Staking Bales: Under-the-Radar Plays for Week 16

Staking Bales: Under-the-Radar Plays for Week 16

By Jonathan Bales (Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Dec 20, 2013

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Jonathan Bales is a DraftKings Pro and the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series. His latest book, How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports, is a data-driven guide to winning on DraftKings. He is also (unofficially) sponsored by GrubHub.

Follow Jonathan Bales on Twitter: @BalesFootball.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a bunch of entry tickets into the DraftKings Millionaire Grand Final and the FanDuel King of the Gridiron in Week 16. It’s going to be an exciting week—I’ve researched more than ever—but I’m unsure how I want to approach my lineups.

In general, I look for value plays with upside, focusing on specific traits. I want quarterbacks to account for a high percentage of touchdowns, running backs who catch the ball, and wide receivers who are big-bodied and red zone-relevant. I want players who can score three touchdowns relatively easily and in multiple ways.

But one thing on which you need to focus in tournaments that’s not a factor in head-to-head matches is projected ownership percentages. Is a player such an obvious value that you know he’ll be heavily owned? Should you fade him to go against the grain?

I wrote about this in my new book on daily fantasy sports:

Best Player Owned Frequency

One of the strategies proposed in the chapter on tournament play is using a contrarian approach—purposely going against the grain in order to create a unique lineup. Up until now, it was just assumed that bypassing a few “obvious” values was optimal in tournaments. Now, the evidence is in.

This graph shows the percentage of winning GPP lineups with top-scoring players in specific usage brackets (represented with the percentages at the bottom). For example, the two bars all the way to the left show the percentage of winning GPP lineups in both NFL (12.9 percent) and MLB (23.3 percent) with a high-scoring player who was owned on anywhere between one and five percent of all lineups.

The data on this graph is extremely interesting and should make us think about how we structure our tournament lineups. Namely, look at how important it is to have a low-usage player who erupts for a huge game. Of all winning GPP lineups, 45.2 percent of daily fantasy football teams and 41.4 percent of daily fantasy baseball teams hit on the top-scoring player who was in 10 percent or fewer lineups. That’s pretty remarkable.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can see there’s a jump in the frequency of lineups with the best player who was 51-plus percent owned. That might be due to a larger player pool, but since not many players are ever in more than half of lineups, it could also be evidence to not forgo elite values. When a player stands out as the clear-cut top value, use him, regardless of the league type. It’s the second-tier values you might want to fade in favor of less-utilized players.

I think this data is really intriguing and good evidence that there’s a ton of value in hitting on a low-usage player (or two) in GPPs. That doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to have a low salary, since those players can still be heavily owned. Actually, you might want to consider high-salary studs who either don’t appear to offer typical value or have poor matchups, and thus might not be in a ton of lineups.


Week 16 Contrarian Plays

Looking over this week’s values on the various sites, there are a handful of players who stick out as potential GPP-changers—guys who can erupt for big games but won’t be in a multitude of lineups, giving you the opportunity to gain a ton of ground on the competition. Here are those players.


QB Matt Schaub vs. DEN

I think most people recognize that Schaub offers some value as a cheap play, but most are going to be too scared to pull the trigger with a lot of money on the line. With Case Keenum out, though, there’s no real risk of Schaub getting pulled, which is huge. He also has a nice matchup against the Broncos; their pass defense has been better of late, but you know Houston is going to be down and forced to throw. There’s is a very predictable game flow in this contest.

I also kind of like Ryan Fitzpatrick as a contrarian play, but here’s the problem: I’m not comfortable playing Kendall Wright in a tournament. I think most people are going to disagree with me on that, but again, I prefer big-bodied wide receivers who can catch six passes but take three into the end zone. As much as Wright offers value in PPR leagues, he’s not a great bet to score multiple touchdowns. I want to stack my quarterback and wide receiver in pretty much every GPP, so I prefer Schaub and Andre Johnson.


RB Jamaal Charles vs. IND

Running back is a pretty straightforward position, especially this week, so this isn’t a true “contrarian” play since Charles will of course still be owned by a decent number of people. I put him here because, since he’s priced higher (sometimes significantly so) than LeSean McCoy (and Matt Forte), I think most people are going to side with the Eagles’ running back. I expect McCoy’s ownership rate to be through the roof. Charles is of course capable of single-handedly taking your lineup into the cashing range, and I highly doubt he’ll be even close to Shady in ownership percentage.


WR Michael Crabtree vs. ATL

I’m not really sure how much exposure people will have to Crabtree this week, but my hunch is that they’ll still be a little hesitant to put him into lineups. He’s got a great matchup against Atlanta, but he hasn’t cracked 68 yards in any of his three games this year. At best, he’ll be moderately owned, but he makes for a high-upside pairing with Colin Kaepernick on Monday night. My guess is that most players with pair Kaepernick with tight end Vernon Davis.


TE Charles Clay @BUF

Tight end is a really weird position this week—extremely thin—and I’m still having trouble figuring out who to start. I think Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis will have the highest ownership rates, with few people going low at the position. Clay was shut down by the Pats last week with just a single six-yard catch, but he compiled 14 catches, 177 yards and two scores in the two previous games.

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