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)
Dak Prescott DAL 6450 21.5 64.2% Cody Kessler CLE 5000 18.1 37.1%
Andrew Luck IND 6900 22.8 64.0% Colin Kaepernick SF 6000 21.1 30.8%
Colin Kaepernick SF 6000 20.0 63.6% Joe Flacco BAL 5850 19.6 25.6%
Cody Kessler CLE 5000 16.3 58.6% Nick Foles KC 5750 19.1 25.0%
Joe Flacco BAL 5850 18.8 58.2% Andrew Luck IND 6900 23.7 25.0%
Aaron Rodgers GB 7800 24.3 56.2% Blake Bortles JAX 5900 19.7 25.0%
Nick Foles KC 5750 17.6 52.5% Case Keenum LA 5000 16.0 24.5%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7000 17.6 27.7% Derek Carr OAK 6550 18.3 8.6%
Carson Wentz PHI 5750 14.8 33.5% Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 6100 16.6 8.9%
Derek Carr OAK 6550 17.4 35.0% Matthew Stafford DET 6450 18.2 9.4%
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 6100 16.1 35.1% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 7000 20.6 10.0%
Philip Rivers SD 6600 17.8 36.3% Eli Manning NYG 6250 17.6 10.0%
Eli Manning NYG 6250 17.1 38.9% Russell Wilson SEA 6650 19.5 11.0%
Matthew Stafford DET 6450 17.9 40.2% Philip Rivers SD 6600 19.5 11.6%

Of the quarterbacks in the top half of the table, three have great matchups to go along with their high value probabilities: Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, and Case Keenum. Prescott is facing a Browns defense that allows the fourth-most FantasyAces points to opposing quarterbacks and is ranked 30th in efficiency according to Football Outsiders. They're equally bad against both pass and run, so the Cowboys' effective play-action passing game should countinue to be so. A couple of other factors working in Prescott's favor are as follows. First, Prescott's relative inefficiency when pressured shouldn't be an issue because Cleveland ranks 24th in adjusted sack rate. Second, with No. 1 cornberack Morris Claiborne out and both Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman healthy, the Browns should be able to move the ball through the air against Dallas' defense; which means not as bad a game script for Prescott as it could have been.

Rodgers may be chalk, but he offers value you can't pass up in cash games, especially in a two-quarterback format like FantasyAces. The Colts defense gives up the 6th-most points to opposing quarterbacks, ranks 31st in overall efficiency, and ranks 29th in efficiency against the pass.

Finally, with Rodgers at around 25 percent projected ownership rate, Keenum is a viable alternative in tournaments. At home and coming off a bye, he faces a Carolina defense that's allowed the 3rd-most points to opposing quarterbacks and ranks 27th in efficiency against the pass. In addition, the Panthers offense has been humming since Jonathan Stewart returned from injury, so the game script may very well lead to a higher-scoring contest than the over-under would otherwise indicate.

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 5400 18.6 59.0% Melvin Gordon III SD 5400 19.5 43.1%
Theo Riddick DET 4550 14.6 54.5% Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6150 21.4 40.7%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 6150 19.6 54.0% Theo Riddick DET 4550 15.8 40.6%
Devontae Booker DEN 4900 15.4 53.2% Devontae Booker DEN 4900 16.4 38.2%
Christine Michael SEA 4850 13.5 44.9% Charcandrick West KC 4400 14.0 35.0%
Le'Veon Bell PIT 6300 17.4 44.5% Christine Michael SEA 4850 15.3 34.4%
Charcandrick West KC 4400 11.9 43.2% Frank Gore IND 4700 14.4 32.6%
Frank Gore IND 4700 12.7 43.1% Jonathan Stewart CAR 4950 13.9 27.5%
Matt Forte NYJ 5600 14.9 41.8% Le'Veon Bell PIT 6300 17.6 27.2%
Todd Gurley LA 5100 13.4 41.1% Matt Forte NYJ 5600 15.6 27.1%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Alfred Morris DAL 3900 4.0 3.4% Alfred Morris DAL 3900 4.9 2.5%
Don Jackson GB 3500 3.8 4.4% Bobby Rainey NYG 3500 4.7 3.3%
LeSean McCoy BUF 5350 5.9 4.5% Don Jackson GB 3500 4.7 3.3%
Spencer Ware KC 5450 6.1 4.7% Paul Perkins NYG 3500 5.7 6.5%
Bobby Rainey NYG 3500 4.0 5.3% Chris Ivory JAX 4450 7.3 6.6%
Kenneth Dixon BAL 3800 5.1 8.9% Derrick Henry TEN 4150 6.9 6.9%
Mike Gillislee BUF 4100 5.6 9.2% Robert Turbin IND 3500 6.0 7.6%
Robert Turbin IND 3500 4.9 9.9% Kenneth Dixon BAL 3800 6.6 8.0%
Paul Perkins NYG 3500 5.0 10.3% Bilal Powell NYJ 4250 7.4 8.0%
Chris Ivory JAX 4450 6.6 11.7% LeSean McCoy BUF 5350 9.4 8.2%

Among running backs most likely to achieve value this week, Ezekiel Elliott and Devontae Booker stand above the rest due to their highly favorable matchups. Elliott faces a Browns defense that's allowed the fourth-most FantasyAces points to opposing running backs, ranks 31st in run defense efficiency (per DVOA), and 20th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. This matchup also features a running game battle in the trenches between Dallas' 4th-ranked offensive line and Cleveland's 28th-ranked defensive front seven (per Adjusted Line Yards). Meanwhile, Booker's opponent, Oakland, has allowed the 10th-most points to opposing running backs, ranks 25th in run defense efficiency, and ranks 28th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. Also like Elliott's run-blocking matchup, Denver's 8th-ranked offensive line faces Oakland's 29th-ranked front seven.

The problem with Elliott and Booker, of course, is that their projected tournament ownership rates rank among the highest at the position: around 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively. I'd be fine going forward with Booker due to his significantly lower cost, but Elliott's off limits. To replace him with lower-owned options, I'm going to have to get creative because no other high-probability running backs have matchups anywhere nearly as good as Elliott's -- or Booker's for that matter -- using my typical statistical reasoning.

To wit, I've come up with two alternatives: Melvin Gordon III and Theo Riddick. Gordon's projected ownership rate is only around 15 percent, which is plenty low enough given his value probability. With respect to his matchup, Tennessee's ranked ninth in run defense efficiency and third in points allowed to running backs. It's also not a good run-blocking matchup (No. 23 offensive line vs. No. 8 front seven). That said, a few things about Gordon make me lean toward discounting those stats. Most importantly, he's averaging over 25 opportunities per game (i.e., carries plus targets) since Danny Woodhead got hurt early in Week 2, coming in below 20 in only one of seven games. In other words, despite facing a group of defenses that run the gamut from great (Denver twice) to awful (Indianapolis), his opportunity has been sunrisingly (not a typo) consistent. And, as we all know, opportunity is king in fantasy football. Relatedly, since Woodhead's injury, Gordon has been a three-down running back with no competition for targets. In that context, it's worth noting that the Titans rank 30th in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. So maybe Gordon won't set the world on fire in terms of yards per carry, but he'll continue getting carries regardless and be able to make up for those points as a receiver.

The argument for Riddick is nearly identical. Since Ameer Abdullah's injury (and excluding his own injury absence), Riddick has had opportunity counts of 19, 18, 17, and 22 despite facing defenses ranking in the top half of the league (per DVOA). He also has no competition for targets out of the backfield, and the Vikings' one defensive weakness is ranking 23rd in efficiency on running back targets. And finally, from a game theory perspective, Riddick's projected ownership rate is only around 10 percent.

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)
Jarvis Landry MIA 4800 12.8 42.2% Tyrell Williams SD 4100 12.3 31.4%
Antonio Brown PIT 6200 16.4 41.5% Brandon Marshall NYJ 4900 14.7 31.4%
Amari Cooper OAK 5100 13.4 41.3% Ty Montgomery GB 4700 13.9 30.5%
Michael Thomas NO 4600 11.9 40.3% Randall Cobb GB 5300 15.4 29.5%
Golden Tate DET 4550 11.8 40.1% Odell Beckham Jr Jr NYG 6100 17.6 29.1%
Davante Adams GB 4800 12.4 40.0% Jarvis Landry MIA 4800 13.4 27.2%
Tyrell Williams SD 4100 10.6 39.8% Stefon Diggs MIN 4550 12.6 26.8%
Stefon Diggs MIN 4550 11.6 39.1% Antonio Brown PIT 6200 17.1 26.5%
Randall Cobb GB 5300 13.2 37.6% T.Y. Hilton IND 5150 14.2 26.5%
Corey Coleman CLE 4250 10.4 36.7% Tyreek Hill KC 3000 8.2 26.0%
Mike Wallace BAL 4350 10.6 36.2% Michael Thomas NO 4600 12.5 25.7%
T.Y. Hilton IND 5150 12.5 36.2% Amari Cooper OAK 5100 13.8 25.5%
Jordy Nelson GB 5750 13.8 35.3% Mike Wallace BAL 4350 11.7 25.2%
Tyreek Hill KC 3000 7.1 34.7% Golden Tate DET 4550 12.1 24.6%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 5500 13.0 34.5% Corey Coleman CLE 4250 11.3 24.6%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Rishard Matthews TEN 4250 7.0 15.4% Rishard Matthews TEN 4250 7.3 7.7%
Jermaine Kearse SEA 4100 6.8 15.6% Sammie Coates Jr PIT 4300 8.0 9.8%
Dorial Green-Beckham PHI 4000 6.6 15.8% Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 4100 7.7 10.1%
Travis Benjamin SD 4500 7.5 15.9% Steve Smith BAL 4150 7.8 10.1%
Jeremy Kerley SF 4000 6.7 16.2% Andrew Hawkins CLE 3800 7.3 10.8%
Dontrelle Inman SD 4150 7.0 16.5% Dorial Green-Beckham PHI 4000 7.9 11.7%
Torrey Smith SF 3950 6.8 17.6% Sterling Shepard NYG 4450 9.0 12.5%
Robert Woods BUF 4100 7.2 18.1% Jeremy Kerley SF 4000 8.1 12.6%
Sammie Coates Jr PIT 4300 7.6 18.8% Adam Thielen MIN 3800 7.7 12.6%
Breshad Perriman BAL 3700 6.6 19.2% Jeremy Maclin KC 4850 9.9 12.8%
Seth Roberts OAK 3700 6.7 19.5% Quincy Enunwa NYJ 4700 9.7 13.2%
Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 4100 7.5 20.0% Dontrelle Inman SD 4150 8.8 14.2%
Terrance Williams DAL 3700 7.0 21.6% Kenny Stills MIA 3800 8.1 14.4%
Cole Beasley DAL 4400 8.4 22.3% Victor Cruz NYG 4100 8.8 14.7%
Sterling Shepard NYG 4450 8.5 22.5% Breshad Perriman BAL 3700 8.0 15.0%

Among high-value wide receivers, there's only one wide receiver that ticks all the boxes in both cash games and tournaments: Jarvis Landry. On a team-level, the Jets rank 25th in FantasyAces points allowed to wide receivers and 31st in pass defense efficiency (per DVOA). In terms of his individual matchup, Pro Football Focus projects Landry to be shadowed by Darrelle Revis, whose island has been diminished to an atoll used for nuclear bomb testing. To boot, Landry even has get a great individual matchup on special teams, with the Jets ranked dead last in expected points added from punt coverage. With a modest projected ownership rate of 15-20 percent, Landry should be the foundation of your wide receiver value in all formats.

From there, it's slim pickings with respect to finding value, as the rest of the wide receivers with high value probabilities also (unfortunately) have middling-to-bad matchups. Therefore, as was the case with running backs, I need to get creative to make further recommendations. The first of these -- and the most apt illustration of said creativity -- is using Ty Montgomery in tournaments. Although the matchup for Green Bay's wide receivers isn't as great as the negative perception of Indianapolis' pass defense suggests, Montgomery's recent (and continuing) usage as a running back flips the script considerably. Not only do the Colts rank 31st in run defense efficieny; they rank 31st in pass defense efficiency on running back targets. And for icing on the cake, his projected ownership rate is a mere 5 percent.

The other two wide receivers I've used alternative means to identify as viable value options are Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. Based on their projected ownership rates (20 percent and 5 percent, respectively), Adams is better-suited for cash games, while Hill is better-suited for tournaments. With respect to Adams, I know, I know. I just wrote that the matchup for Packers receivers against the Colts pass defense isn't as great as you'd think. But that's at the team level; Adams happens to have the best individual matchup. According to Pro Football Focus, Jordy Nelson will be the recipient of shadow coverage by Vontae Davis, who is by far the best Indianapolis cornerback, whereas Adams will be running most of his routes against the Colts' worst cornerback, Patrick Robinson. And, of course, Randall Cobb's injury means he's likely to post a sub-optimal performance whether he ends up playing or not.

The argument for using Hill in tournaments runs along the same lines. Jacksonville's pass defense isn't as bad as popular perception would otherwise indicate. (It turns out their run defense is much worse.) And whereas Jeremy Maclin will be getting shadowed by emerging shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Hill will be running his slot routes against either Aaron Colvin or Davon House, neither of which provides much "defense" at all. One final factor in Hill's favor is that Nick Foles is a much better downfield thrower than Alex Smith, which dovetails nicely with Hill's preternatural speed.

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 4700 12.0 35.6% Greg Olsen CAR 4700 13.2 20.7%
Jimmy Graham SEA 4900 11.2 26.2% Kyle Rudolph MIN 4550 11.6 14.9%
Kyle Rudolph MIN 4550 10.0 23.8% Antonio Gates SD 4000 9.6 11.9%
Dennis Pitta BAL 4300 8.8 18.6% Jimmy Graham SEA 4900 11.5 10.9%
Travis Kelce KC 4850 9.5 16.0% Travis Kelce KC 4850 10.6 8.1%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Virgil Green DEN 4100 4.8 1.4% Hunter Henry SD 4150 5.4 0.5%
Hunter Henry SD 4150 5.3 2.3% Zach Ertz PHI 4100 5.8 0.8%
Dwayne Allen IND 3800 4.9 2.6% Julius Thomas JAX 4250 6.4 1.2%
Zach Ertz PHI 4100 5.6 3.4% Virgil Green DEN 4100 6.2 1.2%
Julius Thomas JAX 4250 6.0 4.0% Charles Clay BUF 3900 6.6 2.4%

With a projected ownership rate of around only 10 percent, Kyle Rudolph is the tight end to use for value this week in both formats. Minnesota's hosting a Lions pass defense that's allowed the most FantasyAces points to opposing tight ends, ranks dead last in efficiency (per DVOA), and ranks 27th in efficiency on tight end targets. Just last week they gave up 20.4 points to Houston's three-headed tight end monster. Notably, the Vikings' tight end only has one head, and its name is Kyle Rudolph.

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 2500 10.1 70.3% Miami Dolphins MIA 2500 10.4 53.3%
Baltimore Ravens BAL 2700 10.4 68.2% Baltimore Ravens BAL 2700 10.5 47.5%
Kansas City Chiefs KC 3300 12.1 67.0% NY Giants NYG 2750 10.0 41.8%
NY Giants NYG 2750 9.9 63.2% San Diego Chargers SD 2500 9.0 41.8%
Minnesota Vikings MIN 3300 11.5 62.5% Kansas City Chiefs KC 3300 12.1 41.0%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
NY Jets NYJ 2950 8.2 44.2% NY Jets NYJ 2950 8.3 23.5%
Buffalo Bills BUF 2650 7.3 44.6% Seattle Seahawks SEA 3400 10.3 24.8%
Tennessee Titans TEN 2700 7.5 45.0% Tennessee Titans TEN 2700 7.6 25.5%
Los Angeles Rams LA 2900 8.6 48.7% Buffalo Bills BUF 2650 7.5 26.1%
Green Bay Packers GB 2900 8.7 49.5% Denver Broncos DEN 3000 9.1 27.5%

Despite an ownership rate around 20 percent, Miami is the value defense to play this week in both formats. No other defense listed in the top half of the table has as good of an overall matchup. The only one even close, Kansas City, is actually projected to be rostered in a higher percentage of lineups. And at $3,300, they're simply too expensive for a position where so much value is available. As for the Dolphins, their opponent, the Jets, have allowed the most FantasyAces points to opposing defenses and rank 29th in offensive efficiency (per DVOA). Their special teams also presents a highly favorable matchup for Miami. Namely, the Dolphins are among the league leaders in expected points added on punt returns while the Jets are the absolute worst in punt coverage.


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