The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 11

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Pick a quarterback. Any quarterback.

That's pretty much the situation this week. My first blush is to fade Tom Brady but that scares me. It scares me to the marrow in my bones. The only reason to fade him is because he costs more than all the other quarterbacks. And there’s a real chance that despite throwing for 300 yards, like he did last week and the week before that and actually every game this season since his return except one, he might turn in a mediocre fantasy performance thanks to LeGarrette Blount.

Just a reminder that the 49ers are the worst run defense in maybe a decade and Blount comes into Week 11 leading the league in rushing touchdowns. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s the most dangerous 3.5 yards-per-carry runner ever. So fading Blount feels like a major mistake and fading Brady also feels like a major mistake; perhaps the recipe for success is starting both of them. But you know as soon as you do that, Blount will turn in one of his 13-carry, 45-yard, one-score games (see Buffalo in Week 8).

I definitely want exposure to the Patriots’ offense this week. That much I'm sure of. Whether that be with Brady, Blount, a tight end, a kicker, or all of the above remains to be seen, but this team is coming off of a tough loss, is being tossed a tune-up in San Francisco, and is going to score a lot of points. By the way, the 49ers might do just enough on offense to keep Brady on the field. Given the expected pace, there could be a lot of plays in this game and a lot of offense. So as dangerous as this sounds, I will either be fading Blount in favor of a number of other running backs, or stacking him with Brady.

We have a lot of options at quarterback this week. Brady is by far the safest, has the highest ceiling, and may even have lower ownership than normal thanks to the wealth at the position and the Blount Effect. With Blount’s salary now approaching near career-highs (it peaked at $7,500 earlier this year), I think it’s safe to say he hits value but doesn’t smash the tournament ceiling, while Brady throws 45 times and finishes the week as QB1.

Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor - $7,300

Honestly, I’m not even remotely interested in any quarterbacks outside of Brady (as mentioned), Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck or Marcus Mariota. Those are the guys I’m playing this week regardless of ownership. So this contrarian list is going to be short. In fact, Taylor is about the only one I’m considering. You could make a case for Matthew Stafford, but he’s too expensive considering his ceiling. You could make a case for Andy Dalton now that he has both A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but I’d rather just play those two and leave Dalton alone. Maybe there’s an argument for Colin Kaepernick out there; I do love his price, but with pricing as soft as it is, you can pay up for an elite option and still build a solid roster.

Taylor is only $300 more than Kaepernick and is a far superior play. LeSean McCoy should finally be healthy, which might be somewhat bad for Taylor’s touchdown potential. But the matchup is worth chasing. Here are the quarterbacks that have faced Cincinnati this year:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Eli Manning 10 28 44 240 3 2 3 4 0 20 7600
Kirk Cousins 8 38 56 458 2 1 3 -1 0 25.22 7200
Kevin Hogan 7 12 24 100 0 2 7 104 1 18.4 0
Cody Kessler 7 9 11 82 0 0 1 -2 0 3.08 6600
Tom Brady 6 29 35 376 3 0 2 2 0 27.24 9000
Dak Prescott 5 18 24 227 1 0 7 4 1 17.48 7300
Ryan Tannehill 4 15 25 189 1 1 0 0 0 8.56 7200
Trevor Siemian 3 23 35 312 4 0 3 5 0 28.98 6700
Ben Roethlisberger 2 19 37 259 3 2 1 14 0 21.76 8300
Ryan Fitzpatrick 1 19 35 189 2 1 4 15 0 16.06 7300

On average, they are scoring 18.7 FanDuel points against this defense. In fact, if you remove Tannehill’s flop and combine the Browns quarterbacks (Hogan and Kessler), that average moves up to 22.3 (and 20.8 if you don’t remove Tannehill). Just a couple of weeks ago, Cousins lit them up for over 450 yards and completed over 67 percent of his passes despite throwing 56 times. This defense is vulnerable.

Just a reminder that Taylor is coming off a bye week after traveling to Seattle and scoring 26.86 FanDuel points. Since Week 2 he ranks seventh overall among quarterbacks, has the most rushing yards of all quarterbacks and is tied with Cam Newton and Dak Prescott for the most rushing touchdowns. His salary is super friendly this week and he will be forgotten by the crowd. He’s my top (read: only) contrarian play.

Running Backs

David Johnson - $8,300

It’s not often we get elite talent for a discount both in terms in salary and ownership. Regarding the former, this is the most affordable he has been since last year and a surprising $1,100 drop from last week. Regarding his ownership, most of the crowd is going to pile on Le'Veon Bell, Blount, DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott, plus a few cheap options, leaving Johnson largely forgotten.

The matchup isn’t great. Only three teams have allowed fewer points per game to running backs than the Vikings, who have allowed only one touchdown at home (to Orleans Darkwa, of all people). Murray and Jordan Howard are the only backs to put up usable stat lines against them. The former clobbered the Vikings for 202 total yards and one touchdown—an outlier to be sure.

But I’ve said many times since last year that Johnson is matchup proof. We’re going to find out how true that is this week. The Cardinals’ offense hasn’t been very impressive lately but he is still putting up nice games weekly. And it’s worth noting that as good as the Vikings defense has been against running backs, they’ve allowed the 10th most receiving yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. We all know Johnson excels as a pass-catcher. Don’t fear the Purple People Eaters; fire up the Johnson discount in tournaments this weekend.

LeSean McCoy - $7,500

Similar to Johnson but with a better matchup, McCoy will be forgotten by the crowd thanks to Bell, Murray and Blount. He looked great in his last game against the vaunted Seattle defense, in Seattle of all places. He failed to find the end zone but still managed 85 yards on 21 carries and secured four of his five targets for 35 yards—a stat line that we’ll take most weeks so long as we can get a touchdown to go along with it. I don’t fear the Bengals’ defense whatsoever. They’re not exactly hemorrhaging fantasy points, but when players like Rashad Jennings and Rob Kelley are putting together usable stat lines, an elite talent like McCoy should shred them.

As it stands, the Bengals rank 10th in FanDuel points allowed per game allowed to running backs. They’ve allowed seven touchdowns in their last five games. Neither of these teams are allowing a lot of points defensively and neither runs a lot of plays per game, but Buffalo ranks 11th in pace and the Bengals rank 12th, which sets us up with the potential for a high-scoring contest. It currently has an over/under of 47.5 points with the Bengals slight favorites. The Bills are projected to score three touchdowns; McCoy will account for at least one of them. You can pair him Taylor to get an unconventional stack, and then plug in Johnson as your second running back and you’ve got contrarian pieces in place at the core of your roster. The ceiling may not look the greatest but if those three players go off, and I think they will, it’ll be a profitable weekend.

Wide Receivers

Mike Evans - $8,000

I have to admit; I haven’t rostered Evans very much this year. Which seems silly considering he has more targets than any other player in the league. It’s even sillier when you consider he has more points per game than any other wide receiver. So this is the week he is in my lineup. It’s also the week I think the crowd ignores him. He had a great matchup against the Bears and let a lot of people down. He didn’t even see a target until the second half and failed surpass 66 yards. Now he travels to Kansas City to take on a defense that has been tough on receivers over the last three weeks. But they’ve given up at least one touchdown in every game but two this season. They’ve allowed the third most yards per game on average and their 11 scores permitted is the seventh most.

Raw stats aside, this isn’t a great matchup for the Buccaneers’ offense and I get why people might be shy. But the Chiefs’ best cornerback hasn’t practiced all week and is likely out. Regardless, Evans is an elite talent that, as mentioned, is the highest targeted and highest scoring player among all wide receivers. Anytime you can get a guy like that with a reasonable salary and potentially low ownership, you just have to start him.

Julian Edelman - $6,100

It’s difficult to say how the crowd will approach the Patriots’ offense outside of Brady, Blount and Martellus Bennett. I do know that the 49ers have allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers of all teams. And although Edelman has failed to score more than 11.7 points in any game this season, he leads the team in targets by a mile. He had his best game of the year last week with seven catches on nine targets for 99 yards. He may not be a reliable DFS option in most weeks, but this is the week to get him your lineup and enjoy the savings. I am even considering a power stack to end all power stacks that includes Brady, Blount, Bennett and Edelman. That’s how much I believe in the Patriots. They are going to run the score up as high as they can. By the way, both Gronkowski and Chris Hogan are out, clearing up more looks for Edelman.

Tyreek Hill - $5,400

Since I prefer to pay up at both running back spots and at quarterback, I usually end up with a questionable WR3. Generally, any player priced below $6,000 is a major risk. Hill is certainly no different. And this may be an overreaction to his game last week where he finally got involved with a team-high 13 targets. Hopefully the Chiefs go back to him this week, as the matchup is as tasty as ever. And can we just take a minute to ogle his metrics (courtesy of PlayerProfiler.com):

Wow. That’s hot. Think of what he could do against a Bucs’ defense that has allowed the sixth most points per game to wide receivers this season. Just a couple of weeks ago Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts combined for 350 yards and two touchdowns on 23 receptions. The week after that Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu combined for 237 yards. And last week Jay Cutler happened. This game has a low over/under but it has sneaky shootout appeal, especially if Doug Martin plays. The Chiefs will be without Jeremy Maclin once again, which means more snaps and more looks for Hill. His salary, matchup and abilities can’t be ignored. I’ll be rostering him across the industry this Sunday, regardless of ownership (which I don’t believe will be very high).

Tight Ends

Jesse James - $4,800

Or maybe Ladarius Green. It’s hard to say how this timeshare will shape up going forward. They both saw four targets last week but James played 52 snaps to Green’s 12. It’s likely they’re slowly working Green back into the game plan and clearly plan on using him whenever he is on the field as an offensive weapon and not a blocker. So this might be a situation to avoid (as most timeshares are, especially when it comes to tight ends).

But there could also be enough points to go around. The weather in Cleveland looks awful for Sunday with sustaining winds approaching 30 miles per hour and snow showers possible. That pretty much erases the deep pass and will push short throws underneath. That’s great for pass-catching running backs and tight ends. Just a reminder that the Browns have allowed 774 yards and nine touchdowns to tight ends. That translates to 17.1 FanDuel points per game—the most of all teams and a full 2.5 points more than second placed Cincinnati.

Charles Clay - $4,800

Despite having the second most team targets, Clay hasn’t emerged with a usable stat line all year. His best was back in Week 5 against the Rams when he caught all five of his targets for seven yards. He has yet to find the end zone this season and has scored fewer than 10 fantasy points in every game he’s played. But this is the week things turnaround. The Bengals, as mentioned, have allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends. Part of that has to do with Gronkowski clobbering them with 162 yards and a touchdown a few weeks ago. But just last week the Giants tight ends combined for 16.1 fantasy points and Jordan Reed tagged them for nine catches, 99 yards and a score the week before. Obviously, Reed and Gronkowski are elite tight ends and Clay is nowhere even close to them, but he will be involved heavily in this one and it’s clear the Bengals are vulnerable to the position. And the fact that he’s near site minimum means if he strikes out, it doesn’t totally kill your roster. I’ll stack him with Taylor in any lineups that don’t include McCoy.

Defenses

With the return of Darius Slay and DeAndre Levy, the Lions defense ($4,600) is suddenly much more dangerous than at any point this season. They’re coming off of a bye and playing at home against one of the lowest-scoring and erratic offenses in the league. Did I mention Blake “Joba Chamberlain” Bortles (see The Fade for reference) is coming to town?

The other defense that has my attention is the Dallas Cowboys ($4,500). They’re hosting a Ravens team that ranks 25th in yards per game and 24th in points per game. They have virtually no playmakers that scare anyone, and the Cowboys are infamous for clock control. I like the Lions more but whenever I need to squeeze $100 out of the cap, I’m happy with the Cowboys.


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