8 contrarian DFS picks for Week 15
“I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett
Oh man, what a month! Being contrarian hasn’t looked this good since hoarding Beanie Babies was considered a sound investment strategy. The only help the chalk has given you these past four weeks has been in outlining the corpses of your dead lineups. Last week, the most-owned running backs were LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin, Shaun Draughn, and Thomas Rawls. None of these players returned value on either site. The most-owned tight ends (Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Greg Olsen), also failed to live up to their massive ownership. The most-owned quarterback, Jameis Winston, crashed-and-burned as well.
What was interesting, last week, was the reminder of how just one injury can change a game completely. Last week, I was off the entire Seattle passing game. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin were both fairly highly-owned. With Baltimore starting Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, I didn’t think Wilson would ever get put in a position where he needed to throw the ball. I figured they’d get up by a score or two early and then just run Thomas Rawls down their throats. However, when Rawls went down with an injury in the first quarter, Wilson continued his hot streak and ran the score up to a 29 point differential. I was wrong, but it was good process.
A similar thing happened in the Steelers/Bengals game. Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers were all highly-owned. A lot of people thought the game would be a high-scoring shootout – and I did too. However, after Andy Dalton went down in the first quarter and A.J. McCarron struggled as his replacement, the Steelers abandoned the passing game and just kept feeding the ball to DeAngelo Williams. This killed a high-number of lineups that had Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant.
This just highlights how difficult predicting an NFL game can be and why we, as contrarians, want to have anti-fragile lineups. We want to be able to capitalize on the chaos and randomness inherent to the sport. Last week, no one was on Ryan Fitzpatrick, despite his hot-streak and his good matchup, because everyone thought the Jets would blow-out the Titans. Chris Ivory, being the most-likely benefactor of such a gamescript, was considered the better play. Instead, we recommended you play Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. While, perhaps, Chris Ivory was the more plausible play, due to Fitzpatrick’s low-ownership (and several other factors we mentioned last week), it was worth adding shares. This worked in our favor and gave us a unique roster considering so few others had him in their lineups.
It’s important to remember, the goal in GPPs is not to score the most points but beat our opponents. Each week we need to balance what everyone else thinks is most likely to occur (ownership) with what we might gain if the majority is wrong. This week, Russell Wilson was 23.7 percent owned on FanDuel’s Thursday slate. Doug Baldwin was 37.4 percent owned and Tyler Lockett was the second-most owned receiver right after him at 14.9 percent. No matter how likely that might be to happen, we’re better off fading the Seattle passing attack. If they disappoint this week, we gain a massive advantage on potentially over a third of all GPP lineups this week.
The contrarian plays we like this week are:
Tom Brady (5.5%) – The Patriots have the highest implied point total this week (30.5 points), Belichick has a reputation of running the score up on his opponents, and the Patriots’ power back who isn’t used in the passing game has just been put on IR, and yet, for some reason, everyone seems to think this is going to be Brandon Bolden’s Jonas Gray-game. I mean, it could be. The Patriots are 14 point favorites against the Titans. However, it could almost just as easily be a game where Brady throws for 300 yards and four touchdowns. This goes back to what we’ve just talked about, it isn’t always about what is most likely to happen. It’s about balancing upside with the possibility of occurrence and ownership.
Still, I think Brady having a monster-game is a fairly likely potential outcome. Tennessee’s secondary has given up the most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns over the past six weeks. For the season, Tennessee is giving up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Belichick, still fighting for a playoff bye, will take this game seriously. Brady, who is still the No. 1 scoring player in all of fantasy this season, will have both his floor and ceiling bolstered by James White, as an extension of the running game, and the return of Rob Gronkowski. It’s criminal to see Brady, who has finished among the top-5 highest scorers at his position six times, at a sub-6-percent ownership when Vegas is predicting a four-touchdown game.
Derek Carr (0.9%) – As three point underdogs with Vegas’ fourth-highest over/under of the week, I like the potential of both quarterbacks in a game that I think will be a high-scoring shootout. It’s a tough call, but I’ll give the edge to Carr here based on ownership, price, and the fact that Green Bay’s top corner, Sam Shields, is out with a concussion. Shields is our No. 26-graded corner in coverage this year. Due to a shoulder injury, Shields played just 11 snaps between Week 8 and Week 9. During that time, the Packers gave up 340 passing yards to Peyton Manning (his most this season) and 354 total yards and 4 touchdowns to Cam Newton.
Carr is fantasy’s No. 12 quarterback this season and has finished among the top-6 fantasy scorers at his position five times. With a hyper-deflated ownership percentage, due to the fact that he’s coming off of two straight tough matchups against Kansas City and Denver, his ceiling and price are too appetizing to pass up on this week. My favorite stacking option for Carr is Michael Crabtree at only 2.1 percent ownership, but Cooper is also in play here.
Devonta Freeman (6.4%) – Freeman had his first disappointing game of the season last week, but he’s still fantasy’s No. 1 running back. Prior to last week, since being named the starter (and excluding the game he left early after suffering a concussion), here’s how he’s finished for fantasy in every game he’s played thus far: RB1, RB1, RB1, RB17, RB5, RB9, RB6. In games he’s started and finished, he’s averaging 18.7 carries, 85 yards, 7.2 targets, six receptions, 48.3 receiving yards, and 1.1 touchdowns per game. The Jaguars are currently giving up the tenth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, the second-most receptions, and the sixth-most receiving yards. As a high-volume, matchup-proof, running back (who is used heavily in the passing game) in Vegas’ third-highest scoring game of the week, I’ll gladly pay up to be contrarian here and chase Freeman’s elite upside.
Javorius Allen (1.6%) – Due to a surprisingly low ownership off of a tough game against the Seahawks, Allen, at only 1.6 percent owned, makes for a great GPP-play on full PPR sites. Last week’s disappointing performance was to be expected, as the Seahawks have been allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Still, over the last four weeks, Allen ranks second in points among running backs (PPR), first in targets (29), and second in receiving yards (222). While his matchup against the Chiefs is not much easier, Kansas City being without its third-highest graded run stopper, Justin Houston, helps. It’s hard to pass up on that kind of usage given his price and ownership.
Demaryius Thomas (2.7%) – The Broncos passing attack has not been good, but if there were a spot for it to improve it’d be this week against the Steelers. The Steelers are giving up the second-most passing yards per game and the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Since Osweiler has taken over at quarterback, Thomas ranks seventh in targets and is being targeted on 24 percent of Osweiler’s attempts.
While he’s disappointed this season, Thomas is still a top talent and has elite big-play ability. Luckily for him, the Steelers have been hemorrhaging big plays all season. Steelers’ cornerback, Antwon Blake, who although has been demoted, is still playing on over half of his team’s snaps and has given up longs of 80, 66, 44, 42, 40, and 38 and the most touchdowns among corners (7) this season. If there were a week for Thomas to capitalize on his near-11 targets per game average and his heavy red zone usage (he ranks fifth in red zone targets over the past five weeks), it would be this week. The ownership and reduced-price on all major sites makes him one of my favorite GPP-plays this week.
Jarvis Landry (4.5%) – I expected Landry to be one of the most-highly owned wide receivers this week, even on FanDuel, so this one surprised me. Since Week 9, Landry’s target totals in each game have been 13, 11, 6, 16, 5, and 17. Week 11’s target total of six is concerning, but he did pop up on an injury report the next week with a knee injury. The five targets in Week 13 are concerning too, but Tannehill also only threw the ball 19 times in that game. Landry typically plays 100 percent (or very near-100 percent) of his team’s snaps. Last week, he was in and out of the game after re-aggravating that knee injury. Despite only playing 46 of his team’s 70 snaps, he still racked up a whopping 17 targets. He practiced on Friday and is probable for Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
It is unlikely San Diego’s top corner, Jason Verrett, moves to the slot to shadow Landry, as Verrett has lined up in the slot on only 10 percent of his routes in coverage this season. So while Verrett is tasked with covering DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills, Landry gets to set to take on Craig Mager, a third round rookie, who has 60 career snaps to his name. If that sounds like a mismatch to you, that’s because it is. Landry is fantasy’s No. 9 receiver this year, but his price and ownership still hasn’t adjusted. Landry makes up an astounding 29 percent off his team’s red zone targets and also contributes on punt and kick returns. Normally I wouldn’t mention special teams production just because the chance of scoring a touchdown and adding six points to your lineup is so hard to predict, but the Chargers are our lowest-graded team on special teams. I’ll have Landry in a number of lineups this week.
Heath Miller (1.8%) – Vegas gives Roethlisberger and the Steelers the seventh-highest implied point total of the week, despite the fact that they’re going up against a defense allowing the fewest passing yards per game and the third fewest rushing yards per game. While the Steelers might have the best wide receiving corps in the league, Denver has three corners ranking among our 25-highest in coverage. Where Denver has been somewhat vulnerable, is to the tight end position, where they’re giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Due to a rib injury, Miller only played 30 of 81 snaps against the Seahawks in Week 12. Still, Roethlisberger locked in on Miller, targeting him six times for five receptions and 45 yards. His next week back, last week, Miller was targeted 10 times, catching 10 passes for 66 yards. Given the usage, price, and ownership, he’s a great play in GPPs.
Gary Barnidge (3.5%) – Brian Hartline, who has 50 receptions in his last five games, will not play this week. Barnidge has 15 targets, 11 catches, 149 yards, and two touchdowns in his last two games with Manziel under center. The Seahawks, like the Broncos, are strong everywhere but to tight ends. They’re giving up the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs and the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, but the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. They’ve allowed just 11 touchdowns through the air this season, but seven of those have been to tight ends. If the Browns do anything this week, it will likely be because of Barnidge, fantasy’s No. 2-scoring tight end.