In this piece, I highlight quarterbacks 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 as the projections change. For updates, visit the models directly.
Finally, make sure to check out all the projections available for purchase within the FantasyLabs Models. Subscribers now have the option to purchase Derek Carty’s THE BLITZ from our Marketplace. Projections from One Week Season and Establish the Run are available if you’re a subscriber to those specific sites (our optimizer is a separate add-on feature).
You can also combine them to create your own aggregate projections:
Top NFL DFS Running Back Picks in the FantasyLabs Models
On DraftKings, there are three running backs near the top of the individual Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Cash Game, and Tournament Player Models.
- Christian McCaffrey
- Tony Pollard
- Joe Mixon
We’ll discuss why these three are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other running backs.
Top Model NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Christian McCaffrey ($9,200 DraftKings, $9,700 FanDuel): San Francisco 49ers (-14) at Arizona Cardinals (44.5 total)
Christian McCaffrey is a model of efficiency and consistency in the running back position. He’s seen between 23 and 27 opportunities and scored between 22.9 and 28.9 DraftKings points in all three games. He’s also found the end zone in 12 straight games. This feels like absurd efficiency that can’t continue, but underestimating Kyle Shanahan and McCaffrey is not recommended.
Arizona has allowed over 125 yards per game to opposing running backs this year. McCaffrey is a two-touchdown favorite this weekend and boasts the highest ceiling projection by over two points. It’s hard to poke any holes in him here.
He’s the top back in our Tournament Model.
Tony Pollard ($7,800 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel): Dallas Cowboys (-6.5) vs. New England Patriots (43.5 total)
I talked about McCaffrey’s big workload, but he’s actually seen fewer opportunities than Tony Pollard. Pollard has seen 17, 33, and 26 opportunities through three games. Those 17 opportunities came in a 40-0 drubbing of the Giants where he wasn’t needed.
He hasn’t ripped off many big explosive plays yet, which has been his trademark. Regardless of that, he still hasn’t had fewer than 18.1 DraftKings points in a game. New England hasn’t allowed much explosiveness, but Pollard should be fed touches in this spot. If they’re going to see similar ownership, I might actually prefer Pollard to McCaffrey this weekend. Obviously, the $1,400 savings helps, but it’s similar volume at a far cheaper price.
He’s the top back in Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon’s Pro Model.
Joe Mixon ($6,400 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Tennessee Titans (41 total)
The Bengals offense has been in rough shape to start the year, which has hurt Joe Mixon. He saw 21 opportunities and found the end zone last week but only mustered 14 DraftKings points. He’s never been a very efficient back, but his usage has been strong this year. He’s seen 18, 18, and 21 opportunities through three weeks.
Mixon is the next back set to face off against the Titans’ stout run defense. They’ve allowed just 2.7 yards per carry to opposing backs on the year. He also didn’t get much done in this matchup last year, carrying the ball 19 times for 76 yards. Samaje Perine caught four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown in that matchup, and Perine is now in Denver.
Mixon’s usage through the air gives him more avenues to reach value, but it’s hard to expect a ceiling performance. His inefficiency, coupled with the matchup, makes me bearish on him in tournaments.
However, he’s the top back in our Cash Game Model.
Other Notable NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Rhamondre Stevenson ($6,200 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): New England Patriots (+6.5) at Dallas Cowboys (43.5 total)
Rhamondre Stevenson conceded some ground game work to Ezekiel Elliott last week, but he still had 23 opportunities. He’s been very inefficient to start the year, but 23, 18, and 18 opportunities are nothing to scoff at. Especially at the running back position, volume trumps all.
He’ll be overlooked in the mid-range this week, as Kyren Williams (see below) will soak up a ton of ownership. Arizona’s subpar offense was able to muster 113 yards on 21 carries last week. Dallas’ defense is mighty, but they’ve proven they can be beaten. I think Stevenson makes for a great tournament pivot in the mid-tier this weekend.
Kyren Williams ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (+1) at Indianapolis Colts (46 total)
The Rams haven’t been able to get much going on the ground to start the year, but Kyren Williams‘ role is still elite. He has 39 carries and 19 targets through three games, good for 19.33 opportunities per game. That’s elite-level usage, and it’s coming both on the ground and through the air.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like Williams’ efficiency will be improved here. Indianapolis has allowed just 3.1 yards per carry to opposing backs on the year. However, as we’ve seen before, volume trumps all. Williams is a strong play in all formats this week but likely should be your first click in cash games.
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My Favorite NFL DFS Runningback Leverage Pick(s)
Josh Jacobs ($7,100 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Las Vegas Raiders (+5.5) at Los Angeles Chargers (49 total)
Josh Jacobs‘ usage has been very strong through three weeks. He has 55 of 64 backfield touches on the year but hasn’t had the efficiency. He’s averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on the year, which is the lowest of his career.
This is a spot for the efficiency to spike, as targeting running backs against Los Angeles is a staple of DFS. The Chargers haven’t been as horrid against running backs as they usually are, allowing just 4.3 yards per carry on the year. However, Tennessee and Minnesota backs have both eclipsed 150 total yards against them in the past two weeks.
Especially with Jimmy Garoppolo banged up or out, Las Vegas may look to lean on the run. Davante Adams is projecting as one of the highest-owned options of the weekend, making Jacobs a prime leverage target. He’s a very strong option in tournaments this weekend.