DFS Roundtable: The Big Six Running Backs

The DFS team discusses the high-end and low-end running backs for Week 12

Which of the 'big six' running backs in Week 12 is your favorite play?

Conversely, who is your favorite lower-salary option?

James Brimacombe: Melvin Gordon III is my pick at the top this week in a home matchup against the Cardinals who are ranked 29th against the run. Gordon is coming off an 18-carry game for 69 yards paired with 6 catches for 87 yards against the Broncos. He failed to find the end zone but I have a hard time seeing him fail to get a touchdown in this matchup. The Chargers are 12-point favorites and Arizona is allowing 29 carries for 129 yards and 1.1 touchdowns on average to opposing running backs on the season. This looks to be a high-volume spot for Gordon and the multi-touchdown upside is on the table.

Matt Breida is my guy in the lower-salary range as he has shown that he has borderline RB1 potential. Coming off a massive showing against the Giants in Week 10 where he had 20 total touches for 132 total yards and 2 touchdowns make me want to roster him on numbers alone. Add in that the 49ers are in one of the highest total games on the slate and the fact that he will be coming off a bye week and will be well rested and ready to have another high volume touch type of game. Breida is averaging 5.59 yards per carry on the season and is an under the radar pick this week for your RB2.

Phil Alexander: Denver's rush defense has stiffened since allowing 548 rushing yards and four touchdowns over a disastrous three-game stretch from Weeks 4-6. Despite the Broncos recent success stopping the run and Pittsburgh's undesirable spot as a short road favorite, I'm eager to go back to James Conner.

Conner was in a wonky game script last week against Jacksonville and his Week 11 would be perceived differently if he hadn't dropped a sure touchdown. Now that he's back in a neutral matchup (at worst), Conner should be closer to the player who topped 32 PPR fantasy points in four straight games from Weeks 5-9 than the one who failed to exceed 15 in each of the last two. Hopefully, recency bias will push the crowd more towards Melvin Gordon III and Saquon Barkley at the top running back tier, leaving Conner under-owned.

Outside of the high-end running backs, there appears to be solid value just below $6K on DraftKings. Matt Breida can only be healthier after a bye week, as he looks to build on his 31.2-point breakout from Week 10. Tampa Bay's defense has been shredded by opposing running backs since linebacker Kwon Alexander went on IR. Joe Mixon (21-123-2), Christian McCaffrey (157 total yards, 2 touchdowns), and Barkley (152 total yards, 3 touchdowns) have each posted ceiling games vs. the Buccaneers, helping Breida's chances at another big game.

Marlon Mack has cooled off a bit since posting back-to-back 30+ point games in Weeks 7 and 8, but he should get on track this week. The Dolphins have allowed the third-most normalized fantasy points per game toopposing running backs over the last five weeks and Mack can still be counted on to handle at least 65% of the Colts backfield work. The implied game script (IND -9) suggests Mack should touch the ball over 20 times in a game the Colts are expected to score about 30 points.

Justin Howe: In general, my play is Barkley, as he’s so woven into everything the Giants do. We all know of his rushing dynamism, and it’s important to note that Week 11 was only his second time drawing fewer than 5 targets. In cash games, though, I’m more likely to chase the chalk in Gordon. He’s drawn 20+ opportunities (carries plus targets) in 6 straight games, and he’s often schemed just as tightly into the gameplan as Barkley is. I chase volume first and efficiency second, and Gordon (a whopping 6.4 yards per touch) provides both.

Bring on Elijah McGuire. Isaiah Crowell is, to be frank, not a special NFL runner. He’s a one-speed guy with little power or elusiveness, and the Jets’ front line doesn’t provide the kind of wide-open creases he tends to need. The Jets are already starting to sour a bit – immediately upon his return from injury, McGuire began out-snapping Crowell overall, and in Week 10 he took just one fewer carry (but produced 11 more yards).

Will Grant: While I think Barkley has the potential to be a stud this week, if I had to pick one guy to anchor my cash lineup, it would be Melvin Gordon III. The Chargers took a tough loss last week but were given a gift when the Chiefs lost to the Rams on Monday night. They need to run the table if they hope to catch the Chiefs, otherwise, a 10 or 11 win season will still only get them a road playoff game. That starts this week against the Cardinals who somehow lost to the Raiders. The Chargers are going to lean on Gordon early and often and he should be a great cash game play for sure.

I have not been a fan of Marlon Mack this season, but lately, the Colts have been feeding him the ball as the primary back. The last two weeks he's faced some tough run defenses and still performed OK. But against the soft Raiders defense, he tore them up for 150 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. This week he faces the Dolphins, who gave up 170 yards from scrimmage to Aaron Jones. Two weeks prior to that, Lamar Miller hung 133 yards on them. The week before that, Kerryon Johnson had almost 180 yards from scrimmage. Look for Mack to bounce back this week against the Dolphins and pay some excellent value for his relatively low cost.


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