The word is spouted by touts constantly. However, does the general public really know what it means and know how to correctly apply it to fantasy football? I’ve attempted to delve into the contrarian world with articles such as “Are Negative Correlations the Way to Go?” and “Cash Games Versus Tournament Strategy” (although this article was dedicated to daily MLB). This week, I wanted to dive further into the concept and give specific examples for this upcoming week.
Google defines contrarian as “opposing or rejecting popular opinion; going against current practice.” Popular plays are going to emerge throughout the course of the week, as they do every week, based on talented players squaring off against forgiving defenses. Of course in a nutshell the concept makes sense because using players against a weak opponent increases their chances of success. However this is the NFL and all sorts of outcomes are possible regardless of how juicy the matchup is. Take last week for instance: 66 percent of people were on Adrian Peterson in cash games and he left the ballgame twice with injury while Teddy Bridgewater accounted for five total touchdowns (TDs). Calvin Johnson was facing the New Orleans Saints, a historically bad defense, and caught one pass for 19 yards while Golden Tate caught six passes for 45 yards and two TDs. What’s the point? If you were the guy that avoided those landmines, your path to cashing became much, much easier.
Heading into week 16, here are some players that the masses may be off but have a high enough probability to succeed that they are worthy of your consideration:
Sam Bradford, Eagles – Going against the grain often means choosing players with skill sets that typically are not desirable. On the other hand, every once in a while those players produce an outlier performance that can separate you from the pack. If anyone fits that description, it is Sam Bradford who has been portrayed by the national media as an absolutely putrid quarterback (QB). While in reality that may be true, he still has managed to throw for more than 3,000 yards in 12 games this season and is coming off of a respectable performance (361 yards, two TDs) versus a solid passing defense (Arizona). The Eagles will head to Washington to take on the Redskins and face a must-win situation and they would be eliminated from possibly winning the division with a loss. So in a must-win situation and a QB playing his best ball of the season, people are still glance over his name and overlook it because of who he is. Coach Chip Kelly still runs the fastest-paced offenses which translates directly to the fantasy game so there is plenty of upside and the Redskins are a middle-of-the-pack passing defense. If looking for a contrarian option that still could produce comparable points to some of the studs, Bradford fits the bill and should be less than 10 percent owned in any format.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Denver is typically a defense to avoid as they possess two of the best corners, dominate opposing passing games and allow a below league average total of fantasy points to the running back (RB) position. On the surface it is a matchup to elude but, with a closer look, the Broncos actually have allowed the 10th most receptions to the RB position (79). Last week DeAngelo Williams only managed 1.9 yards per carry (YPC) on 14 carries but he was productive in terms of fantasy because he scored a rushing TD and caught five passes. Those results seem like a blueprint of how next week is going to go for the Bengals. At first, they will attempt to establish the run with Jeremy Hill but he’ll run into a wall against this stout defense. So from there, the way they’ll find productivity is by targeting their backs out of the backfield. Which back fits that skill set? You guessed it: Giovani Bernard. His workload has been iffy recently due to splitting with Hill but that’s part of the reason why you should be able to roster him at an ownership percentage below five percent. If he catches a handful of passes and scores, well, you’ll have the upper hand on approximately 95 percent of the field. That is a great spot to be in.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins – One thing DFS’ers fear more than anything is a matchup against a top cornerback. People will be speculating all week whether or not top cornerback Vontae Davis will shadow Jarvis Landry including his snaps in the slot. The past two weeks it hasn’t mattered much as top targets DeAndre Hopkins (six RECs, 94 yards) and Allen Robinson (one REC, four yards, TD) managed halfway respectable days against the elite corner. Very rarely do top corners move to the slot in order to cover one guy, at least for an extended period, so I believe the fears are going to be unwarranted. It’s a little different but the Patriots faced the Colts in week six and both slot receivers (Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman) produced at least 17 fantasy points. Since people will have the shadowing thought in the back of their mind, Landry will not get enough love in all formats despite the fact the Colts are one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses overall. That is a great time to take advantage of Landry’s skill set as he almost always hauls in at least five passes every single week.
Jermaine Kearse, Seahawks – This one is sort of a gut feeling mostly because everyone will be following the historic streak of Doug Baldwin. Also, people seem to really like Tyler Lockett’s prospect as an up-and-coming receiver (and for good reason). However, Wilson is simply on fire right now and he is not going to only feed those two players. Wilson still spreads the ball out and Jermaine Kearse has caught at least seven passes in back-to-back games. People seem to be completely sleeping on him mostly because he hasn’t been one of the guys finding the end zone on a weekly basis. One of these weeks he is going to and it’s going to put a cap on a monster game. Despite a great situation with Wilson forced to throw without an elite running game (both Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls injured), it’s weird but Kearse certainly will be considered contrarian. Count me in (tournaments only).
Julio Jones, Falcons – The concept here is basically review of a prior tidbit: selecting talented players versus elite corners. Josh Norman is widely considered to be the best corner in the NFL yet Odell Beckham Jr. roasted him multiple times last week including dropping what should have been a 60 yard TD. Unlike Landry, I think this is a true case of the corner shadowing him wherever he goes because of his true WR1 skill set (and size) plus the lack of other options in the passing game. Still Jones caught seven passes (on 10 targets) for 88 yards against Norman in week 14 so he could have made it respectable by simply finding the end zone. I would absolutely avoid him in cash but if you’re looking for an under-owned tournament option, that player does not have to be a scrub. Quite often it could be one of the best players in the NFL who is just facing a tough matchup. There is a reason Jones is considered one of the best and that’s because he possesses the ability to consistently beat the best. He is by no means a sure thing against Norman but he still does possess serious upside…which is why I would consider him an excellent contrarian option for week 16.