Week 11 was not kind to the running back position. The chalk fell flat, while others had their body tossed on to the proverbial scrap heap with their fallen peers from previous weeks. As of this writing, we have two injury issues that are pending, and the status of those players will pull a lot of the levers for us this week at running back. With that said, I’m going to omit the Atlanta and Kansas City running backs from this piece. I can’t give player specific advise because we don’t know what’s going on there. In short,
Davonta Freeman ($8,300) is a strong play at home against the Vikings if he’s active (Freeman has been announced as “Out” for Sunday’s game), and I’d jump back on the Charcknado, Charcandrick West ($4,500) if his hamstring holds up and he’s active on Sunday. If not, Spencer Ware ($3,800) is a great cash game play against a Buffalo run defense that’s among the bottom five in the league. If Freeman or West play then they’re ‘Cream of the Crop’ plays, and same thing for Ware if West sits.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
We’re on to Week 12.
We’ve reach a stabilization point for a lot of metrics now, so it’s easier than ever to trust the data behind the analysis. Having more actionable in-season data that we can lean on makes the second half of the season a lot of fun. The process of understanding how good or bad a player’s matchup is each week is getting easier and will continue to get easier with each passing week. Most of the stats that I’m referencing here are either opponent or schedule-adjusted, making it easier to contextualize what is actually happening instead of just pulling raw data points.
Thanks to amazing sites like Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and 4for4, there has been a tremendous wave of actionable analytics in football over the past few seasons. The more that you can incorporate them in to your lineup building process, the better off you’ll be. I’ll also be referencing the Expert Consensus Rankings from FantasyPros in order to understand how players are viewed each week, and then related it to their price here on DraftKings.
If you’re new to the daily fantasy community, welcome, you’re in for a whole lot of fun. If you have questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Cream of the Crop
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (@ Atlanta Falcons) -$7,300
With so many high-volume discounts this week, Adrian Peterson will likely be over-looked, and that’s a mistake. After a rapid start the Falcons have come back to earth of late and this game should stay close enough to keep Peterson’s workload on par with his typical 25-30 touch output. Vegas has installed Minnesota as a 1-point dog here, but a relatively decent implied team total of 22.5. Atlanta falls in the middle of the pack in terms of run defenses according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, and few backs have the ceiling of Peterson, who’s always a threat to take one to the house.
Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) -$4,500
If I liked the Seahawks even a TINY bit, I’d invest in a Rawls shirsey as a sign of respect after he helped me win some money last week. But alas, I don’t. After last week’s performance, Rawls is going to be the cash game chalk of the week, and rightfully so. The matchup against the Steelers and their 6th ranked run defense isn’t quite as cushy as what he saw last week against the 49ers, but the volume on all three downs should be substantial enough to validate his crazy-high ownership totals. He shared snaps with a few other backs, playing just 64% of the snaps, but he handled 85% of the backfield touches that Seattle had and should easily meet that mark again at home.
Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (@ San Francisco 49ers) -$4,600
I’m not sure what part of the DK algorithm hates Chris Johnson, but it must be an important part because $4,600 here is criminal. It’s difficult to get really excited about Chris Johnson at this point, but if you forget what he once was and just focus on what he’s done in 2015 then it’s easier to roster him. This week he gets the 49ers, a team that just made Thomas Rawls a household name and Johnson’s Cardinals are 10.5-point favorites in this one, setting the stage for plenty of opportunities. Over the past few weeks Johnson has seen 77% of the backfield touches including 85% of the rushing attempts so if Andre Ellington’s presence is concerning to you, it shouldn’t be.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens (@ Cleveland Browns) -$4,600
How much does ESPN wish that they could flex this Monday Night Football tilt? Good Lord. Baltimore’s laundry list of injuries is quite a sight, but from a fantasy perspective USC rookie Buck Allen is the recipient of a heavy workload moving forward and I anticipate he’ll do good things with it. He’s a strong pass catcher who’s going to handle the lion share of the carries, and his matchup against the Browns’ 29th ranked run defense is a prime spot to debut as the lead back. I give Johnson the slight edge at the same price simply because I like his chances at more red zone opportunities than the Matt Shaub-led Ravens.
Mark Ingram, New Orlean Saints (@ Houston Texans) -$6,400
Sitting at $6,400, Mark Ingram is sitting in no-man’s land this week with all of the discounts below him and some bigger names above him. There’s still a ton of tournament upside here because few backs possess the multi-touchdown upside that Ingram has, and his competition for goal line carries is non-existent. The Texans are playing some of their best defensive football of the season though right now, and have limited their opponent’s to an average of just 76 yards per game on the ground this season.
Middle of the Pack
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ Seattle Seahawks) -$5,700
Rostering a running back on the road in Seattle isn’t a popular play and I doubt that DeAngelo Williams will change that mold this weekend. It’s worth noting though that Seattle has given up over a 100 yards per game on the ground this season, and a balanced offense like Pittsburgh’s is something that presents a challenge to any opposing defense. Let’s not pretend that this is the 2013 Seahawks defense because it isn’t. I think the backs in this pricing tier will all be under-owned and are worth a look for tournaments.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (@ Kansas City Chief) -$5,300
There are a number of things working against LeSean McCoy this week, but I’m interested in him regardless. He and the Bills are on the road here, 6-point dogs in Kansas City and have an implied team total of just 17.75. Kansas City’s defense is on point right now, fresh off of allowing just three points to a Chargers squad that’s hung some crooked numbers on the board at times this season. The appeal of McCoy is his use in the passing game, something that’s increasing of late. The Karlos Williams effect has been mitigated lately as well, as McCoy has played 82% of the snaps while receiving 78% of the backfield touches over the past three games.
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (@ Cincinnati Bengals) -$7,500
The days of Todd Gurley being an auto-play are over. That was fun though, right? This isn’t an indictment on Gurley, but his price has climbed to the point where we finally need to consider the opponent and presumed game script more than we’ve had to in previous weeks. The Rams are 8.5-point road dogs this week, and we’ve seen in weeks past that Gurley losses snaps to Benny Cunningham when the Rams get in obvious passing downs. I think Gurley can have some early-down success, but the next rushing touchdown that Cincinnati allows will be the first of the season. He’ll have a difficult time exceeding value at $7,500.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Indianapolis Colts) -$5,800
Doug Martin has shown well this season when the Buccaneers get up and are able to dictate the pace offensively. Last week was a great example and that led to Martin gashing the Eagles for 235 yards on 27 carries. He’s facing a Colts defense that started the year as a much improved run defense, but recent injuries have impacted their ability to consistently win up front. Vegas has these teams as equals, with the Colts getting the 3-point boost with the game taking place in Indy but it’s hard to not like the way Tampa is playing on both sides of the ball right now.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. San Diego Chargers) -$4,800
If the extra days of rest from playing on Thursday are beneficial to T.J. Yeldon’s health, then he’s going to be a great play this week against San Diego. He shared a few carries last week with Denard Robinson, and it was the nature of those carries that gives me pause. Robinson touched the ball on seven of his 11 snaps, with five of those touches taking place inside the red zone. Yeldon hasn’t been subbed out in the red zone on a regular basis this season, but if this new usage pattern is here to stay then Yeldon will be a non-factor in DFS moving forward.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets (vs. Miami Dolphins) -$5,800
The return of Bilal Powell is bad news for Chris Ivory’s fantasy prospects. The combination of Powell’s third down role and game flow lead Ivory to play his fewest snaps of the season, which led to just eight carries for Chris Ivory last week. I believe Ivory would still dominate early down work and would be viable if the Jets get up early and control this game, but there’s also a chance that he plays 40% of the snaps and touches the ball 10-12 times.
Rest of the Field
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (@ Denver Broncos) -$5,100
The only thing I know for certain is that we never know what New England is going to do offensively. You have to think that with the attrition that they’ve had on the offensive side of the ball, particularly their pass catchers, bodes well for LeGarette Blount’s viability moving forward. The Patriots will be facing one the best defenses in the league here, but still are likely to take multiple trips to the red zone which increase Blount’s touchdown upside, something that we need to ship the money in tournaments.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (@ Tennessee Titans) -$5,400
The entire Raiders offense crapped the bed last week in a prime spot against a leaky Lions defense. Latavius Murray found the end zone to safe face a little bit, but a 10-carry 28-yard performance left a lot to be desired. The Raiders are road favorites here against the Titans and their 23rd ranked run defense, and Murray has a shot to bounce back here.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (@ New York Jets) -$6,100
If not for Lamar Miller’s contributions in the passing game, he’d be a completely off of the radar this week. Even with his work on passing downs you can make the case that Miller should be off the radar. The Jets boast the top ranked run defense in the league right now and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.
Matt Jones, Washington Redskins (vs. New York Giants) -$3,900
I’ve been hoping that the Redskins would eventually transition to a place where Matt Jones was the clear lead back and I think we’re getting closer. Over the past four weeks Jones leads the Washington backfield in snaps, carries, targets and catches. The Redskins were down early last week against the Panthers and Alfred Morris saw just three snaps, something that I hope is a trend more than just a one off due to game flow. Jones has a ton of talent and should continue to improve as he gets more comfortable.