Being a good contrarian player isn’t just about taking random, low owned shots and hoping one hits. It’s a lot more targeted than that. A good contrarian play differentiates your lineup from the rest of the field for the right reasons. And those reasons change every week.
This week is like none other in NFL DFS. With a condensed offseason and no preseason games, everyone is sort of flying blind and has led to a lot of groupthink about the best plays. On DraftKings specifically, it seems like ownership is going to center around 4-5 players in tournaments.
Let’s go through the Week 1 slate.
Antonio Gibson leverage?
No running back ran purer this offseason than Antonio Gibson. Without early-down grinders Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson in front of him, Gibson’s path to a rookie breakout is pretty clear. But will it happen right off of the bat in Week 1? Even without Guice and Peterson in the way, Washington will likely carry four running backs on Sunday behind Gibson between Peyton Barber, J.D. McKissic, and Bryce Love. Gibson is minimum priced on DraftKings ($4,000) and will be a staple for most cash games. But, if Gibson is 35-40% owned in tournaments, it’s hard to find the upside in a running back whose floor is only 6-8 touches.
Do you know who else has a similar floor of usage and is the same exact price on DraftKings as Gibson? Chris Thompson. And because the Jaguars running back room is decimated -- Devine Ozigbo is on IR and Ryquell Armstead won’t play (COVID list) -- Thompson is going to get a lot of burn with only James Robinson around to take the early-down carries. Thompson followed former Washington HC Jay Gruden to Jacksonville so there is built up trust there and if the Jags’ get down big, Thompson’s path to 5+ targets is an easy one to make. The Jaguars are massive 7.5-point underdogs against the Colts and if they get down big, Gruden will have no problem using Thompson in a hurry-up role. Before Gruden got fired last year, Thompson was fifth in targets and third in receiving yards among running backs in Week 1-5.
Gibson has more touchdown upside because he’s a far more explosive playmaker, but if we’re just following usage and looking for cheap targets, Thompson is a strong leverage play in tournaments and will likely see 8-10% ownership.
Ignore the matchup and “injury” for Kenyan Drake
A lot of people are going to look at Kenyan Drake’s matchup and the fact that he was in a walking boot a few weeks ago and be scared to play him. Don’t be fooled. Drake isn’t even on the Cardinals injury report this week and if he gets the same exact role we saw in his final eight games last year, he’s arguably the biggest value at running back on the slate on both DraftKings ($6,400; RB9) and FanDuel ($6,600; RB14).
Arizona made Drake a true bell-cow last season, playing him on 79% of the team’s snaps and giving him 85% of the running back carries in Week 9-17. Both of these figures would have ranked top-6 at the position over the full season. What makes Drake so enticing this week despite the bad matchup against an amazing 49ers defense is that he’s pretty much bulletproof if the Cardinals do get behind on the scoreboard. A nice 69% of Drake’s targets (24-of-35) came when Arizona was trailing last year so if HC Kliff Kingsbury does have to abandon the run, Drake can still be productive.
The Cardinals were also one of the few teams to have success on the ground against the 49ers last year, as Drake averaged 5.7 yards per carry against them. All other backs facing the 49ers averaged 4.3 YPC. Because Arizona plays a ton out of 3- and 4-WR setts, they’re one of the few teams uniquely positioned to force defenses out of their base packages and see light defensive boxes when they run the ball.
According to FanShare, Drake is 11th ranked running back in their “buzz rating” which captures the fantasy industry’s sentiment. Drake is a great play this week -- especially on FanDuel -- at what should be 9-12% ownership when his cheap price alone should force at least 18-22% ownership regardless of the matchup.
Jamison Crowder show in New York
With the way DraftKings set up pricing this week, most everyone is going to be looking to pay down at wide receiver. Calvin Ridley ($6,100), D.K. Metcalf ($5,800), Terry McLaurin ($5,600), Marquise Brown ($5,100), and DeSean Jackson ($4,900) are all great plays and figure to push over 15% ownership. Marvin Jones ($5,500) will also enter this conversation if Kenny Golladay (hamstring) sits out. I’m definitely going to play at least one of these wideouts in my main lineup this week but Jamison Crowder ($5,200) is just sandwiched in between all of these exciting plays, making him the ultimate leverage play.
No one wants to play any Jets and for good reason. Adam Gase is still the coach. The Bills defense is incredible. The Jets are on the road. And, oh yeah, Gase is still the coach. But, with all of the Jets injuries at receiver, Crowder is positioned to gobble up targets once again as Sam Darnold’s No. 1 target. With Denzel Mims (hamstring) out and Breshad Perriman (knee) limited for most of training camp, the Jets are going to rely heavily on Crowder and Chris Herndon as the focal points of their passing attack. And with all of those exciting, high ceiling plays littered around Crowder in a similar price point -- we could see the Jets’ main target only garner 2-4% ownership. Which is a mistake.
In two games against Buffalo last year, Crowder exploited what was a brutal matchup for nearly everyone else -- putting up 14/99 in Week 1 and 8/66/1 in Week 17 on a whopping 27 targets in two meetings. Even though he doesn’t have near the long TD ability that Hollywood Brown and D-Jax possess at similar price points, Crowder’s high volume / low average depth of target role is uniquely perfect for DraftKings scoring.
Low Owned One-offs and Stacks
Every week, I’ll highlight a few one-off plays or stacks that are flying under the radar:
Joe Burrow stacked with Tyler Boyd -- I typically never want to play rookie QBs early in the year, but this is one situation where it might make sense. I’m definitely concerned that Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will overpower the Bengals offensive line and take over the game, but the loss of Derwin James (knee) is being underrated. Last year, James missed 11 games in which the Chargers allowed 7.5 yards per pass attempt (fifth-most). When James played, opposing teams averaged just 6.8 YPA (ranking 16th). And, like Scott, Proctor, and I talked about on the Week 1 livestream -- Austin Ekeler is going to be a staple of our lineups this week, making this an easy game stack if you want to roll Burrow-Boyd.
Marlon Mack on DraftKings ($5,300) and Jonathan Taylor on FanDuel ($5,400) -- This is a tournament play only obviously, but the Colts run game is going to have success this week. We just have no idea who will have the best game. So, if you want to play a Colts runner at 4-6% ownership -- I’d just roll with the cheapest one depending on the site. Taylor is $300 more than Mack on DK while Mack is $700 more than Taylor on FD. HC Frank Reich has been saying all offseason that this will be a three-man rotation between Taylor, Mack, and Nyheim Hines and he’s been adamant that Mack is still the “starter.” We’ll see how long that lasts. Still, the matchup and game-script should be absolutely perfect for both Colts’ backs here. Mack ripped the Jaguars for 14/109/1 and 15/77/2 in two meetings last season.