Daily Fantasy Football Running Back Primer: Week 2
When building daily fantasy football lineups, tackling the running back position first is a great way to kick off your research process. Due to the volume of the position, you'll typically find less variance at running back compared to their counterparts at wide receivers and tight end, and unlike quarterbacks, you can roster up to three backs in any given FanDuel lineup. Figuring out your favorite core plays is important for establishing a foundation in both cash games and tournaments.
With that in mind, let's start building that core! In this piece, we'll go through the top overall plays at various price points on FanDuel's main slate every week. Then, we'll follow that up by taking a look at the riskier or lower-owned guys you might want to target in tournaments.
Studs of the Week
Saquon Barkley ($9,200) and Alvin Kamara ($8,700): We kick off things with the two highest-priced backs of the slate, and it's of little surprise that Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara rank in the top three in numberFire's Week 2 running back projections (the other being Ezekiel Elliott).
Barkley only managed 15.9 FanDuel points in a loss to Dallas last week, but he once again proved his usage is game-script independent, logging 80% of the snaps with 11 rushes and 6 targets. He was incredibly efficient with those carries, amassing 120 yards rushing, and among backs with double-digit rushes in Week 1, he boasted both the highest Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry (0.64) and highest Rushing Success Rate (72.7%). Had Barkley punched it in on one of his four red zone carries, we would be looking at more than 20 FanDuel points.
In the passing game, he turned his six targets into four receptions and another 19 yards. That target share was good for only 13.3%, but Barkley garnered a 21.1% share last season, and that was with Odell Beckham playing in 12 games. Now Sterling Shepard (concussion) and Cody Latimer (calf) are dealing with injuries, so the Giants might need Barkley in the passing game more than ever against the Bills, which could result in a monster workload.
Meanwhile, Kamara could be involved in a shootout with the Rams (51.5 game total), leaving him with loads of scoring potential. He saw plenty of the field in a Week 1 thriller against Houston (76% snap rate) and notched 20 touches off 13 rushes and 7 catches (8 targets).
The presence of Latavius Murray (six rushes, three targets) will steal away opportunities here and there, and Murray did notch New Orleans' lone rushing touchdown last week, but seeing as he only saw 27% of the snaps, he shouldn't put too much of a dent in Kamara's upside. The Rams were just numberFire's 23rd-ranked rushing defense in 2018, and they allowed a massive day from Christian McCaffrey in Week 1 (37.9 FanDuel points).
As for Elliott ($8,500), he should theoretically produce as a 5.5-point road favorite against Washington, but as noted last week, his volume remains a concern after holding out all summer. He saw just 54% of the snaps and logged the same number of carries (13) as Tony Pollard. Elliott did add two targets to his ledger, but overall, it was an underwhelming split workload in a positive game script.
We know what Elliott is capable of when he's given the a bell-cow workload, but judging from Jason Garrett's comments, it's possible he'll once again be held back a bit this week. His potential keeps him on the tournament radar, but as the third-most expensive back, you might want to stay away from Zeke cash games until we know he's being fully unleashed.
James Conner ($7,700): Compared to last week, this slate's middle class carries plenty of question marks.
Two of Week 1's top plays, Dalvin Cook ($7,900) and Chris Carson ($7,400), performed as advertised, but both players are in tougher spots as road underdogs in Week 2. Guys like David Johnson ($7,300) and Leonard Fournette ($6,900) both saw more than 80% of the snaps as bell-cow backs. However, they have questionable upside on teams with two of the lowest implied totals on the board.
While Mark Ingram ($7,500) is a 13.0-point home favorite coming off a two-touchdown game, he played only 32% of the snaps in a blowout in Week 1, and another lopsided game could be looming against Arizona. As feared, Todd Gurley ($7,000) ceded touches as we saw Malcolm Brown notch 11 rushes and vulture two touchdowns.
Like all those guys, James Conner has some concerns of his own, taking the field for just 46% of the snaps in a 33-3 loss to the Patriots last week. But after exceeding 70% of the snaps in 11 of 13 games last season, his low snap count was probably merely the result of a game that the Steelers trailed in throughout and was out of hand by the mid-third quarter.
Conner also didn't lose much work to Jaylen Samuels, either, out-touching him 14-3.
Things should go much better for Conner and the Steelers this week as they have a solid 25.50 implied total as 4.0-point home favorites against the Seattle Seahawks. In a more positive game script, we should see Conner go back to the usage he got in 2018, when he averaged 16.5 rushes and 5.5 targets per game. Our projections also expect him to bounce back, pegging him as the third-best point-per-dollar value of the slate.
Austin Ekeler ($7,500): Following speculation that Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson might split touches evenly for the Chargers, Ekeler emerged as the clear lead back, out-snapping Jackson 48-16 and out-touching him 18-7. Ekeler made the most of those opportunities, cashing in on a three-score day for a whopping 36.4 FanDuel points.
While we obviously can't expect him to rack up multiple scores every week -- particularly since he still split red zone touches with Jackson -- the volume is legit and should keep his ceiling high. He was a big factor in the passing game -- his seven targets ranked second on the team behind only Keenan Allen -- and now that Hunter Henry is out for the foreseeable future, Ekeler's targets should only go up from here.
On the road against a slow-paced Detroit Lions team, there are valid concerns that the Chargers won't have the opportunity to run as many plays this week. Even keeping that in mind, Ekeler remains a strong play on this slate, slotting just behind Conner as the fourth-best value in our projections.
Josh Jacobs ($6,500): The Raiders weren't afraid to give Josh Jacobs a massive workload right out of the gate against the Broncos, with the rookie tallying 23 carries for 85 yards and two scores while also catching one target for another 28 yards. His 74% snap rate was top-10 among backs in Week 1, and he led the league with eight red zone carries.
There's little doubt that Jon Gruden wants to use Jacobs as a true workhorse back this year, and while the lone target does lead to some obvious game-script worries as a 7.5-point underdog to the mighty Chiefs, it's hard not to be encouraged by Jacobs' impressive debut. Kansas City was also numberFire's worst team against the run in 2018.
Matt Breida ($5,600): With Tevin Coleman expected to be out for multiple weeks, Matt Breida is now the clear lead back in San Francisco and projects as the top value back of the slate. In Week 1, Breida tallied 15 rushes and one target, and while his 44% snap rate wasn't amazing, some of that had to due with some bouts with dehydration during the game. All those marks should rise with Coleman now out of the picture, and Sunday's road matchup against the Bengals should remain competitive with just a 2.0-point spread in favor of Cincinnati. Raheem Mostert (nine carries, one target) could eat into some of Breida's volume, but he saw just 29% of the snaps last week.
Todd Gurley ($7,000): As noted earlier, Todd Gurley got the reduced workload that many expected, recording 14 carries with just one target. While he still managed 101 total yards on the day, he was held out of the end zone due in no small part to getting zero red zone looks. Instead, it was Malcolm Brown who got the brunt of touches in the red zone, converting two of his five red zone carries into touchdowns.
All of that makes Gurley a shaky bet moving forward, but he still saw 70% of the snaps, and this high-flying offense is favored at home with a 27.00 implied total in what should be a back-and-forth affair against the Saints. Given Gurley's lengthy history of success, it's hard to imagine him being this underutilized in both the passing game and red zone every week even in a reduced role, and the touchdown potential keeps him on the tournament radar at his modest price tag.
Sony Michel ($6,800): Sony Michel was inexplicably one of the few Patriots who didn't benefit from a blowout win over the Steelers, somehow turning his 15 carries into a pitiful 14 yards. That sorry performance figures to put somewhat of a damper on his ownership this week despite Michel getting the perfect bounce-back spot against the Dolphins.
Miami was torched by Baltimore for 59 points in the opening week, which included 265 yards and two touchdowns in the ground game. Michel's lack of passing-game work and the presence of both James White and Rex Burkhead relegates him to tournaments. But the touches ought to be there again in a positive game script, and you know the scoring upside will be through the roof with the Pats getting a slate-best 33.00 implied total.
Devin Singletary ($5,700): Although Frank Gore remains atop the depth chart, Devin Singletary is the clear top back for Buffalo, getting 70% of the snaps in Week 1 with four rushes and six targets. That volume is hardly amazing, but he turned it into 98 yards from scrimmage, while Gore produced a mere 20 yards off his 11 carries (27.3% Rushing Success Rate). It isn't unreasonable to think the touches will tip in Singletary's favor moving forward. The Bills are showing a modest 22.50 implied total as small road favorites against the Giants, but New York just got absolutely torched by Dallas, and Singletary could prove to be a nice value if he sees a deserved uptick in usage this week.