in Buffalo will both be underexposed despite the fact that Miami will be without their top two linebackers:

It’s always a good idea to grab a homerun hitter like C.J. Spiller in a big tournament, but there’s also something to be said for the goal line grinder. The fact that Fred Jackson still remains an important and frequent part of the Bills offense, and that he’s more likely to score touchdowns than Spiller, and he’s $1,800 cheaper than Spiller, makes him a fine play. His ownership of 2.3 percent further illustrates his value.

The running backs in Tennessee share a similar opportunity. Shonn Greene comes at a price of a mediocre kicker yet offers upside in the way of a great matchup. He had no problem running inside against a tough front seven last week in Kansas City. Logic says he should punch through Dallas provided he gets the opportunity. He led the Titans in carries with 15 and just missed out on a touchdown. It’s safe to assume that he’ll resume his workload this week, as well as his position on goal-to-go situations. For $5,000 and an exposure of less than two percent, he’s a contrarian’s contrarian play.

tight ends

The big three, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas, will always have double-digit exposure assuming health. And it’s always a good idea to make room for them in your lineup. But a savvy tournament player knows that sometimes you have to fade to profit. It’s just a matter of the replacement player.

Last week I was keen on Vernon Davis. This week I’m keen on Vernon Davis. His salary ($6,800) still doesn’t reflect his usage, his skillset nor his matchup. People are catching onto this, however, as his ownership currently sits at 9.4 percent. That’s still low enough to pay for his services.

So far, the most expensive tight end, in terms of exposure, is Zach Ertz. I hate to be the guy to burst your bubble but he is not a sneaky play in the slightest. He is featured in more lineups than the big three, most likely due to his economical salary of $5,600. It’s hard to suggest fading him. He clocked out as the sixth highest scoring tight end (PPR) a week ago thanks to a 25-yard touchdown and proved that he’ll be a major part of this offense going forward. Tie all that together with the highest expected point total of Week 2 and you have yourselves a definitive loss leader (14.6%).

People are being shy about Gronkowski in the early goings. He has found a home on just 3.1 percent of rosters, which may be the lowest ownership you’ll find of him for as long as he’s healthy. It’s not every week we can say Gronkowski is a contrarian play. Might as well take advantage of that.

But if you’re looking to save some cap without sacrificing upside, Greg Olsen is here to remind you that Newton is back and that Larry Donnell tagged the Lions defense with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Correlation does not always equal causation but there’s evidence that perhaps the Lions linebackers and safeties aren’t very good, while Olsen remains Newton’s favorite target. The lack of receivers in Carolina only caters to his opportunities. A salary of $6,400 and an exposure of 6.8 percent suggest that he is a top tight end play in Week 2. And let’s not forget that QB/TE stacks were more successful in 2013 than QB/WR.