The Rundown: FantasyScore Week 20

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

Welcome to this column's swan song for the 2015 season. Hope you've enjoyed it; any and all feedback is welcome.

Now, with pleasantries out of the way, let's get to the Conference Championship round value probabilities!

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)
Cam Newton CAR 8500 24.6 44.2% Cam Newton CAR 8500 25.6 8.4%
Tom Brady NWE 8400 21.8 28.7% Tom Brady NWE 8400 22.1 3.0%
Carson Palmer ARI 8400 20.0 19.4% Carson Palmer ARI 8400 20.5 1.6%
Peyton Manning DEN 7900 15.4 8.7% Peyton Manning DEN 7900 17.4 1.0%

As indicated by the fact that no quarterback even has a 50/50 chance in cash games, finding value this week -- as was the case last week -- is especially difficult. Cam Newton is the clear play in cash games, but it's more of a toss-up in tournaments. That's not just because his lead shrinks considerably on the right side of the table. Rather, it's also because he's currently rostered in about one out of every three lineups according to FantasyScore. Of course, Brady's ownership rate is over 40 percent, so he's not a great option if you're looking for value and uniqueness (while also avoiding the decaying corpse of Peyton Manning's throwing ability). Nope, if that's your goal, then Palmer's the tournament play, as he's only in about 20 percent of lineups. (Not to mention that Larry Fitzgerald will be getting covered by recently un-retired Cortland Finnegan).

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)
David Johnson ARI 7000 16.4 35.8% David Johnson ARI 7000 17.1 23.4%
Jonathan Stewart CAR 7000 12.7 23.0% Brandon Bolden NWE 3100 7.3 21.8%
Steven Jackson NWE 3900 6.9 21.6% Jonathan Stewart CAR 7000 13.2 13.4%
Brandon Bolden NWE 3100 5.4 21.2% C.J. Anderson DEN 6800 12.6 12.9%
Mike Tolbert CAR 2400 3.9 18.3% Steven Jackson NWE 3900 7.2 12.8%
Ronnie Hillman DEN 6200 10.0 17.9% James White NWE 6400 11.5 12.0%
C.J. Anderson DEN 6800 10.6 16.6% Mike Tolbert CAR 2400 4.3 11.9%
James White NWE 6400 9.5 14.9% Ronnie Hillman DEN 6200 10.9 11.3%
Andre Ellington ARI 3800 3.7 4.9% Kerwynn Williams ARI 2000 3.4 10.4%
Kerwynn Williams ARI 2000 1.4 1.8% Andre Ellington ARI 3800 5.7 7.5%
Cameron Artis-Payne CAR 3000 0.6 0.0% Cameron Artis-Payne CAR 3000 0.9 0.0%
Fozzy Whittaker CAR 2000 0.1 0.0% Fozzy Whittaker CAR 2000 0.3 0.0%

Like last week, Johnson is the clear value choice in cash games. Unlike last week, he's also the choice in tournaments. That said, at 47.7%, he's the highest-owned running back, which means rostering him in a GPP requires going for even more value at the RB2 slot. (Most weeks, Johnson's ownership percentage would mean not rostering him at all, but that's an almost impossible constraint given the two-game slate.) Taking ownership percentages for other running backs into account, the best tournament value is either Jackson or White, depending on how one envisions New England's game script. You'll notice I didn't include Bolden there even though he's the highest of the three in the table and a member of the same backfield. That's because he's neither the Patroits' primary pass catcher nor their primary short-yardage runner. In other words, he may achieve value, but how does he achieve tournament-worthy upside?

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)
Devin Funchess CAR 2100 7.0 56.5% Devin Funchess CAR 2100 8.3 49.3%
Jerricho Cotchery CAR 3300 6.9 28.3% Jerricho Cotchery CAR 3300 10.3 34.9%
Michael Floyd ARI 7700 15.9 27.8% Keshawn Martin NWE 2200 5.8 25.7%
John Brown ARI 6400 12.7 25.7% Michael Floyd ARI 7700 16.9 17.4%
Keshawn Martin NWE 2200 4.3 25.5% Demaryius Thomas DEN 8100 16.2 13.9%
Demaryius Thomas DEN 8100 15.9 25.2% Emmanuel Sanders DEN 7700 15.4 13.9%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 7700 14.8 24.2% John Brown ARI 6400 12.8 13.9%
Julian Edelman NWE 8100 14.2 20.0% Larry Fitzgerald ARI 8300 16.5 13.7%
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 8300 14.4 19.5% Cody Latimer DEN 2000 3.9 13.1%
Ted Ginn Jr CAR 6400 10.3 16.5% Ted Ginn Jr CAR 6400 12.4 12.9%
Brandon LaFell NWE 5800 7.7 10.0% Julian Edelman NWE 8100 15.5 12.5%
Cody Latimer DEN 2000 2.3 6.4% J.J. Nelson ARI 2000 3.3 8.3%
Danny Amendola NWE 6100 5.9 3.9% Bennie Fowler DEN 2000 3.0 6.3%
Bennie Fowler DEN 2000 1.9 3.6% Jordan Norwood DEN 2000 2.8 5.0%
Jordan Norwood DEN 2000 1.9 3.4% Brandon LaFell NWE 5800 8.0 4.8%
J.J. Nelson ARI 2000 1.7 2.4% Danny Amendola NWE 6100 8.4 4.8%
Jaron Brown ARI 2000 0.2 0.0% Jaron Brown ARI 2000 0.7 0.0%

Funchess may have the highest likelihood of achieving value, but he's a non-starter, both literally and figuratively: When Carolina's top three wideouts are active, he barely sees the field, which thereby makes him unusable in DFS regardless of his projected value. Cotchery, on the other hand, is one of the top three and Pro Football Focus predicts that he will spend most of the game being covered by underwhelming slot cornerback Jerraud Powers. Based on that logic, one would think that Cotchery's probably your best bet as a cheap flex. Unfortunately, however, his ownership rate is a (somewhat mind-boggling) 37.2%, which means that a significant portion of FantasyScore tournament players have already identified the market inefficiency that is(/was) Jerricho Cotchery.

Wideouts in Arizona and Denver reside just below Cotchery in the table, and therefore represent the next value tier this week. For Thomas and Sanders, it's worth pointing out that New England has the least efficient pass defense among remaining teams (per DVOA). It's also worth pointing out, however, that the Patriots ranking is 13th, i.e., nothing to scoff at. Once again returning to ownership rates, Thomas' is half of Sanders', so the former is probably the better tournament play.

A similar divergence exists with respect to Floyd and Brown, with the latter having an ownership rate that's twice as high as the former. That said, there will be an elephant in Bank of America Stadium that won't be in Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High: namely, Josh Norman. The bottom line for Floyd's and Brown's value prospects is that the one who runs more routes against Norman is highly likely to fail achieving it, and vice versa. Even Pro Football Focus isn't sure which way this is going to play out: Their stats say Norman covers Brown more often than not; their common sense says Norman shadows Floyd all game. For my money, I lean heavily towards Norman-on-Floyd being a reality, so Floyd's out of the conversation in all formats. And as for Brown, despite my Norman-on-Floyd leaning, his aforementioned ownership rate makes me weary to use him in tournaments, while the uncertainty of the situation makes me weary to use him in cash games. Therefore, as has been the case in non-DFS fantasy football for the past decade, when in doubt, just go with Larry Fitzgerald. (His ownership rate is over 40 percent, though, so just go with him in cash games.) 

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)
Darren Fells ARI 1700 4.3 33.4% Darren Fells ARI 1700 5.9 36.1%
Rob Gronkowski NWE 8000 17.4 21.0% Rob Gronkowski NWE 8000 21.9 17.2%
Greg Olsen CAR 7500 15.9 19.3% Greg Olsen CAR 7500 18.0 10.1%
Owen Daniels DEN 4200 6.2 3.7% Owen Daniels DEN 4200 8.5 4.4%
Jermaine Gresham ARI 1700 1.9 0.8% Jermaine Gresham ARI 1700 3.1 2.5%
Vernon Davis DEN 1700 1.7 0.3% Vernon Davis DEN 1700 2.7 1.0%
Scott Chandler NWE 1800 1.6 0.1% Scott Chandler NWE 1800 2.6 0.5%
Ed Dickson CAR 1800 1.0 0.0% Michael Williams NWE 1700 2.3 0.3%
Michael Williams NWE 1700 0.8 0.0% Ed Dickson CAR 1800 1.8 0.0%
Virgil Green DEN 1800 0.2 0.0% Virgil Green DEN 1800 0.7 0.0%
Troy Niklas ARI 1700 0.2 0.0% Troy Niklas ARI 1700 0.5 0.0%

Given Arizona's and Denver's low tight-end usage in the passing game, there are really only two viable options at the position this week. What's interesting is that, although Olsen isn't all that worse of a tournament value than Gronkowski, he's in fewer than half as many lineups (20.7% vs. 48.4%). Therefore, I'd go with Olsen.

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)
New England Patriots NWE 2900 11.7 73.3% New England Patriots NWE 2900 11.9 52.5%
Carolina Panthers CAR 3200 9.7 50.3% Carolina Panthers CAR 3200 10.0 28.0%
Denver Broncos DEN 3200 9.2 46.6% Denver Broncos DEN 3200 9.4 23.9%
Arizona Cardinals ARI 3200 8.2 38.5% Arizona Cardinals ARI 3200 8.3 17.4%

The situation at defense mimics the one at tight end. New England's got a higher value probability than Carolina, but the Panthers are currently in around half as many lineups as the Patriots (26.1% to 51.4%). Of course, the other home team with a great defense on Sunday sits at only 10.8% owned, so the Broncos are also a viable tournament alternative to New England.


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