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 16, 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:
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, $12,600 – Typically, Ben Roethlisberger will cost those looking to roster him $13,000-$14,000 in a reasonably favorable matchup at home but his poor recent play has depreciated his price. With Le’Veon Bell rolling the way he has been, Roethlisberger has not been relied upon as heavily lately. In fact, Roethlisberger has not attempted more than 40 passes since Nov. 13 against the Cowboys. Since then, he has only topped 20 fantasy points once, but to be fair, they have only played one game at home during that span. Roethlisberger is the king of home/away splits having posted a 119.0 QB rating in Heinz Field compared to 78.4 on the road. According to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric, the Ravens rank as the league’s top rushing defense. Therefore, the Steelers are going to need to rely on the passing attack to win the game. With Antonio Brown still at his disposal, look for Roethlisberger to get back to his dominant self in the friendly confines of home.
DeMarco Murray, Titans, $13,300 – One of the problems about this week is the fact many teams will be playing their second game of the season against a divisional foe. Sometimes, a player’s previous stats against a certain team can be misleading but other times it can tell a story. In DeMarco Murray’s case, his 21 carry, 123 yard, one TD performance against the Jaguars earlier this season is pretty much the recipe the Titans should be expected to employ once again this go-around. Although the Jaguars rank 12th in rushing DVOA and 16th in passing DVOA, Marcus Mariota has been struggling as of late so the team has decided the pound the ball more than usual. Instead of simply featuring Murray, the team has begun to rotate Derrick Henry in as well and he has stolen some of Murray’s goal line work as of late (he scored two TDs last week). This may scare some people off of Murray but he has the potential to break a long one any time he touched the ball. In 14 games this season, Murray has topped the 100 yard mark five times and has failed to reach 15 fantasy points just twice. Despite getting vultured at the goal line occasionally, Murray is still as consistent as it gets and the masses are used to simply spending all the way up at the position. Considering the brutal matchup Le’Veon Bell draws, Murray may actually be able to outscore him at a much cheaper price tag.
Kenneth Farrow, Chargers, $9,800 – Okay so Kenneth Farrow burned the 35-percent of those who rostered him in FantasyDraft cash last week and the 20-plus percent who rostered him in GPP. Instead of pouting, the correct move is to go back to the Farrow well against a very beatable Browns defense. The downside here is the fact Farrow has not topped 3.4 yards per carry (YPC) in either of his two starts but at least he has dominated the snaps (played 41 to Ronnie Hillman’s 13 last week). His opponent, the Browns, rank dead last in terms of rushing DVOA and both LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee had themselves productive days against this defense last week. Farrow is nothing more than a mediocre talent but the matchup enhances the potential for sure. If given the volume, Farrow will have the opportunity to top 100 yards and he is the likely recipient of goal line carries as well. At this price tag, he is not worth using in typical matchups, but he is worth a shot in just about the best matchup possible.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts, $14,700 – Both of the Raiders outside cornerbacks this season have played some excellent football as evident by the fact Pro Football Focus has graded both as top 25 overall cornerbacks in terms of coverage ability this season. Luckily for T.Y. Hilton, he lines up out of the slot 57-percent of the time so he will not have to deal with the duo of Sean Smith and David Amerson a whole lot. Instead, he will square off against T.J. Carrie and try to exploit one of the defense’s weaknesses. The Raiders rank 16th in DVOA against “other WR” meaning those out of the slot and beyond and 21st overall against the pass. Additionally, Donte Moncrief returned to practice on Monday so he is trending towards playing this weekend. Even if he is only deployed as a decoy, his presence should only further divert attention from Hilton, leading to plenty of open space for Hilton the defense. If needing a cheaper pivot from the likes of Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. in tournaments, Hilton is the clear alternative.
Antonio Gates, Chargers, $8,300 – The TE position is an absolute mess this week with both Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen dealing with injuries. Hell, even if Reed plays at this point you cannot count on him staying in the game (he was ejected on Monday Night Football for punching a defender). This leaves a lot of uncertainty at the position with most of the studs drawing difficult matchups and many of the punts in all-or-nothing situations. If hunting for a TD at the position, why not considering Antonio Gates who is tied for the most red zone targets of any TE (17). At least if looking for a value option at the position, choosing one who has already scored five TDs (fifth most at the position) facing a defense that ranks 32nd in DVOA is a situation that presents a clear amount of upside. Sure Gates does not possess the speed he once did but Rivers still looks for him in the red zone and TDs are a way to rack up fantasy points quickly. The receiving core is banged up so the team has been using a ton of two TE sets and this should be a week where Gates benefits.