The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 2

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

There’s a big difference between going contrarian and going cheap.

Last week, Drew Brees made that difference especially obvious. He was on just 6.2 percent of rosters in the FanDuel $2M NFL Sunday Million, including the roster that took first place. It helps to have some low owned stacks too, such as Brandin Cooks (9%) and Willie Snead IV (2.7%). But the point is, going contrarian doesn’t mean throwing out a cheap quarterback or running back and adding a bunch of volatility to your lineup. It means identifying good players that should be higher owned than they are.

Easier said than done, of course. Let’s see if we can find this week’s Brees.

General Week 2 Thoughts

The Giants/Saints game looks like a shootout and DFS players are going to be all over it. If you want to avoid the crowd, avoid this game. Manning/Beckham is the chalkiest stack on the board.

There is some weather moving over the eastern part of the country this weekend that could produce a fair amount of rain. This is especially true of the Giants/Saints shootout we’re all hoping for, but games in Pittsburgh, Washington, and New England are expected to have some rain. I’m not concerned about it unless winds pick up, which doesn’t look likely. Just something to keep in mind when building lineups.

I failed to mention this last week: when building lineups, ignore the bias injected into your brain by your season-long leagues. It’s not fun to cheer against yourself but it’s imperative to separate the two.

There's a lot of "defense vs. position" stats in this article. I think they're helpful for context but shouldn't be used as much more than a perspective of the bigger picture. They help us identify potential weaknesses a team might have on defense.

Quarterbacks

Carson Palmer - $8,200

Palmer could have decent ownership if the crowd is awake, but given that his salary is $100 more than Eli Manning’s, I’m guessing he’ll be kept a secret. The last time the Cardinals lost a home game to a team they should have whooped (Week 4 against the Rams), they followed it up by putting 42 points on the Lions. It was mostly a defensive effort, but Palmer threw three scores on just 14 attempts. He had good game last week that was forgotten in an ugly loss. This week he gets a team that just allowed Matt Ryan to finish as QB6 (24.36 points).

Speaking of attempts, teams were generous to the Buccaneers last year. Only six defenses had their pass coverage tested less frequently. Yet, the Bucs allowed the ninth most completions and the highest completion rate in the league (69.9%). Quarterbacks struck efficiency digging into this secondary. I’ll take efficiency over volume when it comes to a passer more often than not. In fact, take a look at how quarterbacks performed against Tampa last year:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Marcus Mariota 1 13 16 209 4 0 2 6 0 24.96 7100
Drew Brees 2 24 38 255 1 1 1 -1 0 13.1 8900
Ryan Mallett 3 24 39 228 1 1 1 -1 0 12.02 6300
Cam Newton 4 11 22 124 2 0 12 51 0 16.06 8300
Blake Bortles 5 23 33 303 4 1 1 21 0 29.22 6900
Kirk Cousins 7 33 40 317 3 0 3 15 1 30.18 6300
Matt Ryan 8 37 45 397 2 1 3 2 0 21.08 8000
Eli Manning 9 26 40 213 2 2 1 -1 0 14.42 7800
Matt Cassel 10 19 29 186 0 1 1 2 0 6.64 6300
Mark Sanchez 11 26 41 261 2 3 2 14 0 16.84 6400
Matt Hasselbeck 12 26 42 315 2 0 3 -3 0 20.3 6400
Matt Ryan 13 30 45 269 1 1 1 4 0 14.16 7400
Drew Brees 14 31 41 312 2 0 3 0 0 20.48 7900
Case Keenum 15 14 17 234 2 0 3 -3 0 17.06 6000
Jay Cutler 16 20 27 156 1 0 2 21 0 12.34 6900
Cam Newton 17 21 26 293 2 0 6 10 2 32.72 9100

The Bucs defense gave up nearly 19 points per game to passers and opened 2016 by allowing 24.36 to a mediocre quarterback. Perhaps Palmer is this week’s Brees. Be courageous; stack him with a few other Cardinals (including David Johnson).  

Jay Cutler - $6,800

I’m not here to throw sunshine around: there’s absolutely nothing enticing about seeing Cutler in your lineup. I could give you a bunch of backstory about how he averaged just over 15 points per game last year and finished as top-12 quarterback just three times. You don’t need any of that info. You already know he’s not a measure of quality of the quarterback position. But that doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze some contrarian value out of his QB26 salary. He managed only 12.84 points last week on the road against a rather tough defense. He gets to stay at home this week and takes on the Eagles who gave up the fifth most yards and second most touchdowns to receivers last year. Of course, that was in fact last year. But if Carson Wentz plays well against what appears to be a terrible Bears’ defense, this game could be a lot higher scoring than meets the eye. I like Cutler to flirt with 3x value on a few touchdowns and 250 yards.  

Trevor Siemian - $6,400

If you’re looking for pure budget play, Siemian is your guy (you thought I was going to say Josh McCown, didn’t you? I’d rather have Joe Flacco). He wasn’t great in his debut but he did show some promise. The Colts secondary is nothing short of terrible and should be targeted every week in DFS, at least until Vontae Davis returns. The Broncos will probably run the ball a lot. But they’ll also want to see Siemian take over more of the playbook. I would keep exposure and expectations low, and throw him into a few lineups with Emmanuel Sanders, who is sure to be highly owned.

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott - $7,900

Elliott might end up with decent exposure, but after last week I’m betting the crowd is going to be scared off. He wasn’t bad. He was just met with a wall of defenders on nearly every carry. Washington will attempt to do the same thing but they don’t have the defensive front the Giants have. We’ll need Dak Prescott to play better more than anything. If he does, there’s no reason to think Elliott won’t blast into this defense a la DeAngelo Williams. His price isn’t the friendliest; all the more reason to think the crowd will stay away, especially with the fear of an Alfred Morris revenge game circling on social media sites.

Rashad Jennings - $6,300

Doubling down on Jennings, who made an appearance in this space last week, his price barely changed despite his value as the unquestioned running back for the Giants. While the crowd piles on Manning and his receivers, the sharp move is to plug in Jennings against a Saints defense that allowed three touchdowns to three different running backs last week. He handled 75 percent of the Giants carries against the Cowboys and played 32 of 56 snaps with Shane Vereen soaking up passing downs. As mentioned, rain could make field conditions interesting, though it’s not something I’m putting a lot of stock in. I like Jennings to see a few goal line opportunities and come away with a score and healthy bundle of yards in a high-scoring game.

Jonathan Stewart - $6,700

No one could have predicted that the 49ers would completely stuff Todd Gurley and shut out the Rams. The NFL is funny like that sometimes. Things are going to be different when they visit the Panthers. As always, Stewart’s upside is limited thanks to his quarterback’s penchant for siphoning rushing touchdowns. But other than Cam Newton, Stewart has no competition for carries. He handled 15 of 20 last week while playing 43 of 73 snaps. The 49ers are not a good defense, particularly against running backs, so I’m confident in predicting a score or two for Stewart as the Panthers blowout their opponent.

Wide Receivers

Julio Jones - $9,300

It’s not that I think Jones will have low ownership, it’s just he won’t have high ownership with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. and A.J. Green getting most of the crowd’s attention. We need to verify his health before finalizing, but Jones has a great matchup against a defense that was torched by the likes of Cooks and Snead.  Even if there is some worry about Jones’s health, that just means the crowd will be especially shy. He’s the second most expensive player on the board but could have a monster game coming in Week 2.

Alshon Jeffery - $7,800

Jeffery is one of my top plays at receiver this week. I already confessed my love for Cutler; best stack him with his favorite target. Jeffery caught all four passes thrown his way last week for 105 yards. The only thing missing was a touchdown. The Bears will need to do a better job of protecting the quarterback in order to find success, and the Eagles’ pass rush looks good, if not great, so maybe Cutler isn’t the smartest play. But Jeffery is. He averaged 10.4 targets and 14.6 points per game last season, the latter of which was good enough for 10th best among wide receivers.

Jordan Matthews - $6,900

I could just let recency bias guide Matthews to your lineup; he was solid last week and has a great matchup this week. But I figure I’ll just show you this tweet from our friend Graham Barfield instead:

What’s especially interesting this week, aside from having a great opportunity against a bad secondary, is the Eagles are likely going to be without Zach Ertz. And even if Ertz does play, Matthews all but proved that he’s going to be the top target for Wentz every single week. Matthews’ $6,900 salary is just irresponsible. Here are our projections for him this week:

WEEK

OPP

Analyst

REC

YD

TD

Pts

2 at CHI Dodds 6 73 0.5 10.3
2 at CHI Tremblay 7 95 0.4 12.4
2 at CHI Bloom 6 71 0.5 10.1

On average, we’re expecting about 11 points, which is on the low side. From Week 9 on last year he averaged just shy of 14 points, and finished strong. In the last three weeks of the season, he scored the third most points among wide receivers finishing as WR4, WR8, and WR5 during that stretch. Of course, things are different this year: it seems he finally has a promising quarterback throwing him footballs.

Tight Ends

Virgil Green - $4,600

If you’re looking for a punt option at tight end and a pivot play away from some of the other Broncos with heavy exposure, Green presents an interesting opportunity:

From the upgrade/downgrade report (Mon Sep 12): Green was the clear #1 tight end, and if not for a tipped ball, he would have had a score and a very good fantasy stat line in Week 1 against a tough Carolina defense. If Demaryius Thomas is limited while he plays through a hip injury, it could be a boost to Green's involvement in the passing game. Trevor Siemian looking like a functional quarterback also helps things.

A Siemian/Green stack will have very low ownership. A Siemian/Green/Anderson will be even more rare.

C.J. Uzomah - $4,500

Here’s what I know about Uzomah: he runs a 4.6 40 time, he’s 6-foot-five inches tall, and he’s filling in for Tyler Eifert. Uzomah caught only two of his five targets but it included this 54-yard beauty. That’s a fine number for a tight end to wear, too. Here’s what else I know: he played 91 percent of snaps and was second to Green in targets. There’s a lot of risk here, obviously. But if he maintains his pace and lucks into a touchdown, he’ll easily hit tournament value.

Kickers and Defenses

He might not fit as a true contrarian play, but I love Matt Prater and his $4,600 salary this week. The Lions have a good offense in the making, so they shouldn’t have any trouble scoring. They’re also the Lions, so seeing them stall in the red zone wouldn’t be shocking. I like Brandon McManus for the same reasons, though is ownership will probably be a little higher.

Even if Russell Wilson plays this week, I’m going to double down on the Rams defense in some lineups. There’s no way Wilson is going to have the mobility he is used to, and the Seahawks offensive line is horrible. The Rams just got embarrassed on a nationally televised game. They’ll be looking to rack up some sacks and turnovers, and that defensive front is capable of doing it.

In that same price range, I also like the Ravens. I don’t’ think we’ll be tricking anybody with them; surely the crowd is considering the matchup and the super friendly $4,500 salary. The Ravens came away with two sacks and allowed just seven points to the Bills in Week 1. The Browns gave up three sacks and a turnover to a lesser defense. We’ll see how much things change with McCown under center, but I like the Ravens defense in a game where they’re favored by seven points, even on the road.


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