Being Contrarian Without Being Stupid

If you want to win GPPs, it helps a lot if you have one or two guys on your squad that are very low owned and go off, or a chalk pick that you fade crashes and burns.


But when going through lineups, a lot of us chuckle at what seems to be other people’s failed attempts to be contrarian. Is drafting John Kuhn in NFL ever a smart pick (it isn’t)? How about choosing a few random NBA players that don’t seem to have glaring value to go against the grain? Do you always have to draft Russell Westbrook if Kevin Durant isn’t playing, or play a backup running back when the starter is suddenly out?

When you go contrarian, you can go two routes. You can use a low-owned athlete and/or you can fade a near universally owned player. Here’s how I generally decide between the two:

Using a Low Owned Athlete: The Hidden Gem Approach

Best Case Scenario: You believe a player has a really high projection, but others in the DFS community won’t likely use him. Maybe it’s because he is just flying under the radar, or perhaps he had a bad game last game and people are unreasonably scared off of him. This would be the best case to go contrarian.

Unfortunately, these opportunities are not available every day, especially in the NBA. This sort of contrarian strategy is generally most effectively used in football in my experience. It’s often possible to use a few hidden gems but also stock your team with good, but chalky, picks and come out ahead.

An example of this strategy in action was in Week 17. I had a Eli Manning stack (popular play) but it also had Andre Johnson (hidden gem) and Eric Decker (very hidden gem). I wasn’t fading the public at large with this play; I mainly just went with two off-the-wall players with high upside but filled the rest of the roster with typical public plays.

Good, Not Great Scenario: You believe one athlete is similar to another athlete, but won’t be widely as used. You have upside due to being different, but if you’re on the wrong end of the coin flip, you find yourself far behind.

The strategy is still worth exploring and can win you a GPP. This happens a lot in NBA in my opinion since most of the best value is widely used, so you have to resort to choosing a different high or mid-priced play from the crowd.

Being Stupid Scenario: In this scenario, you choose a player only because no one else will choose him. However, there’s generally good reason not to choose him. For example, in NBA, the player might still be somewhat injured and playing reduced minutes. It’s sometimes hard to differentiate this scenario from the ‘Good, Not Great’ one, but that’s where the skill in DFS often lies!

Fading a Highly Owned Play: The Fade The Public Approach

Instead of going after hidden gems, you may instead focus more on fading a few popular picks. You may believe the players are overhyped and overpriced. In NFL, popular picks are rarely above 25%, so this strategy doesn’t help quite as much. However, in NBA, many times a certain player is 40% owned or more.

Best Case Scenario: In the best case scenario, you think a popular pick is flat-out overpriced. The player has had 3-4 great games in a row, so the algorithms have caught up. There are plenty of other options that are slightly cheaper that can provide value.

Generally, in this scenario, you’re fading a fairly high priced player, so if he nosedives, he’ll tank most of your opponents’ lineups (whereas a ‘meh’ performance from a min-priced player doesn’t hurt your opponents as much). An example of this would have been fading James Harden in the game right before the All-Star break, where he was generally 50%+ owned since he had back-to-back performances of 70 fantasy points or more.

You don’t necessarily have to opt for a “Hidden Gem” as well in this strategy. You can fill your roster with generally popular plays, but you avoid one or two of them that you hope crash and burn.

Good, But Not Great Scenario: This is basically the mirror of the “Hidden Gems” strategy I mentioned before. You identify an athlete that is highly owned and a comparable one that is low-owned, and roll with the lower-owned option. You’re playing the fade game and hoping to win a coin toss.

Generally, using an average value player that is low owned isn’t a great strategy to win a GPP unless it’s part of a fade the public play. So that’s why I’m listing it under both the “Hidden Gem” and the “Fade the Public” approach. There generally isn’t a great reason to just use a random, low owned player unless you think he’s a hidden gem or as part of a “Fade the Public” play.

Being Stupid Scenario: In this scenario, you fade one or more clearly solid plays and use replacement players that have far lower projections. An example would be fading Russell Westbrook when his salary is lowish (around $10,000) and Durant is suddenly out on a small NBA slate. Yes, Westbrook will be near 70%+ owned. However, there are also very few options to replace his value, his ceiling/floor are both high, and in this scenario his price isn’t that high (so he’s still a very good $/point value).

Identifying a hidden gem or fading the public successfully can certainly help you win a GPP. In general, I favor the hidden gem approach more with NFL and the public fades with NBA. Just remember, there’s a fine line between being contrarian and being stupid sometimes. Don’t just choose low owned players or fade popular plays for the sake of it!

About the Author

  • Michael Cohen (TwoGun)

  • Michael “TwoGun” Cohen is a successful DFS player that specializes in GPPs. He has won the DraftKings Millionaire Maker (in the NFL divisional playoffs round), as well as the $500K first place prize in the DraftKings Week 17 $2 million Touchdown event, among other top finishes. Follow him on Twitter at TwoGunFF.


  • shorty043

    Great article. I try to be as contrarian as anyone, but I often wonder if it goes over to stupid. Very well said TwoGun

  • jimmyquinella

    • Blogger of the Month

    Thanks for the article

  • liondog

    Very insightful. Thanks.

  • mski9

    Awesome article needed this

  • Ripsurf

    Great Article, I found myself discovering this through trial and error and this article of yours solidified and put it in words. Thanks

  • shivdaddy

    Good work 2 Gun.

  • evil333

    Awesome article gets you thinking in the right contrarian direction… Thanks two gun

  • riskypicz

    Fantastic article… loved it. I never really approached my lineup this way

  • MisterGus17

    Thanks for the help! I will have to review it every so often since after every GPP loss, which are many (like most of us), I think “That was a stupid play, dummy!”.

  • dorfman10

    Great read, I find myself trying to diversify in GPP’s only to find that I’m only being stupid to be different and not getting good results.

  • jjohns8789

    Well said. Thanks!

  • xcluesiv

    very good article

  • waltj

    How come i cant give the article a thumbs up?

  • xMiami2Ibiza

    as soon as i saw the title of this article i immediately had a picture of eric decker pop into my head and imagined your week 17 celebration. low and behold as i scrolled down whose picture did i see. i still remember wondering in week 17 why didnt i do that!?

    good read though, thanks

  • daveinchi1975

    2012 DSBC Finalist

    Good stuff – I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on multi-entry contrarian plays – for example, you have 4 different “fade the public” picks with regard to an expected highly-owned player on 4 $5 gpp entries at a particular position. You would then only need 2 things to happen – the public pick crashes and burns, and only 1 of your 4 low-owned contrarian plays goes for 40 – that entry would have a huge advantage over the field. Tonight, I expect Taj Gibson to be 40% owned in gpp’s with both Gasol and Rose out and with his relatively low-priced, yet there are several other sub-5K value plays on the board tonight as options. Gibson would seem to be a good “fade the public play” – yet, who of Jason Thompson, JJ. Hickson, Joey Lauvernge, etc. will end up having a double-double with a couple blocks? With multi-entry, you can play 1 entry with each of those guys, while fading Gibson, and if Gibson bombs, your likelihood of having a 25plus point advantage at 1 position over 40% of the field is high.

  • daveinchi1975

    2012 DSBC Finalist

    Of course, no matter how you play your contrarian entries, when the masses are correct, you aren’t likely to cash. Westbrook will be 50% plus tonight and if you fade and he scores 60, you’re in big trouble, because that’s a ton of possible entries with Westbrook’s 60 and a min. priced shot-in-the-dark 35, so even if your PG goes for 40 at 7500K, you are behind the 8-ball against a TON of entries.

  • daveinchi1975

    2012 DSBC Finalist

    Last thing – the trouble with calling the “Being stupid scenario” stupid, is that when it works, and you win a gpp doing it, those 99 previous times it didn’t work only negligibly alter your profit. In other words, it is stupid 99% of the time, so you waste $495 in $5 entries over a few weeks, but when the stupid thing actually works, you hit for 3K and make $2505 in profit….Thus, it is no longer stupid…If you fade Westy 100 straight times in the ideal scenario (no Durant) (thus his ownership is 50% plus), sure, MOST of the time, you will “stupidly” crash and burn, but those 2-3 times out of 100 when he leaves due to an injury, or when he fails to produce well in 25 minutes of a blowout win (because Ibaka goes nuts, or Augustine comes in in the 2nd quarter and extends the lead from 10 to 20), etc., will be the 2-3 times when you have a good shot at winning that gpp with your contrarian pick of Chris Paul at San Antonio at 5% owned and he puts up a 20-15-5 steal line.

  • JJdaily

    I like the write and some of it dose make sense, but I still believe it all luck the other night I took a Gamble on W Matthews he was only 2.1% own and he went for 47 FDP which helped me place in the tourney

  • cab912

    Well said JJ as on the tournament scene you look at the winning lineups and try to learn understand and justify what was done for success and guess what more often than not luck plays into it. As always you can help cut down on the luck massively multiple entering a good core of players and putting around them various combinations looking to hit just right taking into account whether that night will be a contrarian or chalk kinda of result.

  • Mindofigor

    I won’t fade this article because the value will be hard to make up elsewhere.

  • raven4gold

    Nice article. I just placed 2nd in the 150k $2 NBA on fanduel for 6k! Greek Mafia baby!

  • CornG

    Good stuff

  • Sakelele

    Agree with daveinchi, especially if talking about large slate. I think when you have 12 games, in a large pool gpp, it is never stupid to fade a high owned high price player. If he flops, you have a significant advantage and if he doesn’t you can still win or place very high in rankings.

  • tendoreezy

    2013 FFFC Finalist

    • 2013 FanDuel WFFC Finalist

    Very insightful. As someone who got into DFS playing primarily NFL its very helpful to hear about the differences between a contrarian strategy in NFL vs NBA (a DFS game I’m still learning how to play). Great read.

  • greenwarrior2

    Great article,thanks for the insight

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