Wednesday, 13 September 2017 00:00

Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 2

Written by 
Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 2 Keith Allison/Flickr

Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

This is Week 1 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 2.

Week 1 saw a bunch of rushers see over 20+ carries, which is the first big indicator of consistency from week to week. We saw Ezekiel Elliott rush 24 times, and rookie Leonard Fournette was the top rusher with 26 total carries. Both backs finished with over 100 yards against good defenses in New York and Houston.

We got our first glimpse of the identity these coaches might be establishing for their teams in Week 1. Fournette has a lot of potential as a rookie in Jacksonville, as the Jaugars look to favor a conservative, defense-first approach. Will that happen every week? Nobody knows. But it worked well in Week 1. The defense forced unproven quarterback Tom Savage into tough throws and Bortles threw just 21 times, which ranked 28th overall for that week.

If you're looking at receiving running backs, Tarik Cohen and Shane Vereen dominated the target category with 11 and 10 respectively. Cohen finished with 25 PPR points after catching 8 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. With his price on Draftkings being so low, it's no surprise Cohen was the true contrarian play and was featured in several top Daily Fantasy lineups. Vereen didn't find the end zone, but finished 14 PPR points on a respectable 9 catches for 51 yards.

As you can see, it was an interesting week with a lot of surprises. Here's how we can break that down in Week 2.

Houston at Cincinnati (Thursday game recap)

Total team scoring expectation: 38 points

Actual points scored: 22

Game script: Run heavy, defense-based game with high likelihood of turnovers

Houston RB's: Lamar Miller had the highest volume in Week 1 for Houston with 17 carries. Miller saw 29 total snaps in the last game, leading all Houston rushers. But it was rookie D'Onta Foreman who stood out in Week 2. The former Longhorn rushed for 40 yards, gaining 32 of them after contact. Miller still saw the bulk of the carries, but Foreman is starting to creep into the picture. Look to add Foreman to your waiver wire list.

Cincinnati RB's: Cincy's backfield is coming into focus. Rookie Joe Mixon lead backs with nine carries and Giovani Bernard assume the receiving back role. Bernard led all Bengals runners with 4 targets, catching two of them for 16 yards. Bernard will have some value in high-scoring game scripts or when the Bengals find themselves down at half, which is something that might happen more often as the Bengals lost their first two home games so far.

Green Bay at Atlanta (Sunday Night)

Total points expected: 53

Game script: Pass heavy from both offenses. The obvious high-scoring matchup of the Week.

Green Bay RB's: Green Bay's Ty Montgomery played 74 snaps while rookie backup Jamaal Williams played just six. Montgomery also led the team in targets with four. This is the week to start Montgomery in all leagues including PPR and Daily Fantasy. The Falcons recently surrendered eight catches and a touchdown to Bears backup running back Tarik Cohen in Week 1. Montgomery has a real shot to have one of his best weeks of the year.

Atlanta RB's: Both Freeman and Coleman are risky options right now. Freeman was the clear leader in snaps with 36, but Coleman wasn't far behind with 24 and also out-targeted Freeman 6:2. There's a lot to like in this matchup, but you don't know which back will put up points. It's safe to steer clear of this backfield for the time being.

Tennessee at Jacksonville

Total points expected: 43 (Tennessee favored by 1)

Game script: High volume for Jacksonville running backs. Low-scoring. Grind game.

Tennessee RB's:  Tennessee got down early and passed a lot more in Week 1, which hurt DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry's value. Murray out-touched Henry 12-6 but Henry got more bang per carry with 4.2 yards. Henry also created more yards with 2.8 after contact. With no backs receiving any goal line touches, this is a backfield that has some uncertainty heading into Week 2 even with a favorable game script.

Jacksonville RB's: Leonard Fournette saw a league-high 29 touches, a feat that could occur again as the Jaguars establish a defensive identity. T.J. Yeldon expects to return for Week 2 which could limit Fournette's targets, as the rookie saw three in Week 1. But the volume should still be there for Fournette and he's a reliable start in redraft and cash games for DFS.

Cleveland at Baltimore

Total points expected: 41 (Baltimore favored by 7.5)

Game script: Favors defense of Baltimore. Low-scoring. High turnover probability with rookie DeShone Kizer playing for Cleveland.

Cleveland RB's: Trust the Hue Jackson touch. The Browns are sneakily becoming a competitive team thanks to an improved defense. However, both running backs aren't a great bet to do damage this week. Kizer's rushing upside limits touchdown probability for Isaiah Crowell. Duke Johnson was used exclusively as a receiver last week and didn't line up in the backfield once according to Pro Football Focus.

Baltimore RB's: There's definitely some upside to giving Javorius Allen a start this week. Allen led Baltimore with 21 carries and outsnapped Terrance West 33 to 27. Plus, Allen could see more targets with Danny Woodhead expected out until Week 10. If Baltimore can control the pace of this game, it's not out of the question Allen could see over 100 yards and a couple catches. Throw in a touchdown and he'll greatly exceed his Daily Fantasy value. 

Buffalo at Carolina

Total points expected: 42 (Carolina favored by 7.5)

Game script: Favors defense of Carolina. Low-scoring.

Buffalo RB's: LeSean McCoy rushed 22 times for 110 yards in a run-heavy game against the offensively pedestrian New York Jets. He also added 5 catches on 6 targets for 49 yards. Mike Tolbert was also effective with 12 rushes of his own for 42 yards and continued his reputation as a touchdown sniper with a short score. Per Pro Football Focus, McCoy did receive one carry inside the five-yard line, so it's not like the Bills used Tolbert exclusively around the end zone. The volume will still be there for McCoy, although this is a tougher matchup for him.

Carolina RB's: Jonathan Stewart remains the top back in this offense with 18 rushes to Christian McCaffrey's 13. McCaffrey saw 47 snaps to Stewart's 29 and saw 7 targets which led to 5 catches for 30+ yards. This is a decent matchup for Carolina's running backs, but low value hurts their chances for a huge day. It's unlikely Stewart goes over 100 yards with McCaffrey taking touches. It's also unlikely McCaffrey scores touchdowns unless he scores on a big play since he's not getting the goal line work.

New England at New Orleans

Total points expected: 53 (New England favored by 6)

Game script: Lots of passing. Favorable for wide receivers and quarterbacks

New England RB's: This is a good game to give James White a start in redraft and Daily Fantasy. White is the receiving back in New England, led them in targets with 5 in Week 1, and New England is likely to score a ton to keep up with New Orleans. The Saints have historically been a high-scoring team at home, so New England will have their hands full, especially with a banged up defense that will put more pressure on Tom Brady to put up points.

New Orleans RB's: Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are both good starts this week. Kamara led all Saints running backs in targets with six and caught four of them for 20 yards. Ingram wasn't far behind with five targets. Both backs struggled on the ground, but a lot of that had to do with Minnesota's stifling defense. It's unlikely New England puts up the same fight, especially if Donta Hightower is still hurt. Adrian Peterson, who was never a prolific receiver, may be the odd man out in this backfield as the season goes along.

Arizona at Indianapolis

Total points expected: 44 (Arizona favored by 7.5)

Game script: Could be pass heavy for first half, run heavy in second if Arizona gets ahead.

Arizona RB's: Kerwynn Williams is the current starting back for Arizona, a team that also signed Chris Johnson earlier this week. Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in the past, but his receiving upside will likely be curbed with Andre Ellington expected to fill that role. This backfield is cloudy, but Williams is an interesting dart throw if not for the fact that he'll be so cheap and the Indianapolis defense has struggled early on.

Indianapolis RB's: Both rookie Marlon Mack and Frank Gore split carries with 10, with Mack getting the touchdown and the better fantasy day. It's difficult to see who will be the best option in this backfield as of now. Both running backs also saw a similar role in the receiving game, with each catching one pass on one target. There's not much to like about Indianapolis on offense right now in general, and the running back situation is no different. 

Philadelphia at Kansas City

Total points expected: 47.5 (Kansas City favored by 4.5)

Game script: Some scoring potential. Both teams create a good pass rush so sacks are likely. Kansas City will likely favor pass with injuries in Philadelphia secondary.

Philadelphia RB's: LeGarrette Blount wasn't very effective in Week 1 with just 46 yards on 14 rushes. He saved his fantasy day with a one-yard reception score. Darren Sproles tied Zach Ertz for most targets among all Philly players with eight. Neither player is worth more than a dart throw in Daily Fantasy lineups this week.

Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt was incredible in Week 1. He gets another plus matchup against a Philadelphia team that surrendered four catches, 52 yards and a score to Redskins running back Chris Thompson in Week 1. Though Charcandrick West saw a lot of snaps in Week 1, expect that to diminish due to Hunt's dominance. It's likely Hunt cracks the 20+ rush attempts and sees at least five targets in Week 2.

Minnesota at Pittsburgh

Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 7)

Game script: Potentially high-scoring. Lots of passing.

Minnesota RB's: Forget the notion that Latavius Murray would take away touches from rookie Dalvin Cook early on after Week 1. Cook is firmly entrenched in the feature back role and should see plenty of carries in this one. Coming off a 127-yard performance where he rushed 22 times, Cook also had more targets than Jerick McKinnon with five. Cook also had four looks in the red zone which led all Viking running backs. Pittsburgh gave up several 100-yard rushing games last season, including over 200 yards to Jay Ajayi.

Pittsburgh RB's: Recency bias might keep people from drafting Le'Veon Bell this week in DFS, but don't let that happen to you. Bell is likely to rebound in Week 2. Pittsburgh is a different offense at home, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger's 59 touchdowns in his last 20 home games. Bell has been on the receiving end of some of those touchdowns, and it's not a bad idea to stack him with Roethlisberger in DFS tournaments since he'll be owned less than Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

Chicago at Tampa Bay

Total points expected: 43 (Tampa favored by 6)

Game script: High volume for running backs. Clock moves fast. Lower play counts.

Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is still going to see targets in this offense with injuries to so many of their wide receivers. However, it's best to remain cautious with him in ppr leagues until he repeats his Week 1 feat. Even if he does do damage again in Week 2, more people will own him in Daily Fantasy than last week which will diminish his value in tournaments.

Tampa Bay RB's: Jacquizz Rodgers gets the start. Not crazy to think he could see 20-plus rushing attempts with just Charles Sims and Peyton Barber playing behind him. If Tampa Bay favors a conservative approach due to Chicago's poor offense, then Rodgers could come close to 100-yard effort. 

Miami at Los Angeles Chargers

Total points expected: 44 (Los Angeles favored by 4)

Game script: Weak Miami secondary could lead to several pass touchdowns for Philip Rivers. Dolphins might be forced to play catch up early.

Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is fresh after not playing in Week 1 and gets a solid matchup against a Chargers defense that's worse against the run than the pass. Game script might hurt him a bit if Rivers takes advantage of Miami's vulnerable defensive backs. Miami surrendered over 32 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last year. There's also a bit of risk with Jay Cutler potentially turning the ball over and costing Ajayi possessions. Still, Ajayi is the clear No. 1 and also has modest points per reception value. He's a great play in all leagues and in cash DFS games.

Los Angeles RB's: It's another green-light week for Melvin Gordon. With 45 snaps, 18 touches last week and 5 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, he's the man in Los Angeles. Miami's run defense isn't terrible, but the volume potential for Gordon is among the best in the NFL. He also received all of the red zone looks for Los Angeles in Week 1, and the Chargers will likely have an easier time scoring against Miami than they did against Denver.

New York Jets at Oakland

Total points expected: 43 (Oakland favored by 14)

New York RB's: Matt Forte and Bilal Powell had a similar snap count in Week 1 and each had a similar amount of targets and rush attempts. Powell has a slight edge as he looks to be the preferred running back in the red zone, but this is a cloudy backfield where both running backs are risky plays. It's not a terrible idea to avoid this group. Oakland is middle of the road against running backs, ranking 14th overall and giving up around 22.5 points per game.

Oakland RB's: In a game where the Raiders could be up multiple scores by halftime, Marshawn Lynch is a great start this week. He had three looks in the red zone and no other running back had one in Week 1. His 18 attempts for 76 yards showed good volume and it's hard to see him not getting in the end zone at least once this week. Though he lacks major upside, he's a must-start in cash DFS games. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are cancelling each other out but Washington still holds value in PPR leagues as he tied for most targets among running backs with two in Week 1.

Washington at Los Angeles Rams

Total points expected: 46 (Rams favored by 2)

Game script: Medium range for scoring. Rams have potential to go to ground game a lot with weak Washington run defense. Washington also poor against tight ends. Washington has good passing opportunities against weak secondary.

Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is a solid start this week even though he wasn't the most efficient back in Week 1 (just over 2 yards per carry on 19 rush attempts). His five catches give him some versatility though, and Washington struggled to contain Darren Sproles last week in the receiving game as well. There's enough volume here to start Gurley is every league, and he's a good upside guy in DFS tournaments. 

Washington RB's: Though Rob Kelley is the starting running back for Washington, scat back Chris Thompson was the fantasy stud in Week 1 after catching four passes for 52 yards and a score. This matchup will be tougher on Thompson though, as the Rams are stout against running backs in the receiving last week against the Colts. Overall, they held Marlon Mack and Frank Gore to just one catch each in a game that had the kind of game script that favors running backs catching passes.

Dallas at Denver

Total points expected: 43 (Dallas favored by 1)

Game script: Run heavy game with minimal scoring on both sides

Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott is a no-brainer this week. The Broncos match up worse against the run than the pass. Elliott rushed over 24 times last week and should cross the 20-rush barrier again. His five catches for 36 yards gives him PPR upside and if the Dallas defense keeps Trevor Siemian in check, there's a good chance they lean on Elliott for most of the game.

Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is a good start this week but this is a tough matchup. Dallas looked menacing on defense with Sean Lee and rookie Jaylon Smith running amuck. Still, the volume is there for the Denver RB. Anderson dominated the snap count with 48 to backup Jamaal Charles 21. The Broncos gave him the ball three times inside the five yard-line, but they also gave Charles two goal line touches as well. In a game that could be low scoring, Anderson might see a healthy amount of carries and also saw some modest work in the receiving game.

San Francisco at Seattle

Total points expected: 43 (Seattle favored by 13)

Game script: Favors Seattle defense heavily. Low-scoring, run-heavy game.

San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde has tremendous upside week-to-week due to his role in the receiving game (six catches on six targets in Week 1). His rushing volume was low but that was because the 49ers got down early. It's tough to see that not happening again in Week 2 with Seattle's stout run defense, a unit that's giving up just under 20 fantasy points per game to running backs which ranks among the Top 5.

Seattle RB's: Thomas Rawls looks like he's going to start in this one. He's a great upside play against a very bad San Francisco rush defense that led Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart run effectively in Week 1. Still, you're taking a major risk given that we don't know how much volume Rawls will get with Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson still in the fold. He's still a great dart throw in DFS tournaments since Eddie Lacy looked sluggish in Week 1 and Carson is still developing as a rookie. He might also completely destroy your DFS lineup, but taking those risks is often how you win big money tournaments.

Detroit at New York Giants (Monday night)

Total points expected: 43 (New York Giants favored by 4.5)

Game script: Shootout potential. Both teams like to run hurry up offense and pass.

Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah is the lead back with 36 snaps in Week 1. Still, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington combined for 35 snaps of their own, further muddying this backfield. New York has a stout run defense and only gave up 100 yards to Elliott because their offense was inept. They should fare better against Detroit and keep the Lions running backs in check.

New York Giants RB's: Another struggling backfield, Shane Vereen led all backs in snaps with 31 to Paul Perkins 17. Perkins was expected to be the go-to run option and his two red zone looks suggest he'll be the goal line guy. Aside from some touchdown upside though, it's best to fade Perkins and Veren this week. No back has established a heavy-volume role and the Lions fare better against the run than in any other category.

Link to original photo

 

 

Last modified on Sunday, 24 September 2017 06:33
George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at FFChamps.com before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

Weekly Rankings

Latest Tweets

 


About Us

We believe Fantasy Football success comes down to two things — opportunity and talent. You will have Fantasy Football mastered once you understand how good a player is and how good of an opportunity he has to gain yards and score touchdowns. The thing is, you'll never master Fantasy Football. But you can get pretty darn good at it when you have even a slightly better understanding of opportunity and talent than the average Joe. That's what Fantasy Football Helpers is dedicated to doing.

Contact Us

We'd love to hear from you. Feel free to email George Banko