Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-2 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s Divisional Weekend DFS slate. In this article, we’re breaking down all relevant RBs.
We have an exciting collection of teams featuring the best-of-the-best facing off in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Follow along as we examine each positional grouping for each team to identify the DFS value/upside on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Before digging too deep into the individual players, I did want to mention a few important notes this week:
1) On a typical full-game slate, I want to feel comfortable with every player I’m rostering. Ideally, even my punt-plays are tremendous values with high-upside. On a shorter slate like this (4 games or 2 games depending on which tournament you enter) it’s okay to roster a relatively “gross” name if you feel they give you a stronger lineup overall – allowing you to pay up elsewhere.
2) I can’t stress enough the importance of late-swap on these smaller slates. If you have any tournament lineups that seem unlikely to cash, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding exposure to some “riskier” lower-owned players. And, I suppose, there is something of an edge towards players with games later in the weekend.
3) In the TLDR, I’ve listed out the top RB plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict. And in some cases sort of arbitrary. But it also doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as most of my readers think it does. What really matters, and especially with this short slate, is that you’re building a lineup that’s well correlated. Or, as Johnny would say, “That tells a story.” And making sure you’re paying attention to ownership and then working off of that.
In order, with Tier 1 in bold: DK: Devin Singletary, Derrick Henry, Elijah Mitchell, Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Jerick McKinnon
FD: Devin Singletary, Derrick Henry, Elijah Mitchell, Joe Mixon, Leonard Fournette, Cam Akers
Tennessee Titans RBs (VS. CIN)
Derrick Henry [DK: RB1, FD: RB1] is back! Or, at least we think he will be. Henry is currently on IR, but has been designated to return. He won’t be listed in practice reports until he’s activated off IR, but based on media reports this week, I certainly expect him to play in the divisional round.
Should Henry play, it’s tough to know exactly what his workload will be coming back from injury. But, with this being a must-win playoff game for the Titans, I would imagine he’ll get as much work as he can handle.
Still, it’s worth noting Henry’s injury is far and away the most significant factor with this play. Dr. David Chao noted that he didn’t believe Henry would be 100% healthy for this game. FantasyPoints injury expert Edwin Porras told me “I think they’ll ease him in. Not sure he’ll see > 70% of snaps quite yet… I wouldn’t trust him unless it’s a tourney.”
In Henry’s seven healthy games this season, he averaged 26.6 FPG, 29.9 touches per game, and 146.1 YFS per game. If extrapolated over a full season, those numbers would rank 11th-, 2nd-, and 7th-best all-time. In fact, Henry was so effective that despite only playing eight games this season, he still finished 6th among all RBs in yards after contact (728), 12th in total rushing yards (937), and 10th in runs of 15 or more yards (9) out of 64 qualifying RBs.
Obviously, if Henry sees his workload from the first seven games of the season in the divisional round, he’s the best RB play of the four-game slate. Even 80% of his previous workload would still translate to 23.0 DraftKings FPG and 20.2 FanDuel FPG – marks that would still easily make him the top play of the slate on both sites. And if we cut that estimation down to 60% of his previous workload, then we are looking at 17.3 DraftKings FPG and 15.2 FanDuel FPG. That would take Henry out of cash game consideration, but even so, he would still be a top-5 RB play on FanDuel and a top-4 play on DraftKings. And, at least in my opinion, 60% of Henry’s old workload and effectiveness is the absolute worst-case scenario.
The Bengals are an average matchup for opposing RBs, allowing +1.9 schedule-adjusted FPG (9th-worst), but ranking middle of the pack in rushing FPG allowed (12.9, 15th-worst). So there’s little reason, at least on paper, to worry about Henry getting stonewalled by the Cincinnati defense in this game. And with Tennessee favored by 3.5-points, Henry is likely to see the positive gamescript that’s historically led to great results – having averaged 24.3 DraftKings FPG and 21.6 FanDuel FPG when the Titans have been favored by more than 3.0-points over the last 3 seasons (20 instances).
Assuming Henry plays, he will be a staple of nearly all my lineups in tournaments on both sites. For cash games, he’s risky, but is still in play if we project him for 70% or more of his regular season workload, which I think is reasonable.
Plus he’s available at a relative discount on both sites, as salaries have been notably condensed for the playoffs. Over the first 7 weeks of the season, Henry, on average, cost 17.6% of the $50,000 DraftKings salary and 16.9% of the $60,000 FanDuel salary. This week, we only need to spend 15% of our salary cap on both sites to roster Henry. And this is the cheapest Henry has been this season on DraftKings by $800, so it makes more sense this week to pay up for the RB1 in Henry than it would during the regular season. Welcome back Tractorcito.
Should Henry miss, Dontrell Hilliard [DK: RB17, FD: RB17] and D’Onta Foreman [DK: RB9, FD: RB11] will occupy the backfield. Foreman would certainly be the preferable play between the two, and would be viable for tournaments on both sites, given he averaged 12.0 XFP per game and 12.7 FPG compared to 8.6 XFP per game and 7.6 FPG for Hilliard.
If Henry plays, Hilliard can’t be considered in any format (outside of the largest DraftKings GPPs for the 2-game Saturday slate), but Foreman shapes up as an interesting contrarian option. There’s always the chance that Henry is active, but he’s minimally involved. In that case, Foreman would register almost no ownership, but could record a GPP-winning score under the right circumstances with a ~50% snap share. Personally, I’ll likely wind up with some Foreman exposure in non-Henry lineups as more of a hedge than anything, but it’s a viable strategy.
Ruling: I want to consider Henry the best RB play of the slate by a significant margin. But analysis of his injury suggests that may be too aggressive. He’s a risky cash game play, but personally, I can’t project him for a small enough workload to drop him out of the top-3 RB values on either site. This is the playoffs, and star players see big workloads. So, especially on DraftKings, Henry needs to be on cash teams unless you are notably bearish on his projected workload.
Green Bay Packers RBs (VS. SF)
Aaron Jones [DK: RB2, FD: RB3] and A.J. Dillon [DK: RB12, FD: RB7] were locked in a very gross committee. From Weeks 14 through 17, Jones averaged 33.0 snaps per game, 11.8 XFP/G, and 16.6 FPG while Dillon averaged 30.8 snaps per game, 10.8 XFP/G, and 10.6 FPG. Jones has seen more pass game work this year, averaging about 2.1 more targets per game (4.3) than Dillon (2.2). But, from Weeks 14 through 17, Dillon dominated the red zone and goalline work, earning 70% of red zone opportunities and 71% of goalline opportunities.
So, while the Committee is gross, we can at least bank on Jones being relied on more in pass game situations while Dillon has the higher TD expectation. But that’s with the assumption the committee looks similar to how it did from Weeks 14 through 17. Jones was banged up with a knee injury during that stretch, and after getting two weeks of rest, perhaps we could see him reclaim his role from the first 10 weeks of the season, when he averaged 16.3 XFP/G. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I am sure Jones has more upside than his committee numbers late in the season let on.
The matchup is on the tougher end as the 49ers rank as the 9th-toughest run defense by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-2.2), and as the toughest (-8.2) over the last 5 weeks of the regular season. But with the Packers as 6.0-point favorites, Green Bay’s RBs (especially Dillon) should benefit from positive gamescript.
Dillon is a much stronger play on DraftKings, where he’s the RB12 (by salary), while Jones is a slightly better play on FanDuel, where he’s priced as the RB3. But based on their price-points and projected workloads, neither player can be considered for cash games. For tournaments, however, there are quite a few ways we can play this backfield duo.
Jones offers the best upside of the pair, as he’s responsible for 4 of the 15 highest-scoring fantasy outings by an RB over the past 3 seasons. And, like I mentioned above, he could be in for a much stronger workload after getting healthy with 2 weeks of rest. When it comes to which player provides a safer floor, both backs are comparable, although I’d still give Jones the advantage as he’s less reliant on TD production.
Dillon and Jones boast a correlation of -0.31, so I can’t recommend playing the pair together outside of the 2-game Saturday only slate alongside Green Bay’s D/ST anticipating a blowout of San Francisco, but even that seems thin.
Jones offers a solid positive correlation of 0.18 with Aaron Rodgers, and would be the ideal stacking partner with Rodgers given his receiving profile. Dillon, interestingly, also positively correlates with Rodgers (0.14), and while it’s a viable pairing, I’d only go that route in GB onslaught stacks that include the Packers D/ST, which also positively correlates with Dillon (0.23). And given Jones’ slight negative correlation (-0.01) with the Green Bay D/ST, Dillon would also be the guy to play in RB and D/ST stacks out of this backfield.
Ruling: This write-up makes it appears as though I like both RBs relatively equally. And I suppose, from a median outcome perspective, that’s true. But at least for tournaments, I see massive upside in Jones, and I think he’s a great leverage opportunity off of Rodgers and Adams stacks, which are sure to be popular.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (@ TEN)
DK: RB3 [$6,600], FD: RB2 [$7,800]
Among slate-eligible RBs, Mixon [DK: RB3, FD: RB2] ranks 2nd in XFP per game (16.7) and 3rd in FPG (18.2). So, as the RB3 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB2 on FanDuel, Mixon appears appropriately priced, at least initially.
With that said, I view Mixon as having two major problems this week. The first is that Tennessee is stout against opposing RBs (-4.3 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed, 2nd-toughest) but very soft against opposing WRs (+5.4 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed, 2nd-worst). Given the Bengals have arguably the best group of WRs remaining, the reasonable expectation is that they would attack Tennessee through the air, leaving Mixon (and his 3.0 targets per game) with a lesser workload than we grew accustomed to in the regular season. And with Cincinnati as 3.5-point underdogs, negative gamescript appears likely, and Mixon has historically busted in games Cincinnati has lost, averaging just 13.3 FPG in losses over the last 3 seasons.
Mixon’s second problem is tangential to the first, and it’s that Cincinnati is throwing the ball significantly more than it had been earlier in the season. Joe Burrow has averaged 39.7 pass attempts per game over his last three games, which is a nearly 22% increase from the 31.1 pass attempts per game he averaged in the first 16 weeks of the regular season. The Bengals pass rate on 1st and 2nd downs has also jumped from 50% to 64% in that span.
But even so, Mixon’s workload in the past three games has been about the same, averaging 21.3 touches per game, compared to 20.8 in the regular season. So at least from a volume perspective, Mixon doesn’t necessarily carry additional risk.
Overall, I see a wide range of potential outcomes for Mixon in this game. It isn’t difficult to foresee a game where Cincinnati dominates, and Mixon is able to find the end zone multiple times. It also isn’t difficult to imagine Tennessee controlling the game from start to finish, leading to Cincinnati playing catchup and Mixon being an offensive afterthought as a result.
With that in mind, I’m not sure I can consider Mixon a cash game play on either site. He’s a slightly above-average value who carries significant risks. But for tournaments, I think he’s one of the most interesting plays of the slate. I’d expect middling ownership, and he makes for a great pairing with Bengals D/ST (0.17 correlation) or even as a part of Joe Burrow and Bengals onslaught stacks (0.03 correlation with Burrow). Both paths are viable, but my personal favorite way to play Mixon is as leverage off of Burrow stacks, which are sure to be highly-owned.
Ruling: I’m a bit down on Mixon overall. In tournaments, I’ll likely be underweight the field, but I did highlight some unique paths in the write-up as to how we can make well-leveraged Mixon teams. But overall, I’d rather play guys like Aaron Jones or Jerick McKinnon (in GPPs), all else being equal.
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (@ KC)
DK: RB4 [$5,900], FD: RB5 [$7,200]
Devin Singletary on Saturday:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) January 19, 2022
*86% snap share
*95% of backfield opportunities
*24.4 fantasy points
Singletary [DK: RB4, FD: RB5] had ascended to full-on bell cow status in the final five weeks of the regular season, averaging 19.7 FPG, 3.4 targets per game, and 15.8 XFP per game. And, in the first round of the playoffs that trend continued. Singletary earned 19 of 20 backfield opportunities and played 86% of snaps on his way to 24.4 fantasy points — the 2nd-best mark of any RB over Wild Card weekend.
So, over his last five games, Singletary has averaged 17.4 XFP/G and 21.6 FPG. Among slate-eligible RBs, those numbers rank 3rd- and 2nd-best. Over that stretch, he leads all slate-eligible RBs with 15 opportunities inside the 10 yard line. And yet, Singeltary is the RB4 (by salary) on DraftKings and the RB5 on FanDuel.
That relative price discount isn’t due to a difficult matchup, as Kansas City ranks almost perfectly neutral in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-0.1).
And I wouldn’t say gamescript is much of a concern for Singletary, given the relatively close spread (KC -2.0), and the fact that he’s averaged a respectable 3.3 targets per game while running 86% of backfield routes since Week 14.
As you can probably tell, it’s nearly impossible to not consider Singletary one of the best RB plays of the slate. He’s a cash game lock, and can be either used on his own or paired with the Bills D/ST (0.25 correlation) or Josh Allen (0.03) in lineups that anticipate a more dominant Bills performance.
Ruling: Singletary is the top value RB of the slate. There’s really no getting around that. The least common way to play this spot in tournaments will likely be in stacks with Josh Allen. I’ll aim to match the field on Singletary’s overall exposure, but I anticipate being overweight Singletary plus Allen stacks in an effort to keep my Singletary and Allen teams unique.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers (@ GB)
DK: RB5 [$5,800], FD: RB4 [$7,200]
Similar to Singletary, Elijah Mitchell [RB5/RB4] is dominating his respective backfield. In the Wild Card round, Mitchell played on 92% of the snaps San Francisco had an RB on the field, and handled every RB touch (28 in total) – recording 16.4 XFP and 16.5 fantasy points.
But unlike Singletary, Mitchell isn’t seeing great pass game work (just 2.4 targets per game over his last five games) and he’s losing high-value touches to Deebo Samuel. Over their last four games together, Deebo and Mitchell have both earned 42% of San Francisco’s touches inside the 10 yard line.
So despite a legendary workload for Mitchell (20.5 touches per game, 3rd-best among slate-eligible RBs), his ceiling is severely capped in most scenarios given just how many valuable goalline and red zone touches Deebo is stealing from him.
And facing the Packers as a 6.0-point underdog doesn’t help either. Mitchell averages 13.8 FPG in losses, but 15.7 FPG in wins. And he averages just 10.1 DraftKings FPG and 10.0 FanDuel FPG as an underdog (four instances), compared to 19.3 DraftKings FPG and 16.3 FanDuel FPG as a favorite (eight instances). Plus the on paper matchup is a negative, with Green Bay letting up the 8th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (-2.3), and the 7th-fewest rushing FPG (11.2).
Mitchell is a fringe cash game play depending on how we project the health of Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette. While I expect Henry (especially) and Fournette to at least get somewhat close to their usual workloads, those worried about the downside risk of their injuries shouldn’t have any problem rostering Mitchell in cash.
Regardless, I do think he has strong merit in tournaments, at least as a contrarian option in lineups that anticipate a 49ers upset. His touch floor is outstanding (at least 21 touches in each of his last six games) — likely 2nd only to Derrick Henry — and given he’ll be one of the lower-owned starting RBs of this slate, his ownership relative to touch volume could be arguably the best of any rusher in the Divisional round.
Ruling: Mitchell offers a great floor, but carries the risks of poor gamescript and getting vultured by Deebo Samuel. For tournaments, I view Mitchell as an elite leverage play off of both 49ers’ and Packers’ stacks. For cash games, I am having a very hard time between Mitchell and Fournette for RB3. If Fournette can log a full Friday practice and both Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs play, I’d prefer Fournette. But until we get news of that, I think I need to go with Mitchell as the RB3 in cash on both sites given his incredible touch floor and lack of an injury designation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RBs (VS. LA)
Ronald Jones [DK: RB7, FD: RB16] appears closer to doubtful for the Divisional round with an ankle injury, while Leonard Fournette [DK: RB6, FD: RB6] appears closer to probable with a hamstring injury.
Appreciate all the birthday luv, man only if y’all knew the roads I had to take to get here, all the people I lost in my that can’t experience everything with me Thank Y’all and I WILL SEE YOU GUY SUNDAY pic.twitter.com/3RyNRJIgB9— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) January 18, 2022
Among slate-eligible RBs, Fournette ranks 2nd in FPG (18.3), 2nd in XFP/G (18.1), 1st in XFP per dollar of salary (3.17X), 2nd in red zone opportunities per game (4.0), 1st in targets per game (6.2), and tied for 2nd in XTD per game (0.8). Priced as the RB6 on both sites, it’s easy to foresee ‘Playoff Lenny’ being one of, if not the, highest-owned RB of the slate if he suits up.
Granted, there’s the obvious risk that Fournette plays but isn’t at full health. He’s back practicing, which obviously bodes well. But Gio Bernard could steal pass game work (especially after his strong game last week), and given 50% of Fournette’s fantasy scoring has come in the passing game, that could be a devastating blow.
If Fournette doesn’t play, I’d expect to see somewhat of a timeshare. Last week, we saw Giovani Bernard [DK: RB13, FD: RB13] lead the backfield (and all Wild Card RBs) with 21.3 XFP, earning 55% of backfield XFP, while Ke’Shawn Vaughn [DK: RB15, FD: RB14] earned the other 45%. So, sans both Fournette and Jones, I’d expect a similar split in the Divisional round. That would make both Vaughn and Bernard exciting tournament plays (given this is the 6th-most productive backfield in fantasy, averaging 26.4 FPG), while Bernard himself would enter the cash game conversation.
The absolute worst-case scenario (from a backfield predictability standpoint) is Fournette missing and Jones suiting up. Jones played just one game this season without Fournette, and earned 73% of backfield XFP. But that game also came without Bernard, with Vaughn and Le’Veon Bell (who didn’t play a snap last week) as the only other healthy RBs. So, in this scenario of Fournette sitting out but Jones playing, I imagine we wind up with a very gross 3-way committee where no Tampa RB is playable outside of large-field tournaments.
And then there’s the issue of Tampa Bay’s offensive line health. Both Ryan Jensen and Tristan Wirfs are questionable and have missed some practices this week. And given the Rams have both the best run defense (85.1) and pass rush (85.7) grades in the NFL, these Tampa Bay RBs could be at a huge disadvantage without 2 of their best starting offensive lineman.
The on paper matchup is on the tougher end, as the Rams have allowed the 4th-lowest YPC (3.72), and the 11th-fewest rushing FPG (11.7) to opposing RBs. Should Fournette play in an “early down only” role, without Tampa’s offensive line at full strength, he’d almost certainly bust.
Ruling: As you can probably tell, I struggled massively with this write-up. With things as they are right now, I don’t think we can play Fournette in cash. But that obviously changes if the offensive line gets healthy and we hear positive beat writer reports on Fournette’s hamstring. For tournaments, I love Gio Bernard in game stacks that need a contrarian piece, or just as a one off play in lineups fading Fournette. And I’m also bullish on Fournette for GPPs, but I could end up underweight if neither Jenson nor Wirfs play.
Los Angeles Rams RBs (@ TB)
Cam Akers [DK: RB8, FD: RB10], 6 months removed from a torn Achilles, earned 18 touches, a 53% snap share, 15.8 XFP, and 13.1 fantasy points in just his 2nd game of the season – leading the LA backfield in every category. And that’s just one week after seeing 8 total touches, a 26% snap share, 7.1 XFP, and 4.3 fantasy points. So, Cakers’ workload essentially doubled in just one week. And while he was rather pedestrian from an efficiency perspective, it became clear over Wild Card weekend that the Rams coaching staff has a massive amount of confidence in Akers, and that he’s the lead back in LA for the remainder of the playoffs.
But, there are a few problems. The first is the absolutely brutal matchup, with the Buccaneers allowing the 4th-fewest FPG to opposing RBs (20.0), and the 10th-fewest schedule-adjusted FPG. Opposing teams are absolutely petrified of running on Tampa Bay, as they’ve allowed the fewest total rush attempts of any team (250, 38 less than the next-closest team) and the 2nd-highest pass rate relative to expectation (+5.5%). With the entire backfield only averaging 4.4 targets per game, it’s safe to say this could be one of the Rams lower-volume outings of the season, at least for their backfield.
And then there’s Sony Michel [DK: RB10, FD: RB14]. If Michel carves out a 40% snap share, we can’t really consider either Michel or Akers as compelling plays. And even if Michel plays just 20% of snaps, it’s still tough to get behind Akers given the brutal matchup alongside the expectation that the Rams will go pass heavy. And should the Rams go pass heavy, I’d expect a relatively even split between Michel and Akers, as Michel recorded 40% of backfield routes last weekend compared to 50% for Akers.
But, at least for tournament teams that need to be contrarian in one way or another, I think Akers makes a lot of sense. This backfield has averaged 3.6 more FPG in wins (19.6) than losses (16.0), so in the event LA wins this game, Akers has a decent shot at being one of the top RB values of the week given his relatively modest salaries of $5,500 on DraftKings and $5,700 on FanDuel. I also wouldn’t expect the Rams D/ST to be very popular on either site given their price point, so stacking Akers with them creates quite the contrarian combo.
Ruling: I’m not playing Michel, but I love Akers. It’s hard not to love a medical miracle, after all. If the matchup was better, he’d be my favorite tournament RB play of the slate. Overall, I’ll wind up overweight in tournaments, but my main focus with Akers lineups is building around the idea that the Rams pull off the upset, thus creating leverage off Brady stacks, which are sure to be popular.
Kansas City Chiefs RBs (VS. BUF)
This is far and away the messiest backfield of the Divisional round. Last week, Clyde Edwards-Helaire [DK: RB11, FD: RB9] suffered a setback with his shoulder injury and didn’t play. Darrel Williams [DK: RB18, FD: RB11], suffering from a toe injury, was active, but earned just 1 carry before fumbling and finished the game with just 8 total snaps.
Jerick McKinnon [DK: RB14, FD: RB8] subsequently emerged as the bell cow, earning a 79% snap share, 89% of backfield XFP, and a slate-leading 26.2 fantasy points. And while I wish this write-up was just as simple as me saying “play McKinnon” the situation is unfortunately much more nuanced.
With an extra week to heal, Williams would potentially earn more than the 8 snaps he played on Sunday, given he averaged 33.4 snaps per game during the regular season (but he appears extremely questionable after missing both Wednesday and Thursday practices). And CEH practiced in full on Wednesday, which sets him up to play for the first time since Week 16.
With CEH and (potentially) Williams back in the fold for the Divisional round, it’s hard to view any Chiefs RB as playable outside of the largest of tournaments.
But, I do think there’s a decent chance McKinnon can cling onto his bell cow role, or force a true committee with CEH. He played incredibly well, averaging 5.1 YPC and 2.31 YPRR – while exceeding his usage-based expectation by 9.1 fantasy points. So, we could potentially see Kansas City stick with McKinnon (despite the return of CEH) given his lights-out efficiency in his first bell cow game of the season. Plus, it wouldn’t be hard to see KC relying on their ground game given the Bills rank as a bottom-3 schedule-adjusted matchup against all non-RB positions. Opposing QBs averaged a passer rating of just 65.3 against Buffalo in the regular season, which ranks 3rd-best this past decade. Meanwhile, opposing RBs have averaged 5.35 YPC or better against them in five of their last eight games.
It should go without saying that none of these Chiefs’ RBs are cash game plays. For tournaments, I’m approaching McKinnon the same way I am Akers — as a high-risk, high-reward play who I expect to have middling ownership — thus creating a potentially great leverage opportunity.
Ruling: It’s tough to have a conclusion here other than “it’s messy.” I’m fully off Williams, as I have serious doubts he plays, and expect him to be the RB3 if he does. McKinnon has incredible upside, and his unclear role could lower his ownership to the point he’s a great tournament play. CEH has more moderate upside, but seems to be the best leverage off of Chiefs stacks, as a multi-TD game for Edwards-Helaire would likely prevent Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and/or Patrick Mahomes from hitting GPP-winning scores. But McKinnon is my favorite play overall, and I’ll likely wind up overweight in tournaments, assuming he isn’t one of the more popular RBs of the slate.