The Fade: Week 16

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

And just like that, Championship Week is upon us. I don’t doubt that some of you are competing for gold in your redraft leagues. I wish you the best of luck and may the touchdowns be ever in your favor.

In the world of DFS every week is championship week. Our leagues conclude every Monday night and start as early as Thursday. Unfortunately, this will be the last time this season we’ll have access to ownership percentages. And with the end of Thursday night games comes the end of this column. I hope it has served you well. This space is built around crowd sourcing and proactive decision making based on firm data. But as I’ve preached all year long, the only numbers that matter are the ones that fill the box score.

Exposure statics are nothing more than a map of groupthink. We use that map to find a path to profits.  Last week it led us to fading Antonio Brown in favor of Dez Bryant. It also led us into the unforgiving neighborhood known as the Jets offense. Process is everything but perfection is the only thing that wins tournaments.

The numbers for Week 16 are slightly skewed thanks to two Saturday games. They still provide us with enough info to make informed decisions based on the flow of the crowd. And truthfully, I doubt there will be much action on the Thursday/Saturday contests. In any event, let’s burrow into the data and win some Christmas cash.

Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks % Owned QB Price Quarterbacks % Owned QB Price
Matthew Stafford 12.3 $8200 Ryan Tannehill 1.9 $7900
Drew Brees 10.2 $9100 Eli Manning 1.5 $7700
Aaron Rodgers 8.7 $10000 Johnny Manziel 1.5 $6600
Jimmy Clausen 7.4 $5000 Josh McCown 1.5 $7000
Matt Ryan 5.8 $8700 Case Keenum 1.4 $5000
Tom Brady 4.8 $9700 Peyton Manning 1.2 $9600
Kyle Orton 3.5 $7200 Russell Wilson 1 $8600
Tony Romo 3.3 $8400 Joe Flacco 0.7 $8100
Andrew Luck 2.7 $9900 Teddy Bridgewater 0.6 $7400
Ben Roethlisberger 2.6 $8500 Andy Dalton 0.5 $7900
Shaun Hill 2.5 $6500 Cam Newton 0.3 $8100

If you paid up for a quarterback last week you probably failed to cash in most tournaments. Outside of Drew Brees it was tough to justify salary. It makes sense that he’s our second most popular selection. Actually, it would more sense if he were the most popular. You won’t find a higher over/under for the week and the Saints and Falcons have everything to play for. I think he again justifies his salary as New Orleans hits their stride into the playoffs.

The most featured quarterback is none other than Matthew Stafford. He faces a Bears secondary that has been gracious to opposing passers. You already know there’s no way I’m going to recommend the Jekyll and Hyde offense led by Dr. Jekyll himself. Nothing about this matchup suggests he’ll be forced into a high volume passing situation and even if he was, Stafford can’t be relied on to triple his salary from a dollars-per-point perspective. We can flip his $8,200 price tag into a much better player.

Next most famous is Aaron Rodgers. Only five other teams have allowed more passing touchdowns than the Buccaneers. The Packers have thrown for the third most. He’s our most expensive player on the board but if you can afford his services and still design a competitive roster you absolutely do it. I don’t foresee this situation turning into a clock-grinder for the Packers. Their defense simply doesn’t allow for such game-winning scripts.

Last week discount QBs ruled the popular vote, first with Johnny Manziel and second with Derek Anderson. Anderson won’t see the field this week. Manziel will but he’s not worth his cost, which says a lot considering his $6,600 price tag (although his player props are interesting). Instead, the crowd has gravitated towards Jimmy Clausen who takes over for a benched Jay Cutler. Starting him is nothing short of punting the quarterback position while pimping out your rosters with studs elsewhere. Whenever you have an opportunity to spend less on your signal caller than your kicker you certainly position yourself for profit. But it will take a week like last week, where every quarterback underwhelms and the position evens out, for Clausen to make good. Odds are against it.

Matt Ryan won’t come cheap and he’s never a guarantee but like Brees, I love the game script this contest offers. Last week I was worried the absence of Julio Jones would cement his ceiling. Ryan finished as the second best option (Brees was first). This week Jones is trending towards a game time decision and I doubt he plays. I still love Ryan to make good despite a pricey investment. When weather and defense aren’t factors we should buy as many players as we can.

The fade of Peyton Manning has reached an all-time high. Or an all-time low depending on your perspective. He’s found his way onto only 1.2 percent rosters. Over the last three weeks he has barely outscored Geno Smith in fantasy points ranking 28th among all quarterbacks. In that time he has thrown three touchdowns to two interceptions and lost a fumble. Add the threat of injury and you have a terrified crowd that refuses to pay his $9,600 tax. The Bengals secondary has allowed only 14 passing touchdowns to go along with 234 yards per game. Against an average quarterback those numbers are the definition of avoid.  Against Manning, I’m not so scared. For clarity on the subject let’s investigate the level of competition this team has faced:

 

Obviously, only a few of these quarterbacks are in the conversation with Manning from a quality of opponent standpoint. It should be noted, in real football, the Broncos are still fighting for home field advantage and the Bengals aren’t guaranteed a playoff berth despite being in first place. I doubt John Fox is interested in a conservative game plan headed into Cincinnati.

Sticking with that contest we have Andy Dalton as one of our least exposed options. I kindly asked the Footballguys staff to talk me out of starting him in every contest given the situation and the fact that the Broncos have allowed more passing touchdowns than all but five other teams. Dan Hindery quickly passed along highlights of Dalton’s last primetime performance (The Thieving Magpie). Gross. Still, I can’t help but stare at this matchup and think the game script favors lots of passing. Dalton’s price isn’t overly prohibitive, both of his running backs are adept to catching passes out of the backfield and he’s paired with a one of the best receiving threats in the game. I’ll close my eyes, plug my nose and pay his $7,900 salary in a number of GPPs.

Running Backs

Running Backs % Owned RB Price Running Backs % Owned RB Price
C.J. Anderson 19.5 $7800 Jonas Gray 1.7 $5400
Le'Veon Bell 17.7 $9700 Matt Forte 1.5 $9000
Tre Mason 16.7 $6500 Isaiah Crowell 1.2 $6300
Fred Jackson 15.4 $6700 Latavius Murray 1.2 $6400
Joique Bell 13.9 $7300 Knile Davis 1.1 $5900
Mark Ingram II 9.3 $7400 Christopher Ivory 0.9 $5300
Eddie Lacy 8.4 $8600 Andre Williams 0.8 $6700
Jonathan Stewart 7.4 $6200 James Starks 0.8 $5500
Joseph Randle 7.2 $4900 Shane Vereen 0.8 $5500
Jeremy Hill 6.5 $7300 Giovani Bernard 0.7 $6800
Lamar Miller 6 $6300 DeMarco Murray 0.5 $9300
Justin Forsett 4.6 $7400 Lance Dunbar 0.4 $4500
Steven Jackson 3.4 $6200 Kerwynn Williams 0.3 $5400
Pierre Thomas 3.1 $5700 Terrance West 0.3 $4900
Jamaal Charles 3 $8900 Trent Richardson 0.3 $5200
Matt Asiata 2.9 $6100 Chris Johnson 0.1 $5300
Dan Herron 2.5 $6300 Rashad Jennings 0.1 $6800
Arian Foster 2.3 $8800 Stepfan Taylor 0.1 $5300
Doug Martin 2.1 $5500 John Kuhn 0 $4600
Marshawn Lynch 1.8 $8600 Khiry Robinson 0 $4900

We’ll stay in Cincinnati to find our most popular runner. C.J. Anderson. Over the last four weeks only two other running backs have scored more points. I think there will be enough scoring to go around on Monday night and have no problem using Anderson as a loss leader.

One of the running backs to outscore him over that timeframe, as you might guess, is Le’Veon Bell. Barring the unfortunate he is trending to be the first overall draft pick in redraft next year. As far as Week 16 is concerned, I think he finds the end zone against a Chiefs defense that has been struggling as of late. But I don’t think he finds the end zone, or the yards, enough to justify both his salary and his popularity. I’m willing to risk my roster without his services with confidence that I’ll find replacement level value relative to cost.

Tre Mason, for example, isn’t nearly the talent and doesn’t get the benefit of an offense that keeps defenses preoccupied. But the crowd is right; he should be owned and should take advantage of home field just as he has done since earning the job as a starter. His home/road splits aren’t even fair and the Giants aren’t good enough to force the Rams away from the run. This will be a mild scoring game with the home team favored by 6.5 points. In other words, we have perfect breading grounds for running back production in which Mason will easily cover his cost.

Speaking of running back production we have Fred Jackson suddenly vaulting to the top of everyone’s most drafted list. Did you notice how Mason is cheaper, younger and playing at home? I can’t find an easier fade than Jackson. Obviously, the Raiders 19 total touchdowns allowed to running backs has lured the public into what seems to me like a carnival game of ring toss: it looks like a winner but you know it’s not a wise investment. Let’s not get too excited about a Bills offense that has managed only six rushing touchdowns all year. Of course, to be fair, Jackson does rank 16th overall among running backs in PPR leagues. He did manage 23 touches for 98 yards against the Packers last week. But that’s your basic ceiling mixed with an old player on the road. Fade on fader.

In that same capacity, I don’t feel comfortable with Mark Ingram II. All the stats say he’s worthy of a start against the push-around Falcons defense. All of my gut says he splits a lot of the workload with a now healthy Saints crew. I’m going to revert to our original strategy of going as cheap as we can at running back without totally punting the position.

Ingram’s teammate, Pierre Thomas, is a great example. Should this game live up the game script we all crave Thomas will be heavily involved in the passing attack. He’s plenty affordable and not overly exposed setting up the perfect situation for a tournament running back.

For $600 more we find Lamar Miller. I expect his exposure to actually be reduced come Sunday given the cold feet potential suitors will have regarding the Dolphins offense. I’m a little surprised he’s on as many rosters he is since he’s managed just 384 yards and one touchdown over the last six opportunities. But let’s take a look at the defenses he’s faced over that timeframe and how they rank against the run: Detroit (1st), Buffalo (10th), Denver (2nd), New York Jets (7th), Baltimore (3rd), New England (9th). Talk about nowhere to run. This week he hosts the Vikings who bleed yards to running backs and his team is favored by 6.5 points. The script begs you to draft him. He’ll be in every one of my lineups. Also, no week would be complete without Narrative Street. There is some incentive for him to have a big game.

The broken hand of DeMarco Murray and his potential absence gives our bargain bin a shot in the arm. The crowd is all over Joseph Randle at 7.2 percent, making him our 9th most popular option. Meanwhile, Lance Dunbar is $400 cheaper and a superior athlete. But athleticism matters little in the world of play calling. This position is all about opportunity. Randle will get the majority of carries, especially around the goal line. But Dunbar will see more work as a receiver and can flip a tournament the same way C.J. Spiller used-to-could. If you’re going cheap, you might as well go all the way cheap. Dunbar is the GPP play.

Wide Receivers

Wide Receivers % Owned WR Price Wide Receivers % Owned WR Price
Jordy Nelson 23.7 $8800 Marquess Wilson 2.2 $5600
Kenny Stills 17.3 $6100 Julio Jones 2 $8700
Dez Bryant 16.8 $8600 Cole Beasley 1.9 $5700
Calvin Johnson 15.3 $9200 T.Y. Hilton 1.5 $8700
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. 13.8 $9000 Kenny Britt 1.4 $5700
Golden Tate 11.2 $7400 Mohamed Sanu 1.4 $6000
Antonio Brown 11 $8900 Nick Toon 1.4 $4900
Marques Colston 9.3 $6100 Dwayne Bowe 1.3 $5500
Mike Evans 8.8 $7900 Alshon Jeffery 1.2 $8500
Randall Cobb 8.3 $8300 Devin Hester 1.1 $6300
Sammy Watkins 7.8 $6900 Reggie Wayne 1.1 $5900
Roddy White 6.3 $7300 Robert Woods 1.1 $5700
Demaryius Thomas 5.3 $9100 Doug Baldwin 1 $6100
Brandon LaFell 5.1 $6800 Davante Adams 0.9 $5400
Julian Edelman 5.1 $7600 Eric Decker 0.7 $6300
Harry Douglas 4.6 $6600 Wes Welker 0.7 $5500
Emmanuel Sanders 4.5 $8100 Andre Johnson 0.5 $6400
Mike Wallace 3.8 $7000 James Jones 0.4 $5700
A.J. Green 3.7 $8600 Percy Harvin 0.4 $6300
Martavis Bryant 3.7 $6600 Andrew Hawkins 0.3 $5400
Donte Moncrief 3.6 $5900 Greg Jennings 0.3 $6400
Kelvin Benjamin 3.5 $7700 Larry Fitzgerald 0.3 $6000
Vincent Jackson 3.5 $6700 Markus Wheaton 0.3 $5400
Steve Smith 3.5 $6600 Rueben Randle 0.3 $5500
Torrey Smith 3.3 $6400 Chris Hogan 0.2 $5400
Jarvis Landry 3.2 $7000 Michael Floyd 0.2 $6100
Charles Johnson 2.8 $6500 Andre Holmes 0.1 $5500
Josh Gordon 2.8 $7500 Jarius Wright 0.1 $5600
Stedman Bailey 2.4 $6200 John Brown 0.1 $6200

Our most popular player of the week is Jordy Nelson (for the record, the Bills defense is a close second). I’ll keep things simple here and just remind you that loss leaders generally find themselves in positive game script situations. Nelson is immune to game scripts. Find a way to pay his $8,800 salary.

The Saints finally put together a Saints-level offensive performance in Chicago last week. This week they return to the comfort of a dome and the comfort of a division rival challenging them for a playoff spot. It just so happens that this rival has allowed the fourth most points to wide receivers. So it’s understandable that Kenny Stills is our second most featured option. His value is impossible to ignore. Use him as a loss leader and feel good about it.

Dez Bryant checks in as the third most exposed. I loved him last week and I’ll recommend his services most of the time. The threat of Vontae Davis should give us a little bit of pause. Overall, his salary and popularity are what scare me away.

It only makes sense that our most popular passer would boost the exposure of our best wide receiver. Calvin Johnson has been inconsistent over the last few weeks but his salary doesn’t reflect that. It does reflect the matchup he has against a Bears ball-gawking secondary. I don’t doubt he’ll find the end zone at least once in this contest.

Pundits will forever talk about the Odell Beckham Jr Jr. catch and the subsequent performances that followed. Since Week 9 he is the highest scoring wide receiver in PPR leagues, and it isn’t close. But let’s not forget that the Giants offense can’t be trusted in any capacity. It’s hard to qualify a fade recommendation here but I’m comfortable without him in my lineups. The Rams pass rush makes up for their secondary and they haven’t allowed a touchdown to receivers in three games. Again, quality of opponent offsets the stats but it’s not like Eli Manning is playing a high level of football.

Following in Megatron’s footsteps we have Golden Tate as our sixth most featured receiver. The crowd really loves this matchup. We already know the Bears are easy to pick on. But I don’t believe there’s enough points to go around in this game to carry two receivers in addition to the running attack that will likely take over in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, the Lions defense is the star we should probably all by into. The more I look into this contest, the more tempted I am to fade all offensive players involved on both sides.

In his same price range we have Roddy White who is finally healthy and will see an added bump in attention with or without Jones. For $7,300 I’m not sure there’s a safer bet to find the end zone.

Just a few hundred dollars south we have Mike Wallace who is only $7,000 will find no resistance in coverage. Jarvis Landry is the exact same price. Like the Lions, there will not be enough points to go around to create tournament winners out of both of these receivers. If I had to pick one it would be Wallace. He’ll be a fine selection in bigger formats that feature flex options like DraftKings and Fantasy Aces, but overall my money is on the running game and Miller.

Make no mistake about it, A.J. Green is one of the most talented receivers in this league and he can beat anyone. I’ve already hinted that this contest will be spared of conservatism and perhaps the over/under of just 47.5 points is meek. It should be noted that the line has slipped since it first opened but my guess is Manning’s overhyped injury is to blame. One way or the other Green will see double-digit targets and if Dalton plays up to competition like we’ve seen him do in the past, there’s no reason to think he’ll miss the end zone and a chunk of yardage.

Digging into our bargain bin this week we find Harry Douglas for $6,600. He’s a great play when and if Jones can’t play. We won’t know the answer to that question until Sunday morning. But I can guarantee you most of the general public won’t change their lineups when that information becomes relevant. His exposure of 4.6 percent will see a slight bump between then and now but he’ll be a solid option should Jones be ruled out.

For the same price we have Steve Smith who travels to Houston in a must-win for the Ravens. The Texans have allowed the third most points to wide receivers. It’s hard to pinpoint the game script in this contest except to say that there probably won’t be a lot of points scored, unless Case Keenum comes out and sets the place on fire. That seems like an unlikely scenario to me so I’ll look elsewhere despite a positive matchup.

Donte Moncrief was a bit of soul crusher last week. I won’t get into specifics, specifically because there aren’t any as he managed to catch exactly zero of his four targets. This week, with T.Y. Hilton nursing a hamstring (fade) and Reggie Wayne nursing a bicep tear (fade), Moncrief could see a little extra attention against a bad Cowboys secondary. My only pause in this contest is the Colts don’t have much to play for. But I love that the crowd has moved away from him and his salary fits perfectly with our desire to stud-up at other positions.

Tight Ends

Tight Ends % Owned TE Price Tight Ends % Owned TE Price
Rob Gronkowski 17.7 $7800 Larry Donnell 1.8 $5000
Travis Kelce 10.4 $5600 Owen Daniels 1.8 $5300
Julius Thomas 10 $6000 Heath Miller 1.5 $5300
Jason Witten 7.7 $5300 Jordan Cameron 0.8 $4900
Jimmy Graham 6.3 $7100 Mychal Rivera 0.8 $5500
Dwayne Allen 5.7 $5400 Kyle Rudolph 0.7 $5200
Coby Fleener 3.9 $5700 Charles Clay 0.4 $5200
Jared Cook 3.3 $5000 Eric Ebron 0.4 $4600
Martellus Bennett 3.1 $6200 Jermaine Gresham 0.1 $5300

I can’t see myself without Rob Gronkowski this weekend. At an exposure of 17.7 percent he is our loss leader of the week. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t find the end zone at least once.

Travis Kelce is the next most popular. There’s a lot of safety built into his price. The Steelers give up a touchdown to tight ends pretty much every other week. Kelce averages 4.8 targets per game and sits at sixth overall in total points. He’ll be busy on Sunday but I’m not expecting fireworks.

Just below him is Julius Thomas. The word is he’s fully healthy and should very much be a part of the Broncos offense Monday night. His $6,000 price tag gives you Gronkowski at a major discount. Let’s not forget that at the beginning of the season Thomas was costing us north of $8,000. Take advantage of his salary.

We won’t know until Sunday morning whether or not Murray will play. But even if he does you have to wonder how effective he’ll be, particularly in the passing game. It’s logical to think his targets will filter towards Jason Witten as Tony Romo’s check-down. There isn’t a better value among tight ends. I’ll have him in every lineup that doesn’t include Gronkowski.

Sample Lineup

Since it’s Christmas I’m going to give you two lineups. The first of which is a realistic tournament roster that the Interactive Value Chart likes for 122.9 points. Not great. The thing to remember about projections is they are generally not catered to low budget options. So a guy like Moncrief is going to be projected very low but we like him triple his salary.

The second is something I wish I would have started at the beginning of the season. It’s a lineup composed of the highest owned players, or at least the highest owned I could fit within a logical salary. I call it the “All-Fade Team”, because if we’re looking for contrarianism then we should fade all of these players. Last week the All-Fade Team scored 111.2 points. They couldn’t overcome the likes of Manziel, Forsett and Moncrief despite solid outings from L. Bell and Beckham. Hopefully the All-Fade Team can get its act together in Week 16.