I’m really intrigued by running back ownership percentages this week. We’re coming off of a week where some of the top players in the game had fairly marginal production and most failed to meet their lofty expectations. How much will recency bias factor into the general public’s roster construction? Paying up at running back might be a solid tournament approach this weekend. There are a number of viable options in the $6,000 and below range here, and selecting backs in this range will lead players to the higher priced pass catchers. Spending up at running back not only affords you exposure to some of the game’s elite play makers, at what will likely be lower-than-normal ownership, it also brings you in to a tier of pass catchers that varies from your opponents. Keep that in mind, GPP players.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
We’re on to Week 7.
We’re getting to the point where we have more actionable in-season data that we can lean on. 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
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (vs. CLE) – $5,000
I’m not sure that I’d grade him out as the top play if he was priced at $7,000, but $5,000 is just an insanely favorable price for Todd Gurley. Regardless of price, Gurley has the second highest point projection this week according to Pro Football Focus. He’s handled 96% of the Rams’ carries during their past two games, solidifying himself as their lead back and top offensive weapon. They’re fresh off of a bye and are 5.5-point home favorites against the league’s worst run defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. I hate the term ‘must play’, but here we are. Don’t get cute in cash games, just fire him up.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (@ TEN) – $7,900
I didn’t see this one coming. I’m still not sold that Tevin Coleman isn’t perhaps the more talented back in Atlanta, but that discussion is irrelevant right now because Davonta Freeman has rightfully earned the strangle hold that he has on this job. He’s averaging (AVERAGING) 39.4 DraftKings points per game over the past four weeks, contributing in both the running and passing game for Atlanta. Since Coleman returned from injury two weeks ago Freeman has played 85 and 86% of the team’s snaps, while Coleman has been on the field for just 10% of the snaps in both games. Against the 28th ranked run defense of the Titans, who are allowing 141 yards and almost two touchdowns a game on the ground, Freeman is a legit high-floor RB1.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC) – $8,400
The Vegas info on this game is pending, as is Le’veon Bell’s viable this week in DFS. He’s the most expensive back, and he should be, but if Ben Roethlisberger is under center then I’m very interested. With Michael Vick or Landry Jones taking snaps, it impacts the Steelers dynamic offense and limits the upside of all involved. Last week was a bit of anomaly, as it was the first game of Bell’s career where he failed to record a catch. Don’t expect that to continue. The public will likely be off of Bell since he was ‘average’ last week and the Chiefs shut down Adrian Peterson last time out. Getting the game’s best back at less than 10% owned is a great tournament play.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (@ DET) – $7,600
You don’t see too many 26-carry-60-yard efforts from Adrian Peterson. The good news moving forward is the 26 carries he received. Despite their limited/non-existent success running the ball against Kansas City, Minnesota stayed with it and continually tried to get their workhorse going. Most 25+ touch games from Adrian Peterson are going to yield north of 20 fantasy points, and I like his chances in Week 7. The Vikings are just 2.5-point dogs on the road in Detroit, so game script shouldn’t be an issue here. The Lions are not the stout run defense that they were a season ago, current ranked among the bottom third in run DVOA.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (@ MIA) – $7,500
I was all over Arian Foster last week once the news broke that he was a full participant in practice and reported that he was over the mental hurdle of the groin injury that delayed the start of his season. I underestimated the legitimacy of Jacksonville’s run defense, which was a mistake, but once again Foster’s skills were on display. He managed to haul in 5 passes for 59 yards and a score which salvaged an otherwise disappointing day (53 yards rushing). Foster and company are once against in Florida, this time to take on the Dolphins. Miami added Ndamukong Suh this offseason and then asking him to play as a two-gap DT instead of the single gap disruptor that he was in Detroit. That’s led to opponents running for 140 yards and a score per game so far in 2015.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (vs. HOU) – $4,600
I played up the new coach narrative in this space last week and if you were on board with me it paid dividends in Week 6. There’s no need to get off the train this week with Lamar Miller still coming in under $5,000. The Dolphins are slight favorites at home, and the Texans aren’t an especially stout run defense that should be feared. Any time that we’ve seen Miller get in access of 15+ touches in a game he’s produced, so it was encouraging to see Miami leverage his skills, including carries inside the 5. Miller doesn’t quite have the upside of the other backs in this tier, but he doesn’t need to do much to return 3-4x value at this price.
Middle of the Pack
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (@ JAX) – $5,500
Note: McCoy plays in the Sunday morning game in London and is not included in the standard Sunday slate of games
It was reported early Sunday morning that the Bills would ease LeSean McCoy back in after he returned sooner than expected from the hamstring issues that caused him to miss a couple of early season weeks. Well, that didn’t happen. McCoy was in on 81% of Buffalo’s snaps against Cincinnati, grabbing the job that should be clearly his and finding the end zone against the Bengals. With Karlos Williams stuck in the concussion protocol and Boobie Dixon being not good at football, McCoy was the only back to record a carry and we’ll likely see more of the same on Sunday morning in London. The Jaguars are a top-10 run defense, but McCoy should see enough volume to be worth his price.
DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles (@ CAR) – $6,400
After receiving just 10 touches in Week 4’s contest against the Redskins, DeMarco Murray has 27 and 25 touches in his past two outings. The squeaky wheel has definitely been greased. The Eagles are on the road and Vegas has installed them as 3.5-point underdogs in Carolina. The Panthers secondary has been outstanding, making the running game the best way to target Carolina. That could change with the return of middle linebacker Luke Kuechly but I think the Eagles need a strong night from Murray if they’re going to keep this one close.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (@ SF) – $6,900
It appears that Marshawn Lynch is on the other side of the hamstring injury that’s slowed him down so far in 2015. After carrying the ball 17 times on Sunday, Lynch has been a full practice participant early here in Week 7, setting him up to get rolling on Sunday after NFC West foe San Francisco. The Seahawks’ offensive line is clearly not what it’s been in seasons past, but they’re 6-point favorites on the road and leaning on Lynch might be the best way for Seattle to get back on track.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (@ SD) – $6,100
I think Latavius Murray is a strong tournament play this week. He stumbled heading in to the bye week, and isn’t a huge value at his current price point. The matchup against the Chargers is excellent as the Chargers have been routinely gashed on the ground, giving up 138 yards per game so far. Murray has been dominating touches out of Oakland’s backfield this season, so he’s fairly safe in terms of game script. They’ll likely incorporate Roy Helu more in the passing game as he gets healthy, but I feel good about Murray’s workload moving forward.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (@ ARI) – $6,100
Justin Forsett’s status was dicey heading in to Week 6, entering the weekend as a game-time decision. That’s hard to believe when you see that he was in on 81% of the Ravens plays against the 49ers. The matchup isn’t great here against the Cardinals, but Forsett’s seven receptions on Sunday were more in line with what we expected to see from him this season. His touchdown prospects aren’t strong, but his usage rate makes him viable.
Rest of the Field
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (@ IND) – $6,300
Mark Ingram needed two touchdowns to salvage his Week 6 outing, running for just 46 yards on 20 carries against the Falcons and his passing game impact is diminishing a little bit each week as C.J. Spiller gets healthy. I don’t love him in this spot against the Colts, whose run defense is much improved this season. When you consider the other options in his price range it’s hard to get to Ingram.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (vs. PHI) – $4,000
We finally saw a strong week from Jonathan Stewart, in a spot where no one had him. On the road in Seattle, Stewart ran for 78 yards on 20 carries, two of which ended with Stewart in the end zone. His value is capped because of Cam Newton’s red zone prowess on the ground, and he takes another hit this week against the strong Eagles front seven. Philadelphia has held opponents to 88 yards per game on the ground this season, with just one rushing touchdown against them this season. I suspect Stewart’s Week 6 success and favorable price will drive Stewart’s ownership up higher than it typically is, but I’m staying away.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts (vs. NO) – $4,900
I like Frank Gore’s price in this spot, at home as a solid favorite against a suspect defense, but I’m a bit concerned with Gore’s declining snap percentage. Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week and jumped right in to the rotation, stealing 24% of the snaps and limiting Gore to his fewest plays all season. With Todd Gurley just $100 more, I’m not sure how you land on Gore as a play this week.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets (@ NE) – $5,800
The Jets will try and run, run, and run some more and they’ll do that on the back of Chris Ivory. Ivory has been excellent in his past two outings, touching it 23+ times in each contest and running for a combined 312 yards. He’s third in the league in rushing right now, limiting Bilal Powell to a back-up role where he belongs. The problem here is two-fold. First is the expected game script, as the Jets are on the road in New England. The Jets are 8.5-point underdogs and will need to keep it close for Ivory’s chances to get 20 carries. Also, the Patriots have been strong against the run of late. They’ve given up just 93 yards per game on the ground, and they’re yet to allow a rushing touchdown so far this season.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (vs. NYJ) – $6,500
Perhaps we didn’t believe that Dion Lewis was actually hurt last week because he was a fairly popular play despite his game-time decision tag heading in to Sunday night. He has just seven touches against the Colts and failed to top 40 total yards, so perhaps his abdomen injury is more than we first thought it was. The struggle here in Week 7 is knowing if he’s back to his full workload, but the Jets have been a nightmare to opposing running backs this season, limiting them to just 72 rushing yards a game. Lewis can do damage without running the ball, but it’s difficult to pay Lewis’ rising price when you know he’s unlikely to get 10 carries in this game.
Christine Michael, Dallas Cowboys (vs. NYG) – $3,000
We don’t know enough yet to determine Christine Michael’s viability yet for Week 7, but it’s on the rise. He’s apparently been getting a share of the first-team reps in practice during the bye week and he’s likely to carve out a roll in this backfield moving forward. He’s without question the most talented back on the team, and I’d love to see what he can do with 20 touches. I’ll update this later in the week once we have more information but at min-sal, he won’t need to do much to return value this week.
Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (vs. MIN) – $3,400
The Lions backfield situation is in shambles and Theo Riddick is in position to take advantage of more opportunities. He’s priced way below his performance level this season, as Riddick has been a staple in Detroit’s passing game. With Zack Zenner being placed on IR, Joique Bell being Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah’s fumbling issues, Riddick is primed to eat in to the early down work while still contributing in the passing game. He saw seven carries on Sunday after Abdullah was benched for fumbling again.