DFS Roundtable: High Volume Running Backs

Deciding on what high priced, high volume RB to play.

High Volume Running Backs - LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon III, Todd Gurley, and Leonard Fournette are the high priced/high volume running backs on the main slate this week. What two out of the four of them do you like the best? Will you lock them into your cash games?

Justin Bonnema: Gurley is the obvious one. His involvement in the passing game of a high-functioning offense alone is enough to rank him in the top spot of those four. I’d play him in all formats, even if the Eagles present a challenging rushing matchup. The volume will be there. 

I’m tempted by McCoy but he’s the most expensive running back on FanDuel’s main slate and his involvement in the passing game has shrunk dramatically. It doesn’t help that Tyrod Taylor may not play. I think this is a good week to fade the entire Bills’ offense. 

Fournette hasn’t looked great and even though his defense will always set him up with opportunities, I’m not so sure I trust him, or the Jaguars’ offense, in what is trending to be a low-scoring game against the Seahawks.

That leaves us with Gordon. Austin Ekeler soaked up some passing downs, but Gordon still played 77% of snaps last week and there’s never been any worry about his volume. Over the Chargers last four games he has 21, 20, 24, and 23 touches. Unfortunately, his fantasy numbers don’t reflect his workload. That’s what happens when Keenan Allen lights every defense he faces on fire. I think Gordon has a solid game against Washington with Allen facing tough coverage.  

Phil Alexander
The first stud running back I'm looking at is McCoy, whose price is at a nine-week low on  DraftKings. McCoy always seems to excel when the Bills are home favorites. In four such games this season, he's averaged 20.5 PPR fantasy points compared to only 14 points in his other eight games. The Bills are facing off with the toothless defense of the Colts, who probably qualify as the most talent deficient team in the NFL at this point. Nathan Peterman casts a pall on the entire Buffalo offense, but McCoy had no problem breaking long runs during Peterman's disastrous Week 11 debut.

With Gurley and Fournette in tough matchups, the second running back I'd look at from this list is Melvin Gordon III. It's been awhile since we've seen Gordon flash a 20+ point ceiling, but his workloads haven't waned and the last time we saw Washington in action, their defense was making Alfred Morris look like the 2012 version of himself. The Chargers host Washington as six-point favorites, which implies the game script will be there for about 25 high quality touches from Gordon.

Dan Hindery: I’m leaning against playing any of these guys in cash games this week. Of the four, Melvin Gordon III is the only one I would consider for cash games and the only one who I will target heavily in tournaments. Gordon has seen extremely consistent usage, with 24, 22, 23, and 24 opportunities (carries plus targets) respectively over the past four weeks. He can turn 20-25 touches into a big game against a bad Washington defense that has allowed over 1,600 total yards and 13 touchdowns to opposing running backs this season.

As for the other three, the matchups and situations are scary for me.

LeSean McCoy looks good on paper until you realize that he is likely to be relying on Nathan Peterman to keep drives alive. If Peterman starts at quarterback for Buffalo, it is hard to trust any piece of the offense. Indianapolis is likely to crowd the box to stop LeSean McCoy and force an incredibly shaky rookie quarterback to beat them. The holes will be fewer and further in between without Tyrod Taylor’s rushing ability to keep the defense honest. McCoy is at least somewhat attractive on DraftKings where his lower price and receiving ability put him in play but the $9,000 price tag on FanDuel makes him tough to roster there.

Todd Gurley has been one of the league’s most consistent running backs, but the matchup against the Eagles defense is scary. Philadelphia has allowed under 46 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs through 12 weeks. Their total of 549 rushing yards allowed to opposing backs leads the league by almost 300 yards (Minnesota is 2nd best with 822 yards against). Gurley’s receiving ability does give him a decent floor (especially on DraftKings), but in terms of bang for your buck, I’m not seeing it with Gurley this week.

Leonard Fournette also has a brutal matchup. The Seahawks defense has allowed the 3rd-fewest points to opposing running backs on the season. Plus, Fournette has cooled down considerably since his injury. He’s averaged under 2.5 yards per carry in all but one game since Week 6.
Jason Wood: Of this quartet, only one appeals to me this week. So to answer your second question, no, I will not be locking a combination of these four backs into my cash lineups. Melvin Gordon III is the cream of this crop. He's at home against a porous, beaten up defense in a game with an implied total and team total which argue for plenty of work for Gordon in the air and on the ground. He's the only one of this group that I can see being in a positive game script most of the time. 

If I had to choose a second, it would be Gurley. The Eagles run defense is ridiculous, but Gurley is at home and is involved enough in the passing game to establish an attractive floor.
Devin Knotts: LeSean McCoy and Todd Gurley are my favorites this week. Gurley for me this week is the only cash viable expensive running back on the main slate as while touchdowns have been an issue for Gurley over the last four weeks, he still is a player with 11 touchdowns on the season and his floor is so high especially on PPR sites due to his pass catching ability. McCoy is primarily matchup driven as the Bills are taking on the Colts. On the season the Colts have allowed the sixth most fantasy points to opposing running backs and a big part of this is that they are allowing 52 yards receiving to opposing running backs which is the third worst in the NFL. With Nathan Peterman starting for Buffalo this week, I expect a lot of LeSean McCoy runs and throws this week.

James Brimacombe: I would probably keep Fournette and Gurley off this list just based on matchups alone. Fournette against Seattle looks like a tough spot as does Gurley against the Eagles. Both of these backs will be playing at home and both are probably in line for 20+ touches but I have to play the matchups at the top of the salary cap this week. LeSean McCoy at home against the Colts is just too good to pass up on especially with the amount of volume he will be in line for. McCoy saw 27 total touches last week and collected 159 total yards. My second choice out of this group is Melvin Gordon III against Washington. Washington just gave up 27 rushes for 127 yards and a touchdown to Alfred Morris last week and Gordon has had 4 straight weeks of at least 20 touches so I like his chances in a strong home matchup here.

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