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DFS Roundtable: Running Back Shuffle

The DFS team discusses the changing running back situations for Week 16

The late-season running back shuffle is a busy one this season with emerging options and a host of injuries. Pick a few which are most interesting for value and DFS lineups and discuss why they are optimal (or avoid) backfields for Week 16.

Phil Alexander:

  • Jamaal Williams - The Jets have snuffed out the run since their Week 12 loss to New England, but Williams is still worth a few shares. Any running back playing next to Aaron Rodgers has pass-catching and touchdown upside and Williams projects to play every snap.
  • Elijah McGuire - Still priced well enough for cash games (DraftKings) but Jets offense caps his ceiling for GPPs.
  • Bills backfield - As of this writing, it's a complete unknown which Bills running back (if any) will be healthy enough to play. Most likely a situation to avoid.
  • Texans backfield - Any running back playing against Philadelphia warrants consideration. Even Alfred Blue.
  • Eagles backfield - Too tough to predict the breakdown in touches with Adams banged up and a difficult matchup vs. Houston to boot. Avoid.
  • Leonard Fournette - You're better served pretending the Jaguars aren't on the schedule from this point forward.
  • Kalen Ballage - Cheap enough to warrant consideration despite poor matchup vs. Jacksonville. Athletic specimen with fresh legs looks like the lead-back with Dolphins favored at home.
  • Tevin Coleman - Can't believe it took this long since Devonta Freeman went down, but with Ito Smith out, we'll finally get to see what Coleman can accomplish with Atlanta's backfield to himself. He's a high-exposure play for me in Week 16.
  • Matt Breida - Setting yourself up for disappointment. Strong chance he doesn't make it through the complete game.

James Brimacombe:

Jamaal Williams – The Packers have never really seemed to care for Williams much and now with Jones out for the season and the Packers not having anything to play for you have to think that they just overload Williams with touches. With 59 snaps played last week and 16 total touches I think Williams makes for a safe value RB2 pick this week.

Elijah McGuire – With back to back weeks of 20+ touches you can now put some trust in McGuire. It also helps that the Packers have called it a year and now the Jets can really see what they have in McGuire.

Bills backfield – No interest here this week as it is such a muddled backfield right now and against the Patriots you probably want to look at the passing game more so.

Dan Hindery: I trust Tevin Coleman the most of these options and feel he is underpriced on both FanDuel ($6,400) and DraftKings ($4,800). Atlanta’s coaching staff talked last week of their desire to get back to running the ball effectively. They did so against the Cardinals and should take a similar approach against Carolina. With Ito Smith on injured reserve, Coleman should take on a larger role. The two had been splitting snaps and touches fairly evenly over the past month. With Brian Hill promoted to the #2 back, Coleman should re-emerge as the clear top back.

While I don’t fully trust Kalen Ballage this week and will be avoiding him in cash games, I do think he is a strong GPP option. The coaching staff clearly likes him and he provided a real spark to the Dolphins moribund offense last week, running for 123 yards and 1 touchdown. Jacksonville is a tough matchup on paper but there’s a chance the Jaguars have just packed it in at this point. They looked uninterested in their last road game, allowing Derrick Henry to pile up 238 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns in an embarrassing effort.

Speaking of the Jaguars, Leonard Fournette is very difficult to trust this week. He has begun to earn his injury-prone label and there is nothing to be gained by Jacksonville giving him a bunch of carries these final weeks. The Jaguars can’t tank too obviously but that is absolutely their best course of action at this point. With a glaring hole at quarterback, draft positioning is of utmost importance. Limiting the playing time of a few of their stars under the guise of getting a look at some younger players is a good way to go.

Justin Howe: Jamaal Williams is a hard pass for me. I typically chase volume, and I’ve traditionally LOVED chasing Packers. At different momentsI;ve both lived and died on the back of dirt-cheap James Starks. But all of the Green Bay selling points are fading away. The passing game is a shell of itself, and besides, Williams is one of the slower and more plodding runners I’ve seen in years. If the Packers were rolling, I’d plug him in and hope for volume and touchdown opportunity. But this offense looks very average, and I don’t think Williams would do much with either of those things, anyway.

I think Kalen Ballage is about to take over the Frank Gore role entirely. My eyes are telling me that Adam Gase simply does not want Kenyan Drake anywhere close to a lead-back role. It took a mass exodus of injured Dolphins just to get him 16-20 carries down the stretch last year, after all. Drake is explosive and dynamic, but has yet to top 133 rushes in a single season, pro or college. I’m projecting Ballage for at least 14-16 carries this week, and Drake for no more than 8-10.

Will Grant:

Jamaal Williams – ‘someone’s gotta carry the ball’ is the theme with taking Williams. But the Jets are not bad against the run and the Packers don’t have a lot to play for anymore. Williams feels like a ‘low floor, low ceiling’ kind of guy.

Elijah McGuire – the Jets are an afterthought this year – but Green Bay doesn’t scare anyone either. McGuire has some upside and is worth a couple darts this week.

Kalen Ballage – I like Ballage as a potential back to target in a dynasty / keeper league, but I’m not ready to bank on him in DFS yet – if he does well, it’s because he breaks a long gain again. He’s not going to see more than 15 touches this week though, so his upside is limited.

Tevin Coleman after best game since Week 9 – No Ito Smith and no Cam Newton means Atlanta should have a big game this week and Coleman is the main beneficiary. He is still priced well enough to post decent value if he goes off.

Matt Breida vs. Chicago – Another ‘High Volume, low output’ pick. Bears don’t allow rushing touchdowns so even if Breida sees a ton of carries, he isn’t going to reach the end zone more than once and probably not at all.