You always hear that you have to be contrarian to win tournaments. What’s it mean? And how do you do it? Well, it means that you have to use players that aren’t obvious. You avoid using all of the players with the most talent in the best matchups and look for guys that are going to be owned by a smaller percentage of the field. That way, if they do well, not everyone benefits and you move past the field toward the top of the leaderboard.
There is a fine line between contrarian and stupid. We want good plays that are under the radar, exploitable situations that not everyone believes are exploitable. A couple of guidelines that I adhere to, and I’m a conservative player for the most part, are as follows: 1) talent trumps matchup and 2) go against the narratives. Who’s too old, who’s in a ‘revenge’ game, who sucks in his (three) primetime games? Use the old player (especially early in the season), fade the revenge game, and ignore small samples.
Now that we’re into bye weeks, a guy coming off his bye could be contrarian just because we are more focused on players that we watched last week. It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true…recency bias is strong. Except when it comes to Andy Dalton, whose ownership remains under 2% every single week. I’m done writing about him (not really). He is fantasy’s leading QB, and if you don’t want to use him, you don’t have to. But if you do, he’s only $7600!!
Colin Kaepernick $7300: He looked as good as he has all season last Sunday and while that’s not saying much, in Week 6 he gets to face the league’s most generous defense in terms of fantasy points to QB. The Ravens have surrendered 1490 passing yards, and 11 total touchdowns (two rushing) to opponents and a quick glance at their matchups reveals that this is very much on them (Andy Dalton being the exception).
Carson Palmer $8000: Palmer is PFF’s second most efficient QB this year so far, with 0.65 fantasy points per dropback (PPDB) and 13 passing touchdowns. All that despite the fact that he operates in the context of a defense that barely lets him on the field! That will keep some people turned off of him, but the Steelers defense is another good matchup for Palmer and Vegas has it as a relatively high scoring, close game.
Theo Riddick $5000: Riddick is about the only stable thing in this messy Detroit offense right now but his usage in the passing game alone makes him worth consideration here. The Bears have been average against running backs so far this season despite toughening up a bit over the past two weeks (see below—they’re not a bad play this week). The volume has been there for Riddick regardless of the presence of Ameer Abdullah and/or Joique Bell, neither of whom have done anything to preclude Riddick from getting his again this week.
Ryan Mathews $5600: I said a couple weeks ago that I thought Philadelphia would get it together sometime around mid-season. There is a lot of new talent working together in this offense. Last week we saw Demarco Murray break out, Sam Bradford perform pretty well, and guess who? Ryan Mathews also met value, making a few big plays and getting the look from the two yard line. Things are looking up for the Eagles, and I think in a high scoring game with the average-at-best Giants defense, Mathews remains a key part of the game plan.
Either of these guys makes a solid cheaper pivot from Charcandrick West ($6200). Both have proven roles in their offenses and have flashed 20+ fpt upside, while West has merely opportunity.
Eric Decker $6100: All of my lineups are ending up with Eric Decker in there. You beat the Redskins through the air, and Decker has been PFF’s second most efficient WR in standard scoring, catching a touchdown in each of his first three games. Coming off the bye, he should be good to go and is priced well below Brandon Marshall in the great matchup. His upside here is similar to Marshall’s so take advantage of the price break.
Anquan Boldin $6500: Being Kaepernick’s favorite and most reliable target means that most of what I said about Kap applies here too. Unlike some bad quarterbacks, where I don’t want to pair them with any of their receiving targets, I believe that if Kaepernick has a good day, Boldin will as well. Not surprisingly given their generosity to QBs, the Ravens give up the second most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Julius Thomas $5200: A bargain to boot, Thomas is probably the one Jaguars pass catcher that people won’t be on. Both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have done enough to be reliable weekly WR plays (both are top 15 in PPR formats), but Thomas was underwhelming in his debut. He didn’t play a ton (50% of the snaps), but was in on passing plays and ran more routes than he blocked. It makes sense that he was eased in slowly, receiving only two targets (he caught both) coming off the hand injury. I expect his usage to increase and for him to once again be a strong red zone threat. I may still be a week early on him, but at this price I’m willing to take a chance against the weak Houston secondary. The Texans allowed 106/2 to Travis Kelce and 6/70 to Greg Olsen, but haven’t really faced a pass catching TE since Week 2.
Chicago Bears $4300: The Lions are a mess right now. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. No really, with Matthew Stafford being benched after throwing three picks vs. Arizona, there is no stability with this team. Calvin Johnson has been a non-factor, as has Golden Tate, and Stafford is just making bad throws. Detroit ranks 30th in points/game this season and first in turnovers (15). There are far more obvious defenses to use this week, but Chicago has steadily improved over the past three weeks on both sides of the ball and could be a sneaky way to capitalize on Detroit’s offensive woes.
New England Patriots $4800: Their price is high, they don’t rank highly in turnovers (6 INT, 1 FumR), they’re on the road…so many reasons to not use New England. The one reason to use them? Indianapolis has turned the ball over more times than anyone except Detroit (12 total giveaways), a trend that has continued from 2014. A high volume offense is going to make mistakes and Vegas expects the Colts to be down here. Andrew Luck will be back this Sunday—don’t be surprised to see the Pats pressure him into some bad decisions.