The 2018 NFL season rolls on, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.1 points per game per team. We could be in for another week of high scores with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m. ET.
With four teams on bye, two at Wembley Stadium and six in prime-time games, we are without the following running backs:
- Thursday Night Football: Broncos (Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman) at Cardinals (David Johnson)
- International Series (London): Titans (Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry) vs. Chargers (Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler)
- Sunday Night Football: Bengals (Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard) at Chiefs (Kareem Hunt)
- Monday Night Football: Giants (Saquon Barkley) at Falcons (Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith)
- Byes: Packers (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery); Raiders (Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard); Steelers (Le’Veon Bell, James Conner); Seahawks (Chris Carson, Mike Davis)
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 three 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.
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Highest-Priced Running Backs
This week, there are four backs at the top of the salary scale.
- Todd Gurley: $9,800 DraftKings; $10,200 FanDuel
- Alvin Kamara: $8,500 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel
- Ezekiel Elliott: $8,100 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel
- Christian McCaffrey: $7,700 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) at San Francisco 49ers, 52 Over/Under
Ever since head coach Sean McVay joined the Rams, Gurley has easily been the best running back in football, leading the position with 28.5 DraftKings points per game, a +8.35 Plus/Minus and 2,963 yards and 30 touchdowns from scrimmage. Gurley has an 86.8% 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 or more opportunities, a threshold he’s hit in every game in the McVay era.
Last week, Gurley was one of the most-rostered backs on the slate, sporting an ownership rate in excess of 20% in every major guaranteed prize pool, and after he put up 39.5 DraftKings points on a career-best 208-yard rushing performance, we’re projecting him to be the slate’s most popular back, which makes sense: Gurley is the only back who is yet to have fewer than 25.0 DraftKings points in any game this season.
Gurley led the league (in 15 games) with 37 opportunities inside the 10-yard line last season, and he’s on pace to shatter that mark in 2018. Through six games, he has 26 carries and five targets inside the 10, and that doesn’t take into account his two successful two-point conversions in Week 2. With Gurley’s goal-line opportunities and scoring prowess, it’s not a surprise that he leads all non-quarterbacks with his +600 odds to win the 2018 MVP award.
While most players tend to struggle on the road, Gurley has significant reverse home/away splits under McVay.
- Home (10 games): 22.8 DraftKings points, 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 (11 games): 32.6 DraftKings points, 107.6 yards and 1.18 touchdowns rushing, 50.9 yards and 0.55 touchdowns receiving on 4.2 receptions and 5.6 targets
The sample isn’t large, but Gurley’s +12.31 DraftKings Plus/Minus as a visitor is outstanding.
Historically, road teams have been profitable against the spread in division games (744-670-44), and that trend has applied to both favorites and underdogs. On top of that, the Rams have seen their road games turn into shootouts under McVay with an 8-3-0 over/under record overall and a 4-0-0 record within the division (per Bet Labs). It’s less than ideal for the Rams to be playing their third consecutive game on the road, but they should still be able to put up points.
It helps that Gurley has a great matchup against the 49ers, who have allowed performances of 10+ DraftKings points to eight running backs in six games. In his four career games against the 49ers, he’s averaged 106 yards and 1.25 touchdowns from scrimmage per game. As a big favorite, Gurley could benefit from a run-heavy game script. The Rams will be without wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee), who leads the team and is top-10 in the league with seven targets inside the 10, so it’s possible that Gurley could see even more usage than he normally does near the end zone.
On Sunday morning, I might look to bet the over on Gurley’s rushing yardage prop, which this season has been anywhere from 87.5 to 94.5. The 49ers have the league’s worst overall defense grade (54.7) from Pro Football Focus and second-worst PFF tackling grade (38.1). If Gurley gets 18 carries — and so far this season he’s averaging 21.5 per game — I like his chances to get 95-plus yards.
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 137-64-4, which is good for a 67% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
The Rams lead all teams with their 31.25-point implied Vegas total, and this game has the slate’s highest over/under. It’s also the only matchup with two top-10 teams in situation-neutral pace.
With his high usage, three-down ability and multi-touchdown upside, Gurley is a game script-independent potential GPP winner. Gurley has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models, and he leads all backs with 10 Pro Trends on DraftKings and 17 on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 back in every Pro Model except for one (Freedman).
Alvin Kamara: New Orleans Saints (+2.5) at Baltimore Ravens, 49.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Left guard Andrus Peat (concussion) is out. Without him, the offensive line play could suffer.
In my mind, this is an outright stay-away spot, except maybe for GPPs. The Ravens have held running backs to a league-worst 13.4 DraftKings points per game, and Kamara is coming off a Week 5 performance in which he had just nine touches — the fewest he’s had in a non-injury game since Week 3 of last season, when he got just five while playing behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson.
If his last game is indicative of what we’ll see moving forward, Kamara is still behind Ingram on the depth chart.
Kamara is still more than capable of putting up points on a committee, but in his 15 post-Peterson games with Ingram (including the 2017 playoffs), he’s been significantly out-touched by Ingram and radically less productive than he was when he had the backfield to himself in the first month of the 2018 season.
- Kamara without Ingram & Peterson (four games): 36.3 DraftKings points, 14 carries, 11.8 targets, 8.8 receptions, 152.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns from scrimmage
- Kamara with Ingram, without Peterson (15 games): 20.7 DraftKings points, 8.8 carries, 5.7 targets, 4.6 receptions, 100.1 yards and 0.87 touchdowns from scrimmage
- Ingram with Kamara, without Peterson (15 games): 18.5 DraftKings points, 14.9 carries, 3.6 targets, 3.1 receptions, 92.1 yards and 0.93 touchdowns from scrimmage
Even though Ingram has historically had the edge in usage, Kamara clearly has the ability to be the more productive of the two — but at his current salary he’s tough to stomach, especially considering the following:
- Kamara’s Week 5 usage doesn’t suggest that he’ll have a larger share of the committee work this season.
- He’s been significantly less efficient this season (4.8 yards per carry, 9.2 yards per reception) than he was last season, when he led the league with his 6.1 yards per carry and trailed only Gurley among three-down backs with his 10.2 yards per reception.
If Kamara is less of a big-play producer and is likely to see only eight to 12 touches in any given game, can he really be trusted? In Week 5, Ingram (suspension) had three carries inside the 10-yard line, converting them to two touchdowns in his first game back. Kamara didn’t get any goal-line work.
Kamara has a position-high 98% Bargain Rating on FanDuel, so if you want tournament exposure to him, that might be the place to get it. But he will be a hard player to trust until his salary and workload are commensurate with each other.
Also on the Saints:
- Mark Ingram: $5,900 DraftKings; $7,400 FanDuel
After opening his career with three middling seasons, Ingram has been the No. 12 fantasy running back since 2014 with his 16.9 DraftKings points, 14.5 carries, 3.9 targets, 3.2 receptions, 90.7 yards and 0.67 touchdowns per game. He’s always gotten his opportunity and production within the confines of a committee.
As his totally typical 18-touch, 73-yard and two-touchdown Week 5 performance makes clear, he’s not likely to lose a significant portion of his usage any time soon.
Ezekiel Elliott: Dallas Cowboys (+1.5) at Washington Redskins, 41.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): The spread has moved to -2 Cowboys.
Only Gurley (150) has more touches this season than Zeke’s 140. And like Gurley, Elliott is a non-injury lock to get 18-plus opportunities per game. Since he entered the league in 2016, Zeke is the only back to average more than 100 yards per game with his 103.2 mark. While Gurley has easily been the more productive player of the two this season (31.0 vs. 21.7), Zeke has dominated a higher percentage of his team’s touches with his league-leading 50.4% usage market share (vs. 47.3).
On one hand, Elliott has a good matchup this week against the Redskins, who have the league’s second-worst PFF run-defense grade (62.6). On the other hand, like Dak Prescott, Zeke is on the wrong side of his career-long home/away (22.6 DraftKings points vs. 21.0), favorite/underdog (22.0 vs. 21.2) and non-division/division (23.6 vs. 17.9) splits. While the first two splits are minor, Zeke’s divisional performance is troublesome, and as a divisional visitor (16.0, -4.76 Plus/Minus) or divisional dog (7.85, -11.16 Plus/Minus), he has significantly suffered.
While Zeke’s receiving workload (30 targets) is likely to provide some insulation from a game script-based letdown, it’s cause for concern that as his receiving usage has increased each season, his effectiveness has decreased (per RotoViz Screener):
- 2016: 2.7 targets per game, 0.48 receiving success rate
- 2017: 3.8 targets per game, 0.27 receiving success rate
- 2018: 5.0 targets per game, 0.24 receiving success rate
While the Redskins are 30th against the run with a 3.0% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, they are still ninth in pass DVOA against running backs (-20.0%). Zeke seems likely to approach his usual allotment of touches, and he could have success against the Redskins, but his division-based history suggests that he could struggle.
Christian McCaffrey: Carolina Panthers (+5) at Philadelphia Eagles, 45 O/U
Any concerns there might have been at the beginning of the season 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
- Week 6 (at Washington): 13.6 DraftKings points, -6.02 Plus/Minus, 8-20-0 rushing, 7-46-0 receiving on eight targets
Even though McCaffrey is coming off his first negative Plus/Minus performance of the season, has seen variable game-to-game usage and owns only one touchdown, he’s still the No. 8 fantasy back with 20.7 DraftKings points per game. Last season, he scored at a 3.6% per-touch rate.
Whenever his 2018 rate of 0.95% progresses to the mean, McCaffrey could be a GPP winner.
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: 4.9 yards per carry, 0.55 first-down rushing success rate
- 2017: 3.7 yards per carry, 0.49 first-down rushing success rate
The Eagles have a solid run defense with tackles Fletcher Cox and Haloti Ngata along with edge rushers Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett on the line and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks behind them, but they were just destroyed by Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who turned 13 carries and 12 targets into 40.9 DraftKings points last week.
If McCaffrey were to get 13 carries and 12 targets, he’d have a real shot to score the most fantasy points on the week.
For tournaments, use our Lineup Builder to stack McCaffrey with quarterback Cam Newton. Since 2014, No. 1 backs on average have had a 0.37 correlation with their quarterbacks. With Newton, McCaffrey has had a robust 0.81 correlation on account of his receiving prowess: He leads the team with 40 targets, 34 receptions and 235 yards after the catch.
Model Running Backs
Besides Gurley, there are three 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.
- T.J. Yeldon: $6,400 DraftKings; $6,800 FanDuel
- Carlos Hyde: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Peyton Barber: $3,800 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
T.J. Yeldon: Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) vs. Houston Texans, 41.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is out for Week 7. Running back Carlos Hyde is unlikely to play this weekend after being acquired on Friday.
UPDATE (10/19): The Browns have traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars for a 2019 fifth-round pick. It’s doubtful that he will play this weekend, and if he does, he will likely have a small role. His addition to the team suggests that starter Leonard Fournette (hamstring) could miss significant time this season with his soft-tissue injury.
Starting running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) hasn’t practiced or played in more than two weeks. He has already been ruled out for Sunday. Yeldon has been a viable producer without Fournette over the past two seasons, averaging 14.3 DraftKings, 8.9 carries, 5.4 targets, 3.9 receptions, 83.4 yards and 0.28 touchdowns per game. With change-of-pace back Corey Grant (foot, IR) also out, the only backs on the roster behind Yeldon are the recently signed Jamaal Charles and recently promoted David Williams.
Yeldon is in a decent spot as a significant home favorite, but the Texans have a funnel defense that is second in rush DVOA (-32.2%) and 22nd in pass DVOA (12.8%). Additionally, in Fournette’s absence, the Jags have tended to become a more pass-happy team, and they’ve also scored fewer points.
- With Fournette (15 games): 33.6 pass attempts, 31.5 rush attempts, 24.9 points
- Without Fournette (seven games): 37.1 pass attempts, 27.6 rush attempts, 21.9 points
Without Fournette, the Jags could struggle on offense. They have crashed without him over the past two weeks (10.5 points per game), and they could also rely more on quarterback Blake Bortles. On top of that, Yeldon (foot, ankle) missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. While Yeldon still seems likely to play this weekend, it’s possible that his injury as well as the game plan/script could push touches to other players.
Still, Yeldon has the potential for 15 touches as a home favorite. And under head coach Doug Marrone, Yeldon has averaged a healthy 4.9 targets per game. All five backs to whom the Texans have allowed 5+ targets this season have scored 12+ DraftKings points. In fact, they are the only backs to have double-digit points against the Texans, collectively averaging 18.9 DraftKings points per game with a +5.99 Plus/Minus. If Yeldon sees steady work as a receiver, he could provide value.
Yeldon is the No. 1 FanDuel back in the Freedman Model.
Also on the Jaguars:
- Leonard Fournette: $6,000 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Jamaal Charles: $3,000 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
Dating back to his final year of college, Fournette has missed five, three and four games (and counting) since 2016. It’s possible the Jags could hold him out until after the Week 9 bye in an attempt to get him fully healthy.
If Yeldon is forced to sit Week 7, Charles would be an intriguing option. He was the only back besides Yeldon to see work last week, and in his Kansas City heyday (2009-15), he averaged 4.4 targets per game. While a knee injury cut short his 2015-16 campaigns, he had backfield-high marks in Denver last season with his 4.3 yards per carry and 0.48 rushing success rate.
Carlos Hyde: Cleveland Browns (+3.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 50.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/19): The Browns have traded Hyde to the Jaguars for a 2019 fifth-round pick. In his absence, 2018 second-round selection Nick Chubb becomes a must-play cash-game option with an excellent chance of earning 18 or more touches in his first start. Change-of-pace back Duke Johnson could also see a few additional touches, which makes him viable as a strategic leverage play on Chubb, who will almost certainly lead the entire slate with a sky-high ownership rate.
Hyde is pretty much a nonentity as a pass-catcher (1.0 receptions per game), but he’s third in the league with 19.0 carries per game and tied for second with 10 carries inside the 5-yard line. He has a touchdown in 4-of-6 games. And now he’s facing a Bucs team that has allowed a league-high 34.6 points per game to opponents, just fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith and watched its top run-stopper in six-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (calf, questionable) miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday after exiting Week 6 early with an injury.
In five games this season, the Bucs have allowed 12 or more opportunities to seven different running backs. Collectively, they’ve averaged 19.6 DraftKings points per game with a +7.57 Plus/Minus. In every game, the Bucs have allowed at least one back to score double-digit fantasy points. In 3-of-5 games, they’ve allowed multiple touchdowns to backs. The Bucs are yet to allow any given runner to hit even 70 yards rushing, and Hyde isn’t the most efficient of runners (3.4 yards per carry this year, 4.0 for his career), but it’s not hard to imagine an 18-72-2 rushing line with maybe a couple of receptions for 10 yards. The Bucs have allowed a top-eight mark of 30.3 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields.
Because of his low ownership and high ceiling projections, Hyde has a position-high 99% leverage score on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 back in the CSURAM88, Levitan, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
Also on the Browns:
- Duke Johnson: $4,000 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
- Nick Chubb: $3,600 DraftKings; $4,800 FanDuel
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’s yet to have more than six touches in a game this year.
Peyton Barber: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) vs. Cleveland Browns, 50.5 O/U
Barber entered Week 6 with 18.1 DraftKings points. Not per game. In total. And then he scored 20.6 DraftKings points with a 17-touch, 106-yard, one-touchdown performance. In the words of Sherlock Holmes: “That, my dear Watson, is progression.” (Side note: Don’t quote me quoting Sherlock.)
Of all the starting backs in the league, Barber has easily been one of the stone-cold worst. But there is room for optimism, and not just because he had a big game last week. Barber has played 61.4% of the offensive snaps and gotten 67.0% of the backfield opportunities on a team that’s averaging 28.2 points per game. Barber is the only Bucs back with a touchdown or even a touch inside the 10-yard line. In his 10 games since becoming the lead back in Week 13 of last season, Barber has averaged 16.5 opportunities per game, and as was the case last week, his ownership will be low.
The Browns have allowed a top-eight mark of 30.6 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields. In fact, they’ve allowed 12-plus DraftKings points to at least one back each week. Collectively, the lead backs for each team to face them have averaged 23.8 DraftKings points per game with a +10.23 DraftKings Plus/Minus. Unsurprisingly, the Browns are dead last with a 55.4 PFF run-defense grade.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, PFF’s Jeff Ratcliffe mentioned Barber as one of his potential cash-game running backs for the week.
Barber leads the position with a 99% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he’s still the cheapest starting back on the slate and the highest-rated option in the Bales, Koerner and Raybon Models.
Running Back Rundown
Here’s a quick look at the remaining fantasy-relevant backs on the slate.
James White & Sony Michel: New England Patriots (-3) at Chicago Bears, 49 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/ankle) did not travel with the team to Chicago. He is officially questionable but fully expected not to play. Right tackle Marcus Cannon (concussion) is out. Michel (knee) is questionable but expected to play.
- White: $6,900 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
- Michel: $5,500 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
White and Michel are both high-workload backs. After struggling in Weeks 1-3, the Patriots offense found its form in Weeks 4-6, averaging 39.7 points per game. In such an offense, White and Michel offer strong value. White has averaged 17.9 DraftKings points per game since 2016 when he’s gotten double-digit opportunities in quarterback Tom Brady’s starts (including playoffs). White has gotten 10+ opportunities in 5-of-6 games this year.
Michel doesn’t offer much in the receiving game, but the elite-pedigree first-round rookie has impressed, especially over the past three weeks, averaging 21.3 DraftKings points per game in that span on the strength of 109.3 yards and 1.33 touchdowns from scrimmage on 22.6 touches. He’s top-five in the league with 14 carries inside the 10-yard line.
Chris Thompson & Adrian Peterson: Washington Redskins (-1.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys, 41.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) is out. Wide receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) is doubtful and expected to sit out. Running back Chris Thompson (ribs) is questionable but expected to play.
- Thompson: $5,800 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Peterson: $4,600 DraftKings; $6,900 FanDuel
Thompson (ribs) missed Week 6 but has practiced in a limited fashion this week and is tentatively expected to play. Even though he sat against the Panthers, he’s still tied for first on the team with 31 targets and leads all Redskins with 26 receptions. Of all the backs to average at least 4 targets per game since 2016, Thompson has a cohort-high 0.5 fantasy points over expectation per target. Dating back to last season, he is the No. 11 fantasy back with 15.8 DraftKings points per game and a +4.52 Plus/Minus.
Peterson (ankle/shoulder) is also dealing with injuries but is expected to play this week. In the midst of a renaissance campaign, Peterson is averaging 95 yards and 0.6 touchdowns from scrimmage per game, but he’s been a highly game script-dependent player. In victory, he has 20.1 DraftKings points per game with a +10.22 Plus/Minus. In defeat, 7.1 and -4.48.
Dalvin Cook & Latavius Murray: Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) at New York Jets, 46 O/U
UPDATE (10/19): Cook (hamstring) has been ruled out.
- Cook: $5,700 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Murray: $5,000 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
Cook (hamstring) has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry this season and missed three games with a lingering soft-tissue injury. After practicing in full on Wednesday, he failed to practice at all on Thursday, which doesn’t bode well for his Week 7 prospects. He’s officially questionable and almost certain to see a scaled-back workload if he does play.
In Cook’s absence over the past two weeks, Murray has led the backfield with 19 touches for 107 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. With the Vikings, he has averaged 12.6 points per game in PPR scoring in 15 games without Cook.
LeSean McCoy & Chris Ivory: Buffalo Bills (+7) at Indianapolis Colts, 43 O/U
- McCoy: $5,600 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
- Ivory: $3,800 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
After doing little in Weeks 1, 2 and 4 and missing Week 3, McCoy has been a passable version of himself, averaging 101 scrimmage yards on 20 carries and four targets per game. He’s yet to score a touchdown, but with veteran quarterback Derek Anderson taking over as the starter — Josh Allen (elbow) has been ruled out and Nathan Peterman (interceptions) has been deemed incompetent — the Bills offense might manage to score more than the league-worst 12.7 points per game it has averaged so far.
Ivory is a competent backup and injury fill-in, but he has just 6.6 touches per game in McCoy’s four starts.
Jordan Howard & Tarik Cohen: Chicago Bears (+3) vs. New England Patriots, 49 O/U
- Howard: $5,500 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
- Cohen: $5,100 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
Cohen saw just 6.5 touches for 33 scoreless-yards per game in Weeks 1 and 2, but has since averaged 13.3 touches for 121 yards, 0.67 touchdowns, 22.4 DraftKings points per game and a +13.50 Plus/Minus. Those numbers are certainly noisy with the vicissitudes of big-play randomness, but his enhanced usage augurs well for the future. Averaging five targets per game, Cohen could have a big game against the Patriots, who over the past two weeks have been slashed by pass-catching backs Nyheim Hines and Kareem Hunt (24.3 DraftKings points per game).
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 Matt Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, but he has 18.2 opportunities per game this season, which doesn’t represent a drastic usage downgrade. It is worrisome that he had just 14 touches for 69 scoreless yards (and a fumble) last week, but he also had three carries inside the 10-yard line.
Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Kyle Juszczyk & Raheem Mostert: San Francisco 49ers (-9.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 52 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Breida (shoulder, ankle) was not on the final practice report and will play.
- Breida: $5,300 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
- Morris: $4,600 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Juszczyk: $3,900 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
- Mostert: $3,300 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
Breida (shoulder, ankle) was a surprise Week 6 active, but he still managed to lead the Niners with 14 carries. For the season, he has a team-high 74 touches, 520 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns and is the clear lead back in a committee when healthy. He’s practiced on a limited basis this week and is tentatively expected to play.
In Week 6, Morris was outright Dooku-ed by the Sidious-esque Kyle Shanahan, who learned the running back-discarding ways of the farce from his previous master, Sith Lord Mike. [Yes, “farce.”] After averaging 14.4 opportunities per game in Weeks 1-5, Morris played an insulting “less than zero” one snap last week. He leads the team and is top-eight in the league with nine carries inside the 10-yard line and six carries inside the 5 — but it’s kind of hard to get goal-line carries when Anakin Skywalker has double-lightsabered your head off.
Juicy has averaged 3.8 targets per game for 2.8 receptions and 38.8 yards in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s eight starts with the 49ers. In backup C.J. Beathard’s three starts this season, Juicy has averaged 4.3 targets for 3.7 receptions and 40 yards per game. The change at quarterback doesn’t seem to have hurt the pass-catching fullback.
After entering the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent and bouncing for years, spending time with six different franchises before joining the 49ers, Mostert had six touches in Week 5 then 12 in Week 6, converting them into 96 yards. Replacing Morris in the committee, Mostert is now Darth Shanny’s new backfield apprentice.
Kenyan Drake & Frank Gore: Miami Dolphins (+3) vs. Detroit Lions, 46.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) is out for Week 7. Backup Brock Osweiler will start.
- Drake: $4,900 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Gore: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Although Drake started the season as the lead back with 32 total touches in Weeks 1 and 2, he has lost significant volume to Gore over the past month, who has averaged 12 opportunities per game since Week 3. At this point, Gore is the runner while Drake is a souped-up receiving back, seeing almost as many targets (5.8) as carries (6.8) per game over the last month. This week — even though the Dolphins are without left guard Josh Sitton (shoulder, IR) and center Daniel Kilgore (triceps, IR) — Drake and Gore both might be able to produce against the Lions, who have allowed a top-five mark of 32.9 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields. Gore has been the league’s most north/south runner this season with a 3.04 Efficiency Rating (Next Gen Stats).
Alex Collins & Javorius Allen: Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) vs. New Orleans Saints, 49.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Left guard Alex Lewis (neck) has been ruled out and right tackle James Hurst (back) is questionable and should be considered a game-time decision. Without them, the team’s run blocking could suffer.
- Collins: $4,800 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Allen: $4,500 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
Collins is coming off a season-best 17.4-point DraftKings performance, but this might be a better week to roster Allen, who has a backfield-high 30 targets and 46.6% snap rate (not to mention three 1-yard scores). Collins has averaged 16.1 opportunities per game with the Ravens, but he’s not the receiver Allen is. Plus, Collins has faced boxes with eight-plus defenders on a slate-high 43.4% of his carries (Next Gen Stats).
The Saints are first in run defense with a -36.5% DVOA but 29th in pass defense against running backs (37.0% DVOA) and 30th in pass defense overall (35.8%). As regards opposing backfields, the Saints have an aerial funnel.
Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood & Darren Sproles: Philadelphia Eagles (-5) vs. Carolina Panthers, 45 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Left tackle Jason Peters (biceps) and right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) will both play. Running back Darren Sproles (hamstring) is out.
- Clement: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
- Smallwood: $4,100 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
- Sproles: $4,000 DraftKings; $4,500 FanDuel
In their two games this season without Jay Ajayi (knee, IR), Clement has averaged 13.5 carries and 3.5 targets while Smallwood has averaged 14 and 3.5. It’s impossible to predict how their opportunities will be split from week to week. Of all qualified backs, Smallwood and Clement have faced boxes with eight-plus defenders on the lowest and second-lowest percentage of their carries (4.65% and 5.26%, Next Gen Stats). The Eagles have done an excellent job at putting their backs in position to succeed when giving them rushing attempts.
Sproles (hamstring) has missed the past five games and did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He’s officially questionable, but seems unlikely to play.
Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick & LeGarrette Blount: Detroit Lions (-3) at Miami Dolphins, 46.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Running back Theo Riddick (knee) is out.
- Johnson: $4,500 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Riddick: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
- Blount: $3,700 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Kerryon is the 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the most talented back on the team. He’s yet to play even 50% of the snaps in a game, but over his past four games he’s had 55 touches for 317 yards and a touchdown. Over that same period, Blount has 46 touches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Kerryon is unlikely to steal goal-line work from the big-bodied veteran, who had four carries inside the 10-yard line just last week, but Johnson is emerging from the Week 6 bye as the clear lead back.
Riddick (knee) is yet to practice this week and is legitimately questionable to play. If he sits, Johnson is likely see extra work in the receiving game.
Isaiah Crowell & Bilal Powell: New York Jets (+3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings, 46 O/U
UPDATE (10/20): Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (ankle) is out. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (groin) is doubtful and expected not to play. Running back Isaiah Crowell (foot) is questionable but expected to play.
- Crowell: $4,400 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Powell: $4,200 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Crowell is hard to trust due to his radical scoring splits this season: He has 25.8 DraftKings points per game with a touchdown and 4.80 without one. He has a lot of downside, but there aren’t many backs who have his upside at almost no ownership. Powell has actually out-touched (85-78) and out-snapped (194-158) Crowell, and he’s second on the Jets with 428 yards from scrimmage, but he has just four scoreless yards on 11 red-zone opportunities.
Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Robert Turbin & Jordan Wilkins: Indianapolis Colts (-7) vs. Buffalo Bills, 43 O/U
- Mack: $4,400 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Hines: $4,300 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
- Turbin: $3,500 DraftKings; $4,500 FanDuel
- Wilkins: $3,400 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
Mack returned to action last week after missing the previous three games with foot and hamstring injuries. He paced the backfield with an impressive 89 yards on 12 carries and looks like the locked-in lead back. With Mack’s return, Hines has been relegated to low-usage role. In his four games without Mack, Hines has averaged 7.3 carries and 8.5 targets per game; with Mack, Hines has averaged 3.5 and 2. Hines will probably average more than 5.5 opportunities per game moving forward, but Mack’s presence renders Hines unplayable.
Turbin (shoulder) suffered an injury in Week 6 and exited the game early. He didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday and is unlikely to play this weekend. In his absence, Wilkins will likely grace the offense with a few inefficient carries.
Lamar Miller & Alfred Blue: Houston Texans (+4.5) Jacksonville Jaguars, 41.5 O/U
- Miller: $4,200 DraftKings; $5,700 FanDuel
- Blue: $3,700 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
Miller missed Week 5, but he saw 18 opportunities in Week 6 and is likely to see similar usage moving forward. He has 14-plus touches in every game he’s played this season and has averaged 13.9 DraftKings points in his eight games with the high-flying triumvirate of quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
Blue had 28 touches in Week 5 as the lead back, but in Miller’s starts, Blue has averaged seven carries and 1.4 targets per game.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 7 positional breakdowns.
• Wide Receivers (on Friday)
• Tight Ends (on Saturday)
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
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