There are several reasons you might not want to roster a certain player in a given week of NFL DFS. To truly be a “fade”, in my opinion the player has to be projected to have decent ownership, e.g. no one is “fading” a WR4 on the LA Rams. I’ll always provide the argument for and against a player in this column.
Also, fading a player doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have zero exposure. If you’re a DFS player who plays on multiple sites with multiple lineups in various contests, fading might mean you use that player in just one or two tournament lineups while other DFS players are using him in a majority of their lineups.
In the case where you want to fade a player due to projected high ownership (see more on this below), perhaps you fade him in tournaments but continue to roster him in cash games. Having an idea of whom you don’t want to roster as well as whom you do makes navigating salary decisions in the lineup construction process a little bit easier.
FanDuel Fades Wild Card Weekend
In the playoffs, all the teams are good and good teams generally are made up of good players, so there aren’t many ‘talent fades’. Teams have done their best to get key players healthy (Lamar Miller) for this week and beyond, and no one will be half-assing it out there with the season on the line. So there aren’t many ‘injury fades’ either. With only four games on the docket, I will be making fewer lineups than normal. A case can be made for some of the players I’m fading, but I find that the more lineups you make, the more you deviate from optimality, and open yourself up to some very low floor players. Fewer games means less room for error in DFS contests. The players below are a few of those I think can derail your lineups, and if your only excuse for rostering them is to differentiate your lineups from the masses, I encourage you to think again.
Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree: I don’t trust Connor Cook to make either of the Raiders’ receivers exceedingly valuable this week. He wasn’t terrible against the league’s best defense last week, throwing 21 times for 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but will be on the road in Houston, a top-five defense (in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and wide receivers ) for his first NFL start. If you’re forced to use one of them, it’s Cooper for me, because as I said last week, he’s the star receiver and if anyone can make Cook/Matt McGloin look good, it’s him.
Zach Zenner: Zenner may be the lead back in Detroit, and he may have looked good in the role over the final two games of the regular season, but I think a playoff game in Seattle will be a harsh reality check for Zenner. The Seahawks allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs during the regular season, making them the worst RB matchup of the weekend. Given how good Seattle is at home on both sides of the ball, I think it likely that Detroit will at some point—fairly early on—abandon the run game and derail any chance Zenner had at reaching value (which will be harder to do at his increased salary).
Aaron Rodgers: I know what Rodgers has done over the past two months, and how good he is in the cold, but cold does hurt mobility and it’s going to be in single digits in Green Bay Sunday afternoon (wind chill below zero). Furthermore, as good as Rodgers has been, the Giants pass defense has been equally, if not more, spectacular down the stretch. They are second only to Denver in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks this season. While they’ll be affected by the cold too, it’s advantage defense in this situation. Don’t forget, Rodgers could pull off a good performance and still not reach value at his price. For just a little bit less salary, I’ll take Ben Roethlisberger in the slightly warmer temps, also at home, but facing the fourth-best pass defense in terms of fantasy points allowed. This is an example of looking for the easiest way to get fantasy points in a small slate.
And one dilemma that DFSers face if they go cheap at QB:
Brock Osweiler or Matt Moore? If you want Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jordy Nelson, you’re going to have to save somewhere. The choice between these two quarterbacks is a decision I’ve given a lot of thought to this week. Moore has been the more talented player in his three starts—all against AFC East teams, where he racked up eight touchdowns, three interceptions and an average of 220 yards per game. Osweiler, with a huge free agent contract, lost his job mid-season to Tom Savage after averaging 12.3 fantasy points per game. He’s starting now only because Savage was concussed in the meaningless Week 17 finale. Osweiler made his fantasy day last week on a one-yard touchdown run, literally giving him his best fantasy stats of the entire season in relief of the injured Savage.
However, delving deeper, Osweiler will have better weather conditions in Houston, a better defensive matchup (Oakland was a top-10 matchup for QBs), and home field advantage. Moore faces a Steelers team that is exceptional in Pittsburgh, temperatures in the teens (wind chill of zero), and a defense that ranked 28th in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.
Still, I give the nod to Moore for two reasons. First, I think he has played in the cold, can handle the pressure and is the more experienced/capable back up of the two. Second, I think Pittsburgh’s superiority at home will force Moore to throw the ball more to keep pace. If he can avoid making mistakes, he could be in for a two touchdown, 300-yard game. Given that Oakland is expected to struggle mightily behind Connor Cook, I think Houston will have the luxury of relying heavily on Lamar Miller this weekend. Miller is the Texan to own in DFS this week.
In Wild Card weekend, players with high projected ownership are Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and Lamar Miller. I think Game Theory is useful in DFS to an extent; obviously we can’t all win with the same players. But time and again it’s proven that big GPP winners can and do win with chalk plays in their lineups. One or two highly owned players that live up to their expectations (e.g. score a ton of points) won’t hurt you nearly as much as fading those guys in favor of lower-owned, lesser-producing players will. The trick is to find the low-owned, productive guys to mix in around them.