Daily Fantasy Football Running Back Primer: Week 7
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 ($8,600): Saquon Barkley is practicing in full this week, and barring any news of a reduced workload -- which Barkley insists won't be the case -- that means we can fire up one of the league's best in a juicy matchup against the Cardinals. In Barkley's two full games in 2019 (Weeks 1 and 2), he exceeded 100 yards rushing both times while averaging 12.3 carries and 6.5 targets. That volume came in losing efforts, demonstrating his usual immunity to negative game scripts.
Well, the game script could actually go his way in this one, as the Giants are 3.0-point home favorites with the third-highest implied total of the slate (26.75). Arizona ranks just 27th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play -- numberFire's schedule-adjusted metric for rush defense -- and 23rd in Target Success Rate allowed to opposing backfields. Any way you look at it, this looks like a prime spot for Barkley to come back with a bang.
Dalvin Cook ($8,300): At this salary, Dalvin Cook doesn't project as one of the better point-per-dollar values, but he's still the fourth-ranked back in terms of raw points. Cook is getting a whopping 40.5% of team opportunities (rushes and targets) -- bested only by Leonard Fournette on the slate -- which comes to a smidge over 22 opportunities per game.
Few can match this kind of weekly volume, and even with Kirk Cousins performing better lately, Minnesota continues to be a run-first team, ranking second in rushing play percentage. Despite being on the road, the Vikings are slight favorites over Detroit, and this isn't a matchup to shy away from. The Lions rank 16th against the run by numberFire's metrics and have allowed the third-most FanDuel points per game to running backs.
It's worth noting that Cook does occasionally cede touches to Alexander Mattison, though Mattison has only seen double-digit workloads in blowouts against the Eagles and Raiders, and the Lions should be able to keep this game close.
Leonard Fournette ($7,900): Leonard Fournette's price tag is finally beginning to match his bell-cow usage, and yet he's still the best point-per-dollar value by numberFire's model -- not to mention the best overall back in terms of raw points. As touched on above, his market share of team opportunities (43.6%) bests even Cook's, coming to a hefty 25.2 opportunities per game. Couple that with Fournette rarely leaving the field with a 91% snap rate -- trailing only Christian McCaffrey and Le'Veon Bell among running backs -- and it's no wonder Fournette projects so well. The Jaguars are 4.5-point road favorites over the Bengals -- a team that's allowed the most FanDuel points per game to opposing backfields.
David Johnson ($7,400): Even with David Johnson playing through a back injury last week, he saw a 75% snap rate that most backs would happily take and tallied 20 opportunities. Excluding Week 2, when Johnson sat out a chunk of the game with an injury, he's averaged 13.8 rushes and 8.0 targets over the other five games. He gets an ideal matchup in what could be a back-and-forth battle with the Giants, a team that ranks 28th in Target Success Rate allowed to running backs. Johnson checks in as the second-best point-per-dollar option behind Fournette.
Keep in mind that an ankle injury popped up for Johnson in practice this week, and while it isn't expected to affect his status, Johnson's recent nagging injuries theoretically add a level of risk in case he suffers any in-game setbacks on Sunday.
Chris Carson ($7,100): Chris Carson has gone over 100 rushing yards in three straight games, averaging above 27 opportunities per game over that span (24.3 carries and 3.3 targets). He's exceeded 75% of the snaps in all three of those weeks, and even if Rashaad Penny is back, Penny was active in Week 5, and that was the game Carson saw his highest snap rate. Expect Carson to keep rolling against Baltimore, which ranks ranks 26th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. Seattle is a 3.0-point home favorite in a game with a little shootout potential (49.0 total).
Devonta Freeman ($6,400): From a point-per-dollar angle, Derrick Henry ($6,500) and David Montgomery ($5,900) project as two of the better values, but it's hard to get super excited about their upside as backs with modest passing-game roles and potentially limited scoring opportunities in two of the week's lowest over/unders.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Devonta Freeman will take part in the game with the highest over/under (54.5) in a likely fantasy bonanza between the Rams and Falcons. Freeman is coming off his best fantasy performance of the season (25.3 FanDuel points), which is no coincidence after notching a season-high 19 carries (plus 3 targets) and a 72% snap rate -- his highest rate this season with a healthy Ito Smith. Smith still stole some red zone touches, but everything else is otherwise trending Freeman's way.
Although the Rams are solid against the run, the assumed high-scoring nature of this contest should provide Freeman ample opportunities to find the end zone, giving him a reasonable chance of posting another strong FanDuel performance.
Also, Alvin Kamara ($7,800) is dealing with an ankle injury, so if he sits out this week, backup Latavius Murray ($5,300) would emerge as a value. A matchup against Chicago isn't terribly appealing, but a lead back priced below $6k still has some obvious appeal.
Josh Jacobs ($6,700): Marlon Mack ($7,100) is another mid-range play worth considering in a plum spot against Houston, numberFire's 31st-ranked rush defense. He's a strong play in tournaments, though after a 32-touch outing against Kansas City in his last start, he won't necessarily fly under the radar.
But someone who might is Josh Jacobs, with Oakland coming out of their bye as 5.5-point road underdogs against Green Bay. Targeting a running back on a road 'dog is something we typically try to avoid, but the Packers have a stark split between their pass defense (3rd) and their rush defense (32nd). As you might expect from those marks, Green Bay has given up the seventh-fewest FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks, compared to the fourth-most to running backs.
Jacobs is coming off a fantastic game in London against Chicago, where he tallied a season-high 29 opportunities and saw his highest snap rate since Week 1 (68%). And while Jacobs has been very game script dependent over five games -- he failed to reach 10 FanDuel points in either of Oakland's losses -- he's seen seven targets over the last three games, leaving the door open that the Raiders are starting to trust him more in the passing game.
Furthermore, Green Bay's wide receiver corp is decimated by injuries, as Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Geronimo Allison could all potentially miss Sunday's game -- so perhaps this game will be closer than the spread would indicate.
Tevin Coleman ($6,200) and Matt Breida ($5,600) are other names to keep in mind as the 49ers figure to steamroll Washington as 9.5-point road favorites this weekend. The split backfield lowers their floors, but either one could have a big game, with Coleman having the edge due to his red zone usage.