Daily Fantasy Football Running Back Primer: Week 8
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 ($9,600): Christian McCaffrey will be tough to fit in at his exorbitant price tag, and a tough matchup against San Francisco awaits, but he's coming fresh off a bye, and we know the massive upside he brings to the table. After all, McCaffrey is averaging 27.3 FanDuel points per game, a mark that no other back comes close to. He pretty much never leaves the field (96% snap rate), and his 47.5% market share of opportunities (carries and targets) leads the slate. It probably goes without saying that he's numberFire's top-projected running back.
Saquon Barkley ($8,600): If you can't quite fit McCaffrey into your lineup, Saquon Barkley checks in at a full $1,000 cheaper, and while he hasn't had that spike week yet, we know what he's capable of. He wasn't held back in his Week 7 return (86% snap rate), and over his three healthy games, he's averaged 15.7 carries and 6.0 targets, which pretty much falls in line with his 2018 usage. That volume has come in three losses, too, once again proving that Barkley is game script proof, so we shouldn't be as concerned with the Giants being road underdogs at Detroit. The game has a fantasy-friendly 49.5-point total, and the Lions rank just 21st in Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play -- numberFire's schedule-adjusted metric for run defense.
Leonard Fournette ($7,700): Leonard Fournette has been a fantastic value for weeks now, and yet his salary actually went down this week, making him the best point-per-dollar running back in our projections again. Still stuck on one touchdown for the season, a lack of scores is the only thing that has held Fournette back, but it sure isn't from any lack of trying, as he's averaged just under 30 opportunities a game over the last four weeks (25.3 rushes and 4.5 targets). He enters the week ranked third among backs in snap rate (91%) and tied for second in red zone carries. With such relentless volume, positive touchdown regression will come his way -- perhaps starting this week. The Jaguars are six-point home favorites over the Jets, a team that actually rates well against the run by numberFire's metrics but has given up the most rushing touchdowns to opposing backs (eight) and ranks just 19th in Target Success Rate allowed to the position.
Todd Gurley ($7,400): Todd Gurley played a season-low 61% of the snaps in Week 7, though that may have also had to do with the Rams cruising to an easy blowout victory over the Falcons. Even so, Gurley racked up a season-best 18 carries (plus one target), and he's now averaging 17.5 opportunities across six games. No, it's not the crazy usage of years past, but that's a solid baseline entering a cushy matchup against Cincinnati. The Rams are favored by a slate-high 13.0 points, and the Bengals rank just 18th in schedule-adjusted rushing defense and 31st in Target Success Rate allowed to opposing backfields. Gurley projects as the second-best point-per-dollar value behind Fournette.
Le'Veon Bell ($7,000): From a usage standpoint, Le'Veon Bell has more or less been game script proof, averaging 16.7 carries and 6.2 targets per game and rarely leaving the field (92% snap rate) for a team that only has one victory. Still, playing for struggling offense has left him with only six carries (and five targets) in the red zone, amounting to just two touchdowns on the year. But better days should be ahead with Sam Darnold at the helm, and they should be able to remain competitive against Jacksonville. The matchup certainly lines up for Bell, too, as the Jaguars rank 30th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and 20th in Target Success Rate to running backs.
Latavius Murray ($6,200) and Chase Edmonds ($6,100): David Johnson ($6,800) and Alvin Kamara ($8,100) are both iffy for this week (Johnson is already expected to be a game-time decision), which could open the door for Latavius Murray and Chase Edmonds to again have featured roles. Both players went bonkers in Week 7 -- 29.5 FanDuel points for Murray and 34.0 for Edmonds -- so you don't need me to tell you how valuable they are at these prices if Johnson and Kamara are out. From a matchups perspective, Murray gets the edge as a 10.5-point home favorite against Edmond's Cardinals, a defense that rates poorly across the board. Keep close tabs on their respective situations on Sunday.
Devonta Freeman ($6,200): Should Johnson and Kamara ultimately be active, Devonta Freeman is another option in the same price range. With Ito Smith already ruled out, Freeman should have an increased workload (he played 90% of the snaps when Smith was concussed in Week 3) in a possible shootout against the Rams, though we shouldn't rule out Brian Hill being a factor after getting some work last week. Matt Ryan is trending towards playing (he returned to practice on Friday), but should he sit out, Freeman is probably one to avoid completely in a Matt Schaub-led offense.
Ty Johnson ($5,200): A popular waiver wire pickup this week, Ty Johnson is your best choice is you're trying to really maximize your savings at running back. Following Kerryon Johnson going down last week, Ty would go on to log 64% of the snaps with 10 rushes and 4 targets. That's more than enough to make him valuable at this price, particularly as a 6.5-point home favorite over the Giants. That being said, keep in mind that he'll cede some passing-down work to J.D. McKissic, and Tra Carson and Paul Perkins could also become involved, so his volume won't be on the same bell-cow level as Murray or Edmonds if their situations open up.
Chris Carson ($8,000): Chris Carson is getting up there in price, so there are better point-per-dollar values, but he's averaged 23.5 carries and 3.8 targets per game over the last four weeks, and it's hard not to like his spot against Atlanta. The Seahawks are 7.0-point road favorites, and this contest screams shootout with a slate-high 53.0 over/under and Matt Ryan tentatively expected to play. In any case, the game script should favor Seattle -- who runs at the league's fourth-highest rate -- setting the stage for yet another hefty workload for Carson.