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 5, 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:
Andrew Luck, Colts, $13,700 – According to Football Outsiders, the Bears’ passing defense has ranked 26th to this point even though they rank smack dab in the middle of fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks (QBs). The Colts offensive line is shaky at best and the Bears have only sacked opposing QBs six times to this point (tied for 24th). This is partially due to the fact that the Bears lost their all-pro pass rusher Lamarr Houston for the season and will also be without starters Kyle Fuller, Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman. At home against this depleted defense, Luck and the Colts are listed as 4.0 point favorites in Week 5. Assuming Luck is not under siege due to the Bears’ nonexistent pass rush, there is a strong possibility Luck comes closer to reproducing his Week 1 output (38.50 fantasy points) compared to his mediocrity over the last three weeks (averaging 16.33 fantasy points during that span).
Giovani Bernard, Bengals, $8,800 – Predicting the Bengals backfield on a weekly basis is a difficult proposition and one to completely avoid in cash games. Tournaments are a different story though because Jeremy Hill occasionally scores multiple goal line touchdowns (TDs) and Giovani Bernard racks up the receptions (RECs) which is conducive to the point-per-reception (PPR) scoring format. Even though Bernard only produced a measly 7.20 fantasy points on Thursday Night Football last week, he carried the ball a season-high 10 times. Additionally, Bernard and the Bengals will be on extra rest heading into Sunday to square off against a Cowboys defense that has allowed the 15th most receiving yards to opposing backs this season. Bernard is averaging 4.75 RECs per game this year and the Cowboys rank smack dab in the middle in terms of Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) statistic versus opposing backs. Right now, Bernard is RB19 in FantasyDraft’s scoring format and yet he is priced as RB23 in a fine matchup. Dallas is only allowing 94.8 rushing yards per game to opposing backs so it wouldn’t be surprising for the Bengals to scheme in their receiving back instead. At this price tag, his ceiling certainly stretches far beyond the price tag.
James White, Patriots, $7,700 – Coach Bill Belichick rightfully focused on pounding the football while his backup QBs were forced to fill in for Tom Brady but the playbook certainly opens up with the All-Pro under center once again. Receiving backs such as Shane Vereen and Dion Lewis have factored into the RB1 conversation in PPR formats in previous years under Brady’s tutelage and that’s the role James White is currently filling. Hopefully the masses completely forget about him and focus on the likes of Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett because that will present a perfect buying opportunity in GPPs. Remember, Lewis average 5.14 receptions per game last year and Shane Vereen caught 52 passes from Brady in 2014. The price tag alone justifies whomever is appointed to this role in the Patriots offense but the Browns have also allowed the third most passing TDs (10) thus far. While RBs in a Belichick system are never a sure thing, there is always the possibility they contribute to a GPP-winning lineup as a result of the high-powered offense.
Marvin Jones Jr., Lions, $14,300 – Even after a quiet Week 4, Marvin Jones Jr. still sits at WR4 in the FantasyDraft scoring format and he is priced as WR9. Philadelphia’s defense has been stout thus far but here are the list of QBs they have squared off against: Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler/Brian Hoyer and Ben Roethlisberger…so basically one upper-echelon opponent. Furthermore, Roethlisberger has struggled on the road over the past few seasons so he’s kind of the fantasy football version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depending on location. Now, the Eagles face their tallest test yet against a Lions team coming off a flop performance. The thing about the Lions is Stafford usually finds a way to at least produce fantasy numbers even when he is amidst playing a poor real life football game. In fact, Stafford is the record holder for most passing yardage through a QB’s first 100 games (edging out Dan Marino) with 26,961 yards. Last year, Stafford threw for under 242 yards in consecutive games just once and he’s coming off a weak 213 yard performance against the Bears. Eagles’ top corner Nolan Carroll has played well this year but still just grades as the 55th best player at his position according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Regardless of whether he shadows Jones or not, this is an excellent opportunity for the Lions’ top receiver to bounce back in a big way against an inferior talent. In this fantasy-friendly Lions passing attack, Jones should continue to resemble the play of his first three weeks as opposed to Week 4’s anomaly.
Jordan Matthews, Eagles, $12,700 – There is a strong case to be made for Jordan Matthews in cash games as well but he’s a prime GPP play on this week’s slate. Darius Slay is a tough individual matchup but he very rarely shadows opposing number one wide receivers (WRs). For that reason, Detroit ranks 20th in DVOA to opposing number one WRs…and their passing defense has been toast otherwise. Not only have the Lions allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing QBs but they have allowed the sixth most to opposing WRs including six TDs. Eagles QB Carson Wentz has graded as the number one QB in football according to PFF and that has led for some to call Matthews “this year’s Eric Decker.” Why? In Matthews’ solidified role, he seems primed to put together a similar streak to Decker’s last year: finishing with 70 yards or a TD in every single game. So far, so good for the Eagles’ top WR and the odds are excellent once again against a defense that has allowed the second most passing TDs overall.
Phillip Dorsett, Colts, $9,500 – If Luck is the top GPP option at QB, then pairing him with one of his WRs is the way to maximize upside with a Colts stack. Surprisingly, the Bears rank sixth in DVOA against number one WRs although that assuredly includes the play of Kyle Fuller who may miss the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, the Bears have struggled against number two WRs to the tune of ranking 28th in DVOA and 79.0 yards per game. Instead of increasing, Phillip Dorsett’s target total has decreased in consecutive weeks since the Donte Moncrief injury. Still, Dorsett caught just one pass last week but it was a 64 yard TD and he played a season-high 71 snaps. Amongst WRs who have played at least 50-percent of their team’s snaps, Dorsett’s average depth of target (aDOT) ranks third (20.1 yards) and his yards per target ranks fourth (13.4). Although he isn’t targeted very often (11.3-percent of the time), any of them can go to the house, especially when averaging more than 20 yards downfield. Facing a defense allowing secondary receivers to rack up the yardage, this projects as a big game for both Luck and Dorsett.
Martellus Bennett, Patriots, $7,400 – Originally, Rob Gronkowski was going to be the focus of the tight end (TE) position in this article but NFL.com reported today that Gronkowski’s hamstring is “not right” and that his injury has “not come along like they (Patriots) thought it would.” This is a disturbing tidbit especially considering Gronkowski has caught just one pass over the past two weeks despite being active in both. Also, Gronkowski uncustomarily ran only 14 routes last week. If fantasy owners are expecting a huge bounce-back this week, Gronkowski will have to do so at way less than 100-percent (if he even suits up at all). The might higher percentage play is Martellus Bennett who led all NFL TEs in RECs just two seasons ago…with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. With an upgrade to Brady at QB, the sky is literally the limit for him and the Browns have allowed the sixth most fantasy points to the position. Start him.