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 8, 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:
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, $11,200 – The safe play on the Buccaneers is RB Jacquizz Rodgers due to his heavy, predictable volume but the team is favored in a game with a 49 over/under. In other words, Vegas expects a healthy amount of scoring in this game and Jameis Winston is fresh off a three TD performance against the 49ers. Although the Raiders’ passing defense has looked better lately, Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) still ranks them 28th against the pass overall. Furthermore, the Raider have only sacked opposing QBs 9.0 times which is tied for third worst in the NFL. With a susceptible left side of the offensive line, Winston is often under siege. If the Raiders are not going to get after him then it should be a productive afternoon. Winston has been sacked two or less times in four games this season and three of those games turned into his three best games of the season (with a 219 yard, one TD outlier). No team has allowed more passing yards than the Raiders so Winston makes all the sense in the world in tournaments.
Latavius Murray, Raiders, $8,800 – On the other side of the ball in the same game, Latavius Murray is way underpriced for a guy handling the lion’s share of touches out of the backfield. After missing a few games with turf toe, Murray was immediately thrown back into the fire his first game back; Murray played 42 snaps to Jamize Olawale’s 25, DeAndre Washington’s 15 and Jalen Richard’s two. As a whole, Murray is averaging exactly 4.0 yards per carry (YPC) this season after averaging exactly 4.0 YPC in 2015 as well. Last year, he rushed for 1000-plus yards and scored six total TDs which is probably about the pace that can be projected moving forward. Hell, he even caught 41 passes last season. While Murray is far from the most efficient back in the league, the volume sort of makes up for it considering he touched the ball 20 times last week behind arguably the best offensive line in the league. His opponent, the Buccaneers, have allowed the eighth most fantasy points to opposing backs including the eighth most rushing TDs (eight) to the position. Although Murray will need a TD to turn in a productive day, he received the bulk of them last game considering he scored from both two yards and nine yards. Against a bad defense, it is hard not to take a chance on a back seeing this sort of volume…even if the back is not the most talented player on the planet.
Devontae Booker, Broncos, $7,300 – For the first time this year, Devontae Booker actually played more snaps last week than the “starter” C.J. Anderson. Sure Anderson left with injury for a brief period but Booker played just 15 offensive snaps to Anderson’s 58 in Week 6 so this was a huge increase in role. It should be noted Anderson rushed for 6.7 YPC compared to Booker’s 4.9 but the coaching staff appears comfortable with the two back approached moving forward. Assuming the two split the workload, what is not to like about the matchup for Booker? The Chargers have allowed the sixth most rushing yards to opposing backs, eight rushing TDs, the most RECs to the position and the second most receiving yards. Of the two Broncos backs, Booker is the one using on third downs and passing situations so he could actually possess equal-to-more upside of the two and he is priced nearly $4,000 cheaper. In order to fit the necessary expensive receivers, Booker is a necessary salary saver with an intriguing ceiling.
Julio Jones, Falcons, $18,000 – Rostering the NFL leader in receiving yards by nearly 60 is not exactly contrarian but he should not garner the outrageous ownership he deserves. On paper, the Packers look like an average matchup for opposing WRs at this point after dominating the Bears’ third string QB last week but their top their cornerbacks are all hurt. Prior to last week, the Packers ranked in the bottom four in terms of fantasy points allowed to the position and they have absolutely no one capable of shutting down Jones. Even with their impressive Week 7 performance, they have still allowed the sixth most receiving TDs to opposing WRs. Jones will cost the most of any player at the position to roster but this is the best player facing off against a depleted secondary. In other words, he should cost this much and should come through with a monstrous performance.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts, $14,900 – In yesterday’s cash game article, I eluded to the fact Andrew Luck is a fantastic play in all formats because the Chiefs are unlikely to get after him. Why? They have produced the fewest sacks of any team so far this season. If Luck has time to throw, then T.Y. Hilton should have the time to get open, and that is a scary proposition. With Philip Dorsett inactive last week, Hilton caught 7-12 targets for 133 yards and a TD…and it was the third time in the past five games he managed to eclipse 130 yards receiving. Hilton is as boom-or-bust as it gets and he normally goes crazy in “boom” scenarios. Since the Chiefs secondary has already allowed eight receiving TDs to opposing WRs, there is no reason this should not be another kaboom added to the Hilton resume.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, $13,300 – If spending down at QB and/or RB in GPPs then why not take by far the best TE in football with the additional salary? Since Tom Brady has returned, Gronkowski has either exceeded 100 yards receiving or scored a TD in all three games (including one game in which he accomplished both feats). In seven career games against the Bills with Brad under center, Gronkowski has averaged 20.09 PPR fantasy points against them (compared to 17.73 outside of the split). With tough corners such as the ones the Bills possess, this split makes sense and does not really feel like simply “variance.” If narratives are your sort of thing, Coach Rex Ryan talked a lot of smack after the Bills beat the Patriots (shut them out actually) earlier this season so Coach Bill Belichick will be looking for revenge. If you do not believe in narrative, just know the best TE with arguably the best QB are about to take on a beatable opponent and that should be enough.