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.

Note 2: With no Thursday Night Football this week, we don't have ownership information from FantasyAces' Thursday-Monday GPP, so commentary is based on the other factors mentioned above.

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)
Russell Wilson SEA 6750 22.8 66.7% Blake Bortles JAX 5750 20.5 33.3%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7700 24.6 60.3% Landry Jones PIT 5300 18.4 31.4%
Matt Ryan ATL 7100 22.6 58.5% Russell Wilson SEA 6750 24.0 30.2%
Alex Smith KC 5900 18.7 57.0% Tom Savage HOU 5000 16.3 26.1%
Blake Bortles JAX 5750 18.2 56.4% Alex Smith KC 5900 19.9 26.1%
Matthew Stafford DET 6350 20.0 56.4% EJ Manuel BUF 4900 15.6 24.5%
EJ Manuel BUF 4900 15.4 54.7% Matthew Stafford DET 6350 21.2 23.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Matt Cassel TEN 5600 13.7 29.7% Philip Rivers SD 6700 17.8 6.0%
Matt Barkley CHI 6000 15.1 30.7% Eli Manning NYG 6350 17.6 8.9%
Philip Rivers SD 6700 17.4 32.1% Matt Barkley CHI 6000 16.4 9.4%
Cam Newton CAR 6600 17.5 34.2% Andrew Luck IND 7150 21.3 10.3%
Colin Kaepernick SF 6100 16.1 35.1% Drew Brees NO 7400 22.5 11.0%
Andy Dalton CIN 6200 16.8 37.9% Cam Newton CAR 6600 19.4 11.3%
Cody Kessler CLE 5000 13.7 41.0% Tom Brady NE 7000 21.3 12.3%

The stat matchups suggest that Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers are prime value options in cash games, while Blake Bortles, Landry Jones, Tom Savage, and EJ Manuel are prime value options in tournaments. Based on a combination of research I did five years ago and common sense, we can reduce these down to two: Aaron Rodgers and Blake Bortles. Regarding Rodgers, my research showed that the only type of Week 17 quarterback situation that saw a massive decrease in fantasy points was when his team had clinched the playoffs, and therefore was only vying for a particular seed. Among Wilson, Ryan, and Rodgers, Wilson and Ryan fit that mold, whereas Rodgers doesn't. To be clear, it's not that Green Bay having the playoffs at stakes matters. It's that Seattle and Atlanta don't have the playoffs at stake.

Regarding tournaments, although Jones and Manuel have trifecta-hitting stat matchups (i.e., going against Bottom 8 defenses in FantasyAces points allowed to quarterbacks, overall defense efficiency, and/or pass defense efficiency), I can't in good conscience advise rostering quarterbacks that have barely, if ever, started all season and have provided ample, clear evidence as to their awfulness. At the same time, although Bortles has provided evidence as to his awfulness, at least he hits said trifecta while also having been the starting quarterback for his team all season. Stated differently, whereas Jones and Manuel starting represents coaching capitulation, Bortles starting represents nothing left to lose. I'd rather roster the guy who's played all season and has nothing left to lose than the guys who are just happy to be there.

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 6750 22.6 57.4% DeAngelo Williams PIT 3500 16.8 62.1%
DeAngelo Williams PIT 3500 11.2 54.5% David Johnson ARI 6750 24.0 42.1%
Bilal Powell NYJ 4850 14.9 51.7% Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT 3000 10.6 41.7%
Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT 3000 8.9 48.9% Bilal Powell NYJ 4850 16.4 38.8%
Jordan Howard CHI 5200 15.0 47.3% Rex Burkhead CIN 4200 14.0 37.9%
Spencer Ware KC 5100 14.2 44.9% Jordan Howard CHI 5200 17.0 36.7%
Isaiah Crowell CLE 4300 11.6 42.6% Spencer Ware KC 5100 15.9 33.7%
Darren Sproles PHI 4400 11.8 42.6% Darren Sproles PHI 4400 13.3 31.8%
Devonta Freeman ATL 5550 14.8 42.2% Devonta Freeman ATL 5550 16.6 31.2%
DeMarco Murray TEN 5300 14.1 41.9% Jacquizz Rodgers TB 4650 13.9 31.1%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Thomas Rawls SEA 4700 7.8 15.7% Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 11.7 8.9%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 10.8 15.8% Jeremy Hill CIN 4900 9.9 12.4%
Jeremy Hill CIN 4900 8.4 17.4% Dion Lewis NE 4650 9.7 13.6%
Duke Johnson CLE 4200 7.7 20.4% Jay Ajayi MIA 5500 11.7 14.3%
Rashad Jennings NYG 4400 8.2 21.2% Devontae Booker DEN 4500 9.7 14.8%
James White NE 4000 7.6 22.0% Rashad Jennings NYG 4400 9.5 14.9%
Devontae Booker DEN 4500 8.9 24.2% Paul Perkins NYG 4350 9.9 17.1%
Dion Lewis NE 4650 9.3 24.4% Latavius Murray OAK 4850 11.1 17.3%
Paul Perkins NYG 4350 8.7 24.8% Derrick Henry TEN 4150 9.7 18.2%
Jay Ajayi MIA 5500 11.1 25.1% Alex Collins SEA 4100 9.6 18.3%

With neither a Jaguars running back or Seahawks running back having Top 10 value probabilities, our search for value in the top half of table requires focusing on those that have favorable matchups in two of the three stat categories I consider. Of these, there are only three: DeAngelo Williams, Bilal Powell, and Devonta Freeman. It turns out that this is also the exact order I'd go with in terms of their teams' motivation in Week 17. Specifically, we know that the Steelers are locked into the AFC's No. 3 seed, so Williams will be getting most -- if not all -- of Le'Veon Bell's touches against a Browns defense that's allowed the second-most points FantasyAces points to opposing running backs and ranks 31st in run defense efficiency (per DVOA). You'll notice that Fitzgerald Toussaint also shows up in the top half of the table, but why would the backup to the backup find success when the backup only exists to fill in when the All-Pro starter is out?

Ditto Powell with Matt Forte out. He'll be facing a Bills defense that's allowed the fifth-most points against opposing running backs and ranks dead last in run defense efficiency (per DVOA). If not for his salary being nearly $2,000 higher, he'd be an even better option than Williams given the fact that he doesn't even have a theoretical potential for Toussaint-esque competition.

Lastly, Freeman faces a Saints defense that allows the third-most points to opposing running backs and ranks 31st in efficiency on running back targets. But here's the thing: As I noted with respect to quarterbacks, the "clinched playoffs; just vying for seeding" scenario in Week 17 is the most dangerous for fantasy purposes. Therefore, in my estimation, Freeman should only be a value option in tournaments.

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)
Doug Baldwin SEA 5000 15.6 52.7% Eli Rogers PIT 4500 16.9 45.8%
Jordy Nelson GB 6100 18.1 49.3% Steve Smith BAL 4450 15.1 39.1%
Steve Smith BAL 4450 12.6 46.1% Doug Baldwin SEA 5000 16.5 37.3%
Eli Rogers PIT 4500 12.6 45.5% Terrance Williams DAL 3500 11.2 35.3%
Cameron Meredith CHI 4550 12.6 44.4% Corey Coleman CLE 3800 12.1 35.0%
Michael Thomas NO 5000 13.2 41.4% Jordy Nelson GB 6100 19.1 34.0%
Golden Tate DET 4900 12.8 40.7% J.J. Nelson ARI 4450 13.4 31.6%
Mike Evans TB 5850 15.2 40.2% DeSean Jackson WAS 4600 13.7 30.9%
J.J. Nelson ARI 4450 11.4 39.2% Cameron Meredith CHI 4550 13.4 30.3%
Tyrell Williams SD 4500 11.5 39.1% Odell Beckham Jr NYG 6450 18.6 29.1%
Jordan Matthews PHI 4350 11.0 38.4% Jordan Matthews PHI 4350 12.5 28.9%
Brandon LaFell CIN 4750 11.9 38.2% Sterling Shepard NYG 4500 12.9 28.7%
Corey Coleman CLE 3800 9.5 38.1% Alshon Jeffery CHI 4650 13.1 27.7%
DeSean Jackson WAS 4600 11.4 37.3% Michael Thomas NO 5000 13.7 26.2%
Sterling Shepard NYG 4500 11.0 36.4% Mike Evans TB 5850 15.9 25.7%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Stefon Diggs MIN 4450 7.9 18.6% Dez Bryant DAL 5200 8.7 7.1%
Jeremy Maclin KC 4450 7.9 19.0% Tyreek Hill KC 4900 9.8 12.1%
Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4400 8.0 19.7% Marvin Jones DET 4400 8.9 12.5%
Tyler Boyd CIN 4350 8.1 21.0% Jamison Crowder WAS 4400 9.1 13.3%
DeVante Parker MIA 4300 8.1 21.4% Tyler Boyd CIN 4350 9.0 13.3%
Mohamed Sanu ATL 4200 7.9 21.5% Amari Cooper OAK 4700 9.9 14.0%
Malcolm Mitchell NE 4300 8.1 21.8% Kelvin Benjamin CAR 4650 9.8 14.0%
Sammy Watkins BUF 5000 9.5 22.0% Stefon Diggs MIN 4450 9.4 14.1%
Marvin Jones DET 4400 8.5 23.1% Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4400 9.4 14.5%
Tyreek Hill KC 4900 9.6 23.4% Emmanuel Sanders DEN 5000 10.7 14.6%
Kenny Stills MIA 4200 8.3 23.8% Jarvis Landry MIA 4600 9.9 14.8%
Amari Cooper OAK 4700 9.3 24.1% Taylor Gabriel ATL 4400 9.6 15.3%
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 6450 12.8 24.2% Sammy Watkins BUF 5000 11.0 15.7%
Kenny Britt LA 4400 8.8 24.5% Chris Hogan NE 4000 8.8 15.7%
Rishard Matthews TEN 4600 9.2 24.9% Kenny Britt LA 4400 9.7 15.8%

This week's a lot like last week insofar as there's a large number of high-value wide receivers with favorable matchups according to one of the two stat categories I look at, but minimal according to both. In fact, only one wide receiver qualifies for the latter: Doug Baldwin. His opponent, San Francisco, has a pass defense that's allowed the 7th-most FantasyAces points to opposing wide receivers and ranks 28th in efficiency (per DVOA).

And here's the cornucopia of wideouts relating to the former. First, there are the ones that qualify in both formats: Jordy Nelson, Eli Rogers, J.J. Nelson, and Sterling Shepard. Next, Golden Tate is a qualifier in cash games only. Finally, Terrance Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., and Mike Evans qualify in tournaments only. For each of these groups, Pro Football Focus' (PFF) matchup chart offers some additional insight. Most importantly, Beckham Jr. doesn't actually show up on the chart because he's likely to be getting rested in Week 17. On one hand, this information is positive for tournament entries because it represents high variance (i.e., Beckham Jr. playing is a question mark) and suggests low ownership (i.e., the public trusts PFF). On the other hand, if PFF is right, then using a high-priced player like Beckham Jr. for value is akin to lighting money on fire. Perhaps then, Sterling Shepard is a better value play that balances variance, playing time, and the stat matchup: a) He'll also be facing the 25th-ranked pass defense (per DVOA); b) He's nearly $2,000 cheaper; and c) He'll be running the vast majority of his routes against Bashaud Breeland and Greg Toler, both of which are mediocre-at-best according to PFF.

Elsewhere, PFF's individual matchups provide secondary evidence (i.e., in addition to projections and team matchups) that J.J. Nelson, Terrance Williams, Mike Evans, and Golden Tate are value opportunities this week. PFF projects Nelson to be running his outside rotues against Rams cornerback Blake Countess despite the fact that Countess has covered the slot on 100 percent of his snaps thus far. But the good news is that, even if PFF is wrong, and cornerback E.J. Gaines is Nelson's primary foe instead, it's still a favorable individual matchup.

Meanwhile, Terrance Williams will be running around half of his routes against cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who's allowed a half-point per target this season per PFF. And if Dez Bryant plays minimal snaps, then Williams will be running the other half of his routes against cornerback Nolan Carroll, who's actually worse than McKelvin with respect to PFF's coverage grade.

And finally, there's Golden Tate and Mike Evans. The thing with them is that, although Green Bay allows the second-most points to opposing wide recevers and Carolina allows the eighth-most, and PFF projects favorable individual matchups for both, their formation usage in their respective offenses suggests that they'll be running a plurality of their routes against better cornerbacks than PFF suggests. Specifically, Tate will have a great matchup in the slot against cornerback Damarious Randall, but he only lines up in the slot one-third of the time. For the other two-thirds, he'll be up against much better cornerbacks (i.e., Ladairus Gunter and Quentin Rollins). Similarly, Evans will have a great matchup when he lines up on the left side of the formation, but he's only done so 46 percent of the time this season, and his matchup on the right side (i.e., vs. cornerback James Bradberry) is decidedly less favorable.

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 5000 12.4 32.9% C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 3800 11.4 25.3%
C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 3800 9.1 29.8% Jimmy Graham SEA 4700 13.1 20.2%
Greg Olsen CAR 4600 10.8 28.5% Greg Olsen CAR 4600 12.1 16.7%
Jimmy Graham SEA 4700 10.7 25.9% Travis Kelce KC 5000 13.0 16.0%
Antonio Gates SD 4100 8.8 22.2% Antonio Gates SD 4100 10.3 14.1%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Jordan Reed WAS 5000 5.9 1.6% Jordan Reed WAS 5000 6.8 0.6%
Jason Witten DAL 4300 5.9 3.5% Jason Witten DAL 4300 6.3 1.0%
Vernon Davis WAS 4100 6.1 5.1% Coby Fleener NO 3900 6.5 2.2%
Coby Fleener NO 3900 5.9 5.8% Jack Doyle IND 4100 6.9 2.3%
Gary Barnidge CLE 3900 6.0 6.0% Jesse James PIT 3800 6.4 2.3%

Based on statistical matchups, there are two clear value options at tight end: C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jimmy Graham. Graham is the one to go with in the context of our season-long advice to pay up at tight end because value is hard to find (i.e., value probabilities are lower than other positions writ large). To boot, he'll be up against a 49ers pass defense that allows the fifth-most FantasyAces points to opposing tight ends and ranks 27th in efficiency on tight end targets (per DVOA). Fiedorowicz is cheaper and has a higher value probability than Graham in both formats, but his matchup is decidedly worse: Tennessee's pass defense ranks 26th in efficiency, but also ranks 8th in efficiency on tight end targets and in the middle of the pack with respect to points allowed to opposing tight ends.

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)
Washington Redskins WAS 2600 11.2 75.5% Washington Redskins WAS 2600 11.6 59.8%
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3200 12.2 70.3% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3200 12.7 49.2%
Minnesota Vikings MIN 3100 11.7 68.5% Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB 2500 9.6 46.7%
Tennessee Titans TEN 2800 10.5 66.7% Tennessee Titans TEN 2800 10.6 45.1%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB 2500 9.5 65.6% Cincinnati Bengals CIN 2800 10.5 44.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Baltimore Ravens BAL 2900 8.6 48.7% Baltimore Ravens BAL 2900 8.6 26.8%
Los Angeles Rams LA 2850 8.5 49.1% Los Angeles Rams LA 2850 8.5 27.5%
Green Bay Packers GB 2750 8.3 49.9% Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 3350 10.7 28.9%
Dallas Cowboys DAL 2750 8.4 50.8% Green Bay Packers GB 2750 8.3 28.9%
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 3350 10.5 53.6% Dallas Cowboys DAL 2750 8.4 29.6%

There are two defenses to roster for value this week: Arizona and Tampa Bay. With a a higher salary and an ownership rate that's likely to be higher (because the general public is aware of "LOLA"), Arizona works better as a cash game value option, as they're facing a Rams offense that's allowed the third-most FantasyAces points to opposing defenses and ranks dead last in efficiency (per DVOA). Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay is cheaper and has a much more sneaky-good matchup against a Panthers offense ranked 26th in points allowed and 25th in efficiency.