No other position suffers the kind of week to week attrition that we’ve seen at the running back position of late. In Week 14 alone we saw Thomas Rawls, LaGarrette Blount, T.J. Yeldon, Jonathan Stewart, and Spencer Ware go down. I’m sure I’m missing someone too. In some cases an injury can breed opportunity for someone and in others it can lead to a murky running back by committee situation. Let’s unpack this week’s slate and see who is left standing.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
We’re on to Week 15.
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 (vs. Chicago Bears) -$7,100
Adrian Peterson checks all the boxes this week. He’s playing at home. His team is favored by nearly a touchdown while having a healthy 24.25 implied team total. His opponent, the Chicago Bears, are among the worst teams in the league at stopping opposing running backs, ranking 32nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric against the run. Lastly, Peterson’s price is favorable as well. He’s $600 less than he was when the season began.
Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Atlanta Falcons) -$4,600
It looks like T.J. Yeldon will miss at least a week or two with a combination of knee and ankle issues stemming from Week 14’s contest against the Colts. After Yeldon left the game last week Denard Robinson was in on 100% of the snaps for Jacksonville, carrying it 14 times for 75 yards and a score. We’ve seen this from ‘Shoelace’ before in limited work and he’s likely to dominate snaps and touches again this week against a bottom-third run defense in the Atlanta Falcons.
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (@ Philadelphia Eagles) -$5,700
Andre Ellington didn’t practice on Tuesday so there’s a chance that David Johnson has the backfield all to himself again in Week 15. Even if Ellington makes it back and is active this week, he’s unlikely to impact Johnson’s role in a big way. Last week Johnson carried it 19 times and was also targeted seven times in the passing game. He didn’t find the end zone but he topped 120 total yards and should approach 80%+ of the backfield snaps against an Eagles team that’s allowing the 5th most schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to the running back position.
Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints (vs. Detroit Lions) -$3,900
The Saints gave Tim Hightower the ball 29 times last week. 29!?!? How much do they hate C.J. Spiller? Good lord. Despite being out of football for a few seasons, Hightower’s 29 touches were six more than Mark Ingram had in any game this season, so he was definitely fresh. I can’t see him approaching that number again regardless of game flow, but at $3,900 he doesn’t need to top 25+ touches to return value. Spiller only saw 18% of the snaps and is no threat to Hightower’s short-yardage role.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (@ San Diego Chargers) -$6,300
After dominating during Monday night’s first half, the Dolphins decided that they had seen enough of Lamar Miller running all over the Giants so they stopped giving him the ball. I don’t know. It just doesn’t make any sense. I think getting away from the run and the subsequent loss that came out of that decision will lead the Dolphins to lean on Lamar Miller a bit more this week and get him closer to 20+ carries. The Chargers offer little resistance to backs right now, having allowed 135 yards per game over the past month, with the league’s second worst run defense according to DVOA.
Middle of the Pack
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Denver Broncos) -$6,600
I’m not crazy about DeAngelo Williams’ matchup this week against the Broncos top-5 run defense, but a skilled back who’s getting nearly 100% of the snaps and touches in an elite offense deserves serious consideration, regardless of the opponent. This game is in Pittsburgh and Vegas has the Steelers as a 6-point favorite, which bodes well for Williams’ workload.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (@ Jacksonville Jaguars) -$7,500
I think Devonta Freeman is an elite tournament option this week, but he’s difficult to pay up for in cash games with all of the affordable options listed above. Part of the issue for Freeman is that his teammates aren’t firing on all cylinders right now. The Falcons have taken a nose-dive after their hot start, but Freeman is still a key cog in Atlanta’s attack and his three down role helps raise his floor and ceiling when the matchup is right.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (@ Washington Redskins) -$6,300
If Karlos Williams misses this contest, potentially his third straight, LeSean McCoy will again be a dominant factor in Buffalo’s offense. He’s received 80%+ of the snaps and touches in Buffalo’s backfield lately, and outside of the inept Giants ground attack, teams have been gashing the previously-stout Redskins run defense lately. McCoy’s work on passing downs helps raise his floor for cash games.
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) -$6,700
Assuming the knee injury scare that cost Todd Gurley some snaps in the second half last week is behind him, he’s a viable tournament option here once again. Tampa Bay has an exceptional run defense, but this game will likely stay close which increases the opportunities for a game flow dependent back like Gurley. For cash games I advise against chasing Gurley’s Week 14 output, but he’s worth a look in tournaments.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ St. Louis Rams) -$6,600
You can wash, rinse and repeat the Todd Gurley blurb above and replace his name with Doug Martin. Both backs tend to be game flow reliant because they rarely factor into the passing game for their respective teams, but have 25+ carry games and multi-touchdown upside when things break their way. I wouldn’t want a tournament lineup that featured both backs, but if you’re building multiple tournament lineups than I suggest getting exposure to both.
Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs (@ Baltimore Ravens) -$4,800
If by Sunday it becomes clear that Charcandrick West is back in a position to handle 80% of the snaps and touches for the Chiefs then I think he should be higher on this list of Week 15 options. Spencer Ware is dinged up and will likely be questionable this week, but removing Ware opens up West to take back the lead role that he had for a few moments after Jamaal Charles first went down. The Ravens are much easier to throw on than they are to run, but they’re far from elite against the run and Kansas City is considered a sizable favorite here. If we see a 20-carry outing for West at $4,800, it will likely pay dividends this week.
Rest of the Field
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (vs. Green Bay Packers) -$4,500
It’s difficult to get excited about Latavius Murray right now, but Oakland has faced some of the league’s best run defense lately. The one thing that keeps Murray on the radar is he’s still dominating the snaps and touches in Oakland’s backfield. His big play ability makes him a cheap tournament play against a Packers defense that’ll likely let Oakland move the ball against them.
Javorius “Buck” Allen, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Kansas City Chiefs) -$4,500
The Chiefs defense is playing well right now, and rarely do we want to consider a running back who is a large underdog that week. The appeal of Buck Allen doesn’t hinge on game flow though. He’s been targeted in the passing game a whooping 22 times in the past two weeks and on a full PPR site like DraftKings that needs to be factored in. I don’t love him as a tournament play because he lacks multi-touchdown upside in this spot, but the passing game targets make him a head-to-head pivot off of Denard Robinson or Tim Hightower.
Matt Jones, Washington Redskins (vs. Buffalo Bills) -$4,000
We’re finally seeing Matt Jones take over the reins in Washington. He’s received 62% of the running back touches over the past two weeks and while Alfred Morris is still around, Jones is getting more carries each week and is the clear third down back now that Chris Thompson is out for the season.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers (vs. New York Giants) -$3,000
Jonathan Stewart was still in a walking boot on Tuesday and Carolina has no reason to push him this week against the Giants. Fozzy Whittaker filled in last week when Stewart went down, but they’d ideally like to leave him in a third down role, leaving the early down work to rookie Cameron Artis-Payne. The rookie hasn’t touched the ball in over a month, but he could have some appeal in a 12-15 touch role for minimum salary.
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots (vs. Tennessee Titans) -$3,200
The hits keep coming for the Patriots. James White is the sexier option, but Brandon Bolden is likely to handle the early down carries for New England with the news that LaGarrette Blount is out for the season with a hip injury. White is taking more of the Dion Lewis role though, and isn’t someone that we can bank on getting 10+ touches yet, while Bolden saw 16 carries on Sunday night against the Texans.