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 14, 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:
Eli Manning, Giants, $10,800 – Although the Giants have not squared off against the Cowboys since Week 1, Eli Manning succeeded against what is proving to be a stout defense as the season moves on. In the previous matchup, Manning completed 19-28 (67.9-percent) of his passes for 207 yards and three TDs en route to 19.30 fantasy points. The reason to reserve him for tournaments is the fact that his team ranks 31st in time of possession while Dallas ranks second (behind only the Eagles). In other words, there are multiple scenarios of how this game could play out where the Cowboys essentially play “keep away” and that is a scary proposition. However, if certain things break the way of the Giants, Manning’s receiving core is still loaded with weapons and he has thrown at least two TD passes in five consecutive games heading into this week. Somehow, someway his price tag is the lowest it has been all season despite the recent success so now is a great time to buy on the streaking QB in GPPs especially.
Matt Forte, Jets, $12,700 – Coach Todd Bowles was quoted as saying he is going to “play the guys who want to play” from here on out so it is unclear whether that includes Matt Forte or not. If Forte ends up on his bad side, and the 12 total touches last week were not an encouraging sign, then his carries could continue to be limited moving forward. Rostering him this week is worth the risk as the team will square off against the 49ers who just surrendered 100 yards rushing and three TDs to Jordan Howard last week. Honestly, Howard’s performance was just a microcosm of this defense’s season as they have allowed the most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to opposing backs and the most total TDs (20). At his best, Forte is a versatile back who can both succeed pounding the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield. If Coach Bowles decides Forte “wants to play,” then he will be playing extensively against the team that ranks 27th in rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. If this breakdown does not personify an ideal tournament play then I am not sure what does.
Todd Gurley, Rams, $9,800 – Using Todd Gurley this season has not been a fun proposition considering he has he has top 15 fantasy points just three times total (and once was just a measly 15.20 fantasy point output). On Twitter, he has been called a “glorified Jeremy Hill,” meaning he possesses very limited upside. To this point, those who have said such things have been proven to be correct…well other than his 21 fantasy point, multiple TD game against the Buccaneers. At home against the Falcons, Gurley appears to be in a prime spot to produce an outlier performance once again mostly because every back has been torching them as of late. Last week, both Spencer Ware and Albert Wilson scored rushing TDs against them and Ware even scored a receiving TD. The week before, David Johnson rushed for 58 yards but caught eight passes for 101 yards receiving and a TD. In Week 10, Ryan Mathews busted out for 109 yards rushing and two TDs while Darren Sproles caught eight passes for 57 yards. Essentially, Gurley just needs to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors all the way to a respectable outing and the price is right. If there ever were a week to roster the slumping back, this would be it.
Mike Evans, Saints, $16,700 – The Saints defense has allowed 374.8 total yards and 27.9 points per game and yet opposing number one WRs have not consistently gone nuts against them. According to DVOA, the Saints rank seventh against opposing number one WRs and have only allowed 60.5 yards per game to the position. Although the general consensus on Delvin Breaux still seems to be that he is an above average corner, he has graded as Pro Football Focus’ 114th ranked corner this year. To put that in layman’s terms, he has been horrendous. The team’s best cover corner has been B.W. Webb who has graded outside the top 40 at the position. Sure the specialty of the Saints defense is their safeties but none of these individual matchups are scary whatsoever and Jameis Winston likes to feed the beast. As noted in previous pieces, Evans has succeeded in just about every difficult matchup so far this year mostly due to the fact that he has been targeted 11-plus times in nine out of 12 games so far. After a quiet game last week, Evans should bounce back in a big way against a subpar defensive unit as a whole especially if Winston bombards him with targets as per usual.
Sammy Watkins, Bills, $10,500 – In the “Safe Bets” article from yesterday, I described why Tyrod Taylor is one of my favorite cash game QB plays this week. Part of the reason to like him is because his top target, Sammy Watkins, is finally getting healthy. Although Watkins only caught three passes last week, he was targeted a whopping nine times. If he continues to see that sort of volume this week against a defense that ranks 28th in DVOA against number one WRs, the results are likely to improve. Most notably, the Steelers have allowed a whopping 91.5 yards per game to top targets and Watkins’ game relies primarily on speed. All it will take for Watkins to make owners happy is for him to break one big play but last week’s volume suggests he should possess a safe floor as well. Against a beatable opponent, this is the week to get ahead of the curve on Watkins.
Jimmy Graham, Seahawks, $10,400 – Sometimes fantasy points allowed and DVOA paint completely different pictures and the Packers defense against TEs is one of these situations. While the Packers rank eighth in TE DVOA, they have allowed the sixth most FPPG to the position including the second most yards. No matter which one is right, Jimmy Graham still presents a mismatch to any linebacker trying to cover him because he is 6’7”, 265 lbs, fast and can catch just about anything thrown his way. It is difficult to imagine a meeting between these two solid offenses not turning into some form of shootout, meaning the Seahawks will need to continuously throw throughout the course of the game. With that being the case, Graham should expect to see seven-plus targets for the third consecutive game and is a solid bet to exceed double-digit fantasy points for the fourth consecutive game. He is a big part of this offense, but there are some solid alternatives, so his ownership percentage should not prove to be as high as usual.