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How to Be an Effective Contrarian DFS Player (Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jun 1, 2019

Matt Breida was often a very dependable contrarian play in 2018

Effective daily fantasy football strategy means going against the grain sometimes and employing a strategy known as a contrarian play. Contrarian play involves rostering players with projected low ownership in order to separate from competitors and take home some cash. There are a few things to remember if you want to become an effective contrarian player. Keep in mind that contrarian play should be reserved for Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) games, as these games pay out in a top-heavy prize structure based on points. It is therefore important to gain an advantage over the competition and separate from the pack rather than trying to keep pace and make the cut for cash games, which pay out an equal prize to all qualifiers.

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Use Projected Ownership to Your Advantage
When it comes to effective contrarian play, projected ownership can definitely be your friend. A good understanding of the week’s projected ownership among the masses will help you to assess which plays to avoid and which to target. FantasyPros offers an awesome in-season tool for projected ownership that’s worth utilizing. A player or player stack with one percent ownership would separate you from the pack if said player(s) has productive games, but setting lineups blindly and without solid information is just like throwing your money into the trash.

Playing DFS is just a guessing game, as is the case in all fantasy sports formats. Injuries, blown assignments, and bad games are all out of fantasy managers’ control. However, you can maximize your profit and your chances of winning by doing the research and making educated guesses. You can only control “you,” and how you value and select players should be rooted in logic and reason.

Effective contrarian play can be achieved two ways: selecting players with relatively low ownership who have great weeks, and fading players with projected high ownership who may have a down week. You can gain a big competitive edge over opponents by finding value and by avoiding popular picks who will burn through your salary cap with little to no return on investment.

Play the Matchups
You need to always pay attention to matchups, even when you’re planning to select one of the most elite players in the game. Matchups are especially important when making contrarian plays because a good or great matchup can make an otherwise decent player into a one-week wonder and contrarian superstar. A good matchup doesn’t always mean playing a back or receiver against a poor defense. Sometimes it means playing a guy whose own team’s defense is poor, meaning his team will be chasing points, leading to more opportunities — even if those opportunities come in garbage time. Potential shootouts with a high over/under should be on your radar when going contrarian.

Exploit Price Tags
DFS prices don’t always align with real-world production, and that’s where your knowledge and intel come into play. Identifying a good value is important, especially when that value is a contrarian play. A lesser-known wideout on a recent tear doesn’t necessarily see a huge bump in price because of his general outlook or production to that point in the season. Check the price and pull the trigger. He may be a diamond in the rough if the cost hasn’t ballooned.

Look for reasons that players may be less owned than usual and take your shot. A player working through an injury or making his return after some time off could be a great investment that stems from fear or reservations in the fantasy community at large. Some players seem to have no issue when they return to action following an injury layoff, and some play well through injuries all the time.

Consider Matt Breida in 2018. He drew an injury designation seemingly every week, but played well even if he was expected to miss time. He was an excellent contrarian play, especially when his price fell due to a “questionable” designation.

Pairing a contrarian receiver or tight end with his quarterback is an excellent way to compound points through the classic “contrarian stack.” A contrarian stack involves playing two players from the same team with relatively low ownership. A productive stack can score a lot of points and return a ton of value. The themes of effective contrarian play are value and separation from the competition, and getting value from two players on the same team compounds value and adds a further degree of separation from competing lineups. It’s important to reference price tags, matchups, and projected ownership when playing a contrarian stack.

Effective contrarian play is a must in GPP games in order to gain an edge over the competition, separate from the pack, and cash out. Make sure to study the matchups, projected ownership, and prices of all players available in order to exploit the values and fade the high-priced options who will underperform. Come into each daily contest educated and prepared to give yourself a realistic chance of winning every single time.

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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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