The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 3

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Welcome to The Contrarian. If it’s your first time here, be sure the checkout the companion piece to this article. I went into a bit more detail about how I feel about ownership percentages and how we should address chalk plays in tournaments.

In short, we’re not here to chase points and unlikely scenarios. If anything, we should do our best to avoid volatility and instead, attempt to build solid lineups based on logic. There are some players listed below that straddle that line. I’m not advocating you start them. I’m simply listing them as guys the crowd is staying away from, but maybe not for the right reasons.  

General Week 3 Thoughts

FanDuel has elected to strip the Monday night game from their main slate. What this means is most of the large tournaments will be Sunday only. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The chalkiest game of the week happens to fall on Monday night. Overall, I’m not a fan of this change but it does narrow our choices, especially during bye weeks.

We have a new DFS feature available for you this week called the eVALUEator. It allows you to compare salaries across multiple sites so you can get a sense of where there might be pricing anomalies. For example, judging by how much Yahoo has priced the Ravens defense versus FanDuel, you might conclude that the Ravens are great value. Props to Maurile Tremblay and Austin Lee for collaborating on this.

If injuries keep up at this pace, Week 12 is going to look like a preseason game. It’s unfortunate for those players and tough on season-long leagues. In DFS, it provides opportunities since pricing algorithms rarely compensate for the next man up. There are especially a lot of cheap options at running back with Charles Sims, Jerick McKinnon and Theo Riddick all filtering to the top of the depth chart by default. Unfortunately, their respective matchups aren’t very attractive, with exception of Riddick’s.

Matchups are rather ugly in general this week. As mentioned, the highest projected point total isn’t available on the main slate. There’s only one game with an over/under above 47 points and seven with an over/under below 45 points. If you want to fade the crowd, fade the Chargers/Colts tilt. I like the Rams/Buccaneers, Washington/Giants, and Raiders/Titans to be higher scoring than others.

Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota - $7,700

He’s not exactly blowing the doors off of defenses, but Mariota currently ranks as QB17 in FanDuel scoring. He’s been efficient throwing the ball with ninth best completion percentage while ranking 13th in attempts. Unfortunately, the Titans’ offense is anything but exotic. This week they host the Raiders who have allowed the most passing yards and tied for most touchdowns with seven. About the only passing metric they’re not the worst at is points per attempt; they fall to second worst in that category behind the Jaguars.

Of course, keeping things fair, in back-to-back weeks they’ve faced two NFC South teams with seasoned quarterbacks and a host of explosive playmakers. The AFC South is a different story. The Titans don’t pose the same threat. But Mariota’s ownership should be low given his consistently low-scoring performances and his rather high salary. He’ll need a solid outing on Sunday to hit tournament value (23.1 points). I don’t think he’ll get all the way there but 250 passing, 35 rushing, and a pair of touchdowns is well within his reach. The rushing upside should at least protect his floor.

Eli Manning - $7,700

It always interesting to see how the crowd reacts after they all pile on a quarterback with a great matchup only to be disappointed. Last week, Manning was on 24.3 percent of rosters in the FanDuel Sunday Million. Those rosters likely had a hard time cashing after he failed to throw a single touchdown and finished as QB26. Here we are, one week later and he has yet another great matchup. My guess is the crowd ignores him after getting burned. And I’m happy to take advantage of a home quarterback with low ownership in a game that should see a decent amount of scoring, especially considering the weapons he is surround by. That, of course, was a big argument for him last week and really all summer long. Maybe logic eluding me, but I like Giants power stack this week, with Manning a few of his receivers.

Blake Bortles - $7,900

Do you know who has more passing attempts than Bortles? No one. Not that volume automatically correlates to fantasy points—we’d rather have efficiency—but there is something to be said about a team that struggles to run the ball when they host a team that struggles to stop the pass. The Ravens may have allowed the fewest passing yards in the league and just two touchdowns to two interceptions. They’ve also faced Josh McCown and Tyrod Taylor, and got smoked by Corey Coleman last week. I think we can file the Bills game as an anomaly since that offense couldn’t do anything in the first week of the season (their receivers combined for 63 yards). Week 2 was more of what we can expect. This secondary hasn’t been tested whatsoever. Bortles has more pass attempts on the season than the Ravens defense has faced. He needs to clean up the turnovers but he ranks fifth in passing yards. The only concern I have that will probably keep my exposure to him low are the injuries to the offensive line.   

Joe Flacco - $7,600

There’s nothing sexy about having Flacco in your lineup. He has been just short of awful this season and currently ranks as QB24. The good news is that he, like his opponent, throws the ball a ton. Flacco is ranked 10th attempts. It hasn’t translated into a lot of points, obviously, but there’s more good news: the Jaguars have allowed more points per pass attempt than any other team and have so far allowed the sixth most overall points to quarterbacks. We didn’t get a full season from Flacco last year, but here’s how he did when he faced a bottom-ranked pass defense. “Opp Rank” is where that team ranked in fantasy points allowed (the smaller the number, the more points allowed). The last two columns show how many FanDuel points he scored and where he ranked that week among quarterbacks.:

Week

Oppt

FDP

Price

Opp. Rank

FD Rank

1 @ den 2.68 8200 32 34
2 @ oak 22.56 8100 8 9
3 cin 21.48 8100 30 7
4 @ pit 8.56 8000 11 29
5 cle 24.6 7700 4 6
6 @ sfo 19.72 7800 17 13
7 @ ari 15.08 7500 27 15
8 sdg 22.96 7400 20 8
10 jac 22.34 7500 6 4
11 stl 13.96 7600 24 20

The sample size is small, but in the three games he faced a bottom-10 pass defense, he returned a top-ten performance or better, including his matchup against the Jaguars. By the way, before getting injured in Week 11, Flacco was the 11th highest scoring quarterback last year. He’s a nice contrarian play this week in a game that has shootout written all over it.  

Running Backs

LeSean McCoy - $6,700

I don’t usually stroll down narrative street, but there’s something to a team firing its offensive coordinator after just two games and the players responding with an inspiring performance the following week. That’s an obvious reach. What’s not a reach is the fact that McCoy is their best player and one of the few in the league immune to game scripts. He’ll get a ton of volume on Sunday, especially if Sammy Watkins is ruled out. The Cardinals are a tough matchup, to be sure, but they are traveling east and will be playing at what is essentially still morning time for them. That at least has to help the home team, who have 10 days to prepare for this contest. Asking for 120 combined yards, three or four catches, and a touchdown from McCoy is not wishful thinking. The crowd won’t touch him.

Christine Michael - $6,900

Fantasy Football Twitter Metrics Twitter is going to be an absolute mess when they watch Michael finally shred a crap defense only to realize he’s not in their lineups. This hinges on Thomas Rawls being unable to play or unlikely to play much. It’s worth noting that the Seahawks offensive line is terrible. But so is the 49ers pass rush and it’s not like Seattle can ask a hobbled Russell Wilson to extend plays the way he has most of his career. If Fozzy Whitaker can average 6.25 yards per carry while also pulling down three catches for 31 yards (131 total), Metrics Michael should have no problem achieving value. FYI, the Seahawks are more than a touchdown favorite and projected to score 24.75 points.

Charles Sims - $6,300

One of the best values of the week, Sims gets the start thanks to Doug Martin’s hamstring issues. If the matchup were better, he would probably be one of highest owned players. As it stands, he gets a Rams defense that’s lauded for their front seven. But this same defense also allowed the most receiving yards to running backs last year and have already allowed three rushing touchdowns this year. Sims happens to be an excellent receiver out of the backfield, which protects his floor. This game might surprise folks in the points scored department. Chances are, the crowd that’s interested in cheap running backs is going to favor Riddick over Sims. I’ll take the back that at least has the makeup to be a featured runner, is playing for a home team favored by five points, and gets a defense that has so far struggled against running backs despite playing mediocre offenses.

Dexter McCluster - $4,500

Okay, so this one of those players that definitely straddles the line I mentioned in the intro. But if he scores a touchdown, it wouldn’t be all luck. McCluster is a Titans’ castoff just like Chargers’ offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. It’s a perfect fit; he should be able to jump right into the offense as the Danny Woodhead replacement. I don’t know how likely that is to happen. It’s not like McCluster has ever been much more than a gimmick player with decent athleticism. But this matchup is so tasty. The Colts have allowed the most total yards and touchdowns to running backs, including a pair of receiving touchdowns. If the Chargers fall behind, and I think they will, that could mean a lot of passing downs for McCluster since Melvin Gordon III has exactly zero history as a receiver. For $4,500, he’s the ultimate punt play.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - $8,900 and Sterling Shepard - $6,500

That’s now three Giants players mentioned in this article, which means Manning will turn into a pumpkin and this offense will fail to score a touchdown for the second week in a row. I don’t think that will be the case against Washington, who have allowed the fifth most yards per game and third most points per game. This is a good week to jump on the Giants passing attack as they roll out three wide receivers with regularity. Check out these snap counts:

Player

Week 1 Snaps

Week 2 Snaps

Total

FD PTs

Odell Beckham Jr Jr 56 78 134 21.9
Sterling Shepard 53 75 128 27.5
Victor Cruz 50 74 124 20.5

Shepard may be third among receivers but he’s played almost as many snaps as Beckham and has so far been the most fruitful for fantasy points. I actually like all three this week, so perhaps the top play is to stack Manning with both Shepard and Beckham. The latter of the two might see decreased ownership thanks to his salary, performance thus far, and impending matchup with Josh Norman.

Quincy Enunwa - $6,000

Brandon Marshall is a game-time decision, and though my guess is he plays, he will be limited in some form or another. This is a great time to plug Enunwa in as a contrarian shot. The crowd will be nervous regarding his usage and general concerns with the Jets offense. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed the ninth most yards to wide receivers on the year, though only one of them has found the end zone. Through two weeks, Enunwa’s 13 receptions is tied for seventh most in the league. But he hasn’t seen a lot of targets, and therefore, not a lot of yards. That changes if Marshall is limited. Not sure who Enunwa is? Good thing Matt Harmon is here to help you out.

Tajae Sharpe - $5,800

I plugged Mariota already so best plug his best wide receiver. Sharpe opened the season with a surprising seven catches on 11 targets and 76 yards. He then fell back to earth with the rest of the Titans’ offense last week. This week he has one of the best matchups on the board against a Raiders’ secondary that’s allowed more yards to receivers than any other team and are tied for the most touchdowns. This is good game to target receivers and quarterbacks and enjoy a shootout. Sharpe is one of the best values you’ll find, with some obvious risk. There aren’t many No. 1 receivers available for less than $6,000. Take advantage of his salary and matchup this week.

Kevin White - $5,800

Confession: I like Brian Hoyer as a contrarian play but don’t really have the guts to recommend him. The Cowboys’ secondary isn’t very good, and if Alshon Jeffery plays, this game could turn into a barnburner. If Jeffery sits, and even if he doesn’t, White has just as many targets and has a freaky combination of speed and size. Check out his metrics courtesy of our friends at PlayerProfiler.com:

Metrics aside, he’s a raw player who has a long way to go before he makes a big impact. He’ll need to take a big step on Sunday night if he ends up the default WR1. I think the crowd avoids most players in this game. It’s risky, to be sure, but White could explode in primetime, and provides a lot of salary relief.

Tight Ends

Eric Ebron - $5,600

I’m expecting the Packers and Lions to put together a nice box score and provide us the fantasy points we so deserve. Ebron saw seven targets last week but didn’t do much with them. Things will be different if he sees that many against the Packers, who are allowing tight ends to catch 67 percent of their targets, and the fourth most points overall. They’ve allowed this position to score in both games so far. I like Ebron to keep that trend alive.

Jimmy Graham - $5,200

I realize this is probably an overreaction to Graham finally getting involved last week. But it’s worth noting that with Wilson unable to move, he needs to stay in the pocket and find his receivers. Graham is the perfect underneath option, especially with the offensive line in such disrepair. In fact, I’m tempted to roll a Wilson/Graham stack in a few cheap GPPs. This is a perfect opportunity to do so while the crowd snoozes on the injuries and ineffectiveness of the Seahawks who, as mentioned, are heavy favorites.  

Kickers and Defenses

I won’t waste anyone’s time, going contrarian at kicker basically means playing Ryan Succop ($4,500), Jason Myers ($4,500), or Roberto Aquayo ($4,500). All three provide the minimum price and play on capable offenses that could struggle in the red zone.

Even though I like both Bortles and Robinson to get things going this week, the Baltimore Ravens ($4,400) should be able to generate a lot of sacks given the Jaguars offensive line issues. It also helps that Bortles is tied for second in the league with three interceptions on the year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ($4,500) are an intriguing option. It would be better if the game was in Pittsburgh, but the Eagles haven’t been tested yet and it’s just a matter of time before Carson Wentz makes a few rookie mistakes before going full tilt. The Steelers are going to smoother this team.



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