Post-Johnson Roundtable

With David Johnson out for awhile, is LeVeon Bell an "auto-play" in your cash lineups? Do his Week 1 struggles or his shaky Week 2 matchup give you any pause? If they do, what's your general cash-game plan at running back?

David Johnson's indefinite loss batters the Cardinals, of course, but it also presents new challenges to DFSers. Johnson has been so versatile and so dominant since the tail end of 2015 that he arguably deserved the weekly 15-20% investment cash players had to make. Now that he's out of the picture, is Le'Veon Bell, a similarly versatile mega-scorer, an "auto-play" in your cash lineups? Do his Week 1 struggles or the ominous matchup with Minnesota give you any pause? If they do, and you're planning to fade Bell to some degree, what's your general cash-game plan at running back?

James Brimacombe: I will be fading Le'Veon Bell this week due to the high price and the tough matchup against the Vikings. Also, with Bell holding out for so long, there is still some rust there and I wouldn’t mind waiting a few weeks to pay the high price for him week-to-week. There was concern last week with him only touching the ball 13 times (10 rushes, 3 receptions), and seeing how the Saints running backs performed against this Vikings defense makes me want to fade Bell for one more week. After that, he will likely be a high-priced player I will insert into my lineup almost every week when it comes to cash games. With fading Bell this week, I am going to look to high-volume guys in Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon III, Leonard Fournette, Ty Montgomery and Dalvin Cook to build lineups around.

Jason Wood: I won't be playing Bell much this week, but over the course of the season he'll be a fixture in cash lineups. The one fly in the ointment is whether Johnson's injury causes such a boost in Bell's ownership as to make the risk/reward of playing him less compelling. For now, I suspect people will continue to diversify lineups until Bell will be worth owning. 

I never overreact to Week 1. Go back and look at the top (and bottom) fantasy performers from Week 1 of prior seasons. It bears little resemblance to the year-end rankings. Bell didn't practice this offseason, and the Steelers had multiple ways to beat Cleveland. In most weeks, including this one versus Minnesota, the Steelers have to leverage Bell to win the game. Now, if Bell and the Steelers offensive line struggles continue through three games? We'll have to have a more difficult conversation.

Chris Feery: I’ll be passing on Bell for cash lineups this week as well, but he makes for an interesting GPP target. He should bounce back from his disastrous Week 1 performance, but there’s too much value out there at running back to consider him an auto-play. Melvin Gordon III and Marshawn Lynch are among the names to consider for locked-in value, and they both check in at a substantial discount in relation to Bell’s price. For GPP purposes, the field may shy away from Bell for a few different reasons. Price, a poor Week 1 performance, and a tough matchup on paper against the Vikings will likely cause many players to look elsewhere. The potential for an explosive bounce-back from Bell makes for an intriguing factor to consider for GPP lineup purposes.

Justin Howe: Definitely, Chris. Bell looks like one of the sexier GPP plays of the week, for the reasons you just listed. He's exceptionally costly, and a hefty chunk of the every-week DFS field was burned badly by him last week. That tends to stick in our minds more than we realize. With all of the insane value at RB this week, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Bell check in under 10% or even 7% ownership in some prominent GPP contests. A strong Bell week - something like 150 total yards, 6 catches, and a touchdown - would move the needle massively in your direction. He'll probably be in 35-50% of my shallower GPP lineups.

I'm also glad you qualified the Vikings matchup as "tough on paper." They played well against the Saints - who abandoned the run early - but they can absolutely be had. Their fantasy reputation stems from not allowing many rushing touchdowns, but Bell doesn't need to score much (or even at all) to bring home cash value; he's adept at posting 130-yard, 8-catch games that hit the mark without a touchdown. And these Vikings have allowed opposing teams for rush for 94+ yards in 9 of their last 11 games.

Justin Bonnema: I think it's dangerous to fade Bell, especially in the Steelers' first home game. But I do agree that he's a better play in GPPs than in cash games. Gordon has come up a lot in this thread and it's because he's the best value on the board. Pair him with Elliott and you have guaranteed volume and nearly-guaranteed multiple touchdown games. 

I'm also going to be overweight on Montgomery. We have to target volume and opportunity, and he checked both boxes last week. He ranked 11th in opportunity share among all players (team targets + team rushes), which is outstanding considering how the Packers distribute the ball. That may not be sustainable, but if he loses carries because the Packers are trailing in Atlanta, he'll make it up for with targets. He is way under priced in Week 2. I don't play many cash games, but I'll be running lineups that rotate Elliott, Gordon, and Montgomery.

Dan Hindery: I'm not scared off by Bell's relatively tough matchup against Minnesota or his poor Week 1 showing. I am scared off of Bell in double-ups though because he is so expensive this week (especially on DraftKings). I like Melvin Gordon III just as much and there's a price difference of almost $3,000.

My strategy is almost identical to what James laid out. I'm focused in on Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon III, Ty Montgomery, and Marshawn Lynch in cash games this week. I play three double-up lineups each week on DraftKings and am probably going to have Gordon in each. I will play each of the other three backs in two of my three lineups (flexing a running back this week in cash).