DFS Roundtable: DRAFTing Running Backs

How are you ordering your RB priorities in Week 11 DRAFTs? Give us your top six DRAFT-suited RBs, then tell us where on the RB continuum you see the first big break in value. At what point during the RB free-for-all are you most willing to pause and jump at another position?

For most, the preferred strategy on DRAFT The reasoning is simple: not only do bell cow backs carry strong volume outlooks than even the best receivers, they also populate a position that's much shallower and more difficult to shore up later. Surprise WR weeks happen all the time, but RB often remains a flat circle, feeding us massive nuggets of value from various points throughout the relatively small board of viable backs. It's not a death knell to wind up "stuck" with, say, Robert Woods or Adam Thielen as our WR2, but we're at a big disadvantage if our RB2 is DeMarco Murray or Doug Martin. It's not exact and universal, of course, but getting cute is best reserved for the passing game here. Remember: there's no salary cap to stop you from pairing the enormous volume outlooks of two elite RB1s.

With that in mind, how are you ordering your RB priorities in Week 11 DRAFTs? Give us your top six DRAFT-suited RBs, making sure to explain why your top two are indeed your top two. Then tell us where on the RB continuum you see the first big break in value; in other words, at what point during the RB free-for-all are you most willing to pause and jump at another position?

Jason Wood: I see the cutoff at seven running backs before the drop off makes me uncomfortable. My rankings this week are:

1. Leonard Fournette

2. Kareem Hunt

3. Todd Gurley

4. Mark Ingram II

5. Jordan Howard

6a. Alvin Kamara

6b. Melvin Gordon III

Fournette has been a disappointment lately, getting suspended for violating team rules and then whiffing on his return. But he’s still a classic workhorse on a team that faces the Browns this week in a matchup the Jaguars should dominate on both sides of the ball. This is a get-right game for Fournette, without question.

Hunt gets the lowly Giants and is coming off a bye week. Andy Reid is incredible coming off byes – not that he needs to be at his best to outcoach Ben McAdoo. Hunt continues to be an elite producer yardage-wise, but hasn’t found the end zone much since his early star debut. That will change this week.

Gurley doesn’t have the easiest matchup against the Vikings, but he and the Rams are essentially matchup-proof these days. The Rams aren’t going to be able to throw at will, and they’ll need to rely on Gurley to succeed. 

I can’t back Ingram or Kamara higher simply because they compete with each other, but one of them is probably going to finish first or second this week. Guessing which one rises above will be hard each week.

Howard is on a bad team but continues to produce, whereas Gordon has been elite yet inconsistent. I’m happy with both, but from there it gets sketchy.

James Brimacombe: After just having had the first pick in our weekly six-man DRAFT, I went with Hunt, and he would be my top ranked player on the week regardless of position. That particular draft was very interesting as 10 straight running backs went off the board, and when it was my turn at the 2.06/3.01 turn there was no running back left that I felt comfortable with.

With Le'Veon Bell playing on Thursday night, the running back rankings become even thinner at the top. My top 6 running backs for Week 11 are in this order:

1. Hunt

2. Gurley

3. Gordon

4. Ingram

5. McCoy

6. Kamara

I am comfortable with any of those six running backs this week, and maybe I see a drop after Fournette (he would be my RB7). After that you have the likes of Lamar Miller, Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard, Joe Mixon, Jerick McKinnon, Adrian Peterson, and Orleans Darkwa, who are all productive backs, but nothing is standing out from that group this week.

My reasons for Hunt as the top-ranked player this week are that he is coming off a bye week and gets the New York Giants defense, which continues to allow big plays and is coming off a game in which Matt Breida and Carlos Hyde combined for 26 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown. The week before, Gurley found the end zone twice. Gurley is my second choice at the position based on his volume of touches alone. Sure the matchup is tough this week against the Vikings, but Gurley is averaging 23 touches a game and has 10 touchdowns on the season.

Justin Howe: I see the DRAFT pool as being ten-deep at RB at the top – that’s just how much I value the position over there. The pickings tend to get much slimmer at RB down the line than at other positions, where there’s always plenty of receiver value on the board. If we’re efficiently stacking at QB/WR (or QB/TE), we can typically cull more production out of those spots in Round 5 than on a flawed RB2 type.

For Week 11, I’m on board with this as the first 10 picks (which, as James mentioned, is how it fell in our staff DRAFT):

1. Hunt

2. Gurley

3. Ingram

4. Fournette

5. Gordon

6. Kamara

7. McCoy

8. Howard

9. Tevin Coleman – He pops into the picture as the likely Week 11 offensive focal point for the Falcons. Coleman is certainly eruptive, and with Devonta Freeman unlikely to play, he’s a three-down bell cow type for the week, one who produces efficiently (6.02 yards per touch) and sees gobs of red zone work (3 rushes from inside the 10 last week). His median projection for the week seems squarely in the middle of the RB1 pack.

10. Jay Ajayi – This is on-a-limb stuff, but it’s sensible and carries major upside. Ajayi is by far the most gifted back in the high-powered Eagles stable, and applying his ability to the opportunity is just enthralling here. We got a glimpse of the upside last week (8 carries, 77 yards, 1 touchdown), and considering the RB position’s general learning curve, it’s totally fair to expect him to serve as Week 11 lead back. In this offense, just 15 touches would mean quite a bit, and Ajayi could easily see 20+.

Dan Hindery:

1. Hunt

2. Gurley

3. Ingram

4. Fournette

5. Gordon

6. McCoy

7. Kamara

Hunt is easily the top back on the main slate due to his matchup. The New York Giants rank 27th in  DVOA against run and 24th in RB pass defense DVOA against opposing running backs. Kansas City is the biggest favorite of the week (10.5 points), so the game script sets up perfectly for Hunt to see extra carries.

I don’t love Gurley this week. However, Minnesota has allowed four rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks and aren’t likely to completely shut down the league’s top offense. Gurley has also had an opportunity to get some rest each of the last two weeks with the Rams blowing out their opponents. The Rams are likely to feed him heavily both as a runner and receiver (18 targets in last three games) in a hugely important game that could determine which team receives a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Besides, it is easy to poke holes in the matchups and/or usage of all of the top running backs (aside from Hunt) in Week 11. Ingram and Kamara project for 25-30 combined DRAFT points, but we’re just guessing in terms of which half of the committee will have the bigger day. Cleveland’s game plan will likely involve stacking the box to stop Fournette and the Jaguars running game. McCoy isn’t likely to have many scoring opportunities with unproven rookie Nathan Peterman piloting the offense. Gordon lost snaps (and has been outplayed) in recent weeks by Austin Ekeler.

Since we have to gamble on one of these backs at 1.02, I lean towards putting my chips down on 2017’s highest-scoring fantasy running back (Hunt averages 21 DRAFT points per game) on the NFL highest-scoring offense despite the tough matchup.

I see the tier break coming after these top seven backs; Howard ranks RB8. He has had 1 or fewer targets in 4 of 5 games, so you're really just hoping he finds the end zone, which is no guarantee seeing as how the Bears have an implied team total of just 19 points.

Jeff Pasquino: DRAFT is such a fun format. It brings a nice hybrid of daily/weekly games and the fun of season-long drafting together. There is no question that the most fun aspect for season-long is drafting, and now you can do it every week.

So, when it comes to DRAFT, you better be starting with Dan's list from his article. Of course, once you get the hang of it, you need to do your own rankings and then compare them to Dan's list. Setting up tiers is the best plan, and knowing when each position will dry up is crucial.

Running backs get tricky when there are byes, and that's still the case here in Week 11. We have only 14 games, and then we scratch off Thursday (and sometimes Monday as well). This week I think we have several feature backs to consider, and I want one of these:

1.  Hunt – Great game script, due for a touchdown, and the weather may favor the ground game.  Either way, I expect Hunt to be pounding it in the fourth quarter.

2.  Gurley – I love him and he is game script-independent. Ahead? Rams will run it with him. Behind?  He plays all three downs and catches well out of the backfield. Neutral? Both scenarios are in play. Gurley is just the kind of back that will give Minnesota fits.

3.  Gordon – Philip Rivers is banged up (concussion) and the Chargers are a home favorite against a team with a rookie quarterback.

4. Coleman – Coleman will own the Atlanta backfield this week, and he can get open in space for Matt Ryan to get him the ball. Touchdowns will not come easy, but I see 20 touches and over 100 yards.

5.  Ingram – Drew Brees is still a stud, but the way for New Orleans to be successful this year is to run the ball, or to throw it to their backs. With a lead, I like Ingram, but his partner in crime is also in play.

6. Kamara – See above, but with more PPR love for Kamara. Both backs are in play and I like them all.

Fade – Fournette.  Let someone else draft him as he faces the toughest run defense in the league. Yes, Cleveland.

I want one of these as my top six, and then I probably will hold my breath that Jay Ajayi gets overlooked late. Based on Dan's list, I think he will and I will gladly take him in Round 5 as my RB2. Odds are I start with my first running back, then go to a QB or WR based on what everyone else will be doing. If a top-six back falls to the third, that will make it tougher. I think there are three top quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Alex Smith) that I want that will likely be ahead of everyone else, so if I can go RB/top-three QB, that's what I want to do.  Julio Jones is tempting, but the advantage of a top-six RB and a top-three QB is significant.

I'll fill in WRs and my RB2 late.

If you're lucky enough to be playing for a big prize this weekend – a special extra wish for luck this week!

Justin Bonnema: I see the top RB tier cutting off after six backs:

1. Hunt – He's going to be a hot pick in all DFS formats this weekend, and for good reason. With other notable bell-cow types unavailable on the main slate, Hunt takes over the top spot in terms of team rushing share with 86.1% of Kansas City carries. Nothing has changed since Week 1 with exception of Hunt’s touchdown production. The Giants haven't allowed a lot of touchdowns to running backs because their defense is busy giving up passing touchdowns, but Hunt should have no trouble racking up yardage and a visit to the end zone is likely.

2. McCoy – A quarterback change makes me nervous. But the Bills are likely to go conservative and not ask their rookie to do much, which means they should, in theory, rely on a heavy rushing attack and short check-downs. The Chargers have allowed the second-most total yards to running backs, and if Philip Rivers doesn't play, this game shouldn't get out of hand. On the season, only Le'Veon Bell has a higher opportunity share (carries plus targets) than McCoy.

3. Ingram – It's not broken so don't fix it. The only reason we should be concerned about Ingram is that Kamara looks amazing and has earned a huge role. But this offense can support a two-headed monster in which both backs pay dividends in fantasy football.

4. Kamara – See above. And add to it the fact that Kamara is a tremendous receiver who will see lots of opportunities should Washington push New Orleans in what could be the highest-scoring game of the week.

5. Gordon – 16 carries for 27 yards last week. We've seen this act before in which Gordon disappears in games. He has a great matchup against the Bills, who have allowed a ton of yards and the most total touchdowns to running backs. But there's a chance Rivers doesn't play, and if Austin Ekeler hadn't fumbled at the end of last week's game, maybe we’d see more of him this week. I get why James has Gordon ranked third, but I'll take my chances with the four guys I have listed above.

6. Fournette - As Jason said, he's a classic workhorse despite recent issues within the Jaguars organization. It's safe to say they'll come out and whoop the Browns with ease, but let's not discredit how good that run defense is. Football Outsiders ranks the Browns defensive line second in adjusted line yards and second in stuffed rank (percentage of runs stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage). I expect a low-scoring game, which isn't a bad thing for Fournette, but they may not ask a lot of him.

Moderator: Here's our tally (Howard and Ajayi did not get enough votes to factor in). Clearly, it's Hunt Week:

 AvgRkHiRkLoRk
K. Hunt 1.1 1 2
T. Gurley 3.0 2 8
M. Ingram 3.7 3 5
M. Gordon 4.7 3 7
L. Fournette 5.0 1 8
A. Kamara 5.8 3 7
L. McCoy 6.0 2 8