DFS Roundtable: Building around Home Favorite Running Back

Looking at running backs in games where Vegas likes them as home favorites.

Let's take a look at running backs in games where Vegas likes them as home favorites. Pick one running back from each tier below that you like the best this week and explain why you like them over the other choices.

Tier 1
Leonard Fournette (IND/JAC -9.5)
Melvin Gordon III (CLE/LAC -13.5)
Mark Ingram II & Alvin Kamara (CAR/NO -4.0)
Tier 2
DeMarco Murray (HOU/TEN -7.0)
Marshawn Lynch (NYG/OAK -7.0)
Tevin Coleman (MIN/ATL -3.0)
Jordan Howard (SF/CHI -3.5)

Justin Howe: I’ve discussed my love for Kamara’s week-to-week outlook in another question, but I really can’t shout it loudly enough. Kamara is more matchup-proof and script-proof than Mark Ingram II, since he sees solid running-down usage and plenty of scoring opportunity. (Besides, isn’t every Kamara touch a scoring opportunity?) I also like Fournette to bounce back from a Week 12 that saw him shut down by the Cardinals – he upended my top GPP lineup of the week, by the way – and take advantage of the Jaguars’ heavy spread. I don’t necessarily think they’ll cover at 9.5 points, but I do think they’ll control the game from start to finish, and that Fournette will be front and center. He’s yet to fall below 15 touches in a single game, and his realistic projection in a matchup like this one is over 20, with prime touchdown opportunity.
It’s tempting to care about Lynch as a heavy favorite, but I’m starting to think we could plunk Lynch down in a West Canaan High game and see him slog to 65 low-impact yards. Rather, I’m into Howard, who’s a running game bell cow in a pace-up against one of the league’s worst teams. The Bears are no great shakes themselves, but it’s hard to imagine a game plan that takes the ball out of Howard’s hands and puts it exclusively on Mitchell Trubisky’s arm. Even including last week’s shutdown by the Eagles, Howard has notched 15-28 opportunities (carries plus targets) in 9 of 11 games.
Phil Alexander:
Tier 1
I'm going with Ingram in GPPs because I'd guess he'll have the lowest ownership of this crew and he's established a 30+ point ceiling in any matchup. In four games as a home favorite since the Adrian Peterson trade, Ingram has averaged 21.5 touches, 120 total yards and 1 touchdown per game (21.8 DraftKings points). The Saints are favored by four points at home against Carolina this week, which points to the trend continuing for Ingram, yet the crowd will flock to Alvin Kamara, who hasn't scored below 25 PPR points since Week 8. Kamara is obviously in play as well, but his 12-15 touch workloads have to block his fantasy ceiling eventually. In addition to Kamara shading him, the Panthers third-ranked rush defense (DVOA) and Ingram's lousy Week 12 performance should also keep his ownership relatively low.

Tier 2
This one is close between Jordan Howard and Marshawn Lynch, but Howard deserves the edge given his Week 13 opponent. On the season, San Francisco has allowed over 25 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs when normalized for strength of schedule, which is 40% higher than the league average rate. Perhaps the Bears defense can't dominate Jimmy Garoppolo the same way they would C.J. Beathard, but we can safely bet John Fox's game plan doesn't include Mitchell Trubisky airing it out. Expect 20+ carries for Howard in this game and about a 50% chance at a touchdown.

Justin Bonnema:
Tier 1: I like Phil’s take on Ingram regarding his ownership, but I think Fournette will be forgotten as well, if not even lower owned. The crowd is going to be scared off by his recent performances and the odd situation happening in Jacksonville. What’s interesting is DraftKings dropped his price $300, while FanDuel raised it $600.  Either way, I’m not brimming with confidence that Fournette justifies his salary, but I fully expect the Jaguars to dominate this contest, and big part of that domination is going to from their ground game. Bigtime bounce-back coming for Fournette. 

Tier 2: Phil made a great case for Howard so I’m going to make the case for Lynch, because I agree it comes down to those two. First and foremost, the Giants just benched Eli Manning for Geno Smith. That kind of move isn’t going to spark anything for this team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them protest with “lazy play”, but that’s pure speculation on my part. What’s not speculation is the fact that the Raiders are favored by a touchdown against a team that has allowed the third most rushing yards. In fact, the only difference between this defense and the 49ers—who are notably terrible at defending running backs—is how many receiving yards the 49ers are giving up (a huge difference to be sure). Howard isn’t involved in the passing game, and I’m not so sure the Bears set up a positive game script for him. I do believe the Raiders give Lynch a positive game script. They led all game last week and he received 29 touches and played 75% of snaps. I’ll take Lynch and the points.  
John Mamula:
Tier 1- I assume most will flock to the Saints running backs, especially Alvin Kamara again this week. For GPPs, I am bullish on Melvin Gordon III against a Browns rush defense that has regressed over the past few games. Last week Joe Mixon had a season-best 114 rushing yards and 1 touchdown and Leonard Fournette rushed for 111 yards in Week 11.

Tier 2: I will side with Jordan Howard as the 49ers have been awful against the run this season allowing an average of 129.5 rushing yards per game. Howard is in a prime "bounce-back" spot after facing a stout Eagles rush defense last week. Expect the Bears to go back to their game strategy which is "hide-the-quarterback" and lean on Howard.

Dan Hindery:
From Tier 1, Melvin Gordon III is my favorite play for a few reasons. 
First, he will likely come at lower ownership because he hasn’t scored more than 14 fantasy points in any of his last three games. He was fairly chalky in most of those matchups, so his failures will be fresh in the minds of many and will cause people to hesitate to go back to him. 

Second, people may overlook how great of a spot this is for Gordon due to Cleveland’s solid season-long numbers against the run. The Browns rank 2nd in run defense DVOA according to Football Outsiders. However, in the last five games according to Austin Lee’s normalized strength of schedule stats, the Browns have allowed the 6th most adjusted fantasy points to opposing running backs. In the first 10 weeks of the season, Cleveland didn’t allow 70 yards rushing to any back they faced. Over the last two weeks, they’ve been torched for 111 rushing yards by Leonard Fournette and 114 rushing yards by Joe Mixon. Jamie Collins Sr and Emmanuel Ogbah have both been lost to injuries and placed on IR in November and their loss may help to explain why this run defense is fading. 

Third, even through Gordon’s three-game fantasy slump, he has still been seeing a consistent workload. His opportunities (carries plus targets) have totaled 24, 22 and 24 over the past three weeks. 

From Tier 2, Jordan Howard is my favorite option. In his career, Howard has averaged 125.5 rushing yards, 1.0 touchdowns and 17.5 receiving yards per game in Bears wins. One of those wins came last season against these same San Francisco 49ers, when Howard rushed for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns. Chicago would certainly love to pound away with Howard instead of putting the game into the hands of their rookie quarterback and Week 13 may provide the perfect game script to do so at home against the 1-10 49ers. 

James Brimacombe:
Tier 1 - It is hard to argue picking Alvin Kamara every week regardless of matchup but I still have in the back of my mind that Mark Ingram II is there so I need to tread carefully. Fournette and Gordon are two of the higher volume running backs in the NFL this season and that is the constant stat that I like to look at when choosing my running backs. Fournette will be my choice this week in a good game script where the Colts give up plenty of points (5th worst against run) to opposing running backs. They average 24 touches for 96 rushing yards and 0.8 touchdowns on the ground with 5/52/0.2 through the air. I like Fournette for 25+ touches in this game and I really like that the Jaguars are at home and a -9.5 point favorite.

Tier 2 - I will buy into Marshawn Lynch this week against the Giants who are looking like they are giving up on the year starting Geno Smith at quarterback this week. The Raiders still have a lot to play for on the season and will be without Michael Crabtree (suspension) and possible Amari Cooper (injury) in the passing game. Lynch is coming off a heavy workload against the Broncos in Week 12, seeing 26 rushing attempts and 3 receptions for one of his most productive games of the season. I look for the Raiders to get the ball in his hands once again this week and control this game in front of the home crowd.

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