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)
Marcus Mariota TEN 6350 21.9 69.0% Cody Kessler CLE 5000 18.0 36.5%
Andrew Luck IND 6950 23.4 67.1% Andrew Luck IND 6950 24.8 30.2%
Kirk Cousins WAS 6600 21.5 61.2% Marcus Mariota TEN 6350 22.4 30.2%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7550 24.1 59.7% Jared Goff LA 4800 16.1 29.6%
Cody Kessler CLE 5000 16.3 58.8% Blake Bortles JAX 6100 21.2 29.0%
Tyrod Taylor BUF 6100 19.4 57.4% Kirk Cousins WAS 6600 22.5 25.0%
Blake Bortles JAX 6100 19.2 55.8% Tyrod Taylor BUF 6100 20.4 24.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Carson Palmer ARI 6650 17.0 30.4% Carson Palmer ARI 6650 17.8 6.4%
Brock Osweiler HOU 6000 15.1 30.5% Jay Cutler CHI 5950 16.4 10.0%
Carson Wentz PHI 5600 13.9 30.7% Brock Osweiler HOU 6000 16.8 10.7%
Jay Cutler CHI 5950 15.3 33.1% Jameis Winston TB 6250 18.0 11.3%
Ryan Tannehill MIA 5800 15.1 34.2% Ryan Tannehill MIA 5800 16.4 12.0%
Jameis Winston TB 6250 17.1 38.9% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7450 23.3 13.1%
Sam Bradford MIN 5600 16.0 44.6% Matthew Stafford DET 6800 21.2 15.0%

Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles have the best stat matchups of the week, but each have their own problems. For Mariota, his projected ownership rate is around 40 percent, which makes him a cash game-only value play. For Bortles, his own performance is underwhelming to say the least, and Pro Football Focus projects shadow coverage on Allen Robinson from now-healthy lockdown corner Darius Slay. Of course, because FantasyAces is a two-quarterback game, Mariota's negative should be less of a concern than Bortles' negative regardlesss of the format.

Two alternatives present in the top half of the table are Andrew Luck and Tyrod Taylor. Luck faces a Titans pass defense that ranks 26th in efficiency (per DVOA) and 21st in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Similarly, Taylor faces a Bengals pass defense that ranks 28th in quarterback points allowed and 20th in efficiency. Furthermore, his projected ownership rate is only about half that of Luck (around 10 percent vs. around 20 percent).

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)
Le'Veon Bell PIT 6600 22.4 58.3% Le'Veon Bell PIT 6600 23.1 41.1%
LeGarrette Blount NE 5400 17.0 53.2% Spencer Ware KC 5100 17.6 40.2%
Spencer Ware KC 5100 15.6 51.1% LeGarrette Blount NE 5400 18.2 38.6%
Frank Gore IND 4600 14.0 50.7% Frank Gore IND 4600 15.3 37.8%
David Johnson PIT 6300 18.7 49.2% David Johnson PIT 6300 20.6 36.7%
DeMarco Murray TEN 6200 17.5 45.7% Akeem Hunt HOU 3000 9.7 36.0%
Theo Riddick DET 4550 12.8 45.4% Theo Riddick DET 4550 14.6 35.5%
Isaiah Crowell CLE 4100 11.1 43.3% DeMarco Murray TEN 6200 18.6 31.4%
Latavius Murray OAK 4900 13.2 42.7% C.J. Prosise SEA 4800 14.0 29.7%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6500 17.4 42.4% Carlos Hyde SF 4650 13.5 29.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Peyton Barber TB 3900 4.8 6.6% Mike Gillislee BUF 3900 5.8 4.7%
Mike Gillislee BUF 3900 5.1 8.2% Jerick McKinnon MIN 4000 6.3 5.8%
Jerick McKinnon MIN 4000 5.7 10.6% Robert Turbin IND 3500 5.8 6.8%
Damien Williams MIA 3700 5.5 11.6% Matt Asiata MIN 4000 7.3 9.3%
Thomas Rawls SEA 4300 6.8 13.9% Damien Williams MIA 3700 6.8 9.5%
Matt Asiata MIN 4000 7.1 18.7% Dwayne Washington DET 3300 6.5 11.6%
Dwayne Washington DET 3300 6.0 19.8% Terrance West BAL 4750 9.4 11.7%
Terrance West BAL 4750 8.7 20.0% Thomas Rawls SEA 4300 8.6 12.1%
Chris Ivory JAX 4400 8.1 20.2% Chris Ivory JAX 4400 8.9 12.5%
Lamar Miller HOU 5300 10.1 22.0% T.J. Yeldon JAX 3800 7.7 12.5%

There's one mortal lock as a value play in both cash games and tournaments this week...and his name is DeMarco Murray. He ticks all the matchup and ownership-rate checkboxes. His opponent, Indianapolis, ranks 32nd in run defense efficiency (per DVOA), 31st in pass defense efficiency on running back targets, and 23rd in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs. And although his projected ownership rate is the sixth-highest among running backs, around 15 percent isn't prohibitively high, especially for a RB1.

The same can't be said for the Top 3 running backs on both sides of the table. Yes, Le'Veon Bell faces a Browns defense ranked 29th in both run defense efficiency and fantasy points allowed to running backs. Yes, LeGarrette Blount faces a 49ers defense ranked 31st in run defense efficiency and 32nd in points allowed to running backs. Yes, Spencer Ware faces a Buccaneers defense ranked 24th in running back points allowed and 27th in efficiency on running back targets. The problem is that, despite representing great value with favorable matchups, all three have a projected ownership rate upwards of around 25 percent. In other words, pair one with Murray in cash games, and seriously consider pairing zero with Murray in tournaments.

To that tournament pairing end, might I suggest C.J. Prosise? Philadelphia has the most efficient defense in all the land, but not when it comes to defending targets to running backs (ranked 24th). To boot, with the release of Christine Michael and reports of Thomas Rawls being "eased into action" in his first game back, Prosise's scoring won't be totally reliant on usage in Seattle's passing game. Compare his situation to a similar high-value option like Theo Riddick. Riddick's another running back whose scoring relies heavily on receiving, but Jacksonville is No. 1 in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. Furthermore, his projected ownership rate -- around 30 percent -- is twice that of Prosise.

And finally, if you're skittish about any (or all) of the above, there's Isaiah Crowell: a) Pittsburgh has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs; and b) statistical analysis tells us that, in wind conditions currently forecasted in Cleveland for Sunday, offenses tend to run more often and pass less efficiently.

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)
A.J. Green CIN 6100 18.7 51.5% A.J. Green CIN 6100 21.1 40.3%
Jordy Nelson GB 5700 16.9 49.3% Jordy Nelson GB 5700 18.8 37.3%
Antonio Brown PIT 6600 19.3 48.3% Antonio Brown PIT 6600 20.5 33.5%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5100 14.2 45.1% Steve Smith BAL 4200 12.7 31.9%
Julian Edelman NE 4900 13.6 44.9% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5100 15.3 31.4%
Terrelle Pryor CLE 4400 12.2 44.6% Julian Edelman NE 4900 14.6 31.0%
Amari Cooper OAK 5250 14.5 44.2% Doug Baldwin SEA 4900 14.6 31.0%
Steve Smith BAL 4200 11.5 44.0% Amari Cooper OAK 5250 15.3 29.7%
Mike Evans TB 5750 15.6 43.2% Terrelle Pryor CLE 4400 12.8 29.6%
Allen Robinson JAX 5150 13.7 42.1% Stefon Diggs MIN 4900 14.0 28.5%
Stefon Diggs MIN 4900 12.9 41.2% Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6400 18.1 27.9%
Doug Baldwin SEA 4900 12.8 40.9% Cameron Meredith CHI 4100 11.5 27.5%
Golden Tate DET 4800 12.5 40.3% Eddie Royal CHI 3900 10.9 27.3%
Cameron Meredith CHI 4100 10.5 39.4% Robert Woods BUF 4200 11.7 27.1%
Eddie Royal CHI 3900 9.9 38.8% Mike Evans TB 5750 16.0 27.0%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Phillip Dorsett IND 4100 7.1 17.9% DeSean Jackson WAS 4250 7.9 9.8%
Jeremy Kerley SF 4150 7.2 18.0% Tajae Sharpe TEN 3950 7.6 10.9%
Tyler Lockett SEA 4000 7.0 18.1% Tyler Lockett SEA 4000 7.8 11.3%
DeSean Jackson WAS 4250 7.6 19.3% Phillip Dorsett IND 4100 8.3 12.5%
Will Fuller V HOU 4450 8.0 19.4% J.J. Nelson ARI 4000 8.3 13.4%
Randall Cobb GB 4800 8.9 20.8% Brian Quick LA 3800 7.9 13.5%
Tajae Sharpe TEN 3950 7.4 21.3% Tavon Austin LA 4100 8.6 13.8%
Chris Conley KC 3900 7.4 21.9% Michael Floyd ARI 4000 8.4 13.9%
Kendall Wright TEN 4000 7.6 22.0% Kendall Wright TEN 4000 8.5 14.3%
Tavon Austin LA 4100 7.9 22.9% Marqise Lee JAX 4100 8.9 15.1%
Brian Quick LA 3800 7.4 23.0% DeVante Parker MIA 4300 9.4 15.4%
Michael Floyd ARI 4000 7.9 24.2% Randall Cobb GB 4800 10.6 15.8%
Marqise Lee JAX 4100 8.1 24.2% Sterling Shepard NYG 4650 10.3 16.0%
Allen Hurns JAX 4400 8.7 24.3% Will Fuller V HOU 4450 9.9 16.1%
Chris Hogan NE 3900 7.8 24.9% Marvin Jones Jr DET 4750 10.6 16.3%

It's taken 11 weeks, but I can finally give you a quartet of wide receivers that have the best stat matchups of the week and a low ownership rate. First up is Julian Edelman. Despite the headline-making awfulness of San Francisco's run defense, their pass defense ranks 28th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing wide receivers. And, just last week, Larry Fitzgerald caught 12 passes for 133 yards from the slot against them. Next up is Steve Smith, who's facing a Dallas pass defense ranked 25th in efficiency, as well as a slot cornerback in Orlando Scandrick allowing about 0.4 fantasy points per coverage route according to Pro Football Focus. (Obviously, with that said, don't use Smith in lineups also including Dallas defense.)

Up third is Mike Evans, who faces a Chiefs pass defense that's allowed the third-most points to opposing wide receivers. Even more favorably, Kansas City's 100% record this season in not employing shadow coverage with their cornerbacks means that Evans will be running -- at least -- half of his routes against Phillip Gaines, aka "One of the NFL's Worst (per Pro Football Focus)."

And finally, batting cleanup is Odell Beckham Jr Jr., who faces a Bears pass defense allowing the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. What's better is that, whereas most defenses using shadows do so because they have an elite cornerback at their disposal, Pro Football Focus projects that Chicago will shadow Beckahm with -- seriously, don't laugh -- Tracy Porter.

Going back to the beginning of this section, the icing on the cake for wide receiver value this week is that none of the four I just mentioned have projected ownership rates that preclude tournament usage: Smith's is around 10 percent; Edelman's, Evans', and Beckham's are around 5 percent.

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)
Martellus Bennett NE 4650 13.5 46.7% Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 15.1 27.4%
Jimmy Graham SEA 4850 11.9 32.0% Martellus Bennett NE 4650 14.0 25.6%
Jordan Reed WAS 4700 11.3 30.4% Jordan Reed WAS 4700 12.8 18.7%
Tyler Eifert CIN 4900 11.6 29.4% Zach Miller CHI 4000 10.3 15.5%
Zach Miller CHI 4000 9.4 28.8% Eric Ebron DET 4200 10.8 15.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Vernon Davis WAS 4200 6.6 6.6% Vernon Davis WAS 4200 7.6 3.4%
Charles Clay BUF 3900 6.4 8.3% Julius Thomas JAX 4000 7.3 3.5%
Dennis Pitta BAL 4300 7.1 8.5% Dennis Pitta BAL 4300 7.9 3.6%
Vance McDonald SF 4100 6.9 8.9% Gary Barnidge CLE 4000 7.4 3.8%
Jack Doyle IND 4100 7.0 9.4% Jack Doyle IND 4100 7.6 3.8%

The 49ers may not rank near the bottom of the league in defending tight ends, but Bennett is nevertheless a must-play in cash games if you're looking to go for value at the position. I mean, just look at that probability gap between him and Jimmy Graham's No. 2 cash-game value! The situation in tournaments is a little more complicated because his ownership rate in the Thursday-Monday Quick Slant tournament was a second-ranked 18 percent, and that was before it became official that Rob Gronkowski would not be playing. Therefore, it stands to reason that we should expect Bennett's ownership rate come Sunday to be far higher than "around 20 percent."

If you're going to avoid Bennett in tournaments for that reason, then Tyler Eifert is the clear value alternative. In terms of his matchup, Buffalo ranks 27th in pass defense efficiency on tight end targets. And in terms of his ownership rate, Eifert didn't even reach 1 percent in the Quick Slant, so being lower-owned than Bennett on Sunday is as close to a statistical certainty as you're going to get in DFS.

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)
Minnesota Vikings MIN 2650 11.0 73.5% Minnesota Vikings MIN 2650 11.3 55.7%
Dallas Cowboys DAL 2800 11.2 71.4% Dallas Cowboys DAL 2800 11.6 53.3%
Miami Dolphins MIA 2700 10.8 70.7% NY Giants NYG 2800 11.4 51.6%
NY Giants NYG 2800 11.0 70.3% Miami Dolphins MIA 2700 11.0 51.6%
Oakland Raiders OAK 2600 10.2 68.9% Oakland Raiders OAK 2600 10.3 49.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Houston Texans HOU 2850 6.9 36.6% Green Bay Packers GB 2900 7.1 17.7%
Tennessee Titans TEN 2700 6.9 40.2% Houston Texans HOU 2850 7.2 19.3%
Philadelphia Eagles PHI 2700 7.5 45.0% Tennessee Titans TEN 2700 7.2 22.9%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB 2500 7.0 45.8% Philadelphia Eagles PHI 2700 7.6 25.5%
Buffalo Bills BUF 2700 7.7 46.2% Cincinnati Bengals CIN 2800 8.3 27.5%

Among defenses in the top half of the table, only Minnesota and Miami have matchups against offenses that rank among the Bottom 8 in both FantasyAces points allowed to defenses and offensive efficiency (per DVOA). However, there are a couple of issues complicating their usage this week. Most importantly, at round 30 percent, the Dolphins lap the field in ownership rate, so it's unwise to use the Dolphins in tournaments. And although it's only one data point, when they were massively owned like this hosting Cleveland in Week 3, Miami ended up not even reaching 2x value, let alone the 4x required for tournaments. For Minnesota's defense, the complication regards injury uncertainty surrounding several starters. If the currently questionable trio of Xavier Rhodes, Terrance Newman, and Eric Kendricks aren't able to get healthy fast, the Vikings will be hamstrung.

In searching for possible alternatives, Dallas and Oakland face the worst two offenses in the NFL with respect to offensive efficiency: Baltimore ranks 32nd, and Houston ranks 31st. If you're going to go with one of these two, Oakland is the better option in tournaments given their lower salary and lower projected ownership rate (around 2 percent vs. Dallas' 10 percent). They may also be the better option in cash games due to their run-happy opponent entering the game with an injury-riddled backfield.


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