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 3, 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:
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, $14,500 – Through two games, only the Raiders have allowed more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (QBs) than the Lions, so this is a fantastic matchup for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at home. Even though Rodgers’ 2015 season was reasonably disappointing compared to expectations, he averaged 303 yards passing, two passing touchdowns (TDs) and 0.5 rushing TDs in two games against the Lions last season (or 25.87 fantasy points per game). On both occasions, he eclipsed 25 fantasy points and these were both without top target Jordy Nelson. With Nelson back in the fold, the projection can easily be raised, and the masses are likely going to be on Drew Brees due to the Saints’ week-high 28.3 implied point total. Like Brees, Rodgers fared much better at home last season as he threw for 2,122 yards and 17 TDs in Lambeau Field compared to just 1,699 and 14 TDs on the road. Even though he is priced at QB2, there are enough values to complement him with to make taking the shot on him in tournaments extremely worthwhile.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons, $10,900 – Splitting the workload with Tevin Coleman has taken away from both their values in daily fantasy football. Instead of Devonta Freeman running a one man show like last season, this is now a full-blown running-back-by-committee (RBBC). Even though Coleman has scored more fantasy points of the two (mostly due to his TD last week), Freeman has averaged more yards per carry (YPC) and genuinely looked like the superior back. No team allowed more YPC to opposing backs in 2015 than the Saints and New Orleans is struggling once again against backs as they’ve allowed the fifth most fantasy points to the position. Due to a mediocre performance last week, Freeman’s salary dropped $500 more this week to possibly the cheapest he’ll ever be. When a player hits rock bottom, it is time to buy, especially when his opponent allowed the third most receiving yards to RBs in 2015. At this exact price tag, most are going to lean Melvin Gordon so Freeman should go drastically under-owned.
Jerick McKinnon, Vikings, $7,400 – Okay so many are going to be on Jerick McKinnon in cash games simply due to the price, but if history tells us anything, it’s Matt Asiata is incredibly frustrating. Reports surfaced early this week suggesting McKinnon could see “65-percent of the touches,” but that’s pure speculation. In the past, Asiata has earned the all-important goal line work so McKinnon actually may possess a disturbingly low floor. Dating back to 2014, McKinnon has carried the ball double-digit times just six times and has averaged 78.17 yards per game and 0.0 TDs. However, if the initial reports are true, McKinnon could be in an expanded role. Who knows, maybe Offensive Coordinator will be a bigger fan of his than coaches in the past? At this price tag, it’s certainly worth taking the risk as one long run would result in him blowing this price tag out of the water.
Jordy Nelson, Packers, $14,000 – Winning tournaments typically requires pairing the QB who goes nuts with at least his primary receiver so Jordy Nelson fits the bill to pair with the aforementioned Rodgers. Last year, the Lions ranked in the middle of the road in terms of fantasy points allowed to WRs and they in virtually the same spot through two games this year. Darius Slay is a capable corner but he rarely shadows receiver. In each of his first two games, Nelson has scored a TD and been targeted at least nine times. As per usual, a battle between the Lions/Packers should be expected to turn into a shootout and Rodgers is now fully loaded with weapons as opposed to last year when he was missing Nelson. The numbers were awfully impressive without the WR1 in 2015 so the sky is the limit this go-around…especially at home. With the majority spending up to get Antonio Brown and/or Julio Jones, Nelson is going to come at a much lower ownership yet he possesses a similar ceiling.
Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs, $11,300 – “Revis Island” used to be a scary proposition but now WRs are buying property there because he hasn’t exactly shut down opponents recently. This trend dates back to the end of last season as he has now been burned in five consecutive games by a player he has matched up against. This season alone, A.J. Green went absolutely bonkers against him (12 RECs on 13 targets for 180 yards and a TD) and even Marquise Goodwin beat him for an 84-yard TD in Week 2. The next man up is Jeremy Maclin coming off a 15 target game against the Texans. Maclin and Travis Kelce are the two staples in the passing game and the Jets allowed the second fewest fantasy points to TEs in 2015 so Maclin clearly stands out as the best bet amongst pass-catchers. Through two weeks, the Jets also rank in the bottom eight of fantasy points allowed to opposing backs, so throwing to WRs is the best game plan to beat them. Common sense suggests the Chiefs should attempt to run their offense through their top receiver in this game so he is shaping up as a true WR1 for a WR3 price tag.
Tajae Sharpe, Titans, $9,200 – The Raiders’ signing of Sean Smith hasn’t exactly solidified their secondary because they have allowed a whopping 808 passing yards through two games. To put it differently, opponents have averaged 404 yards passing game them! Per Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted over value statistic, passing offenses have enjoyed a 56.2-percent increase in production above average against the Raiders so far (although that number will certainly regress over time). Still, that’s a monstrous total and incredibly difficult to overlook. Smith has been lining up against top receivers and been getting burned while David Amerson has played the best of anyone on the defense (mostly against WR2s). At this point, any starting receiver is worthy of consideration against the Raiders. Rishard Matthews is nearly $3,000 cheaper so he will probably be more popular but Sharpe has been targeted 18 times in two games. If he approaches double-digit targets against this horrendous defense, he should be able to both rack up the yardage and the fantasy production, and easily justify rostering him at a sub-$10,000 cost.
Antonio Gates, Chargers, $8,600 – After grading as literally the absolute worst tight end (TE) in Week 1 per Pro Football Focus, Antonio Gates rebounded for a score last week (although he only caught three total passes). Without both Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead in the offense, arguably the two top threats the team had to offer in the passing game, Philip Rivers has no choice but to get Gates more involved moving forward. Woodhead was his safety valve in the early going but Gates has played that role admirably for many, many years. He’ll have no problem adjusting to an uptick in workload comparatively to the first two weeks and the matchup is conducive as well. Last year, the Colts allowed the ninth most fantasy points to TEs. So far the Colts rank middle of the road against TEs but Virgil Green was injured midway through their Week 2 tilt so the Broncos didn’t have much left at the position to throw to. When all said and done, the Colts’ linebackers are beatable, and Gates should be relied upon to both move the chains and finish off drives in the red zone. Even though he’s old and has lost a step, there are still some usable games left in him. This should be one of them considering the 52.5 point over/under.