The Fade: FanDuel Week 3

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

Welcome to The Fade. If you’re new around here, allow me to describe what this space is all about.

Back in the day (last year) you could find ownership percentages from Thursday GPPs here, with analysis of all the highest owned players (and pretty tables). Things have changed. Those numbers are no longer available to anyone. And honestly, I don’t miss them.

As nice it was to have that data to get a picture of groupthink, I found them to be misleading at times. We can project, rather accurately, who the highest owned players are going to be. Anyone with a Twitter account knew Odell Beckham Jr Jr., as an example, would lead all receivers in exposure against the Saints. That information isn’t useful.

Not to say the data was completely useless; it was nice to have it as a tiebreaker between two similarly projected players, as well as identify plays we might not have considered otherwise. But without the data, we’ve added another layer to tournament strategy. And the temptation to avoid a player just because he’s highly owned is somewhat quelled. Furthermore, lower owned players we already liked have a better chance of staying low owned, as the crowd won’t have that information.

The players discussed below are not necessarily ones I’m fading or recommending you fade, as the title might suggest. Instead, they are players who will likely to see high exposure in tournaments, followed by why they’re highly owned, and in some cases, why they can be avoided. Chalk is chalk for a reason. Just avoiding chalk for the sake of being contrarian is never part of the strategy.

General Week 3 Thoughts

FanDuel has elected to strip the Monday night game from their main slate. What this means is most of the large tournaments will be Sunday only. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The chalkiest game of the week happens to fall on Monday night. Overall, I’m not a fan of this change but it does narrow our choices, especially during bye weeks.

We have a new DFS feature available for you this week called the eVALUEator. It allows you to compare salaries across multiple sites so you can get a sense of where there might be pricing anomalies. For example, judging by how much Yahoo has priced the Ravens defense versus FanDuel, you might conclude that the Ravens are great value. Props to Maurile Tremblay and Austin Lee for collaborating on this.

If injuries keep up at this pace, Week 12 is going to look like a preseason game. It’s unfortunate for those players and tough on season-long leagues. In DFS, it provides opportunities since pricing algorithms rarely compensate for the next man up. There are especially a lot of cheap options at running back with Charles Sims, Jerick McKinnon and Theo Riddick all filtering to the top of the depth chart by default. Unfortunately, their respective matchups aren’t very attractive, with exception of Riddick’s.

Matchups are rather ugly in general this week. As mentioned, the highest projected point total isn’t available on the main slate. There’s only one game with an over/under above 47 points and seven with an over/under below 45 points. If you want to fade the crowd, fade the Chargers/Colts tilt. I like the Rams/Buccaneers, Washington/Giants, and Raiders/Titans to be higher scoring than others. 

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton - $9,200

The 49ers surprised a lot of us when they shut out the Rams to open the season. Last week they returned to form by allowing Newton to drop 390 total yards and four touchdowns on them. He easily hit 3x value despite having a $9,000 price tag. He enters Week 3 with a minor price bump and much more difficult matchup. The Vikings’ defense needs to be taken seriously. Perhaps Marcus Mariota’s Week 1 box score (25/41, 290 totals yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions) was a sign that the Vikings are vulnerable, particularly on the road. But then they shut down the Packers’ offense and have now allowed the fifth fewest yards per game so far.

But it’s not just the Vikings defense that has me concerned about Newton’s ceiling this week. It’s also the Panthers’ defense. Check out how these two teams match up (courtesy of http://www.sportingcharts.com):

Expecting a lot of offense from this game would be foolish. Vegas agrees. They’ve set the over/under point total at 43 points and expect the Panthers—as seven-point favorites—to score 25 of them. But that’s not all going to be Newton. Sam Bradford is coming to town, and Adrian Peterson isn’t. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers’ defense scores at least once as both offenses struggle. It’s hard to say how popular Newton will be this week, but I’ll keep my exposure low.

Andrew Luck - $8,700

Without the Saints or Falcons defense to pick on, the crowd is going to flock to the next highest projected offensive matchup in Indianapolis. The Chargers have been fertile grounds for quarterback points through two games this year, having allowed over 300 yards and two scores in each contest (and an average of 24.79 FanDuel points). Alex Smith also found the end zone with his legs, and it’s reasonable to expect Luck to also find some room when his receivers inevitably fail to break coverage. We’ll see how this offense rebounds after losing Donte Moncrief. In general, points should be expected in this contest so I won’t blame anyone for chasing them with Luck. Of all the quarterbacks priced above $8,000, his floor looks friendly. Just be aware that the crowd is going to be all over it, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this contest fall flat.

Philip Rivers - $8,000

Staying in Indianapolis, Rivers doesn’t quite have the same upside as his opponent, but he does come with a $700 discount and maybe a little bit less exposure. Generally, I’m not too concerned about ownership percentages when it comes to quarterbacks; I’m more concerned about scoring four touchdowns. Rivers has five on the season after toasting the Jaguars last week in a blowout. But there are two concerns I have about his matchup: 1) the Colts might get their top two cornerbacks back. And 2) if that’s the case, the Chargers might run the ball and attempt to play keep away. As bad as the Colts’ pass defense is, their run defense is even worse. Only three teams have given up more rushing yards and no team has given up more total yards or touchdowns to running backs.

Basically, if you’re targeting a quarterback in this game, you’re ignoring chalk anyway. Might as well make room for Luck since he has the potential to score with his legs.

Ryan Tannehill - $7,400

I don’t know if the crowd will be fitting their lineups with Tannehill this week; I know that I won’t be. I’m mentioning him just in case you’re eyeing his friendly salary and what looks like a great matchup. The Browns are coming to town and that’s always good news for our quarterbacks (only two teams allowed more passing touchdowns and only three allowed more fantasy points in 2015). But here’s a question for you to ponder: is Tannehill elite?

That’s a stupid question. Here’s a better one: is Tannehill better than Joe Flacco? Or Carson Wentz? Maybe. I ask because neither of those quarterbacks scored more than 20 points this season against the Browns. And it seems like we’ve already done this a number of times with Tannehill where he has a soft matchup and a bunch of explosive receivers to play with and no running game so we take his discount and throw him into our GPP lineups. It rarely works out. Check out his game logs from last year in the table below. “Opp Rank” is where that team ranked in fantasy points allowed (the smaller the number, the more points allowed). The last two columns show how many FanDuel points he scored and where he ranked that week among quarterbacks.

Week

Opp

Opp Rank

Price

FD PTs

FD Rank

1 @ was 9 8000 11.74 23
2 @ jac 6 8000 24.06 7
3 buf 14 8000 18.78 15
4 nyj 23 7700 14.32 24
6 @ ten 5 7700 18.04 18
7 hou 25 7700 27.58 3
8 @ nwe 18 7700 9.9 24
9 @ buf 14 7400 12.06 24
10 @ phi 2 7100 16.48 16
11 dal 21 7000 15.82 15
12 @ nyj 23 6900 23.04 10
13 bal 12 7300 8.54 26
14 nyg 3 6900 15.84 16
15 @ sdg 20 6900 15.04 21
16 ind 15 6900 14.96 17
17 nwe 18 6700 23.7 5

In five instances of playing a bottom-10 defense, Tannehill managed only 17.2 points per game. Even at home against the Giants—who gave up the third most points to quarterbacks last year--Tannehill still failed to provide QB1 numbers, just as he has done for most of his career. Of course, he needs “only” 22.2 points to hit that 3x tournament value we all crave. That translates to something like 275 yards and three touchdowns, or 325 yards and two touchdowns plus a few scrambles. He managed to hit that expectation four times last year, and scored 24.98 last week So anything is possible. But why would he be asked to throw it 45 times against a team that probably won’t challenge their defense? It’s a trap.

Running Backs

DeAngelo Williams - $8,800

Another week, another solid performance by Williams. It’s a difficult task building a confident lineup without his services. He’s now our most expensive running back—a $1,200 increase from last week. So there’s that. The Eagles have been decent against the run this year. But mostly because they haven’t been tested. The Browns and Bears combined for 32 attempts, 139 yards and two touchdowns. Only five defenses have seen fewer rushing attempts on the season. We can expect the Steelers’ offense to be a much better test. The fact is, there aren’t a lot of great rushing matchups this week, especially with the Falcons and Saints game being unavailable on the main slate. Might as well get one more week out of him and watch as the Steelers tear this defense to pieces.

Melvin Gordon III - $7,100

Gordon will likely be the highest owned running back this week, if not the highest owned player overall. He draws a fantastic matchup that we’ve already covered under Rivers and Luck. In case you need a refresher: the Colts have allowed more combined yards and more touchdowns to running backs than any other team. Gordon comes into Week 3 ranked sixth in fantasy points and the clear RB1 for the Chargers who lost Danny Woodhead for the season. Expect to see a Williams/Gordon combination in a lot of lineups this weekend.

And it’s hard to make a case against him. If anything, and this sounds crazy so reserve your judgement, the signing of Dexter McCluster at least threatens Gordon’s workload. McCluster will rejoin Ken Whisenhunt as a Titans’ castoffs and shouldn’t have much trouble fitting right into the Chargers’ offensive game plan on week’s notice. If this contest turns into a shootout—which many think it will—or if the Chargers fall behind—which is very possible given the way they’ve played on the road the last few years:

Year

W

L

W-L%

Points For

Points Against

Points Diff.

2015 1 7 0.125 153 196 -43
2014 4 4 0.5 170 215 -45
2013 4 4 0.5 199 191 8

Then perhaps Gordon is a trap play. Over the last two years, the Chargers are 5-11 in road games with a -88 scoring differential. I’d feel a lot better if we knew he could contribute as a receiver, but there’s no evidence of that. Through six years, including four at Wisconsin, he’s logged just 58 receptions. That’s it. He’s potentially allergic to bad game scripts; something I tend to avoid with running backs.

Matt Forte - $7,500

Forte entered Week 2 as the 10th highest scoring running back. He left Week 2 as the second highest. Three touchdowns will do that for you. I won’t expect him to find the end zone that many times again against the Chiefs; nor am I going to avoid him even though he’ll be a popular play. Here’s to hoping the crowd fears the Chiefs’ defense. They may have held Lamar Miller out of the end zone, but the Chargers running backs wrote a different story. Forte’s workload is under no threat, especially after a long week thanks to playing on Thursday night. His salary also allows for a lot of flexibly in roster construction. He’ll be an every week option so long has his price is kept down and he keeps taking Living Marine Phytoplankton.   

Theo Riddick - $6,400

Ameer Abdullah was lost with about three minutes to play in the second quarter against the Titans last week. Riddick managed 48 yards on 11 touches afterwards. If you extrapolate that production to 18-20 touches (the most he’s ever had by a stretch) against the Packers, he’s projected for about 80-90 yards. Admittedly, extrapolations tell us nothing, but sub-100 yards and zero touchdowns seems about right. 

He is, however, one of the top receiving threats for the Lions and now their top rusher. The problem, as most everyone seems to know, is that he isn’t built to be a running back. At least not one with a three-down role. Who knows how the Lions will treat this situation against a tough run defense in Green Bay. On one hand, it’s possible the they trail for most of the game as the Packers look to fix their offense and avoid falling into third place of a competitive division. So lots of targets could be in store for Riddick on Sunday. On the other hand, if he’s not going to get goal line opportunities, even if he fleshes out 100 combined yards, we’re still barely hitting 2x value. Hoping he bounces a big one for a touchdown is a risky play.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown - $9,500

We wrote up Brown in this space last week as a player to avoid and he went out and had one of the worst games of his career. Yet, his price climbed $300—now making him the most expensive player this season. The Eagles have yet to allow a wide receiver to visit the end zone, which is quite amazing considering they gave up 24 touchdowns last year—third most. Or maybe it’s just a matter of who they’ve faced:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Corey Coleman 1 2 69 0 7.9 6500
Terrelle Pryor 1 3 68 0 8.3 4900
Andrew Hawkins 1 0 0 0 -0.1 5700
Alshon Jeffery 2 5 96 0 12.1 7800
Eddie Royal 2 4 52 0 13.2 5300
Kevin White 2 4 36 0 6.5 5800

No touchdowns and no 100-yard receivers. But from a points-per-reception standpoint, the Eagles have allowed the seventh most. Alshon Jeffery whipped this defense for gains of 22 and 49 yards before Jay Cutler was injured in the third quarter. And here’s the best part: the crowd might even be a little shy after Brown’s poor performance last week and a price increase this week. The Eagles defense is garbage and he’s going to terrorize them. The board’s most expensive player has a big Sunday coming; it’ just a matter of making room for his demanding salary.

Kelvin Benjamin - $7,800

If you didn’t draft Benjamin in your season-long leagues, it’s quite possible you’ll regret it. Through two weeks he’s the top wide receiver in PPR leagues. He had a good game against a great defense in Week 1 and a great game against bad defense in Week 2. His 21 targets not only tie all the other Panthers’ wide receivers combined, but are also good enough for seventh most in the league. In short, he’s looked every bit of the player we thought he was going to be before his injury. And he’s only $7,800—WR10 pricing.

Can you fade him? This one is difficult. You already know I don’t love Newton in this matchup. The Vikings defense, as mentioned, deserves our respect and will be even better if they get No. 1 cornerback Xavier Rhodes back.

But let’s assume Rhodes doesn’t play. The Panthers are at home and projected to score 25 points. The Vikings defense isn’t the Broncos defense, who Benjamin ripped for 91 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers’ offense doesn’t have a lot of other options, especially with Jonathan Stewart out. He’ll be a target for the crowd and likely the third or fourth most owned wide receiver, but even if I’m fading his quarterback, I’m having a hard time fading Benjamin.

Travis Benjamin - $6,900

It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. You could slide both Kelvin and Travis into your lineup for under 25 percent of the salary cap and get two of the highest scoring receivers so far this year. But you’ll also be rolling in chalk instead of cash. I like (Travis) Benjamin’s outlook against the Colts, especially if they’re still banged up in the secondary. He’s also a nice pivot play away from Gordon. But the more I study this game, the more I think it falls short of point expectations. First of all, the Chargers’ secondary is legit. Like, possibly one of the best in the league. The box score might not agree—they’ve allowed the most completions and the third most yards. But they also have three interceptions to four touchdowns. If the Colts defense gets healthy this week, Rivers could come out and have another one of those games where he and the offense inexplicably fall apart. Benjamin could be spared of a bad game script as he appears to be the top player right now. But I’ll avoid the crowd here and look for other value options.

Stefon Diggs - $6,400

It’s hard to say whether or not the Crowd will succumb to recency bias and lock into Diggs. His sophomore season couldn’t have started much better. He is second in receptions, second in total points, and leads all wide receivers in yards. He also has Bradford as his quarterback playing behind an offensive line that is ranked 20th in pass blocking by Football Outsiders—and that was before they announced that left tackle Matt Kalil needs hip surgery. Oh, and they lost Adrian Peterson for several weeks. For lack of statistics, it would take a lot of mental toughness for this offense to travel to Charlotte and put together an inspiring performance. I love his price and I love his long-term potential, but I don’t dig Diggs in Week 3.

Tight Ends

Dennis Pitta - $5,000

The tight end landscape so far this season hasn’t been exactly the easiest to negotiate. So you can understand why the crowd gets excited when a guy that’s had a lot of hyper over the last few years, but routinely shutdown by injuries, finally gets on the field and works as the clear tight end option in Marc Trestman’s offense. Pitta saw 12 targets against the Browns—fifth most among all players in Week 2. It’s hard to judge his matchup this week. The Jaguars allowed Antonio Gates to find the end zone but held him to 15 yards. He, of course, is a brick statue at this point in his career. The Packers’ tight ends managed only 29 yards. But they’re hardly a barometer for success in regards to utilizing tight ends. All things being equal, we should expect a lot of passing in this contest, which bodes well for Pitta and his friendly salary. He will, however, but a popular choice among the masses, and there’s no guarantee his volume is locked in.

Delanie Walker - $6,900

Walker has a nice salary this week and great matchup against the Raiders, who have allowed the second most yards to tight ends. In fact, they’re picking up right where they left off last season when they ranked fourth in points allowed. Walker is the top option for Mariota and Co. Even if his exposure is a tad high, I don’t mind siding with the crowd. I would rather, however, put my money on Tajae Sharpe as the highest scoring player for the Titans this week.  

Jordan Reed - $7,500

Here’s to hoping the crowd has grown tired of Reed not scoring touchdowns and averaging just under 10 points a game. This is the week to pay up for his services. The best way to beat the Giants is by targeting the middle of the field and challenging their linebackers and safeties. Reed is tied for the team league in targets with 18 and fourth among all tight ends in yards. Kirk Cousins hasn’t found a rhythm yet, but this game is going to be high scoring and Reed is the most consistent player on Washington’s offense. I’ll be heavily exposed and hope the crowd chases cheaper options, or pays up for Greg Olsen instead.

Kickers and Defenses

I think the crowd is going to be all over Adam Vinatieri for $4,700, and I have no problem with that. I’m all about getting an optimum situation at kicker rather than searching for contrarian plays. I am going to avoid Mason Crosby ($4,700), Cairos Santos ($5,000), and Steve Hauschka ($5,100).

The Miami Dolphins ($4,600) will be the chalk play at defense as they host the deplorable Cleveland Browns. Here’s the thing: Tannehill is a chalk play. So his defense. Something has to give. That’s way too much action on the Dolphins. There are other defensive options this week without having to pay top dollar.

The Panthers ($5,000) will challenge the Dolphins as the top owned D/ST option. I like that play a lot, especially if they’re slightly discounted in the exposure department with the crowd chasing cheaper options.

A bit harder to gauge is how the Buccaneers ($4,500) align with the crowd’s thought process. Forgive me for saying this, but I think the Rams actually score some points this week. I mentioned last week how efficient quarterbacks have been against the Bucs secondary:

“Speaking of attempts, teams were generous to the Buccaneers last year. Only six defenses had their pass coverage tested less frequently. Yet, the Bucs allowed the ninth most completions and the highest completion rate in the league (69.9%). Quarterbacks struck efficiency digging into this secondary. I’ll take efficiency over volume when it comes to a passer more often than not.”

Of course, Case Keenum is no Carson Palmer. But he played a decent—dare I say, good—game against the Seahawks last week. We’ll see how he does on the road, but I’ll avoid the Buccaneers in GPPs.



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