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)
Cam Newton CAR 7300 24.3 87.8% Cody Kessler CLE 5100 18.5 51.0%
Philip Rivers SD 6800 21.7 82.5% Blaine Gabbert SF 5000 17.8 48.6%
Matthew Stafford DET 6850 21.1 79.1% Cam Newton CAR 7300 25.8 46.7%
Trevor Siemian DEN 6000 19.1 79.0% Philip Rivers SD 6800 23.7 44.6%
Joe Flacco BAL 6100 19.3 79.0% Joe Flacco BAL 6100 20.8 42.1%
Kirk Cousins WAS 6750 20.6 77.8% Trevor Siemian DEN 6000 19.9 38.4%
Blake Bortles JAX 6300 18.9 74.1% Tyrod Taylor BUF 5900 19.3 36.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Jameis Winston TB 6400 15.2 24.4% Carson Palmer ARI 6800 19.0 7.8%
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 6100 14.3 24.5% Drew Brees NO 7600 22.4 8.3%
Carson Palmer ARI 6800 18.0 34.0% Andrew Luck IND 7400 21.9 9.2%
Russell Wilson SEA 6600 17.4 34.0% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 6800 19.8 10.0%
Eli Manning NYG 6400 16.9 34.4% Eli Manning NYG 6400 18.6 11.3%
Drew Brees NO 7600 21.1 38.1% Russell Wilson SEA 6600 19.5 11.6%
Marcus Mariota TEN 5900 16.2 39.7% Jimmy Garoppolo NE 6500 19.1 11.6%

Of the 10 quarterbacks at the top of the table, 2 stand out. One represents value in the traditional sense; the other simply by virtue of his massive projection. Let's start with the latter, Cam Newton. Yes, he's the highest-priced quarterback, but he's also facing a Falcons defense that ranks dead last according to Football Outsiders' DVOA statistic, ranks 31st in pass defense efficiency, and gives up the most FantasyAces points to opposing quarterbacks. If this were a one-quarterback game, it might be prudent to fade him. In FantasyAces' two-quarterback game, it isn't.

The quarterback offering what we traditionally conceive as "value," is Joe Flacco. The softness of his matchup doesn't quite reach the level of Newton's, but it's close -- and for a much lower price. Specifically, Oakland's defense ranks 29th in efficiency (per DVOA); 28th against the pass. And in terms of FantasyAces points, the Raiders have given up the third-most to opposing quarterbacks.

If you're reluctant to use either Newton or Flacco (or both), here are four more quarterback options that a) are likely to achieve value, and b) face defenses ranked in the bottom half of the NFL across all stat categories I used for evidence above: Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Trevor Siemian, and Kirk Cousins.

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)
Melvin Gordon III SD 5100 17.5 72.8% Melvin Gordon III SD 5100 20.1 56.1%
Le'Veon Bell PIT 6250 19.7 67.6% Le'Veon Bell PIT 6250 20.9 45.0%
Lamar Miller HOU 5150 15.6 65.3% Lamar Miller HOU 5150 16.8 43.4%
Christine Michael SEA 4800 14.4 64.7% C.J. Anderson DEN 5700 18.2 42.0%
Charles Sims TB 4700 14.0 64.4% Frank Gore IND 4600 14.6 41.6%
Frank Gore IND 4600 13.6 63.8% Jordan Howard CHI 4300 13.6 41.3%
Jordan Howard CHI 4300 12.6 63.4% Charles Sims TB 4700 14.6 40.2%
C.J. Anderson DEN 5700 16.7 63.2% Christine Michael SEA 4800 14.8 39.7%
David Johnson ARI 6100 17.9 63.2% LeSean McCoy BUF 5000 15.3 39.2%
Jerick McKinnon MIN 4400 12.6 61.7% Ezekiel Elliott DAL 5500 16.6 38.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Derrick Henry TEN 4000 5.6 18.4% DeAngelo Williams PIT 4350 6.7 7.6%
Matt Asiata MIN 4000 5.9 20.6% Matt Asiata MIN 4000 6.7 9.8%
Travaris Cadet NO 3500 5.3 22.2% Derrick Henry TEN 4000 6.8 10.3%
James White NE 3900 6.0 22.9% James White NE 3900 7.3 13.5%
Chris Thompson WAS 3900 6.4 26.3% Chris Thompson WAS 3900 7.3 13.5%
Chris Ivory JAX 4600 8.0 29.1% Fozzy Whittaker CAR 4200 8.0 14.1%
Bobby Rainey NYG 3000 5.2 29.1% Chris Ivory JAX 4600 8.9 14.7%
Fozzy Whittaker CAR 4200 7.5 31.1% Terrance West BAL 4200 8.3 15.6%
T.J. Yeldon JAX 4150 7.6 32.1% T.J. Yeldon JAX 4150 8.7 18.1%
Terrance West BAL 4200 7.7 32.2% Justin Forsett BAL 4300 9.3 19.5%

For the second straight week, Melvin Gordon III is likely to be the highest-owned running back in tournaments on FantasyAces. Fading him this week for that reason is less relevant in Week 4. Why? Because, unlike last week, there's no other running back in the top half of the table that has a great statistical matchup across the board.

To illustrate this, let's start with Gordon himself. This week, he's facing New Orleans, which currently has the 31st-ranked overall defense, 32nd-ranked run defense, and 32nd-ranked pass defense on running back targets (per DVOA). The Saints also have given up the most FantasyAces points to opposing running backs. Taken together, Gordon has the best matchup one could ever hope for: The defense sucks; they can't stop the run; and they can't cover running backs in the passing game.

In comparison, almost all of the other 11 running backs atop the table -- cash game or tournament -- have one or more statistical flaws in their Week 4 matchups. Lamar Miller and Ezekiel Elliott face defenses that rank in the top half of the NFL across all four categories I've focused on: overall defense, run defense, pass defense on running back targets, and FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs. Le'Veon Bell, Frank Gore, David Johnson, and Jerick McKinnon face defenses that rank in the Top 16 in three of four categories.

Others have more nuanced matchup problems. For instance, Christine Michael may be facing a Jets defense ranked 22nd in efficiency (per DVOA), but they're No. 2 in run defense efficiency and No .4 in FantasyAces points allowed to opposing running backs. Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy's facing a Patriots defense that has mediocre rankings across the board,

Therefore, by process of elimination, fading Gordon for ownership-rate reasons means rostering one or more of the remaining three running backs: C.J. Anderson, Jordan Howard, or Charles Sims. Anderson's a high-priced player, so let's focus on the other two. Howard has the better matchip, as he'll be facing a Lions defense ranked 31st in overall efficiency, 27th in run defense efficiency, and 23rd in pass defense efficiency on targets to running backs. The only problem is that, so far this season, Detroit has given up the 10th fewest FantasyAces points to opposing backs. Sims is in a similar boat, except Denver ranks better in the macro than the micro. Namely, while the Broncos defense is No. 11 overall (per DVOA), they're 30th in run defense, 25th in defending running back targets, and 20th in FantasyAces points allowed to the position.

The bottom line is that value at running back is a scarce commodity this week, especially when put in the context of ownership rates. (Gordon and Howard are 1-2 at the moment.) Taking all of the above into account, I'd go with Gordon and either Anderson or Sims in cash games. In tournaments, the value play is either Gordon or Howard paired with either Anderson or Sims.

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)
Antonio Brown PIT 6450 18.7 62.6% Terrelle Pryor CLE 4600 15.9 47.3%
Terrelle Pryor CLE 4600 13.2 62.0% Antonio Brown PIT 6450 22.0 46.4%
Tyrell Williams SD 4350 12.5 61.8% Emmanuel Sanders DEN 4950 16.1 43.2%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 5250 15.0 61.4% Demaryius Thomas DEN 5250 16.9 42.5%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 4950 14.1 61.4% Tyrell Williams SD 4350 13.2 38.7%
Marvin Jones Jr DET 5200 14.5 60.4% Travis Benjamin SD 4950 14.5 36.4%
T.Y. Hilton IND 5200 14.5 60.0% Marvin Jones Jr DET 5200 15.1 35.9%
Travis Benjamin SD 4950 13.5 58.5% Steve Smith BAL 4300 12.4 35.4%
Steve Smith BAL 4300 11.6 57.8% Kelvin Benjamin CAR 5200 14.9 35.0%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4900 13.1 57.0% T.Y. Hilton IND 5200 14.8 34.6%
Stefon Diggs MIN 5100 13.4 55.9% Julian Edelman NE 5000 14.0 33.6%
Cole Beasley DAL 4550 11.9 55.6% Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6150 17.1 33.2%
Amari Cooper OAK 4950 12.8 55.2% Willie Snead IV NO 4700 13.0 32.8%
Doug Baldwin SEA 4950 12.7 54.7% Michael Crabtree OAK 4850 13.4 32.8%
Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6150 15.6 53.9% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4900 13.5 32.6%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Victor Cruz NYG 4400 7.5 27.9% Marqise Lee JAX 4100 8.1 15.6%
Robert Woods BUF 4100 7.1 28.8% Mohamed Sanu ATL 4400 8.8 16.1%
Marqise Lee JAX 4100 7.1 29.1% Anquan Boldin DET 4100 8.5 17.6%
Mohamed Sanu ATL 4400 7.9 31.2% Chris Hogan NE 4000 8.3 17.6%
Sammie Coates Jr PIT 3900 7.1 32.3% Adam Humphries TB 4000 8.3 17.6%
Anquan Boldin DET 4100 7.6 33.2% Pierre Garcon WAS 4250 8.9 18.0%
John Brown ARI 4200 8.0 34.6% Adam Thielen MIN 3800 8.0 18.3%
Pierre Garcon WAS 4250 8.1 35.1% Torrey Smith SF 4150 9.0 19.6%
Dontrelle Inman SD 3900 7.6 36.3% Golden Tate DET 4450 9.7 19.9%
Adam Humphries TB 4000 7.9 36.9% Terrance Williams DAL 4000 8.9 20.9%
Torrey Smith SF 4150 8.2 37.2% Michael Floyd ARI 4400 9.9 21.4%
Michael Floyd ARI 4400 8.7 37.4% Dontrelle Inman SD 3900 8.8 21.5%
Terrance Williams DAL 4000 8.1 39.0% Tajae Sharpe TEN 4000 9.1 22.0%
Jeremy Kerley SF 3700 7.5 39.1% Kevin White CHI 4300 9.8 22.0%
Julio Jones ATL 6250 12.8 39.6% Allen Hurns JAX 4600 10.5 22.1%

Paring down the 19 wide receivers listed as most likely to achieve value in either cash games or tournaments, 8 stand above the other 11 because of their matchup. The No. 1 option that you should play in both formats is Steve Smith, who's at home against a Raiders defense that ranks 29th overall and 28th against the pass per DVOA, as well as dead last in terms of FantasyAces points against opposing wide receivers. Furthermore, Smith's likely to run most of his routes against D.J. Hayden, which is one of the biggest individual matchup advantages of the week according to Pro Football Focus.

Among the other seven wide receivers offering value this week, Kelvin Benjamin has the best team matchup what with the Falcons ranked 32nd in overall defense and 31st in pass defense (per DVOA). Unfortunately, he's likely to be shadowed by Atlanta's best cornerback, Desmond Trufant. Although to a lesser extent, Terrelle Pryor and Dough Baldwin also fall into this "good team matchup, bad individual matchup" category.

That leaves four wide receivers among the most likely to achieve value that also have favorable matchups. Two of them are on the same team: Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. San Diego's opponent, New Orleans, ranks 31st in overall defense efficiency and 27th in pass defense efficiency (per DVOA), as well as ranking 21st in FantasyAces points allowed. Distinguishing between the two is tough because, although they're likely to face inferior defenders on a route-by-route basis, Williams and Benjamin tend to move around in the formation and Saints cornerbacks tend to do so as well.

The final two value wide receivers with favorable matchups are also on the same team: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. From a team perspective, Tampa Bay's pass defense ranks 25th (per DVOA), and they've surrendered the sixth-most Fantasy Aces points to opposing wide receivers. Individually, Thomas and Sanders, like Williams and Benjamin, move around in the formation, so it's difficult to decipher which Buccaneers cornerback will be covering them on a given route.

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)
Hunter Henry SD 3950 9.4 49.5% Hunter Henry SD 3950 10.1 21.5%
Kyle Rudolph MIN 4550 10.8 48.7% Kyle Rudolph MIN 4550 11.6 21.3%
Greg Olsen CAR 5300 12.2 46.4% Jordan Reed WAS 5000 12.4 19.5%
Dennis Pitta BAL 4750 10.6 43.3% Jacob Tamme ATL 4200 10.4 19.4%
Jordan Reed WAS 5000 10.8 40.7% Greg Olsen CAR 5300 13.1 19.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Cameron Brate TB 4100 6.3 15.2% Rob Gronkowski NE 5700 9.9 4.6%
Clive Walford OAK 3900 6.2 17.1% Delanie Walker TEN 4700 8.2 4.7%
Rob Gronkowski NE 5700 9.4 19.5% Cameron Brate TB 4100 7.2 4.9%
Julius Thomas JAX 4400 7.5 21.5% Jimmy Graham SEA 4800 8.7 5.7%
Jimmy Graham SEA 4800 8.2 21.6% Dwayne Allen IND 3950 7.3 6.2%

The two tight ends to roster for value in Week 4 are Greg Olsen and Dennis Pitta. Given their salaries and projected ownership, the recommendation here is to go with Olsen in cash games and Pitta in tournaments.

Olsen's opponent, Atlanta, ranks 32nd in both overall and pass defense eficiency per DVOA. Moving from macro to micro, the Falcons also can't defend tight ends, specifically. Through three games, they rank 29th in pass defense efficiency on passes to tight ends per DVOA, and they've allowed the second-most FantasyAces points to tight ends.

Pitta's matchup isn't that great, but it's close. Per DVOA, Oakland's defense ranks 28th on all passes and 23th on passes to tight ends. The Raiders also rank 25th in FantasyAces points allowed to tight ends.

Now, you might respond to the above with, "Olsen? Pitta? That's not value!" It's a valid question (and exclamation). As I've mentioned previously, tight end is a position with minimal value on FantasyAces (e.g., compare their value probabilities with other positions), so the strategy is to go with expensive players that nevertheless represent good value. Olsen and Pitta are those players in Week 4.

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)
Washington Redskins WAS 2700 10.8 81.3% Washington Redskins WAS 2700 10.8 58.8%
Houston Texans HOU 3100 11.2 78.1% Indianapolis Colts IND 2500 9.5 54.1%
Indianapolis Colts IND 2500 9.5 76.2% Houston Texans HOU 3100 11.6 53.6%
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3400 11.6 76.1% Dallas Cowboys DAL 2700 9.7 49.8%
Denver Broncos DEN 3150 10.9 75.1% Denver Broncos DEN 3150 11.3 49.7%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Los Angeles Rams LA 2900 8.0 58.5% Los Angeles Rams LA 2900 8.1 31.5%
NY Giants NYG 2650 7.8 61.3% New England Patriots NE 3100 9.1 33.6%
New England Patriots NE 3100 8.9 61.8% Carolina Panthers CAR 3100 9.6 37.4%
Carolina Panthers CAR 3100 9.0 62.2% NY Giants NYG 2650 8.0 37.5%
Jacksonville Jaguars JAX 2500 7.7 63.7% NY Jets NYJ 2950 9.4 40.1%

Given that probabilities for even the least valuable defenses are still above 50 percent, the best advice is to pick the one you prefer and allocate your budget dollars at other positions. If we're to focus on the top half of the table, though, the one I prefer is Indianapolis. Of the six value defenses (i.e., Washington, Houston, Indianapolis, Arizona, Denver, and Dallas), the Colts are the only one facing an offense that ranks in the Bottom 8 of passing, rushing, and overall efficiency (per DVOA), as well as in the Bottom 8 of FantasyAces points allowed to opposing defenses. To boot, Jacksonville (i.e., said offense) has an offensive line that curently ranks 31st in adjusted line yards (aka run-blocking) and 23rd in adjusted sack rate (aka pass-blocking).


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