Fantasy Football: Week 3 Running Back Touch and Target Projections

WATCH: Make Your Pick: Week 3 Games to Target


STUDS

USATSI_11267145_168381090_lowres.jpg

Todd Gurley, LAR at LAC, $9,200 — Todd Gurley III (TG3) and company will face the Chargers this week after putting on a clinic against the Buffalo Bills last week. Gurley also had himself a day racking up three touchdowns against the Cardinals before he had to leave the game with cramps midway through the second half (68% of snaps). If you paid up for Gurley last week you got 3x return on his $9,200, but it wasn’t from gaining a ton of yards, achieving a minuscule 2.2 yards per carry.

Similar to last week, Gurley is priced as the second-most expensive running back and will face a surprisingly mediocre Chargers defense without Joey Bosa, who should be sidelined until October.

Last week Gurley was a “value” even though he was the second-highest-priced RB on the slate. I wouldn’t argue with you if you wanted to roster other RBs who are most likely cheaper and not named Alvin Kamara ($9,500), but if you do, you’ll potentially get the best RB at decreased ownership for the second straight week.

Last week Gurley (and the Rams) showed dominance against a Cardinals defense who are first for opposing RBs this season giving up an average of 44 Draftkings (DK) points. The Chargers should do a little better against Gurley, but are still 14th best for opposing RBs. Look for TG3 to have another RB1 game in front of the “home” fans.

Projections:
Rushing: 17 Attempts
Receiving: 4 Targets; 3 Receptions
Total: 20 Touches


USATSI_11271362_168381090_lowres.jpg

Jordan Howard, CHI at ARI, $6,500 — A pedestrian Monday night performance is just what I wanted from Jordan Howard (obviously for Week 3…sorry Week 2 Howard owners). Fourteen attempts for 35 yards and three receptions on four targets for 33 yards totaling a meager 9.8 DKFP.

Howard boasts a 14.5 attempt average through the first two weeks, which is what we should expect from him throughout the majority of the season. We’ve seen this before with Matt Nagy when he was in Kansas City: In 2017, Kareem Hunt averaged 16 attempts through the first 12 weeks of the season and in 2016, Spencer Ware averaged 15.3 attempts through 14 games.

Although Howard has already seen 28% of the pass targets he saw total last season, it appears he needs rushing yards to get solid production and the Cardinals are No. 1 in most yards and attempts given up to opposing running backs at 256 yards on 65 attempts.

Tarik Cohen ($4,700) was in on only 31.8% of the snaps on Monday compared to 72.7% for Howard; he’s the lead back and will get the lion’s share of the carries in a Nagy-led offense. Nagy also mentioned he wants to get Howard more touches this week – I’ll take the bait and increase his touches a little more than I initially projected.

Projections:
Rushing: 16 Attempts
Receiving: 3 Targets; 2 Receptions
Total: 18 Touches


USATSI_11261847_168381090_lowres.jpg

Kenyan Drake, MIA vs. OAK, $5,600 — In 2017, when Kenyan Drake was given the keys to the Dolphins’ backfield, he stormed the NFL in the last five games of the season averaging 18 carries, 89 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground. In the air, he averaged 5.6 targets, 3 catches, and 30 yards.

Slated for a breakout year in 2018, Drake’s value suddenly dropped with the addition of Frank Gore ($3,700), who is playing in his 14th season and playing well. Gore is averaging about 16 carries over his last 5 seasons and has racked up an average of nine carries for 43 yards over the first two games this season.

Drake, on the other hand, is the “lead back” in South Beach and is averaging 12.5 carries for 50.5 yards. Drake is also more valuable in the passing game averaging four targets and 3.5 receptions, totaling 35 yards. Miami should stick to the ground game and attack this very bad Oakland run defense whic ranks second-best for opposing running backs allowing an average of 132.5 yards per game.

Projections:
Rushing: 14 Attempts
Receiving: 4 Targets; 3 Receptions
Total: 17 Touches


USATSI_11263470_168381090_lowres.jpg

Lamar Miller, HOU at NYG, $5,000 — A popular pivot last week from Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman ($6,400), Miller disappointed with 68 yards on 14 attempts and nabbing just two receptions on two targets for two yards (there’s a deuces joke I could muster up, but I’ll refrain). Now that I’ve lost your attention (and possibly, your respect), Lamar Miller SHOULD earn our collective respect back and will be a stud I’m starting this week.

Only 4 targets total this season, Miller leaves much to be desired in the receiving game, but his upside is not necessarily through the air, but on the ground with an average of 17 attempts on 76.5% of the snaps. He’s averaged 19 carries in 2016 (12 games), 14.8 carries in 2017, and 17 carries in the first 2 weeks of the season.

Look for Miller to bounce back against the Giants, a run defense struggling to stop running backs from scoring an average of 30.9 Draftkings points while giving up an average of 21 attempts per game to opposing running backs this season.

Projections:
Rushing: 16 Attempts
Receiving: 3 Targets; 2 Receptions
Total: 18 Touches

Values:


USATSI_10986423_168381090_lowres.jpg

Dion Lewis, TEN at JAX, $4,500 — Predicting who will be the more valuable running back in Tennessee will be a tough task all season. BUT, I’m going to attempt it this week against my better judgment.

First, let’s look at the numbers — Dion Lewis saw a 15.1% decline in his snap count from Week 1 to Week 2 from 71% to 55.9%. Derrick Henry’s ($4,400) snap count went up the exact amount Lewis’ went down in Week 1 to Week 2 from 29% to 44.1%. As expected, this is how we assumed the timeshare was going to pan out: if the Titans are up/close in the 4th quarter, they’re going to feature Henry and if they are coming from behind by one score or more, they will be using Lewis.

So this is a true 50/50 split from a snap count standpoint and to figure out this conundrum, I’m going to defer to predicting game flow as my priority “statistic”.

The Titans are a touchdown underdog, therefore there should be a lot of passing opportunities late in the game. When trailing, Lewis is clearly the more utilized back with 62 yards on 15 attempts as well as seeing eight targets and collecting five catches while gaining 35 yards. Henry, on the other hand, has only gained 15 yards on five attempts when trailing. I do expect the Titans to be playing from behind and be using Dion Lewis a lot in this game.

Projections:
Rushing: 13 Attempts
Receiving: 4 Targets; 4 Receptions
Total: 17 Touches


USATSI_11147953_168381090_lowres

Austin Ekeler, LAC at LAR, $4,400 — Small in stature, but big in potential value this week (Too easy of a pun, had to do it…sorry, not sorry). Austin Ekeler has proven to be the “Danny Woodhead” the Chargers have been missing ever since the real-life Danny Woodhead.

This isn’t new either, Ekeler showed flashes last year in Week 9 at Jacksonville racking up 42 yards on 10 attempts along with five receptions for 77 yards; Melvin Gordon ($7,400) rushed for just 27 yards on 16 carries in the same game.

The Chargers will face the Rams, a team that is stout against the run and pass to opposing running backs, allowing 3.9 yards per attempt (YPA) on the ground and 4.1 yards per catch (YPC) in the air.

Okay, so where’s the value? The Rams have given up the seventh-most targets to running backs this season at 11 per game and the fifth-most receptions at 9.5 per game. Ekeler has reeled in all of his eight targets for 108 yards. His snap count went up from Week 1 to Week 2 by 15.3%. We’ve seen Ekeler line up on the outside as a receiver and we should see this formation more this week if they want to keep up with the Rams. The Chargers should be abandoning the run early in the 2nd half; look for Ekeler to find the end zone with a pass-catching TD this week.

Projections:
Rushing: 5 Attempts
Receiving: 5 Targets; Receptions: 5
Total: 10 Touches


USATSI_11182720_168381090_lowres

Aaron Jones, GB at WSH, $4,300 — Finishing his two-game suspension, Aaron Jones comes back to the Green Bay backfield ready to produce like he did last year in October, where he racked up 49 carries and 297 rush yards as well as grabbing five catches on 10 targets for 17 yards.

Aaron Jones’ backfield partner, Jamaal Williams ($4,800), should concede some of his touches and snaps to Jones as well as Ty Montgomery ($3,500), who’s proven to be a better pass-blocker than Williams so far this year. Williams has only seen 61.3% of snaps, which is lower than expected with the backfield all to himself.

Aaron Jones should be on a snap count this week and I have him projected to play in about 21% of snaps against the Redskinsm a run defense that held David Johnson to 37 yards on nine carries but allowed him to grab five catches for 30 yards. Jones will most likely be in the single-digits for ownership and could find the end zone in his first game back with his extreme talent as well as having one of the best in Aaron Rodgers needing to pass from the pocket.

Projections:
Rushing: 7 Attempts
Receiving: 2 Targets; Receptions: 2
Total: 9 Touches


USATSI_11197998_168381090_lowres.jpg

Corey Clement, PHI at IND, $4,300 — This is truly the next man up, as the Eagles have faced the most injuries at their skill position(s) of any other team in the NFL so far this season. Jay Ajayi ($5,700) has already been “most likely ruled out” for Week 3 and Darren Sproles ($4,400) is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, which held him out of last week’s contest. Both are deemed “day-to-day” as of Sept. 19th (Wednesday).

Clement saw the most snaps last week (41.8%), while Wendell Smallwood ($3,000) was second in line (30.4%), and Jay Ajayi total the least amount of snaps (27.8%). Clement will be the lead back if both Sproles and Ajayi are confirmed out by Sunday, which will be the first start in his career joining Carson Wentz with his first start in the 2018 season.

Clement should be featured a lot in the passing game, especially with Wentz’s first game back along with all of the injuries at wide receiver. This will be a nice spot for Clement who collected five catches for 55 yards on six targets last week and will face the Colts, a defense that’s given up the second-most receiving yards to opposing running backs totaling 187 yards as well as the ninth-most DKFP at 58.1 over the last two games. Keep updated on the Darren Sproles news, if he’s active, this will change Clement’s usage/value.

Projections:
Rushing: 10 Attempts
Receiving: 5 Targets; Receptions: 4
Total: 14 Touches


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is reidtfowler) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.