There are several reasons you might not want to roster a certain player in a given week of NFL DFS. 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.
So, in the Divisional Round, I’m fading:
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans at Kansas City
Fading last week’s highest scoring QB might be strange, but I’m laser-focused on Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson this week. The savings you get with Watson just aren’t great enough to trust him on the road against an improved KC pass defense. By the end of the season, the Chiefs were ranked seventh in overall defense (points allowed) and eighth in pass defense. I think the Chiefs will have no trouble sustaining drives and eating up clock here too, which should be a major strategy against Watson and Co. Moreover, if Houston gets down big, they’ll be in obvious pass-happy game script mode, rendering Watson more vulnerable to pressure (remember he was sacked often during the regular season, and Buffalo got to him SEVEN times last week).
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans at Kansas City
To continue the anti-Texans theme, I’m also not paying up for Hopkins. I think wide receivers are priced pretty interestingly this weekend and there are a few I don’t mind saving on. Hopkins is priced just under Davante Adams, another guy I’m on the fence about given the freezing weather in Green Bay. Maybe the Chiefs won’t be able to contain Hopkins any better than the Bills were ultimately able to, but they allowed opposing wide receivers the second-fewest fantasy points during the regular season, a better mark than Buffalo had. Again, I think the Chiefs will dominate this game on offense, giving Watson and Hopkins fewer chances to make their magic.
Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs. Tennessee
Count me officially scared of the Titans. There are a lot of ‘ifs’, mainly if Derrick Henry can continue to dominate in a super-human fashion but also if Ryan Tannehill can connect with A.J. Brown, but when they are clicking, they are a scary-good team. To boot, their defense has steadily improved all season. Anyway, I’m impressed with the Ravens Defense, but not enough to spend all the way up on them this week. Tennessee has too many ways to move the ball, without making a ton of mistakes, and I think the game is a lot closer than the current spread indicates.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco
Diggs is off the injury report so that’s not my concern here. With Adam Thielen still listed as questionable, Diggs stock has undoubtedly come up, but I’m off them both. Honestly, I just don’t trust the Minnesota passing game and Kirk Cousins. I’m stubborn, I guess. But Cousins is conservative. He’s not a high volume nor high touchdown passer. Plus, there is a lot of competition for targets. Similar to the situation in Kansas City, I think San Francisco will attempt to dominate time of possession and while I think a closer game may be on tap here, Minnesota is more likely to run the offense through Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison again.
Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota
I know the 49ers are going to run the ball, but I believe they will continue to go with the hot hand strategy, giving both Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman opportunities. The Vikings run defense is a good unit; this team ranked 21st in fantasy points allowed to running backs. This is a situation where the committee is more scary than usual, because switching up backs keeps everyone fresh and doesn’t give the defense a chance to get used to one certain style of rush. Basically, I think it’s a crapshoot who breaks the big play(s) in this game. Therefore, it’s either fade them all or hedge with them all. Of course, Mostert’s salary is the highest so it’s hardest to do that with him.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay
It’s easy to feel trapped when trying to choose a tight end. It’s impossible to argue against Kelce or George Kittle; both have the talent and target share you want. The only reason to not use one of them is ownership concerns. I’m scuttling mine 90 percent of the time and just going with what looks like the sure thing. When I’m saving in a contrarian way, I favor Jimmy Graham over Rudolph (Seattle has their strengths, but stopping the TE is not one of them). Rudolph did catch a touchdown last week, but it hasn’t exactly been a reliable performance this season. Both Diggs and Thielen appear to be on track to play, and both Minnesota backs are capable receivers, not to mention talented rookie Irv Smith Jr. There are a lot of hands to feed on a conservative passing offense.
In the first round of the playoffs, players with high expected ownership are Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Damien Williams, George Kittle, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, and Travis Kelce. 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 popular 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.