The Fade: FanDuel Week 9

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

First of all, congratulations to the Cubs and their fans everywhere, especially those that have literally waited their entire lives to see the them win the World Series. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, what took place on Wednesday night was nothing short of amazing and will be remembered as one of the greatest sporting events in history. It was a fantastic Game 7 and a tremendous way to end the baseball season.

Sticking with baseball, check out this tweet:

Why, you might ask, am I sharing a tweet posted by a baseball player from June? Those of you that play MLB DFS probably already know the answer. Allow me to explain for those that don’t. Due to a small error, Hernandez was priced at $220 instead of what (probably) should have been $2,200. That glitch in the matrix allowed players to load their lineups with studs and plug in Hernandez as a high-risk punt play.

What does this have to do with Week 9? Johnny Holton, wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders, has a zero dollar salary. He’s free. If you’ve never heard of him it’s probably because he has exactly one catch on the season. But thanks to the Holton Discount, you can just about plug in the highest priced players at every position.

Of course, Holton may not even play a snap. I think it’s safe to say that he will score somewhere between .2 and zero points Sunday night against the Broncos. But it does give us an interesting wrinkle in game theory. Can you build a good enough lineup with eight players and still cash? The short answer is yes. We’ve all done it. Just last week I cashed a few lineups that were unfortunate enough to feature Ty Montgomery (he was a late scratch and provided zero points). Furthermore, in the first week of the season, this roster won the FanDuel Sunday Million:

 

 

Note the zero at the tight end position. This lineup, despite Gary Barnidge, won $200,000. It just goes to show that you can have one of your players completely flop and still be successful. Imagine if you plan for that flop and build around it. That’s the opportunity we have this week. Again, Holton is going to give you a zero, so this is a high-risk scenario that I don’t recommend throwing a lot of money at. The likelihood of winning a major tournament with a player that has never played more than 16 snaps in any game this season is quite small. But if you think you can find eight players that will outscore your opponent’s nine, go for it. You may not ever see this opportunity again.

Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian - $7,200

If Siemian’s price was below $7,000, I imagine he’d have a lot more eyes on him. As it stands, his ownership should filter to the lower middle of the pack. His matchup is what will tempt a lot of players this weekend as he travels to Oakland to take on a Raiders’ defense that has allowed the fifth most passing yards per game and 15 touchdowns. Four of the eight passers they’ve faced have scored at least 22 FanDuel Points. Siemian himself, however, has surpassed 22 FanDuel points just once, and has six games with 13.3 points or fewer. Not that we should expect a lot from a rookie who earned the starting job just a few weeks before the season began. But his schedule alone, one would think, is soft enough to produce at least a few usable weeks. So far he’s faced three NFC South teams, the Chargers twice, and two AFC South teams. Yet, here we are eight weeks deep, and Siemian ranks 29th among quarterbacks in points per game with a 12.9 average.

Getting back the Raiders’ defense, their secondary is much better than the box scores indicate. Yes, they’ve been blown up in some games. In fact, here’s their game logs against quarterbacks:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Jameis Winston 8 16 32 180 2 0 3 16 0 18.8 7400
Blake Bortles 7 23 43 246 1 2 5 33 0 15.14 7400
Alex Smith 6 19 22 224 0 0 3 -1 0 8.86 6800
Philip Rivers 5 21 30 359 4 2 0 0 0 28.36 8300
Joe Flacco 4 32 52 298 1 0 1 1 1 22.02 7700
Marcus Mariota 3 17 33 214 0 2 3 22 0 6.76 7700
Matt Ryan 2 26 34 396 3 1 0 0 0 28.84 7900
Drew Brees 1 28 42 423 4 0 2 5 0 31.42 8700

Over 50 percent of the yards and fantasy points they’ve allowed have come in three games, including 11 of 15 touchdowns. You’ll notice the passers in those games, Brees, Ryan, and Rivers, are (elite) veterans with a long history of success. You’ll notice all the other passers are either young players with questionable futures, or veterans with questionable histories.

Only 21.5 percent of the Broncos’ collective fantasy points have come from the quarterback position—the 20th lowest rate in the league. Even though Siemian has, on occasion, looked promising, he is not the quarterback you’re looking for.

Marcus Mariota - $7,600

Neither is Mariota, who has actually been quite consistent this year. He comes into Week 9 with the 10th most points overall—averaging the 14th most per game. If not for a few down games against Oakland and Houston, Mariota would be a top-five fantasy passer this season. In fact, only Tom Brady has scored more fantasy points over the last four weeks.

Mariota has been nothing short of fantastic during that stretch with 11 total touchdowns and just one interception. Here are his weekly finishes starting in Week 5: QB1, QB3, QB12, QB12. The Titans seem to have turned a corner offensively and now travel to San Diego to take on a defense that ranks fourth in takeaways with 15 total. If you remove rushing stats, their defense falls from allowing the 12th most points per game to quarterbacks, to the 18th most. Thankfully, Mariota can run the ball when he needs to, which certainly protects his floor. But there are few things that make nervous about his ceiling:

  1. Remember the Titans. We’ve seen this team implode too many times to really have faith in them. That implosion most often comes from the quarterback.
  2. The best way to beat the Chargers is to run the ball. They’ve allowed the second most touchdowns to running backs and the 10th most total yards per game. They’re especially susceptible to receiving backs. No team has allowed more receiving yards or receptions to the position. The Titans happen have two solid backs, both of whom can catch.
  3. The Chargers offense has a lot of injuries and may try to slow the pace by running the ball. Whether they’re successful remains to be seen, as the Titans have been stingy against the run, even with limited attempts.
  4. The Chargers are favored by five points. That doesn’t necessarily spell bad news for Mariota. But it tells me that Vegas doesn’t believe in him or his offense. In the end, the under will probably strike.

All things being equal, there isn’t a better quarterback option in his price range unless Ben Roethlisberger plays and Dak Prescott gets another start. But I’d rather buy my way out of the middle tier and go for elite, or take a discount and go for a longshot.

Running Backs

Devontae Booker - $7,000

I’m going out on a limb by suggesting you fade Booker, who might be the best play of the Broncos’ offense. He did just enough last week to not be a total disaster. If he doesn’t fumble at the 1-yard line he would have been RB4 instead of RB11. But now that he’ll cost us $1,400 more and is dealing with a shoulder injury, there are better plays on the board.

The Raiders’ defense ranks 11th in FanDuel points per game allowed to running backs and have allowed the fifth most total yards. So the matchup is friendly enough to chase. But with a 43.5-point over/under, Vegas is telling us this game could be on the low-scoring side. The Broncos’ defense will keep it close and, as mentioned, the Raiders’ defense is better than their box score indicates. The projected game flow actually gives me optimism regarding Booker’s volume. But nothing is worse than when a player’s injury suddenly flares up midgame and hinders his performance. As much I want exposure to the prime time game, I don’t have confidence in Booker or the Broncos’ offense.

Jay Ajayi - $7,100

You probably knew this was coming. Ajayi has been tremendous over his last two contests with 418 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That alone is enough to tempt us into paying his salary and hoping he somehow makes the Jets’ run defense look mediocre. The Jets’ run defense, however, is not mediocre. Despite allowing eight total touchdowns to the position, they’ve allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the league. Outside of David Johnson, who is responsible for three of their eight touchdowns allowed, the Jets have been a nightmare for opposing rushers. It’s likely Ajayi’s last two games were outliers and he’ll return to Dolphins’ form against a tough divisional opponent. We’re better off chasing Jarvis Landry or even Devante Parker against the Jets’ awful secondary.

DeMarco Murray - $8,100

It’s amazing how much better players perform when they’re used correctly. Last year, Murray was a disaster both in real and fake football. His coach had him running parallel to the line of scrimmage and breaking plays outside, rather than utilizing his natural abilities as north/south runner. Mike Mularkey and Co. have resurrected Murray back to Dallas form as he now has the second most rushing yards and the second most fantasy points on the season. But could we be seeing the beginning of a timeshare that’s going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses and fantasy players alike?

Murray is dealing with a toe injury that his coaches won’t hurry him back from. That may just mean fewer reps during the week, but it could also mean fewer reps come Sunday. By the way, Derrick Henry was excellent once he took over in a blowout against the Jaguars. He averaged 3.75 yards per carry and chipped in another 37 receiving on four receptions. If there’s even a remote chance Murray is limited, I think we can plan on seeing a lot more of Henry on Sunday and a situation to avoid, even though the Chargers are a dream matchup for both players. (If Murray is the clear-cut starter, he’s a terrific play. In fact, I don’t mind stacking him with Henry and buying up the entire Titans’ backfield, despite my aversion to this game.)  

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - $8,900

Beckham will celebrate his 24th birthday one day before the Giants return from their bye to host the Eagles. He says he feels 10 times better than he did against the Rams and is “close to 90 percent”. Even a limited Beckham is better than 90 percent of other receivers, so I won’t blame anyone for buying into his WR1 pricing. And I’m not recommending an all-out fade. But the Eagles’ defense has been solid all year against opposing wide receivers. Only two teams have allowed fewer touchdowns and their 171.4 yards per game ranks 16th. They have allowed a score in four straight, and a not-100 percent Dez Bryant hit them up for 113 yards and a touchdown on four catches last week. If nothing else, Beckham is poised to have a huge second half, which is welcomed news for those of us that burned a top draft pick on him. That could begin with the Eagles on Sunday, but I will keep my exposure low and see if the Giants’ offense fixed anything in their time off.

Demaryius Thomas - $7,400

The highpoint of Thomas’s season came in Week 3 against the Bengals when he pulled down six of seven targets for 100 yards and a touchdown. He now has four scores on the year and is WR22 in FanDuel points per game. Including last week’s flop, Thomas has failed to score 17 or more points in all but two games this season. His rookie quarterback is clearly struggling and the Broncos are utilizing their running backs more as a result. I’ve mentioned twice already in this article that the Raiders’ defense is better than general perception. But they have been a source of fantasy happiness against opposing wide receivers. Only the Jets have allowed more yards, and despite surrendering only eight touchdowns, the Raiders average of 33 points per contest ranks ninth.

All things being equal, it is a good matchup for Thomas and one that he could certainly breakout in. The Broncos have a projected team score of 21.5 points. But who scores those points is tricky to project:

Their seasons are nearly identical. They’re tied in fantasy points per contest with Sanders getting the slight edge in volume with 75 targets to Thomas’s 64, the latter of which has seen at least 10 in three straight games. Thomas is also credited for four drops, which is tied for the fifth most in the league. The biggest difference between them is price. Sanders will cost us $600 less (WR17), while Thomas checks in with WR10 pricing. Either player could have a big game Sunday night. If I had to pick, I’d go with Thomas and think he at least returns value. His floor is also higher since, you know, big wide receivers and such. But expecting a tournament-swinging performance doesn’t seem smart. In any case, I’ll have a variety of lineups that include one or the other, maybe even one with both to hedge against my own analysis. But without a quality quarterback, Sanders and Thomas are risky plays.

Amari Cooper et al. - $7,700

Cooper finally broke through last week with a monster game in which he caught 12 of his 15 targets for 173 yards and a touchdown. He’s our highest scoring receiver since Week 5, with 45 targets and nearly 500 yards over that span. It’s a positive trend that will keep him in the conversation as an every week DFS option for the rest of the season.

Except for this week. You all know the situation with the Broncos’ defense. They’re the best in the league and have shut down nearly every receiver they’ve faced. Seriously. The game logs don’t lie:

Player

Week

Rsh

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Travis Benjamin 8 0 3 44 1 11.9 5900
Dontrelle Inman 8 0 4 72 0 9.2 5300
Tyrell Williams 8 0 1 4 0 0.9 5800
DeAndre Hopkins 7 0 5 36 0 6.1 7900
Will Fuller V 7 0 4 22 0 4.2 6800
Jaelen Strong 7 0 2 10 0 2 4900
Tyrell Williams 6 0 3 28 0 4.3 6100
Dontrelle Inman 6 0 1 11 0 1.6 5800
Travis Benjamin 6 0 3 17 0 1.2 6000
Julio Jones 5 0 2 29 0 3.9 8900
Mohamed Sanu 5 0 3 43 0 3.8 5600
Mike Evans 4 0 5 59 0 8.4 8000
Vincent Jackson 4 0 3 38 0 5.3 5100
Adam Humphries 4 0 1 4 0 0.9 5000
A.J. Green 3 0 8 77 0 11.7 8300
Brandon LaFell 3 0 2 34 0 4.2 5600
Tyler Boyd 3 0 3 18 0 3.3 5700
James Wright 3 0 1 10 0 1.5 4500
T.Y. Hilton 2 0 4 41 0 6.1 7000
Phillip Dorsett 2 0 1 30 0 3.5 5500
Donte Moncrief 2 0 1 9 0 1.4 6700
Quan Bray 2 0 1 7 0 1.2 4700
Kelvin Benjamin 1 0 6 91 1 18.1 7300
Ted Ginn Jr 1 0 1 5 0 3 5900
Corey Brown 1 0 1 11 0 1.6 5600
Devin Funchess 1 0 1 9 0 1.4 6200

They gave up just their second touchdown on the season last week—the first one since Week 1—and no player has topped 100 yards. The most fantasy points they’ve allowed to single player is 18.1, and no team has allowed fewer points per game to the position (16.9). But you already knew this was going to be a tough matchup. The game is in Oakland so that sort of helps. And Derek Carr has been playing like an elite quarterback, which definitely helps. But for $7,700, Cooper will have to do what no receiver has done against the Broncos this season in order to hit tournament value. Now, it’s possible his ownership will be subdued as a result, so there’s at least some contrarian strategy to plugging him into your lineup. However, this game has a low over/under total and I’m not confident in the over. Per usual, we have a lot of options and better matchups to exploit. Fade Cooper.

T.Y. Hilton - $7,600

Hilton isn’t healthy and even if he was, I not sure he’ll maintain his volume now that the Colts’ offense has a full complement of healthy receivers. He burned a lot of folks last week when he managed only one catch on six targets and was in and out of the game with an injury. He has yet to practice as of this writing, so things are trending down anyway. But even if he does end up with a full practice and is likely to play, I won’t be paying his salary. It’s worth noting that Donte Moncrief will likely be a popular play. His $6,100 price tag leaves a lot of room to build a nice roster while still maintaining a safe floor. I think we can expect him to be one of the highest owned players if Hilton sits.

Tight Ends

Kyle Rudolph - $5,000

No two ways about it, the Vikings’ offense is terrible. It starts with their offensive line, which has allowed 11 sacks over their last two games and is so bad that someone posted a Craigslist ad seeking help. Now, holes in the line can be covered with short throws to tight ends. It also helps that the Lions, who rank 15th in sack percentage, are coming to town. They also rank fourth in points per game allowed to tight ends thanks to their league-leading seven touchdowns permitted. It’s the best matchup Rudolph has had all year, so I get the draw. His salary, tied for the lowest it has been all season, adds to the temptation. But it’s hard to have much confidence in a Sam Bradford-led offense that can’t protect the quarterback. The Vikings have scored only 10 points in each of their last two games, and now rank 23rd in scoring. That could all change given how bad the Lions’ defense is, but I’ll let the crowd chase this trap.

Dennis Pitta - $5,200

I want to love Pitta. I really do. He has 28 targets over his last three games and trails only Mike Wallace for the team lead in that category. Unfortunately, it hasn’t resulted in fantasy production. Despite ranking fourth among all tight ends in targets, he ranks 11th in yards, hasn’t found the end zone all season, and comes into Week 9 ranked TE16. Maybe things will turn around against the Steelers, who have allowed the eighth most yards to the position and rank 11th overall. And it helps that Roethlisberger could play, which means this game could end up with a lot of scoring (it currently has a low over/under with Steelers as 3-point underdogs, but I suspect that changes if he’s cleared to play). This could be the game he breaks out. I’ll gladly play him over Rudolph (and likely get Pitta at lower ownership), but I won’t have a lot of exposure.

Defenses

Blake Bortles is going to be in Kansas City ($5,100) this weekend. Not sure what else to say.

The Lions ($4,200) will likely be a favorite among the crowd given the aforementioned issues with the Vikings offense and offensive line. I don’t mind chasing but we have to remember that their defense is terrible against the pass and the run, and the game is in Minnesota—who just changed offensive coordinators—so limit your exposure. The Lions have the fourth fewest takeaways of all teams and simply can’t get pressure on the quarterback. As such, they rank 22nd in FanDuel scoring and are a risky play regardless of opponent.



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