DFS Roundtable: Sifting Through Crowded Backfields

Give us your top 3 Week 10 options from splintered backfields in terms of value, and explain why you're so bullish on them. And while you're at it, clue us in on which option from those backfields you're looking most at fading.

Thanks to various factors, Week 10 thrusts at us a wave of running back duos and committees. There's real value in backfields like New Orleans, Atlanta, Tennessee, and Minnesota, but not as much clarity as we'd like to see, and it's up to us to diagnose the situations and find viability. But that's easier said than done; even Vegas projections have let us down at times, with 8-point favorites uncharacteristically favoring the passing down back and fullbacks vulturing touchdowns. Give us your top 3 Week 10 options from those four backfields in terms of value, and explain why you're so bullish on them. And while you're at it, fill us in on which option from those backfields you're looking most at fading.

James Brimacombe:

1. Mark Ingram II and 2. Alvin Kamara
Since Week 3, Ingram has been able to see at least 16 touches per game. The thing I value most in fantasy football is opportunity, and trying to find that in a committee type of backfield is rare. But right now the Saints are winning games while relying on their RB duo of Ingram and Kamara, and I think as a fantasy player, you have to just keep plugging these guys into lineups, especially in GPPs. The Bills seem to have a solid run defense at first glance, but diving into the numbers, they are actually last against the run over the past five weeks. Sure, this number may be inflated somewhat because of touchdowns on the ground, but that will be what we are looking for here: both Saints RBs to find the end zone and potentially one (or even both) get in twice. The Bills just gave up 14-77-2 and 9-74 rushing lines to Matt Forte and Bilal Powell last week, so playing both Ingram and Kamara this week makes a lot of sense.

3. Devonta Freeman - Freeman would be my third running back that I have interest on out of this group. Although he has been struggling since picking up 5 touchdowns over the first 4 weeks, he continues to see a decent amount of touches (11-15 per game) and has plenty of upside this week. The Falcons play at home against the Cowboys in the highest Vegas total on the week at 50.5 points. The touchdowns for Freeman have gone in the wrong direction of late, but at home this week, those numbers could take a turn back in his favor.

Justin Bonnema: I 100% agree with James on the first two. The Saints are fertile grounds for running backs, and both of those guys have been consistent enough that it almost doesn't matter that they're in a near 50/50 timeshare.

Tevin Coleman hasn't been effective in limited opportunities and he's not a threat to Freeman. What may be a threat to Freeman are his health and the fact that the Falcons offense is struggling this season without Kyle Shanahan around. They rank 13th in rushing yards per game and fourth per attempt, which are fine volume stats. But when your team is top-10 in total yards and 19th in points, something isn't working and it's clearly having an impact on Freeman's lack of end zone visits. He hasn't scored since Week 4 and has rushed for 72 yards or fewer in all but 2 games. I don't trust this offense and I don't trust this game to hit the over.

With that said, Jerick McKinnon is an interesting option against Washington. The stats say to avoid this situation; Washington's defense has been tough to run on all year, but that's a matter of competition and volume (they are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per touch to running backs). Games against inferior rushing attacks like Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland make most run defenses look better than they are. Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, and Todd Gurley smashed Washington (411 yards and 4 touchdowns combined), and even if you don't think McKinnon belongs in the conversation with those guys from a talent perspective (he does), you can't deny he's the best in Minnesota. The Vikings could be forced into a heavy passing attack this week and McKinnon, though a little bit pricey on DraftKings, is in a great spot to turn in a stellar performance.

Jason Wood: I desperately want to trot out Freeman out as my #1 choice, but he's let me down time and again this year in DFS lineups. My decision to fade him completely this week all but guarantees he'll finally play up to his potential. (I kid, I kid).

On FanDuel, my top three choices from this list are:

1. Mark Ingram II ($6,900)

2. Jerick McKinnon ($6,600)

3. Alvin Kamara ($7,000).

It's entirely possible both Ingram and Kamara will produce, but generally it's tough to stomach a true committee where either back is capable of a workhorse role. The Saints ultimately don't care which of the two go off in a given week, as long as their collective output impresses. Kamara is more dynamic, but is $100 more expensive and has been touchdown-dependent. McKinnon's backfield partner, Latavius Murray, is substantively less impressive, and in a rational game script should cede touches to McKinnon. Since McKinnon has a shot at 65%+ of his team's snaps, he gets the edge in a favorable matchup. He's one slot behind Ingram in my FanDuel rankings, so it's really a coin flip between them.

On DraftKings, Kamara ranks ahead of both Ingram and McKinnon. Kamara is $500 cheaper than his backfield partner, yet is a slightly more dynamic receiver; which is more valuable on DraftKings (1 point per reception) than FanDuel (1/2 point). On DraftKings, I much prefer Kamara to Ingram, which puts McKinnon in the #2 spot again.

Danny Tuccitto: The easier part of the question is who to fade, so I'll start there. Based on the their DraftKings value probabilities and actual frequencies of achieving 4x value, I'll be fading Henry (9% probability, 9% actual) and Coleman (9%, 12%). Incidentally, it's clear why these two hit 4x so infrequently and are therefore tournament fool's gold: they're consistently priced higher than their snap shares would suggest.

Among the other six, here's how they rank with respect to my tournament value probabilities (probabilities along with actual 4x frequencies in parentheses):

1. Devonta Freeman (15%, 20%)

2. Latavius Murray (14%, 13%)

3. Alvin Kamara (11%, 25%)

4. DeMarco Murray (11%, 17%)

5. Jerick McKinnon (10%, 22%)

6. Mark Ingram (5%, 20%)

Despite the above, I'm also going to fade Murray because, given DraftKings' full PPR scoring, I don't roster running backs that don't catch passes.

Of the remaining 5, my Top 3 mirrors James', and for precisely the same reasons. (Note: This is really a Top 2, as I'd never have both Kamara and Ingram in the same tournament lineup due to negative correlation.)

Chris Feery: James and I have the same top three selections from the choices listed. While Ingram and Kamara are locked in a timeshare, there’s enough work to go around for both of them to achieve value on a weekly basis. The Saints have changed their ways from an aerial-based offense to one that is content to do its damage on the ground. In Freeman, we gain some exposure to a game with one of the week’s highest-projected totals. For games that fit that profile, it’s always intriguing to zag over to running back while the field zigs over to quarterbacks and wide receivers. That doesn’t always pan out, but it can give you a leg up on the field when it breaks in your favor.

I’m shying away from the Tennessee backfield for the time being, as the two-headed monster of Murray and Henry is far too unpredictable. Either of them can go off at any time, but good luck pinpointing which one on any given week. I agree with the guys that McKinnon makes for an interesting option, but I’m going to pass. I like what I see out of the Washington defense, and it looks to have the makings of a unit that will improve as the season moves along. It may not be completely showing up on paper as of yet, but I’ll lean towards the eye test until proven otherwise.

Keith Roberts: On DraftKings, my top options rank as

1. Jerick McKinnon

2. Mark Ingram II

3. Devonta Freeman

For FanDuel, we should basically switch McKinnon and Ingram due to less weight on those receptions. McKinnon’s usage has been very solid since Dalvin Cook went down, as he is averaging right around 20 touches with 5 receptions per game. Despite the Vikings’ perplexing decision to keep Murray involved in the backfield, McKinnon still has a rushing touchdown in three of those last four games. With his upside from receptions along with what actually is a decent matchup against Washington (see Justin’s points), McKinnon looks to have a very nice floor to rely on. Ingram has a solid workload at his fingertips as well since the Saints are finally relying on their run game with the improved play of that defense. Freeman has had a tough start to the season, but he is still seeing touches and is in a game that has shootout written all over it. 

I am staying away from the Titans backfield at all costs. This situation has been a mess all season, as the Titans coaching staff insists on starting Murray week in and week out despite his mounting injuries. The workload split between Murray and Henry has been fairly even, and both are the type of running back that need a solid 20 carries or more to really be effective. Unfortunately, unless one of them suffers a true injury that keeps him off the field, this looks like a continuously splitting headache for fantasy purposes.

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