Deciding what to do with the FLEX position is an interesting choice each week, and it’s something that I often look at when looking at winning lineups. I think that the tendency here on DraftKings, since it’s a full-point PPR scoring site, is to roster a wide receiver in the FLEX. We’re seeing more and more use of the tight end in the FLEX for successful tournament lineups, and it’s a strategy that I employed in one of my better lineups last week. My best lineup though had a running back in the FLEX. When we’re projecting a player’s floor, running back is the easiest position to lean on because of the relatively predictive nature of the position. A hand-off rarely falls incomplete, gets batted down at the line, or gets knocked down by a defender. You get my point. While rolling out a running back in the FLEX is a popular cash game strategy, I think you can win GPP’s this way too, especially if your three backs are game flow proof and contribute to their team’s passing game.
We’re on to Week 8.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
We’ve reached 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
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (vs. San Francisco 49ers) – $6,300
A $1,300 jump in price is quite significant, but in this case it’s just not enough. Todd Gurley is on quite a heater right now and he gets another tasty matchup in Week 8. Gurley and the Rams are 8-point home favorites against the 49ers and their 28th ranked run defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. They’re fresh off of a 176-yard, one score gashing by Marshawn Lynch and company in Week 7. I still think Benny Cunningham can eat in to a bit of Gurley’s top shelf upside because of his use on passing downs, but it was encouraging to see the rookie receive five targets last week.
Le’veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati Bengals) – $8,300
Despite going to battle with Mike Vick and Landry Jones over the past month, Le’veon Bell has managed to post 22.5 DraftKings points-per-game so far this season. That’s impressive. Good news in Pittsburgh though; they’re getting the band back together. Ben Roethlisberger is back and apparently near 100% healthy and that alone is a huge boost to Bell’s fantasy stock. The return of Roethlisberger brings back the threat of a passing game, which will help open things up for the running game in a big way. The Bengals are a middle of the pack rush defense and will be unable to slow down Le’veon here, who’ll exceed his season average in this contest.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – $8,000
Devonta Freeman has to be the biggest surprise of the season so far. He started the season as the apparent second fiddle in a RBBC situation with Tevin Coleman, and now he’s the clear top running back on his team and has produced more fantasy points than any other running back season-to-date. This game is crazy, right? Coleman is a clear afterthought, taking less than 12% of the snaps and 2-3 opportunities per game since returning from the leg injury that derailed his season. Freeman appears to be in a great spot as a big home favorite with an implied team total 28 points but the Bucs have been decent against the run. They’re 9th in both DVOA and aFPA (schedule-adjusted fantasy points above average), allowing just 79 yards on the ground so far. I think Freeman will have a negative impact on Tampa Bay’s favorable stats when this one is over.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (@ Chicago Bears) – $7,400
There could be a bit of positive regression here this week for Adrian Peterson. Per Rich Hribar of Rotoworld, Adrian Peterson leads all running backs with 11 carries inside the five yard line. He’s converted on just one of those 11 carries, a pace way off of Peterson’s career output. We also have a Bears team that’s yet to allow a rushing touchdown despite ranking 29th in run defense so far this season. Jerick McKinnon stole nine carries last week, but I’m guessing that had more to do with Peterson’s ‘non-tobacco’ illness than anything else. Start him with confidence this week.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (vs. San Diego Chargers) – $6,100
This is a great spot for Justin Forsett. The Ravens are 3-point favorites at home against the Chargers who get to make the beloved West-to-East flight this week. The Chargers are 31st in run DVOA and 32nd in aFPA to running backs and Baltimore has a relatively high implied team total of 26.5 this week. Since losing Lorenzo Taliaferro to injury, Forsett has handled 86% of Baltimore’s backfield snaps, handling the lion’s share of touches regardless of current game script. His $6,100 price point is just the 11th highest at the position this week, but Week 8 running back rankings at FantasyPros has him ranked as the 6th best play of the week.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (@ New England Patriots) – $4,700
We’ve yet to really see what a full workload from Lamar Miller looks like. Since Dan Campbell took over as head coach they’ve leaned on Lamar Miller early and by doing so have blown out the Titans and Texans in consecutive outings. Miller’s responded well to being the focal point, running for 288 yards on 33 carries while chipping in on passing downs and totaling three scores as well. If those games hadn’t gotten out of hand I think we’d see even better numbers from Miller, which is difficult to believe since he’s totaled 58.4 DraftKings points in the last two games. New England presents a different challenge for Miller and the Dolphins, and the 7.5-point spread doesn’t bode well for Miller either. At $4,700 though he’s impossible to ignore, and should have no problem exceeding value for you on Thursday night if you play him.
Middle of the Pack
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (vs. Minnesota Vikings) – $7,300
I’d rather have Matt Forte in the tier above, but I’m pushing it a little bit with so many plays in the top tier so here we are. Fresh off a bye, Matt Forte and the Bears will look to get it going at home against the Vikings in a game that Vegas has listed as a pick ‘em as of this writing. Forte is always appealing in cash games because he’s always on the field and involved in what the Bears are trying to do offensively. He’ll likely have a lower ownership number than some of the players listed above, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a tournament play because I don’t think he has 5x-6x upside like some of the other running backs do.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (@ Dallas Cowboys) – $7,100
After a few atypical weeks, Beast Mode is back in mix here. He looked good on Thursday night against the 49ers, carrying it 27 times for 122 yards and a score. Obviously the 49ers have been making all of their opponents look good, but it was positive to see Lynch tote it as the true focal point of Seattle’s offense again. The Cowboys can pressure the quarterback but they’re struggling against the run, allowing 115 yards per game and ranking 26th in run DVOA so far this season. The Seahawks are 5.5-point favorites on the road, so the game script is quite favorable here. Lynch has the touchdown upside that makes him a strong tournament option this week.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets (@ Oakland Raiders) – $6,000
The Raiders are better at stopping the run than you think. They’ve only allowed 77 yards per game so far and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The advanced metrics aren’t quite as favorable (11th according to DVOA), but they’re still an above average unit overall. The Jets are slight favorites here on the road, which bodes well for Chris Ivory’s usage, but I’ll want to hear that he’s practicing without limitations after dealing with a hamstring injury week during the tilt against the Patriots. If he’s good to go then he’s worth a look because he’s dominating snaps and touches for the Jets right now.
Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Detroit Lions) – $4,700
Another player who’s dominating his team’s touches and opportunities is Charcandrick West. Andy Reid had hinted at a heavy workload for West and he backed it up on Sunday. He was the clear lead back for the Chiefs, taking 87% of the Week 7 snaps. That’s Le’veon Bell and Matt Forte type of snaps. Those of you worried about Knile Davis shouldn’t be since he was only in on three plays the entire game. West is really cheap for someone getting that large of his team’s work, and the Chiefs are in a favorable spot as 5-point favorites in London against the Lions’ 18th ranked run defense.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers (@ Baltimore Ravens) – $4,500
I can’t even write up Danny Woodhead right now. I can’t be rational about him. His 4th quarter garbage time miracle made me a very happy camper last week. His 11-catch effort was something to behold, and things appear to be set up well for him again this week. His price has managed to dip $200 somehow, and he and the Chargers are road underdogs which set up Woodhead to lead the team in snaps again. The Ravens are 10th in run DVOA, but 29th in pass DVOA versus running backs, which is why we’re rostering Woodhead to begin with. Per PFF, Phillip Rivers is averaging 52 pass attempts a game over his last four games. That’s 11 more than the second-highest volume quarterback over that time, Drew Brees. These are all good things for Woodhead’s chances to return value.
Rest of the Field
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (vs. New York Giants) – $6,400
As good as Mark Ingram has been this season, it appears as though his team wants to limit his usage. Ingram had a great Week 7 but it could have been even better. He did his damage on just 39% of the backfield touches, with Khiry Robinson stealing 37% and C.J. Spiller 24%. The coaching staff has come out this week and said they really want to get Spiller even more involved which doesn’t bode well for Ingram, or at least my confidence in starting Ingram.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (vs. Indianapolis Colts) – $4,100
If you rostered Jonathan Stewart on Sunday night you were probably pissed. I’m not sure why you tortured yourself and expected anything different than what you got. Stewart delivered on the ground to the tune of 24-carries-125-yards, but had his potential touchdowns vultured by Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert. I also think this was one of the best case scenarios for Stewart, so if that’s your thing you’re free to fire him up again here as a 7-point favorite against the Colts.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Atlanta Falcons) – $5,500
Doug Martin legitimately looks good this season. He’s quick, shows burst through the holes and is stacking up yards after contact. He ran for 136 yards on 19 carries against a stout Redskins run defense but the problem is that Charles Sims is involved here as well. Sims got 10 carries against Washington and ran well too, and he’s used slightly more on passing downs than Martin is. This week the Bucs are on the road in Atlanta which sets up for a more of a 50/50 share of snaps and makes it difficult to trust Martin in this spot.
Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Seattle Seahawks) – $3,800
No one told Darren McFadden that it was supposed to be Christine Michael week. After starter Joseph Randle went down early in the contest, McFadden went on to take 81% of the running back snaps, running for 152 yards on 29 carries on Sunday while looking like the guy we all thought we’d see when he first entered the league out of Arkansas. His two huge caveats are in play this week. He’s currently healthy and appears to have the clearest path to 20 touches in that backfield right now. Facing the Seahawks is not ideal, but he’s dirt cheap especially if you believe he’s getting 18+ touches here.
Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (@ Cleveland Browns) – $4,600
Chris Johnson looked strong yet again on Monday night and is set up with a cushy matchup against the Browns’ 32nd rank run defense. The problem I have here is the increased snaps percentage for both Andre Ellington and David Johnson lately. Johnson is clearly the lead back still, handling 73% of the carries over the past two weeks, but I just don’t trust him.