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 15, 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:
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers, $10,900 – Against a stout Jets rushing defense last week, Colin Kaepernick only attempted three rushes which was a season-low for games in which he started. All-in-all, the Jets defense has allowed the fourth fewest rushing yards to opposing QBs so clearly the game plan did not including using Kaepernick’s legs as a weapon (especially because Carlos Hyde was rolling). The same is not the case this week as the 49ers will square off against a Falcons team that has allowed the 15th most rushing yards to opposing QBs and the most fantasy points to the position. Whether it be via the air or on the ground, Kaepernick is in an excellent spot to produce as long as Coach Chip Kelly does not decide to bench him mid-game. In fact, potential game flow and the potential of a benching are the only reasons why he is better served for GPPs. Inevitably, one of the best teams in football versus one of the worst will lead to Kaepernick playing from behind so he is going to need to do everything in his power to keep his team in the game. As icing on the cake, the Falcons rank 23rd in passing defense and 27th in rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. All of their games essentially result in shootouts as they average over 32 points per game (PPG) but have allowed 26.5 PPG as well. At only $900 above minimum, the ceiling is intriguingly high.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons, $12,600 – The six carries Devonta Freeman received last week were a season-low as were the eight total touches. Meanwhile, Tevin Coleman only touched the ball 10 times but he was able to find the end zone twice en route for 19.50 fantasy points (compared to just 3.80 for Freeman). Consequently, some may get caught playing “yesterday fantasy sports” instead of “daily fantasy sports” as they will look to roster Coleman instead of the team leader in touches. In literally the best possible matchup for a RB, Freeman is in a fantastic spot to rebound. How beatable is the 49ers rushing defense? Matt Forte left the game due to injury last week and Bilal Powell then went on to rush for 145 yards on 29 carries (5.0 yards per carry (YPC)), caught 5-5 targets and scored two rushing TDs. RBs post ridiculous lines against them every week and they easily have allowed the most rushing yards (1,921), rushing TDs (19) and total TDs (22) allowed to the position. In a game where establishing the run should be the Falcons main focus, expect Freeman to revert back to his form from the previous two weeks (20-plus fantasy points in each) as opposed to the Week 14 version.
LeGarrette Blount, Patriots, $9,800 – Only five teams have allowed fewer PPG than the Broncos so identifying weak spots in the defense is no easy task. On paper, though, the team ranks first in passing DVOA but 26th in rushing DVOA so there is a clear kink in the armor. If anyone is going to be able to identify the deficiency of a defense, it is Coach Bill Belichick. Instead of having Tom Brady constantly throwing at the Broncos’ dominant duo of corners, it seems more likely he would pound LeGarrette Blount in this game instead. Amazingly, Blount has only failed to either score a TD or reach 100 yards rushing just twice this season. Even against a tough Ravens rushing defense on Monday Night Football, Blount still managed 72 yards rushing on 4.0 YPC and topped it off with a score. For someone as consistent and productive as Blount, this sub-$10,000 price tag is a joke…especially in a conducive matchup to his skill set.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings, $11,700 – Patrick Robinson had graded as one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the game this season which certainly was helping the Colts’ lacking pass defense (29th in DVOA). Unfortunately for the Colts, Robinson suffered a groin injury and will miss the remainder of the season, leaving Daryl Morris the default guy attempting to cover Stefon Diggs. Unless Diggs is matched up against a dominant force, there should be no hesitation to using him, especially against a Colts defense that has struggled against opposing number one WRs (29th in DVOA). Prior to his flop against the Jaguars in Week 14, Diggs had been targeted at least seven times in five of his last six games including at least 13 in every game from Weeks 8-10. The problem with the Vikings offense is Sam Bradford cannot consistently support multiple options in the passing game and the team has been featuring Kyle Rudolph lately (at least eight targets and double-digit fantasy points in three consecutive games). Assuming the team decides to scheme Diggs heavily into the game plan this week, instead of or in complement to Rudolph, Diggs could go absolutely crazy. Trusting the Vikings offense is cash can be nerve-racking but it is certainly worth a shot in tournaments as Diggs has shown double-digit reception upside multiple times this year. Once again, this could prove to be one of those games where he racks up the catches and potentially even scores.
Ladarius Green, Steelers, $7,300 – Physical freak Ladarius Green’s struggles last week were mostly to blame on the blizzard he was forced to play in. If just looking at the game log, Green was disappointing, but that weather was damn near impossible to throw/catch in. Prior to this setback game, Green was targeted 11 times and caught six passes for 110 yards and a TD in Week 13 at home against the Giants. To be fair, the Giants were a team that struggles against opposing TEs…but so are the Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger has an affinity for his TEs, as Heath Miller proved for years, and Green is clearly the more talented option comparatively to Jesse James. For a guy whose upside is literally finishing as TE1 on any given week, this price tag is incredibly affordable. Only two teams have allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing TEs than the Bengals and none have allowed more yards. Green is one of the most athletic players at his position so it would not be shocking for him to eclipse 100 yards once again. Expect the underpriced TE to be kept incredibly busy all afternoon and he is certainly a viable option in any and all formats.