Daily fantasy football returns this week, with week one of the 2016 NFL season offering up tons of huge cash prizes in GPP tournaments. You can opt for the safe route in the cash game scene, where you’ll probably have far better odds of actually winning, but where’s the fun in that?
Instead, all of the upside resides in the GPP scene, specifically in a tiny $3 entry over at DraftKings, where first place wins $1,000,000! Obviously only one lucky soul can win that cash and winning big money in any GPP tourney takes some strokes of luck, but one other thing those winners probably will have in common are contrarian picks.
Going chalk and playing it safe is for cash games. If you want to win big or place high in week one NFL GPPs, you need to find some interesting sleepers, use players you’re high on that aren’t popular choices and think outside the box.
One great way to do that is to roll with a few contrarian options – players that few – maybe no one – is seriously thinking of using. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite contrarian plays at DraftKings for daily fantasy football in week one. You can use them at your own risk, but the right combination just might help you win all of the money:
- Andrew Luck – Colts ($8.3k)
- Matthew Stafford – Lions ($7.2k)
- Philip Rivers – Chargers ($7k)
- Tyrod Taylor – Bills ($6.9k)
- Jimmy Garoppolo – Patriots ($6.2k)
- Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins ($5.9k)
Sorry, but everyone knows Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are awesome and have favorable matchups this week. You’re not fooling anyone with cheap dives like RG3 or Dak Prescott, either, while Derek Carr isn’t a sneaky sleeper after crushing in 2015.
None of those guys are at all away from the grain, but these five sneaky fantasy quarterbacks listed above just might be.
Luck bombed in 2015 and gets a solid Lions defense in week one, but he was formerly an elite fantasy quarterback. He’s at home with a slew of speedy weapons and odds are the Colts will have to pass a good amount, per usual. Even if he turns the ball over, as he’s one to do, Luck could still pay off. The kicker here is no one will love his price, matchup or what he put on tape last year. Should he roll heads, you’ll be among a select few that rolled the dice and watched it pay off.
Stafford is in that same game and for whatever reason feels like a guy that most won’t be on. Detroit’s clash with Indy actually sports a high Total in a dome, so there is a ton of scoring to be had here. Stafford doesn’t have Calvin Johnson anymore, usually sucks on the road and isn’t exactly cheap, but there is serious upside to be had out of him in week one.
Rivers is far more contrarian than Luck or Stafford, as he also isn’t exactly cheap and will be on the road against a nasty Chiefs defense. So, why play him? Divisional games can go either way, for one, while Rivers has the personal talent and weapons to shred any defense if he has the time to throw. Even if the Chiefs dominate the game early – as many expect – Rivers will likely be throwing throughout the second half. Rivers was brutal against KC last year, but that’s one more reason why DFS folk will be off of him to start 2016.
Tyrod Taylor is hit or miss and Buffalo will run as much as they can, but there is a very real revenge narrative in his return to Baltimore. Taylor is also out of the best dual threat passers in the game, so 200 passing yards and a rushing score would go a long way in helping him meet or even crush value. The Ravens have had their woes through the air defensively, too, so he could tear it up with Sammy Watkins. You’d like him to be cheaper, but the price and matchup help to make him super contrarian. He could be a tourney dynamo this week.
Jimmy G and Tannehill top off this list as two interesting, cheap options that are on the road with unforgivable matchups. Garoppolo makes his first start ever in the desert against the Cardinals, while Tannehill goes up against the Seahawks and the 12th Man in Seattle. No one loves their odds, but there is a good chance both will throw quite a bit in their respective games. Jimmy G has Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski at his disposal, while Tannehill has Jarvis Landry, Arian Foster and Jordan Cameron. These guys are pretty risky, but they’re totally in play for GPPs.
- Jamaal Charles – Chiefs ($7.1k)
- LeSean McCoy – Bills ($6.4k)
- Arian Foster – Dolphins ($5.8k)
- Frank Gore – Colts ($5.5k)
- Rashad Jennings – Giants ($5.4k)
- Jeremy Hill – Bengals ($4.6k)
Again, everyone knows about the studs with the plus matchups or the elite value plays, so you might need to get a little cute to separate yourself from the pack.
Charles is not even a lock to play (or have a big role if he does) in week one, but that fear could force the majority of DFS gamers off of him. That makes Spencer Ware probably the most owned DFS running back on the week, but if Charles does play and randomly sees more work than expected, he could be the contrarian play to end all contrarian plays.
Shady McCoy isn’t so crazy, as he’s quite talented and has a big role in a Bills offense that certainly wants to pound the rock. That being said, he isn’t necessarily cheap and he is on the road against a Ravens defense that can still be a problem. Few will be on him, largely due to his matchup.
The same goes for Foster, who is the likely starter with a solid role in Miami, but is coming off a torn Achilles and will be on the road against a stout Seattle defense in week one. His price isn’t so bad considering the guy he used to be, but he’s obviously in a brutal spot. That’s why he’ll be severely low-owned; hence his GPP upside. Miami probably gets crushed by Seattle, but if Foster can score and get even 50 total yards and a few receptions, he’ll be worth the trouble.
Gore, Jennings and Hill are three other contrarian running backs to consider for week one. Gore and Jennings don’t have amazing matchups and aren’t always reliable, but their roles are decent and they look to be interesting pivots off of more popular plays like DeMarco and Latavius Murray.
Hill is even cheaper, as he’s on the road against an elite Jets run defense. He also tends to share the ball with Giovani Bernard and infamously got off to a sluggish start in 2015. That being said, he is the team’s early down back and main goal-line option. Hill is that classic back who can run 10 times for 20 yards but pound in 2-3 scores and crush his value. That’s not likely this week given this matchup, but his price demands at worst a cursory glance.
- J. Green – Bengals ($8.4k)
- Jordy Nelson – Packers ($7.7k)
- Golden Tate – Lions ($7.3k)
- Kamar Aiken – Ravens ($4.7k)
- Anquan Boldin – Lions ($4.5k)
- Vincent Jackson – Buccaneers ($4.4k)
These are all pretty easy/obvious contrarian calls. Most of the studs are in play this week and due to a ton of bodies at the wide receiver position, we could talk WR value for hours.
There is serious contrarian and pivoting upside at the position, though, starting with Green. Green is obviously an elite receiver and with Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones gone (free agency), his role should be as good as ever. A lot of people will take on look at his matchup with Darrelle Revis and balk, but Revis is over 30 and not quite the lockdown guy he once was. Green might be totally fine for week one.
Nelson is in the same boat as Jamaal Charles, although to a lesser degree. We know for sure Jordy is playing and almost surely starting, but there has been some “snap cap” chatter. The price and potential for limited playing time are what will deter DFS users, but Nelson can pay off on one deep ball. In a likely shootout with the Jaguars, Nelson is still on the table.
Tate is both contrarian and a pivot, seeing as a lot of people will be more on teammate Marvin Jones, who is a better value play, as well as Amari Cooper, who is about the same price. Those guys are strong options, but Tate has a great matchup on turf and is Matthew Stafford’s #1 receiver. He could have a massive outing and be severely low-owned.
Aiken, Boldin and Jackson all will probably be low-owned, as well, as they’re hovering around the same price as coveted value plays, Willie Snead, Stefon Diggs and Sterling Shepard. They’re floating under the radar a bit more for different reasons, yet all three should have decent roles and could easily top their perceived value.
- Rob Gronkowski – Patriots ($7.4k)
- Antonio Gates – Chargers ($4.2k)
- Richard Rodgers – Packers ($3.2k)
- Kyle Rudolph – Vikings ($3k)
- Crockett Gillmore – Ravens ($2.6k)
Tight end is very interesting, as The Gronk could easily either be super low-owned or the highest owned tight end on the week. There is also value to be seen all over the position, yet precious little stability.
Gronkowski starts things off as an interesting fade, as the Pats are on the road against a great Arizona defense and he won’t have Tom Brady to throw him passes. A weekly starter any other time, Gronkowski understandably could have a rough four weeks to start the year and with a bad matchup and bloated price tag, could send many running elsewhere. If you think he’s indeed set to be contrarian, he could be the funnest contrarian play of the week. He’s still Gronk, after all.
The sleepers are obvious from there, so it might not be a bad idea to pivot to a contrarian play like Gates. Ladarius Green is gone and Gates is one of Philip Rivers’ top options, so you know he’ll see the ball a bit. A road date with KC is troublesome, but if the targets are there, the upside exists. He could be a fun pivot from similarly priced favorites like Zach Ertz and Jason Witten, among others.
An even bolder pivot might be Packers tight end, Richard Rodgers. Rodgers was a hero against the Lions last year and in that Green Bay offense, always is a threat to rack up some catches and/or score. The arrival of the explosive Jared Cook has many off of him in week one, but wouldn’t it be hilarious if Rodgers scored 1-2 touchdowns and Cook got blanked? Hilarious and beneficial.
Rudolph is just super cheap and has a good role, while either Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill (whichever starts) will look for him near the end-zone and as a safety net. He is very hit or miss, but he has upside at such a cheap price.
The real GPP dive could be Gillmore, who is just $2.6k and could step back into a starting role with Ben Watson done for the year with a torn Achilles. The Ravens have three capable tight ends, but we saw Gillmore’s upside more than once in 2015 and it’s not crazy to think he could be busy again this week. For that low price, he’s worth the gamble.
- New England Patriots ($2.9k)
- Chicago Bears ($2.5k)
- Dallas Cowboys ($2.5k)
- Oakland Raiders ($2.4k)
- Jacksonville Jaguars ($2.4k)
- Cleveland Browns ($2.3k)
Defense is hit or miss even with the elite units sometimes, and when you add a certain lack of reliability with the first week of the year, it can get even crazier. The top options are pretty clear, however, and so are the main value plays, so it may be beneficial to take a stab at a zanier option in week one.
The Pats always have a solid defense and if you think back to the NFC title game, Carson Palmer didn’t look so hot. It’s not probable that New England swallows up the Cardinals on the road, but it’s not impossible, either.
The rest of these are without a doubt risky and shots in the dark, but there could be some logic to consider here.
Chicago, for one, is a little closer to mastering their new 3-4 base defense and in week one they’ll get a Texans team with Brock Osweiler making his debut. Is it possible Osweiler folds under the pressure in his first game with Houston? Absolutely.
The Cowboys could also be in play, seeing as Eli Manning has struggled in Dallas against them throughout his career. He specifically was awful against them in both meetings in 2015.
Oakland stifling Drew Brees and co. in New Orleans feels like a joke, but this Raiders defense has gotten pretty darn nasty and could be out to make their presence known right away in week one. The same could go for the Jags, but clearly have a tall order with the Packers coming to town, but do boast a strong defense and could be a surprise sleeper.
Cleveland may grow to be less and less of a contrarian play with Carson Wentz starting his first ever NFL game this week, but perhaps they’ll still be low-owned because they’re the Browns and they’re impossible to trust. If so, there’s a chance they pay off based on their cheap price alone.
Not all of our contrarian daily fantasy football options need to be used in week one, but hopefully you see the logic or possibility with a few and they work out for you. No matter which path you take, good luck this week!