The Fade: Week 09

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

In anticipation of FanDuel hiding opponent lineups I did the only sensible thing and entered a bunch of unique rosters in a few different Thursday tournaments. Doing so gave me access to several players and their subsequent exposure. Next week I’ll double, or maybe even triple, the number of buy-ins so I can build a much bigger database. For now, we have enough information to gauge the flow of money and can fade or fly accordingly.

I mentioned last week that FanDuel was increasing their Sunday Million tournament size and prize pool. It’s now up to 137,931 entries and I don’t doubt it’ll fill. A field of that size is almost prohibitive in the sense that it’s getting harder and harder to finish in a top payout spot. So playing a few smaller tournaments, such as the $500k Sunday, might be a better option.

The good news is you have a Footballguys subscription, which gives you access to one of the best DFS tools available. Maurile Tremblay’s Interactive Value Charts are worth their weight in gold. My apologies for not pointing you in his direction earlier if you haven’t discovered them for yourself.

The Interactive Value Charts pull all of the players and their subsequent salaries from each site and allow you to build lineups complete with our own projections. My suggestion is to enter the lineup you were thinking about playing and seeing how many points said roster is expected to score. Then tinker a bit and try to improve upon it. For FanDuel try to get the consensus projection up to 120-125 plus. For DrafKings shoot for 150. Once you come close analyze the team you’ve designed and ask yourself if they’re capable of scoring 80 more points than the projections. This is the exact process I use to profit in the Millionaire Maker each week. I’m not a millionaire yet but check with me again on Tuesday.


We begin with the highest over/under of the week. The Patriots are hosting the Broncos in our yearly AFC playoffs preview and Vegas likes this score to reach 54.5. We need to be a bit cautious here as the weather situation is less than fantasy friendly.  Wind gusts up to 25 miles-per-hour are possible with a 20 percent chance of snow/freezing rain. The precipitation doesn’t bother me much but the wind speed does. Our friend Fantasy Douche tweeted a graph detailing the effect of weather on overall points:

I wonder if that’s why Peyton Manning’s ownership is currently hovering around 4.4 percent. The combination of weather, cost and a somewhat imposing matchup is likely scaring players off. I’ll be fading him in most formats but at least one Broncos stack is always recommended. That’s why we play multiple lineups.

FYI, my go-to weather source is WeatherSpark. You can easily punch in a city and customize many variables, such as precipitation, temperature and wind speed/direction. It will become an invaluable tool as we enter the latter half of the season where weather can be a huge factor in our decisions.

I don’t have a number for Tom Brady but my guess is he’s around five percent owned. If you do start him you are obviously also starting his tight end. Just be aware that we’re likely to see a short-passing attack, which actually favors the Patriots a lot more than the Broncos. If I had to choose a quarterback in this contest it would be Brady. But altogether, I’m inclined to take a discount and avoid both.

The most exposed quarterback, Russell Wilson, comes as no surprise. Over the last five weeks he is the fifth highest scoring signal caller. He gets a great matchup against a Raiders secondary that has allowed nine passing touchdowns in their last five games. Add the propensity for rushing yards and Wilson is in a great situation to outplay his salary of $8,600. Still, I have to warn that the game script very much favors clock grinding as the Seahawks are likely to blow past the Raiders. Las Vegas favors them to win by 15 points. That’s a ton for a professional football game. Price, exposure and situation scream fade.

Our next most popular QB is Colin Kaepernick. I was hoping he would be forgotten coming off a bye week. We’ve seen such memory lapses happen in previous weeks. But this Sunday he is favored by 10.5 percent of players. People haven’t forgotten that his best fantasy output of the season came against these same Rams just a few weeks ago.  Priced just right, I love Kaepernick, despite his exposure, in every format. The Rams are much harder to run on than they are to throw on, and even if Vegas favors the 49ers to win by 10, I think he does plenty of damage and more than justifies his accommodating salary. Just understand that he will be in a ton of lineups come Sunday.

Andrew Luck is our most expensive option of the week. He’s also the highest scoring player in all of fantasy. In five of eight games he’s thrown for at least three touchdowns. Week 2 was the only time he didn’t throw for more than 300 yards. That’s MVP material in both fake and real football. Furthermore, he has rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns. The question is do we play him in New York? At home, the Giants have allowed a total of 772 passing yards and two touchdowns in three games. The asterisk with those stats, of course, is the quality of competition. Drew Stanton, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Ryan aren’t exactly secondary slayers. So the matchup is nothing to fear. At this point, it’s hard to bet against Luck and his talented to group of receivers. The fact that his running back has more receiving touchdowns than rushing touchdowns is a big bonus as well. But his price puts our rosters in peril and his exposure ruins our tournament diversity. Save him for cash games.

Going a little cheaper we find Carson Palmer headed to Dallas and owned by just three percent of teams. Vegas has set the over/under of this one at 48 points. Note 86% of the money is on Arizona to cover the four point spread and 78% are betting the over.

Suffice it to say, should Tony Romo be unable to play, Palmer and company won’t find themselves in a pass-friendly situation. Quite frankly, I’m not so sure this contest remains close. This has the makings of a Dallas disaster and I don’t like what it means for any of the players involved aside from a few elite options. Kaepernick is the same price with a better matchup at home. All Palmer offers is contrarianism with a decent floor.

If you’re really looking to cut the grain you should spend the extra $100 and plug in Ryan Tannehill. Over the last three weeks only eight quarterbacks have scored more points. This week he returns to Miami and hosts a secondary that has been battered with injuries and has allowed 789 yards accompanied with eight touchdowns. Even Derek Carr cut the Chargers up for four scores. Exposed at just 0.6 percent, we may have a Dolphins stack in order for the first time this season.

Aside from Tannehill, the ultimate tournament play comes in brown this weekend. Brian Hoyer, gunslinger extraordinaire, will cost us just $6,200. He’s hosting one of the most fantasy friendly defensive units in all of football. The only quarterback to not dump at least two touchdowns on the Buccaneers is Teddy Bridgewater. Just a few weeks ago Joe Flacco hung five on them in one half. Hoyer has plenty of weapons between speedy receivers and chain-moving running backs. I’d like this matchup a lot more if Jordan Cameron was cleared to play. Even without him, I like the exposure I’m getting with Hoyer (2.2%), and the accommodating price tag. Side note, I can’t wait to stack him with Josh Gordon upon his return in Week 12.

running backs

The revolving strategy with running backs generally has me recommending a discount wherever you can find it. Last week was the first exception to that rule. This week we have the perfect opportunity to play high/low with matchups and injury situations.

Our most popular ball carrier is Ahmad Bradshaw. I mentioned Luck’s productivity thanks to his pass-catching running backs. Check out Bradshaw’s game logs. He registers eight touchdowns with six of them coming via a pass. Over the last three weeks he’s the fifth highest scoring running back in PPR leagues. The Giants have allowed the fourth most points to ball carriers. It’s a match made in fantasy heaven. For $7,500 he’s plenty affordable. The only concern, the same concern we have with all running backs and the reason we choose cheap options, is we just never know when that foot issue is going to flare up or when the game script is going to bring us down. His exposure of 16.7 percent accentuates my desire to fade. As does the fact that the Giants have allowed only one receiving touchdown to opposing backs all season. Maybe this matchup isn’t so rosy.

Next man up as voted on by the crowd is Marshawn Lynch. The reports of him no longer playing for the Seahawks and his unhappiness with the release of Percy Harvin do little to discourage his services. I suggested a Wilson fade almost solely based on the fact that Lynch will be the bearer of the offense. The Raiders are going to get wrecked in Seattle and it’s not going to be enjoyable for anyone that is without No. 24. His exposure of 13 percent registers him as our top loss leader among all ball carries. His price on DraftKings especially makes him a must-play.

Giovani Bernard is one of my favorite young runners so it’s unfortunate that his Sunday status is in jeopardy. It’s also great news as we’ll finally get to see if Jeremy Hill is worthy of a major workload. So far, the DFS crowd loves him as he’s in 9.3 percent of their lineups. I expect that number to grow a great deal should Bernard be officially ruled out. But just as I warned last week, how many touchdowns have the Jaguars allowed to running backs since Week 2? Two. Not enough to roll the dice on a rookie playing in his first start. Let’s face it, when your best comparable is Rashad Jennings, even added opportunities barely help. All of that said his salary of $5,200 makes him almost impossible to ignore. Almost being the key word. Paying up at other positions isn’t as advantageous this week as is it is in most. So taking a discount on running backs nets us little.

Moving along we find Ronnie Hillman fighting through a shoulder injury and in line to see about 15 percent of the action come Sunday. I’m not worried about his health and I love his matchup against the Patriots who have allowed the fifth most points to running backs through eight weeks. Should the weather turn against quarterbacks, as we covered earlier, the Broncos will favor their running game and Hillman is the benefactor.  

As far as bargains are concerned, Alfred Morris is a steal, especially on DraftKings. The crowd is afraid that his usage and production are direct results of his middling talent. The truth is he needs a reliable offense in order to outperform his metrics. The return of Robert Griffin will help. I’m a little surprised he’s found his way on nearly six percent of rosters, a direct result of pricing, but that’s not enough to bump him off of the contrarian bubble. I like him for at least one touchdown.

Remember when Doug Martin was drafted in the first round? Me neither. I do, however, remember when Bobby Rainey filled in for an injured Martin in Week 11 of last year against a bottom run defense. He cut them up for 164 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns are a tasty matchup, even if the Buccaneers are on the road. As of early games, he was on just 1.4 percent of rosters. I’d like his salary ($6,200) to be a bit more reasonable, like that of Hill’s, but I’m not going to be shy about pairing him with a high-priced option like Lynch.

wide receivers

The position that suffers the most where exposures are concerned is wide receiver. No other area has more options both on the high level of price and popularity, and the lower opposite. Most of the time I’m comfortable with going chalk plus a discounted salary option. This week we may need to take a different approach.

As the seventh most expensive option among wide-outs for $8,100, and highest exposed option at 25.8 percent, T.Y. Hilton checks in as the fade of week. It’s clear his last three weeks have made him irresistible and I won’t blame anyone for going to the well one last time. But I see the Colts spreading things around a bit more now that Donte Moncrief showed what he can do. Don’t get me wrong, Moncrief is by no means the reason Hilton will be put in check. That honor belongs to regression.

Brandon LaFell is suddenly relevant and has found his way onto 14.2 percent of rosters. We’ll see how much that climbs by Sunday. As of now, there’s no way I trust a guy that has a history of inconsistent weekly upside, yet is consistently in drop columns. For $6,900 we can do better for our money all while avoiding any weather pitfalls.

Mohamed Sanu registers at 14.8 percent on early rosters. I think that trails off a bit as we gather information about A.J. Green’s status. Should Green be available to us, my bet is the crowd is still bearish. There is no better time to take advantage of fear. I’ll fade Sanu for that very reason and purchase Green everywhere I can get him.

I almost get lightheaded when I consider a Browns stack, but if Hoyer is a gunslinger he must have plenty of ammunition. Andrew Hawkins is his most deadly target and I love the matchup for both. He’s turned 18 targets into 200 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. This week he gets a secondary that’s allowed more points to wide receivers than all other teams. For $6,400, I think the crowd might be on to something (7.9%).

Our loss leader of the week just happens to be the number one wide receiver in all formats by a wide margin: Antonio Brown. His exposure is currently hovering around 13 percent and I expect that to grow a lot come Sunday. But at home, against a banged up Ravens’ secondary missing their best cornerback, I don’t mind paying up for the second most expensive receiving option. Vegas plants the over/under of this contest at 48 points. Perhaps a Steelers stack would be a good one to double down on.

I hate to do a disservice to common sense but I can’t quite quit Michael Floyd. There’s just something about a talented wide receiver paired with a long-armed quarterback and a reasonable salary that keeps me awake at night. I’d almost rather be wrong and have him in my lineup than the alternative. As you might expect, crowds have left for more fertile fantasy grounds and may never return to reap what they planted so many weeks ago. Which means it’s time for contrarians to harvest. Floyd is represented on just two percent of rosters and I don’t expect it to change much between now and Sunday. I’m in even though I’m nervous about Palmer.

Six hundred dollars north of Floyd rests another corpse of Week 8 fantasy expectations. Mike Wallace is a hard player to measure. Not to be taken literally, his measurables are dreamy, but his offensive situation is offensive. He even said so himself. All things being equal, I don’t think his $7,200 salary hit is that unfair. What’s unfair is an exposure of just 3.2 percent, one I don’t expect to move much. As I always say, when the crowd fades the player, fade the crowd. Wallace is one of my favorite tournament plays this week.

Fading our way to the bargain bin we find New England Patriots’ has-been, Wes Welker. You have to wonder if revenge games are a real thing. To this point I think, for as long as announcers continue to use “momentum” as a near static, we should at least bear in mind the possibility that football players are the few employees whose job awards them the opportunity to actually use their skills against their ex-bosses. Motivation shouldn’t be underestimated. But as neither team can really afford a loss, we might see strictly business. If that’s the case then stay away from Welker.

The other theory is that Bill Belichick hates him, and vice versa, and Manning hates Belichick. If true, then this is the revenge game of revenge games: Welker vs. Belichick vs. Manning vs. Brady who would love to justify his playoff loss last January. Do you think they’ll save all of this emotion for the playoffs next January? I don’t. The crowd is going to be nervous about the weather, especially if the media narrates it. What a great time to stack Manning and Welker.

Digging deeper than we probably should we find Miles Austin. The uncertainty with Cameron leaves a void in the end zone for the Browns. They’ll need a big-bodied option with great hands and just enough speed to separate. Until Gordon returns (I can’t wait) Austin fills that role. For $4,800 he can fill your roster with touchdown upside and low exposure (1.2%), no matter how primitive.

tight ends

We’ll be exposed to our usual offenders at the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski is our most expensive option. If you start Brady, he is a must. He’s also our most popular option, appearing on 12.9 percent of rosters. The weather hardly favors the passing game but Gronk has never relied on deep targets. He’s a short yardage receiver and excels in the end zone. Start him as you normally would. Just know that everyone else has the same idea.

Julius Thomas isn’t exactly being ignored either. As the second most expensive tight end, in a game where our money is on Welker, I recommend ducking under his prohibitive cap hit and courting other options.

More popular and less expensive is Travis Kelce. There is no secret regarding how bad the Jets defense is against everything except running backs. No team has allowed more touchdowns to tight ends. Kelce is a ridiculous $5,400 on FanDuel and plenty popular at more than nine percent. Still, value is value and it would be irresponsible for us to ignore it.

For $300 more we have Vernon Davis. After a bout with injuries he’s back and hopefully better than ever. A 49ers stack can’t survive without him. He’s operating at 100 percent and on just 4.2 percent of rosters. I’ll play him everywhere.

sample lineup

I will stand behind a QB/TE stack everyday of the week. Maybe a better option is Manning/Thomas or Brady/Gronk, but for the price you can't beat Kaepernick/Davis. The Interactive Value Chart projects this lineup at 120.6 points.