Acing Aces

A weekly guide to finding value in Fantasy Aces contests.

Welcome back to our feature article designed to help you find value plays in cash games and tournaments on FantasyAces. Before we get started on this week's plays, just a quick housekeeping note. As you might have noticed, Keith Roberts and I switched articles; with that comes a format change because we do things a little differently. I'm partial to the stats side of the equation, so for the rest of the season, I'm going to be using my value probability system as the backbone of this article.

What is my value probability system? Well, in one sentence, it uses player pricing, our FantasyAces point projections, the value multipliers necessary to be profitable (e.g., 3x, 4x, etc.), and the historical distribution of player scoring at each position to calculate the likelihood that a given player will score enough points to meet or exceed the number of points needed to achieve value. So, in the quarterback table below, when you see "33.4%" associated with Dak Prescott's name in the "P(GPP)" column, that means my system says Prescott has a 33.4% chance of scoring the 21.2 points he needs to achieve value given his $5300 salary, his projection of 18.4 points, and the historical distribution of quarterback scoring on FantasyAces.1

One useful byproduct of this system is that you can compare my probabilities to projected ownership rates to see if a player, although valuable, might be owned too much to make that value profitable. In other words, Prescott's 33.4% value probability in GPPs might not be worth if it if, say, 45 percent of lineups are going to include him this week. So what we really want to do is a) target players with high value probabilities but low projected ownership rates, and b) avoid players with low value probabilities but high ownership rates.

And one final bit of FYI. This article will be updated to reflect changes in point projections between Wednesday night and Saturday night, so make sure to come back and give it a second look during the weekend to see if anything's significantly changed.

OK, with housekeeping done, let's move on to identifying the players to target and avoid on FantasyAces in Week 2.

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)
Cam Newton CAR 7300 23.9 61.9% Josh McCown CLE 5000 17.8 36.8%
Eli Manning NYG 6650 21.7 60.3% Dak Prescott DAL 5300 18.4 33.4%
Dak Prescott DAL 5300 17.2 58.0% Eli Manning NYG 6650 22.7 27.5%
Derek Carr OAK 6300 20.2 57.8% Blaine Gabbert SF 5000 15.9 26.5%
Josh McCown CLE 5000 16.0 56.0% Marcus Mariota TEN 6000 19.5 24.5%
Matthew Stafford DET 6550 20.4 54.7% Trevor Siemian DEN 5900 19.1 24.5%
Trevor Siemian DEN 5900 18.1 52.5% Cam Newton CAR 7300 24.6 24.0%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Andrew Luck IND 7250 18.6 31.1% Drew Brees NO 7750 21.5 7.2%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7600 19.9 32.5% Andrew Luck IND 7250 19.8 7.9%
Drew Brees NO 7750 20.6 34.3% Aaron Rodgers GB 7600 21.8 9.3%
Russell Wilson SEA 6600 17.6 36.5% Blake Bortles JAX 6850 20.2 13.5%
Ryan Tannehill MIA 5850 15.7 38.5% Russell Wilson SEA 6600 19.6 14.8%
Carson Wentz PHI 6000 16.2 39.0% Jameis Winston TB 6400 18.9 15.2%
Matt Ryan ATL 6650 18.6 41.9% Carson Wentz PHI 6000 17.3 15.2%

With FantasyAces being a two-quarterback site, I like to pair an expensive-yet-valuble QB1 with a cheap, immensely valuable QB2. This week, that means I'm pairing Cam Newton with either Eli Manning, Derek Carr, or Matthew Stafford in cash games, while pairing him with either Manning or Mariota in tournaments. Last week, San Francisco's defense pitched a shutout, but that performance was a mirage due more to the Rams' offensive ineptitude than anything spectacular done by the 49ers. All it takes is one glance at their defensive depth chart and the numerous "who?" reactions that result to realize this San Francisco's defense isn't a talented unit. Football Outsiders projected them to be a bottom-quartile defense heading into the season, so one performance at home against an awful offense shouldn't change our prior belief much, if at all. One also has to put their Week 1 performance in the context of what we know to be the weakness of Chip Kelly's frenetic offensive pace: It has a tendency to tire out his defense. Well, as the Rams spent the entire game going three-and-out, this wasn't a problem last week, but Carolina is no Los Angeles offensively. Speaking of which, we also need to put Newton's underachieving Week 1 performance in context: It was on the road against the consensus best defense in the NFL. Put all of the above context clues together, and Newton's poised for a big game on Sunday. What's more, his high price tag may make others shy away from rostering him, which means both his GPP probability and (especially) his cash game probability suggest using him as your QB1 is likely to be profitable, not just valuable.

As far as Manning, Carr, Stafford, and Mariota are concerned, those choices are mainly the result of a process of elimination with respect to the other quarterbacks in the "most likely to achieve value" category. Dak Prescott and Trevor Siemian are novices in their respective offenses and didn't show any evidence of a high ceiling in Week 1. What's more, both had a clear (understandable) tendency towards short passes, and NFL defenses pick up on that quickly. Regarding McCown, although he may be perceived as an improvement over Robert Griffin III, this is a new offense, so whatever positives we saw in previous seasons doesn't apply this season.

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)
DeAngelo Williams PIT 4950 18.9 66.1% DeAngelo Williams PIT 4950 19.4 48.6%
C.J. Anderson DEN 5700 19.7 59.6% C.J. Anderson DEN 5700 21.3 45.3%
Lamar Miller HOU 5200 17.0 55.7% Danny Woodhead SD 4550 16.8 44.5%
David Johnson PIT 6000 19.0 53.7% Jeremy Langford CHI 4800 17.4 43.2%
Danny Woodhead SD 4550 13.5 49.3% Frank Gore IND 4300 15.3 41.9%
Spencer Ware KC 4900 14.5 49.1% Lamar Miller HOU 5200 18.3 41.2%
Jeremy Langford CHI 4800 13.9 47.6% David Johnson ARI 6000 20.4 38.9%
Frank Gore IND 4300 12.4 47.2% Spencer Ware KC 4900 15.5 34.1%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 5100 14.3 45.1% Arian Foster MIA 4900 15.5 34.1%
Arian Foster MIA 4900 13.6 44.5% Rashad Jennings NYG 4800 15.1 33.8%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Jerick McKinnon MIN 4000 5.1 6.9% Alfred Morris DAL 4300 6.5 4.5%
Shaun Draughn SF 3800 5.4 9.6% Shaun Draughn SF 3800 6.1 5.6%
Derrick Henry TEN 4000 5.9 10.8% Derrick Henry TEN 4000 6.7 6.5%
Travaris Cadet NO 3500 5.8 14.8% Darren Sproles PHI 4300 7.9 8.8%
Charcandrick West KC 4000 6.6 15.0% Charles Sims TB 4300 8.1 9.5%
Christine Michael SEA 4700 7.8 15.2% Christine Michael SEA 4700 9.0 10.0%
Darren Sproles PHI 4300 7.2 15.6% Chris Thompson WAS 4300 8.3 10.2%
Charles Sims TB 4300 7.3 16.2% Travaris Cadet NO 3500 6.9 10.9%
Chris Thompson WAS 4300 7.6 17.8% Justin Forsett BAL 4900 9.9 11.7%
James White NE 4200 7.9 20.7% Matt Jones WAS 4600 9.3 11.7%

DeAngelo Williams and C.J. Anderson top the value list this week, but rostering the former is more likely to be profitable than rostering the latter. That's because, although both are at home against defenses that were running back-friendly in Week 1, Anderson's likely to be owned in a higher percentage of lineups because a national television audience saw what he did last week and national football media has made most everyone aware that the Colts defense is a M*A*S*H unit right now. Focusing on Williams, although Cincinnati is a divisional rival, which suggests a level of strategic familiarity, he was able to score 22.1 FantasyAces points as the starter in Week 14 last season, as well as 9.1 points in two-and-a-half quarters after Le'Veon Bell's season ended in Week 8. Now add to everything above the fact that the Steelers are home favorites, and you have a recipe for profit if you roster Williams as your value back.

If you choose to pivot away from Anderson in cash games, then Ezekiel Elliott deserves strong consideration. According to Football Outsiders, Washington's run defense ranked dead last in Week 1. And even if you incorporate preseason projections, as they do, Washington ranks 28th. Meanwhile, it was clear before the season that Dallas would be a run-first offense, and it was clear in Week 1 that said philosophy is even more relevant with Dak Prescott at the helm. In this context, the Cowboys are going to run the ball plenty. And given Elliott's underwhelming debut, it's likely that his ownership rate won't be prohibitively high this week.

In tournaments, I lean towards Jeremy Langford and Danny Woodhead in the above table. Langford acquitted himself well on the road against a stout Texans defensive line, and now he finds himself at home against a Philadelphia defense that, a la the 49ers of an earlier discussion, had a performance more indicative of their opponent than themselves. Meanwhile, although FantasyAces is only 0.5 PPR, Woodhead figures to have even more of the Chargers' market share in targets with Keenan Allen out for the year, and he -- somewhat astonishingly -- actually had more carries than Melvin Gordon in Week 1 despite a game script favoring Gordon.

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 6000 18.9 53.5% A.J. Green CIN 6000 20.9 40.3%
Antonio Brown PIT 6450 18.7 47.4% Jarvis Landry MIA 4800 16.1 37.7%
Eli Rogers PIT 3000 8.5 46.2% Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6350 21.0 36.8%
Jarvis Landry MIA 4800 13.6 45.7% Travis Benjamin SD 4500 14.7 36.0%
Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6350 17.9 45.5% Eli Rogers PIT 3000 9.8 36.0%
Jordan Matthews PHI 5000 14.1 45.4% Willie Snead IV NO 4700 14.9 34.0%
Willie Snead IV NO 4700 13.1 44.6% Jordan Matthews PHI 5000 15.8 33.8%
Alshon Jeffery CHI 5200 14.3 44.0% Marvin Jones Jr DET 4700 14.3 31.4%
Amari Cooper OAK 5500 15.0 43.2% Antonio Brown PIT 6450 19.6 31.3%
Tajae Sharpe TEN 3950 10.7 43.0% Allen Robinson JAX 5600 16.8 30.5%
Allen Robinson JAX 5600 15.2 42.7% Alshon Jeffery CHI 5200 15.6 30.5%
Travis Benjamin SD 4500 11.8 40.5% Steve Smith BAL 4400 13.1 30.0%
Julio Jones ATL 6250 16.3 40.1% Michael Floyd ARI 4650 13.8 29.8%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5150 13.4 40.0% Jeremy Kerley SF 3500 10.3 29.3%
Tyrell Williams SD 3700 9.6 39.8% Demaryius Thomas DEN 5350 15.6 28.8%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Anquan Boldin DET 4200 5.6 7.5% Breshad Perriman BAL 4000 6.4 5.2%
Terrance Williams DAL 4000 5.8 9.7% Chris Conley KC 4000 6.5 5.5%
Torrey Smith SF 4200 6.2 10.4% Kenny Britt LA 4000 6.9 6.8%
Kenny Britt LA 4000 6.2 12.2% Andre Johnson TEN 3900 6.8 7.0%
Charles Johnson MIN 3850 6.0 12.4% Torrey Smith SF 4200 7.4 7.3%
Tyler Boyd CIN 3500 5.5 12.5% Charles Johnson MIN 3850 6.8 7.4%
Dontrelle Inman SD 4100 6.5 12.7% Dontrelle Inman SD 4100 7.3 7.6%
Rishard Matthews TEN 3500 5.5 12.8% Terrance Williams DAL 4000 7.2 7.8%
Chris Conley KC 4000 6.4 13.0% Pierre Garcon WAS 4650 8.4 7.9%
Seth Roberts OAK 3500 5.8 14.8% Chris Hogan NE 4000 7.3 8.2%
Adam Humphries TB 3500 5.9 15.1% Cole Beasley DAL 4400 8.2 8.8%
Cole Beasley DAL 4400 7.4 15.2% Nelson Agholor PHI 4100 7.8 9.4%
Chris Hogan NE 4000 6.8 15.4% Phillip Dorsett IND 4100 7.9 9.8%
Pierre Garcon WAS 4650 7.9 15.4% Rishard Matthews TEN 3500 6.8 10.0%
Phillip Dorsett IND 4100 7.1 16.2% Devin Funchess CAR 4000 7.8 10.1%

 A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham Jr, Jr. are all expensive WR1 options that also happen to have value this week. If I were forced to roster only one of the three, I'd go with Beckham for a few reasons. First and foremost, he has the softest matchup being at home against a New Orleans that will be playing without No. 1 cornerback Delvin Breaux. Second, the success of both Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz last week means opposing pass defenses may, as early as this week, become more and more reluctant to devote so much of their gameplan and personnel towards slowing him down. Finally, given that I recommended Eli Manning earlier, Beckham works here as a valuable QB-WR stack. In the same vein, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones Jr, and Tajae Sharpe are also made more attractive as value options because of stacking potential with value quarterbacks; although Sharpe less so because of the likelihood that he's covered predominately by the Lions No. 1 cornerback, Darius Slay.

Elsewhere, wide receivers to plug in for value at one (or both) of the flex positions are Eli Rogers and either Tyrell Williams or Travis Benjamin. Rogers is more of a GPP target because it's uncertain as to whether or not Markus Wheaton will play this week, as well as who ends up playing slot receiver if he does return. Given his performance on Monday night, one would presume Rogers keeps that role, with Coates backing up Wheaton on the outside, but you never know. If indeed that's the case, however, Quincy Enunwa ran roughshod over Cincinnati's slot cornerback last week, so Rogers would benefit from a great individual matchup. With respect to Williams and Benjamin, the latter is better suited for use in cash games, while the former is better suited for tournaments, again due to differing levels of uncertainty. We can deduce that both are going to see an uptick in targets with Keenan Allen out for the year and San Diego being such a pass-heavy offense. But we also have more evidence of what Benjamin's likely to do with those targets than we have with Williams.

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)
Greg Olsen CAR 4900 11.6 32.8% Jason Witten DAL 4350 12.2 25.6%
Jason Witten DAL 4350 10.0 30.9% Jordan Reed WAS 5200 13.3 20.5%
Jordan Reed WAS 5200 11.8 30.1% Antonio Gates SD 4400 10.8 18.4%
Delanie Walker TEN 4600 9.8 26.5% Julius Thomas JAX 4700 11.4 17.8%
Travis Kelce KC 4900 10.4 26.1% Greg Olsen CAR 4900 11.8 17.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Coby Fleener NO 4400 6.8 10.8% Coby Fleener NO 4400 7.0 4.4%
Dennis Pitta BAL 3900 6.5 13.7% Eric Ebron DET 4400 8.3 8.3%
Jacob Tamme ATL 4000 6.7 14.3% Clive Walford OAK 3900 7.4 8.4%
Eric Ebron DET 4400 7.6 15.4% Dwayne Allen IND 4200 8.0 8.6%
Clive Walford OAK 3900 6.8 16.0% Jacob Tamme ATL 4000 7.7 8.9%

Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that, in comparison to the three previous tables, the most valuable tight ends are far less likely to achieve value than the most valuable quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. In that case, it's probably best to identify the biggest value among the chalk, and preserve budget elsewhere. Luckily, there are several options for that strategy this week.

The most attractive play, especially when you include stacking considerations, is Greg Olsen. The 49ers shut down the Rams' tight ends, but, again, that was the Rams. In the past, Olsen has had middling performances against San Francisco, but that was back before Patrick Willis retired and NaVorro Bowman tore his ACL. Vegas lines aren't gospel, but if Carolina has as big of an advantage as a 13.5-point spread indicates, then Olsen will be a primary beneficiary on offense. And if you think Vegas is way off on this one, then limit your Olsen exposure to cash games.

Aside from Olsen, Jason Witten is the next best option because of what I wrote earlier about Dak Prescott. If there's anything to be learned from last week's game against the Giants, it's that 1) like the vast majority of rookie quarterbacks, Prescott uses his underneath options as a crutch; and 2) Witten is his primary underneath option. It also doesn't hurt that he has the cheapest price tag among tight ends in the value half of the table.

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 England Patriots NE 2800 11.2 71.9% New England Patriots NE 2800 11.7 54.1%
Carolina Panthers CAR 3400 11.9 63.3% Chicago Bears CHI 2500 10.1 50.8%
Baltimore Ravens BAL 3000 10.6 62.5% San Diego Chargers SD 2500 9.4 45.0%
Chicago Bears CHI 2500 9.0 61.8% Baltimore Ravens BAL 3000 11.3 44.2%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 3400 11.6 60.9% Seattle Seahawks SEA 3400 12.8 43.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Kansas City Chiefs KC 3000 8.2 42.9% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3150 9.1 23.4%
Los Angeles Rams LA 3000 8.4 45.0% Los Angeles Rams LA 3000 8.6 24.0%
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3150 9.0 45.8% Kansas City Chiefs KC 3000 8.8 25.3%
Philadelphia Eagles PHI 2900 8.4 47.4% Houston Texans HOU 3000 9.5 30.2%
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2900 8.5 47.9% Minnesota Vikings MIN 2750 8.6 30.9%

In sharp contrast to tight ends, the defense position offers value everywhere: Even the worst value of the week (Kansas City in cash games and Arizona in tournaments) has a higher likelihood than all but one tight end (i.e., Jason Witten in tournaments). Therefore, the best piece of advice here is to set it and forget it: Go with New England or Chicago and move on with your life.

1 If you'd like to read more about the statistical methods underlying my value probability system, click this link, and then keep clicking on relevant links as you go down the rabbit hole.


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