Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:00

Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 5

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Carlos Hyde's 65 carries rank 12th highest among running backs and he has a plus matchup against a Colts rushing defense that's allowed 25 points to running backs this season. Carlos Hyde's 65 carries rank 12th highest among running backs and he has a plus matchup against a Colts rushing defense that's allowed 25 points to running backs this season.

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 5 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 5.


Each of the top six running backs from Week 4 had at least four receptions. That should tell you all you need to know about the hybrid running back's potency in fantasy football.

It was also a quiet week scoring wise, with only Le'Veon Bell rushing for more than one touchdown. With the exception of Green Bay and Dallas, we could be seeing low numbers once again in Week 5 as high-powered offenses such as Atlanta, New Orleans, and Washington are on a bye.

Here's a look at every fantasy relevant running back for Week 5.

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

Total points expected: 44 (Giants favored by 4)

Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Knee problems continue to bother Melvin Gordon despite him seeing the highest volume of any Charger running back. Gordon finished as an RB49 in Week 4 and his reduced role in the receiving game has been a big part of that. In the first two weeks, Gordon caught 12 passes for 90 yards. He has just one catch for seven yards since. The matchup is a good one though, as the Giants are giving up 23 points to running backs per game. Still, Gordon is risky at best due to injuries. Branden Oliver is not startable at this time.

New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman popped onto the fantasy radar in his first performance, going for 42 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown reception. His 31 snaps led all players and he was the best back, but Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen still saw 14 carries between them. It's tough to start Gallman, but it's encouraging that the Giants are working him in more. The matchup is also a fantastic one, as the Chargers have given up over 100 yards to three running backs in three weeks. Gallman's ceiling is curbed, but he's not a terrible darkhorse option in really 14-16+ leagues this week.

Buffalo at Cincinnati

Total points expected: 39 (Cleveland favored by 2)

Buffalo RB's: LeSean McCoy has been good volume consistently but he hasn't made the most of it so far. Through four weeks, he's finished as an RB5, RB37, RB33, and RB21 with zero rushing touchdowns. Not exactly top numbers for a player drafted in the late first/early second round in most leagues. The Bengals are tough against the run, giving up 20.5 fantasy points per game. It's best to keep starting McCoy in standard leagues and PPR leagues because of his volume, but he's worth fading this week in Daily Fantasy.

Cincinnati RB's: Joe Mixon continues to play well, but his offensive line is hurting him. Per Pro Football Focus, the Bengals rank dead last in yards blocked per contact at 1.31. The Bills are a solid run defense, giving up 20 fantasy points per game at the position and haven't allowed a 100-rusher yet. While he has some variables going against him, Mixon still isn't a bad play given his opportunity. He's carried the ball 35 times over the last two games and has the most targets (7) for Bengals running backs over the last two weeks. He's slowly becoming the bellcow back.

New York Jets at Cleveland

Total points expected: 39 (Cleveland favored by 2.5)

New York Jets RB's: Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire combined for over 250 yards and two scores last week. Powell now has a score in each of his last two games and is averaging RB1 numbers. Last week, Powell's five targets tied for second most among all Jets and his 21 carries were a season high. With Matt Forte still out, Powell and McGuire are the top two backs in New York going forward. The Browns are average against the run, making this matchup a decent one.

Cleveland RB's: Incoming Duke Johnson Jr. The third-year running back out-snapped Isaiah Crowell for 36-22 last week, by far his largest separation from Crowell. While Crowell had more touches, Johnson still only had three less carries and his 9 catches for 47 yards make his ceiling very high going forward. Johnson should also have plenty of favorable game scripts for receiving backs, as the Browns defense is one of the worst in the league vs. quarterbacks. The Browns have given up 31 points in each of the last two games, which should help Johnson get more yards in the second half as the Browns play catch up.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Total points expected: 44.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 9)

Jacksonville RB's: In one of the potentially higher scoring games this week, rookie Leonard Fournette is once again center stage. The former LSU star continues to get better as the season goes along. He finished with a season-high four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown last week and has led all Jacksonville running backs in targets every week. His 81 total carries ranks third behind Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger tends to play better at home, so the gamescript might not lend itself to as much rushing volume for Fournette. Still, Pittsburgh hasn't been great against the run after allowing Jordan Howard and Alex Collins to rush for a combined 220 yards over the last two weeks. Fournette is a no-brainer RB1.

Pittsburgh RB's: This is another dream matchup for Le'Veon Bell. The Jaguars have given up over 100 yards to running backs in three of the last four games. Pittsburgh's offensive line ranks ninth in yards blocked per contact with 2.06. Bell's 87 rush attempts leads the league and he, Todd Gurley and LeSean McCoy lead all bellcow backs with 22 targets. The one worry for Bell could be gamescript in this one, as the Steelers might get out to a quick lead and fail to throw Bell's way for the touchdown. That's just a risk you have to take.

Tennessee at Miami

Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 2.5)

Tennessee RB's: Miami hasn't allowed a single running back to rush for more than 45 yards this season. They have been susceptible to pass-catching backs though, giving up 10 catches to Alvin Kamara last week and seven to Melvin Gordon in Week 1. The Jets RB's were the only group they held in check, but that was likely due to gamesflow that allowed all three Jets running backs to play conservative and simply waste clock. Only six fantasy points separates DeMarco Murray from Derrick Henry through four weeks. Aside from a monster Week 3 performance where he finished as an RB8,  Murray has only 101 rush yards combined in the other three games. Henry hasn't fared much better, with his best performance coming in Week 2 with an RB9 finish. Both backs are risky in this matchup.

Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi hasn't finished higher than RB12 since Week 2 and is currently nursing a knee injury. The Miami offensive line also ranks in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact, per Pro Football Focus. Tennessee is giving up 25 points to running backs, so there's so upside to the matchup for Ajayi. Still, he's risky given his health and although he's a tough player, it's best to fade him in Daily Fantasy and only start him in redraft.

San Francisco at Indianapolis

Total points expected: 43 (Indianapolis by 2)

San Francisco RB's: With two RB1 finishes through four weeks, Carlos Hyde has been a great value so far in redraft and PPR leagues. He has hybrid potential each week, averaging near six targets per game. His 65 carries rank 12th highest among running backs and he has a plus matchup against a Colts rushing defense that's allowed 25 points to running backs this season. No other running back in San Francisco is startable at this point.

Indianapolis RB's: Marlon Mack is back. It's the return of the Mack. Sorry, had to. Indy remains a run-oriented team with Andrew Luck still out, as they've opted to pass just 52 percent of the time which ranks 27th overall. Frank Gore has two RB2 finishes through four weeks, but he hasn't been very effective with just 3.1 yards per carry on 61 attempts. It's likely the Colts could try and use Mack more, but Gore is still the feature back going forward until Mack makes the most of his opportunity. In the two games he played, Mack finished with just 27 total rushing yards. 

Arizona at Philadelphia

Total points expected: 45 (Philadelphia favored by 6.5)

Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson is the higher volume running back in terms of rush yards, but Andre Ellington is the most fantasy potent. Ellington's caught 14 passes for 145 yards on 22 targets over the last two weeks. Those numbers helped him rank 15th in PPR leagues, making him a boarderline RB1 in that format. Ellington is startable due to his role in the passing game, though Philadelphia has been solid against the run, giving up only 19.3 points per game.

Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have really gotten their run game going over the last few weeks. LeGarrette Blount has posted RB1 numbers in both weeks, totaling 203 yards and a score despite seeing less snaps than fellow back Wendell Smallwood. Speaking of Smallwood, he's averaged out to be a solid RB2 option over the last two weeks in both standard league and PPR leagues. The Cardinals run defense is one of their strongest areas, so this will be a test for Philadelphia. Still, they're run game is in sync right now and should still produce decent fantasy numbers.

Carolina at Detroit

Total points expected: 43 (Detroit favored by 3)

Carolina RB's: Christian McCaffrey is currently RB20 in PPR leagues and hasn't cracked 20+ rushing yards since Week 1. He's really been struggling running between the tackles and that makes him a tough start in standard leagues. Jonathan Stewart is an RB27 in standard leagues and has yet to score a touchdown. The Lions are a middle-of-the-road rushing defense which makes matchup blander than non-salted potatoes. Keep

Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah recorded his first RB1 finish last week, ranking 9th among all running backs in fantasy points with 17. His volume has been solid, as his 66 carries rank him 19th overall among RB's. He's starting to distance himself from Theo Riddick in the snap count, but Zach Zenner is also in the mix and could steal goal line touches. The Panthers have been solid in the run defense department, but they've given up 35 catches to running backs over a four game span. Abdullah could be in for a decent outing if he sees the most targets among Detroit running backs, which he did last week.

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams

Total points expected: 46

Seattle RB's: This backfield might be the messiest in the NFL right now, with six running backs all seeing snaps. Converted wideout J.D. McKissic was the guy last week, finishing as an RB7 with 17 fantasy points, including a receiving touchdown. It's likely McKissic remains the top receiving back as C.J. Prosise sat out Thursday's practice. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy are likely to split carries in some fashion, but nobody can be certain of how that will shake out. The uncertainty is frustrating because the Rams have been absolutely gashed by running backs so far this season, giving up a league-worst 31 point per game at the position. This might be the one time it makes sense to roll the dice with a Seattle back.

Los Angeles Rams RB's: It's the Todd Gurley show once again. Gurley has cracked 20+ carries and 100+ yards in each of his last two games. He's the No. 1 running back in fantasy points through four games in standard and PPR. You start him in all leagues. If you're splitting hairs in Daily Fantasy, he's playing a Seattle team that's given up two 100-yard games to RB1's so far this season.

Baltimore at Oakland

Total points expected: 40 (Oakland favored by 4)

Baltimore RB's: Alex Collins has emerged as the top back in this offense with Javorius Allen struggling. Alex Collins has been very efficient in his last two starts, rushing for over 160 yards on just 18 carries. He's only a flex option as of now, but could morph into an RB2 if he starts finding the end zone and sees more volume. With 18 targets over the last three games, Allen is still the favorite in the passing game. However, Collins did see two targets last week and could see more going forward. Oakland has been hit-or-miss against the run this year, making Collins risky but still worth a shot as a flex in deeper leagues.

Oakland RB's: Oakland's backfield has steadily become more atrocious each week. Oakland's offensive line is getting  2.24 yards blocked per contact, so they're not the problem. Veteran Marshawn Lynch hasn't cracked 20+ rushing yards since Week 2 and looks washed after sitting out the last season. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are talented but haven't been utilized fully yet. That could change with Lynch's recent struggles, and Richard might see more carries since he's more of an insider runner than the pass-catching Washington. Still, it's a tough matchup against a Ravens defense that struggled against Le'Veon Bell but has been dominant against all the other backs they've played.

Green Bay at Dallas

Total points expected: 53 (Dallas favored by 2)

Green Bay RB's: With Ty Montgomery listed as doubtful for Week 5, so expect the Packers to use Aaron Jones and pass a lot against Dallas. Since Jones is a rookie and is still earning the trust of coaches, he likely won't see the volume Montgomery has been getting. Dallas is struggling against the run, giving up 27 points to the running back which is 4th worst in the league. Still, the Packers have several ways to beat teams, and will likely use Aaron Rodgers and the pass more which will curb any value to the running back minus a touchdown reception out of the backfield. Best to steer clear of these running backs this week.

Dallas RB's: Minus the one dud against Denver, Ezekiell Elliott has been as consistent as they come for fantasy backs this season. He has 20+ carries in three games and a rushing touchdown in his last two. He's averaging five targets per game and has finished as an RB8, RB50, RB11, and RB3. This game has great gamescript potential for Elliott, as he's scored 42 of his 57.5 fantasy points when the Cowboys have a close lead or are tied. With plenty of high-scoring potential here, Elliott is a must-start in cash games for DFS and an obvious start in all other formats.

Kansas City at Houston

Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 1.5)

Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt's volume keeps growing, as he saw a season-high 50 snaps in Week 4. You have to wonder when Hunt's role will start to wear him down though. He looked exhausted at times during the team's close win over Washington but still recorded his third 100-yard performance in four games. Hunt's been an absolute stud but Houston's defense has been locked in these past three games, holding each team's RB1 to under 40 rush yards. Hunt's nearly matchup proof given his role in the receiving game with 13 targets over four games. Still, this will be his toughest test yet on an undefeated Kansas City team that's getting a bigger target on its back each week. It's best to fade Hunt this week in DFS.

Houston RB's: It's weird to think Lamar Miller is actually an RB1 this year but he is. He's finished as an RB17, RB21, RB35 and RB4 through four games, averaging out to an RB12. His volume has been consistent, hovering around 16 rushing attempts per game. The Texans rank third in plays per game with 69 which has also helped Miller stay on the field. He also benefited from rookie DeShaun Watson's blowup game last week, as he caught four of five targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City is a very good run defense, allowing just one rushing score over their last three games. Miller has a low ceiling this week, but his floor is very reliable.

Minnesota at Chicago

Total points expected: 40 (Minnesota favored by 3)

Minnesota RB's: Rookie Dalvin Cook saw his promising rookie year come to an end last week, so now it's up to Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon to pick up the slack. Murray will have the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that's getting 1.94 yards per contact blocked per game, but he's playing against a Bears front seven that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Murray's health is also in flux as he's still dealing with the same ankle injury that kept him from starting Week 1. McKinnon should inherit more targets with Cook out, making him a good add in PPR leagues. Still, this is a backfield you should stay away from starting until the picture comes into focus.

Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen was a dominant pass catcher in the first two weeks but he's since been out-targeted by Jordan Howard 9:8. Howard has rushed for over 190 yards and three touchdowns over his last two starts. He's the clear top option while Cohen's value is dropping off a little bit. Minnesota is one of the best run defenses in the league right now, allowing just 15 points to the running back position. Best to start Howard and fade Cohen.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 01:05
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.

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