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. Heading into Week 2, 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:
Andy Dalton, Bengals, $12,100 – When A.J. Green is on, and both he and Andy Dalton are in sync, this offense is a thing of beauty. In Week 1, Dalton throw for a hefty 366 yards and a TD against an excellent Jets defense (114.0 rating). Not including the Week 14 game in which he was injured last year, Dalton eclipsed 20 fantasy points in nine of his final 11 games. For a guy who rushed a total of 60 times last year, he sure seems to possess a high floor. Quietly, Dalton finished with 3,260 yards and 25 TDs in just a little over 12 games played (technically 13 but he didn’t last long in the 13th game). In two games against the Steelers last year, Dalton had a mediocre game and was injured in the other. Considering the Steelers allowed the 11th most fantasy points to the position, and looked beatable on Monday night, I’m willing to give Dalton another chance. With his top target in peak form, and young weapons like Tyler Boyd appearing to have nice upside, Dalton is going to go under-owned in a plus matchup on paper. Judging by his remarkable consistency last year combined with his reasonable price tag, he’s worth the shot in GPPs.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons, $11,400 – Analysis from most fantasy writers early in the week has suggested Tevin Coleman looked like the better back in Week 1. While that may be true, Devonta Freeman still played 36 snaps to Coleman’s 32 and out-touched him 15-13. While the discrepancy isn’t exactly huge, it still signifies Freeman is on the preferable side of the committee. Both backs catch passes and Vegas likes the Raiders by 4.5 points at this juncture. In Week 1, Travaris Cadet caught a TD against the Raiders, which added to an ongoing trend considering they allowed the sixth most receptions (RECs) to the position last year. Look for the Falcons to target both backs this week, and against a bad defense, I prefer the back getting the majority of the work since they are both effective. With the masses down on Freeman, it may be time to capitalize on the overreaction and roster him at a low ownership.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers, $10,200 – Speaking of guys getting a majority of the work, Danny Woodhead amazingly played 50 snaps to Melvin Gordon’s 23 in the opener. Remember Woodhead is coming off a season where he caught 80 passes…the exact same amount as both Eric Decker and Allen Robinson (I keep giving that statistic but I don’t care because it’s pretty amazing). If there were any concerns about the changing of Offensive Coordinator, they were silenced in Week 1 because Woodhead rushed a career-high 16 times and still caught 5-7 targets including a TD. The last time Woodhead teamed with Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, he caught 76 passes and rushed for a career-high 106 attempts. Essentially the switch is going to be a smooth transition, and despite Melvin Gordon’s two TDs, the vibes are excellent for Woodhead moving forward. In a point-per-reception scoring format, people may not understand how valuable Woodhead truly is. He finished with the fourth most FantasyDraft fantasy points of any player at the RB position in 2015 and is priced like a RB3 this week. Take advantage of the significant discount as his skills are ultra-conducive to this scoring format.
Steve Smith, Ravens, $8,400 – Nine targets are nothing to scoff at and that’s exactly the amount Steve Smith received last week (although he only converted five into RECs and gained a measly 19 yards). Sure this stat line signifies a decline in skills but also take into consideration the matchup against Buffalo’s solid pair of corners. In Week 2, Smith and company will face a Browns team that relies on Joe Haden as their corner, and he hasn’t been good for a few seasons. The Browns defense is literally one of the worst in football and Joe Flacco combined for three total TDs in his one meeting against them last season. With no impressive corners covering him, his team listed as seven point favorites and a healthy amount of targets likely headed his way again, I like him to have a much better game this week. He isn’t giving up until he reaches his quest for 1,000 RECs and he’s not quite there yet. No player is more motivated than Smith and I think he has at least one more solid game in him.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers, $7,400 – Jaguars signed star cornerback Prince Amukamara in free agency in the offseason and the book on him has always been he’s great but fragile. After allowing a TD to Jordy Nelson in the opener, Amukamara reported hamstring soreness and his status against the Chargers for Week 2 will be updated throughout the course of the week. Now his availability is mostly a factor for Travis Benjamin, because Amukamara would likely focus on him, but it is also noteworthy for Tyrell Williams. With Keenan Allen having torn his ACL one again, Williams moves up the depth chart and steps into a starting receiver role. Without Amukamara, the Jaguars are left with two corners who graded below 50 in the opener, per Pro Football Focus. In other words, the matchup improves for all receivers. Like Marvin Jones last week, he is not really priced like a starting receiver with a solid QB slinging the ball his way. Sure the Jaguars defense is improved but their one top corner is banged up and will be focused on someone else even if he plays. This presents an opportunity for Williams to way out-produce his price tag in a pass-first Chargers offense. Additional targets will be spread all around without Allen and Williams should be the prime beneficiary.
Eric Ebron, Lions, $7,000 – Just two seasons ago, the Lions selected Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick of the NFL Draft. Since that time, he has struggled with drops and battled the likes of Brandon Pettigrew for targets at this own position. With Pettigrew firmly out of the picture this year, and the team committing to him, this is sort of a make-or-break season for him. 2016 is the year we find out whether he is the next big thing at the position or more of a Coby Fleener who has continued to struggle with drops until this very day. So far, so good because Ebron began the year with a bang, hauling in five passes for 46 yards and a TD against the Colts. On paper, the Titans present a similar matchup, as they allowed the seventh most fantasy points to the TE position last year compared to the Colts allowing the ninth most. Furthermore, only two teams allowed more TDs to the position than the Titans so Ebron could get some looks in the red zone once again. Most people choose to either spend way up at the position or totally punt it and Ebron’s price tag is right smack dag in the middle. Consequently, I project his ownership around 10-percent or so maximum. For a player with elite talent, I’ll take this matchup, projected ownership and cost combination all the way to the bank.