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.

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)
Ryan Tannehill MIA 6600 21.2 59.2% Cody Kessler CLE 4800 17.7 39.8%
Blake Bortles JAX 6400 20.3 57.6% Marcus Mariota TEN 6250 21.0 24.5%
Marcus Mariota TEN 6250 19.7 56.4% Brian Hoyer CHI 5000 15.9 23.9%
Matt Ryan ATL 7000 21.9 56.0% Trevor Siemian DEN 5500 17.9 23.9%
Eli Manning NYG 6750 20.8 53.6% Dak Prescott DAL 5700 18.5 22.9%
Matthew Stafford DET 6400 19.7 53.5% Blaine Gabbert SF 5000 15.5 21.8%
Cam Newton CAR 7400 22.7 53.5% Ryan Tannehill MIA 6600 21.8 21.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Andy Dalton CIN 6350 16.5 32.6% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7300 20.6 6.9%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7300 19.6 34.6% Andy Dalton CIN 6350 17.3 8.1%
Sam Bradford MIN 5850 15.9 38.7% Drew Brees NO 7800 23.4 8.9%
Case Keenum LA 5150 13.9 39.1% Carson Palmer ARI 7150 21.4 10.7%
Jameis Winston TB 6150 17.1 40.9% Aaron Rodgers GB 7450 23.0 12.0%
Cody Kessler CLE 4800 13.1 41.0% Kirk Cousins WAS 6400 18.8 12.0%
Carson Palmer ARI 7150 20.2 41.1% Tyrod Taylor BUF 6100 17.6 12.0%

Aside from the probability itself, two factors make Ryan Tannehill this week's clear value play, especially in cash games. First, with Arian Foster out and his backups underwhelming so far this season, the Dolphins figure to be passing the ball even more than normal. Second, and with that in mind, he's playing at home as a large favorite against a Cleveland defense that's given up 20.6 points per game to opposing quarterbacks. And those points were surrendered against two of the more immobile quarterbacks in the league (Joe Flacco and Carson Wentz). Furthermore, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA statistic, Cleveland has the 30th-ranked defense after adjusting for preseason projections. Given the above, the least you can say is that Tannehill has a stratospheric floor this week, and that's hard to pass up value-wise given his salary.

Another potential cash game value play is Eli Manning, who's a home favorite against a Washington defense that's given up the 10th-most quarterback points through two weeks and has the 27th-ranked preseason-adjusted defense.

On the tournament side of things, Marcus Mariota is cheaper than both Tannehill and Manning, and has an even better matchup. Oakland's defense ranks dead last in Fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and dead last in pass defense efficiency per DVOA. Even after adjusting for preseason projections, the Raiders overall defense still ranks 29th. The over-under suggests this will be one of the higher-scoring games of the week. Tendencies of the respective head coaches suggest Vegas might get this one wrong. But that's the definition of variance, and high variance is what you want in tournaments.

Taken together, the value recommendation here is to use Tannehill and Manning in cash games, and Tannehill and Mariota in tournaments.

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 5700 19.2 57.8% Dwayne Washington DET 3000 10.5 41.1%
Theo Riddick DET 4400 13.2 50.1% DeAngelo Williams PIT 5700 19.8 40.6%
David Johnson ARI 6150 18.2 49.0% LeSean McCoy BUF 4900 15.7 35.4%
Melvin Gordon III SD 5150 15.2 48.8% Melvin Gordon III SD 5150 16.3 34.6%
LeSean McCoy BUF 4900 14.0 46.7% Theo Riddick DET 4400 13.7 33.6%
Frank Gore IND 4400 12.5 46.1% C.J. Anderson DEN 5600 17.4 33.5%
Matt Forte NYJ 5800 16.3 45.7% Matt Forte NYJ 5800 17.7 32.4%
Mark Ingram II NO 4900 13.6 44.9% Spencer Ware KC 4800 14.6 32.2%
C.J. Anderson DEN 5600 15.5 44.5% David Johnson ARI 6150 18.5 31.5%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 5300 14.6 44.2% Frank Gore IND 4400 13.2 31.4%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Bilal Powell NYJ 4000 4.7 5.8% Chris Thompson WAS 4150 6.2 4.8%
Alfred Morris DAL 4000 5.1 7.3% Jamaal Charles KC 5000 8.1 6.4%
Jordan Howard CHI 4000 5.2 7.9% Alfred Morris DAL 4000 6.7 7.1%
Chris Thompson WAS 4150 5.6 8.8% Jacquizz Rodgers TB 3500 6.0 7.6%
Kenyan Drake MIA 4200 5.7 9.2% Fozzy Whittaker CAR 4450 7.7 7.9%
Chris Ivory JAX 4300 6.2 10.9% Charcandrick West KC 4200 7.3 8.0%
Fozzy Whittaker CAR 4450 6.7 12.0% Jordan Howard CHI 4000 7.2 8.9%
Charcandrick West KC 4200 6.4 12.6% Kenyan Drake MIA 4200 7.6 9.0%
Travaris Cadet NO 3500 5.7 14.8% Darren Sproles PHI 4300 8.0 9.8%
Josh Ferguson IND 3000 5.1 16.6% Duke Johnson Jr CLE 4200 8.4 12.1%

Ignoring the Lions running backs, who are facing a tough rushing matchup on the road against Green Bay, the clear value plays this week -- in both cash games and tournaments -- are DeAngelo Williams and Melvin Gordon III. On the surface, Williams' matchup doesn't look that good this week, but it's important to note that Philadelphia's run defense has faced two non-functioning offenses so far in the Browns and Bears. The Eagles may rank 13th in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs, but they rank 20th in efficiency per DVOA, which adjusts for opponents and game situations. And besides, Williams is basically a set-it-and-forget-it DFS play until otherwise indicated.

Gordon, in contrast, is only now emerging as a plug-and-play DFS running back after averaging close to 20 points per game through two weeks. To boot, there's the obvious uptick in opportunity that he's likely to see with Danny Woodhead out for the year, as well as a great matchup in Indianapolis: The Colts rank 31st in run defense efficiency (per DVOA) and rank dead last in points allowed to opposing running backs.

One potential problem with rostering Williams or Gordon (or both) is that they're likely to rank first and second in tournament ownership rate this week. As I wrote in the introduction to last week's article, "value" isn't necessarily value when the probability of ownership exceeds the probability of achieving value. If this is a particular concern to you, then other attractive options include C.J. Anderson, Matt Forte, and Frank Gore. All three face defenses that rank in the Bottom 10 of FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs, as well as in the bottom half of run defense efficiency (per DVOA).

Although using at least one of Williams and Gordon is prudent (and advisable) in cash games, Anderson, Forte, and Gore are also valuable alternatives in this format as well. As are David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott, more so the latter because of having a significantly lower cost, while also having a high floor and favorable matchup.

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)
Willie Snead IV NO 4900 13.8 45.7% Jordan Matthews PHI 4950 15.3 33.2%
Jordan Matthews PHI 4950 13.9 45.7% Terrelle Pryor CLE 3800 11.6 32.4%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 5150 14.0 43.5% Antonio Brown PIT 6550 19.6 31.2%
Tyrell Williams SD 4150 11.3 43.4% Tyrell Williams SD 4150 12.4 31.1%
Tajae Sharpe TEN 4200 11.4 43.2% Julio Jones ATL 6500 19.4 31.1%
Marvin Jones Jr DET 4800 13.0 43.1% Kelvin Benjamin CAR 5300 15.8 31.0%
Stefon Diggs MIN 5300 14.2 42.5% Eric Decker NYJ 4950 14.5 30.0%
Eric Decker NYJ 4950 13.3 42.4% Stefon Diggs MIN 5300 15.4 29.5%
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 5300 14.2 42.4% Willie Snead IV NO 4900 14.2 29.3%
Antonio Brown PIT 6550 17.4 41.9% Alshon Jeffery CHI 5100 14.4 27.9%
Travis Benjamin SD 4950 13.0 41.1% Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4300 12.1 27.7%
Kenny Britt LA 4200 11.0 40.7% Allen Robinson JAX 5300 14.9 27.6%
Amari Cooper OAK 5250 13.7 40.6% Amari Cooper OAK 5250 14.7 27.4%
T.Y. Hilton IND 5000 13.0 40.4% Victor Cruz NYG 4550 12.7 27.2%
Julio Jones ATL 6500 16.9 40.4% Kenny Britt LA 4200 11.7 27.1%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Marqise Lee JAX 4000 4.8 6.2% Marqise Lee JAX 4000 6.1 5.2%
Ted Ginn Jr CAR 4100 5.0 6.3% Ted Ginn Jr CAR 4100 6.3 5.3%
Charles Johnson MIN 3850 4.8 7.1% Chris Conley KC 3900 6.0 5.4%
Pierre Garcon WAS 4500 5.9 8.0% Brandon LaFell CIN 4300 6.7 5.6%
Josh Doctson WAS 3900 5.1 8.2% Robert Woods BUF 4000 6.3 5.8%
Robert Woods BUF 4000 5.5 9.2% Tyler Boyd CIN 3800 6.1 6.2%
Brandon LaFell CIN 4300 6.2 10.8% Sammie Coates Jr PIT 3900 6.3 6.3%
Chris Conley KC 3900 5.7 11.0% Pierre Garcon WAS 4500 7.4 6.7%
Seth Roberts OAK 3500 5.1 11.1% Markus Wheaton PIT 4100 6.8 6.9%
Tyler Boyd CIN 3800 5.6 11.7% Anquan Boldin DET 4250 7.3 7.7%
Sammie Coates Jr PIT 3900 5.8 12.0% Jermaine Kearse SEA 4000 7.1 8.5%
Andrew Hawkins CLE 3500 5.4 13.3% Josh Doctson WAS 3900 7.4 10.4%
Breshad Perriman BAL 3800 6.1 14.5% John Brown ARI 4300 8.2 10.6%
Anquan Boldin DET 4250 6.9 14.8% Rishard Matthews TEN 3900 7.5 10.8%
John Brown ARI 4300 7.2 16.2% Vincent Jackson TB 4000 7.7 10.9%

Willie Snead IV is the clear value play in cash games as the Saints pass offense has one of the best matchups in the league this week, and his high expected ownership rate isn't a factor. According to Football Outsiders, Atlanta currently has the 30th-ranked pass defense, and their overall defensive efficiency ranking is 32nd after adjusting for preseason projections. They also rank 21st in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Then, of course, there's also the tried-and-true rule of thumb that says "New Orleans' offense performs wildly better at home."

Other prime value options in cash games are Larry Fitzgerald and Travis Benjamin. Regarding Fitzgerald, Buffalo's pass defense has given up the 3rd-most points to opposing wide receivers. They also just got torched by a Jets offense that, like Arizona's, has a predilection towards intermediate and deep passing. Now, the days of Fitzgerald being a deep threat are long gone, but him being a short-area receiver is a misnomer as his 11.1-yard average depth of target (per Pro Football Focus) remains around the league average. Also on the plus side is that Fitzgerald will be spending most of his time against underwhelming slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.

With respect to Benjamin, he's emerged as the clear No. 1 wide receiver in San Diego since Keenan Allen's season-ending injury and faces a Colts pass defense that will have several players still not at 100 percent even though they're returning from injury. To wit, on the vast majority of snaps, Benjamin will be running routes against Darius Butler, who isn't good, Patrick Robinson, who isn't good and is coming off a concussion, or Vontae Davis, who is good but would be seeing his first action of the season. Either way, he's going to see his usual amount of targets, and there's nothing to suggest he won't be able to produce his usual amount of performance on those targets.

In tournaments, there aren't that many good, true value plays for matchup, cost, and/or ownership reasons. Therefore, I'd roster one of the high-priced wideouts -- more so Jones than Brown given the sorry state of New Orlean's defense -- along with Jordan Matthews, Tyrell Williams, or both. Williams comes with the same advantages used to endorse Benjamin above. Matthews, meanwhile, has three factors working in his favor. First, although Pittsburgh ranks in the middle of the pack in pass defense, Matthew's primary defender will likely be their worst cornerback, slot man Sean Davis. Second, Matthews' ownership rate isn't likely to be all that high, as DFS players remain reluctant to pin their hopes (and wallets) on a rookie quarterback. Finally, opponents typically combat Pittsburgh's offense by trying to slow them down or trying to match them score for score. In other words, this game's likely to go significantly under or significantly over the Vegas total of 46.5. And that's the kind of high variance situation you're looking for in tournaments.

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)
Jordan Reed WAS 4950 10.8 22.8% Julius Thomas JAX 4550 11.9 16.3%
Greg Olsen CAR 5250 11.2 21.5% Trey Burton PHI 3300 8.1 13.0%
Eric Ebron DET 4250 8.9 20.5% Eric Ebron DET 4250 10.2 11.9%
Julius Thomas JAX 4550 9.3 18.5% Antonio Gates SD 4200 10.0 11.6%
Dwayne Allen IND 3800 7.5 16.4% Jordan Reed WAS 4950 11.3 9.8%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Jordan Cameron MIA 4700 6.5 3.7% Jordan Cameron MIA 4700 7.3 1.4%
Coby Fleener NO 4550 6.6 4.8% Jimmy Graham SEA 4400 7.2 2.0%
Gary Barnidge CLE 4250 6.3 5.2% Coby Fleener NO 4550 7.9 2.7%
Jack Doyle IND 3900 6.4 8.3% Jacob Tamme ATL 4350 8.2 4.1%
Jared Cook GB 4000 6.8 9.6% Jesse James PIT 4100 7.8 4.3%

In what's becoming a trend, there's once again isn't much value at tight end this week, so rostering bona fide studs like Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen is probably the best course of action. That said, given his matchup and low likely ownership rate, Eric Ebron is worth consideration in tournaments. Regarding the matchup, Green Bay has given up the 3rd-most FantasyAces points and ranks 28th in pass defense efficiency against opposing tight ends. Regarding his ownership rate, Ebron's availability for the game is in question after missing Wednesday's practice and being limited in Thursday's practice due to an undisclosed back injury. Our experts, however, expect him to play. Therefore, if other people are skittish about using injured players or they don't update their knowledge of the situation once the weekend starts, then Ebron represents an opportunity for getting the double-whammy of high value and low ownership.

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)
Miami Dolphins MIA 2800 12.0 77.0% Miami Dolphins MIA 2800 12.8 62.9%
Cincinnati Bengals CIN 2850 11.1 69.6% Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB 2600 10.8 53.3%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB 2600 10.2 68.5% Cincinnati Bengals CIN 2850 11.2 48.4%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 3500 12.4 65.2% Dallas Cowboys DAL 2700 10.4 46.7%
Carolina Panthers CAR 3000 10.7 63.6% NY Giants NYG 2650 9.8 43.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
NY Jets NYJ 3000 7.8 39.8% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3400 9.6 20.5%
Philadelphia Eagles PHI 2900 7.9 43.0% NY Jets NYJ 3000 8.1 21.1%
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3400 9.6 44.6% Philadelphia Eagles PHI 2900 8.2 24.2%
Los Angeles Rams LA 2950 8.6 47.5% Denver Broncos DEN 3000 8.9 26.1%
Tennessee Titans TEN 2800 8.1 47.5% Los Angeles Rams LA 2950 8.9 27.5%

Speaking of ownership rates, the Dolphins would be a no-brainer in all formats if not for the likelihood that nearly half of tournament lineups will include them. Therefore, one can use Miami comfortably in cash games, but may want to consider finding another option in tournaments. One such option is Dallas. Although they're a mediocre defense in their own right, both in FantasyAces scoring and defensive efficiency, Chicago ranks 31st in offensive efficiency (per DVOA), has the worst adjusted sack rate in the league, and will likely be starting Brian Hoyer in a road game on a short week. Even if Jay Cutler's able to convince coaches he can play, facing a quarterback with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand doesn't make Dallas' matchup worse. It actually may be even better!


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