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The Fade: Week 14

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

The quest for value will always fall secondary to the overarching goal of most points possible. We preach dollars-per-point and contrarian politics within guaranteed prize pools, and those are important factors that should be utilized in your weekly approach. But at the end of the day the only thing that matters is the box score. I know it’s an obvious concept but profits are awarded to the highest scoring team. Not the team that has the highest value.

At the beginning of the season I laid out my philosophy of identifying loss leaders via exposure.  I find it important to revisit this strategy and remind that these numbers are nothing more than a guide. Fading a player because he is popular is never part of the strategy. Fading him because he’s popular and there are equal or better less popular options is a big part of the strategy. But let’s not lose sight of end goal: building the highest scoring lineup possible.

We have three Thursday night games remaining after this week. I don’t know which direction this column will take after that since we use those games to mine for exposure data. In any case, I’m adding a feature by including all of the exposure numbers sorted highest to lowest. I derived them by creating 20 nearly unique lineups in a large field Thursday night tournament. Like I said, use this data to your advantage by fading the crowd where necessary. But don’t ignore value simply because of popularity.

Quarterbacks

Quarterback % Owned Price Quarterback % Owned Price
Ryan Fitzpatrick 12.3 $7200 Teddy Bridgewater 1.5 $7100
Drew Brees 8.9 $9400 Matt Ryan 1.4 $7900
Aaron Rodgers 8.8 $10,400 Ben Roethlisberger 1.3 $8400
Matthew Stafford 8.5 $8300 Biran Hoyer 1.3 $6700
Colin Kaepernick 7.2 $7200 Phillip Rivers 1.1 $8200
Eli Manning 6 $7300 Mark Sanchez 1 $7700
Shaun Hill 4.3 $6700 Ryan Tannehill 1 $8600
Colt McCoy 4.1 $6800 Cam Newton 0.8 $7800
Russell Wilson 3.3 $8500 Andy Dalton 0.6 $7900
Tom Brady 2.8 $9600 Kyle Orton 0.5 $7300
Peyton Manning 2.3 $10,000 Alex Smith 0.2 $7100
Andrew Luck 2 $10,300      

Right off the bat we find evidence of recency bias with Ryan Fitzpatrick as our most popular option among quarterbacks. The mythology of picking on the Jaguars continues as the crowd sees a secondary that’s allowed the ninth most yards per game through the air and a total of 20 passing touchdowns. If you’ve spent any time in this space this season you already know I’m going to label Fitzpatrick as a fade, maybe even the fade of the week. The only thing floating his popularity, aside from the six touchdowns he tossed last week, is his price. Go cheap if you want. But let’s not forget he had 11 touchdowns going into Week 13 and was benched for Ryan Mallett. His exposure makes him an easy fade.

Drew Brees is a lot more understandable. The Panthers are tied for seventh in allowed touchdowns via the pass with 22. In the saddest division in football you have to be happy with the matchup the Saints get at home. But for the price we’re asking for tournament-swinging box scores. I’ll invest elsewhere.

For example, Aaron Rodgers is a lot more likely to validate his price tag. Granted, he will cost you $1,000 more but there’s a reason Las Vegas stamps this matchup with the highest over/under at 56 points. I’ll always look to go stud or scrub in a tournament. Rodgers is the stud we need to make up for the discount we’ll take at other positions. Pay his price with confidence.

Matthew Stafford has slowly climbed his way back into the graces of the crowd. Hosting a ball-gawking secondary helps. The Buccaneers offer a soft option for the game’s best wide receiver and I fully expect the Lions to take advantage. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Stafford, and his $8,300 salary, is going to fill the scoreboard with the kind of points needed to win against a large field. Quality of opponent aside, Tampa Bay has allowed only seven touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks over the last six weeks. I’ll fade Stafford without concern.

Our next quarterback has eight games with only one passing touchdown and two games with only two. Yet here were are, in Week 14, and Colin Kaepernick is the fifth most popular option. I know you are all anxious to save some cap space and invest in the Raiders secondary to bless you with 30-something points. The problem is Kaepernick has yet to have a single game that measures up to his expected point total when the matchup says he’s a good play. Check out his game logs and tell me if it makes you comfortable. Then check out his split stats and tell me if you think he’ll improve his 20.8 fantasy points per game average on the road.

Maybe Twitter will help:

I suppose 20 or so points wouldn’t be all bad given his salary. For $7,200 all he needs is a few touchdowns and a couple hundred yards. I actually like him to have his best game of the season.

But for all of the Kaepernick love we should at least flirt with Cam Newton as a tournament option. The Saints are the sixth friendliest in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Panthers offense is horrible but if you’re looking for a contrarian play, I’m not sure there’s a better option.

Unless you consider Ryan Tannehill to be contrarian and it appears that he is this week. On just one percent of Thursday night rosters, I have to wonder if the crowd will come around after they realize the Ravens have allowed 1,323 yards along with 13 passing touchdowns in their last four games. Meanwhile, Tannehill has accumulated 910 yards and seven total touchdowns during that timeframe, despite not finding the end zone even once last week. His $8,600 sticker price is tough to work into rosters, but his exposure makes him my favorite tournament play in Week 14. I’ll have him in every lineup across every site.

Running Backs

Running Back % Owned Price Running Back % Owned Price
Frank Gore 16.7 $5700 Andre Williams 1.7 $6500
Tre Mason 16.5 $7200 Alfred Morris 1.6 $7500
Arian Foster 14.1 $8700 Marshawn Lynch 1.6 $8600
C.J. Anderson 12.9 $7800 Carlos Hyde 1.5 $5000
Eddie Lacy 12.7 $8500 Shane Vereen 1.4 $5900
Joique Bell 11.9 $6800 Ryan Mathews 1.3 $7100
Dan Herron 10 $6400 Denard Robinson 1.2 $6700
Justin Forsett 8.1 $7400 LeSean McCoy 1.2 $8400
Jonathan Stewart 6.8 $5200 Giovani Bernard 1 $7300
Mark Ingram 5.8 $7700 Steven Jackson 1 $6600
Isaiah Crowell 5.1 $6500 Trent Richardson 1 $5600
Le'Veon Bell 5 $9300 Chris Johnson 0.9 $5200
Rashad Jennings 4.8 $7400 Reggie Bush 0.9 $6000
LaGarrette Blount 2.4 $6700 Jeremy Hill 0.6 $7300
Darren Sproles 2.2 $5700 Pierre Thomas 0.5 $6100
Fred Jackson 2 $6500 Jamaal Charles 0.4 $9200
Chris Ivory 2 $5300 Andre Ellington 0.1 $7400
Lamar Miller 1.9 $6700 Knile Davis 0.1 $5700

Where Kaepernick is popular, Frank Gore is prom king. We saw Tre Mason cut up the Raiders for three scores and 164 total yards. I don’t mind using Gore as a loss leader given his cost. Expecting a lot of yards is foolish but a pair of touchdowns is within reason. We just have to be prepared for a let down given the circumstances of the offense. Doing so puts a lot of pressure on accuracy at other positions.

Mason is our next most popular option. I had him in every lineup last week and won’t have him in a single lineup this week. The game script lent a helping hand as he dished out one of the better rushing performances of the season. That’s going to be a lot harder to count on in Washington. Pair his exposure with a $1,200 increase in price against a team that’s allowed the fourth fewest points to running backs and you have the fade of the week.

Over the past four weeks the Jaguars have allowed 667 total yards and six touchdowns to running backs. I really like those kinds of numbers. I also like it when Arian Foster is healthy, especially when we lose two our top options to Thursday Night Football. I preach cheap at this position in most cases. In the case of Week 14, I’m happy to reverse course and raise ceilings.

With or without Foster, I’m taking a long, hard look at Marshawn Lynch and thinking about taking a stroll in Pete Carroll’s shoes. How would you slow down an up-tempo college coach (not saying Chip Kelly isn’t great) if you had two decades of college coaching experience and an offense built around time of possession? You run the ball. My only pause here is the unfortunate split detailing Lynch’s total lack of rushing touchdowns on the road.  In fact, his home/road splits pretty much shatter my confidence with 11.2 points per game on the road versus 21.7 at home That says a lot about what happens to the Seahawks offense when they travel.

I know you feel safe buying Rodgers at home. But the truth is I’m thinking Eddie Lacy is the best option to own in this game. I don’t like his 12.7 percent exposure or his elite price tag, but I do like that the Falcons have allowed more rushing touchdowns than any other team.

For $6,400 Dan Herron is a fine option and should have plenty of opportunity to find the end zone. Unless, of course, Chuck Pagano is serious about Trent Richardson. Maybe we need to pay mind to the “revenge game” karma too in this contest. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Colts force the issue in trying to justify their trade by shoving Richardson down the Browns throat. Let’s not overlook how soft the run defense is in Cleveland either. And let’s not forget that it was just a few weeks ago he was the most exposed option at running back. I gag a little even thinking this but Richardson, in the name of contrarianism, is a better play than Herron.

Sticking to the bottom of the list in terms of exposure I love Reggie Bush if he is indeed 100 percent healthy. It’s clear Joique Bell is the crowd favorite as the sixth most popular running back. No matter what the Lions should have no trouble moving the ball and there will be enough yards to go around. Bell is more likely to score a touchdown. Bush is more likely to swing a tournament.

It’s a damn shame about Rashad Jennings’ ankle. Just in time for one of the worst defenses in the NFL too. I think we can pretty much count on him missing the game against Tennessee, which means Andre Williams will get the start. There isn’t a better option in his price range but I expect his exposure to skyrocket.

In the bargain bin we find Jonathan Stewart and Chris Johnson. Both of them are attached to bad offenses on the road. Even if the matchups favor their situation, you have to protect your floor if you expect to finish ahead of 103,000 other people. But I’ll admit the temptation to punt this position and pray for a Stewart touchdown, which will force him into a few of my lineups.

Wide Receivers

Wide Receiver % Owned Price Wide Receiver % Owned Price
Kenny Stills 31.9 $6400 Jordan Matthews 2.1 $7500
DeAndre Hopkins 20.5 $7500 Keenan Allen 2.1 $7600
Odell Beckham Jr Jr 13.1 $8200 Mike Wallace 2.1 $7100
Jordy Nelson 12.1 $8900 Pierre Garcon 1.8 $5600
Josh Gordon 12.1 $8000 A.J. Green 1.5 $8800
Calvin Johnson 9.8 $9200 Michael Crabtree 1.5 $6300
Anquan Boldin 8.9 $7100 Torrey Smith 1.5 $6900
Brandon LaFell 8.3 $7100 Mike Evans 1.3 $8100
Randall Cobb 8.2 $8400 Cecil Shorts 1.1 $5700
Jarvis Landry 7.4 $6900 Percy Harvin 1.1 $6200
Stedman Bailey 6.8 $6300 Reggie Wayne 1.1 $6400
Golden Tate 6.5 $7800 Rueben Randle 1 $6300
Kelvin Benjamin 5.7 $7500 Vincent Jackson 1 $6500
Andre Johnson 5.2 $6600 Jeremy Maclin 0.8 $8200
Donte Moncrief 5.2 $6000 Julian Edelman 0.8 $7100
Marques Colston 5.1 $6000 Nate Washington 0.7 $6600
Doug Baldwin 4.7 $5500 Sammy Watkins 0.7 $7000
Martavis Bryant 4 $6600 Nick Toon 0.6 $5000
Mohamed Sanu 3.8 $6700 Dwayne Bowe 0.5 $5600
Kendall Wright 3.6 $6700 Michael Floyd 0.5 $6400
Emmanuel Sanders 3.3 $8800 Roddy White 0.4 $7400
Robert Woods 3 $5900 DeSean Jackson 0.3 $7600
T.Y. Hilton 2.5 $8600 John Brown 0.3 $6400
Antonio Brown 2.4 $9300 Larry Fitzgerald 0.3 $6400
Julio Jones 2.4 $8700 Chris Hogan 0.1 $5900
Demaryius Thomas 2.2 $9400 Brandon Gibson 0.1 $5200
Charles Johnson 2.1 $6000      

It comes as no shock to see Kenny Stills take the honor as the most popular guy in all of DFS. His salary still hasn’t caught up to his usage. In two games without Brandin Cooks in the lineup Stills has converted 15 targets into 13 receptions, 260 yards and one touchdown—seventh best of all wide receivers in that timeframe. And there’s no reason to think his production can’t continue. This week he gets the Carolina Panthers who have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than all but two other teams. He’ll be hard to fade and I won’t blame you for using him as a loss leader in your lineups. For $6,400 it’s almost impossible not to draft him. But I’m going to look the other way as I think the Saints will find just as much success on the ground as they will through the air.

Next most popular and following Fitzpatrack in recency bias is DeAndre Hopkins. He caught all nine targets and cashed them in for 236 yards and two touchdowns last week. This week he’s an easy fade. The Jaguars passing defense is a lot better than they get credit for. A lot of it comes from the pressure they get up front, ranking third in sacks with 37. The Texans have been good at protecting their quarterback but this is a week where they may not need to. I expect them to develop their game plan around Foster and Alfred Blue rather than Fitzpatrick and his receivers. Let the crowd take the Hopkins bait and look for someone else in his price range.

For example, Kelvin Benjamin is the same price and has a much better matchup with a much lower exposure. The Panthers offense, as mentioned, has been horrible all season. But I love him to find the end zone against the Saints, maybe even more than once. If you take a risk with Newton, stack him with Benjamin. The Saints have allowed the fourth most points to receivers.

Odell Beckham Jr Jr. broke the internet a few weeks ago with one of the best catches I have ever seen (I wonder if he makes that catch barehanded?). He then followed that performance up with an underwhelming seven catches for 90 yards (against the previously mentioned Jaguars defense). You don’t need much evidence to see how inconsistent the Giants offense is and investing $8,200 of your cap makes for a risky proposition. 

As usual, we can count on Jordy Nelson to deliver his 80 to 120 yards and a score on Monday night. The same goes for Randall Cobb. Our Interactive Value Chart Top 20 Stacks ranks Rodgers/Nelson as number one and Rodgers/Cobb as number three. But their salaries chew a hole in our ability to stretch a high ceiling roster. We’ve been able to rely on the Packers offense to justify the cost of its players, but perhaps we need to pump the brakes a little bit. They rank 23rd in pass attempts so it’s not as if they’re forcing the ball through Rodgers. Pay up for Nelson if you must. Just be aware there is going to be a ton of action on this game from a DFS standpoint and I prefer Lacy.

Vontae Davis has been ruled out of Week 14, which means Josh Gordon’s exposure of 12.1 percent will be closer to 18 or 20 come Sunday. I’ll be happy to use him as a loss leader. I’m not buying into a Browns stack, however. I just don’t trust Brian Hoyer enough to deliver a monster game, let alone finish the game, despite his friendly salary. That said, he is a low percentage play and stacking him with Gordon could be profitable. Their combined salary takes up 24.5 percent of our budget leaving enough room to be aggressive elsewhere.

Our third most expensive receiver and sixth most owned is a healthy Calvin Johnson. He gets a ball-gawking Buccaneers secondary that’s allowed 16 touchdowns and the sixth most points to wide-outs. I won’t blame you for designing your roster around his services.

I won’t have Demaryius Thomas or Antonio Brown in any lineups this week. Their salaries are prohibitive and there are better matchups to exploit at a reduced rate. Thomas is the number one receiver over the last three weeks but we’re seeing the Broncos offense slowing down a bit recently. Brown almost cost players a lot of cash last week before coming up with a pair of TDs in garbage time. But hey, garbage time points count too. Don’t count on that this week as the hosting Bengals have allowed only six touchdowns and the second fewest points to receivers.  

I love both Jarvis Landry and Mike Wallace, just as I love Tannehill. Both represent great mid-priced options with huge upside. Wallace gives us a contrarian look as he registers on just 2.1 percent of rosters. I think they both come up big against a Ravens defense that just lost Haloti Ngata and was already allowing the most points to receivers. A Dolphins stack is in order.

Taking a journey to the bargain bin we find Stedman Bailey for $6,300. I get the temptation here as he’s hauled in 12 receptions for 189 yards one touchdown over his last two games and now faces one of the worst defenses in all of football. But for $100 more we can upgrade to Stills. No reason to swing for Bailey.

The Vikings may have found their No. 1 receiver for years to come. Charles Johnson offers size, speed and apparent knowledge of the playbook earning him trust from his coaches and teammates. His salary and exposure make him a great tournament option against a bad Jets defense.

Last year Pierre Garcon finished 11th overall among receivers and his 113 receptions led the league. This year he is invisible. But I love the matchup he gets, especially with DeSean Jackson labeled as a game time decision. If Jackson does play we pull Garcon off of the table completely. But if he doesn’t play, Garcon is a top tournament studs/duds option.

Tight Ends

Tight End % Owned Price Tight End % Owned Price
Jordan Reed 11.5 $5300 Vernon Davis 2.1 $4900
Antonio Gates 9.8 $5600 Heath Miller 1.4 $5500
Delanie Walker 8.7 $5400 Greg Olsen 1.2 $6500
Jimmy Graham 7.9 $7100 Julius Thomas 0.9 $6600
Coby Fleener 7.2 $6400 Richard Rodgers 0.8 $5000
Rob Gronkowksi 5.7 $7700 Owen Daniels 0.6 $5300
Larry Donnell 4.3 $5300 Zach Ertz 0.5 $4800
Kyle Rudolph 4.2 $5200 Mychal Rivera 0.2 $5300
Travis Kelce 3.2 $5300      

It has been a rough few weeks in our attempts to peg the correct tight end. I’ll always recommend paying up for the top guys if you can massage their salaries into your lineup. This week I’ll be nearly 100 percent exposed to Rob Gronkowski. I especially love that he’s finding his way onto below six percent of rosters. That’s what happens when the most expensive option fails to find the end zone for a few weeks. But it’s obvious he is finally healthy and I think he spikes a few times at San Diego.

Our most popular option is Jordan Reed. I love the value he offers at a friendly price tag of just $5,300. Colt McCoy loves him some check-down and Reed benefits the most. I think we can count on a fair amount of passing in Washington as the over/under rests at 45 points with the Rams favored by three.

Our second most popular option is Antonio Gates. He is finally healthy and proved it with seven-catch, 83-yard day against the Ravens last week. This week he gets the second highest over/under at 52 points and a defense that is great at covering wide receivers, which may force more targets towards his direction.

The return of Dwayne Allen means both he and Coby Fleener should be avoided. I’d love to roll with Allen in this contest but the floor is just too low. For $5,900 I’d rather punt this position altogether and go cheap, or sacrifice the cap space and pay up.

In the punting process we find Kyle Rudolph. He found the end zone for the first time since Week 1. A redraft streamer, I expected him to be a solid option all season. Unfortunately, a groin injury destroyed all hope. Since returning he has been targeted only eight times. But the Jets have allowed more touchdowns to tight ends than any other team. A $5,200 investment comes with low risk from a salary cap standpoint. I like Rudolph to find the end zone Sunday.  

Sample Lineup

I’m still looking for a way to fit Lacy’s price into my lineup. So far I’ve failed to do that. Instead, I’m going to cheap at running back in a few tournaments hoping to luck into a couple of touchdowns. One key option with this particular roster is you could downgrade Bush to Richardson and use the $400 is savings to upgrade Johnson to Stills. That is, if you believe Week 14 is Richardson Revenge week. It just may be.