DFS Roundtable: Pivotal Week 17 Running Backs

The DFS team discusses the pivotal Week 17 running backs

James Conner, Spencer Ware-Damien Williams, Melvin Gordon III, Todd Gurley, and Chris Carson are all running backs where they status and/or team motivation consider the matchup adds uncertainty to their Week 17 DFS viability. Who stands out as trustworthy plays and avoid situations? What do you need to see or hear as the week progresses to aid your decision with them?

Phil Alexander:

  • James Conner - Of all the players on the list, Conner is the most interesting due to his matchup against the Bengals. But in order to be fully confident playing him, I would need to see him practicing in full by Friday and pronouncing himself pain-free.
  • Spencer Ware-Damien Williams - This one is easy. If Spencer Ware is inactive, play all the Damien Williams you can. In tournaments, we probably want Ware to be active for this game since Williams' ownership percentage will drop. But after consecutive 30ish point games, who is to say Williams hasn't cemented himself as the lead back over Ware?
  • Melvin Gordon III - I'm a little nervous about Gordon's playing time given his recent knee injury. If the Chiefs are blowing out the Raiders, as expected, the Chargers have no motivation to risk another injury to Gordon ahead of the playoffs.
  • Todd Gurley - I can't imagine Gurley plays this week. If he sat out last week in a game the Rams needed to win, what is the motivation to play him this week after C.J. Anderson proved more than capable as a fill-in? LA is a double-digit favorite at home vs. San Francisco with or without Gurley.
  • Chris Carson - Carson has the same matchup against Arizona that propelled Anderson to a top-6 weekly finish last week. It's tempting to roster him but the Seahawks don't have much to play for and Pete Carroll is notoriously hard to take at his word. I will probably have less exposure than the field, even if Carroll says his team is playing to win.

James Brimacombe:

Damien Williams and Melvin Gordon III are the only two names that I would consider out of this bunch this week. Williams looks like a trustworthy player now with three straight weeks of solid production seeing 43, 44, and 39 snaps. He also has five total touchdowns in that 3-game span and his touches have increased each week from 12, 16, to 20.

Dan Hindery:

There is no reason for the Chiefs to rest anyone. Kansas City needs the win to secure a bye and home-field advantage. That won’t make it any easier to figure out how the workload will be split, but motivation shouldn’t be an issue.

With James Conner and Todd Gurley, health is the only concern. If they are healthy, both look like elite plays this weekend. Both have nice matchups and are in games where motivation shouldn’t be an issue at all. These are situations where you simply have to follow every bit of news leading up to kickoff for clues as to how close to 100% they are. If you think they are healthy, play them.

Melvin Gordon III is a tougher call but I am leaning towards trusting him this week. He will almost certainly get a big workload in the first half. The Chargers need the win (and a Chiefs loss) to get a first-round bye. The risk comes from the possibility of scoreboard watching in the second half. The Chiefs are 13.5-point home favorites and should they jump out to a big lead on the Raiders, you could see Gordon pulled in the second half to keep him healthy for the first round of the playoffs. While I think you need to be cognizant of this risk, I see enough reward to play him. This is a strong matchup and the odds are pretty good that the Raiders at least keep it within a couple scores until late in the game, which would mean the Chargers wouldn’t let off of the gas until late.

Will Grant:

For better or worse, I think Kansas City has made the best of their situation and Damien Williams is their feature back now that Kareem Hunt has moved on. I’ve seen enough from Williams to know that he’s a better back for them than Ware and that he’ll get plenty of touches for them this week – at least in the first half while KC tries to lock up home-field advantage.

James Conner – well his practice status is uncertain, so I’m all in on Jaylen Samuels – at least on Wednesday morning. If Conner suddenly starts practicing later this week, I might consider him, but the reality is that the Steelers don’t control their own destiny – and even if they destroy the Bengals 100-0, they could still miss the playoffs. However, if they rush Conner back on the field, they win, and he isn’t healthy to face the first round of the playoffs, what will they have gained? I fully expect them to rest him again this week and hope that Samuels can get them through the game and they get the help that they need to advance.

C.J. Anderson performed well enough to keep Todd Gurley on the bench this week. The Rams will play hard until the game is well in hand, but I don’t think they’ll need Gurley to do it. If they can rest him again this week, win and get the bye and then have him playing full tilt on three weeks rest for their first playoff game, that’s a much better option for them. Even if Gurley plays this week, his upside will be very limited.

Justin Howe:

I'm definitely monitoring Conner's level of participation over the week. He's already returned to practice, but a setback could keep him grounded, especially with Jaylen Samuels looking so good.

Gordon is out for me. The Chargers aren't moving up in seeding, and their backfield is plenty deep. They've never been the type of team to risk him in-game, and any twinge or tweak would likely end his day immediately. Not to mention, a sizeable Chargers lead would have a similar effect.

Of the other options, Chris Carson probably looks the safest to me. He's had a fine year and has earned a role for 2019 and beyond, for sure. But he's not a dominator or a building block who Pete Carroll simply can't risk. It seems more likely he'd want another look at Carson's long-term viability.

BJ Vanderwoude:

Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon III are the two that I am least likely to invest in, as their teams have locked up their playoff position, and with both players such pivotal parts of their team, it is unlikely that the coaching staff will risk further injuries to either of them. Even if is announced that they will play, there is the question of just how long they play, and to what extent. I'd much rather invest in players that I know will see a full complement of touches.

James Connor is an interesting play this week, as his upside is so high that he is worth the risk of playing when his status is still somewhat up in the air. It was reported that Connor practiced in full today, the first time since November 30th, so he is someone that I will have my eye on as the week progresses. If all checks out, I will definitely have exposure to him in GPP's this weekend, especially with the Steelers fighting for a playoff spot.

Chris Carson has been fantastic as of late, and despite Seattle clinching a playoff berth, the Seahawks still have the incentive to play out their week 17 game. Carson has not been a household name in years past and is still fighting off an early round rookie and a veteran who has played very well when given opportunities. He needs to maintain a stranglehold on the starting job, and the Seattle coaching staff needs to see that they can depend on him the entire postseason. Carson still has a lot to prove, and that is the exact type of player I want in my week 17 lineups.


I am hoping that Spencer Ware is not cleared to play this weekend, because Damien Williams has been a fantasy stud since being named the starter, and he is definitely someone I will have significant exposure to this week. He is much better suited for the KC offense than Ware is, and I would expect him to retain the starter, even if Ware practices in full this week. The best case scenario is that Ware is out and there is no doubt as to Williams role.