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.
- Saquon Barkley
- Jamaal Williams
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
Saquon Barkley ($8,000 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): New York Giants (-3) vs. Chicago Bears (39.5 total)
After fighting through knee and ankle injuries the past two years, Saquon Barkley is back and better than ever. He’s been a monster when it comes to usage, handling 66 of 76 backfield touches for the Giants and running a league-high 92 routes run as a running back. Barkley is explosive, and the volume is there.
He’s also continued to be leaned on in the passing game, with 15 targets through three games, with at least four in every game. With the combination of ground game and passing game work, Barkley is basically a shoo-in for 20 touches each week. Teams have tried to sell out and stop the run, but Barkley has been able to rip off some big ones, with a 68-yard touchdown run in Week 1 and a 36-yard run last week.
Barkley gets an appetizing matchup this week, as the Bears have given up 4.86 yards per carry on the year, allowing 345 yards on the ground to opposing backs. Dameon Pierce ran for 80 yards on the Bears last week, while the Packers’ dynamic duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon touched them up as well. Jones had 132 yards on the ground on 15 carries, while Dillon reached 61 yards on 18 carries. These three backs also combined for 65 yards and a touchdown on six catches.
Barkley leads our Cash Game Model, and leads Sean Koerner’s Pro Model as well.
Jamaal Williams ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Detroit Lions (-3.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks (47.5 total)
With D’Andre Swift sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Jamaal Williams looks to carry the load and lead this Detroit backfield. Williams parlayed 22 touches into 107 yards and two touchdowns last week, playing on a season-high 45% of snaps. Craig Reynolds mixed in for 17% of the snaps, and it’s likely he carves into Williams’ role this week.
There were three games last year in which Swift missed or was forced out due to injury, in which Williams had 20, 18, and 19 touches. He accrued 83, 80, and 77 yards in these three games. Williams wasn’t hyper-efficient, but his volume alone allowed him to rack up a solid yardage total.
This spot sets up nicely for Williams as a home favorite against Seattle, who’s given up 5.1 yards per carry this year. Seattle has given up production through the air to opposing backs also, giving up 18 catches through three weeks, which is seventh-most in the league. Swift has taken most of the pass work out of the backfield for Detroit this year, but Williams has gotten looks, with five targets through three games.
Williams looks like an amazing option in cash games, and he also leads our Tournament Model this week.
He also leads Chris Raybon’s Pro Model, as well as the runaway leader in Projected Plus/Minus.
Other Notable NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Jonathan Taylor ($8,800 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel): Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) vs. Tennessee Titans (43 total)
After a stellar 30.5 DraftKings point performance to start the year, Taylor has racked up 19.4 total DraftKings points in his last two games. Taylor also missed practice on Wednesday due to a toe injury but was able to practice fully on Thursday. These past two weeks have been frustrating, but he has had strong usage numbers. He’s handling 75% of the backfield touches and has run a route on 58.1% of team dropbacks on the year.
Tennessee has been a feast or famine defense in the run department this year. They’ve given up five or more yards on only 32.9% of carries, which is sixth best in the league. However, 20.5% have gone for 10 or more yards, which is dead last. From a macro perspective, Tennessee is giving up 6.1 yards per carry, which is last in the league.
Taylor looks like an appetizing option in DFS this week, and his ownership should stay in check after two down weeks.
Nick Chubb ($7,900 DraftKings, $9,200 FanDuel): Cleveland Browns (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons (47 total)
Nick Chubb has been a monster to start the year, with over at least 20 touches and 100 yards in all three games. He hasn’t seen much passing game usage, with only four catches on the year. This is how it goes in Cleveland though, as Chubb does his work in positive game scripts while Kareem Hunt seems to benefit from negative game scripts. It’s another solid script for Chubb, as Cleveland is favored in Atlanta.
The Falcons have been middle of the pack against opposing packs, giving up 4.49 yards per carry. However, each team they’ve played (Saints, Rams, Seahawks) has struggled to run the ball in every other matchup they’ve had. Cleveland is the top rushing offense in the league, and Chubb is the league leader in rushing yards.
Chubb is slightly touchdown dependent since he doesn’t catch passes, but that should be no problem against a middling Atlanta defense.
Khalil Herbert ($5,700 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Chicago Bears (+3) at New York Giants (39.5 total)
With David Montgomery out this weekend, Khalil Herbert is squarely in play. Montgomery left last week’s matchup after merely 11 snaps after injuring his ankle and knee. Herbert had a monster game, racking up 169 total yards on 22 touches and punching in two touchdowns. In all five games since 2021 where Montgomery has been injured or left early, Herbert has handled 18+ touches in all five. The Giants have gotten torched on the ground, allowing 5.57 yards per carry on the year.
We’d feel better about Herbert’s outlook if Chicago had a higher implied team total or if they weren’t a road underdog. However, his price is simply too cheap for his projected role. It might be an ugly, low-scoring game on Sunday, but Herbert should reach value on volume alone.
If he is efficient with his touches, watch out.