Acing Aces

A weekly guide to finding value in Fantasy Aces contests.

Welcome back to our FantasyAces feature article, wherein we identify value plays in both cash games and tournaments. The process we use starts with the statistical method described here, which results in a percentage that represents the likelihood a given player will achieve value based on his salary, his projection, and historical variation in scoring at his position. From there, we take a look at statistics related to his individual matchup, as well as any other situational factors that might affect his value likelihood (e.g., injuries, coaching tendencies, game scripts, ownership rates, etc.). This combination of stats and context allows us to narrow things down to a select group of players worth fully recommending.

Note: The value probability tables will be published on Thursday. Commentary based on the situational factors described above will be added on Friday.

QUARTERBACKS

Below are the quarterbacks with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Robert Griffin III CLE 4900 17.7 69.9% Robert Griffin III CLE 4900 18.5 42.5%
Andrew Luck IND 6900 22.8 64.3% Andrew Luck IND 6900 24.7 30.8%
Russell Wilson SEA 6750 22.0 62.0% Colin Kaepernick SF 6200 21.8 30.2%
Kirk Cousins WAS 6600 21.0 57.9% Russell Wilson SEA 6750 22.8 23.4%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7200 22.4 55.1% Sam Bradford MIN 5400 17.1 21.8%
Andy Dalton CIN 6700 20.8 54.9% Kirk Cousins WAS 6600 21.7 20.8%
Dak Prescott DAL 6500 20.2 54.7% Aaron Rodgers GB 7200 24.0 20.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Ryan Tannehill MIA 6000 15.9 35.9% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7300 21.1 8.1%
Cam Newton CAR 6950 19.5 40.9% Matt Ryan ATL 7150 20.6 8.3%
Carson Palmer ARI 6550 18.4 41.3% Carson Palmer ARI 6550 18.7 9.7%
Matt Ryan ATL 7150 20.4 42.4% Drew Brees NO 7450 23.1 12.3%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7300 20.8 42.5% Cam Newton CAR 6950 21.1 12.3%
Tom Brady NE 7200 20.5 42.5% Tom Brady NE 7200 22.2 12.7%
Marcus Mariota TEN 6200 17.8 44.6% Matthew Stafford DET 6950 21.2 12.7%

Among quarterbacks with high value probabilities, Andy Dalton has the best matchup of the week. Cleveland ranks 30th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, 32nd in overall defensive efficiency (per DVOA), and 31st in pass defense efficiency. The problem with using Dalton is that the weather forecast calls for sub-freezing temperatures, light snow, and winds of around 15 miles per hour. As Brian Burke's research has shown, this is a deadly combination for passing, especially for road teams. This downgrade is particularly poignant due to Dalton's value being exclusive to cash games. In that format, you want players with a high floor, but Dalton's weather-depleted floor is somewhere between the seventh and ninth Circles of Hell.

The only thing close to a matchup-based cash game alternative is Russell Wilson, as the Packers rank 28th in points allowed to quarterbacks. The weather forecast in Green Bay is nearly identical to Cleveland's, but the one difference is important. Although the temperature will also be around 30 degrees and light snow is also in the offing, the wind will only be around 5 miles per hour. That's important because wind has a much larger effect on passing than does temperature. That said, I wouldn't blame you for choosing to fade Wilson as well. If so, then the way to go is using Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins as your two cash game quarterbacks.

In tournaments, the clear value play is Colin Kaepernick, who's facing a Jets defense that ranks 27th in overall efficiency and 32nd in pass defense efficiency. Furthermore, Kaepernick's projected ownership rate is only around 15 percent, which ranks outside the Top 3 this week.

Running Backs

Below are the running backs with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
David Johnson ARI 6800 23.8 60.2% David Johnson ARI 6800 26.1 47.2%
LeVeon Bell PIT 6500 21.6 56.7% LeVeon Bell PIT 6500 22.9 41.5%
Melvin Gordon SD 5700 17.9 53.0% Melvin Gordon SD 5700 19.2 38.6%
Frank Gore IND 4450 13.3 49.8% Carlos Hyde SF 4750 15.6 37.0%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 19.1 48.5% Jay Ajayi MIA 4900 16.0 36.6%
DeMarco Murray TEN 5750 16.9 48.4% Frank Gore IND 4450 13.7 32.9%
Jay Ajayi MIA 4900 14.4 48.4% DeMarco Murray TEN 5750 17.7 32.9%
Carlos Hyde SF 4750 13.9 48.3% Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 19.9 32.6%
Jeremy Hill CIN 5500 15.8 47.2% Jeremy Hill CIN 5500 16.3 30.6%
LeSean McCoy BUF 5800 15.9 44.0% Dion Lewis NE 4400 13.0 30.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Chris Ivory JAX 4300 6.3 11.5% Chris Ivory JAX 4300 7.4 7.7%
James White NE 4200 6.5 13.3% Ryan Mathews PHI 4450 8.6 11.0%
Ryan Mathews PHI 4450 7.0 13.6% Duke Johnson CLE 4100 8.1 11.7%
Wendell Smallwood PHI 4100 6.8 16.0% Tevin Coleman ATL 4700 9.8 13.6%
LeGarrette Blount NE 5150 9.2 19.0% Wendell Smallwood PHI 4100 8.6 13.8%
Doug Martin TB 5500 9.9 19.2% Doug Martin TB 5500 11.6 14.0%
Darren Sproles PHI 4400 8.0 19.8% Justin Forsett DEN 4000 8.5 14.3%
Duke Johnson CLE 4100 7.5 19.9% Darren Sproles PHI 4400 9.4 14.5%
Bilal Powell NYJ 4150 7.8 21.4% Matt Asiata MIN 3900 8.4 14.8%
Tim Hightower NO 4150 8.0 22.5% LeGarrette Blount NE 5150 11.1 14.8%

Choosing running back values this week is relatively straightforward: DeMarco Murray and Jeremy Hill have favorable matchups and low projected ownership rates, so they're the primary options. Murray will be facing a Broncos defense that ranks 24th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs and 26th in run defense efficiency (per DVOA). He also has a projected ownership rate around 10 percent, which ranks well outside the Top 5 this week. Similarly, Hill will be facing a Browns defense that ranks 30th in points allowed to running backs and 29th in run defense efficiency. And Hill also has a projected ownership rate around 10 percent. Further in Hill's favor is the inverse of my weather-related Dalton discussion above. Again, Brian Burke's research showed that sub-freezing temperatures plus snow plus wind has a negative effect on passing. But moreover, these conditions tend to result in offenses having a higher run-to-pass ratio.

Wide Receivers

Below are the wide receivers with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Tyrell Williams SD 4400 12.4 45.7% T.Y. Hilton IND 5000 16.2 36.1%
T.Y. Hilton IND 5000 13.7 44.0% Malcolm Mitchell NE 4550 13.9 32.5%
Antonio Brown PIT 6600 18.0 43.4% Julian Edelman NE 5150 15.6 32.0%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5000 13.6 43.4% Jordy Nelson GB 5400 16.0 30.6%
Jordy Nelson GB 5400 14.5 42.5% Tyrell Williams SD 4400 13.0 30.5%
Mike Evans TB 6400 16.8 41.2% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5000 14.5 29.4%
Terrelle Pryor CLE 4800 12.5 40.5% Adam Thielen MIN 4250 12.3 29.3%
Steve Smith BAL 4300 11.0 39.5% Doug Baldwin SEA 5000 14.1 27.8%
Doug Baldwin SEA 5000 12.8 39.2% Taylor Gabriel ATL 4100 11.3 26.5%
Jamison Crowder WAS 4600 11.7 39.0% Dez Bryant DAL 5500 15.1 26.3%
Adam Thielen MIN 4250 10.8 38.7% Antonio Brown PIT 6600 18.1 26.2%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 4800 12.1 38.6% Ty Montgomery GB 4100 11.2 26.0%
Kenny Britt LA 4700 11.8 38.0% Mike Evans TB 6400 17.3 25.4%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 4800 12.0 37.7% Golden Tate DET 5150 13.9 25.4%
Michael Thomas NO 4950 12.3 37.6% Jamison Crowder WAS 4600 12.4 25.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4800 8.1 16.7% DeVante Parker MIA 4450 9.4 14.1%
Randall Cobb GB 4700 8.8 21.3% Marvin Jones DET 4600 10.0 15.2%
Sammy Watkins BUF 4600 8.8 22.4% Sammy Watkins BUF 4600 10.1 15.6%
Rishard Matthews TEN 4750 9.3 23.5% Allen Robinson JAX 4600 10.5 17.2%
Will Fuller HOU 4400 8.7 23.9% Kelvin Benjamin CAR 4700 10.9 17.9%
Michael Floyd ARI 4000 8.1 25.3% Brandon Marshall NYJ 4900 11.4 18.0%
Marqise Lee JAX 4100 8.3 25.5% Jordan Matthews PHI 4600 10.8 18.5%
DeVante Parker MIA 4450 9.3 26.9% Randall Cobb GB 4700 11.1 18.7%
Ted Ginn CAR 4100 8.8 28.3% Brian Quick LA 3800 9.0 18.8%
Allen Robinson JAX 4600 9.9 28.7% Anquan Boldin DET 4200 10.0 19.1%
Brian Quick LA 3800 8.2 29.1% Tyler Boyd CIN 4600 11.1 19.7%
Anquan Boldin DET 4200 9.1 29.3% Pierre Garcon WAS 4350 10.5 19.7%
Cameron Meredith CHI 4150 9.0 29.4% Brandon LaFell CIN 4700 11.4 19.9%
DeSean Jackson WAS 4250 9.3 29.9% Jarvis Landry MIA 4700 11.4 19.9%
Taylor Gabriel ATL 4100 9.0 30.1% DeAndre Hopkins HOU 4900 11.9 20.0%

As has been the case the past few weeks, there aren't many wide receiver with high value probabilities and favorable matchups. In fact, there are actually none this week. No wide receivers in the top half of the table face a Bottom 8 pass defense in terms of FantasyAces points allowed to wide receivers or pass defense efficiency (per DVOA).

In this rare circumstance, I look to Pro Football Focus' WR-CB matchup chart. And doing so produces the following six wide receivers that have high value probabilities and favorable individual matchups: Tyrell WilliamsT.Y. HiltonAntonio Brown, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, and Taylor Gabriel. Although fine to use in cash games, Williams (24 percent) and Hilton (22 percent) are persona non grata in tournaments because they have the two highest projected ownership rates this week. In contrast, Taylor Gabriel only shows up in the tournament-value part of the table, and his projected ownership rate is only 10 percent. To boot, per Pro Football Focus implies that Gabriel will be facing among the worst cornerbacks in the league, E.J. Gaines.

Of Brown, Baldwin, and Evans, my value choice would be Evans in cash games and Brown in tournaments. Regarding Evans, Pro Football Focus projects him to be shadowed by Delvin Breaux, who (ironically) is a shadow of his former self in coverage. That said, Evans is in the Top 5 of projected ownership rate, so he's only a cash game option with respect to value. In contrast, Brown has a projected ownership rate is only around 5 percent, and he'll be running almost all of his routes against the Bills' inferior cornerbacks this year (per Pro Football Focus), Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby.

Tight Ends

Below are the tight ends with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Jimmy Graham SEA 4950 12.6 35.1% Ladarius Green PIT 4300 11.5 17.6%
Greg Olsen CAR 4600 10.7 28.0% Jimmy Graham SEA 4950 13.1 17.0%
Delanie Walker TEN 4700 10.9 27.3% Delanie Walker TEN 4700 12.3 16.4%
Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 11.1 25.8% Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 12.8 16.3%
Cameron Brate TB 4600 10.0 22.6% Eric Ebron DET 4200 10.5 13.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Martellus Bennett NE 4600 7.0 5.8% Martellus Bennett NE 4600 8.1 2.9%
Dwayne Allen IND 4000 6.7 8.9% Dennis Pitta BAL 4350 7.8 3.2%
Jermaine Gresham ARI 3750 6.5 10.0% Vance McDonald SF 4300 8.5 5.2%
Dennis Pitta BAL 4350 7.6 10.7% Jermaine Gresham ARI 3750 7.6 5.8%
Vance McDonald SF 4300 8.0 13.5% C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 4100 8.8 7.5%

From a matchup perspective, there's one clear value option: Tyler Eifert. His opponent, Cleveland, enters the game ranked 30th in FantasyAces points allowed to tight ends, 31st in pass defense efficiency (per DVOA), and 31st in efficiency on tight end targets. Furthermore, his projected ownership rate is only around 10 percent. Of course, Eifert suffers from the same weather-induced downgrade that Andy Dalton did. Essentially, if not for the weather forecast, Dalton-Eifert would be a no-brainer value stack this week. Alas, play at your own risk.

As alternatives, although their stat matchups are significantly worse than Eifert's, there's Cameron Brate in cash games, and either Eric Ebron or Ladarius Green in tournaments. Brate faces a Saints pass defense ranked 26th in efficiency. Ebron faces a Bears pass defense ranked 25th in efficiency on tight end targets. Green faces a Bills pass defense ranked 26th in efficiency on tight end targets. Regarding Green, although the weather forecast for Buffalo includes sub-freezing temperatures, it doesn't include snow or high winds, which, as I wrote noted earlier, have larger effects on passing than temperature.

Defenses

Below are the defenses with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

MOST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Minnesota Vikings MIN 3000 12.3 75.1% Minnesota Vikings MIN 3000 12.3 52.5%
Atlanta Falcons ATL 2800 11.0 70.0% Indianapolis Colts IND 2500 10.0 50.0%
Indianapolis Colts IND 2500 9.6 66.7% Atlanta Falcons ATL 2800 11.0 48.4%
Detroit Lions DET 2950 11.0 66.7% Detroit Lions DET 2950 11.6 48.4%
New England Patriots NE 3000 10.8 64.0% San Francisco 49ers SF 2500 9.6 46.7%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Denver Broncos DEN 3200 8.6 41.4% Denver Broncos DEN 3200 8.9 21.1%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 3100 8.9 46.6% Seattle Seahawks SEA 3100 9.1 24.8%
NY Jets NYJ 2800 8.1 47.5% Carolina Panthers CAR 2850 8.4 26.8%
Carolina Panthers CAR 2850 8.4 48.7% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3000 9.3 28.9%
Buffalo Bills BUF 2700 8.0 49.1% NY Jets NYJ 2800 8.5 28.9%

Minnesota and Atlanta are the primary cash game options based on matchups. On Monday night, the Vikings will be facing a Jaguars offense that allows the fifth-most FantasyAces points to opposing defenses and ranks 29th in overall efficiency (per DVOA). If you want to go slightly cheaper, then the Falcons' opponent, Los Angeles, gives up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses and ranks dead last in efficiency.

Due to projected ownership rates, Atlanta remains a value option in tournaments (around 5 percent), whereas Minnesota does not (around 30 percent). Outside of the Falcons, an even cheaper alternative is San Francisco. The 49ers will be facing a Jets offense that allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing defenses and ranks 28th in efficiency.