The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 17

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

“How are you doing in fantasy this year?”

It’s a casual question often asked as a form of small talk with family or friends. I always love getting it because I know people are generally making an effort to prove they care about the things I care about. I also know they don’t actually want the bloody details of my four season-long leagues or about the guys I nailed in my drafts, or the waiver wire pickups I totally missed. And they certainly don’t want me to list off all my MFL10 teams or examine this coming week’s salaries on a position-by-position basis.

But I always appreciate the question because it makes me think. Fantasy football takes up a lot my time. It probably takes up a lot of your time too. For me, I have a ton of research to do for the two articles I write for Footballguys. I have my season-long leagues to manage. I have my DFS rosters to manage. And I have a lot of other little things that pile up throughout the weeks like survivor pools, pick-ems, and roundtable discussions. Plus, I like to read other writers and compare their thoughts to mine, though I usually save that for Monday nights after everything is all said and done.

So when someone asks me how I’m doing in fantasy this year, I usually keep it short and change the subject to how well my Cowboys are doing or whatever. But to answer it directly, I’m doing great in fantasy this year. In fact, this might be the most fun I’ve had playing fantasy football. And I think it’s because I took it less seriously. Not that I didn’t put in the same amount of effort. As mention, I spend hours upon hours researching and writing. Even if I didn’t have a space here at Footballguys—of which I’m very grateful—I’d still be putting in those research hours just because I love the game and want to be competitive. I may not translate all that research into coherent sentences and paragraphs, but I’d still make notes.

From a DFS perspective, taking things less seriously meant playing less financially. I’ve never been a high roller or high-volume player and I never want to be one. Playing this professionally isn’t the goal and never has been. I have my modest bankroll and my big dreams of tackling tournaments. I strictly play GPPs and I’ve never won one, but I’ve made a few deep runs that kept me up late and have generally been successful.

That’s the fun I’m referring to. I had a blast chasing GPP titles because I didn’t set the expectation of actually winning (I roll with single entries for the most part). I just want to make my money back plus a little more, and give myself the opportunity to win a life-changing amount of cash. And if I missed the cut, I can sleep at night knowing I’m a low-volume player that doesn’t face huge losses. That’s the approach I took this season, and it was the most fun I’ve had playing DFS since I started in 2013.

Writing this article was also a highlight each and every week. I look forward to the break in my regular routine to come here and slap down somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 words about the sport I love. I hope it was of good service to you. I made some great calls. I made some horrible calls. I sometimes failed to listen to myself and missed on a few players that were the difference between profit and loss. Such is life in fantasy football.

So this is the end of this column. If I’m back next year, it will be under a different format. I won’t be sharing my analysis of the playoffs other than to urge caution in short slates. They can be extremely challenging especially now that they’ll be the only available games. In the meantime, you can always find me on Twitter (handle at the bottom of the page). I don’t tweet nearly as much as I used to. That will probably change during the playoffs as I suffer through another Cowboys’ hype wagon. If your team is still alive, I wish you the best. I hope you had a great season, and I look forward to the challenges of 2017.

 

General Week 17 Thoughts

As you know, several teams have been eliminated and have absolutely nothing to play for. But we do have some great games in the back half of Sunday. You can expect high ownership for Atlanta vs New Orleans, Detroit vs Green Bay, and Washington vs New York. The challenge is going to be sifting through meaningless games and picking the right players.

For the most part, I think you can be safe in knowing that most coaches are going to play their stars with maybe a few exceptions. But that aside, I’m treating this week’s games like a short slate. I will be loading up on chalk plays between the Falcons, Saints, Packers, Lions and Seahawks. You can still build roster uniqueness by creating lineups around unconventional stacks such as QB/RB or RB/RB from the same team. What you don’t want to do is chase matchups of players who may or may not see the same amount of playing time as a normal regular season game. Greg Olsen, for example, strikes me as one to avoid (spoiler alert).  

To get a complete run down of the games and teams that have something to play for, our Clayton Gray has a final look at the NFL playoff picture. There is quite of bit of drama heading into Week 17. Let’s enjoy it, as the end of the NFL season is nigh.

Quarterbacks

Tom Savage - $6,600

The Texans have clinched the AFC South and have nothing other than pride to play for on Sunday. But I’m guessing they’ll want to get their quarterback a few more reps before rolling into the playoffs to host the Chiefs or Dolphins. Savage was plucked from the bench early in Week 15 as Brock Osweiler continued to struggle. Savage managed to complete 63.8 percent of his passes against a respectable Jaguars’ secondary. He got his first start of the season last week against an extremely tough Bengals’ defense, and even though he didn’t throw any touchdowns, he also didn’t throw any interceptions. As it stands, has yet to score regular season touchdown in his professional career (in three games).

Enter the broken Titans, who have allowed more passing yards than every team except the Panthers, and come into Week 17 ranked third in FanDuel points allowed per game. They’ve had their butts handed to them in recent weeks by notable quarterbacks such as Blake Bortles (26.2 points), Trevor Siemian (17.36 points), and Matt Barkley (22.64 points). Savage is obviously raw but he has the skills to at least get the ball down the field and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. While the crowd piles up on Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, Savage might be the guy that gives you an edge in tournaments.

Landry Jones - $6,000

Jones is in the final year of his rookie contract and comes into Week 17 with just three starts under his belt and a ton of motivation to find a new job. He wasn’t bad in his one start earlier this year against the Patriots; he completed over 60 percent of his passes and managed one touchdown to one interception. It was good enough for 14.24 FanDuel points—a value of nearly 2.3x. His outlook is much brighter against the Browns, who are sniffing their second win of the season with the Steelers resting their starters.  In case you forgot, no team has allowed more passing touchdowns or more FanDuel points to quarterbacks than the Browns. But they also get smashed on the ground which typically craters the ceiling of the passers they face. This could certainly set up as a DeAngelo Williams game and nothing else. Still, for $6,000, It might not be a terrible move to throw out Jones in a few cheap GPPS and pimp out your roster at every other position.

The downside, however, is real. It’s not like he’s throwing to Antonio Brown this Sunday. So the likes of Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton, and maybe Sammie Coates Jr will be his targets—not exactly an all-star crew. And again, Williams may just soak up all of the touchdowns. But if Jones even so much as puts up 15 points, the rest of your roster should be strong enough to do the rest.

Running Backs

DeAngelo Williams - $4,500

Williams is probably not a contrarian play as I’d expect the entire world to be on him. But it’s my fiduciary duty to make sure you are aware of the situation. The Steelers have inactivated several starters including Le'Veon Bell. I’m guessing Williams has a big day and handles the majority of work out of the backfield. You, of course, already know the Browns are one of the worst running defenses in the league. LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Hill, Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and Matt Forte all put up at least 21 points against them in the last seven weeks. Williams has proven he is capable of handling a full workload when given the opportunity. It’s impossible to say no to his salary and tasty matchup. Though I will guard my exposure to a certain degree and hope he flops with the entire crowd on his back.  

Chris Ivory - $5,300

I’d be a lot more confident with Ivory if he were healthy. He left the end of last week’s game with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Since then, he’s either missed practice or logged limited sessions. But there hasn’t been any indication that he’ll miss the game against the Colts, who provide one of the tastiest matchups on the board. They’ve allowed 16 total touchdowns and have been gashed by pass-catching backs to the tune of 684 yards and a league-high six touchdowns. In total, only four teams have allowed more FanDuel points per game.

Enter Ivory, who has looked like a monster the last few weeks, even in limited opportunities, with 327 yards and two touchdowns on 61 touches. The majority of his damage has been in the receiving game, including four catches on six targets last week for 64 yards. T.J. Yeldon has been ruled out, leaving Ivory with the backfield all to himself. Hopefully he can log a full day of practice and shed the questionable designation, as he represents one of the best values in the finale.  

Bilal Powell - $6,600

Powell is another injury situation we’re praying clears up by Sunday. He is dealing with a knee injury and has sat out practice with an apparent illness. Who knows if he’ll be ready in time for the finale against the Bills. One thing we do know is that if he is ready, he has one of the most enticing matchups on the board. The Bills have allowed the second most rushing touchdowns in the league and the third most yards. Just recently they’ve given up point totals of 27.4 to Jay Ajayi, 11.8 to Duke Johnson Jr, 49.8 to Bell, and 24 to Latavius Murray. They’re allowing .74 FanDuel points per attempt, which trails only the 49ers.

Powell is a solid running back who excels as both a north/south type runner and a pass-catcher. He’s our fourth highest scoring running back over the last three games with 289 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and 18 receptions for 126 receiving yards. Here’s to hoping we get some clarity on his status for Sunday’s game. I love pairing Powell/Ivory and loading up on elite quarterbacks and receivers from the Falcons, Saints, and Packers.

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins - $7,200

I can’t, in good conscience, plug Savage as a contrarian play without also plugging in Hopkins. You all know his story regarding his season by now. If not for Allen Robinson, Hopkins would be the biggest bust of the season, at least among wide receivers. But with the Texans locking up the AFC South and securing a spot in the playoffs, they’ll need Savage and Hopkins to get on the same page. The good news is they get the Titans as a tune-up game in Week 17. No team has allowed more FanDuel points to the position. They’ve been getting slapped around by receivers of all shapes and sizes with Robinson hitting them up for 147 yards last week, Jeremy Maclin managing 82 yards on six catches the week before, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas combined for 21 catches, 226 yards and touchdown in Week 14, and Marquess Wilson tagged them with 125 yards and touchdown on eight catches back in Week 12.

When Savage took over for Osweiler a couple weeks ago, he immediately locked onto Hopkins with 15 targets for 87 yards—the second most yards Hopkins has registered this season. The two couldn’t get anything going against the Bengals last week, which has been a common theme with that defense. Things will be a lot easier against the Titans, whose season came to a tragic end last week. I love this stack as one of the best GPP plays on the board.

Allen Robinson - $6,100

Robinson made a presence in this space last week and I’m going right back to him. You can bet the Jaguars aren’t going to just roll over for the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday. This game may be meaningless but both teams need some closure and want to end on a positive note. Robinson has been 2016’s biggest bust. He was a first round draft pick in basically every format. He started the season with an $8,500 salary. There was nothing short of high expectations for him after his stellar 2015 performance. Some touchdown regression was in order, to be sure, but a flop of this magnitude is otherworldly.

Now we get some positive regression, as Robinson finally put together a solid fantasy outing last week (a touchdown would have helped). He has visited the end zone six times this year, which is fine, but a far cry from what was expected of him coming into the season. The Colts have been decent defending receivers on the year—they rank 18th in both yards and touchdowns allowed. But their defense doesn’t scare me even a little bit as we’ve seen what receivers can do to them. If the Jaguars continue to move Robinson around the formation—which they attributed to his success last week—then I think we can count on Robinson to end his epic bust of a season with a bang.

Davante Adams - $6,800

You’re definitely going to want some exposure to the Sunday night game; maybe even a lot of exposure. One way to buy in for cheap and avoid most of the crowd is through Adams. Everyone and their dog is going to have Jordy Nelson in their lineup. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ty Montgomery rather popular as well. That takes some of the heat off of Adams, who might have the best matchup of them all. I expect Darius Slay, the Lions top cornerback, to shadow Nelson all game (not that he’ll be successful), and for Adams to be heavily involved in what should be an offensive onslaught, assuming the Lions’ offense shows up. Adams is basically guaranteed seven targets. The problem is he sometimes makes great plays, and he sometimes is one of the most frustrating players to watch. He dropped what should have been an easy touchdown last week. He also pulled in a beautiful 20-yarder for a score that I think most receivers miss.

One way or the other, it’s great matchup for the Packers. The Lions are allowing the highest completion rate in the league to wide receivers, and are tied for the sixth most touchdowns permitted with 17. The last time these teams met they combined for 61 points. Nelson was the recipient of most of Rodgers attention, but Adams at least found the end zone. He now has four touchdowns in his last five games and comes into Week 17 ranked ninth overall—slotted just 10 FanDuel points behind Julio Jones. Feel free to fire up a Rodgers/Nelson/Adams stack in GPPs this week.

Tight Ends

Dennis Pitta - $4,700

Remember that time I said I’d never write up Pitta again if he failed to perform? Me neither. Here’s the thing: only three tight ends have more targets this season than Pitta. And what’s really remarkable is his catch rate which, despite his massive target share, is 71.4 percent. He is a huge part of the Ravens’ offense and caught eight of 11 targets for 75 yards last week. He disappeared in Weeks 14 and 15 after logging a pair of touchdowns—his only scores this season—and 90 yards in week 13.

He has a great matchup this week against the Bengals, who have allowed the fourth most points to tight ends this season and the second most yards. In fact, 17 percent of the fantasy points they’ve allowed this season has gone to tight ends—the highest rate among all teams. Part of that is because their defense has been so strong in other areas, and part of it is because they can’t cover tight ends. Neither of these teams has anything to play for, but I’ll take the discount, market share of targets, and low ownership Pitta gives me while I target chalk plays with the rest of my roster.

Charles Clay - $5,600

His salary is approaching prohibitive levels, especially with Tyrod Taylor inactive for the season finale, but his recent performance can’t be ignored. Over the last four weeks he has logged 209 yards on 18 catches and four touchdowns—enough to make him our second highest scoring tight end over that timeframe. This week he gets a checked-out Jets defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns to the position—third most—and the eighth most fantasy points overall. E.J. Manuel definitely worries me to some degree. But the two at least have some familiarity with each other and should have no trouble connecting against the Jets’ vulnerable defense. I’m not in love with Clay’s price, considering the likes of Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph, Antonio Gates, and Zach Ertz are all around that same threshold, so I’ll have minimum exposure, but I do think he has a big game.

Defenses

I’m quite tempted to load up my rosters with the Houston Texans ($4,600). I don’t know how popular they’ll be with the crowd but I don’t really care. The Titans are finished and will be throwing out Matt Cassel as their starter. Maybe this is a trap, especially considering the game is in Nashville, but with this game projected to be low-scoring—it has the lowest over/under total of the week—I like the Texans to generate some pressure and come up with a few turnovers, and maybe even take one to the house.

We also have to consider the Tampa Buccaneers for $4,500. The Panthers offense is just awful and it’s likely they’ll be cautious with Greg Olsen—arguably their top play-maker outside of the quarterback. I wonder how healthy Cam Newton is and I wonder how motivated the team will be. One way or the other, the Buccaneers have played rather good defense over the second half of the season, and in fact enter the season finale with the most FanDuel points since Week 10. They've averaged 18 FanDuel points per game in their last three at home. You could do worse for $4,500.



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