• Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6

    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 6 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 6.


    As we head into Week 6 and the 2017 NFL season, the fantasy running back picture becomes more and more clear. Backs like Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell have all established themselves as clear RB1's.

    This is also the time of year when injuries crop up and younger backs get their chance. We saw that with Aaron Jones in Green Bay, Elijah McGuire in New York and Matt Breida in San Francisco. This is the time where managing your waiver wire is crucial, as the changing of the guard between starters and second-string running backs can often lead to a new fantasy front runner for the remainder of the season.

    Here's every fantasy relevant running back for Week 6.

    Cleveland at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Houston favored by 12)

    Cleveland RB's: Over the past two weeks, Duke Johnson has more fantasy points (26) than Kareem Hunt (24). The Houston Texans are still a strong defense, even without JJ Watt, but Johnson's versatility keeps him on the RB1 radar this week. While Johnson saw just three targets last week, he turned them into three catches for 63 yards and a score. The Browns are switching quarterbacks, starting Kevin Hogan in replacement of DeShone Kizer. Hogan is a game manager quarterback, which could lead to more check-down throws to Johnson especially with Houston's pass rush forcing his hand. Last week, Isaiah Crowell saw his biggest volume total since Week 1 with 16 carries, but Houston's defense is only allowing 21 points to running backs this year. Best to throw Johnson in as a flex option and bench Crowell.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller has completely dominated the snap count as of late and is benefiting from a white-hot Deshaun Watson. Over the past two games, Miller saw nine looks in the red zone and is averaging 75 rush yards per game. He's not a prolific receiver at the RB spot, but he's averaging close to three targets per game. If Houston jumps out to an early lead, this could be a game where Miller cracks 20 carries. The Browns have been a very good run defense, not allowing a running back to rush for over 70 yards all season. Miller has some appeal because of volume, but that's about it. He hasn't established himself as a big play back, with just 52 yards coming on runs of 15 yards or more.

    New England at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 47 (New England favored by 9.5)

    New England RB's: The New England running back narrative of 'you can't trust anybody' was dashed last season with LeGarrette Blount's 18 scores. But this season it looks like it's difficult to trust anybody. Last week, four Patriot running backs saw 13+ snaps. Dion Lewis saw a season-high seven carries, which took away some of Mike Gillislee's value. The one constant seems to be James White in the passing game. White has 21 targets in the last two games and 17 catches total. The Jets have struggled against the run overall, but have bottled up top backs Jay Ajayi and Leonard Fournette. Gillislee is a risky start in that regard and Lewis should see more snaps going forward.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte returns this week, Bilal Powell is likely sidelined and Elijah McGuire should see time as the second back. The matchup is a great one, with New England giving up a league-worst 38 points per game to running backs. This game has sneaky shootout potential, and both backs have dark horse RB1 upside due to their versatility in the pass game.

    Miami at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 47 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

    Miami RB's: It's been a rough start for Jay Ajayi, who's yet to score a touchdown despite 76 carries. Only LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Stewart have more carries without a touchdown. Ajay's offensive line hasn't helped much, as the Dolphins rank in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact according to Pro Football Focus. The Falcons have been solid against the run this season, not allowing a 100-yard rusher. They've been weak against pass-catching backs though, giving up at least three catches to every RB1 this season. Ajayi isn't a prolific receiver, but he could find himself getting more receiving yards in this one. He's still an RB1 given his high volume of carries per game.

    Atlanta RB's: The Falcons come off the bye week at home where they will face one of the toughest run defenses in the league. The Dolphins have only allowed one running back to crack 50+ yards and that was DeMarco Murray last week. Expect Atlanta to favor the pass in this one, which could make Tevin Coleman the better back to go with. Coleman is averaging close to five targets per game and the Falcons receiving core is banged up. Mohamed Sanu is out and Miami will devote a lot of attention to Julio Jones.

    Detroit at New Orleans

    Total points expected: 51 (New Orleans favored by 4)

    Detroit RB's: The Detroit backfield remains dicey with three running backs getting valuable snaps. Ameer Abdullah is the clear No. 1 in terms of carries, but Theo Riddick continues to see plenty of targets and Zach Zenner is also getting looks in the red zone. New Orleans has been solid against the run this season, only allowing one 100-yard rusher and that was back in Week 1. They've been vulnerable to pass-catching backs though, as they were gashed by Christian McCaffrey and James White 17 catches and 186 yards combined. The game script in this game favors Riddick among all Detroit backs.

    New Orleans RB's: it will be New Orleans first game without Adrian Peterson, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week. This is great news for Mark Ingram owners, as Peterson was taking away about seven carries per game from Marky Mark. Ingram saw a season-high 46 snaps last week and that number could creep into the 50's with Peterson gone. Expect anywhere from 15-to-20 carries this week for Ingram. Alvin Kamara has been one of the most prolific rookie pass catchers this season with 26 grabs so far. Only Christian McCaffrey and Tarik Cohen have more. The Lions have been decent against the run this season, only giving up one 100-yard game this season. Still, New Orleans is a different team at home and should fare well in potentially high-scoring game.

    Green Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 47 (Green Bay favored by 3.5)

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery practiced this week and is listed as 'questionable.' He'll have his work cut out for him against a Minnesota defense that's one of the best against the run. The Vikings have held Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram and Le'Veon Bell all in check this season, and this could be a game where passing ends up being the way to go for Green Bay. Aaron Jones was fantastic in replacement of Montgomery last week, rushing for 125 yards and score. Obviously, his value is curbed if Montgomery plays. Both runners are risky options given the strength of Minnesota's defense.

    Minnesota RB's: Jerick McKinnon was dominant last Monday against Chicago, and might be the lead back going forward after out-snapping Latavius Murray 47-to-22. McKinnon was also very efficient in the pass game, catching all six of his targets for 51 yards. Murray struggled to gain yards after contact and finished with just 31 yards on 12 carries. The Packers struggled against Ezekiel Elliott last week, but they've been a solid run defense overall. Still, McKinnon's versatility and volume gives him RB1 potential each week.

    Chicago at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 41.5 (Baltimore favored by 7)

    Chicago RB's: Jordan Howard has reasserted himself as the team's lead back after Tarik Cohen's hot start lead many to believe this would be a split backfield. Howard fared well on Monday night against a tough Vikings defense, rushing for 76 yards on 19 carries. He gets another test this week against a Baltimore group that held Leonard Fournette to just 59 yards and completely shutdown Marshawn Lynch last week. Howard is an RB1 in redraft given his volume and role as an every-down back.

    Baltimore RB's: The Bears have given up a rushing touchdown to every RB1 they've faced this season. This is good news for Javorius Allen, who's coming off a solid outing against Oakland where rushed for 73 yards and a score while catching four of five targets. Allen is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside in this one. Expect Alex Collins to be in the mix as well, as he saw 12 carries last week and nine in each of the past two games. Still, Collins upside is limited since he doesn't see many targets.

    San Francisco at Washington

    Total points expected: 46.5 (Washington favored by 9)

    San Francisco RB's: After a solid start where he rushed for over 250 yards in his first three games, Carlos Hyde is starting to see less usage in San Francisco. He saw just eight carries against Indianapolis while backup Matt Breida had 10 and looked much more efficient with 49 rush yards. Washington has become very good defense overall this season. Against the run, they're giving up just 22 points per game to running backs. Perhaps even more impressive is the Redskins have put up those numbers after facing both Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley this season. This is a tough week to start any San Francisco running back.

    Washington RB's: The Washington offensive line has been a Top 5 unit this season, getting 2.26 yards of contact blocked according to Pro Football Focus. It's just too bad they haven't found a clear lead running back to make the most of those yards. Rookie Samaje Perine hasn't rushed for more than 67 yards despite two games of 19+ carries. Rob Kelley haven't rushed for more than 78 yards and he's struggled to stay healthy this season. Speaking of his health, Kelley likely won't play this week as he's listed as doubtful with a ankle injury. San Francisco isn't as bad a run defense as they were last season thanks to some promising rookie play for DeForest Buckner. Still, they're giving up over 35 points to the running back position this year. Perine is risky but there is some upside to this matchup.

    Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Jacksonville favored by 2.5)

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is coming off his worst performance of the year, rushing for 43 yards on 14 carries against Seattle. He should be in for a bounce back game against a Jacksonville defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. The Jaguars are a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this year. They gave up 250+ yards to Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, then they held Le'Veon Bell to just 47 yards and DeMarco Murray to just 25 yards. Expect Gurley to have be better than last week, but this Jaguars team might be sneaky good. They seem to get up for the big-name backs and Gurley is a big name.

    Jacksonville RB's: The Jaguars are living up to the identity of a run-first team. Leonard Fournette is the league leader in carries with 109. His five touchdowns are tied with Devonta Freeman for the most in the league. The Rams are giving up 35 points per game to running backs this season, but have been better in recent weeks after holding Seattle's backfield to just 39 rush yards. Still, this is a great matchup for Fournette and his volume makes him one of the most reliable rushers so far this season.

    Tampa Bay at Arizona

    Total points expected: 44.5 (Arizona favored by 1)

    Tampa Bay RB's: Doug Martin burst back onto the scene following his four game suspension, finishing as an RB7 with 74 yards and a touchdown against a struggling Patriots defense. He'll get a tougher test against the Arizona Cardinals this week, a team that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher and has only surrendered two rushing touchdowns this season. Still, the Cardinals offense has struggled to score points which wears on a defense as the season goes along. The Cardinals rank 26th in points per game and will have to hope Adrian Peterson breathes some life into one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. If they continue to struggle on offense, it means a more favorable game script for Martin.

    Arizona RB's: Peterson will get his first start against a Tampa Bay defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. It's difficult to say how he'll fare, especially since Tampa Bay has struggled more against passing backs than every-down rushers. The Bucs have given up at least five catches to pass-catching backs in three of their four games, making this a solid matchup for Arizona's Andre Ellington. Ellington has 24 targets over the last two games and the Cardinals will continue to pass due to injuries on their offensive line.

    Pittsburgh at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell saw a season-high 73 snaps last week to go along with 10 catches on 10 targets. There isn't a back in the league with more opportunity than Bell right now, and Pittsburgh will lean on him once again to take down an undefeated Kansas City team. Kansas City is giving up only 23.4 points per game to running backs this season, so this could be a tougher matchup for Bell. But of course, you're starting him each week barring injury. 

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt rushed for over 100 yards in his third straight game last week, but Charcandrick West sniped two receiving touchdowns from him. Still, you shouldn't worry much if you have Hunt, as he'll see plenty of volume against a Pittsburgh defense that's sneaky bad against the run. The Steelers have gotten smoked by RB1's so far this year, giving up 100+ yards to Jordan Howard, Leonard Fournette. Both running backs also had multiple touchdowns in those games. Hunt is a great play this week in all formats.

    Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon is coming off his best performance of the season against the Giants, where he rushed for over 100 yards and had two receiving touchdowns. His 65 snaps were also a season-high for him that season. The Raiders are average against the run and this should be another solid game for the third-year running back.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch's status as an RB1 might be over if he can't dominate this matchup. The Chargers have allowed three running backs to rush for over 100 yards against them so far this season. They've also given up over 100 yards to every backfield they've faced this year. Jalen Richard is also a good sneaky play in deeper leagues as he only saw two less snaps and three less carries than Lynch.

    N.Y. Giants at Denver (Monday Night)

    Total points expected: 40.5 (Denver favored by 9.5)

    New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman looks like the best option for New York at this point. But this is a terrible matchup for New York and injuries at the wide receiver position will likely cost them in the run game. The Broncos have shut down RB1's this season and they've faced some studs, some of which include LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott. 

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is the clear No. 1 back in this offense and has seen three games of 20+ carries. The Giants have given up at least 80 yards to every RB1 they've faced this season, and game script could help Anderson's cause if New York can't score. Jamaal Charles is a sneaky good start as well if Denver jumps out to a big halftime lead.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 5

    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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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 4

    Stop guessing and start winning. Numberfire.com. Use the promo code 'FFHelpers' and receive your first month subscription for $9.99.

    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 4 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 4.


    Week 3 was weird. Several surefire players ended up tanking, including Jay Ajayi and Marshawn Lynch. But while the NFL may seem unpredictable right now, keep in mind these are the often the times when things swing back to reality.

    For example, Ajayi is still going to get a ton of volume and be a menace going forward. Marshawn Lynch might lack a high ceiling but he's just being preserved so Oakland can use him when they need to cement a playoff spot down the stretch. LeSean McCoy should still be fired up this week, as he plays the running-back-friendly New Orleans Saints in Week 4.

    Overall, we're all tested when it comes to questioning our previously held fantasy football beliefs as the new season wears on. All the data we've accumulated in the offseason starts to become useless by about Week 4-5. So prepare to have your previous notions eradicated. But for now, hang on to them for at least another week or so.

    Here's a look at every fantasy relevant running back for Week 4.

    New Orleans at Miami

    Total points expected: 50

    Game script: Pass heavy if New Orleans gets out to early lead.

    New Orleans RB's: It's looking more and like Mark Ingram is the back to own in this offense and Alvin Kamara is the PPR guy. Adrian Peterson continues to make a minimal impact with just 8 fantasy points through 3 games, with Ingram and Kamara scoring 23 and 19, respectively. The biggest surprise is that Ingram and Peterson's carry totals are similar, but Peterson hasn't made the most of his touches with just 3.3 yards per carry.

    Miami is an above average run defense, allowing just 19.3 fantasy points per game. Still, Melvin Gordon caught seven passes against them and the Ingram/Kamara combo has been good for about ten targets between the two. They're both solid starts this week with the high over/under.

    Miami RB's: Per Rich Hribar on Rotoworld, the Saints are one of two teams (Seattle) to allow a Top-12 scoring running back in each week of the season so far. This means Jay Ajayi should be in play as a rebound candidate after he struggled against The New York Jets in Week 3.

    There are elements of Ajayi's dud performance you just can't predict — sometimes one team shows up and the other doesn't. However, his lack of volume in the second half can be blamed on the game script. Not all coaches opt to go pass-heavy when their team is down, but Adam Gase does. Overall, the Dolphins threw the ball over 70 percent of the time and New York dominated the time of possession 36:23.

    Ajayi should see better volume against New Orleans in Week 4 given the Saints rank worst against running backs, allowing 33 points per game.

    Jacksonville at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 39.5 (Jacksonville favored by 4)

    Jacksonville RB's: Leonard Fournette has scored a touchdown in each game so far this season and ranks sixth in standard scoring. The gamescript was funky last week with Baltimore's stellar defense coming out flat in London, so don't worry much about Tommy Bahanon and Corey Grant taking snaps away or anything. Fournette is also averaging four targets per game. Game script should favor Fournette seeing heavy volume as long as the Jets don't get completely blown out. The Jets turned Jay Ajayi into Jay Acai berries last week, but they were dominated by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland's committee backfield in the first two weeks. Fournette is still a solid play this week.

    New York Jets RB's: People love Bilal Powell this week but I'm in the minority. Josh McCown hasn't thrown past 250 yards in a game this season which limits receiving upside in the backfield. Powell is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Jacksonville is a dominant run defense, allowing just 16 points per game against running backs this season. Elijah McGuire has seen increased snaps each week as well, and is expected to be 'involved' this week.

    Cincinnati at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 40 (Cincinnati favored by 3)

    Cincinnati RB's: The Bengals appear ready to feature Mixon as their true lead back going forward. After seeing just 16 snaps a week ago, Mixon saw 34 against Green Bay. He finished with a season-high 18 carries for 62 yards to along with three catches for 39 yards on three targets. Cleveland is an average run defense, but will have No. 1 pick Myles Garrett in the lineup for the first time. Still, we don't know how much they'll use Garrett and even if he'll be effective in his first game. The Bengals offensive line is struggling already, averaging just .71 yards before contact to running backs per Pro Football Focus. Despite that, Mixon should get enough volume to at least have a shot at decent numbers.

    Cleveland RB's: Vontaze Burfict has been activated for Week 4 and should help in an already decent run defense. Duke Johnson is starting to see a bigger role in the Cleveland backfield. His target numbers have increased each week. He also has two more total snaps than Isaiah Crowell, a back who's yet to score a touchdown or run for more than 45 yards in a game. Johnson ranks third in reception yards with 160 and is fourth in snaps per route with Le'Veon Bell. He's recorded at least 50 receiving yards in his last two games and could be a great darkhorse play if Cleveland starts giving him more volume in the run game. He's also a great PPR option each week as always.

    Pittsburgh at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 1)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is still the clear starter. Bell hasn't created yardage by himself like he has in the past, as he just ranks 23rd in elusive rating among running backs according to Pro Football Focus. He continues to be effective none the less, ranking 15th in standard scoring among running backs even though he hasn't really had a dominant performance. Baltimore handled the Bengals and Browns running backs during their first two games, but will be without one of their best run stoppers in Brandon Williams. This could be a breakout game for bell, as his target totals have been steady each game (6,4,7) and so have his reception totals (3, 4, 6). He might finally pop in Week 4.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen has been the top snap guy as of late. He also has 10 catches in his last two games. The gamescript could favor a pass-friendly day as the Steelers rank 11th in passing plays per game which will increase Allen's opportunity. The Steelers are also giving up 27 points to running backs per game, sixth worst in the league. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen put up big numbers in Week 3 and Allen could have a favorable gamescript if Pittsburgh gets out to an early lead.

    Carolina at New England

    Total points expected: 47.5 (New England favored by 9.5)

    Game script: High-scoring. Pass heavy.

    Carolina RB's: Jonathan Stewart remains the feature back in the offense, but his rush attempts have dwindled from 18 to 12 from Weeks 1 to 3. New England is coming in averaging 33 points per game, second most behind the Los Angeles Rams. It's hard to see Stewart seeing significant volume in this game. Christian McCaffrey has become Cam Newton's favorite check down guy, as he leads all Panthers in targets with 23. New England has also been soft against quarterbacks so far, so this could be a good game to start Newton and McCaffrey as a stack in DFS and avoid Stewart.

    New England RB's: Mike Gillislee remains the best volume back, averaging 15 attempts per game but has been out-snapped by James White in every contest but Week 2 where they each had 30. It's looking like Gillislee's fantasy value will be touchdown dependent at times, but that's no problem since the Patriots are scoring so much. The Panthers are above average across the board in terms of fantasy points allowed per game, and have been especially good against tight ends and quarterbacks. Still, they've given up 22 catches to running backs over three games. Gillislee and White are startable, but gameflow will likely hurt one of them.

    Los Angeles Rams at Dallas

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Dallas favored by 9.5)

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Not a single back took a snap other than Todd Gurley last week and for good reason. Gurley is now the second highest scoring fantasy back through 3 weeks, trailing only Kareem Hunt. The Rams offense has also been potent, scoring 40+ in two of three games. What a difference Sean McVay has made already. The Cowboys haven't played a running back of Gurley's caliber yet this season aside from maybe C.J. Anderson of the Broncos in Week 2. Anderson finished that game with over 100 yards rushing and two total touchdowns.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott and the running game rebounded after getting throttled by Denver in Week 2. Elliott is one of the best volume backs in the league, ranking fourth in carries with 55. With just one rushing touchdown so far, you have to worry about Dak Prescott's read-option taking away scoring opportunities as teams key in on Elliott. Still, this is another great matchup for Elliott as the Rams are giving up 29 fantasy points per game to running backs, fourth worst in the league. Elliott continues to see a receiving role as well, averaging four catches per game.

    Detroit at Minnesota

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are seeing an equal amount of snaps from week to week but Abdullah has a sizeable advantage in the touches category. Still, Riddick has out-targeted Abdullah 19-7 through three games. It's frustrating because Abdullah could easily be the receiving and rushing back, but Detroit continues to use Riddick. Minnesota is the best team against opposing running backs so far this season, allowing just 13.2 points per game.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook's volume so far is surprising considering the Vikings spent money on Latavius Murray in the offseason and Jerrick McKinnon was supposedly the passing down back. Cook ranks second in the league in carries with 61, trailing only Gurley. While McKinnon is still getting targets, last week he saw his fewest of the season (2) and Cook saw five. There's a chance Cook could be used more in the passing game going forward. Detroit is also not a great rushing defense, allowing 25.7 fantasy points to running backs per game.

    Tennessee at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Tennessee RB's: Don't be fooled by DeMarco Murray's 100-plus yard stat line, Derrick Henry is still a valuable piece in this offense. Murray ended up with 14 carries for 115 yards but Henry also saw 13 touches of his own. This is a tough matchup for both running backs, as Houston is giving up 16.7 points per game to running backs, which is 23rd worst.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller is still the every-down back but D'Onta Foreman is slowly entering the picture. Foreman's three targets led all running backs last week, and turned two of them into 65 receiving yards. Foreman is worth monitoring going forward, but he's still a risky start as of now since the volume isn't quite there. Unless you see coaches clamoring to get him more involved, avoid him in this matchup.

    Buffalo at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

    Game script: High-scoring. Atlanta ranks fifth in touchdowns per game, meaning Buffalo might have to play catch up. This game will really come down to how well Buffalo's defense plays. Atlanta has had their way on offense with every defense so far, but they haven't played a group as good as Buffalo yet. 

    Buffalo RB's: Buffalo is a run heavy team, rushing 32 times per game on average, which ranks fourth in the league. LeSean McCoy slogged through tough matchups with Denver and Carolina, scoring just 11 fantasy points in that time. He gets a dream matchup this week against Atlanta, a team that's given up 30.6 points to running backs, third worst in the league. While McCoy is the back to start this week, Mike Tolbert is also seeing decent volume as well. Tolbert has seen 10+ carries in two of three games and is known to snag a goal line touchdown from time to time. He's a risky play in DFS tournaments, but not a bad option considering how good the matchup is. If he gets a touchdown and 40 rushing yards (a feat he accomplished last week), he'll 3x his draft value.

    Atlanta RB's: Devonta Freeman continues to see plenty of carries and has at least one rushing touchdown in each game. People really want to be contrarian and take Tevin Coleman for a better value, and this might be the matchup to do it. Buffalo is giving up just just 15.7 points to running backs, good for 31st in the league. Buffalo has the speed on defense to keep Freeman in check on a consistent basis, making it likely Coleman might have to break the game open with a big run. If you think Buffalo will dominant this game on defense and Atlanta opts for a change of pace, then go with Coleman. Coleman also leads all running backs in targets with 13.

    New York Giants at Tampa Bay

    Total points expected: 44 (Tampa Bay favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Mid-level scoring. Favors Tampa Bay defense.

    New York RB's: Shane Vereen is an intriguing option this week, mainly because Tampa has struggled against pass-catching running backs. They surrendered eight catches to Tarik Cohen and five catches to Dalvin Cook. Plus, this is a desperation game for New York being 0-3, they'll be playing hard.
    Overall, the running game continues to be the Achilles Heel of New York's offense. Rookie Wayne Gallman has yet to suit up for a game, but it may be time to at least give him a shot. Paul Perkins has been anemic with just 8 fantasy points through three games and hasn't even played a stout run defense yet. Orleans Darkwa has been slightly more efficient with 7 carries for 22 yards last week but the Giants are just trying to make something work by giving him more snaps. The only thing you can hope for is a few goal line touchdowns at this point. Shane Vereen remains

    Tampa Bay RB's: Jacquizz Rodgers gets his last go-around before Doug Martin returns from suspension. He and Charles Sims split snaps last week, and neither made a huge fantasy impact against a tough group in Minnesota. The Giants are better against the pass than the run at this point, but starting Rodgers is a risk considering he lacks a role in the pass game (zero targets through two games).

    Philadelphia at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 46.5

    Philadelphia RB's: LeGarrette Blount ran with purpose for the first time all season and finished as an RB14 with 13 fantasy points. He's dealt a tough matchup against San Diego, a team that ranks near the Top 5 in fantasy points allowed for running backs. The opportunity is still there though, as Philadelphia is tied for first in plays run per game with 69. Wendall Smallwood is an intriguing option as well this week. Taking over for Darren Sproles, Smallwood saw 43 snaps last week and should inherit anywhere between 4-8 targets and 5-10 carries.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver both saw 33 snaps last week. Gordon is dealing with a bone bruise but all reports indicate he will play against Philadelphia. He's still the clear-cut No. 1 back, but Oliver saw six targets last week and turned them into four receptions for 18 yards. It's not out of the question could see a similar workload in Week 4. Plus, with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox battling a calf injury, we could see an easier matchup for Gordon and Oliver.

    San Francisco at Arizona

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Arizona favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Run-heavy, defensive game.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde is one of the top fantasy running backs in the NFL right now. He's a bit banged up with a hip injury and is 50/50 to play on Sunday, but he's still very valuable if he does suit up. Matt Breida would be the next guy up, and has only carried the ball 11 times through three games. At 5'11, 190 lbs, the rookie Breida was a standout runner at Georgia Southern but a poor 2016 season hurt his draft stock. Still, he could be an impact player given his straight-line speed (4.3 40-yard dash) and he's one of the more interesting backup running backs in the league overall. He's made a small dent in the passing game, ranking second among San Francisco RB's in targets with 6. Arizona has given up a rushing touchdown to RB1's in each of the last two games. Keep an eye on Hyde's status heading into Sunday.

    Arizona RB's: The news that guard Mike Iupati would play Sunday were dashed late Friday as four-time Pro Bowler was sent to injured reserve, likely ending his season. The matchup is still decent for Chris Johnson though, as the 49ers are surrendering 27 points per game to running backs so far. Johnson's ceiling is curbed by Andre Ellington's role in the receiving game, as Ellington saw eight targets to Johnson's two. Ellington's receiving role was heavily influenced by gamescript against Dallas and although the 49ers are still a bad team overall, their offense put up 39 points a week ago. It's tough to start either of these backs this week.

    Oakland at Denver

    Total points expected: 47

    Oakland RB's: Oakland's running backs managed a measly 22 yards rushing last week against Washington. Their matchup doesn't get much easier as they play a Denver team giving up just 16 points to running backs. They have nowhere to go but up though, and Marshawn Lynch should continue to see the most volume with Jalen Richard also mixed in. DeAndre Washington saw a season-high six targets last week due to gamescript, and it's tough to trust him or any other Oakland back in this matchup.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles are now the one-two punch in this offense. Charles outscored Anderson for the first time last week with 12 fantasy points and finished as an RB15. Anderson still out-snapped Charles 49-21, but the veteran back isn't going away anytime soon as he continues to make the most of his carries. Oakland is middle of the road against the run, making this a bland matchup with modest potential for both Bronco running backs.

    Indianapolis at Seattle

    Total points expected: 41 (Seattle favored by 13.5)

    Game script: Low scoring. Favors Seattle defense

    Indianapolis RB's: Seattle isn't the dominant run-stopping defense it once was. They've allowed at least a 100 yards or a touchdown to RB1's in the first three weeks of the season. With Marlon Mack out this week, Frank Gore has some dark horse potential coming off a 57-yard performance with a touchdown last week against Cleveland. Only issue is it took Gore 25 carries to do it, and he'll need that kind of volume again if he's expected to turn in a similar performance. Overall, Gore is a better option for cash DFS tournaments or deep redraft leagues due to a low ceiling.

    Seattle RB's: Chris Carson is now the feature back in Seattle and C.J. Prosise the pass catcher. Prosise is doubtful this week, making Carson an interesting RB2 with upside. If Carson was going to go over 100 yards this season, this would be the matchup to do it.

    Washington at Kansas City (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 49 (Kansas City favored by 9)

    Washington RB's: Chris Thompson's six-catch, 150-yard performance last week was sensational, but Kansas City will be his toughest task yet if he's expecting to continue his crazy efficiency numbers. Robert Kelley has been practicing this week and could assume the inside runner role due to rookie Samaje Perine's struggles. Overall, Thompson is the only fantasy relevant back in this offense as of now, and his efficiency numbers are bound to fall off at some point. Kansas City is surrendering 23 points per game to running backs this season.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt is the best running back in fantasy by a wide margin, and gets a Washington defense that's surrendered 18 receptions to running backs over three games. Although Washington showed up against Oakland last week, Kansas City's offensive line is on another level and Hunt is locked in as an RB1 once again.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 3

    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 3 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 3.


    Week 2 has come and gone and while the overall picture is still cloudy, some small trends are starting to emerge in the fantasy football world.

    For one, Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt has been on a whole different level than any other running back. Hunt's 71 fantasy points through two weeks dwarfs the next highest running back, which is Ty Montgomery at 48.3. To put it in perspective, the highest fantasy scoring running back through two weeks in 2016 was DeAngelo Williams with 48.

    Todd Gurley continues to look more like the rookie who dominated for over 1,000 rush yards during his rookie season. Through two weeks, Gurley has finished as an RB6 and RB2.

    The Oakland Raider backfield remains messy. Marshawn Lynch is getting considerable volume and goal line work but lacking in the receiving category. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have combined for eight targets. Each back curbs the others ceiling from week to week.

    Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday game recap)

    Total team scoring expectation: 42 points

    Actual points scored: 80

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

    Los Angeles RB's: Well everyone was wrong on this one in terms of the game script. Todd Gurley was nothing short of amazing, rushing for 113 yards and two scores and catching 5 passes for 36 yards and another score. He's been incredible through 3 weeks and is currently the top scoring fantasy running back until the Sunday games.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde saw his highest carry total yet with 25 rushing attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He's a great shot to continue producing as the 49ers coaching staff keep increasing his volume. Rookie Matt Breida didn't do much in the run game, but he did have three catches on four targets for 20 yards in this one. He's not worth a stash unless you're in a 16-team points per reception league at this point, but he's worth monitoring going forward.

    Baltimore at Jacksonville (London game)

    Total points expected: 40 (Baltimore favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Run heavy, defense.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen was the volume guy in Week 2 with 42 snaps to Terrance West's 15. Allen also received six looks in the red zone but it was West that got the lone carry inside the five and scored a touchdown on it. West did not practice this week and is dealing with a thigh injury, making Allen a primary RB1 candidate for this week against Jacksonville. Through two games, the Ravens have the second most rushing attempts in the league with 37. 

    Jacksonville RB's: Rookie Leonard Fournette ranks second in rush attempts through two weeks. He's also been sprinkled into the pass game with five receptions on eight targets. If T.J. Yeldon is active in Week 3, expect him to steal targets from Fournette. Either way, Fournette is still the primary back and should see his usual volume. Fournette is an RB8 through two weeks this season.

    Cleveland at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 40 (Cleveland favored by 2)

    Game script: Low-scoring. Grind game.

    Cleveland RB's: Isaiah Crowell hasn't gone off yet through the first two weeks, ranking as an RB18 through two weeks. But he's had decent volume with 27 carries through two games. The Colts have been stout against the run, holding both Todd Gurley and Chris Johnson to under 50 rushing yards. The Browns should keep Indy's quarterbacks in check, as the Colts QB's have yet to throw a passing touchdown this season. This could lead to Crowell's best volume of the young season.

    Indianapolis RB's: Both Frank Gore and Marlon Mack have struggled through two weeks. But Frank Gore is still a solid RB2 option thanks to his volume. Worth noting that Robert Turbin increased his snap count from 14 to 28 in Week 2, but didn't do much with it as he finished with just three carries for 11 yards. Cleveland has been decent against the run so far, making Indy's backfield more risky in Week 3.

    Pittsburgh at Chicago

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring with Pittsburgh's offense getting considerable upside.

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is due for a big game here. His volume was crazy in Week 2, as he saw 68 snaps to James Conner's 4. The Bears surrendered over 110 yards to Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in Week 2. Bell's role in the receiving game also makes him game script proof in case this game favors more passing. The only worry is the unfavorable road splits for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but a good matchup should buck that trend. Bell is a great option in all formats this week and in DFS lineups.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is the guy you want to start for Chicago going forward until Jordan Howard shows some of the effectiveness he had as a rookie. Howard is dealing with a shoulder injury, as he was reportedly wearing a sling in practice this week. The Steelers kept the Browns and Vikings run games in check which makes Howard a risky play. Cohen, meanwhile, leads all Bears offensive players in targets with 21 and is a strong start with so many injuries at wide receiver. Cohen also ranks fourth in yards per route run (2) trailing only Shane Vereen, James White and Melvin Gordon.

    Miami at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 41 (Miami favored by 6.5)

    Game script: Miami defense favored heavily. Run-heavy for Miami, pass-heavy for New York.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is the clear bell cow running back in this offense. His 28 carries in Week 2 should be replicated in Week 3 against a bad New York Jets run defense. The Jets have been lit up by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland Raider backfield in Weeks 1 and 2. With points hard to come by for New York, you might have to worry about Miami getting out to an early lead and taking Ajayi out. But Ajayi's floor is probably 70-80 yards in this one and he has significant touchdown upside.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte took on a slightly larger role, out-touching Bilal Powell 13 to 6 and he's clearly the back to start in deeper leagues. Rookie Elijah McGuire also got into the mix for the first time, receiving six touches of his own for 29 yards and adding one catch for seven yards. Though this backfield is messy, there's some value at the position as the Jets will likely be playing from behind a lot and all of these backs are decent pass catchers. Good garbage time points are a very real possibility. This is a game to steer clear of the backfield for now, but keep an eye out for McGuire on waiver wires in deeper leagues. There's potential for him to see more opportunity in the future.

    Denver at Buffalo

    Total points expected: 41 (Denver favored by 2)

    Game script: Lots of running, low-scoring.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson leads the league in rushing attempts and finished as the top fantasy running back in Week 2 with 27 points. Anderson is looking like a good option due to an improved line, strong defense and quarterback. The Bills have been stout against the run so far this season, so this is far from a dream matchup. Still, Anderson should see around 20 touches in this game and add a few catches in as well.

    Buffalo RB's: Carolina stifled LeSean McCoy last week. The Broncos come into this matchup riding a wave of confidence after holding Ezekiel Elliott to just eight rushing yards. It's hard to like McCoy this week, even though he's averaging close to seven targets per game. He's a running back to avoid this week.

    Houston at New England

    Total points expected: 43.5 (New England favored by 13)

    Game script: Defensive battle. Low-scoring.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller ranks among the top 5 in attempts with 35. He also has five catches on five targets through two weeks. Still, he hasn't been effective with just 3.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Rookie D'onta Foreman saw his snap count jump from 2 to 17 last week. He also received 12 touches to Miller's 20. New England is also giving up just 20 points per game, which ranks among the Top 5. Both backs are good fade options this week.

    New England RB's: It's been about as down the middle as it can get with the Patriots running backs. Last week, James White and Mike Gillislee each saw 30 snaps last week. Rex Burkhead's snap count slightly decreased from 10 to 8 but he was efficient with 3 catches for 41 yards and a score. Whatever, it doesn't matter. Overall, the volume belongs to Gillislee and White for right now, with White being the primary receiving back and Gillislee getting the goal line carries.

    New Orleans at Carolina

    Total points expected: 49 (Carolina favored by 6)

    Game script: High scoring. Pass heavy game.

    New Orleans RB's: Mark Ingram is the lead back in this offense. He also has some receiving upside with five targets per game through two weeks. Alvin Kamara also has some upside in a game that could be pass-heavy, but there's still some risk with Adrian Peterson seeing more snaps in Week 2. This is a muddy backfield. Even more frustrating is the fact that Drew Brees is still passing at an elite level. There could be more scoring opportunities but the crowded backfield limits upside. Carolina has also been stout against the run this season. Best to steer clear of this backfield in Week 3.

    Carolina RB's: Cam Newton could hit Christian McCaffrey quite a bit more in this game. James White caught 8 passes for 85 yards against New Orleans and the Saints are giving up close to 30 points to running backs this season. Jonathan Stewart could also be a good start, but his receiving upside is limited and he's yet to find the end zone on the ground. McCaffrey actually has more upside in both standard and PPR leagues this week.

    Tampa Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 41 (Minnesota favored by 2)

    Game script: Lower scoring.

    Tampa Bay RB's: With 34 snaps last week, Jacquizz Rodgers is the main back until Doug Martin returns. Charles Sims saw all of the passing-down work with three targets. Both aren't great options this week as Minnesota kept the Saints in check and held Le'Veon Bell to just 87 yards on 27 carries. The interior has been strong for Minnesota, as they're allowing just 6.9 fantasy points per game according to Pro Football Focus. Rodgers is a risky play this week.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook had a favorable game script in Week 1 thanks to Sam Bradford's dominating performance. Week 2 was a different story, as Pittsburgh got out to the early lead and Minnesota passed the ball 66 percent of the time. It didn't help that Case Keenum struggled mightily at quarterback either. Bradford was ruled out on Friday, tough matchup for the Vikings running backs. Tampa is a solid defense against both the run and pass, but they've only played Chicago and Cook is a more complete back than Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. There's dark horse potential for Cook in this matchup, but if Keenum struggles again, expect Tampa to focus on Cook.

    Atlanta at Detroit

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Potential high scoring with a lot of passing.

    Atlanta RB's: In case you haven't noticed, there's not a clear-cut high fantasy scoring game this week. However, this game could be one of those higher scoring games. Devonta Freeman flourished last week against Green Bay has double the amount of snaps as Tevin Coleman through two weeks. Even though the Lions have been strong against the run, they haven't really played against a decent running back yet. They got David Johnson in Week 1 who excited early with an injury and the New York Giants inept backfield last Monday night. Freeman has some intrigue this week in a potential high scoring matchup.

    Detroit RB's: This backfield is messy but the matchup is dripping with opportunity Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah split snaps last week with Abdullah seeing 28 to Riddick's 27. Riddick finished as an RB20 in Week 1, which is the highest finish of any Lions back so far. The Lions have a long history of not having a true feature back, and this year is looking no different so far. Still, the Falcons have been getting lit up by pass catching backs this year. Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery both caught touchdown passes and combined for 14 catches and over 120 receiving yards.

    New York Giants at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Philadelphia favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Lower scoring. Turnover potential on Philadelphia's side.

    New York RB's: The Giants have looked awful through two weeks. Second-year back Paul Perkins is averaging 1.9 yards per carry and no Giant running back has scored a touchdown through two weeks. Orleans Darkwa saw a slight uptick in snaps and saw four touches to Perkins and Vereen's nine. Still, he's not a back you can rely on this week against a Philadelphia team that's fared well against the run so far. Vereen has slight upside because of his volume in the passing game with 13 targets through two games. This is also a desperation game for New York, as losing would put them at 0-2 in the division and 0-3 overall.

    Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have been equally poor in the run game, with no running back over 50 total yards through two games. Darren Sproles remains the dominant PPR back, and the Giants have been susceptible to pass catching backs so far. They gave up five catches on five targets to Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1. Sproles is a good streaming option in deeper PPR leagues and has upside in DFS tournaments as well. No other Philadelphia back is worth starting as of now.

    Seattle at Tennessee

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Seattle RB's: The Titans are a good run-stopping unit, holding both Marshawn Lynch and Leonard Fournette to under 100 yards. Chris Carson remains the high-volume guy and rushed for 93 yards and a score on 20 attempts against San Francisco in Week 2. This will be a tougher matchup for the Seattle backfield though, and the Titans have struggled more against the pass than the run so far.

    Tennessee RB's: DeMarco Murray is banged up and all signs point to Derrick Henry getting more volume this week. Henry strung 92 yards and a score together in last week's outing against Jacksonville, a tough defense. Seattle is another difficult challenge, but the volume potential makes Henry a good RB2 play in standard leagues. Probably best to avoid him DFS since there's high bust potential with the matchup and there are better options out there at similar prices. For example, Henry's price tag is $5,300 on DraftKings and Ameer Abdullah has similar upside at $4,700.

    Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring. Both teams can throw and run the ball.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt saw his workload explode in Week 2 and he's the only startable KC back going forward barring a severe slump or injury. He's a great Daily Fantasy play as well since some might be scared off by his expensive price. You should still have some exposure to him in your lineups this week regardless. The Chargers have been soft against the run, surrendering over 100 yards to Denver running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles in Week 1. They also gave up 122 yards to Jay Ajayi last week.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon struggled on the ground last week against a tough Miami front. Still, his hybrid status makes him close to matchup proof this season. He's averaging seven targets a game and saw good volume against Denver in Week 1 with 18 carries. Expect him to see a similar opportunity in Week 3 against Kansas City. Branden Oliver is nothing more than a change of pace back at this point and hasn't seen much work in the receiving game with just one target on the year.

    Cincinnati at Green Bay

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Green Bay favored by 10)

    Game script: Balanced with equal amount of running and passing.

    Cincinnati RB's: Cincinnati's backfield remains the most puzzling and perhaps frustrating this season. The numbers tell all really. Through two games, the rushing attempts have been Joe Mixon (17), Giovani Bernard (12), and Jeremy Hill (12). Mixon has been the most effective as of late, rushing for 36 yards on nine carries last week. Still, it's hard to get excited about him until the Bengals let him loose, which may or may not happen anytime soon.

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery continues to be a force and has a solid matchup against Cincinnati, an average run defense so far. He's slowly stepping into that hybrid role and received seven targets last week, catching six of them for 75 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery's 65 snaps last week dwarfed all other Packer backs and Jamaal Williams is no threat to overtake him right now. He should also see more rushing attempts unless Andy Dalton and A.J. Green really go off in this one and force Green Bay to play from behind.

    Oakland at Washington

    Total points expected: 54 (Oakland favored by 3)

    Game script: High scoring. Defense optional.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch is a good option in this one since Washington has fared poorly against the run but I worry about the game script in this one. If Oakland comes out throwing, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard could see an increased role. Never much of a receiver, Lynch might see the majority of his work around the goal line if Washington and Kirk Cousins get off to a hot start. Jordan Reed is 50/50 right now but Vernon Davis is still a strong backup and Oakland struggles against tight ends. They also gave up two scores to Jermaine Kearse and Josh McCown of the Jets last week. There's a chance the Redskins put up a lot of points on them which would take Lynch out of the equation somewhat.

    Washington RB's: Samaje Perine saw his first action in Week 2 and rushed 21 times for 67 yards. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, he's the clear No. 1 back going forward. Chris Thompson continues to be ruthlessly efficient, rushing for 77 yards and two scores on just three attempts and is averaging six targets per game. Despite his performance, it's not looking like the Redskins will increase his touches anytime soon for fear of injuring his slight frame. Perine is a risky play this week but definitely worth an add in deeper leagues.

    Dallas at Arizona (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 47 (Dallas favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Above average scoring.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott struggled mightily against Denver after a 100-yard performance against the New York Giants in Week 1. Still, he's yet to record a touchdown this year and Arizona has been strong against the run, granted they've only played Detroit and Indianapolis so far. Elliott is an elite back and has a chance to rebound in this game, and with Arizona's offense playing so poorly, it's unlikely we see a Trevor Siemien passing game script like last week.

    Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams siphoned production from each other in Arizona's first outing without David Johnson. Andre Ellington led them in snaps with 30.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 2

    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.

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  • Opportunity: Finding fantasy value in Andy Reid's offense

    One of the more predictable ways to determine opportunity is to look at coaching habits. By looking at how a coach decides which plays to run, you develop an understanding of what players will be valuable in an offense. This is especially true if a coach has been on a team for a long period of time and large sample sizes exist.

    In this piece, we take a look at play calling and game script for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2016 season and how those numbers might translate to 2017.

    By looking at the overall number of plays ran and pass/run ratio, we should be able to come up with a reasonable projection for how players on the team might fare in the fantasy category this season.

    How the Chiefs started in 2016

    Kansas City was a little shaky coming out of the gate, starting off 2-2 with bad losses to Houston and Pittsburgh. They also needed one of the largest comebacks ever to put away the San Diego Chargers in Week 1.

    During that four-game stretch, quarterback Alex Smith's arm served as the primary source of offense for KC. Smith passed on 69 percent of the team's snaps.

    Smith's passing workload had a lot to do with the Chiefs playing two high-powered offenses in San Diego and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs were also playing from behind in 3 out of 4 of those games.

    Overall, Smith finished as a QB3 in Week 1, QB32 in Week 2, and QB18 in Week 3. Not very consistent overall.

    As for the running back spot, starter Spencer Ware recorded his highest carry total in Week 3 with 20 attempts against the Jets. Game script had a lot to do with Ware's volume in that game, as the Chiefs nursed a 17-3 advantage in the second half.

    Spencer Ware finished as an RB3, RB21 and RB34 in that span.

    Chiefs pick up steam

    After the 2-2 start, the Chiefs rattled off five straight victories. Their success stemmed from a change in offensive philosophy and a softer schedule. Smith threw the ball less with 22, 24, 19, 38 and 31 pass attempts in that stretch. Smith also only recorded one game with 250 passing yards.

    The Chiefs offense also played weaker defenses, scoring close to 30 points against Oakland, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

    In the run game, Ware became the team's go-to option. He out-snapped Charcandrick West 40-8, 36-14, 26-42, 0-45, and 41-20 in that stretch. The only outlier games were when Ware sustained a concussion Week 8 and missed the second half followed by missing all of Week 9.

    Rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill also emerged as a key factor, doubling his snap count from 18 to 36 by Week 8 and contributing on special teams in a big way with two punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return for a score.

    Closing out strong

    The Chiefs were fantastic down the stretch, winning five of their last six games including tough victories against Atlanta, Oakland and Denver twice. Smith's throws per game hovered around the 25-28 mark with one or two outlier games. The passing attempts were similar to his Week 5-8 numbers.

    Smith's passing yard totals were very close to the same almost every week and he averaged 238 yards per game during the stretch. He had no games deviating 30 yards + or - from that average, aside from one outlier game against Tennessee where he only threw for 163 yards.

    Ware continued to assert himself as the lead back, out-snapping West 42-33, 38-11, 40-13, 36-21, 37-29 and he didn't play in the final game. His best finish came as an RB10 in Week 13 before he dropped off and failed to crack the Top 30 for the rest of the season.

    Go for running backs and tight ends?

    Andy Reid offenses in Kansas City haven't lent themselves to high value for the quarterback spot. He has consistently ranked low in pass plays per game and it hasn't impacted the Chiefs success at all. He's yet to record a losing season with this philosophy.

    Year Team  Pass plays/game  Rank Chiefs record
    2013 KC 34.8 20 11-5
    2014 KC 30.8 28 9-7
    2015 KC 30.3 29 11-5
    2016 KC 34.1 25 12-4

     

    This conservative passing approach has affected the wide receivers ability to have fantasy value. Here's how value shakes out at each position. Hint: This should give you pause if you're thinking about drafting Tyreek Hill.

    Year QB fantasy finish Highest RB finish Highest WR finish Highest TE finish
    2013 QB13 RB1 WR45 TE40
    2014 QB19 RB7 None in top 50 TE8
    2015 QB16 RB32 WR17 TE8
    2016 QB22 RB16 WR15 TE1

     

    It would appear running backs and tight ends have the most value in Andy Reid's offense. There hasn't been a wide receiver inside the Top 15 range since Reid got to Kansas City.

    Tight ends are a different story. Kelce ranked third in targets last season and sixth in 2015. Keep in mind, Brent Celek also had a Pro Bowl caliber season under Reid in 2009 and ranked 7th in targets that year. L.J. Smith was 11th in targets in 2006. So Reid has shown a tendency to get tight ends involved.

    Year Team Run plays/game  Rank 
    2013 KC 27.8 14
    2014 KC 26.2 15
    2015 KC 28.1 9
    2016 KC 25.1 20

     

    You'd think Reid's teams would be more run heavy but they aren't. Over the course of Reid's stint in Kansas City, the Chiefs ranked near the bottom in plays run per game among the 32 NFL teams. To put that in perspective, New Orleans ran 69 plays per game in 2016 to lead all teams. So Kansas City ran over 120 less plays than New Orleans did last season.

    Despite that, running backs are still valuable because of the passing game. Reid likes to use running backs as receivers, as evidenced by the 82 targets doled out last season to running backs. In 2015, there were 75 between three running backs. Jamaal Charles was lethal in 2013 because of this alone.

    Year Team Plays run per game Rank
    2013 KC 65.2 13
    2014 KC 60.1 29
    2015 KC 61.1 25
    2016 KC 61.1 28

     

    So how do you apply this to your fantasy team?

    Glad you asked. That answer lies in drafting for value at running back and valuing Travis Kelce as a TE1. Spencer Ware finished as an RB2 in standard scoring leagues (RB16) and was also an RB2 in PPR (RB16).

    Look for Ware to be the top back out of the gate. Expect some solid RB2 weeks out of him, but don't draft him too high. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ware is being drafted as an RB20.

    Ware's ADP is a little high with Hunt lurking but there are plenty of question marks regarding the RB's being drafted around him like C.J. Anderson, Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. Still, his team has a strong defensive foundation and a coach that likes to get RB's involved. He's safe. 

    As for rookie backup Kareem Hunt, you'd be wise to draft him at his RB38 ADP. Hunt's elusiveness and ability to create yards after contact could land him the starter role at some point during the season.

    Tough road in 2017

    The Chiefs have a brutal schedule in 2017 and trail only Denver for the toughest slate in the league.

    When it comes to game scripts, the Chiefs get New England Week 1, Philadelphia Week 2 and the improved Los Angeles Chargers Week 3. Three defenses with good pass rushers and potent offenses.

    The Chiefs might have to throw more out of the gate and may struggle out of the gate like last year. Smith just isn't wired to throw for a ton of passing yards and is at his best when his attempts hover around 25-30.

    Ware will also have his work cutout for him, but there is some passing upside due to Reid's style of getting running backs involved in the receiving game. 

    Summing up Kansas City's approach

    Kansas City plays a conservative style of offense and looks to grind games out with defense. Their only true playmaker is tight end Travis Kelce due to his size and speed after the catch. Tyreek Hill has potential, but wide receivers have been stifled in Reid's offense due to low passing volume.

    Not much changed in the offseason for Kansas City to change this approach. Smith is still the quarterback, and their defense remains one of the best in the league on paper. With a now-healthy Justin Houston rushing the passer and safety Eric Berry at the helm, Kansas City should remain true to its identity.

    Cornerback Marcus Peters is also coming off a solid season, and graded out the 11th best corner in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

    Kelce, Ware and Hunt are the players you should be looking to draft. Ware isn't a great option given his ADP, but he will have good PPR value as a receiver. Hunt is a tremendous value.

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Podcasts

Episode 193: Buy low/sell high

Saturday, 14 October 2017 00:00
On Saturday's Week 6 preview pod, the Helpers discuss the why DeShaun Watson is a good sell high candidate down the stretch. They also preview some of the Week 6 slate and wonder how Willie Snead V will fare in his best game
Read more...

Episode 192: PPR backs produce

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 4 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the great receiving backs and why you should consider starting a few of them. They also talk about Ben Roethlisberger's road woes and why Jacksonville's defense is vulnerable
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Episode 191: We know nothing part II

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 3 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the protests in response to Donald Trump's twitter comments. They discuss the weird week that was with many 0-2 teams winning in surprise fashion. They also talk about trends
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Episode 190: Hunt's catch up

Monday, 18 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's podcast, the Helpers recap Week 2. They discuss Alex Smith's emergence as a consistent QB1, why Kareem Hunt is who he is, the weirdness at the fantasy running back position, increased snap count for players and b
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Episode 189: We know nothing

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00
On the first episode with a few games to analyze, the Helpers discuss who the high-volume players were and if those players stand a chance to repeat those performances or not. They also talk injuries, including who's the best
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Episode 188: Week 1 predictions

Saturday, 09 September 2017 00:00
The 2017 NFL season has begun. It's time for us to start helping you win in Fantasy Football. Here, we discuss all the matchups this week with the highest scoring potential. We tell you which players we're high and low on. We
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Waiver Wire

Upside vs. efficiency: Should you draft John Brown or Randall Cobb?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00
Giana Pacinelli of the the Huffington Post and 2QBs.com joins George Banko of Fantasyfootballhelpers.com to debate which receiver to draft, Randall Cobb or John Brown? Opening statements George: Randall Cobb is coming off a
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Jordan Matthews: Boring, predictable, but will exceed ADP value

Monday, 10 July 2017 00:00
In this article, we take a look at a player's potential to outperform their current ADP (average draft position) and assess the risks and potential rewards of drafting them. We look at opportunity stats including target share
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How Samaje Perine Will Help Your Fantasy Team In 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 00:00
Samaje Perine proved his worth at the University of Oklahoma. In 2014 he had a stellar year. In 2015 and 2016 the stat line would suggest a decline in his performance, but that is due in part to sharing snaps with Joe Mixon.
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Why San Francisco 49ers running back Joe Williams is a perfect Zero RB candidate

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
When we look to draft a player to our fantasy team, we often seek the most talented players we can find. However, looking at the coaches offensive philosophy and which players best fit their system can be very telling in term
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Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00
When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable b
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Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play streng
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1) Deshaun Watson will be the No. 1 rookie QB in 2017

What Watson showed time and time again in college was his ability to win. No matter what the situation was, Watson was never stymied. With the surrounding talent in Houston of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Lamar Miller and even the emergence of C.J. Fiedorowicz at tight end, Watson will have only Tom Savage to overcome to earn the keys to the fantasy kingdom. No other rookie QB will have either the same opportunity to start or the same level of surrounding talent and with a top 10 offensive line protecting him, Watson will have all day to throw to his playmakers and is guaranteed to rack up points with his legs too.

2) I want all of the Bucs

No one has had a happier offseason so far than Jameis Winston. His Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added even more offensive talent to an already stacked group and so Winston is poised to take the league by storm entering his third season. 2016’s WR2, Mike Evans, was joined by blue-chip deep threat Desean Jackson in free agency and first-round TE OJ Howard, one of the best tight end prospects to be drafted in the last five years. The hopeful return of Doug Martin should also bring a balance to the offense and allow Winston to take advantage of thinner secondaries. All of the above mentioned players have the potential to rank in the top 10 of their positions come the end of the season and Winston in particular seems poised for a top 5 campaign.

3) The Chargers WR corps is stacked and I don’t like it

Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin and now rookie Mike Williams?! The Los Angeles Chargers have the deepest WR group in the NFL and it’s not even close. All five of the afore mentioned players could all conceivably rank in the top 36 wide receivers by the time the season has ended and while that seems like a good thing for fantasy, is it really?

Keenan Allen is the clear-cut best WR from this group but after him it’s just a crapshoot. The argument could be made to take any of the other four guys after him and that will cause complications during draft season. With so many mouths to feed it will be tough to predict who which guys will earn the most snaps and so there is a likelihood of some of the Chargers WRs being over-drafted.

4) Mike Williams will be under-drafted

Speaking of Chargers WRs draft positions, Williams’ draft compatriot and new Titans WR Corey Davis has been dominating the recent rookie hype and Williams appears to have fallen by the wayside. With a playing style reminiscent of Dez Bryant and Keyshawn Johnson, Williams’ redzone production potential could have big impacts in fantasy this season. With TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry drawing the defensive attention in the redzone, Williams’ jump-ball mastery could quickly make him one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. Corey Davis is a more dynamic and versatile receiver, but don’t sleep on Mike Williams, especially when his ADP is established.

5) It’s time to say goodbye to Tajae Sharpe

It was fun while it lasted Tajae. The fantasy love affair the Titans had with Sharpe seems to have come to halt for the former 5th round pick. While he will still be a bit-part player in Tennessee this season, the addition of WR Corey Davis with the 5th overall pick in the draft clearly shows what the Titans think of Sharpe. Rishard Matthews was one of the best stories (and bargains) in fantasy last season and so the combination of Davis and Matthews is likely to steal most of Marcus Mariota’s passes away from Sharpe. Delanie Walker had a breakout season at TE in 2016 also and his role is likely to be expanded again in 2017. Even DeMarco Murray got in on the pass-catching party last year and will turn some of Sharpe’s targets his way. All in all, the Titans offense looks ready to roll in fantasy in 2017. Sadly for Tajae Sharpe, it appears he won’t be a major cog in the process.

6) Jeremy Hill…you’ve been put on notice, sir

No matter what your stance is on Joe Mixon, he is undeniably talented and if things had turned out differently he may have even been a top 10 pick. For the Cincinnati Bengals this is great value. For Jeremy Hill this is bad news. Hill has battled injuries and simply poor play over the last few seasons and now appears to be a shade of the running-back he flashed glimpses of early in his career. Giovanni Bernard restricts Hill’s use in the passing game and Mixon is better than Hill in every facet of the game. While he still has the potential to overcome this, Hill’s role will likely be reduced down to a glorified goal-line back in Cincinnati this season and he may be in the market for a new home in 2018.

7) The 2017 Bengals are a souped-up version of the Houston Texans

As mentioned above, the addition of Joe Mixon and also John Ross, the speedster WR, to the Bengals this offseason adds even more talent to a team with offensive skill position pro-bowlers coming out of their ears. Their offensive roster is somewhat reminiscent of the Houston Texans roster in 2016. AJ Green is a top 3 wide receiver and will draw coverage away from John Ross who will be able to take advantage of open fields with his speed. This complementary receiving duo calls to mind that of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, a relationship that operates in a very similar dynamic. A versatile, pass-catching running-back in Joe Mixon serves as a more explosive Lamar Miller and when healthy Tyler Eifert is a top 3 TE in the NFL, greatly outperforming CJ Fiedorowicz. With all that talent the 2017 Bengals could be a fantasy goldmine. Yet as we witnessed with the 2016 Houston Texans, the absence of a passable QB can render this talent useless. Your move, Andy Dalton.

8) Christian McCaffrey should be a top 10 PPR draft pick

Fitting that the 8th thought focus on the 8th overall pick and new Carolina Panthers RB, Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey’s outstanding receiving capabilities for a running-back are of such standing that it is quite possible he will play more snaps at receiver than at running-back during his rookie season. His natural ability for catching the football and unparalleled after-the-catch ability will make him a superstar in PPR formats. With the all-round game and athleticism of David Johnson, McCaffrey’s talent far outweighs the risk of taking him high in the draft and positioned on a Panthers offense ready to rebound in 2017, it is likely McCaffrey will be a front-runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

9) The time has come to accept TE as the new committee position

Fantasy owners have always been scorned by the dreaded running-back by committee approach. Fun, exciting prospects can have their fantasy potential swiped away due to a division of the volume, rendering both players effectively useless for fantasy purposes. Sadly, it appears that this virus has spread from running-backs to tight ends. Committee approaches make sense for teams with no depth at the position but it seems even teams with good quality TEs are still employing this tactic. Washington is homed to star tight end Jordan Reed yet due to injuries journeyman Vernon Davis now receives significant snaps. The Chargers have recently supplemented Antonio Gates with Hunter Henry and while Rob Gronkowski may be the best tight end of all time, injuries have forced the Patriots into providing back-up for him in the form of Dwayne Allen. The realisation of the spread of TE committees around the league makes Greg Olsen’s career and fantasy production even more impressive.

10) Carson Wentz will be the biggest bargain of 2017

Carson Wentz was not set up to succeed in his first year in Philadelphia, being surrounded by arguably the worst WR corps in the NFL. However, the offseason additions of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith will allow Wentz to take chances and show-case his arm talent due to the big-play nature of their games. A solidified offensive line and a deep running-back committee (*sighs*) will keep the pressure off Wentz and allow him to scan the field and rack up huge numbers. The second year jump of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota last year raised both of those players to fantasy stardom and there is no reason to assume the same won’t happen to Wentz. With a current ADP of the 11th/12th round and the potential for a top 10 fantasy QB season, Wentz could potentially be the Matt Ryan of 2017.

Thank you for reading, follow Will Pendleton on twitter @willpendosports

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Now that Free Agency Frenzy has settled down these past several weeks, all fantasy football owners are eyeing the NFL Draft which will be held April 27-29 as the last true roster shakeup before OTA’s begin shortly thereafter. Of course, the total unknown for us fantasy owners is where will the well-known and most celebrated skill position players land when those 3 days are over. And this is where yours truly, the resident arm-chair GM comes in, to guide you through these series of articles that will try to surmise where the best fantasy football fit will be for those players for the upcoming season.

Leonard Fournette | RB

New York Jets- Drafting in the 6th spot, they can go a myriad of directions, but there’s a chance Fournette could be on their radar as part of their rebuilding plan. Matt Forte, who is 30 years old, and Bilal Powell are both essentially finesse running backs and the Jets need a power back to control the clock and be the foundation of their offense since the quarterback position is in flux going into the 2017 season.

Carolina Panthers- With the recent news of Cam Newton’s surgery to repair a partially torn right rotator cuff, it would seem to make logical sense for GM Dave Gettleman to strengthen the running game and draft Fournette with the 8th pick. Although Jonathan Stewart did receive a 1-year contract extension, he is 30 years old, has a well-known injury history, and the primary backups are Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne. Fournette would bolster the ground game by being the short-yardage and goal line back instead of Newton.

Jacksonville Jaguars- On the surface it wouldn’t seem that the Jags would have any interest in Fournette since they did add Chris Ivory as a free agent last season, but new Director of Football Operations, Tom Coughlin, wants this offense to be more physical, bruising, and smash-mouth and they could believe that Fournette fits the profile more than Ivory. TJ Yeldon will remain the 3rd down, change-of-pace back for Jacksonville. Now, where does this leave Ivory in this possible scenario? A trade or outright release are two options the Jaguars may be open to.

 

Dalvin Cook | RB

Green Bay Packers- The Packers has startlingly little depth at the RB position and perhaps this is the year GM Ted Thompson decides to draft a multi-faceted running back with the 29th pick which will compliment Aaron Rodgers’ potent offense. Ty Montgomery, who spent the last half of the season in the backfield, will go into 2017 as a full-time running back but no one expects him to handle a full load and the recently re-signed Christine Michael, who always teases his ability, but rarely does it show up in a consistent manner. They are the only running backs under contract for Green Bay, therefore, adding Cook’s ability to play all 3-downs would be an invaluable asset to their offense in the long run. But first, he needs to master pass blocking or he’ll never get on the field.

Washington Redskins- At the 17th drafting slot, it may see a little bit of a reach for them to take Cook, but he has a chance to get opportunities immediately since the team hasn’t been given incumbent Robert Kelley the stamp of approval and named him the starting running back. Matt Jones, the other running back who did start the season, may be released or traded to make room for a rookie running back (like Cook perhaps). There will be a new look at the wide receiver position since both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson left via free agency but replaced them with Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick but they may need a consistent running game early in the season before the new targets get acclimated to Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense and that’s where Dalvin Cook can be very useful in controlling the clock or being an outlet in the passing game. Washington could use some playmaking/explosiveness in the backfield and Cook fits the bill nicely.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- With the 4-game suspension of Doug Martin to begin the season, Tampa might be in the market for another younger, cheaper running back and Cook may be the answer. Yes, yes, I know that they re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims is still on the roster, but Dalvin Cook has the versatility to be on the field for all 3 downs and perhaps he can be Tampa’s consistent running game to go along with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, and newly acquired DeSean Jackson and be a more diverse and explosive offense.

 

Christian McCaffrey | RB

Philadelphia Eagles- Let’s make no mistake about it: The Eagles running game needs an infusion of talent, toughness, and quickness to help the development of their second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz. Since the Eagles did upgrade the wide receiver corps with the signings of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, it would make logical sense for them to add a running back and they might use the 14th pick in the draft for the sole purpose to target McCaffrey because of his talent, versatility, and underrated toughness. He can be used as a receiver, punt/kickoff returner, or as a running back. The running back depth chart will not be as crowded as you would believe; Ryan Mathews might be released, Darren Sproles is 34 years old and is more dangerous as a punt returner and receiver out of the backfield, and Wendell Smallwood is the second year back trying to prove himself in the league. So if McCaffrey can make a mark for the Eagles during OTA’s, training camp, and the pre-season, he’s a weapon that could make the Eagles a more potent team in the NFC East.

Indianapolis Colts- Frank Gore is 34 years old and can’t continue being the starting running back forever; so the Colts new GM Chris Ballard should be looking for his heir apparent and if he should choose, selecting Andrew Luck’s fellow Stanford alum in McCaffrey would be a prudent choice. He would be an asset in the passing game since the Colts do like to use their running backs as outlets for Luck; his return game skills may take some unnecessary pounding off of TY Hilton, and he could make the Colts running game a viable option if the passing game were to struggle during the season.

Green Bay Packers- If the Packers decide to pass on Cook, drafting McCaffrey instead may even be a better fit with this rather potent passing offense. The virtual “swiss army knife” can be positioned anywhere on the field (backfield, slot, outside the numbers) and create mismatches for head coach Mike McCarthy to take advantage of and be a valuable weapon for Aaron Rodgers. His dynamic return skills can not only give the Packers offense great field position, it can allow Randall Cobb to focus 100 percent on becoming the best wide receiver he can be. As for the running game, it could be a dynamic 1-2 punch with Ty Montgomery in the beginning, but that may cap both of their fantasy ceilings, but he has the potential to be fantasy relevant.

 

Corey Davis | WR

Tennessee Titans- At first glance, it may seem odd that I have the Titans here as a possible landing spot for Davis, but let me explain my reasoning. Although their offensive profile is “exotic-smashmouth”, using one of the two first-round picks (likely the 18th pick), Tennessee drafting Davis would be a plus expected value move because he’s an additional weapon at the wide receiver position to go along with Rishard Matthews and he helps the franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota. The sooner Davis becomes the starter and becomes a tangible threat, the sooner defenses account for him and then the running game featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry can REALLY go to town on opposing teams.

Arizona Cardinals- Eventually the Cardinals will need a replacement for the future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald who will turn 34 August 31st.  Drafting 13th, Arizona may want to look at Davis as Fitzgerald’s possible heir apparent and another weapon to go along with John Brown, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, and Jermaine Gresham for Carson Palmer to play with. It may be hard for Davis to crack the starting lineup when the season opens, but his performance during OTA’s and training camp may determine his snap count and target shares early in the season.

The possibility exists that he will come on in the second half of the year once he has a better grasp of the Cardinals’ offensive scheme. Keep him on your fantasy radar if for some reason an injury occurs in the wide receiver corps; he will get a definite snap count and target share increase.

Mike Williams | WR

Buffalo Bills- There’s a gaping hole at the wide receiver position and the Bills desperately need to fill it since they decided to re-sign Tyrod Taylor and make him their quarterback for the foreseeable future. Both Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, who spent their entire careers with the Bills, left via free agency. Their departure leaves a substantial number of targets to be filled and the depth chart behind incumbent Sammy Watkins leaves little to be desired so it’s extremely plausible that Williams could be the starter beside with Sammy for Week 1 of the regular season. Therefore his fantasy value would be as a solid WR2 since both of them will soak up all of the snaps and targets at the receiver position.

Baltimore Ravens- This is another team with a target vacuum at the wide receiver position with the retirement of Steve Smith, Sr. and the departure of Kamar Aiken. The presumed starters are the veteran speedster Mike Wallace and their 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman so there’s some chance for a drafted receiver (like Mike Williams) to get some snaps, targets, and receptions if they grasp the offense rather quickly. Under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the Ravens have become a much more passing team and Mike Williams should fit right in and become a fantasy relevant wide receiver in the range of a WR3 with WR2 upside.

Now let me leave you with one small bit of advice: When watching the coverage of the NFL Draft during the 3-day period, don’t overlook the Day 2 or Day 3 draft picks; they may wind up being fantasy football hidden gems that may help you to the elusive championship in the fall. Better yet, I’ll do the service of listing some of those players in Part 2 of my Rookie Symposium series.

 

Your fantasy football arm-chair GM,

Michael Stepney

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

Photo Links:

http://footballscoop.com/news/snakes-chasing-stanfords-christian-mccaffrey/

http://www.scout.com/college/football/story/1699567-2016-preseason-heisman-watch-list

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/no-combine-or-pro-day-for-western-michigans-corey-davis-after-ankle-surgery/

http://www.ohio.com/sports/college-football/college-football-clemson-wide-receivers-mike-williams-deon-cain-will-play-against-alabama-1.738077

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/sports/college/story/2015/sep/19/fournette-powers-no-13-lsu-past-no-18-auburn-45-21/326090/

Published in Fantasy Coverage

In 2015, the Packers were missing something in their offense. The glaringly obvious fact was that Aaron Rodgers no longer had Jordy Nelson due to a knee injury. In addition, the Packers were missing a tight end that could run down the field. Richard Rodgers was not fast enough to expose holes in the defense. Receivers were unable to get open, resulting in short drives. They needed someone faster who could run routes.  

The Rams cut tight end Jared Cook before their relocation to Los Angeles. The Green Bay organization had been in consideration to trade for Cook, but now that he was a free agent, they set out to sign him.

Cook inked a one-year, 3.6-million-dollar deal, which means the organization was committed, since they usually refrain from signing big name free agents. Green Bay tends to use the draft as a means to build their team. Richard Rodgers did a great job stepping up in 2015. Who could forget that instant-classic catch that was dubbed, “The Miracle in Motown”?  

The Packers still needed some depth though. Nelson was expected to lose some speed after his return, so it was necessary that they upgraded their speed elsewhere. The tight end position needed the most speed improvement. Richard Rodgers just was not quick enough to be the full time tight end. Other teams such as the Patriots have made a living by having two good tight ends.

The offense had an extra setback when Eddie Lacy got hurt. They found a running back in Ty Montgomery, but it wasn’t until week 15 that a running back scored a TD for them. The Packers went from passing 56.79 % of the time in 2015, to 62.37 % in 2016. This helped Cook see an increase in targets. This also helped him establish a connection with Aaron Rodgers. The offense will be more balanced next year, but there should be no concern about Cook’s targets.

That increase moved them from 18th to 5th in the league for passing attempts. Due to Nelson and Adams playing well, the ball was distributed evenly. Although Cook isn’t getting points for other receivers making plays, it makes the defense open up for bigger plays to him.

Cook started the first 2 weeks of the season, and saw 79 snaps in which his production was limited. Being new to the offense, and with Eddie Lacy getting hype for his weight loss in the offseason, Cook spent the beginning of the season blocking, or watching his targets go to Jordy Nelson. Jared saw a mere 11 targets through the first four weeks. Week 3 was short lived for Cook, as he suffered a high ankle sprain and he wouldn’t be back back until week 11

Once he was back, he started to find a groove. He caught 6 passes out of 11 targets in his first week back for 105 yards and a TD. This would turn out to be his only TD of the regular season, but the work he did on 3rd downs allowed many of the drives to stay alive, which if he continues to do this, will help raise his ceiling in 2017.

Over the regular season, in which he only played 10 weeks, Cook caught 12 of 16 passes for 200 yards while facing 3rd down. This means that 53% of his yards came on 3rd down. Due to his production, the Packers were 2nd in 3rd down offense, making him valuable to Rodgers and fantasy owners.

For a big tight end, he should have had way more than one TD during the regular season. His total yards were also rather low for his career. He only had 377 yards in 10 games. Other than the injury he sustained this season, the only reason these numbers aren’t better is that Aaron Rodgers has a lot of other targets.

However, he had the 3rd best average yards per catch of his career. His career highs being 15.5 (2011), 13.2 (2013), 12.6 (2016). Cook was tied for 7th among all tight ends in YAC. As stated above, the receivers around Cook helped to expose defenses so that he could exploit them. The Packers are going to have to decide how much money Cook is worth.

Cook will be 30 next season, but he is still quick, and he can still make spectacular catches. I would be careful about drafting Cook too high due to his injury history, however he will be one of the best tight end options of 2017 if he can stay healthy. Assuming he comes back to Green Bay, Cook should have a little more fantasy value next year, due to gaining Rodgers’ confidence.

He has a knack for working back to the quarterback, which is important since Aaron is so good at extending plays with his feet. This ability adds another dimension to his game, giving him a value many others don’t have.


Cook will have a steady season next year by being more of a touchdown threat. In his 3 playoff games this year, he had 229 yards to go along with 2 TD’s. These numbers seem to be a more accurate depiction of what he will do next year, because he was settled in and consistent. Cook should be a lower TE1. It is tough to say if Gronk will be healthy, but there are guys like Kelce, Eifert, Olsen, and Reed who have proven to be successful. It depends on the league as to where Cook falls. I would keep an eye on the draft board and pick him up after those other names begin to be picked. The Packers boasted a 10-3 record in games that Jared played in, and his value will transfer into fantasy points if he stays with the Packers in 2017.

 

Published in Waiver Wire
Monday, 04 May 2015 00:00

Draft Grades: NFC North

The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and while fans eagerly wait the start of rookie mini-camps I feel it is the appropriate time to grade how teams fared in the draft.  The first edition of the Fantasy Football Helpers draft grades will feature the NFC North, with the rest of the NFC/AFC to come shortly there after.

 

Chicago Bears

Players Drafted

1.     (7) Kevin White WR/West Virginia

2.     (39) Eddie Goldman DT/FSU

3.     (71) Hroniss Grassu OG/Oregon

4.     (106) Jeremy Langford RB/Michigan State

5.     (142) Adrian Amos S/Penn State

6.     (183) Tayo Fabuluje OT/TCU

 

New Bears General Manager Ryan Pace was stuck with the task of bringing some ferocity back to the Monsters of the Midway. With the 7th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and a new coaching staff that is switching from Lovie Smith’s 4-3 Tampa Two defensive scheme, to Vic Fangio’s aggressive 3-4 defense. After trading Brandon Marshall to the Jets in exchange for a 5th round pick the Bears were left with a massive hole at wide receiver opposite Alshon Jeffery. The addition of Kevin White with the 7th overall pick should provide the team with an instant impact player. Although White may not be as refined as Amari Cooper, who ended up getting drafted by the Raiders, White’s blend of size/power/speed make the Bears wide receivers one of the top young units in football.

As far as the defensive side of the football Pace did a great job of adding some meat to the defensive line. Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman should fit in immediately at the 0, or nose tackle position in the Bears 3-4 front. Although Goldman does not possess elite pass rush skills, he is a massive human being that should allow the Bears linebackers to run free to the ball.

The most underrated drat pick for the Bears in my opinion came in the 4th round with the selection of Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford. Despite not showing elite athletic ability on tape, Langford lit up the NFL Scouting Combine after posting the lowest 40-yard dash time out of running backs (4.42). Despite having great long-speed, Langford is a versatile back with the ability to make plays in both the passing and running game. With veteran running back Matt Forte entering the last year of his contract and rumors swirling that Forte could hold-out,  Langford could be in a position to take over the bulk of the carries in Chicago as soon as next season.

Overall, the Bears did not make a lot of splash move outside of the selection of Kevin White, but they were able to add some much needed depth along both the offensive and defensive line. While the Bears rebuild was never considered a one-year process, new GM Ryan Pace did a good job adding some quality young talent that has the potential to become starters.

Grade: B-

 

Green Bay Packers

Players Drafted

1.     (30) Damarious Randall S/Arizona State

2.     (62) Quentin Rollins CB/Miami (OH)

3.     (94) TY Montgomery OW/Stanford

4.     (129) Jake Ryan LB/Michigan

5.     (147) Brett Hundley QB/UCLA

6.     (206) Aaron Ripkowski FB/Oklahoma

6.   (210) Christian Ringo DE/Louisiana-Lafeyette

6.   (213) Kennard Backman TE/UAB

 

As long as Aaron Rodgers is around the Packers should be one of the elite offenses in the NFL, but if they want the Lombardi Trophy to come home again it is essential to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

With the departure of Tramon Williams and Davon House to free agency the Packers were left with a gaping hole in their secondary. With the team’s first round selection the Packers drafted Arizona State safety Damarious Randall, an athletic safety who has the ability play deep as a single-high safety as well as the ability to roll down into coverage against slot WR’s and TE’s. Packers GM Ted Thompson did not stop there when adding young talent to his secondary as he invetsed the team’s 2nd round selection into the intriguing Quentin Rollins, a former 4-year starter on the Miami (OH) basketball team who has played just one year of college football. Despite the lack of experience playing football at a high level Rollins showed great ball skills and impressive instincts.

After the first two picks for the Packers I really started to question the moves the team made. The team drafted Stanford offensive weapon Ty Montgomery with their third round selection. Although Montgomery possesses some unique skills with incredible athleticism, he is extremely raw as a receiver and will most likely be relegated to KOR or PR duties during his rookie season.

Despite the selections of Ty Montgomery and Brett Hundley I feel the Packers had a solid, but not great, draft. Randall and Rollins should be day 1 starters for the Packers, and 4th round selection Jake Ryan could see some playing time during his rookie season now that A.J. Hawk has signed with the Bengals. Although the draft was not as flashy as teams like the Titans, Vikings, or Jaguars, the Packers did add two starting caliber players and should continue to be one of the premier teams in the NFC this season.

Grade: C+

 

 

Detroit Lions

Players Drafted

1.     (28) Laken Tomlinson OG/Duke

2.     (54) Ameer Abdullah RB/Nebraska

3.     (80) Alex Carter CB/Stanford

4.     (113) Gabe Wright DT/Auburn

5.     (168) Michael Burton FB/Rutgers

6.     (200) Quandre Diggs CB/Texas

7.     (240) Corey Robinson OT/South Carolina

 

As much as I miss the days of Matt Millen being the GM of the Lions and investing in wide receivers year in and year out, the Lions have shed the laughing stock label and become one of the better drafting units under Martin Mayhew.

Under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi the Lions passing offense took a step back, finishing outside of the top-3 for the first time in three seasons. Part of the issue with the Lions offensive inconsistencies lay within the deficiencies along the offensive line. With the addition of first-round pick Laken Tomlinson the Lions have an immediate upgrade in terms of pass-protection. During Tomlinson’s last season at Duke he established himself as one of the top pass-protecting lineman in the nation, allowing 0 sacks and 0 QB hits during his senior season. If Matthew Stafford is going to make the jump from being an above average quarterback into the upper echelon the addition of Tomlinson to one of the better offensive lines in the NFC North should help immensely.

For all of the dynasty owners that thought the departure of Reggie Bush to the 49ers would mean an increased role for Theo Riddick, those thoughts were quickly put to bed after Lions invested their 2nd round pick on Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Despite not having the frame of a typical 3-down running back, Abdullah runs with underrated power between the tackles and is matchup nightmare when used as a receiving option out of the backfield. With Joique Bell struggling to hold onto the ball consistently (11 fumbles lost since 2012) and just one more year left on his current contract, Abdullah could push Bell for the starting job as soon as next season.

While the Lions draft does not possess a lot of fantasy relevant draft picks, they once again filled plenty of needs. The additions of Alex Carter and Quandre Diggs to the secondary should provide some quality depth behind Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis, as the Lions continue to have one of the best defensive units in all of football.

Grade: B-

 

Minnesota Vikings

Players Drafted

1.     (11) Trae Waynes CB/Michigan State

2.     (45) Eric Kendricks ILB/UCLA

3.     (88) Danielle Hunter DE/LSU

4.     (110) T.J. Clemmings OT/Pittsburgh

5.     (143) Mycole Pruitt TE/Southern Illinois

5.   (146) Stefon Diggs WR/Maryland

6.     (185) Tyrus Thompson OT/Oklahoma

6.   (193) B.J. Dubose DE/Louisville

7.   (228) Austin Shepard OT/Alabama

7.  (232) Edmond Robinson OLB/Newberry

 

Teams of the NFC North beware; Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is building a juggernaut on the defensive side of the football. After investing in Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Shariff Floyd in the first round over the last 4 years, the defense is loaded with young talent just waiting to take off.

Although I thought the Vikings would go with wide receiver DeVante Parker or defensive end Bud Dupree in the first round, the team made the wise move and added the physical press-corner Trae Waynes out of Michigan State. Waynes, if all goes well, should fill in immediately as the team’s no. 2 CB this season opposite Xavier Rhodes.

The addition of Waynes was just the start for the Vikings, as they added ILB Eric Kendricks and LSU DE Danielle Hunter with the teams 3rd and 4th round selection. Kendricks, an “undersized” linebacker from UCLA should be an immediate starter for the purple at either WLB or MLB.  Despite being a tad bit undersized for an NFL ILB, Kendricks has a nose for the football and is underrated in coverage. Guys like Chris Borland have gotten me to realize that linebackers who are tackling machines in college, translates very well to the NFL game. Hunter is an intriguing defensive end prospect with elite size (6’5”, 252 lbs.), speed (4.57), and incredibly long arms (34 ¼). Despite being raw as a pass rusher Hunter has all the physical tools to be a dominant RDE at the NFL level. If Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson Sr. can get Hunter’s physical tools to show up on the field, the Vikings could have one of the steals of the 2015 NFL Draft.

If second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to take the next step into being one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, the Vikings have to find a way to protect him better. With the additions of Pittsburgh tackle T.J. Clemmings, Oklahoma’s Tyrus Thompson, and Alabama’s Austin Shepard, the Vikings added some much needed depth to the offensive line.

Of all the teams in the NFC North the Vikings had the most impactful draft of any team. With two players that will step in and be day one starters (Waynes, Kendricks), and four players that have the ability to develop into starting caliber players (Clemmings, Hunter, Diggs, Pruitt) the Vikings not only had the top draft in the NFC North, but one of the top in all of football.

Grade: B+

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Neon Tommy Flickr Page

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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Today's podcast on running backs is a continuation of our Draft series pods. You can find Part I here. On part II, we discuss the top running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft class including Jay Ajayi, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. And that list was in no particular order.

Jay Ajayi

Enough RB's come with enough, enough stylee. But when Ajayi busts a run we all know it's wicked and wiley. That's a lyric from the band sublime off 40 oz to freedom on a song called DJ's. Great song, and when I see Ajayi run he in fact does run wicked and wiley. He's my favorite running back in this draft Josh. You can check out an earlier article i wrote about Ajayi back in March here.

The one thing you immediately notice when you see Ajayi run is his sense of purpose. He runs with a supercharged burst of energy and he also catches the ball well out of the backfield. There have been ongoing concerns with a knee injury which has been discussed in greater detail on many other blogs. But let's just assume for a second that it's not a big deal which all reports are currently indicating it isn't.

Ajayi has incredible feet. He was a former soccer player and he loves to initiate contact. He might be the most aggressive runner in this draft. You'd be hard-pressed to find another runner with more heart than Ajayi. That being said, that same heart can also be a weakness. He sometimes stretches plays out for too long when he should just take a 3-yard gain. He's also had fumbling issues that will have to be taken care of if he expects to stay out of coaches' doghouses. But Ajayi has great size at 6'0 221lbs. He's your prototypical NFL running back. If the knee is not an issue, I really think he's a top 3 running back of this class and I would put him just behind Todd Gurley.

Todd Gurley

In a league where you constantly hear reports that running backs are no longer valued, in walks a potential Top 10 pick at the position. It goes to show you that the draft is never about position aside from kickers and punters, it's all about value at a certain position. Sure, a running back likely will never go No. 1 overall, but any RB going in the Top 10 really says something about the potential Gurley has.

Josh you've delved into Gurley a bit more than I have. I know you mentioned his off field issues with autographs but that can't possibly be a huge deal in the NFL can it? I mean, he's going to get showered with love for signing autographs and instead of shunned for it because of the out-of-touch NCAA rules.

Below you'll see a highlight tape of Gurley. The biggest thing I've noticed about Gurley is his deadly combination of elusiveness and explosiveness through contact. Unlike Ajayi, who twists and turns and runs a little bit out of control at times, Gurley doesn't waste any motion when he runs. He's a slippery as they come in terms of shedding tackles, and he does it without making it look like he just poured out half a glass of his energy. There's also a smoothness to the way he's able to simply change direction slightly when he reaches the second level and run past the safety en route to the end zone. People have been calling out for everybody to slow their roll when it comes to comparing Gurley to the potential great runners and while I see their point, because he's not quite as explosive as say an Adrian Peterson. But there are runs where he looks a lot like Peterson. Peterson who take a hit and keep his legs churning then two or three more guys would jump on him and he'd be able to still create forward motion despite all those guys trying to push him into the opposite direction. Gurley shows that at times. You have to get really excited at the prospect of having this guy on your team.

 

 View cityofglendale's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Podcasts

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With the NFL Draft just four days away, the Helpers start their first of four NFL Draft podcasts talking about quarterbacks including Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Chris Bonner. They also go over some daily fantasy news and talk discuss the implications of the latest transgressions.

Jameis Winston

The Helpers first start discussing Jameis Winston, the quarterback for Florida State who's likely going to be taken first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. A former Heisman winner and National Champion, Winston fits the mold of a pocket passer who can make quick decisions, throw receivers open even if they're not, possesses above-average arm strength to make big plays down the field and also possesses the kind of athleticism that will allow him to create plays when the blocking breaks down.

Of course, with any top pick, there's going to be nitpicking into every facet of his game both on and off the field. Most people already know about Winston's issues off the field. If you don't, a quick google search should solve that problem for you.

While Winston possesses a great deal of potential as a franchise quarterback, the main concern for the Helpers is the team he goes to. The Buccaneers are an organization that's never had a true franchise quarterback. Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Bruce Gradkowski have all come through Tampa's doors and have all either left or failed to become a prominent starter within the franchise or both. When Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl back in 2002, they trotted out Brad Johnson while relying on a strong run game and one of the best defenses of the decade.

There's no indication Tampa has improved when it comes to developing quarterbacks. Their offense was anemic last season despite some very strong performances from rookie Mike Evans. Evans strung together three straight games of over 100 yards receiving and multiple touchdowns, becoming the first rookie to have multiple 100 yard games and at least one touchdown since Randy Moss. Still, the Buccaneers coaching staff consists of Lovie Smith, a guy who couldn't mold Rex Grossman into a reliable starter. Smith also coached Brian Griese and Kyle Orton, two players largely considered backup caliber throughout the majority of their careers.

We've seen young quarterbacks get thrown into tough situations almost immediately and flounder. Geno Smith was dealt a tough situation with the Jets, where Rex Ryan favored running the ball and playing defense over Sanchez slinging the ball all over the field. Smith has yet to throw for more than 13 touchdowns in a season and has nine more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. Granted, he had a lot worse weapons than Winston would start out with considering Tampa has two prominent receivers in Evans and Vincent Jackson to go along with a receiving threat at tight end in Austin Sefarian Jenkins.

The Buccaneers are bringing in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who helped the Atlanta Falcons to one of the best passing offenses in the league. Koetter's Falcon teams threw the ball a ton, and there's reason to expect him to dull the offense down a bit throwing-wise to adjust to Winston's proficiency within the offensive system if the Bucs do in fact draft Winston.

Mentally, Winston definitely has a charm about him. He has the charisma, optimism and the gleam in his eyes of a confident player. I know, sounds like I'm in love with him. But it's evident there's a bit of an 'it' factor when he talks. He may not actually go out and be the guy who will be one of the greats of all time, but you certainly believe he can when you hear him talk.

 

Marcus Mariota

One of the most confusing prospects in the draft I can remember when it comes to where he will end up playing. So many rumors running through the mill that we could power a small town with the various teams interested in potentially trading up to get the Oregon prospect and 2014 Heisman winner. The most popular destinations for Mariota include Tennessee, San Diego, Washington and of course, Philadelphia. Eric Stoner's piece on Mariota pointed out some interesting things about Mariota's game and the style of offense he plays in.

One of the big overall messages of the piece was how Mariota's thought process can be likened to a guy at a grocery store with a check list in his hand. Mariota has a set amount of things he can do, and rarely deviates from those things. When the play breaks down, he hangs on to his list of tasks until the bitter end instead of creating something different based on what the defense is giving him. It's not something that would make or break him as a quarterback per se, but it can be a huge detriment if the defense has got Mariota's decision making figured out.

This is why I think Philadelphia has the greatest chance to mold Mariota into a fantasy impact guy immediately. The offense is geared to take advantage of Mariota's strengths as a task-oriented quarterback and his running ability will be a huge asset to it as well. We saw in early 2013 how Michael Vick was used in the offense and while Vick's injuries got the best of him, he did rush for 54, 34, 99, 41, and 79 yards in six games with the Eagles in early 2013. Mariota would likely hover around those rushing numbers if he did in fact sign with Philadelphia, which would make him an instant fantasy QB2. He might be the only rookie that would be a fantasy impact guy in 2015. Sort of like RG3 in 2012.

 

Brett Hundley

My personal favorite quarterback of this class. i got a chance to watch Hundley live when UCLA came to Charlottesville to play UVa in the 2014 season opener last year, and Hundley impressed me with his ability to make tough throws when the defense was about to hit him. UVa had a very formidable defense last year, led by defensive end Eli Harold who anchored the pass rush, Hundley and the Bruins offensive line did not have an easy time dealing with the Cavaliers and nearly lost the game in the waning moments had Hundley not come through.

View Mike McBride's page here.

 

Published in Podcasts

This year, like every other year, the NFL is about to receive an influx young, talented players that will have an immediate impact in the realm of fantasy football.  However, if history has taught us anything it is that some of these rookies will shine (Odell Beckham Jr, Jeremy Hill, Mike Evans) and some of them will fade (Eric Ebron, Johnny Manziel, Bishop Sankey).  The question is, which rookies are worth investing in, in 2015?  One of these rookies worth investing in is the NCAA's leading rusher in 2014... Melvin Gordon.  In his Junior season Gordon rushed 343 times for an incredible 2,587 yds and 29 TDs, leaving him with an amazing 7.5 YPC average.  While of course these numbers will drop in the NFL, Gordon has proven that he has what it takes to compete at an elite level and will undoubtedly produce in the NFL, and more importantly, produce for your fantasy lineup.  Talent aside, the most important factor in deciding when to draft the young RB (or any rookie) is what team he falls to.  In this article we will examine not only Gordon's skill set, but also which teams he will see the most success with come 2015.

Gordon and the Boys

Entering the 2015 season, there are a handful of teams that are in need of a strong presence at the RB position, one of the most notable teams is none other than 'America's team,' the Dallas Cowboys.  In 2014, the Cowboys offensive line asserted itself as one of (if not the most) dominant O-lines in the NFL.  Behind that line, DeMarco Murray was able to rack up 1,845 yards and 13 TDs.  Measuring in at 6'0" and 213 lbs at the NFL combine, Demarco Murray's measurables are eerily similar to Gordon's.  Add that with a zone-blocking scheme that Gordon has become accustomed to during his time in Wisconsin, we could see an incredible rookie season for the former Badger.  In Dallas, Gordon's major competition would be the recently signed Darren McFadden and the former 5th-round pick, Joseph Randle.  However, given his injury history, it's hard to believe that the Boys would put all of their eggs in McFadden's basket.  It's also hard to believe that Dallas would put their faith in Randle who has amassed only 105 carries in two seasons.

Lightning in a Bottle

Another team in need of a fresh start at running back is the San Diego Chargers.  After parting ways with veteran RB Ryan Matthews, the Chargers are an enticing option for any potential running back.  Although Branden Oliver showed glimpses of greatness in 2014, by the end of the season he averaged only 3.6 YPC. If Gordon were to fall to the Chargers he would be expected to immediately take the reins as the starting RB.  Couple that with the 'change of pace' trait in Danny Woodhead and Gordon would be kept 'fresh' throughout the season and able to do what he does best... run the ball.  Combine that with an improved offensive line (added Orlando Franklin, among others, in free agency) and Melvin Gordon could immediately become fantasy relevant in all formats.

Completing the Triple-Crown

A third team that could use a fresh RB is the Indianapolis Colts.  Even with the recent acquisition of veteran RB Frank Gore, the Colts are in desperate need of a long term solution to their running back situation.  After correcting their fatal mistake by dropping Trent Richardson this off season, the Colts signed the fading star of Gore to a 3-year $12 million contract.  So if Gordon were to fall to the Colts come draft day, what can we expect from him next season?  The answer is... not much.  Like Fred Jackson, Gore just continues to be relevant in the fantasy world.  If Gordon were to join the Colts, expect Gore to receive the bull's share of the carries until Gordon proves without a doubt that he is the better option.  That being said, it's clear that adding Gordon would solidify their future as a dynasty offense with the three-headed monster of Luck-Hilton-Gordon.

Conclusion: Where to draft Gordon in 2015

Standing at 6'1" 215 lbs, Gordon resembles (and plays like) a bulkier Jamaal Charles.  Now of course, nobody can say that Gordon is guaranteed to see the success that Charles has seen in the NFL, but looking at the numbers, it's not impossible.  During the NFL combine, Charles ran a ridiculous 4.22 40-yard dash.  Although Gordon could only post a 4.52 40-yard dash (still an incredibly fast time), don't think that he doesn't have the 'big play ability' that Jamaal Charles has.  In the NFL, the one thing more important than being able to outrun a tackler, is being able to cut and create space between tacklers... a skill that Gordon possesses.  In the underrated 20-yard shuttle drill, Gordon posted an incredible 4.07, showing off his prowess as a back capable of changing directions on a dime.  Assuming Gordon goes to a team that truly needs a running back, we can expect fantasy results that could rival that of last year's leading rookie rusher, Jeremy Hill.  Projected as a first round pick in the NFL draft, expect Gordon to live up to (or even exceed) the hype.  Look to target Melvin Gordon in the mid rounds of the draft and expect strong RB2 numbers with possible RB1 potential.

Check out Phil Roeder's Flickr page for more awesome images.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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The only thing more difficult than trying to predict where top prospects will land in the NFL draft (especially before free agency) is trying to predict how those prospects will impact the world of fantasy football. The simple fact is that there are too many variables to predict not only what teams this year's prospects will end up with, but how they will be utilized on those teams. This article will focus on the draft prospect with the least amount of those variables today: Jameis Winston.

As close to a lock as possible, almost all credible mocks have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking Jameis Winston with the #1 pick of the draft. With the release of veteran QB Josh McCown in February, the case for the Bucs taking Winston with the first pick was only strengthened. As the #1 pick, Winston will be expected to have an immediate impact in the Bucs offense. But what does this mean from a fantasy perspective? Can Jameis Winston adjust to the professional level and compete as a viable starting fantasy QB? In order to answer these questions we must take a look at not only Winston, but the Buccs offense as a whole.

Will Winston have the protection needed to succeed?

In 2014, the Bucs replaced four of their five starting linemen from 2013. These drastic changes did little to help the Bucs offensive woes. As a whole, the Buccs didn't fair too poorly in the running game, finishing as the 10th ranked team at run blocking. Unfortunately for Winston, the offensive line also finished as the 26th ranked unit at pass blocking. It's clear that the Bucs need to improve their offensive line if Winston has any shot of achieving fantasy relevance. Even with an offensive anchor in tackle, Demar Dotson, the Bucs will certainly look to add depth to the offensive line through free agency and the draft. One final thing to note about the Bucs offensive line is their discipline. They finished with the most penalties of any offensive line in the NFL which if continued in 2015, will almost assuredly take away some of Winston's big gains through the air.

Will Winston have the weapons needed to succeed?

The simple answer here is YES. Winston will be entering the NFL with a powerful combination of receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Mike Evans, the #2 rookie WR in 2014, finished 10th overall in standard scoring. With Winston's big arm and love for throwing the ball deep down the field, we may be witnessing the beginning of a QB/WR combo that could end up being one of the best in the NFL. In terms of the rushing game, the Bucs will hope that Doug Martin (after two years of being plagued with injuries) can repeat the success he achieved in 2012 (1454 yds, 4.6 avg). Regardless if he can or can't, the Bucs will look to add depth to their RB core this offseason, whether it is through free agency or the deep RB class in this year's draft. Finally, at the TE position, Winston will hope that sophomore TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins can live up to the hype next year. Taken in the second round, Seferian-Jenkins had high expectations after last year's draft. Unfortunately his season was plagued by injuries and we have yet to see just what this prototype TE is capable of.

Does Jameis Winston have what it takes to compete in the NFL?

When looking at Winston, there’s no doubt that the talent needed to compete at the professional level is there. As a natural pocket passer, Winston has a big arm and loves to throw the ball down the field. Additionally, his size (6’4”, 231 lbs) and his decent mobility allow him to keep plays alive and allow his receivers time to get open. When watching film, it’s clear to see that Winston knows his receivers. He consistently places the ball in a spot where only the receivers have even a chance of catching the ball. Combining that with tight spirals and a strong knowledge of the game, Winston has an excellent chance of succeeding at the professional level. Even with all of these positive attributes, there are a couple of major concerns when considering Winston as a fantasy relevant QB. One of course is his off-field issues. Fortunately, Winston has recently addressed these issues and truly impressed both scouts and coaches during his combine interviews. The other more important concern is his interceptions. During his Heisman winning season, Winston threw for 40 TDs and only 10 INTs. Those numbers drastically dropped his senior year, throwing for only 25 TDs and 18 INTs. His big arm doesn’t help him here as he more than occasionally overthrows his receivers and tries to force the ball into tight coverage. We can only hope that the Bucs coaches can help Winston to develop in the preseason and get those big-armed throws under control.

So what can we expect from Winston in 2015?

Winston has all the tools needed to succeed in 2015. As a Heisman winner, we know that the talent is there. As a top priority (especially with a rookie QB), the Bucs will definitely spend the money to improve their offensive line in the offseason. Additionally, the Bucs have a strong receiving duo in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson who both love to catch 50+ yard touchdowns, perfectly complementing Winston’s big arm. Coupling that with a healthy Doug Martin and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs could have a very strong offense next year. Comparing him to current NFL QBs, Winston reminds me a lot of Big Ben Roethlisberger. Between his size, his arm, and surprising ability to move in order to extend plays, the Bucs may have just found their franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston.

2015 Projection:

-19th QB Overall Standard Scoring

-3,150 yards

-27 TDs

-15 INTs

View Kathy Vitulano's flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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Player: Tyler Lockett

School: Kansas State University

Position: Wide Receiver

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 182 lbs

Class: Sr.

Position Rank: 5

Over the last few seasons undersized receivers such as the Steelers Antonio Brown and the Colts T.Y. Hilton have been able to establish as premier player makers at the wide receiver position. In the 2015 NFL draft class, Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett is a player that has been overlooked due to his diminutive size, but in my opinion has a chance to come in and play a major role during his rookie season. 

Strengths:

  •       Big Play Threat (14.3 YPC)
  •     Ability to make people miss after catch 
  •       Uses Quickness/Speed to be a mismatch against bigger defensive backs
  •       Very quick feet
  •       Elite Short Area Quickness
  •       Works back to football very well
  •       Versatility to line up at multiple positons within an offense
  •       Surprising ability to play above the ground (35.5” vertical)
  •       Attacks top of stem, explosive out of routes
  •       Special team capability
  •       High Character Individual

Weaknesses:

  •    Can get swallowed up by press-coverage
  •    Double-catches, and occasional drops due to small hands
  •      Lacks prototypical size
  •      Struggles with people around him

Collegiate Career

Originally rated a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com, Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett surpassed all expectations on his way to becoming one of the top receivers in Kansas State history, setting 17 school records, including receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and other records previously held by Lockett’s father.

Year

Conf

G

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

*2011

Big 12

9

18

246

13.7

3

*2012

Big 12

13

44

687

15.6

4

2013

Big 12

12

81

1262

15.6

11

2014

Big 12

13

106

1515

14.3

11

Career

   

249

3710

14.9

29


In just 9 games, it was evident that Lockett possessed special playmaking ability, averaging an astounding 35.2 yards per return. Lockett also proved to be a threat to score at any time as we was able to return two kicks back for touchdowns.

It was not until the final two seasons of Lockett’s college career that he started to get buzz as a potential NFL prospect. Over the course of his final two seasons in Manhattan Lockett finished over 180 receptions for 2,777 yards and 22 touchdown receptions. The 2,777 yards were the second highest total in college football over the last two years, trailing only Eastern Carolina's Justin Hardy (2,778). 

What impressed me most about the number Lockett was able to put up in his final two seasons was the fact he was able to produce with sub-par quarterbacks throwing him the ball. Neither of Jake Waters, Colin Klein and Daniel Sams possess the necessary skill set to be NFL quarterbacks, but still Lockett was able to produce like a premier wide receiver in college football. 

Fantasy Perspective

There is no doubt in my mind that Lockett possesses the ability to be the same caliber of playmaker at the NFL level that he was in college, but like the majority of wide receivers in football their production is tied to the quarterback production 

In terms of a skill set Lockett possesses the ability to line up at multiple positions within an offense. Equipped with lighting quick feet and aggressive playing style many draftniks feel like Lockett would be best suited in the slot in order to take advantage of his quickness on linebackers and safeties. While I do expect Lockett to make an impact in the slot I feel like Lockett's ability to make an impact down the field is being undervalued.

Over his college career Lockett averaged 14.9 yards-per-reception and showed the ability to separate against the bigger, more physical defensive backs in college football. Due to his big-play ability I expect Lockett to make an impact as a situational deep threat during his rookie season, a role that all teams are looking to fill at this time of year. 

Just because Lockett possesses 4.4 speed and averaged over 14.5 yards-per-reception does not mean that Lockett is a one trick pony at the next level. Lockett plays with an aggressive mindset, and despite less than ideal size, Lockett is not afraid to get the tough yards by going over the middle of the field. 

Going into dynasty drafts Lockett is my number 5 rated wide receiver, a ranking that slots him as a firm round 2 selection in Dynasty drafts. As far as standard leagues go Lockett may struggle to find the end zone on a consistent basis due to his minimal use in the red zone, but I do feel Lockett could reach WR3 value in PPR formats. 

Player Comparison: T.Y. Hilton

The moment I turned on the tape of Lockett I was instantly reminded of Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and looking closer at their measurables I feel even more comfortable with this projection. I turned on the tape of Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett the guy that instantly came to my mind was Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and if you look at them strictly from a measuraubale standpoint they are a near spitting image. 

Tyler Lockett/T.Y. Hilton Spider Chart

As you can see by the spider graphs above Hilton and Lockett are nearly identical players from a physical standpoint. Both players stand 5'10", weighing around 183 lbs, raising some concerns that his frame cannot handle the 

The most concerning part of Lockett and Hilton's game is their tendency to drop relatively easy passes. Due to Lockett's smaller than average hands (8 3/8) I believe Lockett will deal with the occasional case of the drops at the next level. The second aspect of Lockett's game that raised some red flags in my evaluation process was his lack of consistency making contested catches. 

Despite the red flags that came up during my evaluation process I am very confident Lockett possesses all the skills necessary to be a starting wide receiver at the NFL level. While Lockett will never have the size and strength to out muscle defenders, Lockett is going to be a terror for LB's and Safeties to cover due to his explosiveness out of his routes, and ability to get free from press man-coverage. 

Draft Projection

In my opinion Tyler Lockett is the most under-appreciated wide receiver prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. After totaling over 3,700 receving yards in his career, on his way to setting 17 school records, Lockett made himself eligible for the NFL Draft.

Lockett was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and reportedly was one of the most well-rounded receivers in Mobile. Senior Bowl Director Phil Savage was one of the many to rave about Lockett's week in Mobile, as he was quoted by the Kansas City Star saying, "“I think Tyler Lockett has shown exactly what people thought of him during the season,” Savage said. “He can play in the slot, he’s very quick, he’s a return specialist as well. He’s a super-high-intangible person, so that’s going to be attractive to teams.”

Currently Lockett is my number 5 rated wide receiver for the 2014 NFL Draft due to his well-rounded game and explosive playmaking ability.

As far as his best fit at the next level I am going to break down two potential options where I feel Lockett could see playing time during his season.

  • Philadelphia:

After losing DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy over the last two offseasons I can officially say that I have no idea what Chip Kelly's vision for this team is. They just traded former quarterback Nick Foles to the Rams in exchange for oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford, a move that has left many people scratching there heads. While the potential is still there for the Eagles to draft Kelly's former college quarterback Marcus Mariota, the asking price may be too steep for Kelly and the Eagles regime. 

One thing is for certain, the Eagles need to add some young offensive talent to their team this offseason. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews should see a boost in production in his sophomore season, as Matthews goes into the season as the team's no. 1 option in the passing game. Other than Matthews, the only receivers that have any experience on the Eagles roster are Riley Cooper and Josh Huff, two players that combined for 63 receptions last season. 

I think Philadelphia could be the perfect fit for a guy with Lockett's skill-set. Head Coach Chip Kelly is a mastermind at getting his players in space, allowing for players to take advantage of their god-given athletic ability against favorable matchups. Lockett could step in for the Eagles and be a day 1 starter at the position in my opinion, and with his deep speed could be the replacement the team is looking for.

  • Oakland

Who is there to throw the ball to in Oakland? James Jones is no more than wide receiver depth at this point in his career, and with Andre Holmes potentially leaving via restricted free agency the Raiders could be looking to add a wide receiver or two in the draft. 

The Raiders have been said to have interest in the consensus top-3 wide receivers; DeVante Parker, Kevin White, and Amari Cooper. However, if the Raiders want to return to the glory days of yesteryear I would advise them too add talent on the defensive side of the football, rather than the splash for a wide receiver.

If the Raiders wait on a wide receiver, and draft say Leonard Williams or Randy Gregory in the first round, Lockett could be a very real possibility in round 2 or 3. Derek Carr needs a legitimate no. 1 receiving option, and while Lockett is not the big possession-type receiver that NFL teams look for, he would instantly become the Raiders most talented pass catcher. 

In 2014, no Raiders receiver other than James Jones totaled more than 70 receptions, a trend in the modern-day NFL that is unacceptable if you are going to be a contending team. With the addition of Lockett the Raiders would get a day 1 starter at the wide receiver position, giving Lockett some very intriguing fantasy potential. 

I gave Lockett second round grade in this draft, and rank him as my number 5 receiver in his draft class. While some people may believe Lockett is going to be destined for the slot due to his smaller than average build, I urge you to not sleep on him because Lockett will prove you wrong. 

Grade: Round 2

Photo Courtesy of Iumontuen Flickr Page

Published in Waiver Wire

One skill we always value when it comes to drafting fantasy potent running backs is the ability to catch the football. Now, you might think a good receiving running back is only valuable in PPR (points per reception leagues) but that is simply not true. While receiving running backs definitely have more value in PPR leagues, they're also highly draftable in redraft leagues.

Of the Top 7 fantasy running backs last year, only one guy didn't have at least three receiving touchdowns. Two out of the top 4 had at least 800 receiving yards while the bottom three of those seven guys had receiving touchdown totals of 4,5, and 4 respectively.

The one guy who failed to register a receiving touchdown happened to be the top fantasy running back in the league, in this case DeMarco Murray. But Murray was an exception to the rule considering he carried the ball over 100 times more than any other running back in the league last year and was also gifted with an outstanding offensive line.

Plus, Murray still compiled a respectable 57 catches for 416 yards, so he was still a potent receiver despite not having a catching touchdown to his name.

Why a good receiving running back is valuable — especially in Dynasty Leagues

One big thing you have to remember is that catching the ball is a skill, not an athletic gift. Skills don't fade, but athletic ability does. We've seen countless running backs keep themselves valuable into their 30s with their ability to catch the ball. Bills running back Fred Jackson is still fantasy relevant and he just turned 34 years old. Jackson caught a career-high 66 passes in 2014 at age 33, totaled 501 receiving yards and caught a touchdown. Eagles running back Darren Sproles caught 40 passes at age 31 last year with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Receiving skills don't go away, and if you're looking to invest in somebody long term for a dynasty league, then these are the skills you should be valuing.

How it helps in other ways

Overall, finding a good receiver for your running back spot can enhance your chances of avoiding dud performances due to the variety of ways in which he can get you points. Anybody can fall victim to what's known as 'gameflow' in fantasy football. An example of gameflow working against you would be something like... if a running back only puts up 30 rushing yards because his team gets down early and they have to pass the ball. On the other hand, a receiver can end up with zero catches if a team scores a lot of points early and just runs the ball to chew up clock late. So, if you have a player that can both catch and run the ball, your chances of falling victim to gameflow decrease drastically.

Plus, with the NFL still being a passing-based league despite many teams eying to replicate the Seattle Seahawks' formula centered around running and defense, it's always good to have a receiving back in general.

Overall, you should be looking for a solid receiving back in your dynasty draft. And if you're looking to find guys who might have the talent to do that, look no further than Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon.

What he did in college

First, let's talk about Yeldon's ability as a rusher since that's always the chief talent that will keep him on the field in the first place. Though Yeldon only ranked 61st among all rushers in 2014, he finished with a respectable 979 yards and more importantly, 11 touchdowns on a solid 5.0 yards per carry. He's not a real physical runner and also runs with his pad level tad high at 6'1. Ball security issues where a huge concern as well, as he fumbled 10 times in 576 carries.

Like most running backs, Yeldon also struggled in pass blocking, opting to throw his shoulders around instead of squaring up to block incoming linebackers and defensive linemen. Those are his biggest weaknesses and what may keep him irrelevant in fantasy despite his catching ability. We'll just assume he works on those flaws and gets better for the sake of argument.

Yeldon, like most Alabama running backs before him, wasn't asked to catch the ball much in Alabama. The Crimson Tide instead relied mostly on Amari Cooper for their receiving needs, as Coop accounted for over 70 percent of the team's total targets, an incredible number when you figure the best wideouts on NFL teams might account for 30-40 percent of total team targets.

Still, even though he didn't catch the ball much, it doesn't mean he doesn't possess the skill. His fellow Crimson Tide teammate, Eddie Lacy, actually wasn't much of a receiver out of college either. Lacy quickly erased any doubt that he could be a valuable pass catcher in the NFL  when he finished with 42 catches (13th most among RBs), 427 yards (6th most among RBs) and 4 touchdowns (tied for 4th among RBs) in 2014, which was only his second NFL season. Of course, Lacy benefited from playing with Aaron Rodgers, who's one of the leagues best quarterbacks.

Since we don't know who will be throwing Yeldon the ball just yet, we can only look at his individual catching ability based on his college tape. Lets take a look at some of his receiving examples out of college to see if he actually can catch.

Example No. 1

In this first clip against Mississippi State from 2014, Alabama quarterback Blake Sims looks down the field at his receivers, who are both covered. He then looks to the far sideline and hits Yeldon, who's running up the sideline, on a wheel route. Yeldon makes the catch cleanly and maintains his balance on the sidelines, getting both feet in bounds. Overall, some good awareness of the sideline there. Also, he catches the ball with his hands and keeps it away from his body, which is a good sign his hands are soft.

 


Example No. 2

This one is probably my favorite examples of Yeldon's catching ability and it's not even a true completion. Sims fakes to Yeldon, who then runs up the sideline and manages to haul in a long pass with a corner draped on him and a safety coming over the top to drill him. Yeldon doesn't complete the catch all the way through, but he still does three things very well. For one, he sheds the defender to create space and get himself open. Two, he has to turn his body around and lean back to adjust to the pass. Lastly, he times the catch perfectly, catching the ball at the peak of his jump. These are the kind of ball awareness skills every good receiver has. Plus at 6'1, Yeldon is a little bigger than most running backs and can use his size on contested balls like that.


Example No. 3

In the last example, you get an idea for what Yeldon can do in the open field. Yeldon makes a simple catch out of the backfield, one nearly every running back can make, and then moves the ball up the field and makes on defender miss before being tackled from behind. He makes the catch at about the opponents 47-yard line before advancing the ball all the way down to the 32. Once he knows he's about to go down, he doesn't fight for extra yardage and instead falls down before a defender can lay a big hit on him.

Final verdict

Overall, Yeldon doesn't look flashy in the open field. He's not super quick and he's also not strong enough to move the pile. Still, a lot can be said about his reliability as a receiver. He will produce in the receiving game when on the field at the NFL level. He just has the right instincts, ball skills and overall reliable hands you'd want out of a quality receiving back.

Regarding how that translates to fantasy football, Yeldon will likely not start in his first year, which makes him undraftable in most redraft leagues unless he's gifted a starting role like Bishop Sankey was with Tennessee last year. But as we all know with running backs, injuries can rear their ugly head at any moment. If Yeldon does get an opportunity, he will be a good flex play because of his catching ability. Expect him to be a good plug and play guy when right opportunity comes about, especially in PPR leagues.

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Published in Waiver Wire
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