FanDuel Fantasy Football Week 13: Evaluating the Running Backs

By Matt Johnson on Tuesday, November 28th 2017
FanDuel Fantasy Football Week 13: Evaluating the Running Backs

Thanksgiving is over and we're now in the home stretch of the NFL season. Only five weeks remain in the 2017 regular season and while the playoffs will provide us some DFS opportunities, these final weeks are where the money is made and we really have our last opportunities to cash in on some of FanDuel's biggest contest.

We looked at the quarterback options here, starting our lineups off on the right path to set us up for a cash-positive reward on Sunday. Now as we continue to build our lineups, we turn next to the running back position. It's often the most critical position on FanDuel, given the non-PPR scoring, so it's always important to find the right plays.

Now, let's examine our top elite plays and value plays for FanDuel's main Sunday contests and two running backs we also want to avoid this week.

Top Plays

Leonard Fournette, IND @ JAX, ($8,700)

First, we'll address the negative for Fournette. An ankle injury he suffered mid-season is showing some impact on his numbers. In two of his past three games, Fournette  averaged under 2.5 yards per carry and surrendered some work to T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, which isn't something you want given his price. But he still remains a focal point of this offense and after a game where he saw just 12 carries, there's a high probability that number jumps up against Indianapolis.

The Colts' run defense surrenders four yards per rushing attempt to opposing teams this season and given the team's struggles on offense, it's no surprise they rank in the bottom third of the NFL in rushing attempts allowed. Jacksonville is a significant favorite in this game and its defense should create turnovers, giving Fournette plenty of opportunities and several chances to work on a short field. He remains one of the game's most talented running backs and with 20-plus touches, Fournette could return to the 100-plus rushing yards, two-touchdown games we saw earlier in the year.

Jordan Howard, CHI v. SF, ($7,500)

Howard is locked in as a matchup-dependent play who ranges from week-to-week from top-six play to outside the top-15 consideration. Fortunately, this week Howard gets an excellent matchup in a projected game script that significantly lands in his favor. As a result, he becomes someone everyone should get shares of this week in their lineups.

As long as the game is close, fantasy owners can bank on 18-plus carries for Howard and easily the potential for more. While early, large deficits can force him out of the game plan, a matchup against the one-win San Francisco 49ers is not a game where that should happen. Instead, Howard will receive plenty of opportunities to run over and cut through holes against a 49ers' defense that allows the most FanDuel points per game to opposing running backs this season. San Francisco leads the NFL in rushing attempts allowed (367), is third in rushing yards allowed (1,425) and surrendered the sixth-most rushing touchdowns on the season (10). All of this points in Howard's favor and his talent and workload can carry him into a potential top-five performance.

Value Plays

Jamaal Williams, GB v. TB, ($5,700)

Williams received the opportunity to work as Green Bay's workhorse running back with Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery out. The heavy workload immediately puts him on the fantasy radar because volume offers the best chance for fantasy success and when Green Bay is willing to put the ball in his hands 18-plus times a game, especially in a matchup like this, he jumps into the top-15 running back ranks.

He is set to face a Buccaneers' defense that ranks in the middle in terms of FanDuel points allowed to opposing running backs this season, but as of late is getting worse. Tevin Coleman ripped Tampa Bay's defense to shreds with 97 rushing yards and two scores in a performance that could have been even greater if not for some penalties. While Williams isn't on Coleman's level talent wise, his ability to be a physical runner and catch the ball off screens and follow his blocks for chunks of yards offers the potential for 80-plus total yards and a score. At $5,700, he is an absolute bargain and pairs nicely with Brett Hundley.

Dion Lewis, NE @ BUF, ($6,300)

Lewis might be a slightly better option than Williams but finds himself second on the value plays just because he is $600 more expensive. Yet even at $6,300, he still represents great value as a consensus top-12 fantasy running back on the slate with a great matchup on tap.

He is locked into a workload of 15-plus touches a game, mixing in some targets from Tom Brady to give him multiple avenues to rack up yards and find the end zone. While Buffalo's defense quieted Kareem Hunt last week, this is still a defensive unit that allowed the most FanDuel points to running backs in the past four weeks and the numbers get even worse over the last six weeks. Even with shared touches between Lewis and Rex Burkhead, another value play, Lewis should see a strong ownership percentage with a good chance to finish as a top-10 running back on Sunday in FanDuel points.

Marshawn Lynch, OAK v. NYG, ($6,200)

The value options at running back are so good, we expanded to make it three running backs to get significant shares of this week on the slate. Lynch received 29 touches last week against the Denver Broncos as Oakland's offensive game plan now starts to trend in his favor and coaches want to get him more involved. As a result, his matchup against the New York Giants becomes a favorite this week.

New York's defense allowed the ninth-most FanDuel points to running backs in the past four weeks and its defensive line is dealing with injuries. Now that Oakland's offensive line is clicking again and creating lanes for Lynch to run through, it gives Oakland a significant advantage at the line of scrimmage. Lynch should improve upon the 2.6 yards per carry he averaged last week and if he can raise that number to 3.5 on 20-plus touches, he could finish Sunday with 70-plus yards and a touchdown. 

Plays to Avoid

LeSean McCoy, BUF v. NE, ($8,200)

McCoy is obviously someone season-long owners play, but he just doesn't offer what we're looking for from a DFS perspective this week. New England is the best team in the NFL at taking away what your team does best and limiting your best player, in Buffalo's case that is McCoy. In a road game, the Patriots are nine-point favorites of the Bills and the Patriots' offensive should find plenty of success against a porous Buffalo' defense.

As a result, the game script will go against McCoy. When New England takes a sizable lead early, Buffalo will shift its game plan to a more pass-heavy attack and ask Tyrod Taylor to make more plays. With the game now on Taylor's arm, McCoy sees fewer carries as a result and loses out on more opportunities at what he does best.

Even with his significant involvement in the passing game and an even larger role with Kelvin Benjamin out, New England will focus its defensive efforts on limiting McCoy's opportunities and taking away Taylor's favorite target. Because of that, McCoy's upside is limited in this game and his price amongst the elite running back options makes his ROI opportunities far too slim to gamble on.

Fantasy Alerts

 Mar 22nd, 2018
Frank Gore (RB)
Indianapolis Colts
 Mar 13th, 2018
Jimmy Graham (TE)
Seattle Seahawks
 Mar 9th, 2018
Tyrod Taylor (QB)
Buffalo Bills
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