The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 9

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

First of all, congratulations to the Cubs and their fans everywhere, especially those that have literally waited their entire lives to see the them win the World Series. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, what took place on Wednesday night was nothing short of amazing and will be remembered as one of the greatest sporting events in history. It was a fantastic Game 7 and a tremendous way to end the baseball season.

Sticking with baseball, check out this tweet:

Why, you might ask, am I sharing a tweet posted by a baseball player from June? Those of you that play MLB DFS probably already know the answer. Allow me to explain for those that don’t. Due to a small error, Hernandez was priced at $220 instead of what (probably) should have been $2,200. That glitch in the matrix allowed players to load their lineups with studs and plug in Hernandez as a high-risk punt play.

What does this have to do with Week 9? Johnny Holton, wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders, has a zero dollar salary. He’s free. If you’ve never heard of him it’s probably because he has exactly one catch on the season. But thanks to the Holton Discount, you can just about plug in the highest priced players at every position.

Of course, Holton may not even play a snap. I think it’s safe to say that he will score somewhere between .2 and zero points Sunday night against the Broncos. But it does give us an interesting wrinkle in game theory. Can you build a good enough lineup with eight players and still cash? The short answer is yes. We’ve all done it. Just last week I cashed a few lineups that were unfortunate enough to feature Ty Montgomery (he was a late scratch and provided zero points). Furthermore, in the first week of the season, this roster won the FanDuel Sunday Million:

 

 

Note the zero at the tight end position. This lineup, despite Gary Barnidge, won $200,000. It just goes to show that you can have one of your players completely flop and still be successful. Imagine if you plan for that flop and build around it. That’s the opportunity we have this week. Again, Holton is going to give you a zero, so this is a high-risk scenario that I don’t recommend throwing a lot of money at. The likelihood of winning a major tournament with a player that has never played more than 16 snaps in any game this season is quite small. But if you think you can find eight players that will outscore your opponent’s nine, go for it. You may not ever see this opportunity again.

Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger - $7,500

I might be stretching the definition of “contrarian” by plugging Roethlisberger, but here’s the thing: he’ll be lowered owned than he should be. And that’s the point. Generally, ownership percentages of quarterbacks end up flat anyway unless there’s a super obvious, elite player with an elite matchup or pricing gaff. Roethlisberger almost fits that description

The crowd tends to be shy of players coming back from injury. Roethlisberger should probably not be playing this week and and he could struggle. So keep your exposure in check. But the crowd will be all over Rodgers, Brees, Luck, Prescott and even Kaepernick, which means Roethlisberger will be the fourth or fifth highest owned passer. Just a reminder that through Week 6 he was our third highest scoring quarterback, and that includes two duds (Week 3, 7.98 points; Week 6, 11.56 points). His matchup is juicier than the stats suggest. The Ravens rank 26th in yards allowed per game and their eight interceptions are tied for the fifth most. But recently they allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith to combine for 17.2 points and Eli Manning hit them up for 403 yards and three touchdowns in Week 6. If not for Tyrod Taylor’s Week 1 flop, the stats regarding the Ravens secondary would look a lot different.

Enter Roethlisberger and Co., who run one of the fastest paced, high-scoring, and most efficient offenses in the league. By the way, his salary has been between $8,500 and $8,700 all season. In fact, Week 9 is the lowest it has been since Week 8 of the 2014 season. To summarize, we have an elite passer in an elite matchup with a pricing gaff. Don’t fear the rust. Power up a Steelers stack.

Joe Flacco - $7,500

I’ll admit, targeting the Ravens/Steelers’ contest is risky. The over/under currently sits at 43.5 points—one of the lowest in the main slate. Here are their combined scores over the last two years: 37, 43, 66, 32. The first two in that list didn’t feature Roethlisberger vs. Flacco as one or the other was injured. So the last time these two played against each other in a regular season game was, oddly enough, in Week 9 of 2014. You might remember that game as the second straight in which Roethlisberger threw six touchdowns. Flacco wasn’t terrible either. He rolled up 303 yards and two touchdowns with one interception; good enough for a QB9 ranking that week.

Of course, that was two years ago. This game could easily turn into a defensive struggle, especially since Roethlisberger is nowhere near 100 percent. Furthermore, Flacco hasn’t exactly been a safe play this season. He has thrown more than one touchdown in just one game and has more interceptions than passing scores. We can thank a pair of rushing scores for his QB13 overall ranking, which is misleading as he’s 23rd in points per game. Look, there’s nothing sexy about Flacco. Even his price says “go away”. And maybe he hasn’t recovered fully since tearing his ACL. But in a one-off, I like the volume he should be forced into against the Steelers, and I like that he has a capable tight end to attack the middle of their defense. This should be a good game for Flacco. 

Running Backs

Mark Ingram II - $6,700

Ingram lost a fumble in the first quarter (returned for a score) and was immediately benched. For the rest of the game he stood on the sideline and watched while Tim Hightower piled up a 100-yard performance. Ingram also watched while Hightower was repeatedly stuffed at the goal line (five attempts, zero touchdowns). The natural reaction to such an event is to assume a full-blown timeshare is on tap. Maybe that’s worth concern. There’s a lot of words on the internet that more or less lead people to believe it. But let’s not forget that Hightower has a history of fumbles, and Ingram is still the best running back they have. Even if he loses some of his volume, I think 20 touches is a fine expectation against the 49ers. And besides, there could be enough fantasy points to go around given the defense they’re facing. The 49ers have been battered by runners all season. They’ve allowed the most total yards per game to go along with 10 touchdowns. Seriously. Look at their game logs:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Jacquizz Rodgers 7 26 154 0 1 9 0 16.8 5600
Peyton Barber 7 12 84 1 0 0 0 14.4 4500
Antone Smith 7 1 6 0 2 41 0 5.7 0
LeSean McCoy 6 19 140 3 2 2 0 33.2 8200
Mike Gillislee 6 6 60 1 0 0 0 12 4900
Reggie Bush 6 2 6 0 0 0 0 0.6 4900
Jonathan Williams 6 5 21 0 0 0 0 0.1 4500
David Johnson 5 27 157 2 3 28 0 32 9000
Andre Ellington 5 6 19 0 0 0 0 1.9 4500
Stepfan Taylor 5 2 -2 0 0 0 0 -0.2 4500
Ezekiel Elliott 4 23 138 1 1 19 0 22.2 8100
Alfred Morris 4 7 34 0 0 0 0 3.4 5200
Lance Dunbar 4 1 2 0 2 14 0 2.6 4900
Christine Michael 3 20 106 2 2 5 0 24.1 6900
Alex Collins 3 4 12 0 2 19 0 4.1 4500
Terrence Magee 3 3 12 0 0 0 0 1.2 0
Fozzy Whittaker 2 16 100 0 3 31 0 12.6 4800
Jonathan Stewart 2 5 9 0 2 7 0 2.6 6700
Mike Tolbert 2 9 25 0 0 0 0 2.5 4700
Todd Gurley 1 17 47 0 1 -5 0 4.7 8900
Malcolm Brown 1 1 5 0 1 8 0 1.8 0
Benny Cunningham 1 1 1 0 1 7 0 1.3 4900

That’s embarrassing. Just over their last three games alone they’ve allowed 585 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. I know it’s cliché to say this, but start Ingram with confidence.

Derrick Henry - $5,900

We finally got a taste of what Henry can do as he took over for DeMarco Murray in garbage time and rolled up 97 yards and a score. There, of course, are a few caveats to consider. For one, the Jaguars were already softened up by Murray and basically had given up. For two, the Jaguars are bad. And three, Murray might have finished that game if not for a toe injury. He’s practicing and will be the starter against the Chargers.

But as much as I hate to target a low-ceiling situation in which there is no guarantee for volume, I’m going to buy up the entire Titans’ backfield this week in a few lineups. There aren’t many cheap options at the position this week with the exception of Charcandrick West (who will have massive ownership), so Henry’s salary is welcomed relief. We don’t know how healthy Murray is, but I think we can expect a lot more work for Henry this week than we’ve seen all season, especially after his performance last week. The Chargers’ defense will provide enough fantasy points to go around, assuming the Titans’ offense stays at its current pace. In fact, the only reason I won’t have massive exposure to Murray or Henry is because I just don’t trust Mike Mularkey and Co. But if things go as planned, Murray and Henry will both find the end zone and combine for nearly 40 points, just like they did against the Jaguars.

And just as a reminder, only the Saints have allowed more touchdowns to running backs than the Chargers, only three teams have allowed more fantasy points per game, and no team has allowed more fantasy points per touch. Go exotic and plug in both Murray and Henry.

Wide Receivers

Dontrelle Inman - $5,500

If you’re looking for a discount wide receiver without sacrificing volume, Inman is your man. No Chargers’ receiver has played more snaps. Unfortunately, those snaps haven’t translated to usable volume. Meaning even though he’s on the field for nearly every play, he isn’t seeing a lot of targets. Philip Rivers tends to spread the ball around and has looked Inman’s way just 38 times, which pushes him to Option No. 4.

But with Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry dealing with injuries (it doesn’t sound like Henry will play), Inman should be the top option on Sunday. He had a decent game last week with four catches on seven targets for 72 yards. He’s now seen 13 targets over the last two weeks and even though he hasn’t provided a usable game outside of Week 4, a home date with the Titans secondary should fix that. Their generic stats won’t blow anyone away. They’ve surrendered only eight touchdowns and rank 19th in yards per game allowed to receivers. But the last three games tell the real story:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Allen Hurns 8 7 98 1 19.3 5700
Allen Robinson 8 6 70 0 10 7100
Bryan Walters 8 2 14 1 8.4 4500
Marqise Lee 8 1 21 0 0.6 4500
T.Y. Hilton 7 7 133 1 22.8 7800
Chester Rogers 7 2 30 0 4 4500
Devin Street 7 1 20 0 2.5 4500
Terrelle Pryor 6 9 75 2 24.34 7000
Ricardo Louis 6 5 65 0 9 4500
Andrew Hawkins 6 3 48 0 6.3 4600
Rashard Higgins 6 1 14 0 1.9 4500

If you’re counting, that’s 588 yards and five touchdowns, which translates 36.4 FanDuel points per game—the seventh most over that span. Even though the Titans have been punished by prototypical outside receivers, I like Inman to have a big game this week.   

Allen Robinson - $6,700

Blake Bortles is terrible. That’s a fact. But he loves Robinson and targeted him 15 times last week. His average of 10 targets per game is good enough to tie Odell Beckham Jr Jr. for the seventh most among wide receivers. Eventually, one or two of those targets will be catchable and go for touchdowns. Maybe this isn’t the week to chase, but the Chiefs have been a source of fantasy goodness for receivers. They’ve allowed the seventh most yards per game to the position, as well as the ninth most touchdowns (tied with three other teams). Robinson’s 12 targets in the red zone are the fourth most in the league. Eventually, he’s going to have a huge game and we’ll all be sad for not having him in our lineups.

Regarding the matchup, the Chiefs do lead the league in interceptions (thanks, Fitzpatrick), but Robinson should see a lot of Phillip Gaines this Sunday, which is very promising. Hopefully we see the Bortles that played in garbage time last week (he threw three touchdowns in the second half) so Robinson can finally crack 100 yards. I think he finds the end zone for the fourth time this season and gives us a top-10 finish in a week where there aren’t a lot of no-brainer matchups.   

Tight Ends

Lance Kendricks - $4,500

There’s nothing remarkable about Kendricks but he has seen 17 targets in the Rams last two games, and converted 12 of them into 89 yards and a touchdown. As dangerous as it is to cherry-pick stats, we should at least acknowledge that over Weeks 6 and 7 he was our TE6 and now gets a home date against the Panthers, who have struggled against tight ends. Only the Browns have allowed more FanDuel points per game to the position and only the Lions have allowed more touchdowns. We should also pay attention to Case Keenum as a possible GPP play. The Panthers secondary is quite awful and Keenum has been just a hair above mediocre in a number of games this season. A Keenum/Kendricks stack is worth considering while the rest of the crowd chases either Kenny Britt or Tavon Austin. It helps that Kendricks is the site minimum and gives a ton of flexibility for the rest of our roster.

Jason Witten - $5,200

I’m once again stretching the definition of contrarian by plugging Witten. We all know he has a sweet matchup this week and his quarterback loves him. So I could be completely wrong to think the majority of the crowd is going to filter to the likes of Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta, Antonio Gates, Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen. What this means is Witten will be the third or fourth most popular tight end when, in reality, he should at the top everyone’s list. As mentioned, no team has allowed more points per game to tight ends than the Browns. Witten is only averaging 7.1 points per game, which ranks 14th. Here’s to hoping the crowd sees that as a reason to avoid him.

Defenses

There are a couple of situations worth chasing this week. The first one is the Miami Dolphins ($4,700) coming off a bye and hosting the Jets. The Dolphins’ defense isn’t good, they’ve allowed the 16th most points per game and the 12th most yards per game, but also rank 14th in terms of sack percentage. Neither of these offenses is spectacular, which should keep scoring low especially with some rain and some wind expected. They’re certainly not my favorite play but I’ll always target Fitzpatrick.

The second situation is the Nick Foles-led offense of the Chiefs. They’ll also be down to West as their lead back. The Jaguars ($4,000) are not a good defense but if you’re looking for a total punt play, they’re a warm body that could luck into a pick-six.



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