The Fade: Week 08

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

I mentioned last week that FanDuel would no longer display Thursday lineups until all rosters lock Sunday. But, like starting Derek Carr, I had the wrong week. Rosters will remain hidden after Week 8 games, or at least that’s the projection. Subject to change, this will be the last time we’re able to access ownership percentages from Thursday games until FanDuel publishes them publicly (which may or may not happen in years to come).

In any case, Week 8 is open and we’ll carry on with business as usual. And as usual, I want to establish that the numbers we garner from Thursday games should be used simply as a guide and nothing else. Loss leaders are a huge component to cashing in large tournaments. So avoiding a popular player because he’s popular is never the strategy. Ignoring value is irresponsible.

Conversely, going against the crowd is imperative in lineup diversification. Finding those under the radar plays can separate you from the pack and the pack from the purse. But there’s always a reason why a guy might be on only two percent of lineups. And it’s usually not a good reason. So being different puts your buy-in at risk.

It’s a tricky balance. Thankfully we have resources like the Las Vegas sharps to help us stay on our feet while we swing at 200 point rosters. And for the time being, we at least get a little bit of a preview via the Thursday night game for which direction the crowd is heading.

quarterbacks

It’s unfortunate that the Broncos and Chargers are playing on Thursday, which abducts two usually great tournament and cash game quarterbacks. We’ll be without Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and all of the great receiving options that go with them. Furthermore, the Falcons and Lions are playing a Sunday morning game so none of those players will be available for the FanDuel $2.5M NFL Sunday Million. With fewer games we’ll see some clustered ownership percentages.

The biggest of which, as far as QBs go, is Russell Wilson. Last week he was the entire offense for the Seahawks with 419 yards and three total touchdowns. He’ll continue his road trip in another great matchup against the Panthers who are struggling on about every level of defense. Signs point to Wilson having a big day. But he’s the sixth most expensive player and the highest owned quarterback (9.6%). There are better matchups to exploit and better plays with less exposure. Fade.  

Over the last five weeks only three players have scored more fantasy points than Aaron Rodgers. I expected him to be the highest owned quarterback but as of Thursday night, he was found on 6.5 percent of rosters. Tony Romo is getting more exposure (7.3%). The Pack-Stack has been alive and well over the last few weeks and there’s no reason to turn away from it this week. The Saints have been generous to opposing quarterbacks allowing the seventh most points.

But you don’t need me to tell you that a Pack-Stack is recommended in all formats. You already knew that. Instead, you might need to hear that the over/under of this contest is 56 points, most of all games and up five points from where it opened, and that the Saints are favored by a slim margin. Vegas is telling us this game is going to be the kind of shootout that fantasy football dreams are made of. So while we’re all drooling over Rodgers and company, let’s not forget about Drew Brees. The Saints are a different team at home and even if their offense hasn’t functioned to the level that we’ve grown accustomed to, there are plenty of reasons to acquire Brees and few of his receivers. He’s $900 cheaper than Rodgers and underexposed at just 2.6 percent.  As always, when elite talent gets a dreamy matchup and the crowd doesn’t notice, smart players fade the crowd and profit.

Let’s go back to Romo for a minute. I love the matchup against Washington and I love the over/under of 49.5 points. What I don’t love is how the line moved from Dallas being favored by seven points to being favored by 9.5. My guess is Colt McCoy is responsible for most of that movement. It seems the game script favors Cowboys’ running backs. One thing I can say with certainty is Romo’s salary of $8,200 is somewhat prohibitive. His ceiling will always be capped thanks to an excellent running game. But it should be noted that the Cowboys have a magical way of making bad Washington quarterbacks heroic. The over is not out of question, especially against a Washington secondary that is allowing the second most points to quarterbacks, though that’s padded by two rushing scores.

For the same price as Romo you can get Nick Foles. He’s appearing on just 1.6 percent of teams and faces a secondary that has allowed more passing yards per game than every team except the Buccaneers. The over/under is a cozy 48 points with the Eagles expected to lose. We have a borderline Birdgang shootout brewing in the desert and I recommend stacking Foles with a few players to be named later.

An even better option in that shootout might be Carson Palmer. It’s a small sample size thanks to injuries but he’s thrown zero interceptions at home and four of his six touchdowns. The Eagles have surrendered the fifth most touchdowns with 13 despite shutting out the Giants in their last attempt. He’s affordable at just $7,400, so even if he’s exposed at 5.6 percent—a number I expect to grow a lot by Sunday—I’m happy to purchase his ceiling and spend the cap space elsewhere.

running backs

Speaking of spending cap elsewhere, we’ve done well in this space paying low and scoring high with running backs. I will continue to encourage that method. But this week I’m at least paying up for one, if not two, top backs.

I mentioned Rodgers is the third highest scoring player over the last five weeks. Matt Forte is number one. Since Week 4 he has 603 total yards, five total touchdowns and 33 receptions for 123.3 fantasy points. Regression is coming I’m sure but probably not this week. Our Guys project him as the highest scoring running back with the Bears traveling to face a Patriots team that has allowed the ninth most rushing yards per game and have given up eight touchdowns. Four of those scores have come through the air, which is where Forte is doing most of his damage. For now, he sits just behind DeMarco Murray in total fantasy points. For Week 8, we need make room for him in our budget and not even worry about his exposure (5.3%).

Another back I’m willing to pay up for is Marshawn Lynch. His production has been handicapped by that of Russell Wilson’s as he’s been held to a total of 133 yards with zero touchdowns over the last two weeks. But I think Beast Mode will be regenerated in Carolina. Check out the defensive game logs for the Panthers. They have been getting battered by running backs of all shapes and sizes, allowing more points than all but two other teams (Raiders and Falcons). He’ll still cost us a fair chunk of our cap ($8,500), but I think it’s plenty reasonable to expect a pair of scores and the yards that accompany them. His early exposure is just 4.6 percent.

If you can’t find a comfortable way to fit both of those guys onto your roster, go with Lynch and perhaps Jamaal Charles. Doing so will save you $800 and it’s not as if you’re sacrificing talent. In fact, if anything you’re upgrading. The matchup looks menacing as the Rams have allowed only one rushing touchdown all year and no receiving (at least not to running backs). Teams are opting to throw on their secondary instead. But I think the Chiefs defense handles Austin Davis while their offense flows through Charles. Vegas likes them to win by seven points. The game script favors Kansas City running backs.

Sticking with the theme of game scripts, I mentioned how Vegas likes the Cowboys by a spread of 9.5 points. That seems like a lot to me but if you’re inclined to pay up for the league’s rushing leader, DeMarco Murray, I’m not going to be the guy to talk you out of it. Just be aware that you won’t be alone and I never recommend buying a running back when he’s the third most expensive player, especially when he’s playing a team that’s allowed only two touchdowns to ball carriers all year.

Going a little cheaper we find Lamar Miller as one our more popular plays (11.4%). The Dolphins’ offense is giving fantasy players hope and Miller has benefited the most. He has found the end zone four times over the last three weeks. This Sunday he travels to Jacksonville in what appears to be a favorable matchup. The Jaguars allowed six touchdowns to running backs over the first three weeks of the season. But they’ve allowed only one since and that was a one-yard plunge by Jackie Battle. We’ve been fooled by this matchup before. Let’s not get fooled again. Fade.

The most popular play of the week is Jerick McKinnon. Every now and then I take great pleasure in ogling his metrics. What a thing of beauty. He has beautiful matchup to boot. The Buccaneers have been plenty friendly to opposing running backs. Still, McKinnon’s exposure (22.3%) and horrid situation offensively make him a liability in tournaments. Don’t get me wrong, the price point is exactly what we’re looking for. But the game script is cause for concern.

wide receivers

The Pack-Stack that has been recommended in this space over the last few weeks will cost us a bit more Sunday. The combined salary of Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb is $27,200, or 45.3 percent of our cap. Is it worth it? Last week they gifted us with 61.6 points, which is the basic floor of an all-in stack. Given the $400 increase we’ll need see that final total be closer to 80 points, which brings up an important issue in regards to stacking players from the same team. The cost of doing so needs to be justifiable. In this case, I don’t know that it is. A better strategy might be going with the guy playing against the Pack-Stack and investing elsewhere. For the record, Nelson is 17.8 percent exposed and Cobb is 9.3 percent. I would pick one or the other and not invest nearly half your cap on the Pack.

With Golden Tate in London and not available for Sunday lineups, Doug Baldwin takes his spot in the DFS limelight. Early action has him on 12.1 percent of rosters. We’ve already covered the matchup in this one and you know my money is on Lynch.

Brandon LaFell has found his way into fantasy relevance as well. But if you’re investing in the Patriots offense Tom Brady might be your only option. It’s impossible to predict which direction their offense will go and Brady is the only way to take full advantage. That said, for $5,300, LaFell’s recent role makes him a worthwhile lottery ticket. If only the crowd thought the opposite.

In that same game we have an underexposed and angry Brandon Marshall. He’ll cost you just $7,400 and is appearing on just 4.6 percent of rosters. I’m guessing the crowd is afraid of the matchup considering the Patriots have allowed only five touchdowns to receivers all season. Maybe that has more to do with the competition they’ve faced than their actual ability to shut receivers down. A.J. Green, for example, managed five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown back in Week 5. The over/under of this contest is one of the highest of the week at 50.5 and as much as I like Forte to keep up his pace, I love Marshall even if he faces Darrell Revis.

A career day has Sammy Watkins featured on nearly 10 percent of rosters. That number will be closer to 12 come Sunday. He has a great matchup against the Jets whose defense has been exploited by wide receivers all season long. But for his price ($7,300) there are much better options.

Michael Floyd is one such option. It would be wrong of me to recommend Palmer as an affordable choice at quarterback and not also recommend his best wide receiver as a stack. The Eagles defense, especially on the road, should be exploited and I could see these two hooking up for a pair of touchdowns. Floyd will cost us just $6,500 but the crowd isn’t shy about him either. As of Thursday he is on 9.2 percent of rosters. Not quite loss leader numbers but I’m still buying.

Speaking of loss leaders, Dez Bryant is almost impossible to not roster against Washington. I don’t necessarily like the Romo/Bryant stack due to the limited upside of a run heavy team, but if Palmer and Floyd are good home combination, Romo and Bryant are elite. The obvious difference is salary. The cost of Romo and Bryant submarines our entire lineup. And if you’re going to spend $8,800 on a wide receiver, it might as well be Nelson.

In the bargain bin we find Jordan Matthews. You won’t find a better receiver for $6,000 or below. The matchup is in place and love an Eagles stack against the Cardinals. Matthews has found his way into more snaps and though the productivity hasn’t been there, it’s only a matter of time before his salary skyrockets. Let’s take advantage of it this weekend while we can.

From a matchup standpoint, Cordarrelle Patterson is a better buy than Matthews for the same price. The Buccaneers have allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than all other teams. Teddy Bridgewater is the obvious issue here. To say he has been unreliable is understating just how bad the Vikings offense is. Maybe the emergence of McKinnon will open up the playbook. But until that happens I suppose it’s not unreasonable that Patterson shows up on just 2.9 percent of rosters even in a favorable situation. For that matter, we’ll be better off saving the cap space and investing in the receiver that leads the Vikings in targets, receptions and yards: Greg Jennings. We can save $500 in the process.

Remember when Justin Hunter set our hearts on fire in the preseason and climbed a bunch of draft spots? Zach Mettenberger was throwing him the ball. For $5,300 he is high-risk tourney play seeing very little early action (1.1%). The Texans have allowed receivers five touchdowns over the last three weeks. Granted, Andrew Luck and Romo are partially responsible for those numbers.

An interesting lottery ticket in terms of both exposure and salary is Donte Moncrief. If we were to assume Reggie Wayne doesn’t play, and that the Colts are going to be forced into throwing the ball in a tough road game, we should assume Moncrief will finally punch his ticket to more snaps with the base offense. As of Thursday he was on just 0.2 percent of rosters and costs us $5,100. In other words, he’s the ultimate tournament play, especially if you plan to pay up for a Pack-Stack or a stud pair of running backs.

tight ends

This is a tough week for tight ends since Julius Thomas and Antonio Gates aren’t available to us and Jimmy Graham can’t be trusted to play his normal role. It also gives us the opportunity to take a discount. We don’t have the power plays that would normally eradicate bargain bin options.

As you might guess Jordan Reed is the most popular feature (14.5%). We’ve been plotting against the Dallas defense for weeks and it finally work out last Sunday with Larry Donnell. This round I’m inclined to let the crowd take a chance with McCoy as the Cowboys linebackers get healthy. Fade.

Rob Gronkowski is a great option against the Bears. If you can design a lineup up that includes his services without jeopardizing your Sunday you should do it. He’ll be close to, if not above, eight percent owned.

Dwayne Allen is the most popular outside of Washington. But for $6,000 I want a little more guarantee that he will be a major leg of the offense.  The Colts are so efficient it’s maddening and makes him a tough sell for his price tag and exposure.

You could say the same thing about Zach Ertz and save $600 in the process. He may or may not end up being a big part of the game plan on Sunday, but at least you free up space to invest elsewhere. I think he’s a great option especially given his price point. The crowd has the same thinking as they’re piling up (6.2% owned). I don’t mind. I’ll repeat this every week: a quarterback/tight end stack is often the best option. So if you buy Foles, buy Ertz as well.

For the same price and little more under the radar is Charles Clay (2%). He finally showed up last week and maybe that’s all it will take for the crew in Miami to realize he needs to be a major part of the offense going forward. I would like his health status to be clarified before plugging him in, but if you’re looking to cut against the grain and still play matchups, Clay is a great option.  

sample lineup