After an incredibly high-scoring Week 3, things settled down last week and the scores returned to normal levels. Looking at the winning scores for the $7M Millionaire Maker for the last two weeks perfectly illustrates the disparity. For Week 3, the winning score was an amazing 301.00. Last week, the winning score checked in at 200.02. What a difference a week makes.
One thing that both weeks have in common sits at the top of the leader boards and has to do with lineup construction. For the high-scoring Week 3, the winning roster included five players that were owned on less than 10% of all rosters. For the lower-scoring Week 4, the lineup that won the tournament had three players with less than 10% ownership.
Taking it a step further and looking at the Top 10 lineups for both weeks, we find a similar story. For Week 3, all lineups in the top ten had a discernible amount of players on their rosters with less than 10% ownership. This ranged from a low of three such players on one lineup to a high of seven players which was found on five of the top ten lineups. Week 4 offered a similar tale, ranging from a low of two players on one lineup to a high of five players which was also found on one lineup.
This breakdown clearly illustrates a point we touched on in last week’s column. Successful lineups will have a mix of lower-owned players and higher-owned players that produce. As we can see by the Top 10 breakdown for both weeks, the number of lower-owned players can vary and there’s no magic formula. The ‘sweet spot’ is somewhere between three and five players and lineups that can nail these picks in conjunction with some solid ‘chalk’ plays can position themselves for success.
Finding those diamonds in the rough is not easy, but that’s what this column aims to do for you each and every week. The players on our list each week are those that you may look past when constructing your rosters. If you look a little closer, you’ll find that these players just might be the diamonds you have been searching for. Let’s get started with our search by looking at the quarterback position.
Nick Foles, $5,200
Foles and the Rams offense came to life last week against Arizona and they will need more of that this Sunday when they travel to Green Bay to face the Packers. While Foles only threw for 171 yards last Sunday, he still managed to find the end zone three times. The emergence of Todd Gurley should only open things up more for the passing game as we move forward and Foles has shown he has the chops to produce some points from his time with the Eagles. Did the Rams offense turn the corner last week? We’ll need more time to see how that plays out, but for this week Foles could be a solid contrarian pick.
The Rams are a 9-point underdog for a game with an O/U of 46. The game script calls for them to be down and trying to fight their way back. Sounds pretty accurate, as the Packers will surely be looking to improve off of last week’s offensive performance and sometimes there’s nothing better than home cooking to spur some points. While the Packers walked away with the win last week, they did not produce the expected fireworks. Lambeau Field tends to bring out the best in Aaron Rodgers and the Packers so we can expect them to do their part to march towards the expected total for the game.
Foles will be throwing to keep the Rams in the game and to help the team play catch-up. A similar scenario played out in Week 3 when the Packers welcomed the Chiefs to Green Bay. Rodgers and the Packers were up big late in the game but allowed the Chiefs to put up some points as they attempted to claw their way back in. The final score of 38-28 makes the game appear to be a lot closer than it was, but the Chiefs did their damage in garbage time. We could see more of the same this week from Foles and the Rams. For $5,100, we have a contrarian and a value play that could produce 4x value.
Jay Cutler, $5,300
Cutler and the Bears are also on the road as a 9-point underdog. On Sunday they face the Chiefs, a team that is in desperate need of a win – especially in front of their home crowd – for a game with a projected total of 45 points. We could see heavy doses of Cutler airing it out as the Bears attempt to come back. The questions is as follows: Will we get the good Cutler that stays patient and produces points or will we get the bad Cutler that forces the ball and creates turnovers?
Cutler played relatively well in last week’s win over the Raiders by throwing for 281 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. The Chiefs are an interesting study on defense, as they lead the league in sacks but can be torched through the air. And therein lies some of the risk with Cutler and the Bears this week. If the Chiefs can get to him early and often, we could be looking at the bad Cutler and our contrarian play will have us looking at next week’s schedule by 2:30pm on Sunday. But if the Bears can afford Cutler some time to operate, the good Cutler could appear and do some damage to the Chiefs secondary.
This is a Chiefs team that has allowed 11 passing touchdowns and three 300-yard passers through four weeks. While Cutler has not eclipsed the 300-yard mark yet this year, that streak could very well come to an end in Kansas City. For a very low price, we have a contrarian quarterback that provides both high-upside and high-risk. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?
Justin Forsett, $5,800
Forsett accomplishes a few things for our rosters. He is somewhat contrarian – not so extreme that no one will have him and not so high that we should think about fading him. He also helps to save us a ton of salary in comparison to the higher-priced backs and could offer a ton of upside if the game goes according to script. The Ravens are a 6 ½-point favorite as they welcome the Browns to town for a game with an O/U of 43. Forsett came to life last week as he ran for 150 yards and finished with 18.0 points. The Ravens are banged up at wide receiver so look for Forsett to be fed early and often and possibly find the end zone for the first time this season.
Dion Lewis, $4,800
Lewis will provide us with some exposure to the Patriots offense at a discount price. While the masses flock to Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, we’ll save a little salary and bank on Lewis being the featured back for the Patriots. Lewis was on his way to a nice day the last time the Patriots took the field in Week 3. Unfortunately, LeGarrette Blount assumed goal line duties late in the game and scored three touchdowns. That’s always the risk with Patriots running backs: we never know exactly how the workload will be distributed. In this case, we’ll take the chance on the back with a new contract in hand. Lewis just signed a two-year extension with the Patriots. Let’s see if he can celebrate with a full workload and a trip or two to the end zone.
A.J. Green, $7,700
Despite his solid production this year, many will shy away from Green due to the Bengals matchup with the Seahawks. While the Seahawks remain one of the better defenses in the league, they don’t possess the same invincibility of recent years. They looked good against two struggling teams in the Bears and the Lions, but allowed a top offense in the Packers to score 27 points. The Bengals are not quite at the Packers level, but they are playing like one of the better offenses and teams in the league through four weeks. The team has not scored less than 24 points and Andy Dalton is playing at a high level. Green is averaging 21.9 points per game this season, which is somewhat inflated by Week 3’s monster output of 47.7 points. I wouldn’t expect 40+ fantasy points against the Seahawks, but Green presents some nice upside at a reasonable price. Most importantly, it’s a matchup many will shy away from and allow you to reap the rewards as you climb up the leader boards.
Willie Snead IV, $3,000
Quick – who leads the Saints in receiving yardage and has seen at least six targets in each of the last three weeks? Willie Snead IV, the first-year pro from Ball State. Snead has seemingly come out of nowhere to carve himself out quite a role with the Saints. The expected emergence of Brandon Coleman has been put on hold and Snead has assumed WR3 duties. Perhaps more importantly, he has earned the trust of Drew Brees who does not hesitate to look his way. Sunday’s game against the Eagles has one of the higher projected totals of the week at 49. Snead presents a terrific opportunity to grab a piece of the offensive fireworks for a minimum price.
Jason Witten, $4,500
For a game in which the Cowboys are expected to be down big and trying to come from behind, consider the reliable Witten as a slightly off the radar play to fill your tight end spot. The quarterback may change but the role remains the same. Witten is the quarterback safety blanket in Big D and could find himself with a big role on Sunday as the Cowboys try to keep up with the Patriots. Unsurprisingly, Witten leads the Cowboys in targets in the absence of Dez Bryant. Somewhat surprisingly, Witten also leads the Cowboys in receiving yardage. Look for Witten to add to both totals this Sunday and provide some solid production for a reasonable price.
Larry Donnell, $2,900
Donnell is second on the Giants in targets this season. That hasn’t translated into a ton of production so far but that could change when the struggling 49ers come to town on Sunday Night. The Giants are a 7-point favorite and coming in off of two consecutive wins. Last week’s 24-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills was the Giants best performance to date. Eli Manning threw for three touchdowns and the offense seems to be clicking. The number of targets that are heading Donnell’s way will inevitably lead to more production. For $2,900, you can buy into it early and save a ton of salary in the process.
New York Giants, $2,900
While the Giants defense will not be as highly-owned as some of the more expensive defenses, they should still have their share of supporters this week. The Giants are pointed out more for their price and opportunity. They are a pretty big favorite and playing at home against a struggling offense – a trio of factors that are very appealing when selecting a defense for the week. Add in a price of less than $3,000 and we have a very intriguing situation, a situation that is very similar to the spot the Falcons found themselves in last week. We talked about the Falcons in last week’s edition of The Contrarian. We can’t promise you that the Giants will turn out as well this week, but we can tell you that the stars may be aligning in a similar manner.
Kansas City Chiefs, $2,800
The Chiefs are selected for price and opportunity but should also fly a little under the radar. They also catch us in an either-or situation. Either we believe in Jay Cutler as a contrarian selection as outlined above or we believe the risk in rostering Cutler is too great. We outlined both situations for Cutler above. From the Chiefs perspective, they are a low-cost defense, a big favorite and playing at home. Sound familiar? The Chiefs also offer the trifecta of attractive factors that we look for in a fantasy defense. Add in the fact that the Chiefs lead the league in sacks and we may be onto our hidden gem at defense for the week.
That brings The Contrarian to a close for another week. We have gone through each position, starting with quarterback and ending on defense. Speaking of those two positions, those are great spots to target for some contrarian thinking. A lower-owned quarterback that goes off coupled with a hidden gem at defense can really separate your lineup from the pack. Balance that out with a mix of high-upside chalk plays and maybe another under-the-radar play or two and you might find yourself very pleased with the results. Best of luck this weekend!
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