The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 16

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Week 15 was the week where kickers ruled. What a perfect reminder of how important that position is when it comes to shipping tournaments. If you don’t have the guy that puts up 15 or more points, it’s rather difficult to win. I’m still not going to write up kickers in my analysis. Hopefully, we can move away from that position in most formats someday, but I get the many people like it.

This week is a tricky week considering the main slate is on Saturday and has only three games with over/unders above 45.5 points. The Raiders hosting the Colts, the Saints hosting the Buccaneers, and the Panthers hosting the Falcons will likely be the source of heavy ownership. If you want to avoid the crowds, the Jaguars hosting the Titans and the Packers hosting the Vikings could have more offense than what Vegas is suggesting. You’ll want to take a few risks with players in those games.

Moving on to Week 16; we’re nearing the end of this column. Week 17 will be the final installment. In the meantime, enjoy this week as the season wears down, have a wonderful holiday, and don’t start Allen Robinson.   

Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers - $8,200

If I recall correctly, Rivers was listed in this exact space last week. He managed only 15.24 points and finished as QB14—not exactly a tournament-winning performance. But, here we are again, with an even better matchup and a higher salary. The Browns haven’t been giving up a ton yards—an average of 255 per game—but they’ve allowed 31 passing touchdowns and the most fantasy points per game. Twelve of those touchdowns have gone to tight ends, which is important for Rivers considering he has a pair above average tight ends that split snaps almost equally. He also has a pair of wide receivers that are capable of stretching the field with deep balls. The Browns have allowed 32 Big Plays (passes of 25 yards or more), which ranks as the second most in the league (just one below the Raiders). It is difficult to guess which receiver will be the beneficiary of Rivers’ long bombs. I thought last week it would be Tyrell Williams. It ended up being Travis Benjamin. The lesson is that stacking Rivers with anyone is a dangerous game. You’re better off targeting other receivers with higher floors.

Of course, none of this will matter if Melvin Gordon III suddenly gets healthy. If that ends up being the case, I’ll fade Rivers completely. But I doubt we see that happen by Saturday and the Chargers backfield otherwise is mediocre at best. Rivers could be in for his biggest game of the season, especially if the Browns give us just a little bit offense.

Matt Barkley - $6,300

Barkley is our best cheap option of the week. He has been solid since taking over as the starter, despite a few mistakes that any inexperienced quarterback makes. It helps to have an excellent rushing attack to keep defenders honest. And although Jordan Howard limits Barkley’s tournament upside, I think this game will be high scoring enough to support both players, and even gives us the option of an unconventional quarterback/running back stack. As it stands, the Redskins have allowed the fifth most passing yards per game and the fifth highest completion percentage to quarterbacks. They recently allowed Cam Newton a 300-yard night, and now have allowed five quarterbacks to surpass 300 yards in their last seven games. Even Sam Bradford managed 307 yards and two touchdowns against them.

This game has a projected over/under of 45.5 points, which doesn’t seem like a lot but is actually the fourth highest of the week. I think we pass that over with ease as both of these defenses can’t defend passers or runners. Barkley will have no trouble hitting value so long as he cleans up the obvious mistakes. As mentioned, I’m comfortable with a Barkley/Howard power stack.

Running Backs

Doug Martin - $7,000

We’ve been down this road before and I know a lot of you won’t bother plugging in Martin, especially with his salary $500 more than what it was last week. Let’s just jump on the bad news first and see if we can’t squeeze logic out of paying his salary this week.

In his last five games, Martin has barely averaged 10 FanDuel points per, hasn’t rushed for more than 87 yards, and has scored only twice. Making matters worse, Charles Sims is back and appears to have the lead on passing downs. The Buccaneers aren’t running the ball very well, despite averaging over 28 attempts per game in their last three. If anything, this offense should be avoided, especially on the road against one of the best offenses in football where the running game could be completely abandoned.

Now for some good news. Despite Sims return, Martin is still getting the lion’s share of snap counts and touches. He doubled Sims’s snap counts last week, and out-touched him 16-6. I’m not overly concerned with his usage. Sims might be a decent punt play if the Buccaneers are forced to play catch-up in New Orleans, a real possibility. But let’s not forget that Martin is a good receiver and figures to be in a better position to take advantage of this matchup. The Saints have allowed 20 total touchdowns to running backs this season—the second most—and their .72 points per attempt ranks third. This game is projected to be the second highest scoring of the week, with the Bucs team total hovering around 25 points. It’s not crazy to think that Martin will be heavily involved from the get-go as his team attempts to limit the amount of time the Saints’ offense controls the ball. I’m not going to suggest a heavy exposure to him, but he could have big game on Saturday.    

Lamar Miller - $6,900

Same player; different week. I plugged Miller as a contrarian play last week and he delivered 15.9 points. It could have been better but that’s at least above 2x salary expectations on a day where the Texans benched their starting quarterback because he’s terrible. This week, Miller’s salary is down $300, and his matchup is even better. The Bengals are a tough defense that could give Tom Savage all kinds of problems. But that means more passing work for Miller.

The Bengals have a soft spot for running backs with the likes of James White, Ezekiel Elliott, DeAngelo Williams and Matt Forte all putting up at least 18 FanDuel points. Even Isaiah Crowell managed 113 yards on 10 carries a couple of weeks ago, and Rashad Jennings tallied 109 total yards back in Week 10. Only eight teams have allowed more points per touch to the position.

And what if I told you that the Texans are actually favored in this one? It’s not by much, but Vegas is at least telling us they will compete. Miller’s salary provides one of the best values on the board. I’ll have decent exposure to him. Of course, this all hinges on his health. He limped off the field at the end of the game last week and still hasn’t practiced. If he doesn’t log a full practice before Saturday, I’ll fade him completely.

Jay Ajayi - $6,700

After blowing up in three straight games and logging point totals of 33.2, 28.1, and 20.5, Ajayi has disappeared. Since Week 9 he has averaged just 10.6 points per game, and has failed to score higher than that average in four of his last six. Perhaps a date with Buffalo will help. Only two teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bills, who rank ninth overall in points allowed to the position despite permitting only 487 receiving yards on 56 receptions. What that means is they are getting clobbered by traditional rushers at .71 FanDuel points per touch. Ajayi is one of the few backs in the league who have a complete monopoly on the backfield. He is still the workhorse for the Dolphins, who need him more than ever now that Ryan Tannehill is out.

Getting back to the Bills’ defense, here are their game logs against running backs since Week 7:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Duke Johnson Jr 15 5 31 0 5 62 0 11.8 4800
Isaiah Crowell 15 8 28 0 0 0 0 2.8 5500
Le'Veon Bell 14 38 236 3 4 62 0 49.8 9000
Latavius Murray 13 20 82 2 3 23 0 24 6700
Jalen Richard 13 9 53 0 0 0 0 5.3 4800
Chris Ivory 12 9 44 1 1 11 0 12 5900
Denard Robinson 12 13 39 0 0 0 0 3.9 4500
T.J. Yeldon 12 6 17 0 1 3 0 2.5 5200
Giovani Bernard 11 7 21 0 5 40 0 8.6 6000
Jeremy Hill 11 16 62 0 2 1 0 7.3 5900
Christine Michael 9 5 1 1 0 0 0 6.1 7500
C.J. Prosise 9 3 9 0 1 6 0 2 4700
LeGarrette Blount 8 18 43 1 0 0 0 10.3 6600
James White 8 2 15 0 2 14 0 3.9 5800
Jay Ajayi 7 28 214 1 1 2 0 28.1 6400
Damien Williams 7 4 16 1 0 0 0 7.6 4700

Over that eight-week stretch the Bills allowed 24.2 FanDuel points per game—the third highest clip of all teams. Obviously, Bell’s monster game a couple of weeks ago skews the numbers quite heavily. But I like to view that as what’s possible against this defense. Ajayi isn’t going to score 49 points, to be sure. But hitting 3x value is well within his reach.

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin - $7,000

In an interesting turn of events, it seems the Cardinals defense isn’t very good. And not just because Brandin Cooks burned them for 186 yards and two scores last week; wide receivers in general are having their way this secondary. Check out their game logs since Week 10:

Player

Week

Rsh

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Brandin Cooks 15 0 7 186 2 34.1 6300
Michael Thomas 15 0 7 52 1 14.7 6400
Willie Snead IV 15 0 8 76 0 11.6 5900
Kenny Stills 14 0 6 97 1 18.7 5300
Jarvis Landry 14 0 4 103 0 10.3 6100
DeVante Parker 14 0 2 14 0 2.4 6700
Jamison Crowder 13 0 3 42 1 11.7 6600
Pierre Garcon 13 0 7 78 0 11.3 5500
DeSean Jackson 13 0 1 59 0 6.4 6000
Taylor Gabriel 12 1 4 75 2 24.2 5100
Mohamed Sanu 12 1 8 65 0 11 5900
Justin Hardy 12 0 3 47 0 6.2 4600
Julio Jones 12 0 4 35 0 5.5 8700
Adam Thielen 11 0 5 65 1 15 5900
Cordarrelle Patterson 11 0 4 53 0 13.3 5300
Stefon Diggs 11 0 6 37 0 6.7 6800
Jeremy Kerley 10 0 7 71 1 14.6 5100
Quinton Patton 10 0 3 52 0 6.7 4500
Torrey Smith 10 0 2 26 0 3.6 5200

Note the lack of big wide receivers on this list. Smaller guys like Cooks, Stills, Landry, Gabriel, and Kerley are killing the Cards. Over their six games they’ve allowed an average of 39.5 FanDuel points to the position—only the Titans have allowed more over that stretch. Enter the Seahawks, who showed some life on offense last week. Baldwin has been hit or miss as usual and it seems like any time I pair him with Russell Wilson, the stack flops. I’m not so confident in that stack working this week either with the over/under of this game set at a measly 43 points. The good news is that the Seahawks are projected to score 25 of those points, and we know they can’t run the ball. In any case, this game isn’t going to be another 6-6 tie in overtime. Baldwin’s salary isn’t the most generous but he’s cheap enough to be a value play that could pay off big time. I’ll have quite a bit of exposure to him with a couple of Wilson stacks to boot.

Allen Robinson - $5,600

I know, I said don’t start him in the intro. So pardon my contradiction. As mentioned, the Titans have allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other team this year. Players of all shapes and sizes have torched this secondary for an average of 34.7 points per game. Robinson, of course, is a risky bet to turn things around. You don’t need me to tell you how bad he has been, but just in case you forgot, since he pulled together nine catches for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Texans in Week 10, he has failed to score more than 9.3 points in any game since. Over his last four games he has scored a total of 12.7 FanDuel points. Let me repeat that; over his last four games, Robinson has scored a total of 12.7 points.

Obviously, the Jaguars are terrible. But they have played divisional opponents tough. They beat the Colts in Week 4, dumped a bunch of fantasy points on the Titans in garbage time in Week 8, almost beat the Texans in both Week 10 and Week 15, and now they’re five-point underdogs to a Titans defense that hasn’t been able to stop many quarterbacks outside of Alex Smith. Gus Bradley was fired after last week’s loss, which apparently didn’t sit well with a number of players. This might sound crazy to most of you, but I’m betting the Titans are walking into a trap. This game has sneaky shootout potential and my money is on the Jaguars getting their third win of the season. Here’s to hoping that win includes a big day for Robinson, who comes into Week 16 ranked 15th in targets yet barely has 650 yards to show for it. If you’ll remember, he opened the season with an $8,500 price tag. His salary is now the lowest it has been since Week 7 of the 2014 season. I’ll take that discount and fire up Robinson one more time, and enjoy his avenging of our good buddy Matt Harmon.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett - $5,600

Bennett isn’t a contrarian pick by definition, but I do think the crowd is going to overlook him in favor of Greg Olsen, Cameron Brate, Jimmy Graham and Delanie Walker. Even though I’m not so hot on Touchdown Tom this week, I like Bennett to be a source of a lot of targets and possibly contribute a multi-score game. The Jets have allowed the seventh most FanDuel points to tight ends. They’ve permitted five touchdowns over their last three games—three of those touchdowns went to Dwayne Allen. Normally when stats against a team all pile up in a few games, I ignore them and warn against chasing them. But in the case of Bennett—a player in an offensive system that is known for tight end production—I’m a little more confident. It doesn’t hurt to have Tom Brady throwing him footballs either. I like a bounce back game for Bennett against the Jets.

C.J. Fiedorowicz - $4,900

This pick would feel a lot better if Brock Osweiler didn’t lose his job last week. Regardless, Tom Savage seems capable and if there’s a soft spot in the Bengals coverage, it’s in the middle of the field against tight ends. Only one team has allowed more yards to the position and only three have allowed more FanDuel points. Fiedo was averaging eight targets per game with Osweiler under center. We’ll see if that continues with Savage. Either way, his price and matchup make him an excellent GPP candidate. This is one of those weeks where I’ll either have 100 percent exposure to an elite player like Olsen, or just punt this position all together and take the Fiedorowicz discount.

Defenses

This is an interesting week for defenses with so many games slated to have a low over/under. Part of me just wants to punt this position and plug in the Saints for $4,100. The Buccaneers offense has been unpredictable lately and Jameis Winston has been rather inaccurate. He has 15 interceptions on the season, which ties him with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the fourth most. The Saints, of course, have a terrible defense that isn’t creating turnovers and is allowing a lot of yards and points. But the last time these two teams met they combined for 27 points. I doubt that happens this time around, but it wouldn’t be crazy to see them luck into a defensive score thanks to Winston. In the end, we just need eight points from them somehow.

We could also go back to the Vikings defense ($4,300), who disappointed a lot of people last week. The Purple People Eaters have been hit with a case of indigestion and are no longer the dominant force they were in the first half of the season. Put them on the road to Green Bay and you can bet they’ll have super low ownership, probably for good reason. But they’re still seventh in sack percentage and have nine over their last four games. And keep in mind that even though the Packers’ offense seems to be clicking, Aaron Rodgers is hobbled. As a result, his ability to escape the pocket is extremely limited. It showed last week when the Bears sacked him four times. The Vikings’ defense is a risky play but they’re affordable and they should generate enough sacks to maybe even luck into a few turnovers.



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