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 in bye weeks, a guy 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. With a lot of value in the field this weekend, you might differentiate your lineups simply by paying top dollar at certain positions.
Carson Palmer $8000: I expect the Cardinals to be low owned coming off the bye for a meeting with the Seahawks in Seattle. Let’s not forget how good Palmer has been this season. He’s thrown 20 TD passes and is second, behind Cam Newton, in fantasy points per dropback (per PFF). His offensive line has done a great job of keeping him upright and giving him time. I think the Cardinals' offense will prevail here.
Aaron Rodgers $9200: The perception of the Packers’ recent play is such that I actually said “Rodgers should have a bounce back week” to a friend. He had almost 34 FanDuel points in Week 9! Wow, they have looked really out of sync the past few weeks, though. No one wants to pay $9K for 6, 19, 17, or 16 fantasy points (Weeks 4-8). I’m counting on that bad taste in peoples mouths when I roster Rodgers against a Detroit Lions defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, including two rushing touchdowns. Rodgers is still waiting to get his first.
Doug Martin $6700: Martin has been his best and worst fantasy self this season, making his price reasonable, but also his risk fairly high. I recommended DeMarco Murray here last week in this matchup, and he paid off nicely with low ownership. So we double down. Dallas has allowed the second most fantasy points to running backs this year, and if you look at Martin’s season, he’s had his best games in good matchups. To be fair, he’s also had some of his worst games in good matchups. Coming off the fumble-induced benching in Week 9, I can’t say Martin is a safe play, but we know he has big upside if he gets the workload against this defense.
Antonio Andrews $6000: There aren’t a lot of running backs I see with big upside this week that aren’t obvious plays like Todd Gurley ($9200), though it will be interesting to see how many spend that money. If my running back has a reasonable chance of a 12-fpt day—and there are many that fall into this category--I’d like to pay the least amount for him. Andrews has been seeing an increased workload, going over 100 total yards in Week 9. I like him to finally combine volume and goal line carries in Week 10 against a Panthers defense that has been sneaky bad against opposing rushers since Week 3.
Michael Floyd $5900: See what I said about Carson Palmer, and then I’ll just note that while Mike Clay projects Richard Sherman to cover John Brown, the cornerback matchup for Floyd is much gentler…the 11th best of the week in fact (per PFF). In fact, Larry Fitzgerald ($7400), while dealing with an ankle injury that we need to monitor, projects as the best WR-CB matchup of Week 10. Floyd is well integrated into the Arizona offense now, prolific as it is, with a touchdown catch in each of his last three games and over 100 receiving yards in Week 8.
DeMaryius Thomas $7900: I was tempted to put Peyton Manning ($7700) up there in the QB section, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. The Chiefs are a great matchup for opposing receivers, though, allowing more fantasy points to the position than anyone. Manning’s numbers are limited by his interceptions, but that doesn’t mean his receivers can’t meet value. When it comes to picking between Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders ($7800), most people will gravitate to Sanders thanks to his catching more touchdowns, but I’ll take the volume with Thomas and trust that the TDs will come.
Julius Thomas $5400: The Jaguars get to face the Baltimore Ravens this week, a five star matchup for Blake Bortles and his receivers. Lost in the hustle to secure DFS lineup spots for Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns (if healthy) is Thomas. I still believe they want him as a red zone threat and while the Ravens have good defensive numbers against the TE position, they largely come from whom they’ve faced. If Hurns is out, I think Thomas is a great play, but even if not, there should be enough volume to go around as no one has struggled to get down the field and score on these Ravens.
Jimmy Graham $6000: The Cardinals defense is one of the best in the league. They’ve even lost the stigma of not defending TE well this year, though Gary Barnidge just scored the first TE touchdown against them before the bye (on 7 catches for 53 yards). Graham is no longer a safe play for a variety of reasons related to scheme and Russell Wilson having a disappointing season, but we did see him haul in seven passes for 75 yards before the Seahawks’ bye week. He hasn’t been the red zone threat that I and others imagined him to be, but to be fair the Seahawks haven’t had so many red zone chances. I still believe in his upside and you can bet the ownership will be very low this week especially.
Oakland Raiders $4400: Get away from the Panthers, Broncos, Rams and even Cardinals defenses, and you’re not left with much. If Teddy Bridgewater is out, I think the Raiders D could make for a decent play. I’d temper expectations because they’re not an elite unit (9 INT, 7 forced fumbles, just 15 sacks), but Shaun Hill isn’t a great quarterback and Oakland’s offense has been good enough to control this game. Vegas has it as one of the lower scoring games on the week and if you’re taking a risk on a defense, it’s better to do it on a home team.