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.

Before getting started, one other quick note that only applies to this week is that, because there was no Thursday-Monday slate, there was no tournament ownership data available. Therefore, I'll (unfortunately) only be discussing player matchups. With that said, one way around this is to use a rule of thumb I've found regarding how my value probabilities relate to ownership. Namely, players with Top 3 probabilities at each position almost always end up having prohibitively high ownership, especially if they're on the cheaper end of the salary scale and especially if they're a running back.

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 6800 23.0 67.2% Russell Wilson SEA 6800 24.3 30.8%
Marcus Mariota TEN 6250 20.6 62.2% Jared Goff LA 5100 16.9 27.3%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7400 23.9 61.6% Marcus Mariota TEN 6250 21.3 26.1%
Tyrod Taylor BUF 6200 20.1 59.9% Tyrod Taylor BUF 6200 20.9 25.0%
Derek Carr OAK 6500 20.3 55.4% Blake Bortles JAX 5950 19.4 22.3%
Carson Wentz PHI 5900 18.3 54.0% Josh McCown CLE 5200 16.3 21.8%
Cam Newton CAR 7000 21.2 51.5% Carson Wentz PHI 5900 19.0 21.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Alex Smith KC 6000 14.4 26.4% Carson Palmer ARI 6700 18.9 8.6%
Andy Dalton CIN 6350 16.9 35.6% Alex Smith KC 6000 16.4 9.4%
Brock Osweiler HOU 6100 16.3 36.4% Philip Brees SD 6600 18.8 9.4%
Carson Palmer ARI 6700 18.2 37.0% Andy Dalton CIN 6350 18.1 10.3%
Philip Rivers SD 6600 18.3 39.4% Matt Ryan ATL 7100 21.2 10.7%
Brock Osweiler HOU 5800 15.9 39.4% Brock Osweiler HOU 6100 17.5 11.6%
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 5700 15.7 40.1% Eli Manning NYG 6900 20.8 12.0%

Among high-value quarterbacks, Carson Wentz has the best statistical matchup of the week, as he'll be playing at home against a Packers defense ranked 25th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and 23rd in pass defense efficiency (per DVOA). Green Bay also grades out as second-worst in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus, with four different cornerbacks allowing a passer rating above 110.

Cam Newton's matchup is only slightly worse facing a Raiders pass defense ranked 24th in efficiency and 23rd in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Furthermore, their best cornerback, David Amerson, is questionable with a knee injury. Either he'll play at less than 100 percent or he won't play at all; which bodes well for No. 1 wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Another thing working in Newton's favor is that Oakland also has the 6th-least effecient run defense, so he should be able to rebound from last week's five-carry, seven-yard stinker against New Orleans.

Two other quarterbacks have high value probabilities, but have matchups that don't reach the level of Wentz's or Newton's: Russell Wilson and Newton's countepart, Derek Carr. For Wilson, it may come as a surprise that, although they've allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, Tampa Bay ranks a respectable 18th in pass defense efficiency. Wilson et al. has been on a tear lately, and the Buccaneers' slot cornerback is serving a suspension (read: Doug Baldwin FTW), but Tampa Bay's pass defense isn't as bad -- at least statistically speaking -- as you think; they've just given up two really big games to Matt Ryan and Derek Carr. Speaking of Carr, he'll be facing a Panthers defense ranked 24th in quarterback points allowed but 18th in pass defense efficiency.

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)
Jay Ajayi MIA 5500 18.4 57.4% Jay Ajayi MIA 5500 19.8 42.9%
David Johnson ARI 66500 22.2 57.1% Wendell Smallwood PHI 4000 13.9 40.6%
Melvin Gordon III SD 5800 19.3 56.9% Melvin Gordon III SD 5800 19.9 39.8%
Rashad Jennings NYG 5000 15.1 50.2% David Johnson ARI 6650 22.8 39.7%
Thomas Rawls SEA 5000 14.8 48.9% Thomas Rawls SEA 5000 17.0 39.2%
Spencer Ware KC 4950 14.6 48.8% Rashad Jennings NYG 5000 15.8 34.5%
Devonta Freeman ATL 4950 14.0 46.0% Spencer Ware KC 4950 15.3 33.2%
Wendell Smallwood PHI 4000 11.2 45.1% Devonta Freeman ATL 4950 15.0 32.0%
Doug Martin TB 4750 13.2 44.8% Todd Gurley LA 5000 14.7 30.2%
DeMarco Murray TEN 6300 17.2 43.7% Carlos Hyde SF 4900 14.4 30.1%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Kapri Bibbs DEN 4400 4.7 5.7% Ryan Mathews PHI 4200 6.7 6.0%
Jeremy Langford CHI 4400 5.5 6.9% Benny Cunningham LA 3700 6.2 7.1%
Jalen Richard OAK 3900 5.3 9.0% James White NE 4200 7.2 7.6%
Damien Williams MIA 3700 5.4 11.4% Denard Robinson JAX 3500 6.2 8.5%
Darren Sproles PHI 4300 6.4 12.0% Darren Sproles PHI 4300 7.7 8.7%
James White NE 4200 6.7 14.3% Paul Perkins NYG 4000 7.2 8.9%
Paul Perkins NYG 4000 6.8 17.0% Alex Collins SEA 3800 6.9 9.1%
Duke Johnson Jr CLE 4100 7.5 20.1% Duke Johnson Jr CLE 4100 8.1 11.7%
Rex Burkhead CIN 3500 6.6 21.4% James Starks GB 4700 10.1 14.7%
Tevin Coleman ATL 4650 9.0 22.9% Jeremy Hill CIN 5300 12.1 17.2%

Jay Ajayi and David Johnson both offer great value this week and have great matchups. Ajayi should already be on everyone's radar simply because "which back is playing San Francisco?" is among the first questions everyone finds the answer to each week. Because you already know all about the 49ers' futility in run defense, I'll only add that they also rank 22nd in pass defense efficiency on running back targets (per DVOA). True, Miami doesn't throw the ball to their backs all that often. But when those rare opportunities do arise, Ajayi has a matchup good enough to make the most of them.

Lack of opportunity in the passing game will not be a problem for David Johnson, so Atlanta's low ranking in pass defense efficiency on running back targets (24th) will likelty translate into more receiving points for Johnson than San Francisco's will translate for Ajayi. To boot, although not as bad as the historically bad 49ers, the Falcons run defense is nevertheless pretty bad: 28th in efficiency, 29th in points allowed to running backs.

Of course, going back to what I wrote in the introduction about projecting ownership rates in the absence of hard data this week, Johnson and (especially) Ajayi are just the type of likely-to-be-highly-owned players I described: at the top of my value probability table and also a running back. Therefore, if you're going to avoid either or both, here are four more matchup-based value options to consider in tournaments: Melvin Gordon III, Thomas Rawls, Rashad Jennings, and Spencer Ware.

  • Gordon faces a Houston defense that ranks 25th in points allowed to running backs and 28th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets.
  • Rawls faces a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 23rd in points allowed to running backs and 27th in pass defense efficiency on runng back targets.
  • Jennings faces a Cleveland defense that ranks 31st in points allowed to running backs and 30th in run defense efficiency.
  • Ware faces a Broncos defense that's decidedly one-dimensional insofar as their top-ranked pass defense is counterbalanced with a porous run defense. To wit, they rank 26th in points allowed to running backs and 25th in run defense efficiency.

Given their Top 7 appearances in my table, all four of these alternate value options have a chance to be highly owned; just not all four and not nearly as highly owned as Ajayi and Johnson.

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)
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4900 15.5 53.5% Doug Baldwin SEA 5000 16.9 38.8%
Jordan Matthews PHI 4600 13.9 50.3% Steve Smith BAL 4350 14.4 37.5%
Julian Edelman NE 5100 14.8 47.7% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4900 16.0 36.6%
Steve Smith BAL 4350 12.5 47.0% Jordan Matthews PHI 4600 14.8 35.7%
Doug Baldwin SEA 5000 14.2 46.1% Allen Robinson JAX 4900 15.2 33.4%
Allen Robinson JAX 4900 13.4 43.9% Julian Edelman NE 5100 15.5 32.2%
Amari Cooper OAK 5200 14.2 43.5% Marqise Lee JAX 4200 12.7 31.9%
Terrelle Pryor CLE 4500 12.0 42.1% Corey Coleman CLE 3900 11.1 28.3%
Rishard Matthews TEN 4800 12.7 41.7% Kenny Britt LA 4800 13.5 27.6%
Mike Wallace BAL 4200 10.9 40.1% Amari Cooper OAK 5200 14.5 27.1%
Corey Coleman CLE 3900 10.0 39.5% Jordy Nelson GB 5600 15.6 27.1%
Tyrell Williams SD 4350 11.1 39.4% Tyrell Williams SD 4350 11.9 26.1%
Mike Evans TB 5600 14.2 38.9% Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6350 17.3 25.9%
Jordy Nelson GB 5600 14.2 38.9% Mike Willace BAL 4200 11.4 25.7%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 4950 12.3 37.5% Terrelle Pryor CLE 4500 12.2 25.6%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Dontrelle Inman SD 4200 6.7 14.1% Will Fuller V HOU 4450 8.8 11.7%
Allen Hurns JAX 4300 6.9 14.7% Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4500 9.0 12.1%
Dorial Green-Beckham PHI 4000 6.7 16.5% Allen Hurns JAX 4300 8.7 12.5%
Eddie Royal CHI 4000 6.8 16.9% Cameron Meredith CHI 4400 9.0 12.9%
Jeremy Kerley SF 4000 6.8 16.9% Marquise Goodwin BUF 4250 8.8 13.3%
Marquise Goodwin BUF 4250 7.4 18.1% Kendall Wright TEN 4000 8.4 13.9%
Tajae Sharpe TEN 3950 7.0 18.5% Eddie Royal CHI 4000 8.5 14.3%
Kendall Wright TEN 4000 7.1 18.8% Adam Humphries TB 3800 8.1 14.4%
Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4500 8.0 19.0% Quinton Patton SF 3800 8.2 14.9%
Mohamed Sanu ATL 4300 7.9 20.4% Tyreek Hill KC 4350 9.5 15.4%
Randall Cobb GB 4700 8.9 22.0% John Brown ARI 4200 9.3 15.9%
Brian Quick LA 3800 7.2 22.1% Kenny Stills MIA 3800 8.5 16.4%
John Brown ARI 4200 8.0 22.1% Brian Quick LA 3800 8.5 16.4%
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 5300 10.4 23.7% Davante Adams GB 4700 10.6 16.7%
Cameron Meredith CHI 4400 8.7 23.9% Randall Cobb GB 4700 10.6 16.7%

Unfortunately, there's only one wide receiver below $4,800 with a Top 15 probability and a favorable statistical matchup, so we need to put quotation marks around "value" this week. That man is Jordan Matthews, who faces a Packers pass defense that ranks 30th in FantasyAces points allowed to wide receivers, as well as 23rd in efficiency (and dropping). Individually, Matthews will be running about 75 percent of his routes against slot cornerback Micah Hyde, who ranks among the worst at his position according to Pro Football Focus. One positive byproduct of using Matthews for tournament is that you can stack him with Carson Wentz, whose value credentials I detailed earlier.

The best of the higher-priced options this week is Larry Fitzgerald, who has a Matthews-like threefold matchup advantage. His opponent, Atlanta, ranks 28th in points allowed to opposing wide receivers and 22nd in pass defense efficiency. Furthermore, running about 65 percent of his routes from the slot means he'll be getting covered by rookie Brian Poole a majority of the time and, more importantly, not be seeing much of Desmond Trufant. Of course Trufant's a game-time decision, so it may end up being the case that Fitzgerald finds success no matter where he lines up. The only concern is his potential to have a prohibitively high ownership rate in tournaments.

The same concern holds for Doug Baldwin. Yes, Tampa Bay's pass defense ranks 25th in points allowed to wide receivers. Yes, he should be able to outclass slot-corner-in-a-pinch Vernon Hargreaves. That said, Baldwin's No. 1 value probability suggests he'll have a prohibitively high ownership rate, an indication exacerbated by the attractiveness of stacking him with the aforementioned Russell Wilson, who also has a No. 1 value probability.

The three remaining "values" with favorable statistical matchups are as follows:

  • Julian Edelman faces a Jets pass defense ranked 30th in efficiency. He'll also be on Revis Island, whose once-majestic shores have receded into the sea this season.
  • Similarly, Pro Football Focus projects that Odell Beckham Jr will be getting shadowed by Joe Haden, who's an injury-induced shell of his former self. And as a unit, Cleveland's pass defense ranks 30th in efficiency.
  • Rishard Matthews faces a Bears pass defense ranked dead last in points allowed to opposing wide receivers.

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)
Tyler Eifert CIN 4700 11.6 32.8% Tyler Eifert CIN 4700 13.5 22.2%
Jimmy Graham SEA 5000 12.3 32.5% Greg Olsen CAR 1950 12.5 14.4%
Greg Olsen CAR 4950 12.0 31.3% Jimmy Graham SEA 5000 12.5 13.9%
Delanie Walker TEN 4800 11.3 28.5% Delanie Walker TEN 4800 11.9 13.5%
Travis Kelce KC 4600 10.7 27.5% Antonio Gates SD 4100 10.1 13.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Coby Fleener NO 4350 6.2 4.2% Coby Fleener NO 4350 6.6 1.3%
Dennis Pitta BAL 4200 6.2 4.9% Dennis Pitta BAL 4200 7.2 2.5%
Charles Clay BUF 3800 5.8 5.9% Clive Walford OAK 3700 6.7 3.4%
Clive Walford OAK 3700 5.7 6.2% Vance McDonald SF 4200 8.0 4.3%
Cameron Brate TB 4200 7.6 11.9% Cameron Brate TB 4200 8.2 4.9%

As usual, it's typically best to pay up for tight ends because of how little value there is at the position. The player to pay up for this week is Greg Olsen, who faces a Raiders pass defense that ranks 24th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing tight ends and 24th in efficiency (per DVOA).

Normally, I would offer other "value" options here, but -- somewhat amazingly -- none of the other tight ends in the top half of the table face a Bottom 8 pass defense in any of the three stat categories I look at (i.e., points allowed, overall efficiency, and efficiency on tight end targets).

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)
New Orleans Saints NO 2500 10.5 73.1% New Orleans Saints NO 2500 10.6 54.9%
Buffalo Bills BUF 2900 11.4 70.7% Tennessee Titans TEN 2800 11.3 50.8%
Tennessee Titans TEN 2800 10.9 69.3% Buffalo Bills BUF 2900 11.7 50.8%
Denver Broncos DEN 3000 11.3 67.8% Denver Broncos DEN 3000 11.5 45.9%
NY Giants NYG 3300 11.9 65.9% New England Patriots NE 3000 11.2 43.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Carolina Panthers CAR 2900 7.1 36.6% Los Angeles Rams LA 2800 7.2 20.5%
Green Bay Packers GB 2750 7.4 42.6% Green Bay Packers GB 2750 7.4 22.9%
Cleveland Browns CLE 2500 7.1 46.7% Houston Texans HOU 2800 8.6 29.6%
Chicago Bears CHI 2500 7.5 49.9% Cleveland Browns CLE 2500 7.5 30.3%
Houston Texans HOU 2800 8.5 50.3% Chicago Bears CHI 2500 7.7 31.8%

New Orleans's defense ranks 27th in FantasyAces points, so Buffalo (4th) is a better value option in cash games, albeit slightly more expensive. The Bills face a Jaguars offense ranked 28th in points allowed to defenses and 29th in efficiency (per DVOA). In addition, Jacksonville has one of the worst punt coverage units in the league according to net expected points.

In tournaments, there are three options. There's the aforementioned Bills and Saints, the latter of which is at home against a rookie-led Rams offense that hasn't scored more than 10 points in over a month. Then there's the Patriots, who face a Jets offense that's allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points to opposing defenses and ranks 27th in efficiency. And like Buffalo, New England has a distinct advantage in the return game, as the Jets rank in the Bottom 8 of net expected points on both punt coverage and kickoff coverage.


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