I wanted to start this week’s piece by thanking all of you for your support this football season. Thank you for making the Playbook a part of your week and taking the time to read the work of so many hard-working/talented writers. I’m more hard-working than talented, but I’m trying to get better each week and I appreciate you coming along for the ride.
We’re on to Week 16.
Narrowing down the viable options at the running back position is typically a chore each week, but not so much here in Week 16. Between injuries, Thursday/Saturday games, and difficult matchups I think we’re looking at a very small group of trustworthy cash game options this week. Tournaments are a different beast obviously, and the slate is loaded with sub-5K pass catching backs if that’s your flavor. We also have a bunch of running back by committee situations that are in favorable spots this week, plus a few injury issues that will clear themselves up as the weekend approaches.
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
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Green Bay Packers) -$5,800
You just can’t make a cash game lineup without David Johnson this week. Ok, you can, but it’s a terrible idea. He’s still incredibly underpriced because this slate’s pricing posted prior to his Sunday night outburst. All he did last week was touch it 33 times for 229 yards and three scores, mixing in perhaps the best run of the season. The Chris Johnson injury appears to be a blessing in disguise for the Cardinals offense. David Johnson’s talent is that of a $7,000+ back and we get him for one more week for under $6K. Any time there’s a back that’s a clear ‘must-play’ you can make the case for fading him in tournaments, but I’d rather go all-in and be overweight on Johnson shares this week.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ Baltimore Ravens) -$6,500
No other back has the snap, carry, and touch percentages that DeAngelo Williams has. He’s truly the lone wolf in Pittsburgh’s backfield and in a spot where Pittsburgh is favored by 10 points you have to like Williams this week. He’s a fairly interesting leverage play because despite the point spread, I think most will get their Steelers exposure through their dynamic passing game instead of leaning on their every-down tailback.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. New York Giants) -$7,300
It’s difficult to envision the Giants flipping the script here and taking Adrian Peterson and the Vikings running game out of this one. No one heals like AP, so I’m not overly concerned with the ankle injury that impacted his Week 15 workload. No one has the multi-touchdown upside that Adrian Peterson has and while it’s easier to pass on the Giants than it is to run, they’re far from elite up front.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Chicago Bears) -$6,600
Doug Martin can be difficult to trust because he’s so game flow dependent and his passing down work is minimal compared to some of his peers who are priced similarly. This spot against the Bears though sets up nicely for him. He’s done some of his best work at home and this game sets up well for Martin’s presumed workload. The Bears enter play with the league’s worst run defense and it feels like a week where we can bank on 20 touches from the Muscle Hamster.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (vs. San Diego Chargers) -$5,000
Latavius Murray hasn’t given fantasy owners much to be excited about lately, but if you’re playing the Thursday night slate I’d make sure to use him. He’s facing a checked out Chargers defense, one that’s 31st in the league against the run, and he has no competition for snaps or touches right now. That alone, at $5,000, makes him a great play this week.
Middle of the Pack
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (@ Minnesota Vikings) -$3,500
Over the past few weeks the Giants have narrowed down the running backs that are getting carries and leaning more on Rashad Jennings than any other back of late. Over the past two weeks Jennings has handled nearly 70% of New York’s carries, and while he’ll lose some of the passing down work to Shane Vereen, he’s good enough to contribute on third down and catch a few balls, as well. With Odell Beckham Jr. out for this one, look for the Giants to lean on their ground game more against the Vikings bottom-five run defense that’s riddled with injuries upfront.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Carolina Panthers) -$7,400
The Devonta Freeman story has been pretty straight forward lately. Yet again, he’s a tournament option but he’s slightly overpriced for cash games because his team has been struggling which decreases his touchdown upside, especially against Carolina. The fact that he rarely leaves the field though and his consistent work in the passing game help his floor and his ceiling for GPP’s. He was targeted 10 times last week, hauling in seven for 45 yards. Combine that with 20-25 carries and he has a chance to return value despite his elevated price tag.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers (@ Oakland Raiders) -$4,400
We’re probably not going to see three receiving touchdowns again like Danny Woodhead hauled in last week, but the season-ending injury to Melvin Gordon certainly helps Woodhead’s Week 16 viability. Donald Brown will likely see a bit of Gordon’s early down work, but Oakland is stout upfront and this feels more like a Woodhead game regardless or Gordon’s status.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) -$4,200
This could easily be another spot for double digit reception for ‘Buck’ Allen. The Ravens are 10.5-point favorites and Pittsburgh’s run defense is a top-5 unit according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, so Baltimore will need to utilize Allen in the short passing game in place of running between the tackles over and over again. Coach Harbaugh has made it clear that Allen’s Week 15 benching due to fumbling will not be something that carries over to Week 16, so we shouldn’t be too concerned with it either. I’m not sure I want Allen in cash, but he’s a great tournament play.
Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ New Orleans Saints) -$5,400
We don’t know what the Jacksonville backfield situation will look like come kickoff time on Sunday, but if T.J. Yeldon sits out again and Robinson (left foot sprain) is fully healthy then he needs to be considered this week against the Saints. As poorly as New Orleans has been at defending the pass, they’re terrible against the run too, and Robinson would make for a great leverage play against what will likely be a very popular Jaguars’ passing game.
Rest of the Field
James White, New England Patriots (@ New York Jets) -$4,700
You’re essentially paying for a wide receiver with running back eligibility when you roster James White. He has just 18 rushing yards over the past four games, but he’s seen more snaps than any other Patriots back over that time, and his value is in the passing game. You’re paying for his eight targets per game, and those targets have led to 229 receiving yards and two scores over the past month, good for 16.3 DraftKings points per game. He’s slid nicely into the receiving back role that Dion Lewis has left behind.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (vs. New England Patriots) -$3,900
Chris Ivory managed just 41 yards on 17 carries against the Patriots a few weeks ago and the backfield work has looked quite different in New York over the past few weeks. Bilal Powell has been eating into Ivory’s carries and has completely dominated the passing down work, something that there should be plenty of this week. Powell has averaged 17.6 DraftKings points per game over the past four weeks, and is the best bet in New York’s backfield for Week 16.
Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys (@ Buffalo Bills) -$4,900
The Cowboys will continue to lean on their running game with the quarterback position unsettled, and that’s putting it nicely. There’s not a ton of upside with Darren McFadden but he’s a pretty safe bet for nearly 20 touches against a Bills’ defense that’s allowed over 130 yards per game on the ground over the past month. They play at such a slow pace though, it’s hard to envision Dallas scoring more than 20 points this week.
Karlos Williams, Buffalo Bills (vs. Dallas Cowboys) -$4,500
The challenge with doing this on a Tuesday night is that we’ll learn a lot between now and Sunday morning when it becomes time to make lineup decisions. We’ll need to know that Karlos Williams is a full-go here this week in order to roster him but if he is, he’s worth a look. Keep an eye on this situation.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers (@ Atlanta Falcons) -$4,300
There’s value to be had in Carolina’s lead back, and with Jonathan Stewart set to miss his second game in a row that back is Cameron Artis-Payne. He shared the load a little bit in Week 15, but he saw 64% of the touches and should be in line for a similar workload this week.