Daily Fantasy Football Running Back Primer: Week 5
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 ($9,100): Christian McCaffrey is the only running back priced over $9k, but we shouldn't hesitate to roster him again this week. Jacksonville's defense is one we've often feared in recent years, but they actually rank just 18th against the run in terms of Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play and 20th in Target Success Rate allowed to running backs. McCaffrey is averaging 21.5 carries and 7.8 targets per game -- volume most backs can only dream of -- and Carolina is a 3.5-point home favorite. McCaffrey is numberFire's top-projected running back of the slate.
Ezekiel Elliott ($8,800): The Cowboys finding themselves as 3.5-point favorites themselves against the Packers, and while Green Bay is incredibly tough against the pass, they're numberFire's 32nd-ranked rush defense and have allowed the third-most FanDuel points to running backs. The main concern here is star tackle Tyron Smith is unlikely to play, and his loss has had a noticeable impact on this offense in the past, potentially leading to a less effective running game and more sacks.
Given that situation, Elliott's high price tag, and other elite options at the position -- he's projected for just the fifth-most FanDuel points among backs -- he's arguably a slight step behind the other high-priced choices. Still, the matchup and volume keeps his upside intact. Ellliot's averaged 20 rushes a game over the last three weeks and saw season-highs snap rate (97%) and targets (7) in Week 4. That receiving work could come in handy against Green Bay, which is tied with Jacksonville for 20th in Target Success Rate given up to opposing backfields. Elliott is also tied with McCaffrey for the league lead in red zone carries (15).
Alvin Kamara ($8,200): Another running back that's a home favorite, Alvin Kamara and the Saints are favored by three points over the Buccaneers. However, the Bucs actually present a less than stellar matchup for Kamara, ranking first in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and third in Target Success Rate to the running back position.
Even so, this is Kamara we're talking about, who's averaging 14.8 rushes and 6.0 targets per game and leads the team in red zone carries (7) and red zone targets (4). Latavius Murray has mostly been a non-factor, too, playing under 30% of the snaps and only getting one red zone carry through four weeks. numberFire's model projects Kamara for the second-most FanDuel points at the position and also has him as the second-best point-per-dollar value.
Dalvin Cook ($8,200): Dalvin Cook is coming off a monster September, scoring at least one touchdown in all four weeks while averaging 17.8 carries and 4.5 targets a game. Only San Francisco have had a higher rushing play percentage than Minnesota, and Cook has twice the red zone carries of anyone else on the team (10). The Vikings are on the road, but they're expected to handle the Giants without too much trouble as 5.5-point favorites. With what should be a positive game script on tap, Cook might be able to keep his touchdown streak going against the 17th-ranked rushing defense by numberFire's metrics.
David Johnson ($6,800) and Leonard Fournette ($6,900): Sitting just below the $7k range, we find some familiar faces in David Johnson and Leonard Fournette, both of whom are coming off strong performances yet remain underpriced.
Johnson's 17.9 FanDuel points in Week 4 may not jump off the page, but he racked up 11 rushes and 11 targets and has now played in at least 86% of the snaps in all three of his healthy games. He's seen at least 11 carries and 7 targets in each of those weeks, and it's only a matter of time before a big game boosts up his price tag.
That game could very well come this week against a Bengals defense that looked dreadful against James Conner and Jaylen Samuels on Monday night. After that lackluster prime time showing, it probably won't surprise you that Cincinnati ranks just 31st in Target Success Rate to opposing backs and 23rd against the run by numberFire's schedule-adjusted marks. Johnson is projected for the third-most FanDuel points among running backs, making him easily the top point-per-dollar value on the slate.
Meanwhile, Fournette is still looking for his first touchdown, but he's coming off a massive workload from Week 4, rushing 29 times for 225 yards while also catching 2-of-3 targets for 20 more yards. Rarely leaving the field (91% snap rate) and dominating red zone carries (10), the touchdowns will come eventually, and Fournette represents another fantastic value for a true workhorse back. Although Jacksonville is a road underdog against Carolina, Fournette gets plenty of work in the passing game, and the Panthers rank just 26th against the run.
David Montgomery ($5,700): If you're really looking to save some cash at running back, then David Montgomery is awfully intriguing after piling up 21 carries and 5 targets last week against the Vikings. Although Montgomery curiously only got seven touches in Week 1, his usage has improved in the three weeks since, averaging 17.3 carries and 3.7 targets a game, while also seeing his snap rate steadily rise every week, reaching a season-high 69% in Week 4.
The results from those opportunities have remained modest, though -- hence the low salary -- and his matchup against the Raiders might not be as good as you would think, as Oakland has emerged as numberFire's seventh-ranked rush defense thus far. Still, particularly at this price, the volume is what's key here, and the Bears are favored by five points in London.
Aaron Jones ($6,800) and Derrick Henry ($6,700): Considering the screaming values of Johnson and Fournette at around the same price tag as well as the slew of elite options at the top, Aaron Jones and Derrick Henry ought to see lower ownership, but they have a chance of coming through with some high scores of their own.
Jamaal Williams (concussion) was forced out at the beginning of Week 4's game against Philadelphia, leading to Jones playing a season-high 84% of the snaps while compiling 13 carries and 7 targets in a losing effort. Williams didn't practice on Friday, so Jones should once again see an increased workload this week on the road against Dallas.
It's worth noting that Dexter Williams figures to see some playing time in Jamaal's absence, so there's always the risk that Jones doesn't see as much of a boost as we would like. But seeing as Dexter hasn't played a single snap yet, it would appear unlikely he takes on a large role. The Cowboys rank just 20th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and 23rd in Target Success Rate versus running backs.
As for Henry, the Titans take on a tough Bills defense, but the one area in which Buffalo's D isn't strong is against the run, where they rank 29th by numberFire's metrics. Tennessee is favored at home, and there's a chance Buffalo will be without starting quarterback Josh Allen (questionable), who suffered a concussion last week.
Given that the game has a slate-low 38.5 over/under, this could be an ugly contest for DFS purposes, but Henry really benefits from positive game scripts, as shown by the 27 carries he earned in last week's win over the Falcons. He has 9 of the Titans' 12 red zone carries this year -- including all 3 from inside the five-yard line -- so even if this ends up being a snoozefest, there's a path to Henry scooping up multiple scores here.