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)
Dak Prescott DAL 6200 21.0 65.8% Russell Wilson SEA 6500 22.5 27.3%
Russell Wilson SEA 6500 20.2 54.7% Dak Prescott DAL 6200 21.1 26.1%
Carson Palmer ARI 6800 21.1 54.4% Carson Palmer ARI 6800 23.0 23.4%
Marcus Mariota TEN 6150 19.0 53.4% Marcus Mariota TEN 6150 20.1 21.8%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7850 23.8 51.8% Blake Bortles JAX 6000 19.4 21.3%
Jay Cutler CHI 6200 18.9 51.7% Jay Cutler CHI 6200 19.8 19.4%
Alex Smith KC 6000 17.9 49.4% Alex Smith KC 6000 19.0 19.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Drew Brees NO 7600 19.8 30.1% Drew Brees NO 7600 21.6 6.4%
Brock Osweiler HOU 6200 15.7 30.9% Brock Osweiler HOU 6200 16.5 7.6%
Ryan Tannehill MIA 5700 15.0 35.5% Kirk Cousins WAS 6550 18.5 9.2%
Philip Rivers SD 6750 18.3 36.7% Matt Ryan ATL 7300 21.8 10.0%
Colin Kaepernick SF 6300 17.1 37.4% Jameis Winston TB 6550 18.9 10.3%
Kirk Cousins WAS 6550 17.8 37.5% Philip Rivers SD 6750 19.8 10.7%
Jameis Winston TB 6550 17.9 37.8% Colin Kaepernick SF 6300 18.3 11.6%

Among quarterbacks in the high-value side of the table, four have favorable matchups. The first is Carson Palmer. Although the 49ers are notorious at this point for their awful run defense, it turns out that they're also awful across quarterback-related stats: 24th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing quarterbacks; 29th in overall defensive efficiency (per DVOA). Yes, David Johnson is the matchup focus of anyone and everyone, but running preserves a lead; passing builds it.

The second quarterback with a favorable matchup is Aaron Rodgers. His opponent, the Titans, rank 26th in efficiency on pass defense and 27th in overall defensive efficiency. The third is Jay Cutler, who faces a Buccaneers defense that ranks 31st in points allowed to quarterbacks, 20th in pass defense efficiency, and 20th in overall defense efficiency. And finally, the fourth value quarterback with a favorable matchup is Alex Smith: Carolina ranks 26th in points allowed to quarterbacks and 23rd in pass defense efficiency.

With respect to game theory among these four, Cutler absolutely can't be used in cash games given his fourth-ranked projected ownership rate ...and the fact that he's uber-consistently "meh" Jay Cutler. The other three offer more flexibility. Smith is also "meh", embodying the high-floor, low-ceiling, cash game-only quarterback, but he has a projected ownership rate low enough to use in tournaments. Palmer and Rodgers are the near-converses of Smith: high floor and high ceiling, but low ownership, which means they're the two value options I'd use in tournaments and sprinkle into my cash game lineups.

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 6400 24.0 64.6% David Johnson ARI 6400 25.7 50.3%
Melvin Gordon III SD 5900 19.7 57.2% Le'Veon Bell PIT 6150 21.5 41.0%
Le'Veon Bell PIT 6150 19.8 54.7% Melvin Gordon III SD 5900 19.9 38.7%
Devonta Freeman ATL 5100 15.7 51.5% Jordan Howard CHI 5000 16.1 35.7%
Jordan Howard CHI 5000 14.7 48.6% Devonta Freeman ATL 5100 15.9 33.7%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6200 18.0 47.6% Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6200 19.2 33.3%
Darren Sproles PHI 4650 12.7 43.8% Darren Sproles PHI 4650 14.2 32.4%
DeMarco Murray TEN 5950 15.7 41.4% DuJuan Harris SF 3500 10.6 31.9%
Matt Forte NYJ 5500 14.0 38.9% DeMarco Murray TEN 5950 16.8 27.8%
Mark Ingram II NO 4950 12.4 38.0% Todd Gurley LA 4850 13.5 27.0%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Ronnie Hillman MIN 4100 4.7 5.2% Jerick McKinnon MIN 4100 5.6 3.5%
Benny Cunningham LA 3500 4.1 5.8% Ronnie Hillman MIN 4100 6.0 4.5%
Carlos Hyde SF 4800 5.7 5.9% Ryan Mathews PHI 4200 6.7 6.0%
Peyton Barber TB 4500 5.7 7.4% Benny Cunningham LA 3500 5.7 6.5%
Damien Williams MIA 3700 4.8 7.8% Peyton Barber TB 4500 8.1 8.9%
Jerick McKinnon MIN 4100 5.4 8.0% James White NE 4300 8.0 9.8%
Ryan Mathews PHI 4200 5.5 8.2% Christine Michael SEA 4700 9.3 11.7%
James White NE 4300 6.0 9.6% Tim Hightower NO 4550 9.1 12.1%
Tim Hightower NO 4550 7.6 16.1% Dion Lewis NE 3500 7.0 12.1%
Christine Michael SEA 4700 8.5 19.6% Jeremy Hill CIN 5000 10.0 12.1%

David Johnson has an astronomical projected ownership percentage (i.e., around 60 percent), but a matchup against San Francisco's historically bad run defense means using him in tournaments as well as cash games -- as long as the rest of your tournament lineup is low-usage. For instance, here's a low-usage candidate to pair with Johnson: Mark Ingram II. He's only expected to be in about 2 percent of tournament lineups. Furthermore, Denver ranks 25th in run defense efficiency (per DVOA) and 20th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs.

The remaining running backs in the top half of the table that have favorable statistical matchups are Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles, although their projected ownership rates (around 20 percent) imply that they're viable mainly in cash games. Howard faces a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 26th in points allowed to opposing running backs and 28th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. Similarly, Sproles faces a Falcons defense that ranks 24th in points allowed and 26th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets.

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)
Mike Evans TB 5900 18.1 51.6% Tyreek Hill KC 3000 10.1 38.6%
Tyreek Hill KC 3000 9.0 49.7% Mike Evans TB 5900 19.5 37.4%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5100 15.2 49.3% Tyrell Williams SD 4250 13.6 35.3%
Alshon Jeffery CHI 4850 13.6 45.2% J.J. Nelson ARI 3750 11.5 32.7%
J.J. Nelson ARI 3750 10.5 45.1% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5100 15.4 31.8%
Tyrell Williams SD 4250 11.8 44.9% Alshon Jeffery CHI 4850 13.8 28.3%
Antonio Brown PIT 6200 17.1 44.4% Antonio Brown PIT 6200 17.3 27.2%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 5550 14.6 41.3% Jordan Matthews PHI 4750 13.1 26.5%
Stefon Diggs MIN 4750 12.4 40.7% Demaryius Thomas DEN 5550 15.3 26.5%
Jordan Matthews PHI 4750 12.2 39.8% Jarvis Landry MIA 4800 13.2 26.4%
Jarvis Landry MIA 4800 12.3 39.5% Stefon Diggs MIN 4750 13.0 26.1%
A.J. Green CIN 6250 15.6 37.6% John Brown ARI 4500 12.3 26.0%
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 4800 11.9 37.5% Cole Beasley DAL 4550 12.4 25.9%
Ty Montgomery GB 4800 11.9 37.1% Dontrelle Inman SD 4150 11.3 25.8%
Dez Bryant DAL 5000 12.3 36.8% Randall Cobb GB 5100 13.8 25.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 4200 7.1 16.8% DeVante Parker MIA 4150 8.0 10.9%
DeVante Parker MIA 4150 7.3 18.2% Kendall Wright TEN 4150 8.1 11.3%
Jermaine Kearse SEA 4100 7.2 18.5% Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 4200 8.2 11.3%
Tavon Austin LA 4200 7.5 18.8% DeSean Jackson WAS 4300 8.6 12.1%
DeSean Jackson WAS 4300 7.7 19.2% Will Fuller V HOU 4500 9.0 12.1%
Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4500 8.1 19.2% Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4500 9.0 12.1%
Kendall Wright TEN 4150 7.8 21.5% Eli Rogers PIT 4000 8.3 13.4%
Will Fuller V HOU 4500 8.5 21.7% DeAndre Hopkins HOU 6000 12.7 14.2%
Willie Snead IV NO 4550 8.7 22.3% Tavon Austin LA 4200 9.1 15.1%
Ted Ginn Jr CAR 3900 7.6 23.1% Quinton Patton SF 3800 8.3 15.4%
Pierre Garcon WAS 4200 8.2 23.2% Allen Hurns JAX 4300 9.5 15.8%
Adam Humphries TB 3800 7.4 23.3% Pierre Garcon WAS 4200 9.3 15.9%
Eli Rogers PIT 4000 8.0 24.4% Michael Thomas NO 4900 11.1 16.9%
John Brown ARI 4500 9.0 24.9% Mohamed Sanu ATL 4500 10.3 17.3%
Adam Thielen MIN 3800 7.7 25.6% Davante Adams GB 4900 11.4 18.0%

This is a unique week. There are only two wide receivers in the "most likely" half of the table that will enjoy anything resembling a favorable matchup based on my usual stat criteria. The first is Alshon Jeffery, who faces a Tampa Bay pass defense that ranks 26th in efficiency (per DVOA) and 20th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing wide receivers. To boot, he'll also be running most of his routes against rookie Vernon Hargreaves (per Pro Football Focus). The second wide receiver is Tyreek Hill, who faces a Carolina pass defense that ranks 23rd in points allowed and 26th in efficiency. He'll also be running most of his routes in the slot against someone named Leonard Johnson.

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 4750 12.2 35.7% Jimmy Graham SEA 4750 14.9 28.7%
Greg Olsen CAR 4850 12.0 32.5% Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 13.6 19.9%
Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 11.8 30.5% Rob Gronkowski NE 5750 15.9 19.7%
Rob Gronkowski NE 5750 13.8 30.4% Antonio Gates SD 4100 11.1 18.4%
Travis Kelce KC 4700 10.7 26.4% Greg Olsen CAR 4850 12.2 14.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Virgil Green DEN 4000 5.7 4.4% Julius Thomas JAX 4000 6.3 1.6%
Julius Thomas JAX 4000 5.8 4.8% Coby Fleener NO 4100 6.8 2.1%
Coby Fleener NO 4100 6.3 6.1% Virgil Green DEN 4000 7.1 3.0%
Martellus Bennett NE 4400 7.4 8.9% Zach Ertz PHI 4200 7.9 4.1%
Cameron Brate TB 4250 7.6 11.6% Cameron Brate TB 4250 8.1 4.4%

Among the high-value options, Jimmy Graham is the clear choice in both formats based on his statistical matchup, and Travis Kelce is a viable backup plan. With respect to Graham, New England's pass defense ranks 26th in overall efficiency and 24th in efficiency on tight end targets. He also has a tournament-friendly projected ownership of only around 5 percent. Meanwhile, Kelce faces a Panthers pass defense that ranks 29th in FantasyAces points against to opposing tight ends, 23rd in pass defense efficiency (per DVOA), and 29th in pass defense efficiency on tight end targets.

Given that Kelce also has a projected ownership rate of only around 5 percent and just missed the tournament side of the table [P(CASH) = 13.7%], he's as viable a value option in tournaments as he is in cash games.

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)
NY Jets NYJ 3000 10.9 65.2% Jacksonville Jaguars JAX 2500 9.7 47.5%
Jacksonville Jaguars JAX 2500 9.2 63.6% Chicago Bears CHI 2500 9.4 45.1%
Washington Redskins WAS 2700 9.8 63.6% NY Jets NYJ 3000 11.2 43.5%
Houston Texans HOU 3000 10.6 62.5% Washington Redskins WAS 2700 10.0 43.5%
Chicago Bears CHI 2500 8.9 60.9% Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB 2500 8.8 40.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Green Bay Packers GB 3000 8.1 42.6% Green Bay Packers GB 3000 8.2 21.7%
Kansas City Chiefs KC 3100 8.5 43.4% Kansas City Chiefs KC 3100 8.7 22.3%
Dallas Cowboys DAL 2800 7.7 43.8% Dallas Cowboys DAL 2800 7.9 24.8%
Denver Broncos DEN 2850 8.1 45.8% Philadelphia Eagles PHI 2750 7.8 25.5%
New England Patriots NE 3150 9.3 48.3% New England Patriots NE 3150 9.5 26.1%

Because of the teams on bye, this is an atypically bad week for finding value at defense. Among the most likely to achieve value, the Jets, Jaguars and Texans have the best matchups according to FantasyAces points allowed and/or opponent offensive efficency, but they themselves rank at the bottom of the league in FantasyAces points scored. In other words, their matchups are of the movable object vs. resistable force variety.

Then there's the group of defenses that have favorable matchups, but are on the road; a game situation that's seldomly favorable: Houston and Chicago. For Houston, Jacksonville is the Bottom 8 offenses of the week with respect to offensive efficiency, but that's it in terms of the four stat categories I look at. And to boot, the Texans are among the lowest-scoring defenses themselves. Likewise, Tampa Bay may be among the worst offenses in the league with respect to points allowed to defenses, but the Bears are middling or worse across all defensive stat categories.

So what to do? Well, from a game theory perspective, given that almost every defense offers value [i.e., lowest P(CASH) is still higher than 40 percent and lowest P(GPP) is still higher than 20 percent], which is a phenomenon we see every week, it's correct to go cheap in general. That's especially the case in tournaments, so one of Jacksonville or Tampa Bay is the way to go. (I'm omitting Chicago here because they're on the road.) In cash games, however, perhaps this is a rare week to lean more towards chalk. In that case, easily the best defense to use is Arizona, who faces a San Francisco offense that ranks among the worst offenses in the league with respect to fantasy points allowed and offensive efficiency. Furthermore, although the Cardinals' value probability isn't high enough to make the top of the table, it still ranks 11th, which is plenty high enough to consider in a week like this.


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