The Rundown: FantasyScore Week 16

A weekly guide to FantasyScore's Salary Cap and Draft-and-Go contests.

Let's start off by seeing how my value probabilities fared last week for quarterbacks and running backs. (In case you're wondering, I'm saving the accuracy analyses related to wide receiver, tight end, and defense for the columns that'll appear during the NFL playoffs. That allows me to use full-season data for "more random" positions that need as much sample size as possible.)

The Top 3 cash value probabilities at quarterback in Week 15 were for T.J. Yates, Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers. Yates needed 13.5 points to achieve value, but he left early with an injury after having only scored 3.1 points. Stafford needed 19.2 points, and he scored 24.6, while Rivers needed 18.0 and scored 25.6.  For tourunaments, the Top 3 value probabilities were for Yates, Matt Hasselbeck, and A.J. McCarron. Unfortantely, none of the three achieved value, but there's an easy explanation for them all. Again, Yates got injured. Meanwhile, both Hasselbeck (41.6%) and McCarron (33.9%) had probabilities that were below even money, which means it was actually more likely that they wouldn't achieve value.

The Bottom 3 value probabilities in both cash games and tournaments were for Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Carson Palmer. As expected, Rodgers and Palmer didn't even 3x value, let alone 4x. Roethlisberger, however, unexpectedly scored 28.7 points against Denver's stout defense, which was higher than what he needed for cash games (25.8), but lower than what he needed for tournaments (33.6).

My system's worst Week 15 performance -- by far -- related to high-value running backs, which included the same five players for both cash games and tournaments: Melvin Gordon III, Fozzy Whittaker, Denard Robinson, Chris Polk, and Matt Jones. Robinson achieved achieved value in both cash games and tournaments, but the other four failed in both formats. The sad fate of this quartet in Week 15 represents a perfect example of why making predictions for non-quarterbacks is really hard: Gordon and Jones suffered injuries during their games, while Whittaker and Polk ended up as little-used backups despite being widely reported as starters prior to their games. In-game injuries and reduced roles -- especially for more mysterious reasons (a la Whittaker and Polk) -- are things we can't possibly know or foresee in advance. This kind of randomness is everywhere in football, and so projection failures such as these are inevitable. What matters most for evaluating a system is that its errors are due more to these random factors than factors we can actually account for in advance. 

Ironically, while my probabilities went 1-for-5 for the Top 5, they went 6-for-6 with respect to running backs in the Bottom 5. Alfred Blue came closest to beating the odds, scoring 10.7 when he needed 13.4 in cash games and 19.2 in tournaments. The trio of Karlos Williams, Alfred Morris, and C.J. Anderson didn't come close in either format, as expected. Neither did Ryan Mathews in cash games, nor Spencer Ware in tournaments. To be fair, however, Ware went the way of Whittaker and Polk, riding the pine (albeit due to injury precaution) even though he was expected to play.

Overall, then, the system was much better picking failures than successes last week, but most of the failures could be explained away to randomness. Still, here's to hoping it does better on the high-value side in Week 16. Speaking of which...

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)
Johnny Manziel CLE 4700 18.1 74.5% Johnny Manziel CLE 4700 18.6 45.6%
Alex Smith KAN 5200 19.6 74.1% Alex Smith KAN 5200 21.3 42.0%
Teddy Bridgewater MIN 5100 18.7 71.2% Teddy Bridgewater MIN 5100 19.1 39.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE         
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Eli Manning NYG 7500 18.3 24.3% Tom Brady NWE 8600 23.2 2.2%
Tom Brady NWE 8600 22.1 27.1% Russell Wilson SEA 8900 24.1 2.2%
Aaron Rodgers GNB 8200 21.1 28.4% Eli Manning NYG 7500 20.1 2.7%

The Chiefs-Browns game is forecast to be played in 20-plus mph winds. Therefore, despite being good values, I want nothing to do with Smith or Manziel. The latter, in particular, is off my radar because of the wind, as he relies more heavily on deep and intermediate passes. With those two out of the picture, Bridgewater is the best value of the week for my money. He's coming off back-to-back 20-point games. Furthermore, opposing quarterbacks have achieved cash value (3x) in six of the Giants' past seven games, five of whom also achieved tournament value (4x).

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)
Karlos Williams BUF 3000 13.0 70.6% Karlos Williams BUF 3000 13.9 54.8%
Kendall Gaskins SFO 2000 8.5 69.5% Kendall Gaskins SFO 2000 12.4 53.6%
Joique Bell DET 2300 8.5 62.2% Joique Bell DET 2300 10.1 45.6%
C.J. Spiller NOR 2100 7.7 61.5% C.J. Spiller NOR 2100 10.2 44.9%
Denard Robinson JAC 4100 14.6 59.9% Denard Robinson JAC 4100 15.5 43.2%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Eddie Lacy GNB 6100 9.1 15.3% Eddie Lacy GNB 6100 10.5 7.4%
C.J. Anderson DEN 4800 7.5 16.8% C.J. Anderson DEN 4800 9.1 8.3%
Jay Ajayi MIA 3600 6.1 19.8% Jay Ajayi MIA 3600 6.3 10.2%
Giovani Bernard CIN 6300 10.8 20.4% Giovani Bernard CIN 6300 12.7 10.6%
Todd Gurley STL 7300 12.8 21.4% Todd Gurley STL 7300 14.2 11.3%

With LeSean McCoy out, Williams is a must-play against a Cowboys defense that ranks 27th in both run defense DVOA and FantasyScore points allowed to opposing running backs. Among the other four running backs offering Top 5 value this week, Bell has the most factors working in his favor. Unlike Robinson, Bell's entering his game with a full week of practice. Unlike Spiller, Bell hasn't burned his bridges with DFS players worldwide. And unlike Gaskins, Bell's on the home, heavily favored side of Lions-49ers. Speaking of which, San Francisco's home-road splits on defense are a sight to behold. On the road, they allow an average of 7.56 yards per play and 3.57 touchdowns per game, versus allowing 6.06 yards per play and 2.00 touchdowns per game at home. That divergence is particularly pronounced in run defense, where they allow 58.8 more yards per game and 0.71 more touchdowns per game on the road.

With respect to the bottom half of the table, I'll say this. While value considerations suggest staying away from all five running backs, I think there's a case to be made for throwing Lacy into one of your tournament lineups on the off chance that losing Tyrann Mathieu, the straw that stirs their defensive drink, renders Arizona's defense far less stout than it has been all year. People talk a lot about Mathieu's coverage skills, but what's flown under the radar is that he was a vital cog in the Cardinals' run defense. To wit, in addition to his 5 interceptions and 4 passes defensed, his 11 tackles for loss actually led all defensive backs in the NFL and -- get this! -- was tied for the lead among all Cardinals' defenders, regardless of position. Am I saying Lacy's going to score the 24.4 points required to achieve tournament value? No. But, given how important Mathieu was for Arizona's overall defensive scheme, it wouldn't surprise me if Green Bay's able to move the ball much better than expected. And, if Lacy's healthy, that development makes Lacy an intriguing contrarian play.

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)
Jeremy Butler BAL 2000 9.7 77.5% Jeremy Butler BAL 2000 11.0 62.0%
Eddie Royal CHI 2100 9.8 75.5% Eddie Royal CHI 2100 10.8 59.5%
Albert Wilson KAN 2000 8.8 72.3% Albert Wilson KAN 2000 9.1 55.7%
Jaelen Strong HOU 2000 8.1 67.8% Jaelen Strong HOU 2000 10.4 50.5%
Keshawn Martin NWE 2300 9.3 67.7% Keshawn Martin NWE 2300 11.2 50.5%
Kenny Britt STL 2000 7.9 66.6% Kenny Britt STL 2000 9.0 49.2%
Roddy White ATL 2100 8.1 65.0% Roddy White ATL 2100 8.2 47.5%
Marc Mariani CHI 2000 7.6 64.3% Marc Mariani CHI 2000 10.0 46.8%
Chris Hogan BUF 2400 9.0 63.8% Chris Hogan BUF 2400 10.6 46.2%
Davante Adams GNB 2200 8.2 63.5% Davante Adams GNB 2200 8.7 45.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Tavon Austin STL 5700 9.7 18.9% Dez Bryant DAL 7200 12.0 0.1%
Doug Baldwin SEA 8200 14.5 20.3% Alshon Jeffery CHI 7200 14.9 0.3%
Torrey Smith SFO 3200 5.8 21.2% Phillip Dorsett IND 2000 7.7 3.8%
Allen Robinson JAC 7900 14.4 21.7% Tavon Austin STL 5700 11.4 9.2%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 7700 14.0 21.8% Doug Baldwin SEA 8200 15.7 10.0%
T.Y. Hilton IND 7100 13.0 22.1% Allen Robinson JAC 7900 16.1 10.9%
Calvin Johnson DET 7500 14.4 24.1% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 7700 15.1 11.0%
Brandon Marshall NYJ 8300 16.3 25.2% T.Y. Hilton IND 7100 13.8 11.2%
A.J. Green CIN 7900 15.6 25.6% Calvin Johnson DET 7500 14.9 12.5%
Ted Ginn Jr CAR 6400 12.7 26.0% Brandon Marshall NYJ 8300 17.2 13.2%

Among high-value wideouts, Royal and Butler are clearly the best two choices. For Royal, Alshon Jeffery's absence means more targets against a a Buccaneers defense that ranks 24th in both pass defense DVOA and FantasyScore points allowed to opposing wide receivers. For Butler, he's established himself as the clear No. 2 wide receiver in Baltimore, and the Ravens are going to have to pass a ton if they have any hope of keeping up with Pittsburgh's high-octane scoring machine.

Almost all of the receivers on the low-value side of the table appear because they're prohibitively expensive. So which of these high-priced targets do I think is most likely to beat the odds and achieve value? The answer: I'll take a chance on Allen Robinson, especially in cash games. He needs 23.7 points for 3x, and he's scored at least that many three times so far this season. Most importantly of all, however, is that he'll be running the majority of his routes against Brandon Browner, arguably the worst cornerback in the league (both of those assertions are per Pro Football Focus).

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)
Maxx Williams BAL 2100 9.7 86.1% Maxx Williams BAL 2100 11.1 64.4%
Jared Cook STL 2100 8.6 78.4% Jared Cook STL 2100 10.9 52.7%
Will Tye NYG 3200 12.0 70.8% Will Tye NYG 3200 12.5 43.3%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Jacob Tamme ATL 4500 6.9 4.6% Charles Clay BUF 4300 7.9 0.1%
Gary Barnidge CLE 7300 13.1 9.9% Gary Barnidge CLE 7300 13.4 2.3%
Richard Rodgers GNB 5100 9.2 10.1% Richard Rodgers GNB 5100 9.9 2.3%

Although FantasyScore finally increased his salary from the minimum ($2,100), Will Tye still will not be denied as the weekly Fooftballguys Value Guy. If that salary scares you off, however, Williams is a good value play. Being that he's still a relatively unknown quantity from a production standpoint, this is especially the case in tournaments. He could score far more than the required 8.4 points in a shootout with Pittsburgh, or the combination of his own inexperience and Baltimore's lack of quarterback talent could add up to Williams scoring in the low single-digits. That's variance, and tournaments are where we don't mind variance.

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)
Tennessee Titans TEN 1500 10.4 88.8% Tennessee Titans TEN 1500 11.3 81.8%
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2000 11.9 88.8% Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2000 12.0 78.9%
Miami Dolphins MIA 1700 10.7 87.6% Miami Dolphins MIA 1700 10.7 78.9%
LEAST LIKELY TO ACHIEVE VALUE
NAME TM SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME TM SALARY MAX P(GPP)
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3000 9.1 50.3% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3000 9.1 26.9%
Carolina Panthers CAR 3300 11.4 61.8% Carolina Panthers CAR 3300 11.5 35.0%
Denver Broncos DEN 3300 11.5 63.0% Denver Broncos DEN 3300 11.6 36.2%

Since Joe Flacco got hurt, opposing defenses have averaged just under 15 points per game against Baltimore, so Pittsburgh's the play here, especially in cash games. If you want to go even cheaper in tournaments, Miami's worth a gamble because opposing defenses have averaged 18.3 points per game against Indianapolis the past three weeks. And we're not talking about facing the '85 Bears three times here. Rather, those points have been scored by the mediocre-to-bad defenses of Houston, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh.

week 16 draft lists

Finally, to supplement the statistics-based strategies I recommended earlier in the season, here are the VBD draft lists you should use for FantasyScore's Draft-N-Go (DNG) games:

2-PERSON DNGS5-PERSON DNGS8-PERSON DNGS
NAMEPOSTMNAMEPOSTMNAMEPOSTM
Antonio Brown WR PIT Antonio Brown WR PIT Antonio Brown WR PIT
David Johnson RB ARI David Johnson RB ARI David Johnson RB ARI
DeAngelo Williams RB PIT DeAngelo Williams RB PIT DeAngelo Williams RB PIT
Julio Jones WR ATL Devonta Freeman RB ATL Julio Jones WR ATL
Devonta Freeman RB ATL Julio Jones WR ATL Devonta Freeman RB ATL
Rob Gronkowski TE NWE Rob Gronkowski TE NWE DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU
DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU Rob Gronkowski TE NWE
Mike Evans WR TAM Cam Newton QB CAR Mike Evans WR TAM
Cam Newton QB CAR Mike Evans WR TAM Jeremy Maclin WR KAN
Jeremy Maclin WR KAN Jeremy Maclin WR KAN Jarvis Landry WR MIA
Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA Adrian Peterson RB MIN Cam Newton QB CAR
Jarvis Landry WR MIA Jarvis Landry WR MIA Martavis Bryant WR PIT
Martavis Bryant WR PIT Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT Golden Tate WR DET
Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA Demaryius Thomas WR DEN
Adrian Peterson RB MIN Greg Olsen TE CAR Brandon Marshall WR NYJ
Golden Tate WR DET Doug Martin RB TAM Adrian Peterson RB MIN
Greg Olsen TE CAR Martavis Bryant WR PIT Sammy Watkins WR BUF
Kansas City Chiefs DEF KAN Golden Tate WR DET A.J. Green WR CIN
      Demaryius Thomas WR DEN Greg Olsen TE CAR
      Brandon Marshall WR NYJ Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT
      Darren McFadden RB DAL Doug Martin RB TAM
      Sammy Watkins WR BUF Eric Decker WR NYJ
      Kansas City Chiefs DEF KAN Michael Floyd WR ARI
      A.J. Green WR CIN Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN
      Russell Wilson QB SEA Seattle Seahawks DEF SEA
      Eric Decker WR NYJ Darren McFadden RB DAL
      Michael Floyd WR ARI Willie Snead IV WR NOR
      Denard Robinson RB JAC Brandin Cooks WR NOR
      Blake Bortles QB JAC Doug Baldwin WR SEA
      Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN Kamar Aiken WR BAL
      Detroit Lions DEF DET Allen Robinson WR JAC
      Delanie Walker TE TEN Calvin Johnson WR DET
      Pittsburgh Steelers DEF PIT Denard Robinson RB JAC
      Willie Snead IV WR NOR Russell Wilson QB SEA
      Brandin Cooks WR NOR Blake Bortles QB JAC
      Javorius Allen RB BAL Kansas City Chiefs DEF KAN
      Doug Baldwin WR SEA Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI
      Zach Miller TE CHI Delanie Walker TE TEN
      Kamar Aiken WR BAL Tyler Lockett WR SEA
      Charcandrick West RB KAN Rueben Randle WR NYG
      Matthew Stafford QB DET Javorius Allen RB BAL
      Allen Robinson WR JAC Randall Cobb WR GNB
      Lamar Miller RB MIA Charcandrick West RB KAN
      Gary Barnidge TE CLE Zach Miller TE CHI
      Denver Broncos DEF DEN Lamar Miller RB MIA
            Gary Barnidge TE CLE
            Detroit Lions DEF DET
            Matthew Stafford QB DET
            Carson Palmer QB ARI
            Tom Brady QB NWE
            John Brown WR ARI
            Pittsburgh Steelers DEF PIT
            Tim Hightower RB NOR
            T.Y. Hilton WR IND
            Allen Hurns WR JAC
            Stefon Diggs WR MIN
            Travis Kelce TE KAN
            Markus Wheaton WR PIT
            Karlos Williams RB BUF
            Ted Ginn Jr WR CAR
            Denver Broncos DEF DEN
            Matt Forte RB CHI
            Todd Gurley RB STL
            Carolina Panthers DEF CAR
            Houston Texans DEF HOU
            Frank Gore RB IND
            Julius Thomas TE JAC
            Aaron Rodgers QB GNB
            Antonio Andrews RB TEN
            Travis Benjamin WR CLE
            Will Tye TE NYG
            Buffalo Bills DEF BUF


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