Contrarian plays for FanDuel
It’s still important to be different without being stupid in the playoffs but it’s a lot harder to do with so few players in the pool. You hear that defense wins championships and it’s true: the defense vs. position rankings for wild-card weekend don’t show a pretty picture for fantasy. Focus on using contrarian players for 1) upside—you’re shooting for the moon or 2) low-owned stability that allows you to afford the guys you want elsewhere. For this two game slate, I’m going to give a quick assessment of the position and one player I think will be lower owned, but valuable.
New England and Carolina are the favorites this weekend, making Tom Brady ($8100) and Cam Newton ($8500) our likely safest quarterbacks for DFS. Peyton Manning is the cheapest option ($6700), while Carson Palmer is priced in the mid-range ($7700). Everyone but Manning will face a top five QB defense (he gets New England’s 20th best QB defense for fantasy).
Carson Palmer $7700: I think Palmer will be the lowest owned player here for a couple reasons. First, he’s in the mid-salary range---people will pay up or down. Second, I don’t think many people give the Cardinals a chance at Carolina. They ended the season at less than full speed/strength (Palmer’s finger playing a role there) and barely managed to eek out the win over Green Bay at home in the Divisional Round. I personally expected a lot more firepower from Palmer and his talented receiving corps last week. I’m going back to the well here though, because of that array of receiving options. Arizona should approach this game like they did Seattle earlier in the season. Carolina might take away one or two options, but there’s a third guy who can be just as effective. Palmer’s offensive line needs to get back into regular season form and get him the time he needs to find the mismatch. If they can do that, Arizona’s #2 graded offense (per PFF) led by Palmer could swing some tournaments.
I think eliminating the skill positions and just offering five flex spots on FanDuel would make a lot of sense this week. Because for the third week straight I don’t want to roster a running back at all. Sorry David Johnson ($8000), Arizona doesn’t stand a chance in this game if they rely on you. That doesn’t mean Johnson won’t be the highest owned running back…he probably will given his versatile skill set. The Denver backs, particularly C.J. Anderson ($6300), will also be popular as you have to figure on a run-heavy game plan from Denver to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands as much as possible. Anderson has shown some spark and I do like him this week. Jonathan Stewart was amazing in the first half last week, but got a little banged up and gets the worst RB matchup this week. At $7000, he’s a possibility for a contrarian play that I don’t hate, but I’m giving it to…
James White $6400: White was on the field a lot, but saw limited action for the Pats vs. the Chiefs. In the mix-it-up, keep ‘em guessing logic of Bill Belichick, a bigger role for the explosive and elusive White could be in store in Denver. He arguably had the most exciting play of the game on a catch and run that went for almost 30 yards. Those plays are routine for White and in a game that the Pats certainly aren’t taking lightly his ability to get big chunks of yardage should be featured.
Even wide receiver is dicey this weekend. Julian Edelman ($7800) is a solid bet to lead the field in receptions but even his total could be lower than normal in a week with so many solid cornerbacks in play. You can value shop for Carolina receivers, but after Ted Ginn Jr.’s dismal return last week and Patrick Patterson on him, you’re looking at the likes of Philly Brown ($5300) or Jericho Cotchery ($5200). That’s okay for the “flier” WR slot that you might have to have this weekend, but those are very risky plays. Denver gets the best fantasy secondary in New England, which isn’t saying much as Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler have been playing really well lately. I expect Emmanuel Sanders ($7400) and Demaryius Thomas ($7600) to be popular plays nonetheless. That leaves Arizona.
Arizona Cardinals receivers: You have to play multiple lineups this weekend and mine will feature rotations of two Cardinals receivers almost across the board. My favorite way to play it is with Michael Floyd ($7500) and John Brown ($6500), but Larry Fitzgerald ($7800) has been Palmer’s #1 receiver all season long and shouldn’t be ignored at all. Arizona moves guys around a lot, so expect the coverage to rotate, meaning no one will see Josh Norman the entire game. That also means that it will be hard to predict who the open look is when Palmer makes a big play happen…thus the rotations with my lineups. My gut feeling is that it’s Michael Floyd’s week, for what that’s worth.
This isn’t a realistic place to be contrarian. Greg Olsen ($7000) may be somewhat higher owned than Rob Gronkowski ($8900) just because of price, but there are really just the two options this week. Spoiler alert: I’ll write a little about Owen Daniels ($5000) in the Bargain Bin tomorrow, but it’ll be with very little enthusiasm. Go for Gronk is my motto this week. When New England is at their best, Rob Gronkowski is having a big day, so if you believe the Patriots score points this week, you need him in your lineups. It’s almost irrelevant to note that he does get the best TE matchup for fantasy, as the Broncos allowed the 12th most fantasy points to the position this season.
New England Patriots $4600: I have to expect that home defenses will be a little more popular than road, especially given the RB-DEF correlation for fantasy points and my anticipated popularity of Stewart and Anderson. However, Denver’s offense is the weakest amongst the teams playing this week, and actually is the only one to receive a strongly negative grade from PFF for the season (20th overall). The Broncos allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses during the regular season, and in their Divisonal round game, Manning threw for only 222 yards and zero scores against a legitimately bad pass defense. The Patriots ranked #2 in overall defense per PFF grades, and I like them to force some Manning/Broncos mistakes this Sunday.