In this piece, I highlight running backs who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections (powered by Sean Koerner), player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
Top NFL DFS Running Back Picks in the FantasyLabs Models
On DraftKings, there are two running backs who rank near the top of the individual Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Cash Game, and Tournament Player Models.
- Dalvin Cook (Tournament)
- Leonard Fournette (Koerner, Raybon, Cash)
We’ll discuss why these are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other running backs.
Top Model NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Dalvin Cook ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel): Minnesota Vikings (-6) vs. Detroit Lions (52.5 total)
Dalvin Cook was quickly scripted out of Minnesota’s blowout loss to Philadelphia on Monday night. He had 10 total touches and was only able to muster 7.6 DraftKings. As six-point home favorites, Cook should be in for a far greater workload. Cook saw 23 touches in Week 1’s defeat of Green Bay, and we could see a similar number if the game script stays in Cook’s favor.
The Lions have given up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in the entire league. Eagles’ running backs posted 116 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in Week 1. Detroit kept Washington in check on the ground last week but gave up nine catches for 67 yards through the air to J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson. Gibson also punched in a score on the ground.
We’ve seen running backs trample this Detroit team before, as Alexander Mattison, Rashaad Penny, and Aaron Jones went for 30.3, 35.5, and 41.5 DraftKings points respectively against them in 2021. Minnesota will likely lean on Cook in this positive game script.
Cook leads our Tournament Model on DraftKings.
Leonard Fournette ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (42 total)
Leonard Fournette simply appears to be mispriced. He’s handled 49 total touches through two games and has seen his price drop each week. Fournette’s workload is dependable, even dating back to last season. He had 15+ touches in 13 of 15 games and had 3+ receptions in 14 of 15, including 5+ receptions in eight of 15 games.
Despite lots of hype coming into this year, this Green Bay defense looks like the same unit we’ve seen in years past. They have a talented secondary and a dynamic pass-rushing trio of Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, and Preston Smith. However, they continuously get gashed by opposing backs, as they prefer to use lighter boxes and limit big plays (although Justin Jefferson would disagree with this “limit big plays” style of defense.
Minnesota running backs totaled 126 rushing yards on 28 carries in Week 1, while Chicago backs racked up 160 yards on 19 carries. Green Bay was also touched up through the air, giving up 7 catches for 41 yards through the first two games.
With Chris Godwin and Mike Evans set to miss this matchup and Julio Jones banged up, Brady and the Bucs will probably look to feed Fournette on the ground and through the air. Fournette is currently questionable with a hamstring injury, but we’ve seen him play consistently after being listed on the injury report (see last week). The injuries to Tampa Bay’s offensive line are worrisome as well, but volume trumps all, and we expect Fournette to post a great performance.
Fournette leads two of our Pro Models, as well as our Cash Game model this week.
Other Notable NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Jonathan Taylor ($9,000 DraftKings, $9,400 FanDuel): Indianapolis Colts (+5.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (50.5 total)
Jonathan Taylor may be a tough click this week as a near-touchdown underdog to the 2-0 Chiefs. We just saw Taylor get game-scripted out of last week’s matchup with Jacksonville, and something similar could be on the horizon if this game goes the same way. His nine carries were his lowest in a game dating back to last season. In their home opener, a borderline must-win game, it’s likely the Colts lean on their workhorse and pull out everything they’ve got to win this game. The Chiefs defense doesn’t instill fear into you, and Taylor could certainly rip off some big runs against this defense.
Taylor is too risky to play in cash games, but at low ownership, he’ll make a lot of sense in tournaments. He’s a good piece in game stacks with Mahomes, as Taylor can rip off big plays and speed the game up.
David Montgomery ($5,900 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel): Chicago Bears (-3) vs. Houston Texans (39 total)
David Montgomery has been the leader of Chicago’s rushing attack, with 32 attempts through two games. Justin Fields has out-carried Montgomery in the red zone (6 to 4) which is slightly worrisome and takes away from Montgomery’s touchdown upside. The touch floor is definitely there for Montgomery, as he’s seen 15+ attempts in each game and has six targets through two games.
Through the first two games, opposing backs have ravaged the Houston defense, gaining 367 yards through just two contests. Montgomery out-snapped backup Khalil Herbert 33 to 8, showing his stranglehold over the backfield. Montgomery will be owned but looks like a good play this weekend.
Miles Sanders ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at Washington Commanders (47.5 total)
Miles Sanders has 30 carries through the first two games and has been one of the most efficient runners in the league. He ranks fourth in rush yards over expected per carry and seventh in yards after contact. Sanders has also been seeing a little pass-game usage, with five targets through two games. Washington has given up the seventh-most DraftKings points to opposing running backs.
Sanders has been the lead back by a wide margin in this backfield, playing on 52.5% of the snaps on the year, with Kenneth Gainwell at 28% and Boston Scott at 19.5%. As nearly a touchdown favorite, this is shaping up as a great spot for Miles Sanders.