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: 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 every quarterback's probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

CASH GAMES TOURNAMENTS
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(VALUE) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(VALUE)
Russell Wilson SEA 6800 21.6 58.3% Russell Wilson SEA 6800 22.4 20.3%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7750 23.2 49.7% Connor Cook OAK 5200 15.9 19.8%
Eli Manning NYG 6200 17.8 44.4% Eli Manning NYG 6200 18.6 14.2%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7300 20.9 43.2% Brock Osweiler HOU 5500 15.8 14.2%
Connor Cook OAK 5200 14.4 41.7% Aaron Rodgers GB 7750 24.3 12.3%
Brock Osweiler HOU 5500 14.1 34.0% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7300 21.8 10.0%
Matthew Stafford DET 6500 17.0 33.2% Matt Moore MIA 5700 15.2 9.4%
Matt Moore MIA 5700 12.7 22.4% Matthew Stafford DET 6500 17.9 8.1%

With the least expensive options -- Connor Cook, Brock Osweiler, and Matt Moore -- being priced correctly, this is definitely a week to pay up at quarterback. So let's break down the five higher-priced quarterbacks.

At the top of the value charts in both formats is Russell Wilson, and for good reason. He'll be facing a Lions defense that's allowed the third-most FantasyAces points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and ranks dead last in efficiency both overall and against the pass (per DVOA). Ben Roethlisberger's matchup isn't as good as Wilson's, but he's at home against a Dolphins defense that's allowed the sixth-most quarterback points. And while Miami may rank 14th in pass defense efficiency, they rank 19th in overall defense efficiency, which correlates more strongly with quarterback fantasy points.

Then there are two sneakier -- dare I say, contrarian -- options for value, especially in tournaments. The first is Eli Manning, who, although on the road, faces a Packers defense that's ranked 28th in quarterback points allowed, 20th in overall efficiency, and 22nd in efficiency against the pass. Furthermore, although it may be a running joke that Manning's read progression starts and ends with Odell Beckham Jr., that won't be a bad thing when facing a defense that a) ranks dead last in wide receiver points allowed, and b) doesn't have a "shutdown" cornerback with which to shadow him. The only thing working against Manning is that the forecasted temperature at game time in Green Bay on Sunday is 14 degrees, which falls squarely in the zone where passing efficiency drops off according to Brian Burke's statistical analysis.

The other, even-more contrarian value play in tournaments is Matthew Stafford. Yes, he's on the road against Seattle's defense. However, the current state of said defense isn't what it once was. Specifically, after finishing third or better in pass defense efficiency each of the past four seasons, the Seahawks dropped to 13th in 2016. Obviously, much of that has to do with Earl Thomas' injury in Week 13. But Thomas isn't walking into that huddle on Saturday, and Seattle allowed the only two competent quarterbacks they've faced since then -- Carson Palmer and Aaron Rodgers -- to both throw for over 10 yards per pass attempt. One final factor working in Stafford's favor is the potential for a positive game script: Detroit's an 8-point underdog and they had the third-highest pass ratio in the NFL this season this season.

Rodgers is the one expensive quarterback to avoid this week even though his exploits over the past six weeks have oftentimes seemed superhuman: The Giants rank second in quarterback points allowed, second in overall defense efficiency, and fourth in pass defense efficiency. 

Running Backs

Below are every running back's probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

CASH GAMES TOURNAMENTS
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(VALUE) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(VALUE)
LeVeon Bell PIT 6800 23.1 58.3% LeVeon Bell PIT 6800 23.7 40.8%
Zach Zenner DET 4550 13.8 50.7% Zach Zenner DET 4550 14.3 34.2%
Lamar Miller HOU 4950 11.8 34.8% Lamar Miller HOU 4950 12.8 23.1%
Jay Ajayi MIA 5800 13.3 32.6% Jay Ajayi MIA 5800 14.0 19.7%
Ty Montgomery GB 4650 9.6 26.3% Ty Montgomery GB 4650 11.0 18.8%
Rashad Jennings NYG 4550 8.5 21.0% Alex Collins SEA 4300 9.7 16.7%
Alex Collins SEA 4300 7.9 20.1% Rashad Jennings NYG 4550 9.4 13.2%
Latavius Murray OAK 4800 8.7 19.7% Latavius Murray OAK 4800 9.6 12.1%
Paul Perkins NYG 4850 8.8 19.6% Jalen Richard OAK 3500 6.5 9.8%
Jalen Richard OAK 3500 5.3 12.6% Paul Perkins NYG 4850 9.0 9.7%
Thomas Rawls SEA 4750 7.1 11.9% Thomas Rawls SEA 4750 7.9 6.9%
DeAndre Washington OAK 4300 5.9 9.3% DeAndre Washington OAK 4300 6.1 4.0%
Aaron Ripkowski GB 3900 4.6 5.9% Aaron Ripkowski GB 3900 5.4 3.7%
Damien Williams MIA 3500 3.8 4.4% Damien Williams MIA 3500 4.3 2.3%
Alfred Blue HOU 4400 4.3 3.0% Jonathan Grimes HOU 3000 3.6 2.1%
Jonathan Grimes HOU 3000 2.6 1.9% Alfred Blue HOU 4400 4.8 1.4%
Marcel Reece SEA 3300 2.5 1.1% Marcel Reece SEA 3300 3.5 1.3%
Kenyan Drake MIA 3900 2.3 0.3% DeAngelo Williams PIT 3500 2.9 0.4%
DeAngelo Williams PIT 3500 2.1 0.3% Christine Michael GB 4000 3.1 0.3%
Christine Michael GB 4000 2.3 0.3% Dwayne Washington DET 3900 2.9 0.2%
Dwayne Washington DET 3900 2.0 0.1% Kenyan Drake MIA 3900 2.9 0.2%
Jamize Olawale OAK 3000 0.6 0.0% Bobby Rainey NYG 3500 1.7 0.0%
Bobby Rainey NYG 3500 0.6 0.0% Jamize Olawale OAK 3000 1.0 0.0%
Akeem Hunt HOU 3500 0.2 0.0% Akeem Hunt HOU 3500 0.6 0.0%

Based on the statistical matchups, there are two clear value options this week, and one clear "value" option. Starting with the latter, LeVeon Bell may be setting a record this week with respect to how much more expensive he is than the next-most expensive running back, but the game script is favorable being a 10-point favorite, and Miami's defense ranks in the bottom half of the NFL with respect to both FantasyAces points allowed to running backs and run defense efficiency (per DVOA).

Removing the air quotes, Lamar Miller and Alex Collins have both the price and statistical matchups to qualify as value options this week. Miller will be at home against a Raiders defense that's ranked 23rd in running back points allowed, 18th in run defense efficiency, and 23rd in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. He also plays on a team with such a bad quarterback that Bill O'Brien's offensive game plan will almost certainly feature Miller early and often. Meanwhile, Collins has played more snaps than Thomas Rawls lately and will be at home as an 8-point favorite against a Lions defense that ranks 23rd in run defense efficiency and 29th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets.

Regarding who to avoid, the list is two deep. Although near the top of the table, Zach Zenner will be on the road as a 10-point underdog against a Seahawks defense that's allowed the 4th-fewest running back points, ranks 5th in run defense efficiency, and ranks 13th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. Even worse, although Ty Montgomery may be intriguing given his salary, the Giants defense has given up the second-least points to running backs, ranks second in run defense efficiency, and rank second in pass defense efficiency on running back targets.

Wide Receivers

Below are every wide receiver's probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

CASH GAMES TOURNAMENTS
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(VALUE) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(VALUE)
Antonio Brown PIT 6600 18.8 46.3% Antonio Brown PIT 6600 20.5 33.5%
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 6700 17.9 42.1% Odell Beckham Jr NYG 6700 19.6 29.9%
Doug Baldwin SEA 5100 13.5 41.7% Doug Baldwin SEA 5100 13.7 25.1%
Jordy Nelson GB 6300 16.1 39.4% Jordy Nelson GB 6300 16.2 22.8%
Michael Crabtree OAK 4800 11.2 33.7% Michael Crabtree OAK 4800 12.3 22.6%
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 4900 11.2 32.1% DeAndre Hopkins HOU 4900 12.5 22.4%
Jarvis Landry MIA 4900 10.8 30.3% Amari Cooper OAK 4800 11.2 18.2%
Davante Adams GB 5300 11.4 28.5% Jarvis Landry MIA 4900 11.2 17.3%
Amari Cooper OAK 4800 10.0 26.7% Davante Adams GB 5300 11.6 15.5%
Sterling Shepard NYG 4600 9.3 25.4% Paul Richardson SEA 3000 6.5 15.1%
Kenny Stills MIA 4500 9.1 25.2% DeVante Parker MIA 4450 9.6 14.9%
Paul Richardson SEA 3000 5.9 24.1% Golden Tate DET 5200 11.2 14.8%
DeVante Parker MIA 4450 8.6 22.9% Sterling Shepard NYG 4600 9.8 14.4%
Golden Tate DET 5200 9.9 21.9% Kenny Stills MIA 4500 9.5 14.1%
Marvin Jones DET 4550 8.5 21.2% Eli Rogers PIT 4400 8.9 12.5%
Eli Rogers PIT 4400 7.8 18.7% Marvin Jones DET 4550 9.1 12.1%
Jermaine Kearse SEA 3900 6.8 17.8% Jermaine Kearse SEA 3900 7.4 10.4%
Will Fuller HOU 3900 6.7 17.3% Anquan Boldin DET 4250 7.9 9.8%
Anquan Boldin DET 4250 7.2 16.9% Will Fuller HOU 3900 7.0 8.8%
Seth Roberts OAK 3500 5.2 11.8% Seth Roberts OAK 3500 5.5 5.8%
Victor Cruz NYG 4250 5.4 7.2% Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 3500 5.0 4.1%
Cobi Hamilton PIT 3300 3.4 3.4% T.J. Jones DET 3500 4.8 3.6%
Geronimo Allison GB 3500 3.3 2.6% Victor Cruz NYG 4250 5.8 3.5%
Randall Cobb GB 4500 4.1 2.2% Randall Cobb GB 4500 5.8 2.8%
T.J. Jones DET 3500 3.1 2.0% Cobi Hamilton PIT 3300 4.2 2.7%
Keith Mumphery HOU 3000 2.3 1.1% Geronimo Allison GB 3500 3.5 1.0%
Sammie Coates PIT 3500 2.0 0.3% Keith Mumphery HOU 3000 3.0 1.0%
Tanner McEvoy SEA 3000 1.5 0.1% Sammie Coates PIT 3500 3.4 0.9%
Wendall Williams HOU 3500 1.8 0.1% Tanner McEvoy SEA 3000 2.4 0.3%
Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 3500 1.7 0.1% Wendall Williams HOU 3500 2.7 0.3%
Roger Lewis NYG 3000 1.3 0.1% Roger Lewis NYG 3000 2.0 0.1%
Andre Holmes OAK 3500 1.4 0.0% Andre Holmes OAK 3500 2.3 0.1%
Andre Roberts DET 3500 0.7 0.0% Andre Roberts DET 3500 1.3 0.0%
Kasen Williams SEA 3000 0.3 0.0% Kasen Williams SEA 3000 0.8 0.0%
Johnny Holton OAK 3000 0.2 0.0% Johnny Holton OAK 3000 0.5 0.0%
Jeff Janis GB 3700 0.2 0.0% Jeff Janis GB 3700 0.5 0.0%
Tavarres King NYG 3500 0.1 0.0% Tavarres King NYG 3500 0.3 0.0%

This is basically a "set it and forget it" week at wide receiver: Despite what may very well turn out to be large ownership rates, roster Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and Doug Baldwin; and focus on finding value elsewhere. Why? First and foremost, they have the highest value probabilities. Second, they have the best statistical matchups. Brown will be facing a Dolphins pass defense ranked 26th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Similarly, Beckham will be facing a Packers pass defense that's ranked dead last in wide receiver points allowed. Finally, Baldwin will be facing a Lions pass defense that's ranked dead last in efficiency and ranked 23rd in wide receiver points allowed.

And if you're wondering why I didn't extend this Top 3 to a Top 4, it's because Jordy Nelson -- in weather unfriendly to passing -- will be facing a Giants pass defense ranked fourth in efficiency and sixth in points allowed to wide receivers. Furthermore, according to Pro Football Focus, Nelson is the only wide receiver this week projected to be seeing shadow coverage from a shutdown cornerback (i.e., Janoris Jenkins). Given how reliably bad this situation is, and given Nelson's price, it's advisable to look elsewhere -- for example, the three wide receivers mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Tight Ends

Below are every tight end's probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

CASH GAMES TOURNAMENTS
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(VALUE) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(VALUE)
Jimmy Graham SEA 4900 10.6 22.7% Jimmy Graham SEA 4900 12.7 15.8%
C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 3800 7.7 18.2% C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 3800 8.7 9.9%
Eric Ebron DET 4450 8.2 13.0% Jared Cook GB 4000 8.5 7.2%
Jared Cook GB 4000 7.0 10.4% Eric Ebron DET 4450 9.4 7.0%
Will Tye NYG 3900 6.8 10.3% Ladarius Green PIT 4300 7.8 3.4%
Dion Sims MIA 3800 5.0 2.8% Will Tye NYG 3900 7.0 3.2%
Ladarius Green PIT 4300 5.1 1.6% Jesse James PIT 3900 6.9 3.0%
Ryan Griffin HOU 3500 3.6 0.7% Dion Sims MIA 3800 5.6 1.1%
Jesse James PIT 3900 3.9 0.6% Richard Rodgers GB 3500 4.1 0.2%
Clive Walford OAK 3800 3.8 0.6% Ryan Griffin HOU 3500 3.9 0.2%
Mychal Rivera OAK 3000 2.8 0.3% Mychal Rivera OAK 3000 3.1 0.1%
Luke Willson SEA 3300 2.8 0.2% Clive Walford OAK 3800 3.9 0.1%
Richard Rodgers GB 3500 2.7 0.1% Luke Willson SEA 3300 3.3 0.1%
MarQueis Gray MIA 3000 2.0 0.0% MarQueis Gray MIA 3000 2.4 0.0%
Jerell Adams NYG 3000 1.4 0.0% Jerell Adams NYG 3000 2.2 0.0%
Stephen Anderson HOU 3000 0.2 0.0% Stephen Anderson HOU 3000 0.5 0.0%
Matthew Mulligan DET 3000 0.1 0.0% Matthew Mulligan DET 3000 0.3 0.0%

There are really only two viable value options this week, and they reside in the top two spots on both sides of the table. I've been advising you to pay up at tight end all season, so Jimmy Graham is a must-play in both formats; but at the very least in cash games, as Detroit's pass defense has allowed the fourth-most FantasyAces tight end points, ranks dead last in efficiency (per DVOA), and ranks 29th in efficiency on tight end targets. But if you're leaning towards an alternative for uniqueness- or salary-related reasons, there's C.J. Fiedorowicz. He's $1,100 cheaper, will probably be avoided due to his quarterback, and will be going against a Raiders pass defense that ranks 24th in tight end points allowed, 25th in efficiency, and 23rd in efficiency on tight end targets.

Defenses

Below are every defense's probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

CASH GAMES TOURNAMENTS
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(VALUE) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(VALUE)
Houston Texans HOU 2750 11.8 76.7% Houston Texans HOU 2750 12.2 59.8%
Oakland Raiders OAK 2600 9.7 64.8% Oakland Raiders OAK 2600 9.9 45.9%
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2800 10.2 64.0% Green Bay Packers GB 2750 10.2 43.5%
Green Bay Packers GB 2750 9.9 63.2% Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2800 10.2 41.8%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 3300 11.0 58.5% Seattle Seahawks SEA 3300 11.0 32.5%
Detroit Lions DET 2500 6.8 43.8% Detroit Lions DET 2500 7.0 26.8%
NY Giants NYG 2800 7.4 41.4% NY Giants NYG 2800 7.4 21.7%
Miami Dolphins MIA 2650 5.7 31.7% Miami Dolphins MIA 2650 5.9 16.6%

This week is pretty easy with respect to identifying value, at least from a cash game standpoint: Pick a side in the Houston-Oakland game. The Texans' offense ranks 30th in overall efficiency (per DVOA) and 18th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing defenses. Meanwhile, although the Raiders' offense ranked in the Top 8 for most of the season, Derek Carr's broken leg changed that, and Matt McGloin's concussion changed that even further. This week, Oakland's reduced to starting a rookie...in the playoffs...really. Granted, Houston's defense isn't Denver's (i.e., Oakland's Week 17 opponent), but still.

If you're looking for value alternatives to the obvious in tournaments, then the two clear options are Green Bay and Pittsburgh. The Packers will be playing at home in offense-averse weather conditions facing a Giants offense ranked 22nd in efficiency and 15th in points allowed to defenses. The Steelers will also be playing at home against a mediocre-at-best offense -- at least statistically. Of course, unlike the Giants, the Dolphins will be starting a backup quarterback. In addition, although they don't "technically" play in a dome, I can attest as a Miami resident that the recent stadium renovations have produced as close to a dome as a non-dome can be; which therefore introduces into the conversation Brian Burke's dome-at-cold statistical effect