Contrarian Plays: Ware is the Love?

In the playoffs, differentiating yourself from the pack becomes extremely difficult as the total number of games to choose from decreases from 16 to four. By this point in the season, players have had enough time to establish their roles. With only eight teams to analyze, it’s very tough to come up with a name that will fly under the radar with a high probability of succeeding.

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 the worst of the remaining defenses. Still, with so few choices, nearly every player with any sort of role in their respective offense will be rostered in GPPs this weekend. Therefore, a “contrarian” strategy in the playoffs tends to be extra risky as they tend to be more obscure than usual. The chalk will become even “chalkier” and distinguishing yourself becomes a low probability play but, if you hit, could be the key to running away with a big tournament victory.

Here are my best attempts at contrarian plays for the first week of the NFL playoffs:

Aaron Rodgers, Packers, $12,000 – At this point, Aaron Rodgers has played so poorly for such a long stretch that using him will be contrarian this week. Not only has he not reached 20 fantasy points in any of his previous four games but he’s priced as the third most expensive quarterback (QB) this upcoming weekend. By comparison, Kirk Cousins nearly eclipsed 20 fantasy points in the first half alone last week and scored 30-plus in each of the prior two ballgames. The loss of Jordy Nelson has taken a bigger toll on the offense than most probably thought it would and Randall Cobb has been playing with a bad shoulder all season. The other receivers, Davante Adams and James Jones, are not true number one and two targets in anything resembling a good NFL offense. Almost everyone is going to either spend up on either Ben Roethlisberger or Russell Wilson or choose to spend down on Cousins. My assumption would be Rodgers’ ownership percentage ends up around 10 percent or less and we all know he is at least physically capable of lighting up a scoreboard. The odds of him blowing up are probably around 10 percent as well so the risk and reward are about equal. If he does manage to put together a throwback Rodgers four TD type ballgame, that’ll be a great start towards taking down a GPP.

Spencer Ware, Chiefs, $7,800 – Contests are slightly smaller this weekend so many people may choose to just throw a single bullet. If using only one lineup, choosing a workhorse, sure-thing running back (RB) is the higher probability play. Adrian Peterson is the safest bet of the bunch and DeAngelo Williams will be popular as well assuming he is healthy enough to suit up. Besides the two of them (and maybe Alfred Blue), most situations are some form of committee this weekend. The general consensus heading into last week was Charcandrick West constituted the best play in the Kansas City backfield. I avoided the situation completely due to the workload split earlier in the season. West sat out week 12 but he only out-touched Ware 23-21 in weeks 11 and 13 combined. Ware then exited week 14 with a ribs injury and returned last week to five touches. When the two have been healthy together, they have sapped each other’s fantasy value making them difficult to trust. However, one statistic jumps off the page: in the weeks in which Ware has touched the ball at least eight times (five games), Ware has scored five times to West’s zero. Although the masses may still be holding out hope West will emerge as the clear-cut top back, take the discount and ride the guy receiving the goal line carries.

Jermaine Kearse, Seahawks, $6,400 – There’s something about Tyler Lockett that continues to intrigue the masses. I assume it’s because he’s a young exciting rookie and everyone wants to say they rostered him the week he broke out but Kearse continues to be under-owned every single week. While Lockett couldn’t crack the 6.50 fantasy point plateau in either of the final two weeks, Kearse found the end zone in each game. He’s the third option in the passing game behind a guy who tied for the league-lead in TD receptions (Doug Baldwin in 14) and a rookie with all the potential in the world. Still Kearse either scored or caught seven passes in each of his final five games of the season. His price still sits at $6,400 this weekend so I ask, “What does this guy need to do in order for people to take notice?” Maybe he’ll be higher-owned than I am leading on this weekend but roster construction is rather easy without a complete punt so I’m betting he is still overlooked. Unlike many of the other options on the list, the probability for success (especially at the price) is rather higher so he makes all the sense in the world to roster in GPPs.

Markus Wheaton, Steelers, $7,800 – Here’s to hoping Martavis Bryant suits up because Markus Wheaton will transform from a contrarian option to the chalk if Bryant sits. Bryant left last week’s game with a neck strain after the first half leaving him with a combined two catches in the past two games. Antonio Brown is the obvious choice from the Steelers passing game as the led the league in receptions and his game is the most fantasy-friendly to FantasyDraft’s PPR scoring format. When attempting to mix up roster combinations, using Bryant is always enticing due to his ability to take the top off of the defense. All it takes is one play for his day to be made. Sure you could go that route or you could save nearly $3,000 and roster Wheaton who has scored in four of his last six games and only failed to reach 10 fantasy points once during that stretch. “Football Twitter” regularly points out his flaws so people tend to have a negative overall view towards Wheaton’s game. The only thing that matters to me is Roethlisberger clearly trusts him and he has caught at least three passes in six consecutive games. Especially if Williams is out, the Steelers may choose to throw the ball 50-plus times. Wheaton is a player that should be heavily involved in the offensive plan but not heavily owned. Unlike saving money on Ware, there’s peace of mind in knowing you’re rostering a player from one of the better offenses playing in the slate.

Chase Coffman, Seahawks, $5,500 – The sample size is so small here and Jordan Reed is going to be such heavy chalk that many are going to foolishly overlook Chase Coffman. While there admittedly is a low probability he puts up a monster game, it’s within the realm of possibility he scores and/or catches a handful of passes. Coffman’s game log this season is interesting to say the least; he has played one game for Tennessee and one game for Seattle. In both those contests, he caught four out of five targets. Two games, eight catches and he capped off week 17’s performance with a TD. The sample size is small but it’s hard to argue with those results especially for a guy priced below the minimum for a typical FLEX player. Assuming Luke Willson misses this weekend’s tilt in Minnesota with his concussion, Coffman and Cooper Helfet will split the tight end (TE) duties in a R. Wilson offense. Since losing Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, the team has relied much more on the arm of Wilson as opposed to the running game. Lynch is going to return this weekend meaning even less people will have faith in the passing game. This one is definitely a long-shot but Coffman is a large red zone target and therefore could feasibly make it two straight with a score. If looking to go against the grain, it would be shocking if Coffman is higher than one percent owned.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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