The Fade: FanDuel Week 2

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

Here’s the thing about chalk plays in DFS: sometimes they work. The roster that took first place in the FanDuel $2M NFL Sunday Million last week featured Spencer Ware, DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown. They were three of the highest owned players. That lineup also failed to score any points from the tight end position, as Gary Barnidge didn’t catch a single pass.  

And just like everyone expected, Jack Doyle was the highest scoring tight end. Fantasy football is hard. Winning tournaments is especially hard. The thing to keep in mind this week and the many weeks to come is that building the perfect roster is nearly impossible. And as much as we focus on ownership percentages, it’s important to remember that fading a player because he’s popular is never the strategy. We need a better reason than that. If I told you that Player A was going to be in 90 percent of lineups but also be the highest scoring player it his position, would you fade him?

The point is, ownership doesn’t matter if your roster doesn’t have the upside to cash.  

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

Eli Manning - $8,100

Without a doubt, the crowd will have eyes for Manning. He’ll win the popular vote and for good reason. The Giants won’t have any trouble attacking the Saints awful secondary. Conversely, Drew Brees and Co. shouldn’t have a problem putting points on the board either, which is why Vegas has tagged this game with the highest over/under total of the week (52.5 points depending on where you look). The Giants, as a result, check in with a projected team total of 28.25 points, second only to the Panthers.

Manning’s $8,100 salary feels like a bargain. I’m fine with ignoring ownership percentages for quarterbacks since you can still build a unique roster. But if you’re looking for a reason, other than exposure, to fade Manning, there is a chance of thunderstorms for this game and rain is likely, which could slow things down. Not that I’d base my lineup decisions solely on the potential for heavy rains. But there’s also some merit to the fact that while the Saints might be bad against the pass, they are horrible against the run. They gave up three touchdowns to running backs last week. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Giants march down the field and then punch it in with Rashad Jennings.

Drew Brees - $9,200

Sticking with the Giants/Saints tilt, we all remember what happened last year when these two teams met. Brees and Manning combined for 855 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. No big deal. After Brees dumped four touchdowns on the Raiders last week, I imagine the crowd will be drawn to him in another promising matchup. Here’s the problem: he’s the most expensive quarterback on the board. Will he return QB1 value? Maybe. The most expensive passer doesn’t necessarily need to be the highest scoring passer. At that price, we’re buying a safe floor while also buying the potential for a four-touchdown game. So Brees is a fine play.

But then there’s those pesky little home/road splits. Last year was particularly bad:

Split

G

CMP

ATT

YD

Y/A

TD

INT

FPT

FPT/G

Road 7 191 290 2017 7 9 6 130.2 18.6
Home 8 237 337 2853 8.5 23 5 237.8 29.7

He has averaged 23.1 points per game on the road since joining the Saints. That would be a disappointing score this week. I’m starting to think the optimum plays in this game are running backs.

Andrew Luck - $8,500

It’ll be interesting to see if the crowd lines up for Luck. He was one of three quarterbacks to throw four touchdowns last week. But this week’s matchup is much more difficult. The Broncos secondary defense is the best in the league. They are especially good at defending against the pass. Last year, they give up the fewest FanDuel points to quarterbacks, allowing only 19 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. They gave up only 194 yards last week and would be ranked near the bottom in terms of points allowed to quarterbacks if not for that one rushing score (Cam Newton will do that). Luck can score with his legs too, so he carries that potential. And his price isn’t smothering. But there are definitely better plays this week. Even though I don’t think the crowd will push his ownership too high, and even though the Colts will be forced to throw the ball, I’ll be fading him across the board.

Running Backs

C.J. Anderson - $7,800

Last week, Mr. Anderson looked the best he ever has as a professional. He was decisive, powerful, quick and showed off some nice vision behind good blocking. Basically, take every scout buzzword you can come up with and that’s how he played against the Panthers’ defense—a none too shabby one at that. This week he gets to tear into a bad Colts’ defense that allowed Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah to combine for 55.8 fantasy points. It’s reasonable to expect Anderson to have a multi-score game. It’s also reasonable to expect him to be the highest owned running back. But I’ll gladly take him as a loss-leader in the exposure column. His salary fits nicely with a few high-priced players. Don’t over think this one.

DeAngelo Williams - $7,600

Williams has to hit a wall at some point, right? The 33-year old has been nothing short of dominant since he joined the Steelers. He finished as our RB1 last week with 171 total yards and two touchdowns. We’ll see if there are any residual effects after he touched the ball 32 times. Expecting him to carry the ball 26 times again this week would be foolish. Just as it would be foolish for the Steelers to give him that many carries in back-to-back weeks. For the record, last week marked the fourth time in his career he carried the ball at least 26 times. Here’s how he performed in the week after:

YR

WK

OPP

RSH

YD

TD

TARG

REC

YD

TD

FPs

2009 7 BUF 16 89 1 6 5 50 0 22.4
2015 10 CLE 17 54 0 2 1 15 0 7.4
2015 14 CIN 23 76 2 2 2 15 0 22.1

That Week 10 performance shouldn’t scare us too much. It was an odd situation in which the Steelers elected to pass the ball despite dominating the entire game and winning 30-9. No matter the case, Williams has at least shown he’s capable of taking on a full workload one week and still playing well the next. And that is really the only concern I have. The Bengals didn’t allow the Jets’ running backs to find the end zone last week, but they did allow 203 total yards. I don’t mind going full chalk and loading my roster with both Williams and Anderson for a little over a quarter of the salary cap. But doing so means being sharp with receivers.

T.J. Yeldon - $6,500

A lot folks are going to see Yeldon’s position on the depth chart plus his ultra-friendly salary and auto draft him in all their GPPs. Here’s the thing: he might not be good at football. Yes, the matchup is tasty as the Chargers were one of the league’s most friendly defenses last year and it appears they will be again this year after what Spencer Ware did to them. But Smelldon was awful last week. If not being bailed out by an early touchdown, his stat line would be forgettable. I do like him a lot more if Chris Ivory sits again, but it’s dangerous to chase points with an unproven running back, especially if the crowd is all over him. The Jaguars will use him a lot in the passing game, so we can trust his floor, but his ceiling just isn’t the type that wins tournaments.

Devonta Freeman - $7,400

You don’t need me to tell you to fade Freeman but I’m going to anyway. It was fairly evident throughout the preseason that Tevin Coleman was going to get more work. Right off the bat we’re seeing proof of that. He handled eight carries to Freeman’s 11 and nearly matched him in snap counts 32-36. Coleman also proved he’s the passing down back and the Falcons will probably fall behind in this contest. The most basic strategy regarding running backs is targeting the guy that isn’t allergic to game scripts. It looks like Freeman's allergies are acting up and I want no part of him. I doubt his ownership will be very high but we can do a lot better for $7,400.

Todd Gurley - $8,400

Like Freeman, you don’t need me to tell you to fade Gurley. You weren’t thinking about rostering him anyway, so this is more of a formality. I love Gurley’s talent but it’s going to be hard to trust him when the Rams offense is as bad as it is, especially when they’re playing against a defense that has allowed 19 total touchdowns to running backs over the last three years. He will, however, have low ownership. That’s the only positive aside from his natural talent.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - $9,400

Like his quarterback, Beckham projects to be one of the most popular plays of the weekend despite being the most expensive player on the board. It’s going to be difficult to fade him given the matchup. The Saints secondary will be comprised of P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris. You probably haven’t heard of those guys but that’s not your fault. They each made their NFL debuts last week against the Raiders. This one of those “fade at your own risk” scenarios. The case against Beckham, besides his ownership and crippling salary, is:

A) The potential for a lot of rain. I mentioned this with Manning too but it’s not really a concern I have. I’m just doing my fiduciary duty by pointing it out.

B) The potential for the Manning and Co. to spread the ball out. Hey, did I see Victor Cruz doing the salsa dance last week? I did! The Saints would be wise to throw double coverage on No. 13 all day but that’s going to leave Cruz free to… cruise? Silly, I know. Let’s just say, if you want action in this game, there are other receivers to target (I see you Sterling Shepard).

C) What if they run the ball? Nothing is more frustrating when you pay up for a stud wide receiver only to watch his lesser counterpart score three touchdowns. I don’t know if Jennings will have high ownership, expect him to be popular, but the Saints gave up 202 yards and three scores to three different running backs last week.

D) You should probably just ignore A, B, and C.

Antonio Brown - $9,200

It’s getting difficult to fade Brown in all formats. He’s so consistent and such a big part of the Steelers’ offense—one of the best offenses in the league—that this, like Beckham, is a fade at your own risk scenario. Since entering the league in 2010, he is the third highest scoring wide receiver in PPR formats, bested by only Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. Brown will likely surpass both of those players this year and end the season as our highest scoring receiver of the last seven years.

But have the Cincinnati Bengals been his kryptonite? Take a look at his game logs in the post Mike Wallace era:

Yr

Wk

Split

Game Result

Targ

Rec

RecYd

TD

FantPt

2015 8 Home L 10-16 11 6 47 1 13.7
2015 14 Away W 33-20 10 7 87 0 12.2
2014 17 Home W 27-17 13 7 128 1 22.3
2014 14 Away W 42-21 14 9 117 0 16.2
2013 15 Home W 30-20 6 5 66 1 15.1
2013 2 Away L 10-20 9 6 57 0 8.7
        63 40 502 3 14.7

His average of 14.7 points per game is concerning to say the least. As is his performance last year against the Bengals. There’s plenty of evidence here that suggests they attempt to shut out Brown by any means necessary. We’ll see how that translates on Sunday. Given his past performance, current salary, and likely heavy ownership, I won’t blame anyone for fading him. I won’t recommend it. I just won’t blame you.

Brandin Cooks - $8,400

Cooks cashed in seven targets for six receptions, 143 yards and two touchdowns last week and begins the season as WR1. As a result, he’ll cost $600 more and will be a crowd favorite. The matchup appears friendly on the surface—the Giants allowed the seventh most FanDuel points to wide receivers last year. But that was before they signed Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62.5 million contract. And it has already paid dividends. Jenkins shadowed Dez Bryant and held him to one catch for eight yards last week, albeit with a rookie quarterback throwing to him. If Cooks ends up in Jenkins coverage, which is likely, we should lower expectations. As mentioned, this game is going to be a target for DFS players, so avoiding the crowd will be difficult. I’m fine with avoiding Cooks—the fifth most expensive receiver on the board. He’ll need over 25 points to hit 3x value and that’s just not in the cards. Keep in mind that over half of his 30.4 points last week came on one big play.

Allen Robinson - $8,200

It kills me to put Robinson here because I own him in a few season-long leagues and desperately need a big day out of him. His 15 targets last week led all wide receivers, but good coverage prevented him from filling the stat sheet. He’ll continue to be the top target for Blake Bortles, but the two might have trouble finding each other against Jason Verrett—San Diego’s shutdown corner who was a big reason the Chargers allowed only 11 touchdowns to receivers last year (sixth fewest). Cleary, the way to beat the Chargers is on the ground, as Ware proved last week. I’m avoiding Robinson in DFS (unless Verrett gets injured in practice).

Mike Evans - $8,100

The Cardinals were the sixth toughest defense for wide receivers last year thanks to a talented secondary and a solid pass rush. But they opened the season by hosting a Tom Brady-less Patriots club and coughed up loss to go along with 201 yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions to wide receivers. So maybe listing Evans as a fade for the second week in a row is just bad analysis, especially after he pulled down 99 yards and a touchdown. But, like Cooks, context is important here. Evans was mostly quiet outside of a 45-yard touchdown. He has another tough matchup this week in Arizona against Patrick Peterson and Co. As mentioned, this was a good secondary last year and I expect them to be good again this year. Evans is a special receiver that can blow up at any point in the game, but there are better matchups to target.  

Tight Ends

Jesse James - $4,500

As much as I love saving money at the tight end position, James is a risky play this week. It’s a hard stat to figure out, but the Bengals, despite allowing the most receptions and fourth most yards to tight ends last year, only allowed one touchdown. Maybe that’s just an outlier that will be corrected, but they only allowed five in 2014 and six in 2013. That said, it wouldn’t take much for him to hit value, especially if the Bengals sell out to stop Williams and Brown. I guessing the crowd will be attracted to James given his salary and situation.

Antonio Gates - $5,900

It’s very possible Gates ends up being the biggest benefactor of the Chargers losing Keenan Allen. But he looked his age in the first week of the season and my bet is that the likes of Danny Woodhead and Travis Benjamin see an uptick in targets. Eventually, Hunter Henry is going to eat into the snap counts as well, though that’s not a concern for Week 2 as much as it will be down the stretch. What is a concern is how the Chargers will respond after losing their top receiver. Gates is priced as TE9, and even though the matchup is better this week, we can do better with $5,900.  

Kickers and Defenses

The crowd is most likely to surround Stephen Gostkowski ($5,200), Chris Boswell ($4,600), Graham Gano ($4,900) and Brandon McManus ($4,700). We’re not doing ourselves any favors trying to be contrarian with kickers, but I’d rather not spend more than $4,700 on a kicker if I can help it. So of all these players, I’m fading Gostkowski (again).

The Seahawks ($5,200) will be, once again, one of the highest owned defenses—and maybe one of the highest owned all around options—as they play the worst offense in the league. The Rams combined to score zero points last week against a soft 49ers defense. I mean, look at this:

Sad. Just sad. Forget ownership percentages; if you can afford the $5,200, fire up the Seahawks defense even though they’re on the road.

I’m not as keen on the Panthers defense for $5,300. That price is too much for most of my rosters even if the matchup looks promising. In theory, Blaine Gabbert should provide plenty of scoring opportunities for the Panthers. But not if the 49ers are going to keep things short. He averaged 4.86 yards per attempt last week—second fewest thanks to Case Keenum.



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