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)
Joe Flacco BAL 5850 19.9 65.4% Joe Flacco BAL 5850 20.4 30.2%
Sam Bradford MIN 5300 17.7 61.9% Sam Bradford MIN 5300 18.1 29.6%
Matt Ryan ATL 7300 22.9 56.9% Robert Griffin III CLE 5000 16.9 29.6%
Kirk Cousins WAS 6800 21.3 56.3% Blake Bortles JAX 5600 18.6 25.6%
Robert Griffin III CLE 5000 15.9 56.1% Trevor Siemian DEN 5700 18.6 23.4%
Alex Smith KC 6000 18.2 51.0% Alex Smith KC 6000 19.3 20.8%
Dak Prescott DAL 6400 19.2 49.9% Derek Carr OAK 6450 20.8 19.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Matthew Stafford DET 6600 17.7 35.7% Tom Brady NE 7000 20.1 8.6%
Philip Rivers SD 6650 17.9 36.2% Drew Brees NO 7250 21.2 8.9%
Tom Brady NE 7000 19.0 36.6% Carson Palmer ARI 6750 19.3 9.2%
Drew Brees NO 7250 19.9 37.3% Matthew Stafford DET 6600 18.7 9.2%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 6800 18.6 37.4% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 6800 19.6 9.4%
Carson Palmer ARI 6750 19.0 41.3% Aaron Rodgers GB 7600 22.9 9.7%
Eli Manning NYG 6250 17.5 41.3% Andrew Luck IND 6950 20.4 10.0%

Three quarterbacks in the top half of the table have favorable stat matchups in addition to high value probabilities. The safest bet for use in cash games is Matt Ryan, who's at home against a 49ers defense that allows the fifth-most FantasyAces points to opposing quarterbacks. In addition, San Francisco also ranks 30th in overall efficiency and 29th against the pass (per DVOA). The next-safest bet is Alex Smith, as he'll be hosting a Titans defense ranked 29th in points allowed to quarterbacks, 25th in overall efficiency, and 25th against the pass. And if you're brave enough to use a low-ceiling player like Smith in tournaments, it's worth noting that his projected ownership rate is only around 5 percent.

Finally, there's Sam Bradford, who's also playing at home against a Bottom 8 defense across the board. Specifically, Indianapois has allowed the third-most points to opposing quarterbacks, ranks 29th in overall defensive efficiency, and ranks 26th in pass defense efficiency. At around 20 percent, however, Bradford has a prohibitively high projected ownership with respect to using him for tournament value.

Perhaps then, you may want to use Ryan in tournaments as well as cash games. If so, then it's worth informing you that his 16.2% tournament value probability ranks 12th among quarterbacks 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 6650 22.7 58.7% Kenneth Dixon BAL 4200 15.6 45.0%
LeVeon Bell PIT 6750 22.9 58.2% David Johnson ARI 6650 24.0 43.1%
LeSean McCoy BUF 6100 19.7 54.9% LeVeon Bell PIT 6750 23.8 41.6%
Latavius Murray OAK 5100 15.8 52.2% Spencer Ware KC 5300 18.3 40.2%
Kenneth Dixon BAL 4200 12.8 51.0% LeSean McCoy BUF 6100 20.0 36.9%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 19.2 48.8% Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 21.1 36.2%
Spencer Ware KC 5300 15.3 47.5% Latavius Murray OAK 5100 16.3 35.2%
Jordan Howard CHI 4900 14.0 46.7% Devonta Freeman ATL 5700 17.3 32.1%
Jerick McKinnon MIN 4000 11.1 44.9% Jeremy Hill CIN 5250 15.8 31.6%
Jeremy Hill CIN 5250 14.6 44.7% LeGarrette Blount NE 4950 14.7 30.8%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Mike Gillislee BUF 4000 5.4 8.7% Devontae Booker DEN 4650 7.4 6.0%
Chris Thompson WAS 4000 5.5 9.4% Paul Perkins NYG 4200 6.9 6.7%
Shaun Draughn SF 3500 5.0 10.3% Kenjon Barner PHI 3800 6.3 6.9%
Duke Johnson CLE 4200 6.6 13.5% Ronnie Hillman SD 3500 6.2 8.5%
Tim Hightower NO 4000 6.3 14.0% Tim Hightower NO 4000 7.4 9.6%
Paul Perkins NYG 4200 6.7 14.5% Duke Johnson CLE 4200 7.8 9.8%
Derrick Henry TEN 4200 6.7 14.5% Derrick Henry TEN 4200 7.9 10.1%
Alfred Blue HOU 3300 5.3 14.5% Terrance West BAL 4550 8.9 11.4%
Rex Burkhead CIN 3500 5.7 15.3% Alfred Blue HOU 3300 6.6 12.1%
James White NE 4000 6.9 17.3% Theo Riddick DET 4350 8.8 12.5%

This is a really interesting week for running back value; here's why. David Johnson and LeSean McCoy have highly favorable matchups, but also have prohibitively high projected ownership rates. New Orleans, Johnson's opponent, has allowed the fourth-most FantasyAces points to opposing running backs and ranks dead last in pass defense efficiency on running back targets (per DVOA). Meanwhile, McCoy's at home in what's forecast to be running friendly weather against a Browns defense that's allowed the second-most points to opposing running backs and ranks dead last in run defense effiency. Unfortunately, Johnson's projected ownership rate is upwards of 50 percent, while McCoy's is around 35 percent.

So who to pivot to in tournaments? Well, both of the best alternatives will be featured in the same game. The first is Devonta Freeman, who will be facing a 49ers defense ranks dead last in points allowed to running backs, 31st in run defense efficiency, and 22nd in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. Freeman's counterpart, Carlos Hyde, just missed making the table (13th highest value probability in cash games; 15th in tournaments), but nevertheless actually has the best overall matchup of the week. Specifically, Atlanta has allowed the third-most points to opposing running backs, ranks 28th in run defense efficiency, and ranks 27th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. What's more, while Freeman's projected ownership rate is around 15 percent, Hyde's is only around 5 percent.

But then, there's this: After the aforementioned gang of four, five other running backs in the top half of the table face a Bottom 8 defense in one of the three stat categories I look at

  • Jeremy Hill faces a Steelers defense that's allowed the sixth-most points to opposing running backs (projected ownership < 5%).
  • Latavius Murray faces a Chargers defense that's allowed the seventh-most points to opposing running backs (projected ownership  10 percent).
  • LeGarrette Blount faces a Broncos defense ranked 25th in run defense efficiency (projected ownership  5 percent).
  • Spencer Ware faces a Titans defense ranked 31st in pass defense efficiency on running back targets (projected ownership  1 percent).
  • Ezekiel Elliott faces a Buccaneers defense ranked 25th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets (projected ownership  10 percent).

Of course, with respect to the last two, it's debatable as to how much Ware and Elliott will actually benefit from their singularly favorable stat matchups considering that they average only around 3 targets per game.

And finally, there's the curious case of Jerrick McKinnon, who will be facing a Colts defense ranked 30th in both run efficiency and pass efficiency on running back targets, but whose role in the offense has been thrown into upheaval due to Adrian Peterson's surprise return. The problem for FantasyAces players is two-fold. First, it's an open question as to how much of a dent Peterson will put into McKinnon's snaps. Second, even if we assume Peterson takes something like 80 percent of McKinnon's snaps and felt the best course of action was to instead apply Minnesota's stat matchup to Peterson, Peterson isn't available for rostering this week.

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)
Antonio Brown PIT 6350 18.2 46.9% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4850 14.9 32.8%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4850 13.5 45.1% Antonio Brown PIT 6350 18.9 30.9%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 4900 13.7 45.0% Demaryius Thomas DEN 4900 14.3 29.8%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 4950 13.1 41.4% Corey Coleman CLE 4000 11.6 29.4%
T.Y. Hilton IND 5200 13.7 41.1% Michael Crabtree OAK 4800 13.7 28.5%
Jordy Nelson GB 5650 14.8 40.7% Marqise Lee JAX 4400 12.5 28.2%
Michael Crabtree OAK 4800 12.5 40.7% Adam Thielen MIN 4450 12.6 28.0%
Tyrell Williams SD 4400 11.3 39.8% Steve Smith BAL 4300 11.8 26.3%
Brandin Cooks NO 4800 12.1 38.4% T.Y. Hilton IND 5200 14.2 26.0%
Steve Smith BAL 4300 10.8 38.2% Ty Montgomery GB 4400 12.0 25.9%
Jamison Crowder WAS 4450 11.1 37.9% Jordan Matthews PHI 4600 12.5 25.7%
Tyreek Hill KC 4750 11.8 37.6% Cameron Meredith CHI 4200 11.4 25.7%
Mike Evans TB 5850 14.5 37.2% Emmanuel Sanders DEN 4950 13.4 25.5%
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 6500 16.0 37.0% Jordy Nelson GB 5650 15.1 24.8%
Ty Montgomery GB 4400 10.8 36.9% Tyrell Williams SD 4400 11.7 24.6%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Julio Jones ATL 6200 9.3 12.2% Mohamed Sanu ATL 4250 8.0 10.2%
Randall Cobb GB 4600 7.5 15.0% Anquan Boldin DET 4250 8.4 11.7%
Mohamed Sanu ATL 4250 6.9 15.2% Will Fuller HOU 4200 8.4 12.1%
Jeremy Kerley SF 3900 6.9 18.8% Sterling Shepard NYG 4250 8.6 12.5%
Malcolm Mitchell NE 4600 8.2 19.1% Kelvin Benjamin CAR 4550 9.3 12.9%
Will Fuller HOU 4200 7.6 19.7% Breshad Perriman BAL 3900 8.0 13.0%
Anquan Boldin DET 4250 8.0 21.5% Marvin Jones DET 4550 9.7 14.4%
Allen Robinson JAX 4500 8.5 21.7% Allen Robinson JAX 4500 9.6 14.5%
Chris Hogan NE 4100 7.8 21.9% Julio Jones ATL 6200 13.3 14.7%
Julian Edelman NE 5000 9.7 22.9% Brandon LaFell CIN 4400 9.5 14.9%
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 4550 9.0 23.9% Julian Edelman NE 5000 10.9 15.3%
Sterling Shepard NYG 4250 8.4 24.2% Malcolm Mitchell NE 4600 10.2 16.0%
Brandon LaFell CIN 4400 8.8 24.5% Chris Hogan NE 4100 9.1 16.0%
Marvin Jones DET 4550 9.3 25.6% Robert Woods BUF 3800 8.5 16.4%
Golden Tate DET 4800 9.8 26.0% Golden Tate DET 4800 10.9 17.0%

As was the case at running back, finding value at wide receiver also involves a cornucopia of one-stat favorable matchup options. In cash games, Jamison Crowder faces a Carolina pass defense that's allowed the seventh-most FantasyAces points to opposing wide receivers, Mike Evans faces a Cowboys pass defense that's allowed the eighth-most FantasyAces points to opposing wide receivers, and Odell Beckham, Jr., faces a Lions pass defense ranked 30th in efficiency (per DVOA). In tournaments, Adam Thielen faces a Colts pass defense ranked 26th in efficiency and has a projected ownership of only around 5 percent. With a matchup against the 24th-ranked defense with respect to fantasy points allowed and a projected ownership rate around only 1 percent, Cameron Meredith would work in tournaments as well, except for the minor detail that the weather forecast in Chicago calls for temperatures near zero degrees and wind upwards of 15 miles per hour, which is a death knell for passing based on Brian Burke's statistical research.

Four additional receivers have one-stat favorable matchups and are viable value options in both cash games and tournaments:

  • Steve Smith faces an Eagles defense that's allowed the fifth-most points to opposing wide receivers (projected ownership ≈ 5 percent).
  • Larry Fitzgerald faces a Saints pass defense that ranks 28th in efficiency (projected ownership ≈ 15 percent).
  • Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (both with projected ownership ≈ 5 percent) face a Patriots pass defense ranked 27th in efficiency.

Although all of the above is all well and good, there happens to be one wide receiver that represents high value, has an acceptable projected ownership rate, andhas a favorable matchup in more than one stat category. Namely, Tyreek Hill will be going against a Titans pass defense that ranks dead last in points allowed to opposing wide receivers and 25th in efficiency. To boot, his projected ownership rate is only around 10 percent, which makes him a viable tournament value option as well. The only factor working against Hill is that temperatures are forecast to be around 0 degrees, which tends to have a detrimental effect on passing. That said, wind tends to have a larger effect, and the forecast calls for what amounts to a a mere cold breeze.

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)
Travis Kelce KC 4900 13.1 39.2% Ryan Griffin HOU 3000 9.6 30.3%
Ryan Griffin HOU 3000 7.7 36.2% Travis Kelce KC 4900 13.5 19.5%
Greg Olsen CAR 4600 10.8 28.3% Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 13.2 18.1%
Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 11.2 26.4% Antonio Gates SD 3900 10.3 16.9%
Delanie Walker TEN 4600 10.2 24.4% Martellus Bennett NE 4700 12.2 15.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Coby Fleener NO 4200 6.0 4.2% Dennis Pitta BAL 4300 6.8 1.6%
Dennis Pitta BAL 4300 6.5 5.5% Coby Fleener NO 4200 7.2 2.5%
Charles Clay BUF 3800 6.0 6.7% Jason Witten DAL 4200 7.7 3.6%
Jack Doyle IND 3900 6.3 7.8% C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 4000 7.5 4.0%
Jermaine Gresham ARI 3850 6.7 10.2% Jermaine Gresham ARI 3850 7.5 4.8%

Favorable stat matchups for high-value tight ends are scarce this week. In fact, only two of the seven on the top half of the table will be facing a defense that's ranked in the Bottom 8 of even one of the categories I look at. The problem is that the two defenses that are bad across the board against tight ends, Cleveland and Detroit, are playing offenses that barely use their tight ends, Buffalo and the Giants. To wit, as you see on the bottom half of the table, Charles Clay's salary and projections create a value probability that's among the lowest of the week in cash games and doesn't even qualify for the table in tournaments (i.e., his max projection isn't in the Top 20 tight ends). Ditto Will Tye, except that he failed to qualify for the table in both formats.

So who are those two tight ends? The first is Greg Olsen, who will be facing a Washington pass defense that allows the fifth-most FantasyAces points to opposing tight ends and ranks 26th in efficiency on tight end targets (per DVOA). The second is Travis Kelce, but his matchup barely registers: Tennessee ranks 25th in pass defense efficiency, but only 10th in efficiency on tight end targets; as well as 20th in points allowed to opposing tight ends. Both have a projected ownership rate around 10 percent, so Kelce in tournaments and Olsen (or Kelce) in cash games is the way to go.

However, if we go off the grid, so to speak, then a cheaper option that just missed the table is Ladarius Green. His value probabilities rank eighth both for cash games (19.8%) and tournaments (11.6%), and he'll be facing a Bengals pass defense that's allowed the third-most points to opposing tight ends. (They also rank 20th in efficiency on tight end targets.) In addition, his projected ownership rate is only around 5 percent.

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)
Houston Texans HOU 2800 11.9 76.1% Houston Texans HOU 2800 12.2 58.2%
Green Bay Packers GB 3000 11.6 70.3% Baltimore Ravens BAL 2950 11.6 48.4%
Baltimore Ravens BAL 2950 11.4 70.0% Green Bay Packers GB 3000 11.7 47.5%
Buffalo Bills BUF 3300 12.5 70.0% Dallas Cowboys DAL 2700 10.3 45.9%
Dallas Cowboys DAL 2700 10.0 65.2% Buffalo Bills BUF 3300 12.5 44.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3200 8.3 39.0% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3200 8.6 19.3%
Cincinnati Bengals CIN 2750 7.7 45.0% New England Patriots NE 3250 9.7 24.8%
New England Patriots NE 3250 9.7 49.5% Cincinnati Bengals CIN 2750 8.0 26.8%
Indianapolis Colts IND 2500 7.6 50.8% Kansas City Chiefs KC 3100 9.7 28.9%
Washington Redskins WAS 2600 8.1 52.4% Washington Redskins WAS 2600 8.2 32.5%

Houston has both the highest value probability of the week and one of the best matchups. Jacksonville's offense has allowed the seventh-most FantasyAces points to opposing defenses and ranks 27th in efficiency (per DVOA). That said, the Texans' projected ownership rate is upwards of 15 percent, so it's advisable to pivot away from them in tournaments. The highest-value alternative is Buffalo, as the Bills will be hosting a Browns offense that gives up the fifth-most points to opposing defenses and ranks 29th in efficiency. Also favorable is the weather forecast, which calls for sub-freezing temperatures, light snow, and wind in the 10-to-15 mile per hour range.