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. Nevertheless, this is the NFL and all sorts of outcomes are possible regardless of how juicy the matchup is. Heading into Week 6, 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:
Dak Prescott, Cowboys, $11,000 – Through five games, the Packers are allowing a measly 2.0 yards per carry (YPC) even though the sample size is a bit skewed; they have only faced the Jaguars, Vikings, Lions and Giants. In other words, the battle upfront between the dominant Cowboys’ offensive line and the Packers’ front seven is going to be one of the sights to behold this week. Either Ezekiel Elliott is able to function as per usual or he struggles like all of the backs beforehand that have squared off against this defense. Either way, Prescott has bottomed out at 18.10 fantasy points over the past four weeks and very easily could be asked to throw more than usual if the Packers’ win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Prior to Eli Manning’s flop this weekend, the Packers had allowed the ninth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (QBs) and had proved to be a secondary to target against. Manning has struggled in every game this season while Prescott looks like a savvy veteran already and still has yet to throw an interception (INT). Assuming the running game is at all hindered, the uptick in opportunities for Prescott should be enough to justify using him at this price tag. If all goes well, Prescott could easily crush value and contribute to multiple TDs due to the likely downtick in effectiveness for the backfield as a whole.
DeMarco Murray, Titans, $14,600 – Following his season of 400-plus touches, DeMarco Murray predictably regressed big time last season. Apparently his 2014 hangover is over though as the Titans have been feeding him the ball at a crazy rate once again as he leads the NFL in touches with 117 already. Most notably, Murray has caught a league-best 24 passes out of the backfield which has certainly helped contribute to him averaging the second most fantasy points per game of any back (behind only Le’Veon Bell). The masses tend to focus on passing games against the Browns considering what Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins and Tom Brady have done to them on back-to-back weeks but they rate subpar against the run as well. Not only have they allowed the sixth most fantasy points to the RB position but they have allowed the fifth most rushing yards to position as well…and Murray ranks second in the league in rushing (behind only Ezekiel Elliott). Marcus Mariota and the Titans only throw when they have to and obviously a ton of those targets head Murray’s way anyways. Against a team allowing 114-plus rushing yards per game, it is unlikely his ownership level approaches anywhere near where it should be especially with Le’Veon Bell only priced $300 more. While Bell is the safer bet in cash games, Murray may possess the highest ceiling of any back on the entire slate and come at a 10-percent or less ownership. Count me in.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers, $10,200 – Cameron Artis-Payne busted out in a big way in Week 5 to the tune of 85 yards rushing and two TDs on 18 carries. Still, when Jonathan Stewart returns to the lineup, the team has shown a propensity to revert back to him as the workhorse back over and over. Even if Artis-Payne eats into his workload a bit, the matchup against the Saints is too juicy to pass on…especially in a dome. No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing RBs and no team has allowed more rushing TDs to the position as well. While Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert annoyingly vulture Stewart regularly, he still scored six TDs last season in just 13 games (so about one every two games). Assuming he suits up, he’ll possess very sneaky upside against the team that allowed the most yards per carry (YPC) in 2015 and is allowing 4.4 YPC once again this year. He is not a sexy option but he certainly can crack the 100 yard plateau in this game as well as potentially score. At this price tag, that is a solid enough ceiling for me to lock and load him into tournament lineups.
Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs, $12,000 – If you are believer in batter versus pitcher (BvP) data in baseball then you will certainly want to check out Jeremy Maclin’s numbers against the Raiders last year: 12 receptions (RECs), 154 yards and three TDs in two games. Sure the team added cornerback Sean Smith in the offseason but they still have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing WRs including seven TDs. Coach Andy Reid is stubborn to scheme the passing game but even he must see the value in featuring Maclin; the Raiders rank 25th in terms of Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) statistic against number one WRs and have allowed 97.6 receiving yards per game to them as well. To this point, Maclin’s numbers are somewhat disappointing but at least he has been targeted at least seven times in every game. If he reaches that target total against this porous defense, he should be able to put together the best game of his 2016 season thus far.
Willie Snead, Saints, $12,000 – Targeting Drew Brees at home is always enticing although he is a bit expensive for my liking at $15,000. In order to hit value, Brees will have to throw for 300 yards with four TDs and even then he probably would not lead the position in terms of fantasy-points-per-dollar. Therefore, it is more beneficial to target his weapons in this contest against the Panthers and Willie Snead stands out as the premier GPP option of the bunch. Through three games, Snead has averaged 6.0 targets compared to 8.0 for Brandin Cooks and 7.75 for Brandon Coleman. However, Snead handily leads the receiving core in fantasy points per game due to his 13.8 average yards per target (YPT). By comparison, Tommylee Lewis ranks second amongst the group at 8.7 with Brandin Cooks as a distant third (8.0). According to DVOA, the Panthers rank in the bottom eight in terms of defending both number one and “other” WRs (meaning third receivers and beyond). Since Snead lines up in the slot a majority of the time, he falls under the “other” WR classification. With Brees in his comfort zone at home, expect him to look for Snead early and often since he should be the one with the most exploitable matchup.
Jason Witten, Cowboys, $7,900 – If operating under the assumption Dak Prescott will see an uptick in volume due to the stout run defense of the Packers, then someone is going to have to enjoy an uptick in targets as well. For cash game purposes, Cole Beasley is the one to rely on but Jason Witten certainly makes sense in tournaments. At this price tag, Witten is either going to have to string together a vintage Witten eight-plus REC outing or score a TD or two. Either and/or both are possible in matchup against a Packers defense allowing the seventh most fantasy points to opposing tight ends (TEs). At only 6.8 YPT, rostering Witten is the equivalent of either betting on volume or red zone targets. Considering Witten has been targeted on 40.0-percent of his team’s red zone targets (third most amongst TEs behind only Kyle Rudolph and Greg Olsen), that should be a relatively safe wager worth taking in tournaments. The only question is whether he is able to convert on them and that remains to be seen.