The 2018 NFL season rolls on, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.0 points per game per team. We could be in for another week of high scores with a 12-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 1 p.m. ET.
With two teams on bye and six in prime-time games, we are without several top-tier players.
- Thursday Night Football: Eagles (Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood) at Giants (Saquon Barkley)
- Sunday Night Football: Chiefs (Kareem Hunt) at Patriots (James White, Sony Michel)
- Monday Night Football: 49ers (Alfred Morris, Kyle Juszczyk) at Packers (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery)
- Bye Weeks: Lions (Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick), Saints (Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram)
Even so, this slate features some great games. It’s always a good time to play some daily fantasy football.
For analysis on the smaller slates, consult Chris Raybon’s premium strategy guides (released throughout the week).
In writing this piece, I’ve relied primarily on the FantasyLabs Models. This breakdown is less of a comprehensive analysis of each running back and more of an introduction to this week’s players via our large suite of analytic DFS Tools. We’ll start with the four running backs at the top of the salary scale, follow with five rushers at the top of our individual Pro Models and finish with the rest of the slate’s fantasy-relevant backs.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
Highest-Priced Running Backs
This week, there are four backs at the top of the salary scale.
- Todd Gurley: $10,000 DraftKings; $9,500 FanDuel
- Christian McCaffrey: $8,300 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel
- Melvin Gordon: $8,200 DraftKings; $8,800 FanDuel
- James Conner: $7,700 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams (-7) at Denver Broncos, 52 O/U
Only thrice in the FantasyLabs database do we have a record of a DraftKings running back hitting the $10,000 threshold. Matt Forte did it in back-to-back weeks in 2014, and peak David Johnson did it once near the end of 2016. Gurley is in rarefied air. Even with his appreciated cost, we’re projecting Gurley for high ownership rates, and it’s hard to say that he’s unworthy of his salary or DFS popularity.
Ever since head coach Sean McVay joined the Rams, Gurley has easily been the best back in football, leading the position with 27.6 DraftKings points per game, a +8.02 Plus/Minus, and 2,738 yards and 28 touchdowns from scrimmage. Gurley has an 87.4% market share of snaps, and he’s the unquestioned alpha on the No. 1 team in The Action Network NFL Power Rankings. Barring a mid-game injury, he’s a mortal lock for 18+ opportunities, a threshold he’s hit in every game in the McVay era.
Last season Gurley led the league (in 15 games) with 37 opportunities inside the 10-yard line, and he’s pacing for way more this season. Through five games, he has 22 carries and four targets inside the 10, and that doesn’t take into account his two successful 2-point conversions in Week 2. With his goal-line opportunities and scoring prowess, it’s not a surprise that Gurley leads all non-quarterbacks with his +900 odds to win the 2018 MVP award.
While most players tend to struggle on the road, especially in Denver because of the elevation, Gurley has significant reverse home/away splits under McVay.
- Home (10 games): 22.8 DraftKings points, +3.45 Plus/Minus, 74.5 yards and 0.9 touchdowns rushing, 47.5 yards and 0.2 touchdowns receiving on 3.9 receptions and 5.6 targets
- Away (10 games): 31.9 DraftKings points, +12.05 Plus/Minus, 97.5 yards and 1.1 touchdowns rushing, 54.3 yards and 0.6 touchdowns receiving on 4.4 receptions and 5.6 targets
The sample isn’t large, but Gurley’s +12.05 DraftKings Plus/Minus as a visitor is outstanding.
Although the Broncos defense as recently as 2016 was first in the league with a -18.3% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, those days are long gone — as is defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who now coincidentally oversees the Rams defense (#RevengeGame). The Broncos defense isn’t bad — it’s 12th overall with 74.0 Pro Football Focus grade — but without Phillips, as well as future Hall of Fame edge rusher DeMarcus Ware (retired) and shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib (also on the Rams), the unit is no longer to be feared. This season, the Broncos have allowed opposing backfields to hit a top-10 mark of 29.5 DraftKings points per game. Gurley’s matchup against the Broncos is neutral at worst.
In the McVay era, Rams games have a 14-7 over/under record, and on the road the Rams have hit the over at a 8-2 rate, which is good for a 56.9% return on investment for over bettors (per Bet Labs). The sample is small, but it’s probably not a fluke, considering that the McVay Rams have hit their implied Vegas totals in 16 of 21 games overall.
With his high usage, three-down ability and multi-touchdown upside, Gurley is a game script-independent potential GPP winner. Gurley leads all backs with his median, ceiling and floor projections and his 16 Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he has a position-high 98% Bargain Rating and is the No. 1 back in every Pro Model except for one (Freedman).
Christian McCaffrey: Carolina Panthers (+1) at Washington Redskins, 44.5 O/U
Any concerns there might have been at the beginning of the year about how McCaffrey would do in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense as a lead back have been allayed by his year-to-date performance.
- Week 1 (vs. Cowboys): 14.5 DraftKings points, +0.08 Plus/Minus, 10-50-0 rushing, 6-45-0 receiving on nine targets
- Week 2 (at Falcons): 30.9 DraftKings points, +14.78 Plus/Minus, 8-37-0 rushing, 14-102-0 receiving on 15 targets
- Week 3 (vs. Bengals): 24.4 DraftKings points, +6.02 Plus/Minus, 28-184-0 rushing, 2-10-0 receiving on two targets
- Week 5 (vs. Giants): 20.3 DraftKings points, +1.35 Plus/Minus, 17-58-0 rushing, 5-35-1 receiving on six targets
Amazingly, McCaffrey is the No. 5 DraftKings back, even though his usage has been variable game to game and he has just one touchdown. Last year, he scored at a 3.04% rate. Whenever his 2018 rate of 1.05% progresses to the mean, McCaffrey could be a GPP winner.
It’s worth noting that McCaffrey’s production has come despite roster issues around him. Continuity is crucial along the offensive line, and three of last season’s starters are not on the field: Left tackle Matt Kalil (knee, IR) and right tackle Daryl Williams (knee, IR) are both out, and 2017 All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell is now on the Jaguars. Even so, McCaffrey has become more efficient as a runner.
- 2018: 5.2 yards per carry, 56.8% early-down rushing success rate
- 2017: 3.7 yards per carry, 43.2% early-down rushing success rate
The Redskins are dead last in the league with a 60.5 PFF rush-defense grade. The Panthers have the week’s largest edge in offensive line vs. defensive line matchup. McCaffrey’s in a good spot.
For tournaments, use our Lineup Builder to stack McCaffrey with quarterback Cam Newton. Since 2014, No. 1 backs on average have had a 0.35 correlation with their quarterbacks. With Newton, McCaffrey has had a robust 0.83 correlation on account of his receiving prowess: He leads the team with 32 targets, 27 receptions and 197 yards after the catch.
Melvin Gordon: Los Angeles Chargers (-1) at Cleveland Browns, 44.5 O/U
As good as Gurley has been this season, MG3 has been the better of the two on a salary-adjusted basis (+8.60 Plus/Minus vs. +7.12), but his matchup this week might be more difficult than most expect. As bad as the Browns were during their 0-16 circus in 2017, they at least were fourth against the rush with a -20.8% DVOA. This season they’re eighth (-20.6%). On the whole, the Browns defense is first in the league with 15 takeaways and has top-three marks in minutes (2:09), plays (5.0), yards (25.5) and points allowed (1.33) per drive.
Still, the Browns have allowed lead backs and backfield committees to produce over the past five weeks.
- James Conner (Week 1): 38.2 DraftKings points, 31-135-2 rushing, 5-57-0 on six targets
- Alvin Kamara (Week 2): 17.9 DraftKings points, 13-46-0 rushing, 6-53-0 on six targets
- Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell (Week 3): 26.4 DraftKings points, 30-107-2 rushing, 2-17-0 on four targets
- Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard (Week 4): 28.3 DraftKings points, 21-128-0 rushing, 6-65-0 on 10 targets
- Alex Collins and Javorius Allen (Week 5): 20.4 DraftKings points, 20-93-0 rushing, 7-51-0 on 12 targets
Additionally, the Browns are just 21st in pass defense against running backs with a 12.1% DVOA, and Gordon is second on the Chargers with 38 targets, 28 receptions and 261 yards receiving, and is first with 252 yards after the catch, nine red-zone targets and three receiving touchdowns.
A splits-agnostic player — he scores roughly the same number of fantasy points regardless of whether he’s a favorite or a dog, at home or on the road — MG3 is a true three-down back capable of producing in any circumstances: He’s one of only three backs (along with Gurley and Le’Veon Bell) with 250-plus carries and 50-plus targets in each of the past two seasons.
Gordon is tied with Gurley for the position lead with nine Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated back in the Raybon and SportsGeek Models.
Also on the Chargers:
- Austin Ekeler: $4,200 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
For the third week in a row, we really like Ekeler, even though he’s a secondary back.
Normally when it comes to secondary backs, I write just a sentence or so — but for the second week in a row, I’m unbelievably hot for Ekeler. He leads all backs with his 8.9 cumulative PFF grade and is second with 3.9 yards after contact per attempt. Of all backs with at least three carries per game, he’s first with 0.77 points per opportunity in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. He’s first at the position with 8.5 yards per touch.
The second-year undrafted back is likely to regress in efficiency at some point, but he’s a viable fantasy contributor in every slate, considering his …
- College production: 7,072 yards and 63 touchdowns from scrimmage in 40 games
- Physical profile: 5-foot-9, 199 pounds with a 4.43-second 40 time and 6.85-second mark in the three cone
- NFL role: Latter-day Danny Woodhead
Ekeler has had at least six opportunities in 12 career games (including in 10 of his last 13 appearances). He’s averaged 12.9 DraftKings points in those 12 games, and for the season he has a +5.88 Plus/Minus and 100% Consistency Rating. That makes Ekeler an attractive tournament play, especially as a contrarian differentiator in lineups with Gordon.
This year, even though they’ve both been productive, Gordon and Ekeler have been rostered together in a low percentage of Millionaire Maker lineups.
- Week 1 (vs. Chiefs): Gordon (14.71%) + Ekeler (0.07%) –> Together in 10 lineups (0.00%)
- Week 2 (at Bills): Gordon (19.21%) + Ekeler (3.20%) –> Together in 881 lineups (0.33%)
- Week 3 (at Rams): Gordon (6.54%) + Ekeler (3.58%) –> Together in 452 lineups (0.18%)
- Week 4 (vs. 49ers): Gordon (21.99%) + Ekeler (4.87%) –> Together in 2,798 lineups (0.59%)
- Week 5 (vs. Raiders): Gordon (27.60%) + Ekeler (5.14%) –> Together in 1,729 lineups (0.73%)
Gordon and Ekeler make for a high-upside, low-owned pairing. Most people will stay away from the MG3-Ekeler stack because of negative backfield correlations, but their inherent upside makes them viable together.
On Sunday morning, I will probably look to hit the over on Ekeler’s receiving yardage prop. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 102-58-4, good for a 64% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
For the third week in a row, Ekeler is the No. 1 DraftKings back in the Bales Model.
James Conner: Pittsburgh Steelers (+2) at Cincinnati Bengals, 52.5 O/U
Bell (contract dispute) is expected to return to the Steelers during the team’s Week 7 bye, so this will likely be the last opportunity you have in a while to play an unquestioned lead back in Pittsburgh’s high-scoring offense without paying an exorbitant price.
After his 192-yard, two-touchdown smackdown in Week 1, Conner was inefficient as a runner in Weeks 2-4, but he at least saw steady target volume …
- Week 2 (vs. Chiefs): 19.5 DraftKings points, +4.23 Plus/Minus, 8-17-1 rushing, 5-48-0 receiving on five targets, one 2-point conversion
- Week 3 (at Buccaneers): 14.5 DraftKings points, -2.89 Plus/Minus, 15-61-0 rushing, 5-34-0 receiving on six targets
- Week 4 (vs. Ravens): 9.4 DraftKings points, -8.13 Plus/Minus, 9-19-0 rushing, 3-25-0 receiving on seven targets, one 2-point conversion
… and last week he returned to form with a dominant 185-yard, two-touchdown performance. Conner has played on 86.4% of the offensive snaps and seen a whopping 91.1% of the backfield opportunities. He’s the only Steelers back with a carry (nine) or target (two) inside the 10-yard line. His production has been good enough, and his usage has been elite.
The Bengals aren’t bad on defense, but they’ve allowed every backfield they’ve faced to reach 20+ DraftKings points. A good bet for 15+ touches and almost all the backfield work, Conner is an arbitrage cash-game option.
Model Running Backs
Besides Gurley, Gordon and Ekeler, there are five running backs atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Chris Thompson: $6,100 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
- David Johnson: $5,900 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Isaiah Crowell: $5,000 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Tarik Cohen: $4,600 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Peyton Barber: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Chris Thompson: Washington Redskins (-1) vs. Carolina Panthers, 44.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Thompson (rib, knee) is technically questionable but expected not to play. Running back Kapri Bibbs could see action behind Adrian Peterson (shoulder), who is also questionable.
Thompson (ribs) exited Monday night’s game last week late in the fourth quarter. His status is uncertain, but he’s tentatively expected to play this weekend. Although he has just 79 total yards over the past two games, he still easily leads the team with 31 targets, 26 receptions, 200 yards receiving and 162 yards after the catch. Dating back to last season, he has averaged 15.8 DraftKings points per game with a +4.52 Plus/Minus.
While Thompson is probably too small (5-7, 192 pounds) to be used as a frequent between-the-tackles runner, he has been a big producer when strategically deployed: Last season, he led the position with 7.0 yards per carry against light fronts, and this season he’s second among backs with 73.9% of his carries coming against boxes with no more than six defenders (PlayerProfiler). Nevertheless, he’s a capable early-down player with career Success Rates of 0.45 as a runner and 0.49 as a receiver, which is similar to Gordon’s numbers (0.50, 0.42).
Facing a Panthers defense that is 27th in pass defense with a 33.5% DVOA against running backs, Thompson has multi-touchdown upside and is the highest-rated FanDuel back in the Freedman Model.
Also on the Redskins:
- Adrian Peterson: $4,800 DraftKings; $6,900 FanDuel
Peterson (shoulder) also suffered an injury in Week 5 but is expected to be available on Sunday. Although he has had two games with more than 100 total yards this season, Peterson has averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt since 2016 and been a game script-dependent player since 2016 with 13.4 PPR points per game in victory and just 4.5 in defeat.
David Johnson: Arizona Cardinals (+10) at Minnesota Vikings, 43 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Running back Chase Edmonds (back) is questionable and should be considered a game-time decision. He was limited in Friday’s practice.
Johnson hasn’t regained his 2016 All-Pro form, but in first-round rookie quarterback Josh Rosen’s two starts, he has been much more productive on a per-game basis.
- With Sam Bradford (Weeks 1-3): 13.3 DraftKings points, -5.84 Plus/Minus, 38.7 yards and 0.33 touchdowns rushing, 21 yards and 0.33 touchdowns receiving on 3.3 receptions and five targets
- With Josh Rosen (Weeks 4-5): 20.2 DraftKings points, +5.59 Plus/Minus, 63 yards and 1.5 touchdowns rushing, 28.5 yards and zero touchdowns receiving on 2.5 receptions and 3.5 targets
In each of the past two weeks, Johnson has had 20+ touches, and for the season he’s averaging a touchdown per game. In fact, for his career, he has 38 touchdowns in 38 games. This season, he has all five of the team’s carries and four of its seven targets inside the 10-yard line: That kind of usage near the goal line gives him an excellent chance of scoring a touchdown in any game he plays.
But of course he plays for the Cardinals, who are massive road dogs with an average of just 13 points per game. The Vikings have been a top-10 run-stopping fantasy unit this season, allowing just 19.2 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields. Despite his size (6-1, 224 pounds), Johnson isn’t a strong up-the-gut runner, but the Cardinals have unimaginatively given him 34 carries on first-and-long — an obvious running down — and he’s earned just 61 yards (1.8 yards per carry). Johnson has run against stacked fronts on 37.8% of his carries, the league’s fifth-highest rate.
On top of that, even though Johnson is a former wide receiver and one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, he’s still lining up in the slot or out wide on just 4.6% of his snaps. In 2016, that number was 20.4%. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has been entirely uncreative in the way he’s used Johnson so far.
Even so, it’s hard to argue with volume, touchdowns and pass-catching capability, especially since Johnson hasn’t been this cheap since Week 16 of his rookie season.
Johnson is the highest-rated DraftKings back in the Koerner Model.
Also on the Cardinals:
- Chase Edmonds: $4,300 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
The small-school rookie stole 19 precious touches from Johnson in Weeks 1-3, but since then he has just four touches total for zero yards.
Isaiah Crowell: New York Jets (-2.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts, 45.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Crowell (ankle) is questionable but expected to play.
Crowell (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and is legitimately questionable to play. Monitor his situation.
Under new coordinator Matt Eberflus, the Colts defense is now tolerable (-1.2% DVOA, 13th), whereas last season it was terrible (8.7% DVOA, 27th). But the Jets are home favorites and the Colts are far from full strength. On offense, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (chest, hamstring), tight ends Jack Doyle (hip) and Eric Ebron (shin, quad, ankle, knee), and center Ryan Kelly (calf) are all questionable. At least two of them seem likely to miss the game. A diminished Colts offense could struggle to sustain drives, which would give the Jets more possessions.
And on defense the Colts have had a slew of injuries, with several key players missing practice this week.
- Starting linebacker Darius Leonard: ankle
- Starting defensive tackle Margus Hunt: knee
- Starting defensive tackle/end Denico Autry: hamstring
- Starting strong safety Clayton Geathers: concussion, neck
- Starting free safety Malik Hooker: back
- Third safety/dime back Matthias Farley: shoulder, groin, wrist
All six players are questionable. Not all of them will miss Week 6, but some probably will. And those who play won’t be at 100% health. Just last week the short-handed Colts saw Patriots running backs James White (23.7 DraftKings points) and Sony Michel (18.0) go off, and this season they’ve allowed 10-plus DraftKings points to six different backs in five games.
It’s hard to trust Crowell: The offense has been inconsistent with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and Crow has had some radical scoring splits this season — 25.8 DraftKings points per game in his three games with touchdowns and an average of just 3.6 in two scoreless games. He has a lot of downside, but there aren’t many backs who have his upside at less than 5% ownership. Crowell has been the league’s most north/south runner this season with a 2.93 Efficiency Rating (Next Gen Stats).
Crow is the No. 1 DraftKings back in the Freedman Model.
Also on the Jets:
- Bilal Powell: $4,500 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
Powell has actually out-touched (69-63) and out-snapped (162-129) Crowell, and he’s second on the team with 369 yards from scrimmage, but he has just four scoreless yards on nine red-zone opportunities.
Tarik Cohen: Chicago Bears (-4) at Miami Dolphins, 41.5 O/U
After an inconsistent 2017 rookie campaign, when he was second on the team with 71 targets and 53 receptions, Cohen entered the season with some Tyreek Hill-esque hype in new head coach Matt Nagy’s offense. But he was a nonentity in Weeks 1-3, averaging just seven touches per game. In Week 4, however, against the hapless Buccaneers, the Human Joystick was an integral part of the game plan with 13 carries and seven receptions. Cohen totaled 174 yards and a touchdown, good for 33.4 DraftKings points at just 0.7% ownership.
It’s hard to trust Cohen, who has played on just 39.9% of the offensive snaps this year, but he has an intriguing matchup. The Dolphins have allowed a top-six mark of 32.3 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields, and they have something of a back-flowing funnel defense. While the Dolphins pass defense is ranked first (-32.6%), fifth (-28.6%) and seventh (-23.6%) in DVOA against primary, secondary and supplementary wide receivers, it is weakest against running backs, ranking 23rd (14.3%). The Dolphins don’t have one linebacker with a PFF coverage grade better than 60.0. If the Bears decide to lean on Cohen as a mismatch player, he could have a big game.
Cohen is the No. 1 DraftKings back in the Levitan Model.
Also on the Bears:
- Jordan Howard: $6,500 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
In his first two seasons, Howard averaged 19.7 opportunities per game. Entering the season, JoHo was expected to see a reduced per-game workload under Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, but he has 19 opportunities per game this year and probably would’ve had additional touches in Week 4 if it hadn’t been a blowout.
Peyton Barber: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) at Atlanta Falcons, 57 O/U
Through Week 5, Barber has 18.1 DraftKings points. Not per game. That’s in total. Of all the starting backs in the league, Barber without question has been the stone-cold worst. But there is some room for optimism: Barber has played 61.2% of the offensive snaps and gotten 63.6% of the backfield opportunities on a team averaging 28 points per game. No running back on the team has scored a touchdown yet, but Barber is the only Bucs back with a touch inside the 10-yard line. Eventually the Bucs will score some touchdowns on the ground instead of through the air, and when that happens, Barber will likely be the beneficiary.
Coming off the bye, the Bucs have had extra time to work on their rushing woes and to prepare for the Falcons, who are 31st in rush defense with an 11.3% DVOA and have allowed the second-most DraftKings points per game (36.4) to running backs. Each week, the Falcons defense has been a fantasy factory, allowing lead backs to get 20-plus DraftKings points.
- Jay Ajayi (Week 1): 20.2 DraftKings points, 15-62-2 rushing
- Christian McCaffrey (Week 2): 30.9 DraftKings points, 8-37-0 rushing, 14-102-0 receiving on 15 targets
- Alvin Kamara (Week 3): 37.0 DraftKings points, 16-66-0 rushing, 15-124-0 receiving on 20 targets
- Giovani Bernard (Week 4): 25.6 DraftKings points, 15-69-2 rushing, 4-27-0 receiving on four targets
- James Conner (Week 5): 37.5 DraftKings points, 21-110-2 rushing, 4-75-0 on four targets
And it’s not just that the Falcons are horrible. They’re also injured. They’ve been without middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot, IR) and free safety Keanu Neal (knee, IR) since the middle of Week 1. Strong safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles, IR) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. And defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (ankle) exited Week 4 early and is expected to sit a couple more games after missing last week.
In his nine games since becoming the lead back in Week 13 of last season, Barber has averaged 16.4 opportunities per game — and his ownership this week will be almost nonexistent. If he sees that usage … in this matchup … with his salary … and low ownership … he could have the single-game DFS performance of the year.
Barber is the No. 1 DraftKings back in the CSURAM88 Model.
Also on the Bucs:
- Ronald Jones: $3,900 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
- Jacquizz Rodgers: $3,200 DraftKings; $4,500 FanDuel
Jones saw his first NFL action in Week 4, getting 10 carries — but nine of them came after halftime once the game was well out of hand. Rodgers has played 26.5% of the snaps this season and is an established pass-catching back, but he got no offensive snaps in Week 4 and might be squeezed out of the game plan in this #RevengeGame against his former team.
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Running Back Rundown
Here’s a quick look at the remaining fantasy-relevant backs on the slate.
Joe Mixon & Mark Walton: Cincinnati Bengals (-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 52.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Running back Giovani Bernard (knee) and center Billy Price (ankle) are out.
- Mixon: $7,500 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Walton: $3,500 DraftKings; $4,700 FanDuel
Mixon is the No. 12 DraftKings back with 18.7 points per game, and he’s had 22-plus touches in every game he’s played this year. Giovani Bernard (knee, questionable) missed last week, hasn’t practiced this week and is unlikely to play on Sunday. Walton saw just 12 snaps in Week 5 and has just 40 scoreless scrimmage yards this year. Since last season (including playoffs), the Steelers defense has allowed 27.3 points and 119.6 yards rushing in 10 games without Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Ezekiel Elliott: Dallas Cowboys (+3) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 40.5 O/U
- $7,000 DraftKings; $8,100 FanDuel
As he has done for each of the past two years, Zeke leads the league in rushing yards per game (96.0), and now he leads the Cowboys with 29 targets and 22 receptions. The Jags are best attacked via the run, but they’ve still held opposing backfields to a bottom-six mark of 18.9 DraftKings points per game.
T.J. Yeldon: Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at Dallas Cowboys, 40.5 O/U
- $6,400 DraftKings; $7,100 FanDuel
Starter Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is out once again, and change-of-pace back Corey Grant (foot, IR) is also out. Since last season, Yeldon has averaged 14.6 PPR points in his six games without Fournette. Backing up Yeldon are the recently added and DFS-unsalaried David Williams and Jamaal Charles.
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring, questionable) has missed the past two games and is likely to miss this week. Under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense has held opponents to 18.9 points and 94.5 yards rushing in 39 games with a healthy Lee but has allowed 24.2 points and 112.6 yards rushing in the 30 games Lee has missed or exited early with injury.
Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman & Ito Smith: Atlanta Falcons (-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 57 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Freeman (foot) has been ruled out.
- Freeman: $6,000 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Coleman: $5,400 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Smith: $3,100 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
Freeman (foot) returned to action last week after missing three games with a knee issue, but a new injury has caused him to miss Wednesday and Thursday practice this week. He’s legitimately questionable for Sunday and seems unlikely to play. Coleman has averaged 14.2 PPR points in his six career games without Freeman. In his four games, Smith has averaged 7.5 opportunities and managed to steal five carries inside the 10-yard line. The Falcons lead all teams on the slate with their 30.25-point implied Vegas total.
Dalvin Cook & Latavius Murray: Minnesota Vikings (-10) vs. Arizona Cardinals, 43 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Cook (hamstring) is expected to play with a strict snap count.
- Cook: $5,700 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Murray: $4,700 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Cook (hamstring) has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry this year and missed Week 5 with a lingering soft-tissue injury. He’s questionable for Week 6 and almost certain to see a scaled-back workload if he plays. Murray led the backfield with 13 touches last week, and with the Vikings, he has averaged 11.9 PPR points in 14 games without Cook.
LeSean McCoy & Chris Ivory: Buffalo Bills (+10) at Houston Texans, 41 O/U
- McCoy: $5,500 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
- Ivory: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
McCoy has position-high 99% leverage scores on DraftKings and FanDuel but has more than 100 scrimmage yards in just one game and is yet to score a touchdown. Ivory has just 6.5 touches per game in McCoy’s four starts. The Texans defense is second in rush DVOA with a -33.0% mark.
Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin & Jalen Richard: Oakland Raiders (+2.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks, 48 O/U
- Lynch: $5,300 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Martin: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
- Richard: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
Lynch is top five in the league with 15 red-zone carries, and he’s facing his former team in an international #RevengeGame. He’s hit his salary-based expectations in 4-of-5 games this year. Muscle Hamster is an ornamental player yet to hit a snap rate of even 25% in any game this year. Richard is a pass-catching, game script-dependent back who hasn’t touched the ball in the first quarter.
Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack & Jordan Wilkins: Indianapolis Colts (+2.5) at New York Jets, 45.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Marlon Mack (hamstring) will play.
- Hines: $5,100 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Mack: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
- Wilkins: $3,600 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
Hines is a hurry-up, shotgun-based, volume-driven, high-percentage pass-catcher (82.9%) with little utility as a runner (3.0 yards per carry). Mack (foot, hamstring) has practiced fully for multiple days this week and is on track to play, which will likely limit Hines’ opportunities. Wilkins has gotten 6.7 carries per game over the past three weeks after averaging 12 per game in Weeks 1-2. He’s a game script-dependent thumper with 48-of-53 touches on early downs.
Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb & Duke Johnson: Cleveland Browns (+1) vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 45 O/U
- Hyde: $4,900 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Chubb: $3,700 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
- Johnson: $3,700 DraftKings; $4,800 FanDuel
If you listened to the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, you know that we like Hyde, who is second in the league with nine carries inside the 5-yard line and has 16-plus rushes in each game this season. Chubb is the back of the future, and his 3-105-2 rushing performance in Week 4 was impressive. But he’s yet to see more than three carries in any game. Johnson led all running backs with 1,741 yards receiving in his first three seasons, but he has just 91 yards on 10 receptions and 17 targets.
Javorius Allen & Alex Collins: Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) at Tennessee Titans, 41.5 O/U
- Allen: $4,800 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
- Collins: $4,600 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
The Sith Lord is a pass-catching, touchdown-stealing menace to Collins investors with 27 targets, three 1-yard scores and a backfield-leading 48.5% of snaps. Only five players have more than his five carries inside the 5-yard line. On the season, Allen has out-produced Collins, 13.3 DraftKings points per game to 10.9. Even so, Collins has averaged 16.0 opportunities per game since last year.
Lamar Miller & Alfred Blue: Houston Texans (+10) vs. Buffalo Bills, 41 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Quarterback Deshaun Watson (chest) is expected to play. He’s questionable, but his status has never been in doubt.
- Miller: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
- Blue: $4,400 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Miller (chest) missed Week 5, but he practiced fully on Thursday and seems probable to play. He’s averaged 14.6 DraftKings points in his seven games with the high-flying triumvirate of the Michael Jordan of fantasy football and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Blue had 28 touches last week in Miller’s absence and is a threat for double-digit and goal-line touches.
Dion Lewis & Derrick Henry: Tennessee Titans (+2.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens, 41.5 O/U
- Lewis: $4,700 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
- Henry: $4,000 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
The Titans are the most run-heavy team in the league with a 47.7% rush rate, but the Ravens have held opposing backfields to a bottom-two mark of 14.7 DraftKings points per game. Lewis leads the backfield with a 61.9% share of snaps, but he and Henry have both had exactly 41 opportunities over the past three weeks.
Kenyan Drake & Frank Gore: Miami Dolphins (+3.5) vs. Chicago Bears, 41.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/14): Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) is questionable but tentatively expected to play. He practiced fully on Wednesday and Thursday but was limited on Friday.
- Drake: $4,600 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Gore: $3,700 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
The Dolphins play at a league-slow pace of 30.54 seconds/play, and Drake has more targets (17) than carries (14) over the past three weeks. As a runner, Gore has overtaken Drake, getting more carries (47-39) and yards rushing (202-153) to this point in the season. The Dolphins could be without three starting linemen — left tackle Laremy Tunsil (concussion, questionable), left guard Josh Sitton (shoulder, IR) and center Daniel Kilgore (triceps, IR) — and the Bears have held running backs to a league-low 12.1 DraftKings points per game.
Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman & Devontae Booker: Denver Broncos (+7) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 52 O/U
- Phillip Lindsay: $4,500 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
- Royce Freeman: $3,900 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
- Devontae Booker: $3,800 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
Lindsay is the league’s second-most north/south runner with a 3.0 Efficiency Rating. Freeman has a position-high 98% DraftKings Bargain Rating but has faced boxes with 8-plus defenders on a league-high 51.0% of his carries (Next Gen Stats). Booker has just 24 touches this year and is yet to play even 40% of the offensive snaps in any game.
Chris Carson, Mike Davis & Rashaad Penny: Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) at Oakland Raiders, 48 O/U
- Carson: $4,400 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Davis: $4,100 DraftKings; $5,700 FanDuel
- Penny: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
Carson and Davis each have 12+ carries over their past two games and collectively have combined for 450 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage since Week 3. The first-rounder Penny played exactly one snap last week — on special teams. Since 2012, the London game has an 11-5 over/under record, and the favored team has hit its implied Vegas total in an outstanding 12-of-16 games.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 6 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.
Photo credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured above: Todd Gurley