The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 13

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

The question for Week 13 is “How much David Johnson is too much David Johnson?”

His team is a slight home favorite taking on a defense whose biggest weakness is against running backs. They’ve permitted the sixth most FanDuel points to the position, allow over 100 yards per game on the ground, and enter the week with the worst ranked rushing defense per FootballOutsiders. Johnson should see a lot of targets as well given the Cardinals’ inability to protect their quarterback, which only pushes his ceiling even higher—an impressive thought considering he has scored fewer than 21 points only three times this season. He is the third most expensive player on the board, but that won’t be enough to scare the crowd away.  

Speaking of crowds, the chalk crashed and burned last week and took a lot of nice-looking lineups with them. Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Taylor Gabriel, Marquess Wilson, and Dontrelle Inman were all top-10 wide receivers. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick, Trevor Siemian, Ryan Tannehill, and Matt Barkley all chipped in top-seven quarterback performances. Week 12 was a firm reminder that it’s best diversify and even throw out a number of contrarian lineups that look nothing short of awful.

But for me, that diversity doesn’t include Johnson. I might have him in 100 percent of my lineups. That’s dangerous considering that at some point, you would think, he’s going to turn in a dud. I’m betting against that happing in Week 13. Now we just have to figure out who the second running back should be.

Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger - $8,300

It’s probably not great analysis to plug Roethlisberger as a contrarian play since he should be a crowd favorite. I still find it necessary to hammer the point home in case you didn’t read my other article. The matchup maybe doesn’t look so great. The Giants have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to passers on the season—mostly because they’ve faced a gaggle of crap passers:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Josh McCown 12 25 43 322 1 0 0 0 0 12.88 6400
Jay Cutler 11 17 30 252 1 1 1 3 0 13.38 6800
Andy Dalton 10 16 29 204 1 1 1 15 0 12.66 7500
Carson Wentz 9 27 47 364 0 2 4 -4 0 12.16 6900
Case Keenum 7 32 53 291 1 4 1 3 0 11.94 6700
Joe Flacco 6 26 48 307 0 0 1 0 0 12.28 7500
Aaron Rodgers 5 23 45 259 2 2 5 15 0 17.86 9100
Sam Bradford 4 26 36 262 1 0 4 6 0 15.08 7100
Kirk Cousins 3 21 35 296 2 0 3 -5 0 19.34 7200
Drew Brees 2 29 44 263 1 0 0 0 0 14.52 9200
Dak Prescott 1 25 45 227 0 0 2 12 0 10.28 5000

Note that McCown dropped 322 yards on them last week, Wentz slapped them with 364 yards, Flacco managed 307 yards, and even Keenum nearly closed in on a 300-yard game. But none of these quarterbacks know how to score touchdowns. The projected point total for the Steelers is 27, which is the third highest behind the Saints and Patriots. They are six-point favorites over the Giants, which puts both Antionio Brown and Le'Veon Bell in play as a Steelers’ power stack. It’s going to be perfect football weather in Pittsburgh and I’m all about the Steelers at home. Here’s to hoping the crowd sees this as a tough matchup for Roethlisberger and they all pile their chips on inferior options like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and even Tom Brady.

Jared Goff - $6,500

Goff is your punt option if you like to live dangerously but also want to load your lineups with studs at all the other positions. He was excellent for at least one half of football last week, where 141 of his passing yards and all three of touchdowns happened. He looked like a rookie in the second half, but all things being equal, it was an encouraging performance. We’ll see if he can take advantage of a Patriots’ defense that has allowed point totals of 16.86, 19.44, 26.52, and 21.62 to the last four teams they’ve faced.

Truthfully, if the weather was better in Chicago, I might be talking about Barkley in this spot instead. But Goff has better weapons around him that can blow open big plays at any time. I certainly won’t recommend you chase either of these guys, but they are the only way to get two stud running backs and two stud wide receivers into one stud lineup. The Patriots, even without Rob Gronkowski, should have no trouble navigating the Rams defense, which puts Goff and Co. in a yet another situation that requires lots of passing. He nearly reached 3x value last week, and only needs 19.5 points to do so this week. Of course, that means the rest of your roster needs to be perfect, but he’s worth chasing in tournaments.

Running Backs

Doug Martin - $6,500

Even though the fantasy points haven’t been there, Martin has looked good since his return from injury. He found the end zone in his first game back, logged over 100 yards in his second game, and was decent against a tough Seattle front last week even if he fumbled late. This week he has a matchup that, on paper, looks quite tasty. The Chargers have allowed the second most receptions, fifth most receiving yards, and fourth most overall FanDuel points per game to running backs. But their recent game logs tell a different story:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Lamar Miller 12 19 57 0 3 18 0 7 7100
Akeem Hunt 12 2 19 0 0 0 0 1.9 4500
Jonathan Grimes 12 2 14 0 0 0 0 1.4 4500
Damien Williams 10 2 2 1 1 18 1 14.5 4500
Jay Ajayi 10 19 79 0 1 1 0 8.5 7800
Kenyan Drake 10 1 9 0 0 0 0 0.9 4500
DeMarco Murray 9 14 51 1 7 29 0 17.5 8100
Antonio Andrews 9 2 15 0 0 0 0 1.5 4500
Devontae Booker 8 19 54 1 5 30 0 14.9 5600
Juwan Thompson 8 1 1 1 0 0 0 6.1 4500
Kapri Bibbs 8 2 4 0 0 0 0 0.4 4500
Tevin Coleman 7 8 64 1 1 10 0 13.9 6200
Devonta Freeman 7 15 58 0 5 42 0 12.5 7500
Patrick DiMarco 7 0 0 0 1 3 0 0.8 4500
C.J. Anderson 6 10 37 0 4 34 0 9.1 7500
Devontae Booker 6 5 46 0 2 7 0 6.3 5000

Miller was an utter failure last week. Ajayi managed only 79 yards the week before. Even Murray was held to 17.5 points, which isn’t terrible but certainly not going to win you any tournaments at his price. All that adds up to this defense turning a corner. However, Martin appears to finally be healthy and has touch totals 18, 27 and 25 since returning. Only the Bills have more rushing attempts over the last three weeks. And even if Jacquizz Rodgers is due back this week for the first time since Week 8, I doubt Martin is in any danger of losing role as the lead back.

The game script plays to his favor. If the Buccaneers end up playing from behind, it stands to reason that Martin’s floor is protected by his ability as a pass-catcher. If the Bucs grab a lead, it’s likely a small one and they’ll attempt to grind the clock. I prefer him more in full PPR formats, but for $6,500, I’ll have quite a bit of exposure while the crowd looks elsewhere.

Spencer Ware - $7,400

I’ll admit that I haven’t had much confidence in Ware down the stretch this season. But he looked solid against the Broncos last Sunday night, and he clearly has the entire backfield to himself—a quality among running backs that trumps all others. The Chiefs have a tough matchup in Atlanta Sunday against one of the league’s best offenses. If I’m the head coach, I’m doing everything I can to keep that offense off the field and controlling the time of possession as much as possible. It just so happens that the Falcons are one of the worst run defenses in the league. They may have suffocated the Buccaneers’ sans Martin in Week 9 and the pathetic rushing offense that is the Packers in Week 8, but Christine Michael, Melvin Gordon III, Ryan Mathews and (obviously) David Johnson have all torn holes in this defense—each scoring at least 21 points. Only the 49ers have allowed more points to the position.

Ware is averaging 17.3 touches per game this season, and that includes Week 7 when he was removed from the game with a concussion. If you eliminate that game, his touches per week jump to 18.2. To be fair, I’ve written him up as a fade more than once simply because he’s not finding the end zone. He hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since Week 6 or any touchdowns since Week 7. That’s concerning, to be sure. But I think this is the week he turns it around and shakes off his end zone allergies.  

Tevin Coleman - $5,600

Before his injury in Week 6, Coleman was our seventh highest scoring running back. He returned last week to handle 32 snaps (Freeman handled 39) and scored a touchdown on what would have otherwise been a forgetful day. The problem, obviously, is he hasn’t touched the ball more than 15 times in any game this season. It stands to reason that there is a ton of risk in plugging in such a low-volume player, even if he’s inexpensive. But where it could pay off this week is against that formidable Chiefs’ front seven. I’m betting Matt Ryan doesn’t have a lot of time in the pocket and will need to get the ball out of his hand in short order. That’s going to result in a lot of underneath passes and dump-offs, which is a game script that sets up for Coleman. Freeman could also benefit as a pass-catcher since he’s proven capable of the role. But the Falcons will use both of them almost equally and I like Coleman’s chances of scoring more so. This is not a contrarian pick I have a ton of confidence in; just something to keep in mind as your building those funky looking contrarian lineups.

Wide Receivers

Brandin Cooks - $6,800

The emergence of rookie Michael Thomas has had an ugly impact on Cooks’ fantasy season. He didn’t see a single target last week and has point totals of 9.1, 17.3, and 8.4 in three games prior. In fact, his game logs tell the story of a true boom or bust player. Sometimes he’ll catch a long bomb for a touchdown and tilt the entire industry (Week 6). Other times he’ll end up with two catches for 13 yards (Week 3) or three catches for 31 yards (Week 4). Which Cooks will show up on Sunday?

That’s a tough question to answer. The only thing I know for sure is that Drew Brees is one of the top plays on the board and this game should be one of the highest scoring of the week (even though I truly believe the Lions’ defense presents a tough matchup). Cooks, who is second in team targets despite last week’s fiasco, doesn’t need a lot a ton of volume to blow up in any given game. His salary is now the lowest it has been since Week 7 of last year. I’ll take that discount and pray for one of those 78-yard touchdowns. And if by chance Darius Slay shadows Thomas, Cooks will ball out.  

Doug Baldwin - $6,900

I wonder how the crowd will react after getting absolutely torched by Wilson/Baldwin combos last week. Together, they combined for 18.94 FanDuel points. Even Jimmy Graham was suffocated by the Seahawks’ abysmal performance against the Buccaneers in what should have been a high-scoring game. So here we are, one week later, headed right down that same road. The Panthers’ secondary is garbage, though their pass-rush as stepped up the last couple of weeks. No wide receiver has scored more than 15.1 fantasy points since Week 9, including Oakland and New Orleans in the last two weeks. I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess the crowd is staying off the Seahawks’ offense this Sunday, except for Graham, who is the best tight end play on the board.

But I’ll be returning to my Wilson/Baldwin stack. Call me crazy, but Pete Carroll isn’t going to allow his team to flop two weeks in a row, and especially in a home game that, if they win, could put them on the inside track to the No 2. Seed in the playoffs. To do that they’ll need to get Wilson going both on the ground and through the air. The Panthers have one of those fancy funnel defenses where they’re great at stopping the run but struggle in the secondary. I’m worried their offense won’t do enough to make this game as high-scoring as I’d like, but the passing game will go through Graham and Baldwin. The contrarian play of the too is obviously Baldwin. I won’t blow sunshine at this pick. His touchdown upside is limited. And he’s averaging just 69.7 yards per game with only three games above 89 yards on the season. It looked like things were coming together as he logged six catches for 89 yards in Week 9, caught three touchdowns in Week 10, surpassed 100 yards for the second time this season in Week 11, and then Week 12 happened (34 yards). The good news is his salary remains affordable and the crowd is scared. Sounds like a fine time to jump back on the Baldwin wagon.

Dontrelle Inman - $5,200

Better late than never? We’ve been waiting for all those snap counts to finally translate into something useful. Inman caught all six of his targets for 119 yards and a touchdown last week. And with fellow wide-out Tyrell Williams missing practice all week, Inman may be in for another big day. We’ll see how things shake out on the final injury report. Either way, he needs to be considered even if Williams does play. The Buccaneers are vulnerable at nearly every level of defense. They enter Week 13 ranked 16th against wide receivers, a number that would be a lot higher if not for a Seattle flop last week and a rather friendly schedule. The Chargers’ offense can be a bit hit or miss, but I like Philip Rivers a lot this week, and without clarity at the tight end position, I’ll look to stack him with one of his receivers. Inman, for $5,200, gives us a lot of salary relief and at least promises to be on the field for the entire game assuming he’s healthy. If Williams doesn’t play, Inman is almost an auto-draft.

Tight Ends

Jermaine Gresham - $4,500

More than just a punt play, Gresham saw 10 targets last week and now has 18 over the last three (third most among Cardinals), with touchdowns in back-to-back contests. The yards haven’t been there, which makes sense. The reason he suddenly showing up on the stat sheet is because Carson Palmer has been under constant pressure, getting sacked on 6.7 percent of pass plays—the highest rate in the league. It’s natural that he’ll look to get the ball out of his hand as quickly as possible, which automatically filters towards running backs and tight ends (there’s a reason Johnson has 22 targets over his last two games).

Washington has struggled to cover tight ends this season. They’ve allowed the fifth most yards, the fifth highest completion percentage, the sixth most touchdowns and the sixth most FanDuel points per game to the position. They also happen to sack quarterbacks 6.7 percent of the time—the eighth highest rate in the league. Palmer will yet again have defenders in his face all game. Johnson and Gresham will be the top targets. Add a touchdown to his average over the last four games (3.5 catches, 34 yards) and you’re nearly hitting 2.5x value on a min-priced tight end.

Defenses

We saw what the Packers ($4,500) can do against a mediocre offense. They generated four sacks, one interception, allowed just 13 points and finished with 10 FanDuel points courtesy of Wentz and Co. This week, they get one of the worst offenses in the league at home with the potential of snow showers. Brock Osweiler is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 13, his 5.77 yards per attempt is dead last, and the Texans’ 17.6 points per game is the fourth lowest in the league. This team is going to get destroyed and the Packers’ defense could end up with a top-five finish. Hopefully the crowd just stares at their raw stats and gets spooked.

Your punt play is none other than the Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,000). I know you’ve probably already closed the tab after reading that, but hear me out. While they’ve generated the fewest fantasy points of all teams, their defense has allowed the sixth fewest yards per game, the sixth lowest yards per play, and they are generating sacks on 6.2 percent of pass attempts, which ranks 11th. Of course, none of that matters if they don’t score fantasy points. But I think they will this week with the Broncos coming to town after suffering a soul-crushing loss as overtime expired last Sunday night. Trevor Siemian seems unlikely to play, which forces Paxton Lynch into action. This game should be low-scoring and their bottom shelf salary gives us a lot of room to work with.



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