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 4, 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:
Kirk Cousins, Redskins, $12,300 – Three weeks into the season, only Jameis Winston, Drew Brees and Blake Bortles have attempted more passes than Kirk Cousins. With Matt Jones struggling to establish a consistent running attack and the receiving core absolutely loaded (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson), there’s no reason to believe the air attack is going to slow down any time soon. Per a tweet from Russell Clay, Cousins is tied for second with 23 red zone passing attempts yet he has only completed seven of them and only one has resulted in a touchdown (TD). Eventually that is going to change and what better time than against a defense that has allowed 294 yards passing per game and seven passing TDs through three weeks. The Redskins are listed as 9.5 point favorites and have enough options in the passing game that Joe Haden shutting one of them down on each play shouldn’t affect the overall outcome. A positive regression is coming soon in terms of the TDs and this defense is bad enough to promote that change. While it’s tough to use a player who has been this erratic in cash games, he’s a fantastic GPP play with plenty of upside.
Mark Ingram, Saints, $11,000 – Mark Ingram was integrated into the passing game all of last season and yet Monday marked the first receiving TD of his entire career. In just 12 games last year, Ingram caught 50 passes in 12 games (4.17 per game) and that total sits at just 3.33 per game (10 in three games) to this point in 2016 (although he’s caught at least three passes in 2-3 games). Basically, the usage is pretty similar to last year and the season-high 15 carries last week was encouraging as well. As per usual, the Saints backfield is a bit of a mix-and-match, but the workhorse is needed at certain points each and every game and is using in creative fashions. The team will not even need to get that creative in Week 4 against the Chargers because San Diego has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to running backs (RBs) this season after allowing the fourth most last year. Furthermore, Manti Te’o was lost for the season last week which will only hurt an already susceptible defense. With backs like Theo Riddick, Christine Michael and Melvin Gordon all listed at similar price tags, Ingram is going to be the forgotten man of the bunch. With a solidified role against a beatable defense, there is plenty of potential in this matchup, and he’s a great way to differentiate from the pack.
Carlos Hyde, 49ers, $8,400 – Whenever a bell cow back drops below a $9,000 price tag, fantasy owners must take notice. Opportunities like these do not come around every week so gaining exposure to Carlos Hyde in Week 4 is an absolute must. Hyde is coming off his best game of the season in which he scored two rushing TDs against a stout Seahawks defense. Now, he and the 49ers rushing attack will draw a matchup against the Cowboys at home and they’re only listed as 3.0 point underdogs. In three games, Hyde has posted two multi-TD games and has touched the ball at least 17 times in each. Meanwhile, the Cowboys allowed the seventh most fantasy points to opposing RBs last season and haven’t really been challenged much this year (Giants, Redskins, Bears) so the stats are a bit skewed. Expect Hyde to receive the lion’s share of the touches, catch a few passes and have an opportunity to score at a miniscule price tag. He should compete for the lead in terms of fantasy-points-per-dollar at the RB position in Week 4.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks, $11,400 – Amazingly, Russell Wilson keeps on chugging along with that ankle injury and is expected to suit up this weekend. That means Doug Baldwin’s prospects are still intact against Darrelle Revis who has just been brutal this season. Through three weeks, Revis has graded (39.2) as the 98th best cornerback which would be by far the worst grade of his entire career (previous low was 78.4 last year). On the other hand, Doug Baldwin literally graded as the best receiver at the position last week. This is a battle between a hot player and an ice cold player so the advantage quite obviously goes to Baldwin. Although Baldwin is priced in the low-end WR2/high-end WR3 price range, Baldwin projects as a true number one receiver in this matchup. The Jets’ once scary secondary now looks incredibly beatable and Baldwin is just the man for the job.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers, $8,700 – The polls are in: the Saints defense is as terrible as ever. On Monday Night Football, the Falcons dropped a whopping 45 points on the Saints in the Super Dome as all facets of their offense were on display (other than Julio Jones). After allowing the fourth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers (WRs) in 2015, the Delvin Breaux-less Saints have now allowed the 10th most fantasy points to the position this season (mostly because they’ve been getting gashed on the ground). One aspect they are still susceptible to is the big play as evident by the 647 yards receiving they’ve allowed to WRs (fifth most in the NFL). Tyrell Williams is the Chargers’ deep play threat and needs to be a big part of the offense moving forward without Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates. While Travis Benjamin had the big game in Week 2, Williams has quietly surpassed 60 yards receiving in each of his three games this season and has scored at least 9.10 fantasy points in each…at a price tag nearly $4,000 cheaper than Benjamin. For that reason, he’s the best value on the team, and may even possess the highest ceiling of the bunch in an absolutely elite matchup.
Kevin White, Bears, $6,600 – Slowly but surely, the Bears are working Kevin White more and more into the offense, yet his price is going down. Here are his catches by week: three, four and then six last week at home against Dallas. Assuming this progression continues, the $6,600 price tag is quite the bargain. The Bears are learning quickly that forcing the ball to Alshon Jeffery just isn’t going to cut it so they have focused more on both White and Zach Miller in recent weeks. According to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted vale over average (DVOA) statistic, second WRs have had a much easier time against the Lions than first receivers this year. At this price tag you can’t go wrong considering the way White’s production has been trending. Since White is not a proven commodity, saving him for large GPPs makes sense because he has the ability to crush this price tag if all goes well.
Jordan Reed, Redskins, $12,000 – Through three weeks of the season, Jordan Reed still has not scored a TD and is still priced as TE2. Greg Olsen is going to be the chalk at the position this week after having watched the way Coby Fleener lit up the Falcons in Week 3. This will allow the possibility for differentiation for a player still playing 80-plus percent of the team’s snaps and has been targeted 8.0 times per game. These numbers aren’t in the least bit concerning when you look at his numbers from his 2015 breakout year: 74.9-percent of snaps played last season and 8.1 snaps per game. We’ve already established Cousins will be throwing quite a bit and is due for some positive regression in the TD department. Well, Reed is also, and it wouldn’t be surprising if these two were to hook up for their first monster game of the 2016 campaign. Hell, Ryan Tannehill roasted this defense last week so anything is possible.