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.
Alex Smith $7000: Who’s playing the Ravens is my first look at QB most weeks but when I see that it’s a low ceiling player like Smith, my enthusiasm is slightly decreased. I think it’s a great week to pay up at QB, as all the top tier guys get favorable matchups and there is enough value around to make it happen. If you want to differentiate your lineup and save some money, Smith and Ryan are my choices. The Ravens allow the second-most fantasy points to QBs and the most to wide receivers. Smith is rushing for around 35 yards per game to boost his floor and hasn’t scored fewer than 13 FanDuel points since Week 2. He could easily have his best game of the year as the Chiefs are playing really solid football right now.
Matt Ryan $7200: Ryan is coming off his worst game of the year, something that it guaranteed to keep his ownership low this week. He’s an up and down QB and it’s important to remember that the big games are lurking in there. The Falcons game with the Jaguars is one of the week’s highest scoring and Vegas has it close with the Falcons the slight underdog. Ryan is attempting 40+ passes per game and the real fault with his game for DFS is the lack of touchdowns and interceptions. With Jacksonville allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Ryan could be in for a surprisingly good game for those who trust him in Week 15.
Jeremy Hill $6000: I’ll write up A.J. McCarron in my Bargain Bin article, but I really think the Bengals will be foolish to rely on him too heavily. They’re in a good spot, playoff-wise, but would obviously like to lock up a bye if possible to give Andy Dalton a chance to get back on the field. Enter Hill, who saw just seven carries in Week 14. Giovanni Bernard wasn’t very involved either as the Steelers dominated time of possession and the scoreboard. Hill has been too limited for too long to be very highly owned, but if he’s ever going to bust out with the 100 yard, 2 TD game, this should be it. San Francisco allows the MOST fantasy points to opposing running backs. For reference, they just made Isaiah Crowell look like Barry Sanders...
Latavius Murray $5900: Pretty much forgotten for DFS after a medium-hot start to the season, Murray is in a good spot to surprise some people this weekend. Oakland has struggled in both phases of the game recently, and hasn’t surpassed 25 points since Week 9. They take on Green Bay in Oakland this week, and don’t forget the Packers just allowed Darren McFadden to run all over them. Murray has consistently seen around 18 carries per game and has the advantage of being the workhorse back in Oakland. I like him a lot for tournaments this week.
Julio Jones $8600: A close, high scoring game with a weak secondary could be just what Julio Jones needs to bounce back. His price has dropped along with his production after four touchdown-less weeks. With a player like Jones, it’s not just the matchup, it’s the talent you’re believing in. Matt Ryan (see above) is still capable of getting him the ball on occasion and there is no better occasion than now against the Jags.
Alshon Jeffery $7900 I don’t typically like to target the Vikings defense, one of the top rated by PFF overall, but Mike Clay loves the projected cornerback matchup with Trae Waynes (fourth-best WR-CB matchup). The volume combined with his talent in a bad matchup on paper makes Jeffrey a sneaky play this week. He has been dealing with a sore calf early this week, so keep an eye on the injury report, but I would be shocked if he weren’t out there Sunday.
Antonio Gates $5800: Despite the atrocity that was the Chargers offense in Week 14, Gates managed 6/76 against the Chiefs top-two rated TE defense. Back at home in San Diego, where the Chargers and Gates have played better this season, and with Philip Rivers healthy, Gates should be able to do at least that much again. There simply are no options in this SD receiving game and I like Gates to not only move the ball down the field but to finally get back in the end zone this weekend.
Richard Rodgers $5500: I love the matchup for Aaron Rodgers this weekend and don’t mind paying up for him. When I do, I’ll be pairing him with Richard Rodgers, red zone target extraordinaire. He’s caught 69% of his 16 red zone targets for seven touchdowns this season. Oakland has allowed 11 TDs to opposing TEs this season, and while most of those came prior to Week 11, that’s still a glaring weakness that the Packers should look to exploit.
Pittsburgh Steelers $4600: The Steelers are at home, fighting to clinch a wild-card spot and facing a Denver Broncos team that gives up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. The Broncos have 23 turnovers on the season, which combined with the Steelers 24 takeaways makes for the best ratio of the week (tied with the Jets, who play Saturday and are another favored option if you’re playing a slate that includes that game). While I think that Brock Osweiler, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders hold value this week, I also think that mistakes will be made and that is where the Steelers can capitalize, with their pass rush that has resulted in 35 sacks this season (fifth-most in the league).
Atlanta Falcons $4400: I would like the Falcons a bit more if they were at home, but even on the road against division rival Jacksonville, they’re worth a look. The Jaguars give up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, including 21 turnovers and Atlanta has been above average in the takeaway department with 20 combined interceptions/fumble recoveries. While Atlanta doesn’t have a strong pass rush, the Jaguars have allowed Blake Bortles to be sacked 39 times (fifth-most). Many people avoid high scoring games for defense, but a close shootout is also a perfect recipe for Blake Bortles to throw a pick or three against the Falcon’s strong secondary.