The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 10

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

We’re all starting David Johnson this week. Well, at least 60 percent of us are. This is just a guess but he will have the highest ownership of any player ever in the FanDuel Sunday Million. That’s my bold prediction for this week, which isn’t very bold.

I won’t bore you with stats. You know how bad the 49ers run defense is. Actually, I am going to bore you with stats. The 49ers are allowing over 200 yards per game to running backs. They’ve allowed 13 touchdowns to the position in their last six games. Seven running backs have scored at least 16 points FanDuel points against this defense, and three have scored at least 30. One of those three was Johnson back in Week 5 when he clobbered them for 185 total yards and two touchdowns. In San Francisco. Without his starting quarterback. He’s the most expensive player on the board yet he’ll still be the highest owned player.

What’s crazy is you can plug in his $9,400 salary and still build a monster lineup thanks to FanDuel’s soft pricing. There are good and bad ways to be contrarian. Fading Johnson is the latter. Heck, I’m tempted to start both Johnson and Andre Ellington, just so I can reap the benefits when he ends up taking over in the fourth quarter.

Ignore the ownership projections. Get Johnson in most, if not all of your lineups. 

Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler - $7,000

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Cutler has a good game against a good defense so we all assume he’s a great play against a terrible defense only to be terribly disappointed. That may be the situation in Week 10. But it’s worth the risk.

His first two games this year were awful. He barely surpassed 200 passing yards in Week 1 and matched his one touchdown with one interception. Week 2 was even worse. He fumbled, threw a pick, then left with a thumb injury that kept him sidelined until Week 8. Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer came in and was fantastic. Which led to more Cutler moping and the belief that his career, at least in Chicago, was over.

Then Week 8 happened. In a game where nearly every DFSer started the Vikings’ defense and nearly every expert picked the Bears to lose, Cutler rolled out with a chip on his shoulder and put together a nice stat line of 252 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers in a win. And looked good doing it. He looked in sync with his receivers. He looked like his team still had faith in him. He looked like an NFL quarterback.

So here we are, in Week 10, without a lot of no-brainer choices at quarterback, with a few of the defenses we’d target for passers unavailable in the main slate (Lions, Colts, Browns) and a cheap quarterback with a healthy bunch of pass-catchers in a terrific matchup. The Buccaneers have allowed the fifth most FanDuel points to quarterbacks thanks to an 18-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and only four other teams have allowed more passing yards per game. In their last two games alone they’ve allowed 857 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception. Granted, that was to Matt Ryan and Derek Carr—two players who are having tremendous years, but it shows how vulnerable this secondary is. Cutler has played two full games against two of the best defenses in the league this year and averaged 13.6 points per. We’ll need a lot more than that. Thankfully, the Bucs are the kind of defense that provide lots of fantasy points. Fire up Cutler and stack him with Alshon Jeffery, Zach Miller, or both.

Carson Wentz - $6,800

Wentz had a great start to the season that surprised many of us.  In his first four games as a pro, he completed over 64 percent of his passes, averaged over 250 yards per game, and threw seven touchdowns to just one interception. Those numbers pushed him to a QB12 ranking in FanDuel points per game. But things have fallen off quite noticeably for him and the Eagles’ offense. In his last four games, Wentz is averaging just over 220 yards per and has thrown only two touchdowns to four interceptions, and dropped all the way to QB34.

There is good news. The first is that we’ve seen him have good games, particularly against bad defenses. The second is that he plays a bad pass defense this week and will be forced into volume. The Falcons are coming to town with their blazing offense and a secondary that has allowed the most touchdowns to passers and the third most yards per game. And it’s not because they’ve faced a bunch of great quarterbacks resulting in their stats being unfairly inflated:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary
Jameis Winston 9 23 37 261 3 0 2 14 0 21.84 7700
Mike Glennon 9 10 11 75 1 0 0 0 0 9 5800
Aaron Rodgers 8 28 38 246 4 0 6 60 0 33.84 8800
Philip Rivers 7 27 44 371 1 1 1 -2 0 15.64 7800
Russell Wilson 6 25 37 270 0 0 6 7 0 11.5 8400
Paxton Lynch 5 23 35 223 1 1 6 18 0 13.72 6800
Cam Newton 4 14 25 165 1 0 5 30 0 15.6 9300
Derek Anderson 4 17 23 172 2 2 0 0 0 14.88 5000
Joe Webb III 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.8 5000
Drew Brees 3 36 54 376 3 1 2 9 0 26.94 9000
Derek Carr 2 34 45 299 3 0 2 10 0 24.96 8300
Jameis Winston 1 23 32 281 4 1 4 3 0 26.54 7500

Yes, there are some great quarterbacks on that list, but even Mike Glennon and Derek Anderson found success against this defense, albeit in a limited format. The biggest concern with Wentz, other than him being a rookie, is his surrounding cast seems to have stones for hands. Outside of Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz, we’re left with Darren Sproles as the next most reliable pass-catcher. What this tells me is there is no one on this team that can stretch the Falcons’ defense. But it may not matter. The Eagles will likely be forced away from the run and into a lot of passing, including a lot of checking down. This game has the highest over/under of the week with the Falcons as slight favorites. I’ll register a few Eagles’ stacks that feature Wentz/Sproles, Wentz/Matthews, or Wentz/Ertz.  

Running Backs

Lamar Miller - $7,500

We’ll need to keep an eye on his injury situation but at this point there’s not really much concern. The biggest concern is that Brock Osweiler is his quarterback and this offense is terrible. What’s amazing is Miller comes into Week 10 with the 14th most overall FanDuel points and the 19th most per contest despite scoring only three touchdowns all season. That’s ridiculous considering his usage. Only four running backs have a higher average than his 21.9 touches per game and you can probably guess who they are.

The Jaguars rank in the middle of the pack when comes to raw stats allowed to running backs. They’re 14th in rushing yards per game and 15th in total touchdowns. It’s when you investigate their game logs that you start to see the cracks. Just a couple of weeks ago DeMarco Murray hit smashed them for 123 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. The week before that Latavius Murray hit them up for a pair touchdowns on 18 carries (only 59 yards, however). And earlier this season, both Frank Gore and Melvin Gordon III scored at least 18 points. Even Eddie Lacy was off to a great start in Week 1 with 61 yards on 14 carries and another 17 yards on one reception.

This defense is exploitable even if the raw stats don’t scream for us to start running backs against them. One thing is for certain: Miller is an elite runner when given the opportunity. He looked great against Denver a few weeks ago before he injured his shoulder. He found the end zone in his last game despite dealing with that injury. Assuming he’s getting healthier (a fair assumption after the bye), it’s just a matter of time before his usage finally spits out a multi-score game and a top-five performance. My money is on that happening this week while the crowd is off him.

Mark Ingram II - $6,300

Even if you remove his 75-yard touchdown, Ingram still averaged 5.9 yards per carry last week. The fears of him losing playing time were somewhat confirmed as he played fewer snaps than Tim Hightower and was out-touched 24-17, but Ingram was clearly the better back and I would expect to see him win his near fulltime gig back soon. Maybe as soon as this week against a tough Broncos’ defense.

Normally, we’d avoid this front seven at all cost. But it’s becoming abundantly clear they have a soft spot for running backs. From a raw stats perspective, they rank in the middle of the pack. But the game logs, as always, give us proper context:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Latavius Murray 9 20 114 3 1 13 0 31.2 6000
Jalen Richard 9 8 62 0 2 10 0 8.2 5000
Melvin Gordon III 8 23 111 0 4 44 0 17.5 7200
Derek Watt 8 0 0 0 1 53 0 5.8 4500
Lamar Miller 7 11 61 0 3 6 0 8.2 7700
Melvin Gordon III 6 27 94 0 0 0 0 9.4 7100
Tevin Coleman 5 6 31 0 4 132 1 24.3 5900
Devonta Freeman 5 23 88 1 3 35 0 19.8 7400
Jacquizz Rodgers 4 6 25 0 1 4 0 3.4 5500
Charles Sims 4 15 28 0 2 7 0 2.5 6500
Jeremy Hill 3 17 97 2 0 0 0 21.7 6400
Giovani Bernard 3 5 8 0 5 36 0 6.9 5700
Frank Gore 2 13 44 0 3 19 1 13.8 5700
Robert Turbin 2 3 10 1 0 0 0 7 4600
Josh Ferguson 2 2 7 0 5 29 0 6.1 4500
Jonathan Stewart 1 15 64 0 0 0 0 6.4 6400

In their last three weeks, the Broncos are allowing over 28 points per game to runners. That’s the fourth most of all teams. Their pass defense is still solid, even without Aqib Talib, though his absence gives me a lot more confidence that Drew Brees is a solid GPP play, as well. Combining all that together, we have a great situation for Saints’ running backs. If you started both Hightower and Ingram last week, you were awarded 48.6 total points. I’m tempted to go back to that stack against the Broncos. If nothing else, Ingram’s salary dropping $400 makes him solid value. Fire him up as tournament play.

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant - $7,500

It’s one thing if a player isn’t 100 percent and he’s in the game as a distraction for the defense. It’s another thing if a player is mostly healthy but not giving 100 percent. That’s what it looked like for Bryant last week. He was notably lazy a few routes and I’m wondering if his chemistry or lack of involvement is getting in the way of his abilities as a receiver. We knew this team was going to be a run-first club after they spent a top pick on Ezekiel Elliott. But we also believed the running attack would open things up for the pass. That has sort of happened. Just not for Bryant. And it’s not like he is being ignored. Despite missing three games, Bryant is still third in team targets with 41. But he’s only caught 39 percent of those targets. He’s also credited with only one drop on the season, so something is amiss.  

This week doesn’t look much easier. The Steelers have allowed only four touchdowns all season to wide receivers. Context, of course is important. They have been getting cooked by teams’ No. 1s. Mike Wallace, Brandon Marshall, Jarvis Landry, and DeSean Jackson have found success against this secondary. In fact, Football Outsiders has them ranked 29th against No. 1 receivers.

Enter Bryant, who is a fiery player that wants to win more than anything but also wants to be a part of that win. They’ll need him in Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ run defense is getting healthy and looked solid against the Ravens. I don’t doubt Elliott will have a good afternoon, per usual. But I do doubt the Cowboys can play keep away all game assuming Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. As it stands, this contest is tied for the highest over/under total of the week (50 points). The Steelers are slight favorites, which puts the Cowboys projected team total at about 24 points. I think they’ll end up playing catchup rather than keep away, so I’ll gladly take advantage of Bryant’s salary while it’s discounted, and stack him with Le'Veon Bell and/or Antonio Brown.   

Julio Jones - $8,800

Jones will always have decent ownership, but this week I see more of the crowd on Mike Evans, Jordy Nelson, Brown, Jeffery, among others. People will look at the Eagles’ raw stats and see they’ve allowed only 171 yards per game to receivers, the second lowest completion percentage, and only eight touchdowns. Here’s to hoping they forget that the Giants shredded this secondary last week, and Bryant smoked them for 113 yards and a score the week before. In fact, over the last three games, the Eagles have allowed 35 points per game to receivers—the seventh most—and a least one touchdown in five straight. Don’t over think this one; get some exposure to Jones. Maybe a lot of exposure.

Eli Rogers - $4,900

It’s important to get exposure to the Steelers’ offense this week and Rogers is our cheapest option. The Cowboys have struggled against slot receivers with the likes of Matthews, Jamison Crowder, Jeremy Kerley, and Randall Cobb all scoring touchdowns. They will be without Barry Church and Morris Claiborne, who have arguably been their best corners this season. The Steelers will be without Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Sammie Coates Jr hasn’t been reliable, which will open more opportunities for Rogers in the slot. He was excellent last week with six catches for over 100 yards and played 65 percent of snaps. Again, we have to hope Roethlisberger is healthier this week than last and the Steelers’ offense returns to form. If that’s the case Rogers will be in for a big day and won’t need much to hit value. He’s the perfect option for salary relief yet plays for a great offense, at home, in a game that should be high scoring. Get him in your lineups.

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce - $6,300

Like Julio Jones, Kelce isn’t typically a contrarian play. But with the crowd most likely all over Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, and maybe even Jason Witten, Kelce’s ownership will be well below where it should be. The biggest weakness of the Panthers’ defense is in the middle of the field. They’ve been tagged by tight ends for 559 yards (fifth most) and six touchdowns (third most). Alex Smith will be back but Jeremy Maclin won’t be, which means most of this offense will go through Kelce. The Chiefs are going to struggle to run the ball, and their defense is going to struggle against Cam Newton and Co., meaning the Chiefs will be forced into passing more than usual. Kelce is a no-brainer. Make room for him if you can.

Zach Miller - $5,400

I’m going to have more exposure to Cutler than I feel comfortable with but even in the rosters that I don’t have him, I’m still all over Miller. He was Cutler’s top target last week and finished with seven catches for 88 yards. The Buccaneers raw stats don’t look promising, but their game logs against quality tight ends tells the real story:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary
Austin Hooper 9 3 46 1 12.1 4500
Levine Toilolo 9 1 32 1 9.7 4500
Mychal Rivera 8 3 36 1 11.1 4500
Clive Walford 8 3 31 0 4.6 4600
Vance McDonald 7 1 24 0 2.9 4500
Garrett Celek 7 1 4 0 0.9 4700
Greg Olsen 5 9 181 0 22.6 8000
Jeff Heuerman 4 1 19 0 2.4 4500
Darren Fells 2 4 31 0 5.1 4600
Jacob Tamme 1 6 51 0 8.1 5000
Austin Hooper 1 1 14 0 1.9 4500

There’s not a quality player on this list outside of Greg Olsen, who shredded this defense in Week 5 for 181 yards. Miller isn’t Olsen, but he is better than every other player on this list, including the three that have scored touchdowns. The only concern here is that Bears’ receivers get most of the action and Jordan Howard cleans up the end zone. I still like Miller to be a top target and to come away with a solid afternoon in Tampa Bay.

Lance Kendricks - $4,500

Kendricks made an appearance in this space last week and I’m doubling down this week. He had a solid day against Carolina—his best of the season—with 12 targets, seven receptions, 90 yards, and dropped what would have been a sure touchdown. He’s now scored an average of 11.1 points over his last three games and leads the Rams in team targets over that stretch. The Jets secondary is awful and have now allowed three tight ends to score at least 11.7 points. This matchup sets up better for outside receivers more than anything, but with the way Case Keenum has played, expecting a bunch of check-downs to Kendricks makes sense. He’s the best player available for under $5,000 (or maybe that’s Eli Rogers but it’s close).

Defenses

At this point in the season, it’s fair to follow around the Vikings regardless of the team they’re facing. Washington ($4,400) is that team this week and even though they’ve allowed over 23 points per game and over 360 yards per game, they rank seventh in sack percentage and have the 13th most takeaways per game. They also have a good returner so the bonus of a special teams touchdown is always in order. None of this matters as much as the fact that the Vikings’ offensive line is horrible and Sam Bradford is their quarterback.

I think a lot of the crowd will gather around the Jets and hope to pick up a few extra points from a Keenum-led offense. But the opposite might be a better approach. The Rams ($4,600) defense comes into Week 10 ranked 11th overall in FanDuel scoring. They’re not getting to the quarterback very often which means they’re not creating turnovers, but they have allowed the eighth fewest yards per game and the 12th fewest points per game. They also have Tavon Austin who is threat to score on special teams every week. In fact, stacking Austin with the Rams’ defense is a great contrarian play because it A) takes advantage of how awful the Jets’ defense is by starting a receiver against them, and B) takes advantage of how awful the Jets’ offense is by starting a defense against them in a game that has the lowest over/under of the week.



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