The Rundown: FantasyScore Week 19

A weekly guide to FantasyScore's Salary Cap and Draft-and-Go contests.

Before I present value probabilities for the Divisional round, let me make a general comment about the slate that permeates through all of the position discussions you'll read below: Because of (a) FantasyScore's pricing algorithm, and (b) the fact that the best players/defenses have advanced to the Round of 8, this week is severly lacking in good value opportunities. As you'll see, few options at each position have a probability exceeding 33 percent in cash games or 25 percent in tournaments (i.e., the threshold probabilities for 3x and 4x value, respectively). Most of the bad values are players with high projected point totals, while most of the good values are players with low projected point totals. At a certain point, value-seeking produces diminishing returns because a player scoring, say, 6 points hurts your chances of winning a cash game even if that may represent 3x value.

With that out of the way, let's get to it.

quarterbacks

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

NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Cam Newton CAR 9000 24.7 34.9% Cam Newton CAR 9000 28.2 10.1%
Tom Brady NWE 8800 22.6 26.7% Tom Brady NWE 8800 24.8 4.4%
Russell Wilson SEA 8700 21.5 22.4% Russell Wilson SEA 8700 23.1 2.8%
Carson Palmer ARI 9200 22.3 19.0% Aaron Rodgers GNB 8700 21.6 1.5%
Aaron Rodgers GNB 8700 20.5 17.8% Carson Palmer ARI 9200 23.4 1.4%
Alex Smith KAN 8400 18.5 13.5% Alex Smith KAN 8400 19.3 1.0%
Peyton Manning DEN 8700 17.0 6.8% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 8700 18.9 0.5%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 8700 16.8 6.2% Peyton Manning DEN 8700 18.3 0.3%
Landry Jones PIT 6600 0.5 0.1% Landry Jones PIT 6600 1.6 0.0%

According to math, Newton is the best value in both formats, but his actual probabilities (and his matchup) don't inspire confidence. As for the other quarterbacks, it's simply the case that high salaries make achieving value unlikely regardless of what you think about their matchups. For instance, Carson Palmer and Alex Smith are going against the worst two defenses of the week (per DVOA), but they need 27.6 points and 25.2 points to even achieve cash game value, respectively. In how many of Palmer's 16 games has he scored that many points? Four. In how many of 17 has Smith? Two. And in how many games have either quarterback scored what's required for tournament value this week? Zero.

running backs

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

NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
David Johnson ARI 7900 19.8 39.6% Fred Jackson SEA 2200 6.1 29.5%
Fred Jackson SEA 2200 5.1 34.8% John Kuhn GNB 2000 5.4 28.2%
Jordan Todman PIT 3700 8.2 32.8% David Johnson ARI 7900 20.4 26.0%
Brandon Bolden NWE 3100 6.6 30.6% Ronnie Hillman DEN 5200 13.1 24.8%
Steven Jackson NWE 3900 8.3 30.4% Brandon Bolden NWE 3100 7.7 24.2%
Ronnie Hillman DEN 5200 11.0 30.2% Mike Tolbert CAR 2400 5.8 22.9%
Mike Tolbert CAR 2400 4.5 24.4% Jordan Todman PIT 3700 8.8 22.2%
Jonathan Stewart CAR 6700 11.7 21.3% Steven Jackson NWE 3900 9.0 20.9%
Charcandrick West KAN 6400 10.7 19.6% Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT 4500 9.1 15.8%
James White NWE 6200 10.4 19.5% James White NWE 6200 11.7 13.5%
James Starks GNB 6600 10.5 17.6% James Starks GNB 6600 12.4 13.3%
Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT 4500 7.2 17.5% Jonathan Stewart CAR 6700 12.2 12.4%
John Kuhn GNB 2000 2.9 14.6% Kerwynn Williams ARI 2000 3.6 12.0%
C.J. Anderson DEN 7800 11.4 14.5% Charcandrick West KAN 6400 11.5 12.0%
Marshawn Lynch SEA 6500 9.4 14.1% C.J. Anderson DEN 7800 13.5 10.9%
Spencer Ware KAN 6200 8.3 11.6% Eddie Lacy GNB 5700 9.1 8.8%
Eddie Lacy GNB 5700 7.5 11.1% Marshawn Lynch SEA 6500 10.2 8.4%
Andre Ellington ARI 3800 3.9 5.6% Andre Ellington ARI 3800 5.9 8.2%
Kerwynn Williams ARI 2000 1.9 4.5% Spencer Ware KAN 6200 8.5 5.8%
Christine Michael SEA 6300 4.8 2.1% Will Johnson PIT 2000 2.4 3.8%
Anthony Sherman KAN 2000 1.0 0.4% Christine Michael SEA 6300 5.4 1.2%
Will Johnson PIT 2000 0.8 0.2% Anthony Sherman KAN 2000 1.6 0.9%
Cameron Artis-Payne CAR 3000 0.7 0.0% Cameron Artis-Payne CAR 3000 1.4 0.1%

If you've read or heard anything else DFS-related this week, you don't need me to tell you that David Johnson is a no-brainer, especially in cash games. Part of the reason he's a no-brainer has nothing to do with value: He's the only healthy, superstar running back playing this week; everyone else is either coming off an injury (Stewart and Lynch) or splits time as part of a committee (Steelers, Patriots, Broncos, Chiefs, and Packers backs). The other part is that Arizona's a favorite against the worst run defense remaining in the playoffs (per DVOA).

Among non-Johnsons, Ronnie Hillman is the next-best value, especially in tournaments. Again, the allocation of Denver running back touches is a crap shoot, but at least Hillman's price is right for such a gamble.

wide receivers

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

NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Devin Funchess CAR 2100 7.1 57.6% Devin Funchess CAR 2100 8.9 53.6%
Albert Wilson KAN 3600 10.7 49.6% Jared Abbrederis GNB 2500 8.7 41.4%
Jared Abbrederis GNB 2500 6.3 39.5% Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 3300 10.2 34.4%
Markus Wheaton PIT 5600 14.0 38.9% Albert Wilson KAN 3600 11.1 34.2%
Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 3300 7.9 36.2% Markus Wheaton PIT 5600 14.8 25.9%
Martavis Bryant PIT 6800 15.7 34.1% Martavis Bryant PIT 6800 17.5 24.5%
James Jones GNB 6500 14.4 31.9% Andre Caldwell DEN 2000 5.1 24.1%
Michael Floyd ARI 7400 16.1 30.7% Tyler Lockett SEA 6100 15.2 23.0%
Tyler Lockett SEA 6100 12.1 25.9% James Jones GNB 6500 16.1 22.7%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 8500 16.7 25.4% Jermaine Kearse SEA 6400 15.5 21.7%
John Brown ARI 6800 13.2 24.8% Julian Edelman NWE 7300 16.7 19.1%
Julian Edelman NWE 7300 13.7 23.0% Michael Floyd ARI 7400 16.9 19.1%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 7900 14.7 22.8% Jerricho Cotchery CAR 3300 7.4 18.3%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 7900 14.4 21.7% Randall Cobb GNB 7700 16.3 16.0%
Jerricho Cotchery CAR 3300 5.9 20.6% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 7900 16.7 16.0%
Ted Ginn CAR 6700 11.7 19.8% John Brown ARI 6800 14.1 15.2%
Jermaine Kearse SEA 6400 11.1 19.6% Demaryius Thomas DEN 8500 17.3 14.6%
Randall Cobb GNB 7700 13.2 19.1% Emmanuel Sanders DEN 7900 15.0 12.2%
Doug Baldwin SEA 8300 13.6 17.3% Brandon LaFell NWE 5800 10.9 11.9%
Brandon LaFell NWE 5800 8.6 13.6% Keshawn Martin NWE 2200 4.1 11.6%
Keshawn Martin NWE 2200 3.3 13.6% Jeremy Maclin KAN 7800 14.4 11.4%
J.J. Nelson ARI 2000 2.8 12.0% Ted Ginn CAR 6700 12.0 10.5%
Andre Caldwell DEN 2000 2.6 9.5% Doug Baldwin SEA 8300 14.6 10.0%
Jeremy Maclin KAN 7800 9.8 8.8% Chris Conley KAN 4500 7.5 8.6%
Chris Conley KAN 4500 4.9 5.8% Jason Avant KAN 2100 3.5 8.6%
Danny Amendola NWE 6700 7.3 5.6% J.J. Nelson ARI 2000 3.2 7.6%
Jason Avant KAN 2100 2.1 4.5% Jeff Janis GNB 2000 2.8 5.0%
Bennie Fowler DEN 2000 1.7 2.3% Bennie Fowler DEN 2000 2.6 4.0%
Jeff Janis GNB 2000 1.6 1.8% Danny Amendola NWE 6700 8.4 3.5%
Jordan Norwood DEN 2000 0.9 0.2% Jordan Norwood DEN 2000 1.7 0.8%
Jaron Brown ARI 2000 0.2 0.0% Jaron Brown ARI 2000 0.6 0.0%

With Antonio Brown ruled out for Sunday's game, the Steelers' other receivers represent the best values among wide receivers with viable point projections. That said, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Bryant, Wheaton, and Heyward-Bey have two of the worst individual matchups of the week. And besides, whichever of Ben Roethlisberger with a bum right shoulder or Landry Jones throws the bulk of Pittsburgh's passes, more than usual are likely to be of the short variety, which thereby limits what their non-Brown trio can do from a fantasy scoring perspective.

Ignoring Steelers receivers, then, the best value among viable wide receivers is James Jones. Now that Davante Adams has been ruled out against the Cardinals, it's likely that Patrick Peterson will be shadowing Cobb (per PFF), which means that Jones will be running most of his routes against the lesser of Arizona's outside cornerbacks in a game that figures to see Green Bay in passing situations more often than usual. The combination of Adams' absence and the Cardinals' cornerback hierarchy also suggests that Abbrederis represents a high-value flier option in tournaments.

tight ends

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

NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Darren Fells ARI 1800 5.5 52.3% Darren Fells ARI 1800 8.6 67.2%
Heath Miller PIT 4300 10.7 31.6% Heath Miller PIT 4300 13.9 29.7%
Rob Gronkowski NWE 8400 17.2 16.9% Rob Gronkowski NWE 8400 20.0 9.7%
Owen Daniels DEN 4200 8.3 14.8% Vernon Davis DEN 1900 4.5 9.5%
Greg Olsen CAR 7900 15.4 14.1% Greg Olsen CAR 7900 17.7 7.4%
Travis Kelce KAN 7500 13.8 11.0% Owen Daniels DEN 4200 9.0 5.9%
Vernon Davis DEN 1900 3.2 7.1% Chase Coffman SEA 1700 3.6 5.6%
Richard Rodgers GNB 6000 8.1 2.3% Travis Kelce KAN 7500 14.9 4.0%
Cooper Helfet SEA 2600 3.1 1.0% Jermaine Gresham ARI 1700 3.0 2.0%
Jermaine Gresham ARI 1700 1.9 0.7% Cooper Helfet SEA 2600 4.2 1.2%
Chase Coffman SEA 1700 1.8 0.4% Richard Rodgers GNB 6000 9.2 0.8%
Luke Willson SEA 3100 3.1 0.3% Scott Chandler NWE 1700 2.6 0.8%
Scott Chandler NWE 1700 1.6 0.2% Luke Willson SEA 3100 4.7 0.8%
Jesse James PIT 1700 1.4 0.1% Michael Williams NWE 1700 2.3 0.3%
Ed Dickson CAR 1700 1.0 0.0% Jesse James PIT 1700 2.2 0.2%
Demetrius Harris KAN 1700 0.8 0.0% Ed Dickson CAR 1700 1.9 0.1%
Michael Williams NWE 1700 0.8 0.0% Demetrius Harris KAN 1700 1.6 0.0%
Kennard Backman GNB 1700 0.4 0.0% Kennard Backman GNB 1700 1.2 0.0%
Virgil Green DEN 1700 0.2 0.0% Virgil Green DEN 1700 0.7 0.0%
Troy Niklas ARI 1700 0.2 0.0% Troy Niklas ARI 1700 0.5 0.0%
Brian Parker KAN 1700 0.1 0.0% Brian Parker KAN 1700 0.3 0.0%

Further to what I just wrote about the probability of shorter throws by Pittsburgh's quarterback, Miller is the clear choice at value tight end. That's especially the case in tournaments, where his value probability exceeds the 25 percent threshold I mentioned earlier. Otherwise, with the relative dearth of good tight ends still around this late in the season, there's something to be said for going with either Gronkowski or Olsen in cash games. My preference is Olsen, primarily because Seattle's otherwise-stellar pass defense ranked 26th in efficiency against opposing tight ends (per DVOA).

defenses

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

NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2800 10.2 64.2% Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2800 10.3 42.6%
Denver Broncos DEN 3500 12.1 63.0% New England Patriots NWE 2900 10.5 40.9%
New England Patriots NWE 2900 10.2 62.2% Denver Broncos DEN 3500 12.7 39.3%
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3300 9.9 49.5% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3300 10.4 28.0%
Carolina Panthers CAR 3300 9.5 46.6% Carolina Panthers CAR 3300 9.9 24.6%
Kansas City Chiefs KAN 3400 9.1 40.5% Green Bay Packers GNB 2800 7.1 19.7%
Green Bay Packers GNB 2800 7.0 38.5% Kansas City Chiefs KAN 3400 9.1 17.4%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 3400 8.6 36.9% Seattle Seahawks SEA 3400 8.7 15.4%

Pittsburgh's M*A*S*H unit on offense makes it more likely that they'll try to adopt more of a running-and-defense game plan than they usually do. That's made especially likely given that they're facing the 2016 version of Peyton Manning. Like what has been the case this entire season, most every defense this week offers good cash game value, so this recommendation, as well as its contrarian-sounding rationale, is primarily in the context of tournaments.