With the NFL preseason coming to a close and roster decisions being made, it is also time for DFS players to formulate a plan for Week 1. Having covered opening week wide receiver options, we now move the discussion to running backs. The following statistics and analysis will focus on the position from a pure ball carrier perspective. Running backs and their value as “receivers” coming soon.

Value Lies At The Top

Compared to wide receivers, the pool of top-end ball carriers is much smaller. Week 1 projections show the top 5 running backs averaging 17 FPPG. Players in the tier below (6-10), are predicted to put up just 10 FFPG. This equates to a 41% drop in production. To make the situation worse, the “tier 2” group only provides a 28% discount in DFS salary.

Projected Rusing Attempt Leaders

According to the Week 1 model, the league average for each team’s top running back is 13 attempts. There is nothing more frustrating than watching your RB selections not even get opportunities. Here are 12 running backs projected to receive above-average rushing attempts.

PlayerRushesTeamOpponent
0D.HENRY23.437500TENARI
1D.COOK22.214286MINCIN
2J.JACOBS18.200000LVBAL
3J.ROBINSON17.142857JAXHOU
4D.MONTGOMERY16.266667CHILAR
5E.ELLIOTT16.066667DALTB
6N.CHUBB15.916667CLEKC
8A.JONES14.357143GBNO
9M.GORDON14.133333DENNYG
10C.EDWARDS-HELAIRE13.923077KCCLE
11M.SANDERS13.500000PHIATL

Defense’s To Target

Much like a quarterback scanning the field for matchups to exploit, a good DFS player should be scouting for a weak defense. It is no coincidence that 2020’s list of 10 worst defense is primarily filled with non-playoff teams. Last season this group gave up an average of nearly 13 FPPG in just fantasy points related to rushing.

Defense TeamYards RushingRushesTDFantasy Projection
0HOU110.50000017.5714291.00000017.050000
1MIN79.50000017.2142861.21428615.235714
2DET81.14285716.5714290.92857113.685714
3JAX93.92307717.9230770.61538513.084615
4DEN71.81818215.0909090.90909112.636364
5CAR72.85714314.7142860.71428611.571429
6DAL78.53846214.3846150.61538511.546154
7CHI79.91666717.5833330.50000010.991667
8GB69.53333314.8666670.66666710.953333
9CIN74.75000013.3333330.50000010.475000

Percentage Of Games Over 13 FPPG

  • Houston Texans- 71%
  • Carolina Panthers- 71%
  • Jacksonville Jaguars- 70%
  • Denver Broncos- 63%

Projected Overall Top Performers

PlayerYards RushingRushesTDTeamOpponentPoints Projected
0D.COOK110.92857122.2142861.2MINCIN19.539063
1J.ROBINSON78.85714317.1428570.5JAXHOU18.706920
2D.HENRY129.43750023.4375001.1TENARI17.284956
3A.KAMARA62.00000012.2666671.1NOGB14.524539
4N.CHUBB89.25000015.9166671.1CLEKC13.171206
5J.JACOBS70.93333318.2000000.8LVBAL12.431206
6A.JONES78.92857114.3571430.7GBNO10.587140
7M.SANDERS72.50000013.5000000.6PHIATL9.654539
8D.MONTGOMERY70.40000016.2666670.6CHILAR9.591206

Projected Top Performers Facing Bad Rushing Defenses

With the market for top-end running backs being limited, one viable strategy is to select players predicted to get an above-average workload while facing a poor defense.

PlayerYards RushingRushesTDTeamOpponentPoints ProjectedMatchup
0D.COOK110.92857122.2142861.2MINCIN19.539063Good Matchup
1J.ROBINSON78.85714317.1428570.5JAXHOU18.706920Good Matchup
2A.KAMARA62.00000012.2666671.1NOGB14.524539Good Matchup
3J.JACOBS70.93333318.2000000.8LVBAL12.431206Good Matchup
4C.AKERS60.00000013.1818180.3LARCHI9.562872Good Matchup

Top Running Back Combos

When building a DFS lineup, player analysis is done on the individual level. But, ultimately it is our job to put together a winning team. For running backs, this means finding at least two players. Here are the top running back combinations according to the week 1 model.

Receiver 1Receiver 2Combined PointsCombined Salary% Cap$/PointSalary RemainingAvg $/Player Remaining
0D.COOKD.HENRY36.8240191830030.549700.0417006950.0
1D.COOKA.KAMARA34.0636021800030.052800.0420007000.0
2D.COOKN.CHUBB32.7102691710028.552300.0429007150.0
3D.HENRYA.KAMARA31.8094951750029.255000.0425007083.0
4D.HENRYN.CHUBB30.4561611660027.754500.0434007233.0
5D.COOKA.JONES30.1262031680028.055800.0432007200.0
6D.COOKM.SANDERS29.1936021600026.754800.0440007333.0
7D.COOKC.EDWARDS-HELAIRE28.1948841620027.057500.0438007300.0
8D.HENRYA.JONES27.8720951630027.258500.0437007283.0
9A.KAMARAN.CHUBB27.6957451630027.258900.0437007283.0

Although dedicating over 30% of your DFS salary cap on two running backs can be a scary proposition. In week 1, it will pay off to stick with one of the top combinations, as many of these combos are also rated as some of the top values for the week.

Receiver 1Receiver 2Combined PointsCombined Salary% Cap$/PointSalary RemainingAvg $/Player Remaining
0D.COOKD.HENRY36.8240191830030.549700.0417006950.0
1D.COOKN.CHUBB32.7102691710028.552300.0429007150.0
2D.COOKA.KAMARA34.0636021800030.052800.0420007000.0
3D.HENRYN.CHUBB30.4561611660027.754500.0434007233.0
4D.COOKM.SANDERS29.1936021600026.754800.0440007333.0

On A Budget

In DFS tournaments one strategy is to go against the grain and find players with low ownership, low salary, and high upside. Here are the top week 1 combination’s costing you less than 20% of your DFS cap space. If you have the feeling that Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, or Derrick Henry are likely to underperform, the salary saved on RB should allow for a spending spree on QB or WR.

Receiver 1Receiver 2Combined PointsCombined Salary% Cap$/PointSalary RemainingAvg $/Player Remaining
0M.SANDERSD.SINGLETARY15.0924111190019.878800.0481008017.0
1M.SANDERSL.MURRAY14.6683491190019.881100.0481008017.0
2D.SINGLETARYL.MURRAY10.4516821060017.7101400.0494008233.0
3D.SINGLETARYK.HUNT6.7741821130018.8166800.0487008117.0
4L.MURRAYK.HUNT6.3501191130018.8177900.0487008117.0

Key Takeaways

Look for DFS contests to be filled with combinations of Cook, Henry, and Kamara. Based on the week 1 model, my strategy in 50/50 and H2H contests will be to stick with the top options. The matchups are simply too good. In these scenarios, it becomes even more important to lock in on QB, WR and DEF.

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