DFS Roundtable: Running Back Construction

We can't go all-in on value-laden backup types from resting teams, so for whom will you be paying up this week?

There are landmines all over the top of the DFS salary board this week, though most of the big names face solid matchups and are invested in their games. We can't go all-in on value-laden backup types from resting teams, so for whom will you be paying up this week? Let us know your running back thought process for cash games as well as GPPs.

Dan Hindery: Late-breaking news, seeing which backs are inactive and which teams are planning to rest starters, will be a big key this week. As of mid-week, the two running backs I am most willing to pay up for are LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis.

McCoy is priced well below the top backs at $8,200 on FanDuel and $8,000 on DraftKings. Unlike most of the other top backs, we don’t have to worry about him not seeing his normal volume. This is a must-win game for Buffalo and McCoy should get as many touches as he can handle.

Lewis remains underpriced given the injuries to Rex Burkhead and James White. Assuming both are inactive again this week, Lewis is a fantastic option in the mid-range ($7,200 on FanDuel and $6,800 on DraftKings). He saw 29 touches last week and scored twice. The Patriots have an implied team total of 29.75 points, and Lewis should have another big game.

Justin Howe: Many will pay up for Le'Veon Bell, and while it’s not a horrible idea, WOW that cost. He’s probably not worth 20% of my budget in a good situation – his efficiency has left a lot to be desired – and he means little to me without a guarantee of 4 quarters and 25+ touches. The Steelers could sit him at any point in that game.

At running back, I’ll likely be playing a combination of the following:

Malcolm BrownTodd Gurley won’t suit up, and Brown looks poised to be the workhorse in Week 17. In fact, no other non-fullback has taken a snap in this backfield since Week 11. Brown looked solid in extended action two weeks ago against the Seahawks, but it doesn’t matter. When you have the opportunity to pay $3,900 DK/$4,500 FD for 20+ touches, you do it, even if it’s Peyton Hillis’ NFL comeback.

Derrick Henry – A no-brainer as DeMarco Murray sits down.

Lewis – The Patriots shouldn’t struggle too much with Bryce Petty and the Jets, but they need to win, and Lewis will likely see a minimum of three quarters of play. That’s easily enough in this offense to produce close to 100 scrimmage yards, catch 2-4 passes, and find the end zone.

Kenyan Drake – You have to love the matchup; no one gives up more yards than Buffalo. Drake’s price has soared, but why not? He’s a three-down workhorse with weekly potential for Alvin Kamara usage.

Jamaal Williams – With Aaron Jones down again, Williams returns to the fantasy forefront. He’ll lead the backfield by a mile, and he was a frequent check-down target for Brett Hundley around midseason.

Jason Wood: I fully get the Bell love. He's arguably the best back in the league, he's at home in a game that could mean the top seed in the AFC, his team is without its other star (Antonio Brown), and they are up against an 0-15 Browns defense. However, both DK ($10,000) and FD ($9,500) are making you pay for the privilege. I'm going to fade Bell, probably at my own peril.

On the other hand, it's hard not to play Mark Ingram II ($8,400 FD/$7,500 DK) against the Buccaneers. The Saints are playing for a shot at a slightly higher seed and have the second-highest implied point total (28.8 points) of the slate. Alvin Kamara isn't 100% healthy and I'm hoping the Saints give him a quasi-rest week, but even if Kamara is fully active, we've seen Ingram deliver monstrous games.

Even though the Cowboys have nothing to play for against the Eagles, Ezekiel Elliott ($8,700 FD/$8,700 DK) has plenty to play for after sitting out a chunk of the season. The Eagles haven't officially decided to rest their starters, but I don't see why Doug Pederson would risk injuries in a meaningless game. I'm hoping Elliott's implied ownership is low because of the game script expectation, which makes him one of my favorite higher priced options.

I'm also interested in McCoy because the Bills need to win (and get help) to break a nearly two-decade playoff drought. McCoy already topped 10,000 career rushing yards this year, but is still personally motivated to increase his personal tally and he starts crafting a Hall of Fame case in the coming season or two.

Justin Bonnema: I'm eliminating top-tier backs whose teams have nothing to play for. That means no Todd Gurley, no Elliott, and probably no Bell. The Steelers can earn the #1 seed in the AFC, but they need a win (which will be easy) and need the Patriots to lose (not happening against the Jets). Bell may get his regular workload for a few quarters, but I don't know that he'll have enough volume to justify his salary.

My alternatives are Drake and Alex Collins. Drake's snap rates over the last three games: 94%, 99%, and 100%. His production over that time: 65 touches, 360 yards, and 1 touchdown – good enough to rank RB11 in both DraftKings and FanDuel scoring. The Bills are allowing the most FanDuel and third-most DraftKings points per touch on the season. Miami is eliminated but are playing the spoiler role against a division rival. I think they will be happy to push the Bills out of the playoffs, and Drake will be a big part of the game plan.

Collins is a little tougher to sell. The Ravens offense is not trustworthy, and even though Collins has received at least 17 touches in every game since their Week 10 bye, the Ravens continue to rotate a three-headed attack in the backfield. That said, he has a great matchup in what is essentially a must-win game. Over the last five weeks, no team has allowed more fantasy points to running backs than the Bengals, who have been banged up on defense and may be even more so this week with Vontaze Burfict not practicing. I also think you can take a DraftKings-only flyer on Danny Woodhead for cheap. He has the sixth-most receptions among running backs over the last five weeks on the eighth-most targets. If not for Javorius Allen and an ugly floor, I'd be tempted to load up Collins and Woodhead for a combined $9,500 on DraftKings.

I also like, to a lesser degree, Henry. He's from Jacksonville, if you're into narratives, and I see no way that DeMarco Murray plays this week. The Titans are at home in a win-and-in situation. Henry gets a monopoly on the backfield. It's a tough matchup, but he hit this defense for 92 yards and a score back in Week 2.

Chris Feery: I agree with Dan: McCoy and Lewis are my top two choices to pay up for at running back this week. The Bills offense runs through McCoy, and that’s not going to be changing with the season on the line. He should receive a huge workload against the Dolphins, and he’s the safest option of this week’s expensive running backs as a result. As for Lewis, there’s always the concern that he’ll get sniped for the goal line work, but he should be able to make up for it by gaining a ton of yards against the Jets. Outside of this pair, I’m interested in several of the backs that my colleagues already mentioned. In order: Collins, Henry, and Drake are my next three choices for Week 17.

James Brimacombe: McCoy will be the lone running back that I will feel good about paying up for, as I think the Bills could try to get the ball into his hands in the range of 25-30 touches. If he comes anywhere close to those numbers he will almost be guaranteed a touchdown. Lewis feels like a safe play as well, but you just never know what you are going to get with Patriots running backs each week, so I would probably lean to more of a GPP play with him.

Other names I like this week are Collins, Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Williams, and Drake. I feel good about any of those names for cash or GPP, and on the really cheap end, I think Brown is worth a GPP play now that Gurley has been ruled out.

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