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.

And just like that: Week 17 is here. Thus far, the Rams, Chiefs, Eagles, and Cowboys starters are tentatively expected to either rest or play limited snaps in Week 17. Be sure to stay on top of who is motivated in Week 17, and as always, check out our Vegas line and Market Share breakdowns to stay on top of Vegas and workload-related trends heading into Sunday.

Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is for the 16-game DraftKings and FanDuel main slates.

The Mil’LeVeon Falcon

Rams head coach Sean McVay confirmed Todd Gurley will be resting on the bench Sunday, leaving one man atop the pricing totem pole across the industry:

  • Le’Veon Bell ($10,000 DraftKings, $9,500 FanDuel)

Bell isn’t quite in the clear either, as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the team’s decision to rest starters could “go to the 11th hour.” Right tackle Marcus Gilbert said both Bell and Ben Roethlisberger will rest Sunday, but that has yet to be confirmed by any prominent reporter or coach. Be sure to monitor our News Feed to stay on top of all DFS-relevant workload, injury, and weather concerns.

Half RB Half WR

Bell worked as the Steelers’ WR1 with Antonio Brown (calf, doubtful) sidelined on Christmas Day, a role he’s more-or-less filled for the better part of the last two months. Overall, he joins Jarvis Landry as the only players to catch at least five passes in every game since Week 10. Bell is one of just 11 players to rack up 60-plus targets during that stretch and one of just three backs to see at least 125 carries. While his workload could be curtailed with the Steelers’ playoff situation relatively clear, Bell is still set up about as well as possible due to his status as a double-digit home favorite.

The Browns’ third-ranked defense in rush DVOA has managed to give up fewer than 100 rushing yards in all but five games this season, although they join the Packers as the league’s biggest-fantasy frauds when it comes to DVOA rank vs. DraftKings points per game (PPG) allowed to running backs rank. Bell’s gargantuan workload and consistent status as one of the best players on the field makes him a weekly cash game lock. Still, there’s an argument for limited exposure in GPPs, as he’s only surpassed his salary-based expectation in three of his 13 career games with a DraftKings salary of at least $9,500. He’s carried a hefty average ownership of 28.3 percent in those contests (per our Trends Tool).

Another factor not working in Bell’s favor is the potential absence of center Maurkice Pouncey (hip, questionable). Be sure to monitor our Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation and estimated game statuses for all fantasy-relevant players. Also check out our Ownership Dashboard shortly after lock to see if Bell’s elevated salary and potential for limited work leads to reduced ownership at various contest sizes.

Up the Gut

Ezekiel Elliott ($8,700 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel): Elliott’s long-awaited return in Week 16 netted 118 total yards and zero touchdowns on 28 touches. The Cowboys have been eliminated from playoff contention, but head coach Jason Garrett has been adamant that the team will move forward and play all healthy players – despite owner Jerry Jones indicating younger players would receive more reps. Either way, all-world left tackle Tyron Smith (knee/back, out) won’t suit up after playing just three snaps last week before re-aggravating his knee injury. Smith’s absence has historically been terrible news for the offense:

  • Cowboys with Smith since 2016 (25 games): 26.9 PPG, 369 total yards, 30+ points in 44% of games.
  • Cowboys without Smith since 2016 (6 games): 16 PPG, 301.8 total yards, 30+ points in 17% of games.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hasn’t indicated he’ll rest any defensive starters. Zeke and company will potentially be forced to face the Eagles’ fourth-ranked defense in rush DVOA that has allowed the fewest DraftKings PPG to opposing running back units this season.

LeSean McCoy ($8,000 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Shady was able to overcome his quarterback’s severe home/away splits against the Patriots last week thanks to his never-ending supply of fantasy-friendly touches. McCoy’s 14 targets inside the 20-yard line are the third-most among all running backs, while he’s one of just nine backs with double-digit carries inside the five-yard line. The Bills’ 28th-ranked offensive line in adjusted-line yards has struggled to control the trenches all season, racking up the fourth-highest percentage of runs stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage – bad news against the Dolphins’ fifth-ranked defensive line in creating those very stops.

Melvin Gordon ($7,400 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel): Gordon has racked up more touches than anyone except Bell since the Chargers’ Week 10 bye, and he expressed optimism he’d be able to suit up Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Backup pass-catching RB Austin Ekeler is stuck on special teams due to a broken hand, so Gordon is locked in as a three-down workhorse on an offense with the week’s fourth-highest implied total if he’s able to suit up. Branden Oliver would immediately slide in as a three-down value play if Gordon is ultimately sidelined. The run game has a good matchup against the Raiders’ 23rd-ranked defensive line in adjusted-line yards that has allowed four backs to surpass 25 DraftKings points this season. Gordon holds the highest projected ceiling/floor combo in our Pro Models among all running backs other than Bell.

Kenyan Drake ($7,200 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel): Drake’s status as one of the slate’s workhorse three-down backs is in serious jeopardy if Damien Williams (shoulder, questionable) is able to suit up. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen admitted last Thursday that the Dolphins have “probably run Drake more than they would prefer with Williams out.” During Williams’ four-week absence, all Drake has done is convert an average of 22.8 touches into 126 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. Drake caught fewer than three passes for the first time during the aforementioned stretch last week in Arrowhead against the Chiefs’ third-ranked defense in DVOA vs. pass-catching running backs, but he’s set up much better this week at home against the Bills’ 30th-ranked defense in rush DVOA that comes in at 19th against pass-catching backs.

Leonard Fournette ($7,100 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel): Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has been adamant that his starters would play this week, exclaiming, “We’re going to play to win and we’re going to do everything possible to win this game, period.” Still, it’s hard to believe Fournette will receive a full load considering he’s dealt with lower body injuries all season and the Jaguars can’t move up in the playoff race. His matchup against the Titans’ playoff-hungry/seventh-ranked defense in rush DVOA is also less than ideal. Only Gurley has managed to eclipse 100 rushing yards on the Titans this season. Be sure to utilize our Matchups tool to break down each week’s battles at the line of scrimmage.

Dion Lewis ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Lewis is shaping up to work as the Patriots’ no-questions asked RB1 Sunday. Rex Burkhead (knee, questionable) and Mike Gillislee (knee, questionable) haven’t practiced all week and James White (ankle, questionable) is yet to practice in full after not playing last Sunday after a week of limited practices. Lewis had only received more than 15 carries in two of his 52 career games going into last week’s game, but the Patriots fed him 24 rushes and a season-high five targets. He accordingly converted this massive workload into 153 total yards and two touchdowns, demonstrating the ceiling of a shifty three-down back behind the league’s No. 1 offensive line in adjusted line yards:

Lewis is projected to be among the chalkiest backs in Sunday’s slate, but it’s warranted considering his status as a 16.5-point home favorite against a Jets defense that could be without defensive line stalwarts Leonard Williams (back, questionable) and Mo Wilkerson (coach’s decision, questionable).

Christian McCaffrey ($6,700 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel) and Jonathan Stewart ($3,500 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): McCaffrey joins Alvin Kamara as the only rookie running back to ever post 75-plus receptions and five-plus reception touchdowns as a rookie (although Kamara has been much more effective with the workload). Meanwhile, Stewart followed up his 103-yard three-touchdown performance in Week 14 by converting his last 18 carries into 46 yards and zero touchdowns. Cam Newton has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in five of his last six games against the Falcons, but carries a high weekly floor thanks to his average of 13 carries per game over the past three weeks. Per our Correlations Dashboard, the average correlation between a quarterback and their RB1 this season has been a middling 0.08. Newton and McCaffrey’s fantasy production has a strong +0.36 correlation since the beginning of this season, which makes sense given the running back’s huge pass-game role. Consider using our Lineup Builder to stack Newton with McCaffrey on Sunday.

C.J. Anderson ($6,000 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): The Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy after a 20-17 loss at home against the Bengals in Week 11. After Devontae Booker and Anderson combined to convert 11 carries into 23 yards the following week against the Raiders, interim coordinator Bill Musgrave handed the keys of the offense to Anderson:

  • Anderson Weeks 1-12: 13.1 rush att, 1.8 targets, 63.3 total yards, 9.5 DraftKings PPG, -2.2 Plus/Minus
  • Anderson Weeks 13-16: 20.8 rush att, 4.8 targets, 118.5 total yards, 17.9 DraftKings PPG, +8.6 Plus/Minus

It’d behoove the Broncos to continue feeding Anderson with Paxton Lynch (ankle, probable) expected to make his fourth-career start against the Chiefs’ 31st-ranked defense in rush DVOA. Anderson is especially in play on DraftKings, where he’s the only running back priced over $5,000 with a Bargain Rating over 80 percent.

Jordan Howard ($5,800 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): Howard has posted two-touchdown performances in two of his last three games. Still, his recent four-game cake walk against the 49ers, Bengals, Lions, and Browns will be upended by a trip to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings’ No. 1 overall defense in overall DVOA. Only Ameer Abdullah has managed to surpass even 45 rushing yards inside U.S. Bank Stadium this season. Howard’s outlook isn’t helped by the potential absences of right tackle Bobby Massie (knee, questionable) and guard Josh Sitton (ankle, questionable) in addition to guard Kyle Long (shoulder, IR). The Bears’ current implied total of 13.25 points is tied for the lowest mark in Week 17.

Devonta Freeman ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel) and Tevin Coleman ($4,800 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): Freeman’s workload has come back to earth with Coleman’s return, and four fumbles (one lost) over the past three weeks won’t help keep the league’s highest-paid running back on the field. Coleman’s upside remains capped without more than 10 touches per game. Those carries haven’t been as fruitful in the league’s 15th-highest scoring offense as they were in last season’s record-breaking unit. Both have a very tough matchup against the Panthers’ sixth-ranked defense in rush DVOA, although Freeman’s season-low price tag on DraftKings is enticing given projected ownership of just 2-4 percent.

Alex Collins ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): Collins has worked as Baltimore’s featured back since their Week 10 bye, as his 99 carries are the 12th most among all backs over the past six weeks. Collins has averaged 4.2 targets per game since Danny Woodhead‘s return and Buck Allen‘s 11 red-zone carries over the past four weeks are still dwarfed by Collins’ 16-such carries. The Ravens are currently double-digit home favorites against a Bengals defense that could be without difference-making linebacker Vontaze Burfict (shoulder, questionable) – PFF’s No. 11 overall linebacker. The Bengals have allowed an additional 3.2 PPG in 16 games with Burfict sidelined since 2014.

Carlos Hyde ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): The 49ers offense has been a revelation with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, as he’s produced three of the team’s top-five point totals of the season in his first four starts. Still, this has produced more bad than good as far as Hyde’s fantasy prospects are concerned:

  • Hyde in Weeks 1-12: 14.3 rushes, 6.6 targets, 2.2 red-zone rushes, 15.4 DraftKings PPG, +2.0 Plus/Minus
  • Hyde in Weeks 13-16: 17 rushes, 2.8 targets, 3.8 red-zone rushes, 11.4 DraftKings PPG, -1.5 Plus/Minus

Hyde hasn’t been able to replicate his same early-season production without an additional four checkdowns per game from C.J. Beathard or Brian Hoyer. Still, his $4,900 price tag comes with a 93 percent Bargain Rating and +4.56 Projected Plus/Minus, signaling Hyde is too cheap despite flaws in his new role.

Derrick Henry ($5,500 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel) and DeMarco Murray ($4,500 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): It’s been a long two years, but Henry is finally expected to work as the Titans’ featured back for their season-defining matchup against the Jaguars. Murray has a third-degree MCL sprain and is expected to be limited even if he’s ultimately able to suit up Sunday. Henry has averaged an additional 0.9 yards per carry this season compared to Murray, while racking up more broken tackles, runs of 15-plus yards, and games with 100-plus rushing yards than that Titans’ “No. 1″ back. Henry is projected to be one of the highest-owned backs across the industry, but for good reason: What other 6’3” 245-pound human is capable of this?

Latavius Murray ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel) and Jerick McKinnon ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): McKinnon’s rushing role has grown smaller in recent weeks, as he’s failed to rack up double-digit carries in a game after reaching that threshold in Weeks 5-12. Murray’s average of 3.7 yards per carry is far from ideal, but he’s racked up at least 15 carries in all but one game since Week 6. Both backs are set up well against a Bears defense that has struggled to slow down opposing offenses away from Chicago under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and head coach John Fox:

  • Bears defense on the road since 2015: 25 PPG, 352 total yards, 8 RBs surpassed 20 DraftKings points
  • At home since 2015: 21.6 PPG, 323 total yards, 4 RBs surpassed 20 DraftKings points

Murray is set up well this week as a 13-point home favorite, although McKinnon still holds value against a Bears defense that has him and five other running backs to rack up at least six receptions in a game this season.

Marshawn Lynch ($4,400 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel): Lynch has surprisingly gotten stronger as the season has gone on, averaging 4.6 yards per carry since the team’s Week 10 bye compared to just 3.8 yards per carry in Weeks 1-9. He’ll look to exploit the Chargers’ 27th-ranked defense in rush DVOA, a prospect that will be much easier if stud linebacker Denzel Perryman (hamstring, questionable) is ultimately unable to suit up. The Chargers have allowed an additional 4.3 points and 26.6 rushing yards per game without four quarters from Perryman this season. Still, game flow isn’t likely to work in Lynch’s favor given the Raiders’ status as an eight-point road dog.

Malcolm Brown ($3,900 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): With Gurley set to rest Sunday, Brown will take over as the Rams starting running back. He’s racked up double-digit carries in three blowouts this season, but has never received a true shot at featured-back duties. Standing 5’11” 225 pounds, Brown has good size and agility (6.86-second 3-cone drill), but his projection is filled with unknown entities considering he’s running behind a backup-filled offensive line with Sean Mannion making his first career start under center. The surging 49ers have allowed fewer than 95 rushing yards in each of their five games since their Week 11 bye, largely thanks to stud rookie Reuben Foster (stinger, questionable) – PFF’s No. 4 overall linebacker. Brown is still a value with his reduced price tag across the industry, but we shouldn’t expect him to benefit from Gurley’s usual abundance of carries inside the five-yard line, or very many targets considering the presence of pass-down back Lance Dunbar.

The Model Running Backs

There are several running backs atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), with the following three backs standing out among multiple models:

  • Jamaal Williams ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel)
  • Mark Ingram ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel) and Alvin Kamara ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel)

Williams’ status as one of the week’s best values is dependent on Aaron Jones (knee, questionable) not suiting up, which seems likely given his absence at practice all week. Although Brett Hundley has demonstrated (twice) that his scoring floor under center is zero, Williams has thrived in his four games with Jones soaking up fewer than 15 percent of the offense’s snaps:

  • Williams Weeks 11-14: 15 carries, 1.0 red-zone carries, 1.3 targets, 54 total yards, 0 TDs
  • Williams Week 10, 15-16: 18.8 carries, 3.8 red-zone carries, 5.3 targets, 117.8 total yards, 1.3 TDs

The absence of starting right tackle Jason Spriggs (knee, IR) won’t help matters, but the Packers’ fifth-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards remains capable of controlling the Lions’ unimposing 27th-ranked defensive line. Overall, the Lions defense ranks among the bottom-five units in DraftKings PPG, Plus/Minus, and Consistency Rating allowed to opposing running back units this season. Williams has the highest projected ceiling/floor combo among all running backs priced under $6,500 on DraftKings.

Boom and Zoom have taken the league by storm, thanks in large part to incredulous receiving usage. They make up two of just five backs with at least 12 targets inside the 20-yard line this season, with Kamara proving especially adept at dusting linebackers on option routes. Kamara has the higher projected floor among the pair thanks to a receiving workload that’s produced at least five receptions in nine of his last 11 full games. Ingram has the higher projected ceiling due in part to his 13 carries and eight touchdowns inside the five-yard line – the fifth- and second-highest marks among all running backs this season, respectively.

Awaiting the Saints running backs is a Buccaneers defense that allowed Kamara to rack up 32.2 DraftKings points in Week 9, but limited Ingram to just 8.9. The league’s 28th-ranked defense in overall DVOA hasn’t been particularly stout against anything opposing offenses have thrown their way, but the presence of linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy – PFF’s No. 2 overall linebacker and No. 8 overall interior defender – certainly make controlling the line of scrimmage against this front seven easier said than done. The Saints’ fourth-ranked scoring offense is more than capable of overcoming a few talented defenders, but left tackle Terron Armstead (thigh, questionable) is a crucial part of the team’s second-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards. Ingram and Kamara are the only running backs priced over $6,000 on DraftKings with a Bargain Rating above 20 percent.

Positional Breakdowns & Tools

Be sure to research the running backs for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 16 positional breakdowns:

• Quarterbacks
• Wide Receivers
• Tight Ends

Good luck this week!

News Updates

After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed.

Photo via Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports