DFS Roundtable: How Do You Fade?

Fill us in on your method of spotting plays you don't want to pay up for, but that you expect the DFS world to swoon over. And in Week 3, which chalky plays do you plan to be underweight on against the field?

Presumably, when building your GPP roster portfolio for the week, you focus on identifying one or more chalky (popular) options to avoid, for the sake of diversification. For example, many Week 2 tournament winners got where they did by fading Russell Wilson in what seemed like a cake matchup, or by sidestepping the disappointing Packers-Falcons matchup in favor of bigger and better things. Fill us in on your method of spotting plays you don't want to pay up for, but that you expect the DFS world to swoon over. For example, if you stood on principle to hold zero or minimal Week 2 exposure to Matt Ryan - in a home, indoors matchup with the Packers' shaky defense - what led you to that stance? And in Week 3, which chalky plays do you plan to be underweight on against the field?

Dan Hindery: In tournaments, a primetime matchup with a high over/under leads to inflated ownership and makes for a strong opportunity to fade the game. There is a natural tendency for most daily fantasy players to want to have high exposure to at least one player going in the Sunday night game on the main slate. It’s never a comfortable feeling going into the last game with minimal exposure and seeing your “currently winning” amount tick lower with every big play. There is also an over-reliance upon the Las Vegas game totals early in the season. The accuracy of the over/unders in early weeks is not very high. While you want to take into account the Vegas numbers, they should be taken with a major grain of salt early in the season. 

In Week 2, I mostly faded Julio Jones in favor of Mike Evans. Evans came at lower ownership and a much lower price. Evans scored a few points more than Jones, so it worked out. But even if it hadn’t, that type of calculated risk is worth taking in tournaments.

In Week 3, the Oakland-Washington Sunday night game has the highest game total (53.5) by a full 4.5 points over the second-highest (Atlanta-Detroit). The primetime kickoff and high game total are going to lead to extremely inflated ownership rates across the board. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, Kirk Cousins, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder will all be higher-owned this week than they probably should be. Pivoting to lower-owned players with similar upside is a risk worth taking this weekend. I'll look to be underweight compared to the field on the players in this game.

On FanDuel this week, it probably isn’t necessary to dip too heavily into the bargain-bin at receiver. But it is a necessity on DraftKings with the tight pricing. Injury reports later in the week will be key to see if any obvious values open up. For example, minimum-priced Geronimo Allison might be an option if Jordy Nelson is ruled out later in the week.

The cheapest receiver that stood out to me on my first look at the pricing this week was Devin Funchess at $4,200. The obvious reason to take a close look at Funchess is that he and the Carolina Panthers are facing the New Orleans Saints. Through two weeks, the Saints defense has given up 793 passing yards and 6 passing touchdowns. The matchup couldn’t be much better. The slightly less obvious reason is the injury to Greg Olsen, which should allow Funchess to occupy a more prominent role in the passing game. Since 2014, Olsen has averaged 7.7 targets per game. While some of those targets will simply go to his backup (Ed Dickson), the rest will be spread across the offense and Funchess should be a prime beneficiary.

Jason Wood: The key is to focus on expected production regardless of going salary-first. Once I see which players I like, then compare them for "value" (meaning projected points per $ of cost), I can start focusing on expected ownership. As Dan noted, the simplest answer to your question is deciding which plays are the MOST chalky. You have to be careful though because the big GPP winners quite often field a lineup that, in retrospect, seems obvious and chalky. I rely on our own Steve Buzzard's ownership projections to figure out potential candidates to fade. It's one of the last parts of the weekly process.

Danny Tuccitto: Barring extreme circumstances, ownership rate doesn't factor into my lineup calculus at the one-off positions (i.e., quarterback, tight end, and defense) because the highest ownership rate is usually south of 20%, which necessarily means that 80% of contest entrants didn't roster that player. I'll take those odds.

At running back and wide receiver, I, like Jason, take advantage of Steve Buzzard's ownership rate projections. Specifically, after I've created my preliminary player universe for the week, I remove a player from that list if their projected ownership rate is higher than the value probability I've calculated for him. As a concrete example, here's the list of otherwise-worthy running backs and wide receivers my method ended up fading in Week 2 (with their actual value multiplier in parentheses):

Tarik Cohen (3.4)

Kareem Hunt (3.8)

Ezekiel Elliott (0.8)

Doug Baldwin (1.6)

Jordy Nelson (0.0, although this one's not quite fair)

None of the five achieved 4x value. Heading into Week 3, only two otherwise-worthy players qualify for exclusion:

  • Kareem Hunt (again): He has a 10% value probability, but a 19% projected ownership rate.
  • Antonio Brown: He has a 12% value probability, but a 17% projected ownership rate.

Chris Feery: I’m on board with Jason: I look for expected production first, and I’ll worry about which players to fade after the fact. If I’m in love with a player’s matchup and expected production for the week, I’m not worried about fading him just to be different. I’ll pencil that player in and look for other spots in my lineup in which I can differentiate it from the pack. From that point, I’ll dig into the top projected players to try and determine which ones may stumble.

Using last week as an example, I was off Ezekiel Elliott in a tough matchup against the Broncos. That obviously makes a ton of sense in hindsight, but he was still expected to do his share of damage due to his standing as an elite back. In my eyes, the risk outweighed the reward. The Broncos defense is an elite unit, and there are few players I’ll consider playing against them - even for contrarian purposes. For this week, that leads me to steer clear from LeSean McCoy against the Broncos, in spite of his workhorse status. 

As for other players to fade for the week, I’m shying away from top players that seem off thus far. That could be due to their clubs offensive struggles or just that they haven’t been up to snuff as of yet, but I'm not going to waste time figuring it out when there are other options with equally intriguing possibilities for the week. That opens up the possibility that you’ll miss out on a huge bounce-back performance, but I’m willing to miss out on that as opposed to chasing it. Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are two of the names that fit the bill for Week 3. Newton could very well explode against the Saints, but I’ll risk missing out until he shows me something. Wilson and the Seahawks just don’t look right, and I’m not banking on a trip East for an early kickoff against the Titans as the cure for their ills.

Justin Bonnema: Consider the following scenario from Week 2: 

Player A had a 5.3% ownership, priced at $8,100, and scored 23 points.
Player B had a 17.6% ownership, priced at $7,800, and scored 24.4 points.

Which one is the better option? Obviously, you want the points and the value, regardless of the ownership. By the way, Player A is Devonta Freeman and Player B is Kareem Hunt. Hunt was a prime fade candidate last week since we knew the crowd was on him and there is a limited sample of his work as a pro, meaning Week 1 could have been a fluke. But he still paid off for those that ignored the fact that he would be highly owned.  

My point is simply, I need a reason to fade a player other than his ownership being high. Points win money. Ownership percentages do not. In other words, what good did it do you to fade Ty Montgomery last week? He was selected by 37.4% of teams in the Millionaire Maker on DraftKings, which likely makes him the highest owned player of the week. He was also the fourth highest scoring player of the week, including quarterbacks

That's not to say that we shouldn't be contrarian where possible. But there is a smart way to do it. For me, that smart way comes down to two things: 1) I can find multiple reasons to fade the player with high ownership projections (injuries to the offensive line, questionable matchup, opponent trending up, etc.) other than ownership alone; and 2) I can find a player with a much lower salary that has a chance at similar production. 

The second part of that equation is difficult because if a cheap player has a promising outlook, his ownership percentage will be naturally inflated. That's what makes this game so much fun: finding the Javorius Allens of the world. And even then, you still have to allocate the leftover salary correctly, otherwise you gain nothing.

Moderator: So, Justin, who’s your top (or bottom, I guess) fade of the week? Kenny Britt doesn’t count.

Justin Bonnema: As far as players I'm fading this week: I'll have very little exposure to Cam Newton. He has a darling matchup against the Saints defense that made Sam Bradford look like Tom Brady, and in theory we should be all over that. But he had a great matchup in Week 1 as well and gave us 171 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception and only three rushing yards (QB17). Week 2 against the Bills was even worse. I'm not hanging my hat on this offense despite a great situation for them at home. It would be one thing if he wasn't priced as QB6 on both FanDuel and DraftKings; his salary is a reflection of his matchup and not his performance. Furthermore, Buzzard has him projected to be the highest owned quarterback on FanDuel. If you're the type that likes the fade the crowd, this is a great time to do it. 

Switching to value plays, I don't think Theo Riddick will have crazy ownership, but I do think the crowd will chase him more than normal. The standard logic goes something like: 

The Lions will fall behind the Falcons and Riddick is their receiving back so he'll be a great play on DraftKings where it's full-point PPR.

That makes sense and I'd love to buy into it. But it's hard for me to jump on a back that needs at least six or more targets to hit value. Or he needs to break a big one, which is possible I suppose. But it ignores the danger of the Lions actually building a tight lead and choosing to go conservative. 

Alternatively, Gio Bernard is only $3,800--a full $1,300 less--and gets similar usage. Bengals will almost certainly be trailing, and of all their running backs, Bernard has the most predictable role.

Devin Knotts: I use ownership percentages as a tiebreaker instead of determining my lineup. If there is a player that I like, even if they will be extremely popular, I am OK starting that player, though typically I will take a stand on a player who is highly-owned. By taking a stand, I will either fade or over-own in relation to the field. 

This week, the player that I am fading is Le'Veon Bell. Bell just does not look like he is 100% back after holding out of most of the preseason, as in each of his first two games he has just 3.2 yards per carry. The Bears run defense so far this year has been strong, allowing just 72.5 yards per game to the Falcons and Buccaneers.


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