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.
Aaron Rodgers $8300: Rodgers is the seventh-best fantasy quarterback this year. That’s not top 3 like everyone expected but it’s better than he’s seemed. He’s thrown 30 TD passes and only 7 interceptions. His price is down and while the Vikings are not a matchup I’d normally target, I just don’t see Rodgers ending the regular season on a low note. This is a critical game for both teams; advantage to Rodgers in Green Bay for me. Expect very low ownership, but beware Vegas has a pretty high total on this one and there could be plenty of fantasy points on both sides of this game.
Sam Bradford $6700: I see this as a high scoring, pass heavy game, with the Giants allowing the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Most people will probably be on Eli Manning, whom I also like, but Bradford, given his and the Eagles struggles this season, will be lower owned. Bradford has attempted 97 passes over the past two games, exceeding 300 yards in both. The coaching change is a wild-card; I think we can expect slightly less passing volume, but even 40-45 attempts should be enough to provide value.
Doug Martin $7600: Playing for the rushing title is an accomplishment in and of itself given Martin’s past two seasons. Those still weigh heavily in fantasy players’ minds as Martin is never highly owned. Going against a Panthers defense that is 20th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, but has given up rushing touchdowns in back-to-back weeks to the Giants and Falcons, will be a test for Martin, but he’s PFF’s most elusive back and has done some of his best work against good on-paper run defenses, including 106/1 against Carolina earlier this year.
C.J. Anderson $5500: The San Diego matchup on the heels of a pretty explosive game from Anderson against the Bengals tough defense is a value situation I’m going to have some exposure to in tournaments. Anderson is the higher ceiling/lower floor back for the Broncos, but given Ronnie Hillman’s lack of scoring and recent fumbles, I think he’s the better bet to have a big day vs. the Chargers, who allow the fifth-most fantasy point to opposing RBs.
Amari Cooper $6900: If Cooper’s foot is better and he practices all week (this is written Wednesday), I love him to be low-owned in a top 10 fantasy matchup for wide receivers. Michael Crabtree is the safer play here, but Cooper is the more talented receiver. He’s also young and volatile. Fully healthy, I think Cooper ends the season strong.
Martavis Bryant $7100: With plenty of options to pay up for this week (Julio, OBJ, Brown, Marshall…) my guess is that Bryant and is 1/6 stat line against the Ravens will be way underowned. He gets another prime matchup with the Browns this Sunday, a team that he torched earlier this season and that allows the fifth-most fantasy points to receivers. Pittsburgh needs to bring it all to earn a wild-card spot this weekend, and Bryant is one of their most talented weapons. I like him for a big bounce-back game.
Ben Watson $5300: One bad game, at least partially due to a sore knee, and everyone will be off of Watson, but Week 16 was bad for a lot of good tight ends and the position is notoriously volatile. Watson is a trusted facet of Drew Brees’ offense and that offense faces a Falcons’ defense that has good corners, but hasn’t covered tight ends all that well. I think there will be a volume shift in the passing game in Watson’s favor this week. It wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in targets again.
Rob Gronkowski $8100: You have to figure almost no one will pay this salary for Gronkowski given the expensive RBs and WRs available. With New England playing for homefield advantage throughout and the Patriots general philosophy, I expect to see Tom Brady and Gronkowski lighting up the Miami secondary this week. He’s the most prolific tight end in the game, and it’s a rare event when you regret rostering him.
Arizona Cardinals $4700: The Cardinals are well-known to have one of the best defenses in the league and have in fact posted four double-digit fantasy point performances in the last five games (79 total fantasy points in that span). They’ve done so against good and bad teams, including two NFC playoff teams. Seattle is on fire right now, but I think Arizona with Carson Palmer and David Johnson will control the pace and time of possession in this game, and the Cardinals defense will take advantage of any small mistake the Seahawks happen to make.