The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 8

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Week 7 of the 2016 season will forever be known as The Revenge of the Chalk. Guys with massive ownership percentages—Mike Evans (31%), A.J. Green (43%), Julio Jones (47%)—provided a combined 74.4 points. Cheap running backs—Jacquizz Rodgers ($5,600), Spencer Ware ($7,000)—provided the cap space so you could get all three stud receivers in one lineup.

But even in a week where the chalk hit (and where several running backs had huge games), it still pays to find contrarian and under owned players. The guy that won the FanDuel $1.5M NFL Sunday Million did just that. He took advantage of Andrew Luck (1.9%) and Melvin Gordon III (4.9%); both had great matchups on Sunday but were overlooked because everyone was on Ware and Matt Ryan (17.1%) (and I’m guessing that the 11.2% of the crowd that started Blake Bortles doesn’t read this column).

Week 8 won’t be as easy in the running back department. There’s basically one major play that everyone is going to be on: Devontae Booker. His $5,600 salary and sweetheart matchup will surely make him the highest owned player in the main slate. The Chargers have allowed the fourth most FanDuel points per game to opposing running backs. In Week 6, C.J. Anderson and Booker combined for only 124 yards, but with the game being in Denver, and Booker having the backfield all to himself, he’ll likely surpass that Week 6 total. I see myself swallowing chalk and plugging him in most of my lineups, then differentiating elsewhere.

General Week 8 Thoughts

The main slate of games is tiny this week, so we’re going to see clustered ownership percentages. Booker, as mentioned, will be the highest owned player. But we can use him and still build unique lineups by targeting games the crowd will ignore.

The Falcons vs. Packers, Buccaneers vs. Raiders, and Colts vs. Chiefs are going to be full of chalk, especially for quarterbacks. This is a good week to plug in a quarterback from the Saints vs. Seahawks or Panthers vs. Cardinals games.

Ty Montgomery is listed as a running back on FanDuel and I love his outlook against the Falcons, who have allowed the most receiving yards and eighth most total yards to the position. Montgomery was drafted as a wide receiver and is going to be the weapon that turns the Packers’ offense around. I can’t say no to his $6,400 salary. So, if you want to go full-chalk at the position, I’m guessing Booker/Montgomery stacks are going to be popular. Their combined salary eats up only 20 percent of the cap, allowing us to get an elite quarterback.  

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees - $8,000

We’re going to get Brees on low ownership this week thanks to the crowd being largely on Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, and Jameis Winston. It also helps that the Legion of Boom is coming to town, scaring off most folks. The Seahawks, as usual, have been tough on quarterbacks. They’re allowing just 247 yards per game, have more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four), and their sack percentage of 8.5 is tied with the Broncos for the second highest rate in the league. You don’t even need those stats to know that there are better matchups to chase.

But Brees is still a great GPP play this week. Keep in mind that the Seahawks’ defense, as great as it is, hits the road for the second straight game after playing five physical, grueling quarters against the Cardinals Monday night. The Cardinals dominated the time of possession by controlling the ball for over 46 minutes of that game, meaning the Legion of Boom was on the field for an unusually long period of time. The Cardinals’ offense ran 90 plays, well above the league average of 64 plays per game. In short, this defense must be exhausted. And even though they only gave up six points, they allowed 443 total yards including 342 passing. As mentioned in the intro, this is a game to target quarterbacks. Both Brees and Russell Wilson ($8,200) are great GPP plays.

Josh McCown - $6,400

If you want to punt this position completely, McCown is your guy. He has been practicing in full all week and should get the start against a terrible Jets’ secondary. If he had more weapons to work with I’d be much more bullish about his outlook. As it stands, he’s a cheap option who at least gets the benefit of a good tight end in Gary Barnidge, and if Terrelle Pryor is full speed, there is some appeal there for a Browns’ stack.

As far as McCown’s skills as a passer go, there’s nothing on his resume that’s going to blow you away. We’ve seen him be good in stretches. Last year, for example, he started six games from Week 3 to Week 8. He was the fifth highest scoring during that time, averaging over 300 passing yards per game and threw 11 touchdowns to four interceptions. He played well in his one game this season, at least until he got injured and subsequently matched his two touchdowns with two interceptions. In the end, he gave us 16.4 FanDuel points. That’s only 2.8 points below what he would need to give us 3x value against the Jets, who are allowing the second highest completion rate in the league and the 10th most FanDuel points per game. McCown is in play as the Browns get their first win of the season.

Brock Osweiler - $6,600

Here’s the thing; if you’re going to go cheap at quarterback you should probably just go with McCown who is a much safer play. Osweiler looks absolutely terrible. He’s overthrowing his receivers. Or just completely misses them. His fumble on Sunday night was horrendous and inexcusable. He comes into Week 8 ranked 31st in FanDuel points per game. So, you can probably just skip the rest of this analysis.

But, he is giving us volume. His 38.3 attempts per game are ninth most. Of course, we’d much prefer efficiency over volume. Thankfully, the Detroit Lions are coming to town, who bleed efficiency to opposing passers. Their secondary has allowed a 74.2 percent completion rate—highest in the league—and 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions—the highest ratio in the league. In short, Osweiler won’t have a better matchup all season. And he has provided usable games this year. Keep in mind that he’s played some tough defenses this year, particularly on the road where he’s faced the Patriots, the Vikings and the Broncos. But when facing bottom-tier defenses, such as the Bears, the Colts, and the Titans, he has provided at least 17 points every time. He’ll need 19.8 to give us tournament value against the Lions. Stack him with DeAndre Hopkins and win some cash.

Running Backs

Latavius Murray - $6,200

It’s going to be hard to go contrarian at running back this week with the chalk options all having great matchups and competitive convenient pricing. And banking on an option like Murray is risky. But it was encouraging to see him handle nearly 60 percent of snaps and 20 touches, two of which were goal line carries that he punched in on his way to an RB10 finish. If we can expect a similar workload against the Buccaneers then we should also expect another top-10 week. The Bucs have allowed the 10th most total yards per game to running backs as well as seven rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. The Raiders’ offense has been above average all season and comes into Week 8 ranked eighth in points per game and 10th in scoring efficiency. The spread on this game is zero, which means Vegas is telling us to just pick a team. The over/under is a healthy 49 points as neither defense offers much resistance to opposing quarterbacks. If you want to break away from the crowd but still get a bargain at running back, Murray is your best option.

Mark Ingram II - $6,200

You can apply the case we made for starting Brees against the Seahawks to starting Ingram against the Seahawks. Again, the defensive statics make a strong argument for staying away. But David Johnson made them look beatable. Granted, he’s the best running back in the league, but Ingram has been involved in the passing game and has no competition for carries, especially around the goal line. And just to cover all bases, here’s the defensive game logs of the Seahawks vs. running backs:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

David Johnson 7 33 113 0 8 58 0 21.1 8500
Andre Ellington 7 2 7 0 0 0 0 0.7 4500
Devonta Freeman 6 12 40 0 3 10 0 6.5 7100
Tevin Coleman 6 5 10 0 1 7 0 2.2 5900
Patrick DiMarco 6 0 0 0 1 3 0 0.8 4500
Bilal Powell 4 4 26 0 6 54 0 11 5000
Matt Forte 4 14 27 0 2 16 0 5.3 6900
Carlos Hyde 3 21 103 2 1 2 0 25 6100
Shaun Draughn 3 5 10 0 1 2 0 1.7 4900
Todd Gurley 2 19 51 0 1 19 0 7.5 8400
Benny Cunningham 2 1 2 0 1 7 0 1.4 4900
Arian Foster 1 13 38 0 3 62 0 11.5 6500
Damien Williams 1 2 9 0 1 29 0 4.3 4600

Johnson, Carlos Hyde, and to a lesser extent, Bilal Powell and Arian Foster have demonstrated that the Seahawks are vulnerable in certain situations. Week 8, after a long Monday night game in which their defense was on the field for over 46 minutes, is one of those situations. I could see Ingram finding the end zone a couple of times on Sunday.

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins - $7,600

We’ve already covered how good of a matchup this is for the Texans’ passing offense. Hopkins has yet to provide a monster game and comes into Week 8 as the 23rd ranked wide receiver. We know he is one of the most talented players in the league. It’s unfortunate that his quarterback has been wildly inefficient and the overall design and execution of the offense has been tough to watch. If they can’t get it going this week, it’s not going to happen this season. Hopefully Osweiler will look past his first read or maybe even look downfield for a change and Hopkins will finally deliver the monster game we’ve been waiting on. For $7,600, and low exposure, he’s worth the gamble.

Randall Cobb - $6,800

Assuming he’s healthy, Cobb has great matchup against the Falcons on Sunday but will be overlooked by most of the crowd thanks to Ty Montgomery. Montgomery is listed as a running back this week, which is awesome because it basically means we can plug in a fourth wide receiver. We can expect Desmond Trufant to shadow Jordy Nelson, which means the crowd will stay away from him. All this adds up to both Cobb and Nelson being under-owned. I like a Packers’ power stack this week, with Rodgers/Montgomery/Cobb, or Rodgers/Montgomery/Nelson. By the way, over the last three weeks, Cobb is the third highest scoring receiver in the league. Let’s hope his hamstring doesn’t get in the way of what should be a great game for him.

Donte Moncrief - $5,400

The Colts’ end zone specialist is finally expected to play, and he couldn’t have picked a much better matchup. The Chiefs have allowed the ninth most yards to receivers to go along with eight touchdowns and the most overall FanDuel points per game. The Colts’ offense has generated the fourth most fantasy points of all teams, and rank third in scoring efficiency in real life. They’ve scored the ninth most touchdowns in the league, rank sixth in plays per game, and fourth in points per game. Basically, this offense is good and Luck is playing well. They’ll be home underdogs against the Chiefs in a game with the second highest over/under of the week (50 points). Welcome back Moncrief. Here’s to a happy return with lots of touchdowns. If you need a cheap wide receiver, there isn’t a better play on the board, assuming he gets a full workload.

Tight Ends

Coby Fleener - $5,700

Clearly, this week’s theme is start the Saints. Fleener has been hard to predict as a fantasy option given his quarterback’s propensity to spread the ball around. The Seahawks, as mentioned twice, have a great defense that’s coming off of a tough game. What gives me optimism about Fleener’s chances against them this week is the absence of strong safety Kam Chancellor, who is likely to miss his third straight games. With him on the sideline, the Seahawks have allowed 150 yards and one touchdown to tight ends the last two weeks. And it’s not like they’ve faced much competition in that department:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Ifeanyi Momah 7 2 50 0 6 4500
Jermaine Gresham 7 2 15 0 2.5 4500
Levine Toilolo 6 3 69 1 14.4 4500
Jacob Tamme 6 2 16 0 2.6 5300
Garrett Celek 3 3 25 0 4 4500
Vance McDonald 3 2 4 0 1.4 4900
Lance Kendricks 2 4 61 0 8.1 4600
Jordan Cameron 1 2 6 0 1.6 5000

Not pictured are the Jets’ tight ends, because they didn’t record a stat. Fleener represents the toughest matchup the Seahawks have faced and he’s certainly capable of matching Toilolo’s total.

Zach Ertz - $4,800

Ertz has yet to have a productive game this season and has been out with injuries for most of it. He’ll get a soft matchup against the Cowboys on Sunday night, who have allowed the fourth most FanDuel points to tight ends. His price gives us a lot of options, but his usage gives us a lot of worry. Since his return, he’s averaging only three targets per game and has a total of 73 yards. It doesn’t help that the Eagles’ offense has been rather inefficient as of late after a hot start. However, if you want a cheap tight end option that has a history of success, and want to avoid chalky plays like Jack Doyle and C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ertz, though risky, is your guy.

Defenses

We’re running short on solid defensive plays this week. I’m not a fan of paying up for the Broncos and think the Chargers hang put some points this week. My most natural reaction is to go with either the Eagles ($4,800) or the Cowboys ($4,600) in a what looks like a low-scoring prime time game. Of the two, I’ll happily take the home team and the $200 discount.

We also have the option of punting this position altogether and going with the Saints ($4,000). Yes, they suck. They have a terrible defense which is allowing lots of yards and points, per usual. But the Seahawks offense isn’t good this year. They have scored the second fewest touchdowns, are 21st in scoring efficiency, and have scored the fifth fewest points per game. Plugging in the Saints for site minimum and praying for eight FanDuel points isn’t a terrible strategy, is it?



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