The Fade: FanDuel Week 11

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

Pick a quarterback. Any quarterback.

That's pretty much the situation this week. My first blush is to fade Tom Brady but that scares me. It scares me to the marrow in my bones. The only reason to fade him is because he costs more than all the other quarterbacks. And there’s a real chance that despite throwing for 300 yards, like he did last week and the week before that and actually every game this season since his return except one, he might turn in a mediocre fantasy performance thanks to LeGarrette Blount.

Just a reminder that the 49ers are the worst run defense in maybe a decade and Blount comes into Week 11 leading the league in rushing touchdowns. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s the most dangerous 3.5 yards-per-carry runner ever. So fading Blount feels like a major mistake and fading Brady also feels like a major mistake; perhaps the recipe for success is starting both of them. But you know as soon as you do that, Blount will turn in one of his 13-carry, 45-yard, one-score games (see Buffalo in Week 8).

I definitely want exposure to the Patriots’ offense this week. That much I'm sure of. Whether that be with Brady, Blount, a tight end, a kicker, or all of the above remains to be seen, but this team is coming off of a tough loss, is being tossed a tune-up in San Francisco, and is going to score a lot of points. By the way, the 49ers might do just enough on offense to keep Brady on the field. Given the expected pace, there could be a lot of plays in this game and a lot of offense. So as dangerous as this sounds, I will either be fading Blount in favor of a number of other running backs, or stacking him with Brady.

We have a lot of options at quarterback this week. Brady is by far the safest, has the highest ceiling, and may even have lower ownership than normal thanks to the wealth at the position and the Blount Effect. With Blount’s salary now approaching near career-highs (it peaked at $7,500 earlier this year), I think it’s safe to say he hits value but doesn’t smash the tournament ceiling, while Brady throws 45 times and finishes the week as QB1.

Quarterbacks

Blake Bortles - $7,200

I see you staring down Bortles’ relatively low salary and tasty matchup thinking you can gain an edge on the crowd by zigging where they zag. I would urge you to admire his throwing motion. It looks like he stole Joba Chamberlain’s underhand fastpitch and simply reversed the motion. It’s so bad.

But he does come into Week 11 as QB9 overall in FanDuel scoring and has provided a bounty of garbage time fantasy points. And he does get a Lions’ defense that has allowed 20 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions and the third most fantasy points per game to passers. So if you’re really dying for cap relief, I get why you want to chase this matchup. Just keep in mind that Bortles is A) terrible, and B) has scored fewer than 20 points in five of his nine games this season. Furthermore, given the many options we have at quarterback this week, it just doesn’t make sense to chase one who could potentially get benched at halftime.   

Kirk Cousins - $7,600

Write this down: the Packers’ secondary on the road. Highlight it. Now check out these game logs:

Player

Yr

Wk

Tm

Cmp

Att

CmpPct

PassYd

YD/Att

TD

INT

FantPt

Marcus Mariota 2016 10 TEN 19 26 73.1 295 11.35 4 0 35.6
Matt Ryan 2016 8 ATL 28 35 80 288 8.23 3 0 30.3
Sam Bradford 2016 2 MIN 22 31 71 286 9.23 2 0 24
Blake Bortles 2016 1 JAX 24 39 61.5 320 8.21 1 1 19.2

Those are the quarterbacks that have hosted the Packers. Now, I’m not a big champion of home/road splits but they do paint a picture of a how the team performs when traveling to face good offenses. Even “Joba Bortles” squeezed out 19 points against this defense.

Frankly, I love Cousins’ matchup this week and he may not have very high ownership. But like with Bortles, I just can’t move off of several other options. Here’s a list of players that I’d rather have this week:

Honorable mention to Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford. Of course, none of these guys give you the discount Cousins gives you. But with pricing as soft as it is, it’s not difficult to make room for an elite play this week.

Also, since we mentioned them, I’m mostly fading Mariota but only because Luck is $100 more, has better receivers, is a stronger play at home, and has half the running game.

Running Backs

Jay Ajayi - $7,600

If you finally got onboard the Ajayi train last week, you probably had a tough week. It’s hard to say right now whether his midseason storm is evidence of an emerging trend that we should chase, or if his Week 10 stat line is what we should expect more often than not. My money is on the latter.

His matchup against the Rams doesn’t help. They’re 16th in rushing yards per game, 21st in yards per attempt, and 20th in FanDuel points per game with only seven total touchdowns allowed to the position—below league average. Digging into split stats again, here’s how they’ve faired against running backs at home:

Player

Wk

Tm

Rsh

RushYd

TD

Targ

Rec

RecYd

Yd/Rec

TD

FantPt

Jonathan Stewart 9 CAR 15 42 0 0 0 0   0 4.2
Rashad Jennings 7 NYG 13 25 1 3 2 24 12 0 10.9
Mike Gillislee 5 BUF 2 6 1 0 0 0   0 6.6
LeSean McCoy 5 BUF 18 150 0 2 2 8 4 0 15.8
Christine Michael 2 SEA 10 60 0 4 3 26 8.7 0 8.6
Thomas Rawls 2 SEA 7 -7 0 3 3 15 5 0 0.8

Contextually, most of the players on this list are bad. But even LeSean McCoy was held to just under 16 points. I think it’s safe to say that the Rams’ rush defense is quite good. In fact, FootballOutsiders has them ranked eighth in the league. But the Dolphins are scoring a lot of points lately, have won four games in a row, and will be facing a quarterback that has never played a snap in a regular-season NFL game. What that means is they could easily build a quick lead and just grind the clock with Ajayi. But his ceiling is below what we need for tournament running backs and his salary is above what we need if we want high-priced receivers.

Rob Kelley - $5,400

Kelley makes sense if you want to pay up at wide receiver and need a cheap running back, which is an approach that will be especially popular this week. He now has rushing attempts of 21 and 22 in his last two games and 184 yards and a touchdown to show for it. Without question, he’s Washington’s lead back, which is fantastic considering Washington runs an efficient offense that doesn’t always funnel through the quarterback.

However, as you see in the chart above, this game could very well filter through the quarterback (I realize the contradiction here; it’s not that Cousins is a bad play, he’s likely a great one, but I have a list of players above him and don’t mind the uniqueness their price will automatically generate for my roster). The Packers’ run defense isn’t as good as their stats. But even though this is a home game for Kelley, and Washington is projected to score 26 points, I fear those points will indeed go through Cousins. It’s also important to point out that although elite running backs have exposed this defense over that last few weeks (DeMarco Murray, Devonta Freeman, Ezekiel Elliott, and even Frank Gore have logged either 100-yard games or multi-score games), Kelley isn’t the most talented back ever. And if Clay Matthews is back in the Packers’ lineup this week, their defense will be a lot tougher to penetrate. The fact of the matter is this: paying up for stud running backs has worked all season and I intend to chase that process until it fails me.

Theo Riddick - $6,700

The Jaguars have a soft run defense up front, at least from a raw statistical perspective. They’ve allowed seven rushing scores and just over 100 yards per game. Where they’ve played well is against receiving backs. Despite seeing 64 targets—tied for the 10th most—they’ve allowed only 237 receiving yards to running backs. As you probably know, pass-catching is Riddick’s strongpoint and the only reason he has a job. He is sixth in receptions among running backs and leads the league with four receiving touchdowns. He does have a few big games this season. They’re just impossible to predict. Since returning from injury he has scored 23.3 points and 8.1 points. He has four games of 10 points or fewer and three games of 23 points or more.

In short, he is the definition of volatile. And even though he gives a nice discount for a player that could touch the ball 20 times this week, I’d rather target other players in his price range like Frank Gore, Doug Martin (if he plays), possibly even Isaiah Crowell, or just clear out $600 more and play Blount.

All that said, he is at home on a fast track and coming off of a bye. If there’s any player on the board that could break one for an 80-yards score, it is him. I will balance my exposure but mostly keep Riddick off of my GPP rosters as I prefer to not chase splash plays.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown - $8,900

Anytime an analyst recommends you fade Brown you should probably just close the window. But hear me out on this one. I’m not saying you should fade Brown completely. I’m just saying you should not have massive exposure to him like you might normally.

The Browns’ defense, obviously, is terrible in every department. Joe Haden notwithstanding, Brown should have no problem navigating this secondary and potentially finishing the week as the highest scoring receiver. However, it is worth noting that the weather in Cleveland is expected to be very windy, possibly reaching 28-30 MPH. The Steelers’ offense only has a few healthy players and I fear a lot of the passing game will be forced to short throws underneath (tight ends and Le'Veon Bell).

Then there’s that whole “Roethlisberger home/roads split” narrative that at least has to come with some concern, especially in less than ideal weather. As noted by fellow FBG staffer Austin Lee, the over/under of this game has dropped three points since it opened at 49.5. That’s significant. Maybe it’ll bounce back by Sunday if the forecast changes, at which point I’ll destroy a bunch of lineups to get more exposure to Brown. As things stand, I’m gravitating towards paying up at quarterback and both running back spots, including Bell, which automatically means I won’t have much Brown.

Allen Robinson - $7,300

As a reprise to fading Bortles, you can go ahead and fade Robinson right along with him. The Lions defense is getting healthy. Darius Slay, their top cornerback, returned to practice. As did DeAndre Levy, arguably their best linebacker who hasn’t played since Week 1. All signs point to this being a tough game for Jacksonville’s offense on the road, even though past stats say target the Lions’ defense.

Robinson is coming off of back-to-back games of at least 75 yards and one score per. He has 39 targets over the last three, third most of all receivers, and happens to be our WR3 in FanDuel scoring over that stretch. You can bet the crowd is going to chase this and conveniently forget that he has six games of 14 points or fewer this season with only two of 20 points or more. As tempting as his volume, matchup and salary are, I recommend avoiding this trap as much as you can. Perhaps Robinson is trending back to his 2015 form and is about to go nuts for the rest of the season, but the Jaguars are big underdogs this week and have a projected team total of just 20.5 points. I don’t trust this offense at all and will keep my exposure nearly nonexistent.

Cameron Meredith - $5,600

I won’t blame anyone for taking a discount with Meredith, who has done enough to earn a full-time role and has few games this year that give us confidence in his abilities. Unfortunately, those games came when Brian Hoyer was under center. Now we’re back to Jay Cutler, and as we saw last week, Cutler is terrible. He’s just awful. Yes, I had some exposure last week to him. And yes, I’m bitter about it. But only because I know better than to chase his matchups.

The good news is that Alshon Jeffery is out of the picture for a while and Meredith becomes the default No. 1 WR for the Bears. He cashed in his one reception for a 50-yard touchdown last week and should be the focus this week. But the matchup isn’t great. The Giants, despite seeing the fifth-most targets via wide receivers, have allowed the fifth-lowest reception percentage, and are near the bottom of the league in touchdowns permitted. We can probably use A.J. Green’s stat line from Monday night (7/68/1) as a baseline and expect Meredith to be below it. The good news is that this defense is on a short week. But I still don’t trust Cutler and that trickles down to his receivers.   

Tight Ends

Julius Thomas - $5,900

Thomas marks the third Jaguar to make an appearance in this column so you can see where my head is at. He does have a dream matchup and I am tempted to chase it. The Lions haven’t been able to stop tight ends all year and even if they’re getting healthy on defense, I doubt this is an area that gets immediately fixed. But Thomas has been losing snap counts with both Marcedes Lewis and Ben Koyack getting a cut. Thomas did, however, see 10 targets last week and caught six of them… for 24 yards and a touchdown. Touchdowns, by the way, are where the Lions are struggling against tight ends. They’ve allowed eight on the season, which is the second most of all teams. Perhaps Thomas will make it nine this Sunday, but his price doesn’t provide much leeway if he stays within his average of 8.1 fantasy points per game.

Travis Kelce - $6,100

I doubt Kelce has very high ownership this week with everyone on Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Tyler Eifert, and Jordan Reed. But it’s still my fiduciary duty to point out that for all of the Buccaneers’ weaknesses on defense, they’ve been decent against tight ends and frankly, Kelce just isn’t getting involved in the offense as much as we’d like. Over the last five weeks, he ranks seventh among tight ends in targets and only has 246 yards and one touchdown to show for it. There are just too many other options this week that even though his ownership and salary are down, his ceiling is lower than normal. I don’t mind ignoring ownership percentages for tight ends and will jump on one of the elite options.

Defenses

A lot of the crowd is going to run to the Miami Dolphins ($4,800) given the news that Jared Goff is finally making his debut. I like that strategy, but keep in mind that Miami is allowing nearly 365 yards per game and no one really knows how good or bad Goff is going to be (he’ll likely be bad). I think we can expect a fair number of sacks and few turnovers, but I bet the Rams attempt to hide him as much as possible and run the ball. At the very least, this game should be low scoring.  

I don’t love the Patriots ($4,900) or the Chiefs ($5,000) this weekend. I see a case for the Chiefs given the ineptitude of the Buccaneers’ offense. But if they get Doug Martin back, they should have enough balance to attack the Chiefs’ weak secondary. The Patriots against Colin Kaepernick might look okay but I believe the 49ers can force enough offense against a defense that can’t get to the quarterback and struggles against those that can run. If you’re going to go with a chalk play, might else well take the one that’s fair priced and is facing a rookie quarterback that’s never played a snap in a regular season game.



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