NFL Week 7: DFS Contrarian Value

Last week, we posted our first DFS column of the year which examined the recent ruling by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and analyzed how line movement was affecting player value on DraftKings. Although we clearly whiffed by recommending that managers add Eddie Lacy (who struggled mightily) and steer clear of Jimmy Graham (8 receptions, 140 yards) there were a number of selections that we nailed.

We advised managers to remove AJ Green from their lineup, and the Bengals star receiver had his worst game of the season with just 4 receptions for 36 yards. His recommended replacement, Julian Edelman, was significantly better with 6 receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. We also suggested that managers avoid Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry in favor of the less expensive Anquan Boldin. The 49ers receiver responded with 5 receptions for 102 yards while Landry managed just 3 catches for 42 yards (though he did add a 22-yard touchdown run).

With mixed results in our first edition, we wanted to take a different viewpoint to the DFS marketplace and test one of our core philosophies — betting against the public. One of the keys to success in larger tournaments is taking productive players with a low ownership percentage. Although this information isn’t readily available, there are ways to gauge player popularity.

On Thursday nights, FanDuel player ownership percentages are available for tournament players. We decided to analyze the ownership percentages from the $1 Dive which admitted over 4,500 entries. Although it’s not fully representative, it does give us an interesting perspective into the trendiest picks and the players being avoided by bettors.

Once we had determined the most and least popular players, we used Fantasy Labs in order to determine which players were truly offering value. The table below displays the ownership percentages from Thursday night at FanDuel. (Note: DraftKings does not utilize a kicker)

Quarterbacks

Player (Price) % Owned
Philip Rivers ($8.0K) 17.20%
Carson Palmer ($8.2K) 16.50%
Cam Newton ($8.1K) 8.00%
Tom Brady ($9.0K) 6.00%
Blake Bortles ($7.5K) 5.70%
Brian Hoyer ($6.9K) 5.40%
Matthew Stafford ($7.4K) 5.40%
Matt Ryan ($8.1K) 4.30%
Andrew Luck ($8.9K) 3.60%
Landry Jones ($6.0K) 3.50%
Drew Brees ($8.4K) 2.80%
Derek Carr ($6.7K) 2.50%
Ryan Fitzpatrick ($7.1K) 2.30%
Ryan Tannehill ($7.7K) 1.80%
Eli Manning ($7.8K) 1.30%
Jameis Winston ($6.5K) 0.90%

Running Backs

Player (Price) % Owned
Devonta Freeman ($8.7K) 49.90%
Todd Gurley ($7.4K) 31.20%
Doug Martin ($7.2K) 14.60%
Chris Ivory ($7.8K) 12.60%
LeSean McCoy ($7.7K) 11.80%
Le’Veon Bell ($8.9K) 7.80%
Lamar Miller ($6.7K) 6.20%
Latavius Murray ($7.0K) 6.10%
Danny Woodhead ($6.0K) 6.10%
Adrian Peterson ($8.9K) 5.00%
Arian Foster ($8.6K) 4.60%
Frank Gore ($7.1K) 4.40%
Mark Ingram ($7.6K) 3.90%
Dion Lewis ($7.0K) 3.70%
Christine Michael ($5.6K) 3.30%
DeMarco Murray ($7.6K) 2.10%
Chris Johnson ($6.9K) 2.00%
Jonathan Stewart ($6.7K) 1.90%
Justin Forsett ($7.1K) 1.70%
Alfred Morris ($5.6K) 0.50%
Duke Johnson ($5.6K) 0.10%

Wide Receivers

Player % Owned
Larry Fitzgerald ($7.8K) 29.30%
Martavis Bryant ($6.9K) 29.30%
DeAndre Hopkins ($9.2K) 26.40%
John Brown ($6.7K) 16.40%
Stefon Diggs ($5.8K) 15.10%
Travis Benjamin ($6.6K) 11.90%
Donte Moncrief ($6.5K) 11.40%
Amari Cooper ($7.3K) 8.90%
Calvin Johnson ($8.4K) 8.80%
Jarvis Landry ($7.1K) 8.60%
Julio Jones ($9.1K) 8.10%
Eric Decker ($6.2K) 8.00%
T.Y. Hilton ($7.7K) 7.80%
Brandon Marshall ($8.2K) 7.70%
Julian Edelman ($8.0K) 7.70%
Steve Smith ($6.9K) 7.40%
Allen Hurns ($6.9K) 6.20%
Willie Snead ($6.5K) 5.10%
Keenan Allen ($8.1K) 5.00%
Allen Robinson ($7.0K) 4.50%
Antonio Brown ($8.3K) 4.40%
Odell Beckham Jr. ($9.0K) 3.90%
Pierre Garcon ($6.1K) 3.70%
Michael Crabtree ($5.9K) 3.50%
Mike Evans ($7.5K) 2.50%
Brandin Cooks ($6.7K) 2.10%
Malcom Floyd ($5.4K) 2.00%
Terrance Williams ($5.9K) 1.50%
Golden Tate ($6.7K) 1.50%
Jordan Matthews ($6.6K) 1.00%
Jeremy Maclin ($6.9K) 0.70%
Lance Moore ($5.4K) 0.60%

Tight Ends

Player % Owned
Antonio Gates ($5.8K) 34.80%
Greg Olsen ($6.4K) 11.30%
Gary Barnidge ($5.9K) 8.30%
Charles Clay ($5.5K) 6.50%
Benjamin Watson ($5.3K) 5.80%
Rob Gronkowski ($8.1K) 5.00%
Jason Witten ($5.6K) 3.70%
Travis Kelce ($6.0K) 3.50%
Julius Thomas ($5.6K) 2.80%
Delanie Walker ($5.5K) 2.50%
Jordan Cameron ($5.5K) 0.90%
Derek Carrier ($4.9K) 0.30%
Jordan Reed ($5.4K) 0.20%

Kickers

Player % Owned
Stephen Gostkowski ($5.1K) 13.90%
Chris Boswell ($4.6K) 10.10%
Josh Lambo ($4.7K) 5.70%
Josh Brown ($4.7K) 5.40%
Matt Prater ($4.5K) 5.30%
Justin Tucker ($4.8K) 5.10%
Chandler Catanzaro ($4.9K) 4.00%
Matt Bryant ($4.9K) 3.40%
Adam Vinatieri ($5.0K) 1.90%
Dan Bailey ($5.0K) 1.70%

Defense

Player % Owned
St. Louis Rams ($4.5K) 12.20%
Carolina Panthers ($4.8K) 10.20%
Atlanta Falcons ($4.7K) 9.40%
Arizona Cardinals ($5.1K) 8.10%
Pittsburgh Steelers ($4.6K) 6.50%
Buffalo Bills ($4.7K) 5.40%
Washington Redskins ($4.4K) 4.70%
Philadelphia Eagles ($4.4K) 4.30%
New England Patriots ($4.7K) 2.20%
Kansas City Chiefs ($4.6K) 0.60%

Based on these ownership trends, there are a number of players offering value and a handful that should be avoided — particularly in larger tournaments. The most obvious name is Colts running back Frank Gore.

Gore was owned on just 4.4% of FanDuel rosters for last night’s tournament, but he looks to be offering tremendous value — particularly on DraftKings where his price is only $4,900. Last week against New England, Gore rushed for 78 yards on just 13 carries and has been effective in recent weeks after a slow start. The Saints/Colts game has the highest total this week, so Gore definitely has a high upside this week.

Adrian Peterson, coming off a poor performance, was only owned in 5% of FanDuel lineups last night which could make him a sneaky play. Although he is listed as the third most expensive running back ($7,600), the Lions have struggled against the run this season and it’s rare to see a premier player with such a low ownership rate.

If you’re still debating which quarterback to start, Eli Manning ($7,800) could be an excellent tournament play. Owned in just 1.3% of league’s last night, Manning clearly has excellent contrarian value. It’s also intriguing that Manning threw for just 189 yards and 2 interceptions last week, which means this is an opportune time to buy while his stock is low. Manning is just one week removed from a 441-yard, 3-touchdown performance so clearly the upside is still there.

We should also note that there have been a number of Pro trends triggered on Andrew Luck ($7,600) who was owned in just 3.6% of $1 Dive entries. That said, it’s almost impossible for quarterbacks and running backs to both post big games, so we would not recommend playing both Luck and Gore.

Stacking quarterbacks and wide receivers from the same team can be a very effective strategy, so Beckham owners will want to consider paying up for Odell Beckham ($8,700) and Luck owners will want to consider Donte Moncrief ($5,200).

We should also point out that Carson Palmer ($6,700) is an excellent value this week, but it’s hardly a surprise that so many lineups have included Arizona’s signal caller. For that reason, Palmer is a much better play for cash games than tournaments.

Among wide receivers, Mike Evans looks to have big-game potential this week. The Bucs star was owned in just 2.5% of contests last night and only costs $6,400 on DraftKings — tied for 13th among receivers. Evans has a favorable matchup against the Redskins, who have allowed the 11th most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.

Over the past two weeks, Evans had managed just 6 receptions for 73 yards which means this is the ideal opportunity to buy low. He may be struggling recently, but let’s not forget that Evans absolutely thrashed the Redskins last season when he hauled in 9 receptions for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns.

When we look at tight ends, one exciting name is Antonio Gates ($5,000 at DK). Gates has the highest ownership percentage of any TE, but he also has the most Pro trends triggered at FantasyLabs. This would indicate that he’s an excellent addition for cash games and double ups, but should be faded in any large tournament. We should point out that Gates is currently listed as questionable with a left knee injury, so be sure to visit our free NFL injury page for the latest updates.

One name that I love this weekend is Delanie Walker. Priced at just $3900, Walker is only the tenth most expensive tight end this week and has triggered 10 Pro trends at Fantasy Labs. Considering that Atlanta has allowed the 6th most points to opposing tight ends, that price is an absolute steal. The Titans quarterback situation is currently up in the air, but Walker would provide value regardless of whether Mariota or Mettenberger starts.

Walker tallied 8 catches for 97 yards last week, and posted a few monster games last season with Mettenberger behind center — most notable a 5 reception, 155 yard performance against the Eagles. Walker is also the 5th ranked tight end according to ESPN fantasy analysts, indicating that I’m not alone in my love for Delanie.

I really like the value on the Rams defense/special teams this week, but there are a few factors giving me pause. Defenses playing the Browns have put up the second most fantasy points this season, yet the Rams are the 4th least expensive defense. Clearly other managers noticed this trend, as the Rams defense was the most widely owned at FanDuel (12.2%). Similar to Antonio Gates, this makes them an interesting play for cash games but a poor play for larger tournaments.

If you’re looking for a good contrarian play, the Chiefs ($2,700) appear to be an excellent value. There were owned in less than 1% of tournaments despite the fact that they’re playing against Landry Jones in his first career start. Jones may have acquitted himself well last week in relief of Michael Vick, but don’t expect that trend to continue. Jones is a turnover machine who threw 52 interceptions while in college at Oklahoma.

The Steelers will likely try to pound the ball with Le’Veon Bell, but watch out if Kansas City takes an early lead and Pittsburgh is forced to pass.

We stress that contrarian value is only one factor to consider, and it’s significantly more important in tournaments than cash games. We also want to remind players that variances in pricing between DraftKings and FanDuel can also skew these ownership rates.

Daily Fantasy players looking for additional information and advice should make sure to check out Fantasy Labs for access to Pro Models, Lineup Optimizer and other unique data for your Week 7 lineup.

Have any questions for the staff at Sports Insights? Utilize our live chat to speak with a customer service representative or e-mail us at help@sportsinsights.com.

David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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