The Running Back Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
Week 11: It’s here and about as uninspiring as Weeks 8-10 were. The Panthers, Jets, 49ers, and Colts are on bye. The Titans and Steelers (Thursday night) and Falcons and Seahawks (Monday night) are also absent from the main slate, as are the Cowboys and Eagles (Sunday night) on DraftKings. In the words of Fletcher Reede, “I’ve had better.” At least this is the last of the bye weeks, thank the fantasy gawds.
Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 11-game DraftKings and 12-game FanDuel main slates.
The Big Two
Without Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott, the top of the running back salary scale is occupied by just two players.
- Todd Gurley ($8,100 DraftKings, $9,100 FanDuel)
- Leonard Fournette ($8,400 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel)
Bang a gong.
The Best Running Back in Los Angeles
The Rams lead the league with a +9.22 Vegas Plus/Minus and are in the running for a playoff bye at 7-2, but even so they are +2.5 road underdogs against the Vikings, who are also 7-2 and have held opposing teams below their implied Vegas totals in six of nine games. Gurley has a tough matchup: The Vikings are fifth against the run in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) and also seventh in pass DVOA against running backs. In total, they’ve held opposing backfields to the second-fewest fantasy points with 18.5 DraftKings and 15.6 FanDuel points per game (PPG). The Vikings run defense especially excels at limiting big plays, allowing only two rushes of 20-plus yards this year and ranking second and fourth with just 0.26 open-field yards and 0.91 second-level yards allowed per run. Whatever production Gurley gets will be hard-earned.
But even with a tough matchup Gurley is still in play, especially in guaranteed prize pools. Gurley leads the league with 1,160 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage and is top-three on the Rams with 48 targets, 35 receptions, 406 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. The Rams are second in the NFL with a 48.2 percent rushing rate, and Gurley is first with 12 rush attempts inside the five-yard line. Regardless of game script, Gurley will get his touches. Gurley this year has been a revelation with 24.4 opportunities per game, 5.3 yards per opportunity, and a 4.55 percent touchdown rate; last year those numbers were 21, 3.6, and 1.8. The big difference with Gurley this year isn’t volume; it’s efficiency. Thanks to new head coach Sean McVay, improved quarterback play, and an overhauled offensive line — as well as some understandable progression (5.1 yards per opportunity in 2015) — Gurley has rediscovered the Pro-Bowl form he had as a rookie. Playing on 78.0 percent of the snaps, Gurley has 100-yard, multi-touchdown upside even if he isn’t efficient against the Vikings. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Gurley with quarterback Jared Goff if you want tournament exposure to the Rams: Gurley and Goff have 0.58 and 0.64 correlation coefficients on DraftKings and FanDuel. Gurley has the position’s highest ceiling and floor projections in our Models.
Zeke the Second
After exiting Week 6 with an ankle injury, sitting out Week 7, taking a bye in Week 8, and missing Week 9 with a surprise suspension, Fournette had his anticipated return in Week 10 and totally disappointed with 46 yards on 17 carries and four targets. As bad as Fournette’s ‘production’ was, what’s more disturbing is that the Jags used a pass-heavy approach against a Chargers defense ranked ninth in pass DVOA and 26th in rush DVOA. The Jags are still first with a 50.3 percent rushing rate and could get back to their running ways as -7.5 road favorites against the Browns, but that’s not a certainty, as the Browns have a funnel defense ranked second against the rush and 27th against the pass in DVOA: Amazingly, the Jags could choose to rely on quarterback Blake Bortles for the second week in a row, especially since Fournette is reportedly still dealing with the lingering effects of his ankle injury.
Here’s the question: Does any of that matter? Last year, when Zeke entered a game as a big favorite, he was always in consideration. Fournette is this year’s Zeke. Overdrafted with the No. 4 pick to serve as the lead back on a defense-driven ball-control team, Fournette has 778 yards and seven touchdowns on 147 carries and 17 receptions in seven games. Fournette is averaging 20.83 DraftKings and 18.33 FanDuel PPG. Last year through seven games Zeke averaged 21.56 and 18.63. Fournette has a tough matchup, but he shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. He warrants guaranteed prize pool exposure every time he plays: He’s Zeke II.
Up the Gut
Mark Ingram ($8,100 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel) and Alvin Kamara ($7,500 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Discussed early and often on the Week 11 Daily Fantasy Flex, Ingram and Kamara are potential chalk locks. The Saints are implied for 29.25 points as -7.5 favorites, and the backs get the benefit of playing at the Coors Field of fantasy football. The Saints are fifth with a 47.3 percent rushing rate, and their offensive line is first with 5.37 adjusted line yards per carry. Ingram and Kamara have been running incredibly hot since the team traded away Adrian Peterson and returned from the Week 5 bye, collectively averaging 44.98 DraftKings and 37.98 FanDuel PPG. Over the last five weeks, Ingram has 569 yards and seven touchdowns; Kamara, 560 and four. There are worst stacks in the world than an Ingram-Kamara pairing. They lead the position with eight Pro Trends on DraftKings and 15 and 13 Pro Trends on FanDuel, where they’re also first among all backs with 98 percent Bargain Ratings.
Kareem Hunt ($8,000 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel): The Chiefs are implied for 27.75 points as -10.5 favorites, so Hunt seems to be in a good spot, but there a number of red flags. Sharp money has driven the spread down from -13.5, and the Chiefs are on the road. Additionally, Hunt has experienced massive regression. After looking like the greatest rookie running back of all time in his first four games (7.4 yards per carry, 659 scrimmage yards, six touchdowns), Kareem has been mediocre in the five games since (3.4 yards per carry, 472 scrimmage yards, zero touchdowns). Still, it’s hard to throw shade at a guy who is second with 1,131 scrimmage yards and has been getting 21.3 opportunities per game. Coming off a bye, Hunt will have high ownership against the Giants, who are 27th in rush DVOA and have allowed a league-high 10 runs of at least 20-plus yards.
Joe Mixon ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel): Mixon has 15.7 opportunities per game since Bill Lazor became offensive coordinator. He also has a road matchup against an angry Broncos defense that is still first in rush DVOA.
Lamar Miller ($5,000 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Considering that Tom Savage is still the starting quarterback for the Texans, the Natalie Imbruglia of fantasy football is in a decent spot. The Texans are -1.0 home favorites against a Cardinals team starting its third-string quarterback, and Miller has averaged 15 opportunities per game in Savage’s three outings.
Ameer Abdullah ($4,200 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel): The Lions are -3.0 favorites, but they’re on the road against a divisional opponent, and they have the worst run-blocking offensive line in the league (2.92 adjusted line yards per carry).
Alex Collins ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel) and Javorius Allen ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): The Ravens are -2.0 road favorites and have the NFL’s sixth-best run-blocking offensive line (4.44 adjusted line yards per carry). Collins is due for some eventual touchdown progression with no scores on 96 touches, and Allen — who leads the team with 50 targets and 39 receptions — has the potential to exploit a Packers defense ranked 25th in pass DVOA against backs.
Jamaal Williams ($4,900 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): With Ty Montgomery (ribs) unlikely to play and Aaron Jones (knee) definitely out, Williams is likely to get at least 12 touches and probably closer to 18 as the lead back for the Packers. Given that the Packers have averaged 16.75 PPG in four games with Brett Hundley at quarterback, Williams’ touches might not be worth much against a Ravens defense that is third in DVOA.
Alfred Morris ($4,500 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel): I was going to write something snarky about ALF and how the Eagles defensive line is first in the league with 2.33 adjusted line yards allowed per carry — but then I remembered that the Cowboys are +3.5 dogs and playing only on the FanDuel main slate.
Adrian Peterson ($6,000 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel): In his four games with the Cardinals, Peterson has an obscene 92.2 percent of the non-quarterback carries. As long as the Cardinals aren’t double-digit losers, Peterson seems likely to get at least 18 touches.
Isaiah Crowell ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel) and Duke Johnson ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,600 FanDuel): The Browns are implied for a slate-low 14.75 points as +7.5 underdogs against the Jags, whose defense is first in DVOA. The Browns have a tough matchup, but at least they’re at home, and the way to attack the Jags defense is on the ground, where they’re 30th in rush DVOA. Even though the Browns are 0-9 and 31st with 15.9 PPG they’re still giving Crowell 13.1 carries and three targets per game. Crowell has six carries inside the 10-yard line over his last two games, and he still has room for touchdown progression, as his 2017 rate of 1.70 percent is well short of his 2014-16 mark of 3.58. With fewer than five targets in only one game this year, Duke is also in play as an “I’m not scared to die” contrarian option.
Jerick McKinnon ($5,700 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel) and Latavius Murray ($4,000 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel): In the five games since Dalvin Cook (knee) suffered a season-ending injury, McKinnon has turned 14 carries and 5.4 targets into 94.2 yards, 4.4 receptions, and 0.8 touchdowns per game. While those numbers are good, McKinnon hasn’t fully established himself as the workhorse, as Murray has earned 17 touches per contest. McKinnon has potential, but his upside is capped by Murray, who leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings. The Vikings are -2.5 home favorites against the Rams.
Jordan Howard ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): With handmaid Mitchell Trubisky serving as the conduit through which the ball gets from the center to the running back, Howard has averaged 24 opportunities per game in Trubisky’s five starts. The Bears are ‘only’ +3.0 dogs, and they’re at home in a game that’s expected to have freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and windy (14 mph) weather.
LeSean McCoy ($7,800 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Shady has 85 yards on 23 touches over the last two weeks, during which time the Bills have averaged 15.5 PPG. They just benched Konami Code quarterback Tyrod Taylor for fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman: The offense could suffer even if McCoy enjoys a higher usage rate. In the event that Peterman is an offensive catalyst, McCoy could crush. McCoy’s rushing efficiency is down (3.8 yards per carry; 5.4 last year) as is his scoring (three touchdowns; 14 in 15 games last year), but he is getting more per-game opportunities (23.2; 19.4 last year) and should progress toward his 3.49 percent 2015-16 touchdown rate: He has 11 carries inside the 10-yard line. The Bills are fourth with a 47.6 percent rush rate, and the Chargers have allowed top-four fantasy marks of 27.2 DraftKings and 22.9 FanDuel PPG to opposing running backs.
The Model Running Backs
There are three running backs atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek).
- Melvin Gordon ($7,600 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel)
- Rex Burkhead ($3,600 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel)
- James White ($4,700 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel)
Not since LenDale White (3.8 yards per carry, 22 touchdowns) pretended to care about football have we seen the combination of substandard efficiency (3.7 yards per carry) and scoring inflation (20 touchdowns) that Gordon has displayed in his first three years, and now he’s losing touches to the undrafted small school superstar Austin Ekeler ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel), who has an efficient 184 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries and 10 receptions over the last three games. With Gordon’s poor Week 10 outing (42 yards on 21 touches) and Ekeler’s emergence, Gordon could have reduced ownership, which makes him a potential pivot play. Even with his inefficiency, there’s a lot to like about MG3 this week: Since the beginning of last season he has 105.4 yards and 0.95 touchdowns per game (minus an injury-shortened, eight-snap Week 14 last year). The Chargers are -4.5 home favorites against the Bills, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs with 29.7 DraftKings and 25.9 FanDuel PPG. Given that the Bills have also allowed a league-high 14 rushing touchdowns, the Chargers have the slate’s highest rushing points expectation. Gordon is the highest-rated FanDuel back in the Levitan Model.
The Patriots backfield is almost always a riddle wrapped in a matchup inside a hoodie, but with the inactivation of Mike Gillislee last week Burkhead has seemingly become the top back in the New England committee. Dion Lewis ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel) is still getting his touches with 53 carries (six inside the 10-yard line) over the last four games, but last week Burkhead seized control of the backfield, leading it with a 51.4 percent snap share and showing off his three-down skill set (10 carries, three receptions). Bigger than Lewis, more athletic than Gillislee, and more versatile than both, Burkhead is likely to get his touches against a Raiders defense ranked 24th in rush DVOA and 28th in pass DVOA against running backs. White’s playing time seems less certain — he has set season-low marks for snaps played each week since Burkhead returned from his rib injury — but White is a dynamic receiver who would be especially useful in a shootout, which could happen: The Patriots-Raiders game has a slate-high total of 53.5 points. In White’s 24 games with quarterback Tom Brady since last season (including playoffs), White has averaged 12.74 DraftKings and 10.43 FanDuel PPG. White’s not as safe as Burkhead is, but the Pats lead the slate with an implied total of 30.25 points, giving White plenty of GPP appeal. White is the highest-rated FanDuel back in the Bales, CSURAM88, and SportsGeek Models. Burkhead is tied for first among running backs with eight Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the consensus top-rated back.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the running backs for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 11 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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