The Rundown: FantasyScore Week 18

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

DFS during the playoffs is especially tricky. The slate of games is half the size (or smaller) of a week in the regular season, and the people playing it are most likely either losing players chasing losses or winning players exploiting them. From a game theory perspective, thia means that the corect strategy is to adopt lower variance in both cash games and tournaments. If the majority of my competitors are going to go crazy, then it behooves me to go sane. This appeal to sanity permeates through all of my stats-based advice below.

QUARTERBACKS

Below are the quarterbacks with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

NAME Tm SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME Tm SALARY Max P(GPP)
A.J. McCarron CIN 5800 17.8 52.2% A.J. McCarron CIN 5800 19.0 24.6%
Alex Smith KAN 6200 19.0 52.2% Alex Smith KAN 6200 19.0 17.1%
Brian Hoyer HOU 6600 17.9 37.3% Brian Hoyer HOU 6600 18.0 8.4%
Aaron Rodgers GNB 7900 21.6 36.1% Teddy Bridgewater MIN 6100 15.1 6.4%
Teddy Bridgewater MIN 6100 14.9 28.5% Aaron Rodgers GNB 7900 21.8 5.4%
Kirk Cousins WAS 7900 20.2 28.2% Kirk Cousins WAS 7900 20.3 3.2%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 8500 21.5 25.2% Ben Roethlisberger PIT 8500 21.8 2.3%
Russell Wilson SEA 8900 21.8 20.7% Russell Wilson SEA 8900 22.1 1.3%

If you're going for value at quarterback, the clear choice this week is Alex Smith in cash games and A.J. McCarron in tournaments. As I've written ad nauseum so far this season, Smith is the definition of a cash game quarterback. And the fact that he's ever-so-slightly better than even money to achieve value in such games this week is icing on the cake. Meanwhile, McCarron, as his situation stands heading into the Wild Card round is the anti-Alex: High variance, but also high value. In contrast to Wilson, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and Cousins, being value-oriented at quarterback opens up a ton of possibilities at other positions.

running backs

Below are the running backs with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

NAME Tm SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME Tm SALARY Max P(GPP)
Jerick McKinnon MIN 2500 6.6 42.0% Jordan Todman PIT 3000 8.8 32.4%
Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT 4000 9.8 37.9% Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT 4000 11.7 32.3%
Jordan Todman PIT 3000 7.1 36.3% Jerick McKinnon MIN 2500 7.2 31.5%
Chris Polk HOU 2000 4.7 35.3% Fred Jackson SEA 2500 6.5 26.3%
Fred Jackson SEA 2500 5.7 34.3% Bryce Brown SEA 2200 5.6 25.3%
Bryce Brown SEA 2200 4.7 30.8% Chris Polk HOU 2000 4.8 22.6%
James Starks GNB 4500 9.0 27.5% James Starks GNB 4500 9.7 18.2%
Christine Michael SEA 5200 9.9 24.9% Chris Thompson WAS 2900 6.1 17.2%
Matt Asiata MIN 2000 3.5 20.7% Akeem Hunt HOU 2000 3.9 14.5%
Akeem Hunt HOU 2000 3.4 20.1% Christine Michael SEA 5200 10.0 14.1%
Will Johnson PIT 2000 3.4 19.5% Will Johnson PIT 2000 3.7 12.8%
Jonathan Grimes HOU 3600 6.0 19.0% Matt Asiata MIN 2000 3.6 12.0%
Alfred Morris WAS 5700 9.4 18.9% John Kuhn GNB 2000 3.5 11.2%
Giovani Bernard CIN 6800 11.0 18.1% Spencer Ware KAN 4900 8.4 10.6%
Spencer Ware KAN 4900 7.8 17.3% Eddie Lacy GNB 6700 11.4 10.4%
Charcandrick West KAN 6900 10.8 16.9% Jonathan Grimes HOU 3600 6.0 9.9%
John Kuhn GNB 2000 3.1 16.5% Alfred Morris WAS 5700 9.4 9.6%
Eddie Lacy GNB 6700 10.4 16.4% Giovani Bernard CIN 6800 11.1 9.4%
Jeremy Hill CIN 6900 9.9 13.7% Pierre Thomas WAS 3300 5.2 8.5%
Pierre Thomas WAS 3300 4.6 12.6% Charcandrick West KAN 6900 10.8 8.4%
Alfred Blue HOU 5400 7.2 11.4% Jeremy Hill CIN 6900 9.9 6.6%
Adrian Peterson MIN 8500 10.5 9.6% Adrian Peterson MIN 8500 12.0 6.3%
Chris Thompson WAS 2900 3.1 6.1% Alfred Blue HOU 5400 7.5 6.0%
Zach Line MIN 2000 1.5 2.1% Darrel Young WAS 2000 1.8 1.4%
Rex Burkhead CIN 2000 1.2 0.8% Rex Burkhead CIN 2000 1.5 0.7%
Darrel Young WAS 2000 0.9 0.3% Zach Line MIN 2000 1.5 0.7%
Anthony Sherman KAN 2000 0.7 0.1% Anthony Sherman KAN 2000 1.3 0.4%

As much as the combination of our own projections and my value calculations suggest that McKinnon, Todman, and Touissant are kings among running back values, can you really put your faith in players that have averaged 10 snaps per game at most this season? Either way, the moral of the story is that I don't even trust my own numbers here.

Aside from those three, the facts are these. Only Washington (22nd), Green Bay (19th), and Minnesota (18th) were in the bottom half of rush defense DVOA this season. Of these three, Minnesota (20th) is the only one to have also ranked in the bottom half of pass defense DVOA against opposing running backs. And then there's the fact that Seattle (i.e., Minnesota's opponent) is the largest favorite of the Wild Card round. In my mind, that trifecta of indicators is more than enough to convince me to go with either Fred Jackson or Christine Michael as the best value plays this weekend. Probably the best way to think about it is that you're better off with Jackson in full PPR contests like FFPC, while you're better off with Michael in contests with standard scoring. 

wide receivers

Below are the wide receivers with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

NAME Tm SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME Tm SALARY Max P(GPP)
Albert Wilson KAN 2200 8.3 63.9% Albert Wilson KAN 2200 8.7 49.3%
Mike Wallace MIN 2300 7.8 57.5% Jaelen Strong HOU 2000 7.0 41.7%
James Jones GNB 4400 13.6 51.6% Mike Wallace MIN 2300 7.9 40.6%
Marvin Jones Jr CIN 3900 12.0 51.5% James Jones GNB 4400 14.2 36.9%
Jaelen Strong HOU 2000 6.2 51.5% Marvin Jones Jr CIN 3900 12.5 36.5%
Jarius Wright MIN 2300 6.9 49.5% Jarius Wright MIN 2300 7.2 35.1%
Pierre Garcon WAS 4900 13.2 43.3% Pierre Garcon WAS 4900 13.7 28.8%
Jeremy Maclin KAN 7400 19.1 40.5% Nate Washington HOU 4000 10.7 26.5%
Markus Wheaton PIT 4600 11.4 37.9% Jeremy Maclin KAN 7400 19.4 25.5%
Nate Washington HOU 4000 9.6 36.0% Markus Wheaton PIT 4600 11.9 24.8%
Mohamed Sanu CIN 2500 5.9 34.8% Mohamed Sanu CIN 2500 6.0 21.2%
Antonio Brown PIT 9500 21.6 33.1% Antonio Brown PIT 9500 22.1 19.9%
Martavis Bryant PIT 5800 12.8 31.5% Jermaine Kearse SEA 4600 10.7 19.8%
Davante Adams GNB 3600 7.7 29.4% Martavis Bryant PIT 5800 13.4 19.6%
Jermaine Kearse SEA 4600 9.6 28.2% Davante Adams GNB 3600 7.7 16.4%
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 9200 18.8 27.2% DeAndre Hopkins HOU 9200 19.0 15.1%
DeSean Jackson WAS 6900 13.8 26.1% DeSean Jackson WAS 6900 14.1 14.7%
A.J. Green CIN 8800 16.2 22.2% A.J. Green CIN 8800 16.9 12.6%
Tyler Lockett SEA 5900 10.6 20.9% Cecil Shorts HOU 3700 7.0 12.1%
Randall Cobb GNB 6200 11.1 20.7% Tyler Lockett SEA 5900 11.0 11.6%
Doug Baldwin SEA 8300 14.8 20.6% Stefon Diggs MIN 5500 10.0 10.9%
Stefon Diggs MIN 5500 9.5 19.4% Randall Cobb GNB 6200 11.2 10.7%
Cecil Shorts HOU 3700 6.0 16.8% Doug Baldwin SEA 8300 14.8 10.3%
Jared Abbrederis GNB 2200 2.9 9.4% Jared Abbrederis GNB 2200 2.9 4.1%
Ryan Grant WAS 2200 2.7 7.7% Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 2100 2.6 3.3%
Jamison Crowder WAS 4400 5.0 6.4% Ryan Grant WAS 2200 2.7 3.2%
Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 2100 2.4 6.1% Jamison Crowder WAS 4400 5.1 2.6%
Jason Avant KAN 2000 1.8 2.7% Jason Avant KAN 2000 2.1 1.8%
Jeff Janis GNB 2000 1.6 1.7% Jeff Janis GNB 2000 1.9 1.2%
Adam Thielen MIN 2400 1.7 1.2% Adam Thielen MIN 2400 1.8 0.4%
Chris Conley KAN 2900 1.1 0.1% Chris Conley KAN 2900 1.9 0.2%
Rashad Ross WAS 2000 0.5 0.0% Rashad Ross WAS 2000 0.9 0.0%
Keith Mumphery HOU 2000 0.3 0.0% Keith Mumphery HOU 2000 0.5 0.0%

According to Pro Football Focus, there are three wide receivers to target this week, and two of them are Steelers. For a high-priced player, Antonio Brown is surprisingly high on the value list, so he's a must-play. The other Steeler, Martavis Bryant, isn't far below Brown and also happens to have a more favorable individual matchup. The final option is James Jones, who ranks 6th in both cash game value and tournament value, and will be running most of his routes this weekend against Washington cornerback Quinton Dunbar. (Who?)

tight ends

Below are the tight ends with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

NAME Tm SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME Tm SALARY Max P(GPP)
Cooper Helfet SEA 2600 7.5 45.3% Chase Coffman SEA 1700 5.1 23.6%
Ryan Griffin HOU 1900 4.8 33.3% Cooper Helfet SEA 2600 7.6 21.6%
Heath Miller PIT 3900 8.8 23.3% Ryan Griffin HOU 1900 4.9 13.6%
Jordan Reed WAS 8300 16.8 16.0% Heath Miller PIT 3900 8.8 7.6%
Travis Kelce KAN 6500 12.4 12.8% Jordan Reed WAS 8300 16.8 4.4%
Tyler Kroft CIN 1700 3.0 9.2% Tyler Kroft CIN 1700 3.3 3.5%
Kyle Rudolph MIN 4800 8.3 8.2% Travis Kelce KAN 6500 12.4 3.2%
MyCole Pruitt MIN 1700 2.9 7.3% MyCole Pruitt MIN 1700 3.1 2.5%
C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 1700 2.8 6.1% Kyle Rudolph MIN 4800 8.5 2.1%
Richard Rodgers GNB 5800 8.8 4.3% C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 1700 2.9 1.7%
Chase Coffman SEA 1700 2.6 4.1% Richard Rodgers GNB 5800 8.9 0.8%
Tyler Eifert CIN 7600 10.0 2.0% Tyler Eifert CIN 7600 11.0 0.6%
Andrew Quarless GNB 2000 2.6 1.6% Andrew Quarless GNB 2000 2.7 0.3%
Demetrius Harris KAN 1700 1.1 0.0% Luke Willson SEA 2700 2.8 0.0%
Luke Willson SEA 2700 1.4 0.0% Demetrius Harris KAN 1700 1.6 0.0%
Alex Smith KAN 1700 0.3 0.0% Alex Smith KAN 1700 0.6 0.0%
Jesse James PIT 1700 0.3 0.0% Jesse James PIT 1700 0.5 0.0%
Brian Parker KAN 1700 0.2 0.0% Brian Parker KAN 1700 0.3 0.0%

Tight end values are a tough not to crack this week. Of the 12 playoff teams, the worst at covering tight ends per pass defense DVOA are Washington (21st), Minnesota (25th), and Seattle (26th), which should mean that Rudolph and Rodgers are good plays. However, both will be playing in temperatures that have produced subpar passing offense historically, so each is not as good of a candidate as he otherwise might be. With that duo out of the picture, it leaves the "elite" trio of Reed, Kelce, and Miller, but even their matchups are bad: They're going against the 4th, 9th and 12th best pass defenses against tight ends, respecitvely. So who's my pick for tight end value? Kelce, if for no other reason than that my fantasy playoff strategy article suggests the Chiefs are likely to destroy the Texans.

defenses

Below are the defenses with the highest (and lowest) probabilities of achieving value in cash games and GPPs:

NAME Tm SALARY AVG P(CASH) NAME Tm SALARY Max P(GPP)
Green Bay Packers GNB 2500 9.1 63.0% Green Bay Packers GNB 2500 9.3 44.2%
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2800 9.5 59.0% Pittsburgh Steelers PIT 2800 9.5 36.2%
Washington Redskins WAS 2700 8.6 54.1% Washington Redskins WAS 2700 8.8 33.8%
Minnesota Vikings MIN 2700 8.4 52.4% Minnesota Vikings MIN 2700 8.5 31.6%
Seattle Seahawks SEA 3700 11.3 51.2% Houston Texans HOU 2900 9.0 29.4%
Houston Texans HOU 2900 8.8 50.3% Seattle Seahawks SEA 3700 11.3 23.3%
Kansas City Chiefs KAN 3800 11.0 46.6% Kansas City Chiefs KAN 3800 11.1 19.7%
Cincinnati Bengals CIN 3400 8.7 37.7% Cincinnati Bengals CIN 3400 8.9 16.4%

What with the perpetual, seemingly random defensive value on FantasyScore week after week after week after week (it's almost as if that's built into the system!), you could roll an 8-sided die and have just as much of a chance of winning with said defense as I would rostering Green Bay. Truth be told, given the forecast conditions in Minneapolis, I'd lean towards the following: Seahawks defense in cash games; Vikings defense in tournaments.


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