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. We also have a lot of situations in flux in Week 11. New quarterbacks, shifting roles/targets, injuries, injuries, injuries. There are some misperceptions out there that can be exploited this week.
Matthew Stafford $7000: The Lions are one of those teams that everyone has written off. No run game, Calvin Johnson done/not worth the price, Stafford is terrible. The fact is they’ve faced a brutal schedule and all those things I said are true. Could they be related? Of course. Could they be unrelated? Of course. Using Stafford is risky, but if there was ever a time, this is it. Oakland’s passing defense is exploitable; they allow the sixth most fantasy points to opposing QBs and are pretty tough against the run. Outside of his 12 interceptions, Stafford also hasn’t been as bad as you think. He ranks 12th in passing yards, with 258 PaYds per game. Vegas has this as a high scoring, close game, making both QBs here intriguing options.
Philip Rivers $8300: Rivers comes off the bye week as the league’s #2 passer with over 3000 PaYds already. The problem is that his FanDuel price reflects that. The other problem is that he’s seriously down receivers and Melvin Gordon hasn’t found his groove yet in this offense. We can also expect the argument of why pay $8300 for Rivers when you can pay less for Matt Ryan in a great matchup or Carson Palmer, who is matchup-proof? So I think he’ll be low-owned for those reasons, plus the Chiefs passing defense has been great the past few weeks. They’ve faced some far lesser options than Rivers over that span however. The argument is simple…Rivers has found a way to get it done just about every week so far. Bad matchups are beatable (ask Jeremy Langford and Charcandrick West owners), and I think Rivers is a guy to do it this weekend.
Lamar Miller $7400: Miller has been one of the best (PFF’s fourth best in fact) running backs this season. There’s talk of Miami getting more work for Jay Ajayi and I think that knocks down Miller’s ownership this week in a great matchup with Dallas. The Cowboys have allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs, including a healthy amount through the air. I’m not letting the Ajayi news scare me off; what is good for the Dolphins isn’t necessarily bad for Miller. He’s averaging 4.9 YPC and has the 8th most receiving yards among RBs.
Latavius Murray $6800: Murray also gets a tasty matchup this weekend with the Lions, who have surrendered 11 rushing touchdowns already this season. Murray had the concussion, then has face three formidable defenses in Minnesota, Pittsburgh and the Jets. Ugh. I think he’s talented and will see his opportunities increase this week. It’s a good time to get in at this price in a situation where he could easily reach value.
Mike Evans $8000: The focus is all on his drops (11, leading all WR by a full three drops), unless it’s on his lack of touchdowns (1 TD) but Mike Evans has caught 8 passes for over 120 yards in three of his last four games. Touchdowns are hard to predict. Usage and volume aren’t, and Evans ranks 9th in targets amongst WR. It doesn’t explain or excuse the drops, but it’s also not like we get penalized for drops so… This week Evans and Jameis Winston take on the Eagles, who allow the fourth most fantasy point to opposing WR. He is a tournament only play for me, but the upside is high.
Michael Crabtree $6500: Teammate Amari Cooper is actually second in drops, not that I’m obsessed or anything. The price gap between Crabtree and Cooper is closing. Cooper had the better day last week, but that’s not saying much as the whole offense struggled in bad weather against a good Vikings defense. Crabtree has been terrific the past few weeks and his price is more than fair in a high scoring, above average fantasy matchup with the Lions, who are also ranked negatively by PFF in pass coverage. I expect Derek Carr and the Raiders to bounce back this week.
Rob Gronkowski $8400: Everyone and their mother (or maybe father in this case?) will be rostering Danny Amendola this week, and I agree he’s a fine value receiver this week. Gronkowski is the heart of this offense though and the combination of his talent, the matchup, the high Vegas line, and the decimated nature of the rest of the receiving corps makes him worth this ridiculous salary. He’ll be more popular than some of the other players on this list, but still underowned relative to his value.
Jason Witten $5500: The return of Tony Romo this week could be beneficial for Witten. Romo likes him, we know that, and the matchup is fine; relatively high scoring, average fantasy points allowed to TE by the Dolphins. I’ve essentially written the Cowboys off for fantasy and I think I’m not alone, which should keep Witten’s ownership extremely low. 6/70/1 would not surprise me at all.
I don’t have a real contrarian defense for you. There are too many choices! The ones you want are Seattle, Denver, Carolina, Atlanta, Baltimore, maybe Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Either due to their own prowess or the lack of prowess they’ll face in quarterbacks like Case Keenum or Mark Sanchez, I expect all of these to perform reasonably well and have their ownership distributed.