Week 1 is in the rearview mirror. As always, there were games that played out as we thought they would and some that didn't go quite accroding to plan. Many foresaw the Patriots being properly motivated for Week 1 and they delivered to the delight of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski owners everywhere. The Philadelphia Eagles were a trendy pick last week due to the explosive potential of their offense. While some members of the Eagles had acceptable fantasy performances, overall the team failed to deliver the anticipated fireworks.
The first week of the regular season can be tough as we’re basing some of our assumptions on data from last year and trying to project how new faces in new places will mesh in their new environments. Another challenge? Time, for two reasons. First, we have plenty of time to research and tweak our lineups which can sometimes lead to information overload and second-guessing. Second, by the time Week 1 is set to kick off we have had weeks of analysis on must-plays and can’t-miss rookies drilled into our heads. No matter how strong your convictions are about going against the grain and not following the crowd, the more you hear a particular nugget of information the more it becomes ingrained into your thought patterns.
That’s where a little contrarian thinking comes into play. Davante Adams and Greg Olsen are two examples of players who were tagged with the dreaded must-start labels for Week 1. How’d their first week turn out? On the other hand, Chris Ivory was a popular selection for Week 1 and he provided a great return for his owners. The key for our decisions is context. Using Greg Olsen as an example and having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we can look back and see why it made sense not to play him in Week 1. The Panthers have problems at the wide receiver position with the loss of Kelvin Benjamin, leading to the logical conclusion that Olsen will become option number one in the passing game. However, the same problems at wide receiver will cause Olsen to receive a ton of attention from opposing defenders. Couple that with a game plan that did not call his number often and we have a recipe for a poor fantasy performance.
Contrarian thinking tries to be ahead of the curve and help you pivot away from the trendy picks with confidence. Finding the correct hidden gems for the week can make a ton of difference in large tournaments like this week’s $10M Millionaire Maker on DraftKings. Let’s go through each position and try to find some players that might fly under the radar and help separate our lineups from the pack, starting with the quarterbacks.
Teddy Bridgewater, $6,400
Bridgewater and the Vikings are coming off of an awful MNF performance that exposed the team’s offensive line issues for the world to see. The team could get nothing going offensively and scored a total of three points. Why roster Bridgewater then? Ownership percentage, bounce back opportunity and price. With such a poor performance on national television, Bridgewater will not be on many people’s radar for this week. While the offensive line issues will not be solved overnight, the team will adapt and make due with the personnel at hand. A solid offensive coordinator like Norv Turner can surely devise a scheme around quick passes to keep Bridgewater intact and get the offense moving. Look for the Vikings to bounce back in their home opener and for Bridgewater to pay a nice return on his low price.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, $5,500
While the Jets were running all over the Browns on Sunday, Fitzpatrick quietly put together an efficient day. He completed 15 of 24 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Touchdowns were completed to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who would be regarded as one of the better wide receiver duos if not for the constant distractions that surround the Jets. The Jets travel to Indianapolis as a seven point underdog this week. If the game follows along the projected script, the running game will become less prevalent as the Jets try to come from behind. At $5,500, Fitzpatrick represents a contrarian and a value pick all rolled into one.
Bishop Sankey, $4,500
Sankey spent most of the offseason hearing whispers and rumblings that his job as the lead back in Tennessee was in jeopardy. While he’s not out of the woods yet, he did turn in a solid performance in Week 1 by rushing for 71 yards and touchdown and adding on two catches for 12 yards and another score. Marcus Mariota will be one of the flavors of the week after his stellar debut last Sunday, but the Browns defense figures to pose a stiffer test for the passing game than the Buccaneers did last week. Fade the rookie quarterback and pivot to Sankey, a lead back at a great price.
Darren Sproles, $3,500
Sproles trailed only Demarco Murray in carries on Monday Night and came in second on the team in targets behind Jordan Mathews. He appears to be the third option in the offense and for $3,500 provides tremendous value. We have a game with the highest over/under of the week at 55 points and a matchup with a Cowboys team that could be in line for a letdown after a thrilling last-minute win against the Giants. Sproles provides an opportunity to gain exposure to a potentially high-scoring game at a bargain basement price. Jump on him before he stops flying under the radar and his price increases.
Brandon Marshall, $6,400
A complement for one of our contrarian quarterbacks, Marshall provides intriguing upside this week. In a game where we project the Jets to be coming from behind we’ll want some exposure to the quarterback’s number one target. Marshall was targeted a team-high nine times last week en route to six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. There is the risk that he could be blanketed by Vontae Davis who successfully shut down Sammy Watkins last week. But Marshall received similar attention from Joe Haden last week and was still able to produce. The duo of Fitzpatrick and Marshall could be an interesting sleeper stack for Week 2.
Davante Adams, $4,900
Adams ownership percentage should plummet after he burned so many DFSers last week. Four catches for 59 yards was not the expected production for one of Week 1’s ‘must-starts.’ Alas, we need to have a short memory in DFS and treat each week as its own puzzle with new pieces. Sunday’s opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, is coming off of a surprising loss in which they allowed Nick Foles to throw for 297 yards and a touchdown. What do you suppose Aaron Rodgers may accumulate if afforded similar opportunity? Look for Adams to be more productive in Week 2 and for Rodgers to hopefully look his way in the end zone as opposed to James Jones.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, $4,100
The lack of faith in Jameis Winston after the debacle that was his debut will cause people to shy away from Sefarian-Jenkins. But they shouldn’t. He was second on the team in targets last week with seven en route to his solid five catch, 110-yard and two touchdown performance. Even with the expected return of Mike Evans this week he will still receive his fair share of targets. The Buccaneers are a 10-point underdog against the Saints and will more than likely be throwing all day to keep pace. Sefarian-Jenkins may not score two touchdowns again, but he could be more than productive enough with catches and yardage to provide a nice return on his low price.
Jordan Reed, $3,700
The Redskins are a mess and just lost top wide receiver DeSean Jackson to injury. Reed led the team in targets last week with 11 as he caught seven passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. As long as he stays healthy, Reed will continue to be heavily targeted in the offense. A strong defensive opponent like the Rams this week will cause many to look past Reed while constructing their rosters. However, the Rams did allow 31 points against the Seahawks last week and Jimmy Graham was able to snag six balls for 51 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins and Reed will never be confused with the Seahawks and Graham respectively, but Reed could compile a similar amount of stats. That would place him at 4.6x value, an awesome return for a low-priced tight end.
New England Patriots, $2,900
While their opponents are the talk of the league for their defensive prowess, the Patriots defense will fly under the radar for this week. The Bills were certainly impressive last week and will be one of the top units of 2015, but for this week I’ll take my chances on the Patriots outperforming them. The Patriots will have had 10 days to prepare for the Bills. Belichick has consistently made life miserable for inexperienced quarterbacks and I would expect nothing less this week. Pivot off of the popular choices for this week and fly under the radar with the Patriots for $2,900.
Minnesota Vikings, $2,800
Similar to their quarterback mentioned above, look for the Vikings defense to bounce back in the home opener. They are facing a Lions team that is coming off of a crushing defeat to the Chargers that may take a little while to shake off. Somewhat of a hunch, but the Vikings defense will need to step it up while the team sorts through its issues on offense. For $2,800, they deserve consideration as a contrarian play.
That takes care of the Contrarian for Week 2. When constructing your rosters this weekend, keep these plays in mind as possible hidden gems to help you climb up the leader board in one of the huge tournaments on DraftKings. Best of luck this weekend!