The Fade: FanDuel Week 7

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

The question we all have to answer this week is whether or not we can fade DeMarco Murray. Or rather, how much exposure to Murray is enough? He will be one of the highest, if not the highest, owned players of Week 7. Not only has he been excellent this season, he has a great matchup on Sunday against a Colts’ defense that has given up over a thousand total yards to the position (fourth most) and nine total touchdowns (tied for second most).

Combine a great matchup with Injuries to LeSean McCoy, fear of the Steelers’ offense without Ben Roethlisberger (pushing the crowd away from Le'Veon Bell), and a tough matchup for David Johnson (Seahawks’ run defense), and you have all the makings of monstrous ownership numbers for Murray.

So, should you fade him and breakaway from the crowd? It’s more of a question of do you gain more if you fade him and he fails, or if you own him and he succeeds? Which scenario has more value? He’ll need 26.1 points to hit 3x value. His high mark for the season is 24.9. His low mark came last week in a matchup that was almost as tasty as this one. Nothing is guaranteed. Personally, I’ll keep my exposure in check—well below his projected ownership—and hope for a slow day. But my core tournament lineup will likely include his services.

General Week 7 Thoughts

We have a lot of angles to consider thanks to multiple injuries and a quarterback change. We also have a lot of tasty looking matchups with seven games featuring an over/under of at least 46 points.

Given the value plays provided by injuries, a common strategy is going to be cheap quarterbacks (Colin Kaepernick or Geno Smith), plus cheap running backs, plus expensive wide receivers, and fill in the rest. I love the value across the board at the running back position. But if you want to get a contrarian edge, the sharp move is to pay up for running backs and do what you can with wide receivers. My guess is rosters featuring three top-priced guys like Julio Jones, Mike Evans and A.J. Green will be common. So, if you want to avoid the crowd, pay up for running backs and search for value plays at receiver.

Another version of roster construction that will be popular this week is an elite quarterback, plus high/low running backs, one elite wide receiver, and fill out the rest. I like this option more so than combining all cheap backs. You don’t want that much volatility in your lineup regardless of game format.

Regarding the over/under, the two lowest projected totals of the week happen to be the two primetime games. The Seahawks/Cardinals is slated for only 43.5 points. The last time these teams met, the Seahawks dominated in a 36-6 rout of the NFC West champs. Their other regular season game also had an over/under of 43.5 points; they combined for 71. Both offenses have enough talent to match up against both defenses. Don’t be afraid to target this game (thought I don’t love either quarterback).

The Chiefs have the second highest projected team total and are favored by 6.5 points over the Saints. For those of you considering a double-down on Alex Smith, I would urge you to consider running backs instead. In fact, I will be throwing out several lineups that feature both Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles. It’s risky, but the two combined for 35 FanDuel points last week, which is just below what they’ll need this week to hit 3x value.

On to Week 7.

Quarterbacks

Russell Wilson - $8,000

Wilson had one of the best matchups on the board last week and failed to throw a touchdown or surpass 300 yards. And it’s not like it was a low-scoring game. The Falcons and Seahawks combined for 50 points. Unfortunately for Wilson owners, the Seahawks’ share came on the backs of Christine Michael and Steve Hauschka. This week Wilson and Co. travel to the desert to face a talented Arizona Cardinals’ defense. The odds makers in Vegas aren’t expecting a lot of scoring in this game; the over/under of 43.5 is tied for the second lowest of Week 7. I think that’s too low considering how much talent both offenses feature. But Wilson just doesn’t have the upside to validate his salary.

And who knows if he has fully recovered from his injury. His reluctance to scramble certainly suggests he’s not 100% healthy. Either way, the Seahawks’ offensive line continues to be a liability. Football Outsiders has them ranked 18th in pass blocking with a six percent adjusted sack rate. That’s bad news considering their opponent’s 8.4 percent sack rate is sixth in the league. Even if this contest features more scoring than the over/under suggests, I don’t see either quarterback winning tournaments.

Blake Bortles - $7,400

The best thing about Bortles is his salary won’t kill us. But that’s about where it ends. At the risk of angering Jags Nation, I wonder how good of a quarterback he is. From a fantasy perspective, he’s been inconsistent and unreliable. He comes into Week 7 averaging 17.8 points per game, which is good enough to rank 14th among quarterbacks. But he also has three games of 16 or fewer points and features the seventh worst touchdown-to-interception ratio in the league (eight touchdowns, seven interceptions). The only reason anyone is looking at him this week is because he faces the Oakland Raiders, whose secondary has been a great source for fantasy points. No team has allowed more to the position.

But I’ll double-down on last week’s analysis where we made it clear that the Raiders’ poor defensive stats are inflated by the fact that they’ve played elite passing offenses three times this season. Last week, when the Alex Smith and Co. came to down, they didn’t allow a passing score and held Smith to 224 yards. The Jaguars have scored fewer points per game than the Chiefs, and even if Bortles benefits from an up-tempo attack, his upside is capped by his inconsistency and tendency to turn the ball over.  

Colin Kaepernick - $6,500

It’s the dream pairing everyone wanted: Kaepernick and Chip Kelly. We finally got to see it last week against the Bills. Unfortunately, not much has changed. Kaepernick still lacks fundamentals despite his unquestioned talent. He struggles with game management. He throws rockets but has no touch. He also has a high floor thanks to his ability to run. That’s exactly what saved his day last week. He completed only 44.8 percent of his 29 pass attempts for a paltry 187 yards and one touchdown. But he added another 66 yards on eight rushes—most of which came from a 29-yard scramble on third and long.

Here’s the good news: he didn’t turn the ball over once. He kept plays alive despite the Bills’ defense bullying his offensive line. And his ugly box score can be attributed to a combination of the high winds in Buffalo, and the fact that he hasn’t taken a meaningful snap since 2015. So, it’s not fair of us just to assume what we saw last week is what we’ll see again this week. He has much better matchup at home against the Buccaneers who pose little defensive threat. Kaepernick should easily hit value. But I’m not using him in my core lineups. Hitting value, in his case, means under 20 points. That’s great if you can allocate the savings in salary cap perfectly. I’d rather move to a more trustworthy option and hope the crowd stays on Kaerpernick’s limited ceiling.

Running Backs

Jacquizz Rodgers - $5,600

Rodgers will be one of the highest owned players of Week 7. He has fantastic matchup against the 49ers, who have allowed more rushing yards than any other team and the second most rushing touchdowns. Last week, LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee combined for 200 yards and four touchdowns against this defense, which sounds like a lot until you look at their defensive game logs against running backs:

Player

Week

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

LeSean McCoy 6 19 140 3 2 2 0 33.2 8200
Mike Gillislee 6 6 60 1 0 0 0 12 4900
David Johnson 5 27 157 2 3 28 0 32 9000
Ezekiel Elliott 4 23 138 1 1 19 0 22.2 8100
Christine Michael 3 20 106 2 2 5 0 24.1 6900
Fozzy Whittaker 2 16 100 0 3 31 0 12.6 4800
Todd Gurley 1 17 47 0 1 -5 0 4.7 8900

Rodgers has been handed the Buccaneers’ backfield thanks to a series of unfortunate injuries to Doug Martin and Charles Sims. In his first start, Rodgers touched the ball 35 times and racked up 129 total yards. That’s not great from a yards-per-touch standpoint, but I’ll gladly sacrifice efficiency if I’m getting that much volume. I’ll also sacrifice ownership levels to get the unquestioned RB1 for $5,600 in a game that should see a lot of plays and a lot of points. He’s loss-leader material.

David Johnson - $8,500

Don’t you wish you would have drafted Johnson first overall in your season-long leagues? He has been better than advertised and well on his way to smashing all kinds of records. He’s our unquestioned top running back so far, and has now scored over 30 FanDuel points in back-to-back games. There aren’t many players that are immune to game scripts; Johnson is one of the few.

And he is giving a us a $600 discount from last week. But that discount comes with more risk than usual, even from the league’s best running back. The Seahawks are coming to town having allowed the third fewest rushing yards per game, only two total touchdowns, and the fewest total yards of all teams. Truthfully, Johnson is matchup proof and should still have a decent fantasy day. But where value is concerned, we have a lot of cheap options this week thanks to some unfortunate injury situations. So, if I’m paying up for a running back, I’m buying DeMarco Murray and pairing him with Rodgers or Gillislee. But this is also where you can get roster uniqueness. Johnson’s price is down and his exposure will be down too. If you pair him with Murray, you have two of the best fantasy backs in the league, who are completely free of timeshares and negative game scripts, and a unique roster that will force you away from loading up on high-priced receivers like the everyone else.

Mike Gillislee - $5,300

McCoy injured his hamstring in practice this week, which removes one of the best options from the board. In his place, Gillislee is expected to be the starter and may even get the same workload. But as tempting as it is to build rosters around both Rodgers and Gillislee, I think it’s important to pick one or the other. I’m picking Rodgers because A) he received a huge workload in his last game and looked good running the ball, and B) has the best matchup.

The Dolphins’ have allowed the fourth most rushing yards to running backs and the ninth most overall yards to the position. But they’ve been stingy in the touchdown department with only one surrendered so far. In fact, the most FanDuel points they’ve allowed in a single game was 18.3 back in Week 2 to LeGarrette Blount. They’ve faced Murray and Le'Veon Bell the last two weeks and allowed the combo a total of 32 fantasy points. That’s mostly game script related and the Bills are road favorites this week, so Gillislee—backed by a solid defense—could have a big afternoon. But I’ll keep my exposure low and bank on trustier options.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown - $9,000

You could get Brown on low exposure this week with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined. But the upside doesn’t look good. The Patriots are known for focusing defensive attention to the star of a team and removing them (see A.J. Green last week). Their pass defense isn’t spectacular but they’re getting the “bend, don’t break” job done. Of course, Brown is a tremendous player who is virtually matchup proof… unless he has a bad quarterback throwing him the ball. In the three games Brown played without his star quarterback last season, he compiled 11 catches for just 111 yards. I have no problem assuming Landry Jones and Brown struggle to find a connection at home this week, and will take a wait and see approach. We have a lot of good options at receiver to consider; Brown isn’t one of them.

Brandon Marshall - $7,400

I wonder if the crowd will view the Ravens’ league-high 12 touchdowns allowed to receivers as a must-play situation for Marshall. Like Brown, Marshall will have an inexperienced quarterback throwing to him this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick has officially been benched for Geno Smith. So we’re right back to where we were 14 months ago before Smith lost his job to a punch.  Fun fact: in the two years as a starter, he has never thrown more touchdowns than interceptions. His sub-60 percent completion percentage in 2014 ranked 27th in the league and his yards per attempt ranked 28th. He comes into Week 7 with 36 interceptions despite having only played 32 games. He is not a good quarterback and has a history of locker room issues. Smith is bad for Marshall.  

Marvin Jones Jr - $7,700

There’s Week 3 and then there are all the other weeks. Jones began the season with a monstrous share of targets, seeing an average of 10 per game in the first three weeks. He finally blew up in Week 3 for 205 yards and two touchdowns. But in the three games since, Jones has taken a backseat in the Lions’ offense, logging only 11 catches. He has found the end zone in back-to-back games, but his floor is not baked into his price. It’s rather surprising that he would see less attention considering both Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick have been out. Golden Tate has suddenly reclaimed his presence as one of Matthew Stafford’s top targets, pushing Jones into more a of deep threat role than anything else. In fact, let's play a little game called "spot the outlier":

WK

OPP

TARG

REC

YD

TD

FD PTs

WR Rank

1 IND 10 4 85 0 10.5 38
2 TEN 11 8 118 0 15.8 15
3 GB 8 6 205 2 35.5 1
4 CHI 7 5 74 0 9.9 36
5 PHI 5 4 37 1 11.7 27
6 LA 6 2 10 1 9.3 46

Recency bias aside, he’s still considered to be the team’s No. 1 option and has the potential for monster games like we saw a few weeks ago. Detroit has the sixth highest projected team total of the week as they host a beatable Washington defense. Unfortunately for Jones, not only will he see a fair share of Josh Norman, the way to beat Washington’s defense is on the ground. They’ve allowed the second most total yards to running backs and seven rushing touchdowns so far this season. Conversely, they’ve allowed the fifth fewest receiving yards per game and only five touchdowns—three of which came in Week 1. This is not the week to jump on Jones.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett - $5,800

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Bennett played the fewest amount of snaps he has all season and ended up with just 48 yards on five catches (on five targets). It was the Rob Gronkowski show last Sunday. And it will likely be the Gronk show from this point forward. There will be games when Bennett explodes and produces top-five numbers. But predicting when those games will happen isn’t a reasonable request.  

Jimmy Graham - $6,700

Graham has been a pleasant surprise this year fighting back from a major injury and into a top-tier option for fantasy owners. In his last three games, he has 18 catches on 26 targets for 301 yards and one touchdown. Unfortunately, Sunday presents a tough challenge. The Cardinals have allowed the fewest FanDuel points to the position and the second fewest yards. Of course, that might have more to do with level of competition:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Garrett Celek 5 1 4 0 0.9 4500
Blake Bell 5 1 4 0 0.9 4500
Lance Kendricks 4 5 52 0 7.7 4500
Nick O'Leary 3 1 28 0 3.3 4500
Cameron Brate 2 3 16 0 3.1 4700
Austin Seferian-Jenkins 2 2 14 0 2.4 5200
Martellus Bennett 1 3 14 0 2.9 5100

That’s not an impressive list of players. None of those teams, except for the Patriots, feature a tight end as a prominent part of their offense. So it’s possible Graham lights this defense on fire as the underneath threat. But this contest looks like a clash of two great defenses and field goal kickers.

Defenses

Looks like the Bengals ($5,100) will be the chalk play at defense this week. It helps to host a winless Browns team that’s playing a second straight road game. The Bengals of a middle-of-the-road defense that’s good at getting to the passer but not great at generating turnovers. They make for a decent play but I think we can do better.

The Patriots ($4,400) will probably also be a crowd favorite given the Steelers quarterback situation. Beyond facing Jones, the Patriots have been excellent at shutting down scoring drives. They’re allowing only 15.2 points per game (second fewest) and have allowed the sixth lowest scoring efficiency to opponents (only 18 scoring drives allowed on 65 opportunities). I like them a lot more than the Bengals. But it’s important to remember that the Steelers have elite playmakers on offense and are playing at home, so guard your exposure to the Patriots defense.



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