In this piece, I highlight running backs who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections (powered by Sean Koerner), player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
Top NFL DFS Running Back Picks in the FantasyLabs Models
On DraftKings, there are two running backs who rank near the top of the individual Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Cash Game, and Tournament Player Models.
- Christian McCaffrey
- Travis Etienne Jr.
We’ll discuss why these two are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other running backs.
Top Model NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Christian McCaffrey ($8,000 DraftKings, $9,200 FanDuel): San Francisco 49ers (-4) vs. Dallas Cowboys (46 total)
Christian McCaffrey had a great showing in the Wild Card round, gaining an efficient 136 yards on just 17 touches and finding the end zone through the air. We’ve seen McCaffrey consistently be efficient with his touches in San Francisco, as he has 1,346 total yards and eleven touchdowns in twelve games since joining the team.
Eli Mitchell’s usage last week was far greater than most would help, as he saw nine carries and three targets to McCaffrey’s 15 and two. McCaffrey’s splits with Mitchell in vs. out of the lineup are definitely noteworthy, also. He’s averaged 54.6 rushing yards per game with Mitchell active and 92 yards with him inactive.
The matchup is also nothing to get too excited about, as Dallas has allowed just 4.19 yards per carry to opposing backs and just six rushing touchdowns to backs on the year. The game script definitely helped, but Dallas just stymied Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White to just 52 yards on twelve carries.
McCaffrey is insanely talented and one of the top dual-threat backs in the league, but Mitchell’s presence and a tough matchup give some reason for pause.
However, due to his massive ceiling, he’s still the top back in our Tournament Model.
Travis Etienne Jr. ($6,400 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): Jacksonville Jaguars (+8.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (53 total)
Travis Etienne Jr. played a big role in Jacksonville’s comeback last week, carrying the ball 20 times for 109 yards and catching one ball for 12 yards. His 25-yard carry on the game-deciding fourth down set up Jacksonville with a chance to steal the win.
Etienne was a workhorse last week, handling 100% of Jacksonville’s backfield touches. He’s only been under 100 total yards once in the past four games, and that came against a Tennessee defense that has swallowed opposing running backs all season long.
The matchup is middling, as the Chiefs have allowed just 4.29 yards per carry to opposing backs. They’ve held the lead on most teams, so pass-catching is a valuable skill for a back when facing Kansas City. The Jaguars haven’t really looked to Etienne through the air that much, which is slightly worrisome.
Without pass-catching volume, we need Etienne to be able to punch in touchdowns. Well, he has just one touchdown since Week 9. The Jaguars pass the ball at a very high rate in the red zone, which hurts Etienne’s touchdown equity.
However, he’s going to be out there, and he’s an explosive back who will see a lot of opportunities.
He’s the top back in our Cash Game Model, as well as Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon’s Pro Models.
Other Notable NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Saquon Barkley ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): New York Giants (+7.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (48 total)
The Giants shifted to a very pass-heavy approach last week, which made a lot of sense considering the defense that they were matched up against. Saquon Barkley was able to be very efficient on his limited touches and found the end zone two times to produce a great fantasy day. He carried the ball nine times for 53 yards and two touchdowns while catching five of six targets for 56 yards en route to 27.9 DraftKings points.
This matchup is going to be a battle, as the Eagles have been stellar against the run down the stretch. They’ve allowed the fifth-lowest success rate on opposing runs since Week 11, and they’ve allowed just 3.4 yards per carry with Jordan Davis on the field. Davis is used situationally, but it’s noteworthy the presence that he’s had.
Tony Pollard ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel): Dallas Cowboys (+4) at San Francisco 49ers (46 total)
It was quite apparent to anyone watching last week, as well as anyone who has watched the Dallas Cowboys for the past two years. Tony Pollard is the more talented running back and deserves to out-touch Ezekiel Elliott. With the season on the line, he did just that. Pollard handled 15 carries for 77 yards and caught three of three targets for 12 yards. Elliot handled 13 carries for 27 yards and caught one of two targets for nine yards.
In a tough matchup with an athletic San Francisco defense that has allowed a league-low 3.31 yards per carry to opposing backs, it’d make sense for Dallas to opt for Pollard’s speed as opposed to Elliott’s…muscle? Meat? I don’t really know what Elliott does better, but Jerry Jones will do whatever he can to make that contract seem worth it.