Daily Fantasy Football Running Back Primer: Week 4
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
Christian McCaffrey ($9,000): Between Saquon Barkley's injury, and guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara playing off the main slate, Christian McCaffrey pretty much sits alone at the top of the running back heap this week.
McCaffrey bounced back nicely in Week 3, turning 24 rushes and 4 targets into 188 totals yards and a touchdown (26.3 FanDuel points). He's now averaged 19.7 carries and 7.0 targets per game, and it says something when he "only" played 93.3% of the snaps, the first time he hasn't played 100% this year.
And while it was against a shoddy Arizona defense, it was encouraging to see Kyle Allen perform well, too, and for the moment, he appears to be an upgrade over the hobbled Cam Newton we saw over the first two weeks.
McCaffrey also continues to dominate red zone work, tallying 11 of Carolina's 13 red zone rushes.
The Panthers hit the road to face the Texans, who have been susceptible to the run, ranking 30th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. And while Carolina is a 4.0-point underdog, we know that isn't much of a concern for McCaffrey, who rarely leaves the field and remains involved in negative game scripts.
Austin Ekeler ($8,100): With Melvin Gordon rejoining the Chargers and expected to play next week, the clock is ticking on Austin Ekeler's time in the sun. But we get one last opportunity to roster him as the Chargers' lead back, and it couldn't come against a much better opponent.
Despite being on the road, Los Angeles is favored by over two touchdowns against the hapless Dolphins, earning them a hefty 29.25 implied total. Miami ranks second-to-last against the run by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, and they've allowed the most FanDuel points to opposing running backs.
There should be plenty of points to go around, but it's worth noting that Ekeler did see a season-low 64.9% snap rate against Houston in Week 3, as he's still ceding work to Justin Jackson ($6,200) here and there. Ekeler out-touched Jackson 16-9, but that's a slightly closer split compared to the first two games, and particularly in a blowout setting, it wouldn't be surprising to see Jackson get more touches late in the contest.
However, Ekeler is still the top choice when the Chargers are in close, seeing 8 of the team's 10 rushes inside the 10-yard line and all 3 from inside the 5-yard line. He could -- and should -- still excel here, but with his price creeping up, Jackson's presence arguably keeps Ekeler from necessarily being a lock for cash games.
Jackson himself deserves a look in tournaments, too, as some garbage time work could allow him to hit value at his lower price. However, it's being reported on Friday that Jackson is wearing a walking boot, putting his Week 4 status in doubt. Were he to sit out, Ekeler's value would soar.
Marlon Mack ($7,300): Marlon Mack is a 6.5-point home favorite against the Raiders, and he's carried the ball 25, 20, and 16 times through three weeks while seeing 3 targets in each of the past two games. Mack's also the only Colts' running back to get those precious red zone carries, notching 8 of their 11 rushes, with the other 3 going to quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Although he did see a slightly lower 61.2% snap rate in Week 3 after logging at least 70% the prior two weeks, the touches have been there every game, and we have to like his chances of scoring against Oakland in a positive game script. The Raiders' rushing defense hasn't been too bad so far, but they still rank just 17th by numberFire's marks this season.
David Johnson ($6,800): Following a disappointing Week 2 in which David Johnson missed some time due to a mid-game wrist injury, he was back to his usual workload against the Panthers, compiling 11 rushes and 9 targets while seeing the field for 86.7% of the snaps. You don't often find that kind of bell-cow workload at under $7,000, and according to numberFire's projections, he's the top point-per-dollar back of the slate.
The Cardinals are 5.0-point home 'dogs to the Seahawks, numberFire's sixth-ranked rushing defense. That may not be ideal on paper, but Johnson should get his touches regardless of the score -- especially on Arizona's fast-paced offense -- and Seattle's defense has struggled to contain receiving backs this season.
Leonard Fournette ($6,400): Like Johnson, we're getting another workhorse back at an affordable price tag in Leonard Fournette. In fact, Fournette played 100% of the snaps in Week 3, and he only trails McCaffrey and Le'Veon Bell in snap rate this season. He's averaged 14.3 rushes and 6.7 targets per game through three weeks.
However, despite the voluminous role, Fournette's yet to hit pay dirt so far, as Jacksonville's only had four rushes inside the 10-yard line (three going to Fournette) and none inside the 5-yard line. That's prevented him from exceeding 13 FanDuel points in any game thus far, but he's the only Jacksonville running back to receive any red zone touches, so the scores should come eventually.
A road date with Denver would normally be a matchup to fear -- and Jacksonville is indeed a slight underdog -- but the Broncos actually rank 25th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. By numberFire's projections, Fournette is the second-best point-per-dollar running back value behind Johnson.
Wayne Gallman ($5,800): Of course, if you're looking for pay down at running back, it's hard to find a better choice than Wayne Gallman, who's expected to see the brunt of the backfield work for the Giants while Saquon Barkley is sidelined. It's hard to say exactly how many touches that will entail, but Gallman earned 62.9% of the snaps with Barkley bowing out last week, which is a promising sign. Prior to Barkley being drafted, Gallman saw 48 targets as a rookie in 2017, so he should also be fairly game script independent.
New York is a home favorite over Washington, and there's even some shootout potential in a game with two poor defenses (49.0 over/under). Washington is numberFire's 26th-ranked rushing defense, further adding to Gallman's appeal.
Nick Chubb ($7,300): Given all the value on the slate, Nick Chubb could fly under the radar as part of a struggling offense that's a 6.5-point road underdog against Baltimore. And that certainly adds some risk to his Week 4 chances, but he's coming off season-high marks in rushes (23), targets (7) and snap rate (98.5%) -- and that was all in a game the Browns lost.
That kind of volume will make any back intriguing at this price, and the matchup may not be as bad as one would expect. Despite Baltimore's defensive prowess last year, they have a less-imposing ranking of 14th against the run through three weeks, per our metrics.