The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 4

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Last week we had seven games with an over/under of 45 points or less. This week we have seven games with an over/under of 46.5 points or more. What could go wrong?

The main slate is a bit short this week. With the Colts and Jaguars playing in London, and the first round of byes firing up, we are left with 12 games. The net result will be clustered ownership, particularly in San Diego. We can't avoid chalk completely; it's hard to recover if we miss out on a high-scoring game, so we need to pick our spots. But targeting elite players in tough matchups, or identifying players in low-scoring contests that are in for big Sundays, is how we can separate ourselves from the crowd.

General Week 4 Thoughts

The Chargers/Saints tilt will be the chalkiest of the week. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where 60 points aren’t scored in this game. You’ll need to be creative in order to take advantage of it and still be unique.

Conversely, the Jets are hosting the Seahawks in a game that has the lowest over/under total of the week (40 points). Even if Russell Wilson plays, I’m not touching any offensive players in this contest.

With a lot of points expected to be scored this week, it’s a good idea to roll out some unconventional stacks. Pairing Rivers with Gordon, for example, puts a lot of chalk in your lineup but the overall construction is unique. And don’t be afraid to pair two running backs from the same team. It’s risky, but it can pay major dividends. See Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. If Dexter McCluster had more time with the team, stacking him with Gordon could be a sneaky tournament winner. For more ideas, check out James Brimacobe’s “The Other Stack” article.  

Loading up on elite wide receivers hasn't worked this season. And you can probably get away with not paying up for more than one this week. But there's an interesting pricing anomaly that allows us to load our lineups with three of the best in the league. Usually, there are at least two, sometimes three, receivers priced higher than $9,000. This week only Antonio Brown passes that threshold. Meaning you can build a lineup that features Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, and still create an all around solid roster. 

Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian - $7,400

I don’t know how contrarian playing fantasy’s QB12 a week after he torched the Bengals and turned in a QB1 performance will be. It’s not like the crowd is going to look over the fact that he faces another soft secondary this week. The Buccaneers defense is becoming a weekly target for us. Their interception rate is one of the league’s lowest (just one interception on 99 pass attempts). Last week they held Case Keenum to 190 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan both surpassed 300 yards and scored at least 24 FanDuel points. Siemian is the real deal and I’m all in. Stacking him with either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders—or both—will be a profitable decision, even if the crowd makes the same play.

Kirk Cousins - $7,600

It’s Week 4, which means we’re one week closer to the game where Cousins randomly tosses four touchdowns and 375 yards. He has been a tough player to spot so far this year. The yards have been there for him but he’s thrown just three touchdowns to match three interceptions. The silver lining to his mediocre box scores is that they should keep the crowds away, even though he has great matchup this week. The Browns’ defense just made Ryan Tannehill look like an NFL quarterback and have now allowed seven passing touchdowns and the 11th most yards. Cousins is averaging 329 yards a game and should come close to that at home on Sunday. The only problem is choosing who to stack him with. DeSean Jackson is usually the default choice but he’s not 100 percent. Rolling Cousins out alone and targeting receivers from other contests is probably the best route.  

Brian Hoyer - $6,000

It’s not like there’s any narrative to the Bears hosting the Lions outside of your typical division rival beat. I mean, it’s not like the last time these two quarterbacks played each other was in a major college bowl game. So, Hoyer definitely doesn’t have any revenge narrative to add to his motivation this week.

In all seriousness, you know who has allowed more FandDuel points to quarterbacks than the Lions? No one. Every quarterback they’ve faced has scored at least 17.5 points. That’s just under what Hoyer needs to return 3x value. And he wasn’t terrible last week. He dropped 317 yards and two scores on the Cowboys, and didn’t throw any interceptions. The fact that his salary didn’t budge is just odd. The Bears are home-team underdogs in a game that has the fourth highest over/under point total. Hoyer will now have two full weeks plus one full game under his belt as Jay Cutler’s replacement. He has a pair excellent receivers that can make contested catches and are used to playing with a quarterback that’s a bit inaccurate. For $6,000, I’ll be happy to take a chance on the Spartan and enjoy the savings.

Running Backs  

Jamaal Charles - $7,000 and Spencer Ware - $6,200

It sounds like Charles is going to make his debut  Sunday night, but I think it's fair to guess the crowd will steer clear of him. I also think Ware is in play. The Steelers have allowed the sixth most total yards and the fourth most total touchdowns to running backs. And it’s not like they’ve faced a bunch of studs this year. Check out their defensive game logs:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Darren Sproles 3 2 -1 0 6 128 1 21.7 5200
Wendell Smallwood 3 17 79 1 0 0 0 13.9 4500
Kenjon Barner 3 8 42 1 0 0 0 10.2 4800
Ryan Mathews 3 2 -5 0 0 0 0 -0.5 6600
Giovani Bernard 2 5 17 0 9 100 1 20.2 5500
Jeremy Hill 2 11 22 0 3 37 0 7.4 6600
Chris Thompson 1 4 23 1 2 16 0 10.9 4900
Matt Jones 1 7 24 0 1 9 0 3.8 6000

This defense sets up great for Charles as they’ve been torched by pass-catching backs--see Giovani Bernard and Darren Sproles. Each had at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. But Ware has proven that he can catch the ball when given the opportunity, as well. The fact that the Steelers have given up the fifth most FanDuel points to running backs despite giving up only 14.7 points to Washington in Week 1 should tell you everything you need to know about this defense. If not for Charles, Ware would be the best value on the board in Week 4. Since they're likely to be tied to a committee, it's difficult to recommend either one with confidence. But I will roll out a few lineups that feature both of them, as well as few that feature one or the other. (And don't be afraid of Alex Smith. His $6,900 salary is more than fair, especially with all the injuries to the Steelers' defense. This game is going to be a shootout. A Smith/Charles stack has won tournaments in the past.)

Carlos Hyde - $6,800

Hyde may not be as contrarian on paper as he will be in reality. But I wonder if the crowd understands just how much of a workhorse he has been for the 49ers. He’s handled over 70 percent of carries, played on 68 percent of snaps, and leads the league in rushing attempts inside the 20 with 16. The volume he’s being granted is a dream for fantasy players. And it helps that the 49ers, in true Chip Kelly fashion, lead the league in offensive pace.

Enter the Dallas Cowboys, who come to town having allowed the 11th fewest fantasy points to running backs, including just one touchdown surrendered to the position. But they also haven’t been tested. Their defense has seen the fourth fewest rushing attempts of all teams and an average amount of targets. Those attempts and targets are yielding results, however, as their 1.04 fantasy points allowed per touch ranks ninth most. A Ware/Hyde combination will cost us just 21.6 percent of the cap and gives us a pair of backs who get the bulk of work for their respective teams.  

Isaiah Crowell - $6,600

Crowell’s 274 rushing yards ties Ezekiel Elliott for second most in the league. We all knew that was going to happen. It’s an odd situation too, as he’s in a near even timeshare with Duke Johnson Jr. But Crowell has been given the majority of carries every week, including 71 percent of those inside the red zone. He has a darling matchup against Washington, who are tied with the Saints for the most rushing scores permitted, and rank second in rushing yards permitted. The dynamic that Terrelle Pryor adds to this offense helps, even if he might vulture a touchdown or two. Generally speaking, we should avoid the Browns backfield given that they’re 7.5 point underdogs playing a road game. So keep your exposure low, but don’t be surprised if Crowell finds the end zone a couple of times on Sunday as the Browns surprise Vegas and get the W.

Wide Receivers

Julio Jones - $8,500

 

 

It’s that serious. But if bounce back games are a real thing, then we’ll all look foolish for not having more exposure to Jones in Week 4. Here’s the deal, it’s a tough matchup. No matter how we spin the stats, there’s no explanation to the Panthers allowing a league-low 296 yards to wide receivers and just one touchdown other than the fact that their defense is one of the best in the league, despite losing Norman to free agency. But ask yourself this: would you sit a healthy Jones in your season-long league?

You’re not seriously considering it, are you? (Carter was joking and I think he might actually be a parody account of someone else.) I know that question is a lot different for DFS since we don’t’ have to play him. There is no “always play your studs” rule in DFS. But we should always target the league’s best players when the crowd is completely fading them after being burned. Jones destroyed this defense last year to the tune of 16 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons are underdogs on their home turf in the second highest over/under projection of the week. The Panthers just got embarrassed at home and need some answers from their offense. This game is going to be a shootout, and Jones is going to see a ton of targets. By the way, his $8,500 salary is the lowest it has been on FanDuel since Week 13 of the 2014 season. Take advantage of it.

Steve Smith - $6,100

We finally got a taste of Smith last week. It took a few games, and he didn’t play as many snaps as Mike Wallace or Dennis Pitta, but he saw a team-high 11 targets and converted eight of them for 87 yards. It was his best fantasy outing of the year, and oddly enough, FanDuel dropped his price $200 to the cheapest it has been all season. Perhaps they think he’s trending down? I’m not sure what their algorithm is thinking. My algorithm, on the other hand, recognizes that the Raiders secondary is playing some horrible football and Smith is exactly the kind of player that can take advantage of it (glares at Tajae Sharpe). Oakland has given up the third most yards, third most touchdowns and leads the league in FanDuel points surrendered. If you need a low-priced filler at wide receiver, Smith has a low ceiling but it looks like his floor will be safe for the remainder of the season.  

Dontrelle Inman - $5,700

Here’s a statistical anomaly to consider: Inman has played nearly 86 percent of offensive snaps, which would put him up there with the likes of Jordy Nelson, Mike Evans and Emmanuel Sanders, yet has been targeted only 10 times on the season. Something has to give. He’s either going to see less playing time or become a bigger part of the game plan. And either of those things could happen on Sunday. But let’s assume he sees the same amount of snaps against the Saints as he has all season. We already know this defense can’t cover anyone, so Inman’s lack of skills can be somewhat ignored. We already know the crowd is going be all over this game, so finding a contrarian play in a classic shootout is optimal. And we know that plugging a $5,700 punt play into our lineups, though incredibly risky, allows us to build a monster. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to be perfect with the rest of your roster should Inman continue his season pace of 27 catches for 240 yards.  

Tight Ends

Jacob Tamme - $5,500

Tamme is priced just high enough to scare off the majority of folks, who will likely go after name brand tight ends like Coby Fleener and Dennis Pitta. Tamme’s 20 targets not only ties Jones for the team league, but ranks seventh among all tight ends. I’ve already pegged this game as one that we should target. The Panthers’ defense, as tough as it is on opposing passers, has allowed the eighth most yards and is one of eight teams to allow double digit touchdowns to the position. Tamme’s ownership should be held in check, making him a perfect tournament play.

Vance McDonald - $4,700

This is one of those where you’ll need to be aggressive and take the risk on someone playing in the late afternoon game with a questionable status. McDonald is dealing with a hip injury that held him out of last week’s game. He got in a limited practice on Thursday, which is a good sign, but it won’t mean anything if he doesn’t practice in full on Friday. And there’s always a chance that, even if he plays, he reinjures that hip and ends up filling the stat box with donuts. All of that said, the Cowboys defense is particularly vulnerable to the position and have already allowed three touchdowns. McDonald is a perfect fit for Kelly’s up-tempo system that nearly made a star out of Zach Ertz. If McDonald plays, he could have a huge day.

Hunter Henry - $4,500

Henry’s price remained the same despite reports that Gates would be out for Week 4. I would expect Henry’s ownership to be somewhat high but also held in check thanks to Fleener and Pitta, not to mention Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed. The secret is definitely out on Henry after he caught all five of his targets for 76 yards last week. He’ll also committed a costly turnover, so we’ll see how much he’s trusted going forward. One thing is for certain: the Saints’ defense is awful on every level. Henry could be in for a monster day and will cost us the site minimum.  

Defenses

New York Jets - $4,400

All reports indicate that Russell Wilson will play on Sunday, and whenever he’s on the field we should temper our expectations of opposing defenses. But we do have that “west coast team traveling east” narrative to hang our hats on, plus there’s a good chance Wilson doesn’t finish this game. The Jets have generated nine sacks on the season, which ties them for seventh or 10th most depending on how rosy of a picture you want to paint. Their sack percentage is the sixth highest. The Seahawks have allowed seven sacks and will have a hard time protecting an immobile quarterback. At the very least, we should expect this game to be low scoring.

Pittsburgh Steelers - $4,800

As much as I like Ware, and as bad as the Steelers’ defense probably is, you have to like them at home in a primetime game, especially when they’re hosting a low-scoring offense like the Chiefs. The only problem is that Alex Smith is rather conservative and doesn’t turn the ball over often. So we have to hope the added volume he’ll be forced into organically creates opportunities for the defense to score.



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