The Fade: Week 07

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

It’s my understanding that this is the last week opponent’s Thursday lineups will be visible on FanDuel. Starting in Week 8 all rosters will remain hidden until the regular slate of Sunday games kickoff. The entire premise of this column is built around identifying trends and fading or flying with those trends. Without access to ownership percentages we’ll be forced back into the old school art of educated guessing. The show must go on.

We’ve come a long ways through six games. This week the NFL Sunday Million is paying out $2 Million, which is twice as much as it did in Week 1. The number of entries has also doubled. We started with 45,977 and a top prize of $100k. Now we’re at 91,954 with a top prize of $200k. Growth is a good thing but even as they extend the payout all the way to 17,450 entries, the rate of difficulty is increasing exponentially.

Meanwhile, DraftKings is rolling out their third straight week of the $2.2M Millionaire Maker. The pool size is similar to that on FanDuel with a maximum 92,400 entries. The big difference, of course, is the $1 Million guaranteed to first place. But even with a hefty grand prize the contest still pays out through 15,000 entries. Keep that in mind when making GPP selections across the various sites.

And regardless of where you play, the strategy remains the same. We need to find value in both salary and exposure. As always, dollars-per-point is a number that needs to be low. But just as important might be points per percentage owned. As an example, Joe Flacco was on 2.3 percent of rosters last week and he scored 32.24 points, effectively making him the best tournament play available. He scored 14 points per percentage of ownership. Branden Oliver was on 43.6 percent of rosters, scoring .46 points per percentage making him the ultimate loss leader of Week 6. There is a correlation. But at the end of the game, all that actually matters is the number of points scored. Everything else is calculated in hindsight. Again, the formula is simple: low exposure + high scores = profit.

quarterbacks

Any guesses as to what happens to a quarterback when he throws five touchdowns in one half of football? He becomes the highest owned player at his position. Flacco was last week’s tournament hero and this week’s crowd play at 9.4 percent owned as of Thursday night. Currently he’s our 8th highest scoring quarterback in all of fantasy just six points shy of Peyton Manning. He gets a tasty matchup against the Falcons at home in what Vegas recommends as a high scoring game (the over/under is 49.5), but I can’t recommend dropping the $7,700 it’ll cost to get him on your roster. There are better deals with much lower exposure and similar projections.

Our next most popular play is Brian Hoyer. The crowd is finally coming around to the gunslinger and his cast of speedy receivers. The Browns are travelling to Jacksonville in what should be an easy road win. The Jaguars have allowed 12 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks and they’re shedding yards through the air at 294 per game (third most). He’s still one of the cheapest options available so his exposure isn’t surprising. But the over/under in this contest 45 points. I’d rather buy into the Browns ground game on Sunday and fade Hoyer.

Usually Manning, Peyton is overly exposed and checks in as a loss leader. This week he’s on just 3.5 percent of early rosters. I guess the crowd is a little worried about the 49ers defense. I’m not. If the likes of Cutler can drop four touchdowns on them Manning should do just fine. Even if they have allowed the second fewest points to quarterbacks I’m comfortable with a Denver stack per usual, especially if the crowd is fading.

Another elite option that typically enjoys heavy usership is Drew Brees. A tough matchup against what is shaping up to be the best defense in football (Lions have allowed the fewest touchdowns) has his exposure at a season low of 1.2 percent. Mix in a banged up Jimmy Graham and it’s no wonder the people are scared. As much as I’d like to take advantage of such a rare timeshare it’s difficult justify his $9,100 salary. But an against-the-grain Saints stack could be a game changer.

There are two tournament options I’m especially excited about whose ownership percentages won’t change much between now and Sunday. The first of which is Colin Kaepernick. Traveling into Denver is never easy and it’s clear the Broncos’ defense is scaring owners away as he’s on just 2.8 percent of rosters. But I like Kaepernick to do a lot of work with his legs and I love that Vernon Davis is back. Don’t underestimate the 49ers’ offense and don’t overestimate the Broncos’ defense. If Jace Amaro can grab 10 receptions for 68 yards and a score, my bet is a Kaepernick/Davis stack will be profitable.

More affordable and maybe even less risky is Derek Carr. His salary ($6,800), exposure (1.7%) and the fact that he gets the Cardinals at home makes him a stud GPP play. Last week he nuked the Chargers secondary that had allowed only six touchdowns all season for four touchdowns and 282 yards. This week he gets the Cardinals who have allowed 10 and have generated the fifth fewest sacks with six. The Raiders have allowed only four all year, the second fewest. So if we’re to assume that Arizona struggles to pressure the passer, and Oakland excels at picking up the pressure, then we should assume Carr will have plenty of time to cut through this secondary. He is averaging 20.5 fantasy points per game at home versus 11.6 on the road, and it’ not as if they’re going to run the ball. The only question you need to ask yourself is not if you should start him, it’s who do you stack him with?

running backs

Filed under “we all saw that coming” is Justin Forsett as a top-eight PPR back through six weeks (followed by Fred Jackson and Lamar Miller to round out the top ten). He checks in as our most popular add at 26 percent. I expect that number to be closer to 40 by the time it’s all said and done. The Falcons are giving up more points to running backs than all other teams and it’s not even close. They’ve allowed 12 rushing scores (one to Teddy Bridgewater) through six games. The next closest are the Packers with seven. Forsett’s salary still hasn’t caught up to his usage so he’s a screaming value. I’ll cautiously plug him as a loss leader but I’m inclined to fade the crowd.

Ben Tate is the next highest owned at 19.7 percent. He strikes me as the Week 7 loss leader we’re looking for. The Browns run-blocking has been better than any team not in Texas. They’ll look to grind clock on the road in Jacksonville and Tate should find at least one score if not two. If there’s an excuse to fade him it’s because he’s the 10th most expensive back. For that reason you might look to Forsett and pimp out your rosters at other positions.

It goes without saying DeMarco Murray will be one of the highest owned this week and weeks to come. His exposure is just below Tate’s at 19.4 percent. I’m fading him in all tournaments on the belief that I’ll find similar production and better value elsewhere.

Andre Ellington is setup for a huge game against Oakland and his ownership of 15.1 percent reflects as much. I think his exposure will be much higher than that by the time the tournament fills. Vegas tells us this game will have a moderate score with an over/under of only 44.5. I disagree. My projections say we’re in for a high scoring shootout and probably overtime. That’s both good and bad news for Ellington. It’s good news in that he should see a lot of action in the passing game, especially with Palmer healthy. It’s bad news in that he won’t be used to grind out the clock like the general public probably expects.

Giovani Bernard is a surprising fade showing up on just 3.2 percent of rosters. Perhaps the crowd has no faith in the Bengals on the road. His salary of $8,900 is a tough one to swallow but the only team the Colts haven’t given up a rushing touchdown to is in Jacksonville. As always, when the crowd fades the player fade the crowd.

Our bargain bin players come with the usual amount of implied risk. First and foremost is Jonathan Stewart. I don’t take suggesting a Panthers running back lightly. The hope here is that he’s close to 100 percent healthy while he’s just 0.4 percent owned. The Packers have given up more rushing yards per game than any other team and have allowed six scores to ball carriers. Admittedly, I’m not comfortable with a back coming off of an injury, especially in a situation where his team is a seven point underdog.  The Panthers could get blown out in Green Bay and we all know what happens to game scripts in blowouts. But I think they’ll keep things competitive enough for Stewart to see plenty of carries. It also helps that he’s dirt cheap ($5,100).

For just $200 more we have Bernard Pierce. He may be the best reason to fade Forsett.  We’ve seen the Falcons struggle on the road and get blown out in the process. Should that happen Pierce is going to get a ton of work. Either way, will get enough goal line looks to justify a spot in your lineup. His salary of $5,300 and A+ matchup make him GPP material.

As mentioned, Fred Jackson ranks 10th overall in PPR leagues and he’s an intriguing play this weekend. The Vikings have given up six touchdowns to running backs over the last three weeks. Timeshares are always frustrating and are becoming more and more unavoidable, but Jackson has earned his touches and he’ll see plenty at home against Minnesota. His exposure hangs at 3.5 percent.

Lastly, Alfred Morris isn’t a bargain in the sense that he’s a cheap buy. He’ll set you back $7,200. But as of Thursday he was on just 4.8 percent of rosters. It’s likely a couple of down weeks has scared off most suitors. A home date with a Titans team that’s allowing the ninth most rushing yards per game and six touchdowns sets him up with a fine matchup.  

wide receivers

Last week I was all over a Packers stack with Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. They combined for 61.56 points. This week I’m doubling down. Rodgers is on just 4.8 percent of teams and Nelson is seeing his usual double-digit exposure (13.2%). Cobb is again flying under the radar at 5.5 percent all while leading the league in touchdowns for wide-outs (seven). The Panthers have allowed just as many scores to quarterbacks as the Jaguars with 12. Seven of those have come on the road. Packers stack indeed.

Golden Tate’s salary still doesn’t reflect his usage in the absence of Calvin Johnson. His exposure of 16.7 percent, most of all receivers, does. It’s going to be difficult to fade him and find better value but it worked last week.

Mohamed Sanu is the next highest owned at 17.6 percent. The Colts have given up only four touchdowns to wide receivers all season and two of them were to Jacksonville. The more I study this matchup the more I think the under of 49.5 points is a reality. I’ll be fading Sanu again.

Steve Smith and T.Y. Hilton are your next most popular checking just north of 15 percent. Both receivers are having career years. They are top-10 in targets and receptions. But as it goes with smaller wide receivers, touchdowns are tough to find. Volume is required to make up for size. Their usage is a safety net but I’ll be fading for bigger options.

Demaryius Thomas is our most expensive receiving option of the week. Perhaps that’s why his early exposure is under seven percent. Let’s not forget that just a few weeks ago Brandon Marshall scored three touchdowns against the 49ers. But outside of that game they’ve given up only three scores to wide receivers. Regardless, I’m not going to be shy about a Broncos stack.

Julio Jones is forgotten this week. He’s on 2.6 percent of rosters and though that number will grow plenty by Sunday, it won’t grow enough to make sense. The over/under of this contest is 49.5. As mentioned, the Falcons are inconsistent and can’t be trusted on the road. But Jones is matchup proof and if the crowd is fading, well, you already know. Check his health status Sunday morning.

Keenan Allen has more targets and receptions than any Chargers wide receiver. But here we are through six weeks and he’s nowhere close to living up to his ADP. The great thing about our game is we don’t care where he was drafted. We only care about how much he costs and how many people are buying him. Right now he’s an affordable $6,500. And thanks to his subpar production his exposure has fallen to 1.7 percent. There’s nothing like a divisional matchup to turn things around. I like him a lot more as a flex option in the DraftKings’ Millionaire Maker where his price is more accommodating, than as your third wide receiver on FanDuel.

I mentioned the idea of tossing together a Saints stack, especially if Graham ends up playing. Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks make for great options to complete the stack. Cooks is gobbling up the majority of targets and offers a matchup issue for the stout Lions’ defense. The over/under of this game opened at 52 and has since dropped to 48. It will be closer to the former should Graham play. We like quarterbacks in shootouts. And as I noted preseason, stacking top QBs with their top tight ends was money in 2013.

In general, I take discounts elsewhere so I can beef up receivers and not take risks on guys like Jarvis Landry. But diving into the bargain bin we find Andre Holmes for $6,000. He’ll end up on about 12-15 percent of rosters (currently 8.9%) given his price tag and matchup. His metrics can’t be ignored and so far they’ve shown up on the field. Over his last two games he’s converted 20 targets into 195 yards and three touchdowns.

tight ends

Jordan Reed and Jordan Cameron are early favorites in the popularity contest. Both are checking into right around 10 percent of rosters. I expect Cameron’s to grow quite a bit by the time Sunday kicks off. He’s a great play against Jacksonville. Reed is finally healthy and his salary of $5,400 may be the lowest we’ll see for the rest of the season.

Julius Thomas can’t be stopped. He’ll be our most expensive option for as long as Graham and the Saints are struggling. And like his teammates, the crowd is shy, as his exposure has dipped to 5.4 percent. The 49ers have allowed tight ends to score in their last two contests but have allowed only three all year. Still, stack the Broncos as you normally would and enjoy the low exposure when you can.

I expected Larry Donnell to see a bit more action but so far he’s on just 3.2 percent of rosters. The Cowboys allowed six touchdowns to tight ends through the first four weeks and zero over the last two. Donnell should pose a bigger threat and his salary isn’t prohibited.

Vernon Davis is getting healthy and the crowd doesn’t care. His exposure of 1.9 percent and his salary of $5,700 generate the kind of value we need in tournaments. I’ll have him in a ton of lineups.

Sample Roster

I’m investing a lot of cap in receivers this week and I’m confident it’s the right position to bank on. I didn’t mention Dez Bryant earlier but it goes without saying he’s worth rostering every week, assuming Tony Romo is healthy. As always, this is not a recommended lineup and I’m sure it’ll change before Sunday. But this gives us an idea how the numbers play together. Low exposure coupled with upside is what we’re looking for and it’s exactly what I’ve designed.