Divisional Round DFS Breakdown: Running Backs

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Divisional Round DFS Breakdown: Running Backs

Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-2 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s Divisional Round DFS slate. In this article, we’ll be breaking down all relevant RBs. Get the breakdowns for QBs, WRs, and TEs.

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 (6 games or 3 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.

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. Is J.K. Dobbins a good play? It depends. What will his ownership be? Dobbins doesn’t make much sense on a Lamar Jackson-Mark Andrews lineup, but he does on one fading the Baltimore and/or Buffalo pass-catchers and stacked with Baltimore’s defense.

TLDR

DK: Cam Akers > Devin Singletary > Alvin Kamara > Nick Chubb > Aaron Jones > Gus Edwards > J.K. Dobbins > Kareem Hunt

FD: Devin Singletary > Cam Akers > Alvin Kamara > Aaron Jones > J.K. Dobbins > Gus Edwards > Nick Chubb > Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
DK: $7,900, FD: $9,000

Kamara underwhelmed last week, which is to say he scored only 19.6 fantasy points on 23 carries and 2 targets. Prior to last week, Kamara averaged an absurd 12.5 carries, 8.3 targets, 21.4 XFP, and 29.3 FPG in games Brees started this year. One interesting note is that last week was actually a career-high in carries for Kamara, coming one week after his prior career-high in carries (22). You know, when he dropped 56.2 fantasy points on the Vikings.

The Bears were a tough matchup for Kamara, but Tampa Bay is a brutal one. New Orleans does have the 2nd-highest implied total of the slate (27.5) but Tampa Bay ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-6.1). They rank best in YPC allowed (3.36), best in rushing FPG allowed (9.0), but 6th-worst in receiving FPG allowed (11.6). In 2 games against Tampa Bay this year, Kamara averages just 28.0 rushing YPG and 30.0 receiving YPG, but also 19.8 FPG.

Latavius Murray played on just 23% of the snaps, earning 4 carries and 2 targets. So, he’s not really in play, but he’s also hurt. Per Ian Rapoport, he's "considered day-to-day, a source said. He’s working to be available this weekend, but his status is best described as up in the air." This could be huge. Murray averaged 34.4 FPG in the two games Murray missed in 2019. Kamara averaged 34.0 FPG in the 4 games Mark Ingram missed in 2018. Payton prefers a committee-approach but defaults to a bell cow-approach when one of his RBs goes down.

The matchup is brutal, but Kamara is awesome, and the volume has been and should be (with Murray banged up) better than ever. I think Kamara is a great play on this small slate, but factor in ownership, and the fact that we like a number of expensive options at the other positions, and he’s certainly not a must-play. Still, he’s an easy top-3 value and a great play.

Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
DK: $6,800, FD: $7,800

Jones started off the season looking like an elite bell cow and a true league-winner, averaging 24.0 XFP and 25.5 FPG. But since then, has only averaged 13.2 XFP and 15.7 FPG. He’s hit double-digit fantasy points in 13 of 14 games this year, but has been fairly boom or bust, averaging 25.4 FPG in his best 6 games and 12.1 FPG in his worst 6 games. Jones isn’t quite a bell cow, typically playing between 55-66% of the team’s snaps, but he is an easy top-5 fantasy RB when healthy. He shouldn’t be expected to see elite volume, but he’s long produced like a top-5 option on low-end RB1 volume, routinely ranking as one of fantasy’s most efficient RBs by PAR.

Jamaal Williams should be expected to mix in, but not to a high degree. Something around 5-7 carries and 1-2 targets. And then even less for A.J. Dillon if he plays at all. Jones is not a bell cow, but he nearly was to start the year. And he certainly was in the postseason last year, earning 33 of 39 carries and 7 of 12 targets out of the backfield. Of course, Williams was also a bit banged up coming into those games. Still, there is a chance Green Bay takes the training wheels off in this must-win game.

Jones always has massive slate-busting upside – he’s hit 32.0 DKFP 5 times over the past 2 seasons – but it’s tough for me to envision a ceiling game this week. The Rams rank 5th-best in YPC allowed and 9th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-3.0). The Rams are a top-10 run funnel on paper, and Green Bay should be expected to lean run heavy. They lost top run-blocker LT David Bakhtiari to IR, but they’re favored by 7.0 points in a cold and windy game, which typically lends itself towards more of a run-heavy approach.

Ultimately, this is a tough matchup but not an impossible one. Jones’ volume isn’t terrific but it should be better this week, and that hasn’t mattered too much throughout his career, though production has waned in recent weeks. He’s a top-5 play, but a tier or two removed from being a top-3 play.

Nick Chubb / Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns
DK: $6,600, FD: $8,200 / DK: $5,100, FD: $6,200

Here’s what we said heading into last week’s game:

“In games both RBs played in full, Nick Chubb out-snapped Kareem Hunt, but only 53% to 46%. Interestingly, when Cleveland trailed by two scores or more, Chubb still out-snapped Hunt (51% to 46%). But when Cleveland led by over a touchdown, Hunt out-snapped Chubb 57% to 40%. That sort of usage is pretty strange considering Hunt is the preferred pass-catching back, and pass-catching backs typically see the bulk of their work in negative game script. Hunt out-snapped Chubb last week, but this was the only time that’s happened since Week 12.

“Chubb averages 26.9 DK FPG over his last 9 games with LG Wyatt Teller active. Over this span, he’s hit at least 23.5 DKFP in 6 of 9 games, and 35.0-plus in 4 of 9. If you can’t tell, these numbers are wildly good, and point to a massive slate-busting ceiling. Hunt, meanwhile, averages just 53.0 YFS, 3.3 YPC, and 11.2 FPG over his last 7 games.”

What happened? Chubb out-snapped Hunt 39 to 25. He out-carried Hunt 18 to 8, but Hunt scored 2 rushing touchdowns to Chubb’s 0. Chubb saw 4 targets (catching all 4 for 69 yards and a score), but Hunt saw only one target (catching it and gaining 13 yards). Yeah, again, this doesn’t look like a workhorse vs. scatback type of backfield. Really it just looks like an RB1A vs. RB1B situation, where Chubb is clearly the RB1A.

After a brutal bottom-3 on-paper matchup against the Steelers (though one with terrific game script), both RBs get a top-12 matchup, but one with brutal projected game script. The Chiefs are favored by 10.5-points, but we can still expect Cleveland to run somewhat run-heavy. The Browns have the league’s 6th-most run-heavy offense (versus expectation), and the Chiefs are the 5th-most run-on defense (versus expectation). The Chiefs are giving up the 13th-most YPC (4.51), the 12th-fewest rushing FPG (12.7), and the 2nd-most receiving FPG (13.0) to opposing RBs. They rank 10th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+2.0).

Both options are risky, and highly boom-or-bust, but decent tournament options as it relates to salary and ownership. Factoring in ownership, I like Chubb slightly more than Jones on DraftKings, but he’s simply too expensive on FanDuel. There’s nothing pointing to a Hunt blowup game, but that’s been true in all of his (4X) blowup games this year. For that reason, he remains a decent tournament option, and he’s likely to go lower-owned again this week. Still, capped at about 9-11 touches in recent weeks, I don’t expect to have much exposure.

J.K. Dobbins / Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens
DK: $6,000, FD: $6,500 / DK: $4,200, FD: $5,300

Dobbins has now scored at least one touchdown in each of his last 7 games. Over this span, he averages 12.3 carries, 0.7 targets, and 15.5 FPG on a 52% snap share. He hit a high of 28.0 fantasy points in Week 17, but scored between 10.7 and 16.5 in all other games. Dobbins is a high-level talent and the league-leader in YPC (6.0), but he does have serious volume concerns. He’s also recorded just 2 catches over his last 6 games and has not yet eclipsed 15 carries in any game. Since Week 13, Gus Edwards averages 9.7 carries, 1.0 targets, and 10.7 FPG on a 37% Snap%.

Projected game script works against Baltimore this week, as 2.5-point underdogs. That’s a

concern for Dobbins and Edwards, considering Baltimore led the league in point differential and won each of their past 6 games by an average of 17.3 points per game. That’s a big concern, and something that’s far more important to Dobbins/Edwards than the on-paper matchup, though that matchup is soft. The Bills are giving up the 13th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+1.1). They rank 15th-worst in YPC allowed (4.47) while giving up the 11th-most rushing FPG (14.9) to opposing RBs, despite (as just alluded to) often playing behind a massive tailwind of positive game script. Per PFF, Buffalo is the 3rd worst-graded defense against the run.

Edwards is in play as a punt on DraftKings, but isn’t really necessary with Singletary and Akers available, and it’s hard to imagine him ever posting a true ceiling game. Dobbins is a fine play on both sites, but a slightly better value on FanDuel, where he ranks as a fringe top-5 option. He works best as a leverage play off of the chalkier Bills/Ravens pass-catchers.

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
DK: $5,700, FD: $7,000

I’ve had a wild and oftentimes bumpy ride driving the Cam Akers hypetrain. He started and saw good volume in Week 1. He started again in Week 2, and then immediately got hurt. That injury apparently lingered for a while. Finally healthy, he smashed in Week 12 on just 9 carries. And then saw terrific volume and bell-cow usage throughout the remainder of the season, though he was fairly boom-or-bust as far as production goes. But he is seeing truly terrific levels of volume and usage.

Since Week 13, he averages 22.8 carries, 2.6 targets, 19.1 XFP, 122.4 YFS, and 17.1 DK FPG. That sort of volume looks even better when we realize he’s handled a bell cow-like 84% of the backfield’s XFP over this span. For perspective, 18.7 XFP and an 84% XFP share of the backfield would both rank top-6 among all RBs if over the full season. Akers will be healthier this week (ankle) and Andrew Whitworth was predictably dominant (83.3 run-blocking grade) in his first game back from injury. Darrell Henderson is still out, and Akers out-snapped Malcolm Brown 46 to 7 last week before he voluntarily checked himself out in the 4th Quarter.

Gamescript is a concern this week, as 7.0-point underdogs, but the on-paper matchup is terrific. Green Bay represents the league’s top run funnel defense, with teams passing on them only 59% of the time versus a 64% expectation. They also rank 6th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+2.4) to opposing RBs. The weather and QB injuries should only force Los Angeles to lean even more run-heavy.

At his price-tag, Akers is basically a must-play on DraftKings. It’s a little tighter on FanDuel, but he’s still easily a top-3 play.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire / Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
DK: $5,500, FD: $6,100 / DK: $4,000, FD: $4,800

Over Edwards-Helaire’s last 4 games, he averages 13.8 carries, 2.8 targets, 72.5 YFS, and 12.3 FPG on 56% of the snaps. He’s not a bell cow, and hasn’t been too productive, but he is clearly the team’s lead back. We’ll see what that means this week, in his first game back from injury. (Our injury expert Edwin Porras broke things down here.) Maybe he's going to be fully back to 100% this week and resume his normal workload. Even if true, he doesn’t look like a top play. And, more likely, he’s still a little banged up, which would cap volume or at least hinder efficiency.

If Edwards-Helaire is out, we should expect usage similar to what we saw in Week 16, when Darrel Williams out-snapped Le’Veon Bell 70% to 30%. Williams handled 10 of 17 carries and 6 of 9 targets out of the backfield. He totaled 11.3 fantasy points to Bell’s 4.9. If Edwards-Helaire plays – depending on his health – we could be looking at a 60/30/10 split or a 40/40/20 split.

Cleveland is a tough matchup for RBs, ranking 8th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-3.2). They also rank top-12 in YPC allowed (4.07), rushing FPG allowed (12.7), and receiving FPG allowed (7.8). Gamescript should be strong, as 10.5-point favorites, but that hasn’t really mattered much all year. Halfway through the season, Kansas City beat the Broncos and then the Jets by a combined 53 points, but no Kansas City RB exceeded 9 touches or 13.3 fantasy points in either game.

As much as I loved Edwards-Helaire this offseason, this has (for whatever reason) proven to be low-upside role for fantasy. Factor in the injury, which makes him more risky, and he’s not very high on my radar. Williams would probably be a top-3 or top-4 value if Edwards-Helaire sits out, but that seems unlikely. Williams is still in play as a punt even if Edwards-Helaire suits up, but he’s not a great one.

Ronald Jones / Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DK: $5,200, FD: $6,300 / DK: $4,900, FD: $6,300

Did Jones cost you a lot of money last week? Because, same. He got hurt in warmups, and Tampa Bay managed to keep that a secret from everyone, including DFS players. In his absence, Fournette was a full-on bell cow, playing on 85% of the team’s snaps (most on the week). He scored 23.2 fantasy points (132 YFS), earning 19 of 24 carries and 4 of 5 targets out of the backfield. If Jones is out again, he’s glaringly mispriced. Fournette is maybe not that good (3.8 YPC on the season) but he also should be a full-on bell cow at a sub-$5,000 salary. In now 2.5 games without Ronald Jones (starters were benched in Week 16), Fournette averages 16.8 carries, 4.8 targets, 105.2 YFS, and 24.1 fantasy points per 4 quarters. LeSean McCoy (illness) also missed last week’s game. However, he wasn’t really a factor in those first 1.5 games without Jones, playing on just 16 snaps to Fournette’s 65.

Even if Jones is active next week, there’s a risk something similar to what happened last week happens again. Or that he’s not at 100% of his typical effectiveness or workload. It’s definitely Tampa Bay’s preference to have Jones as the team’s lead back, but maybe only if he’s fully healthy. Here’s what we had to say about him heading into last week:

"In the 8 games Tampa Bay won by 7 or more points, Jones averages 21.7 FPG, but just 9.8 FPG in his other 6 games. Like Taylor and Henry, he’s only a workhorse and not a bell cow… But he’s also a much lesser version of Taylor and Henry – he’s reached 85 YFS in only 5 of 14 games, and has hit 60% of the team’s snaps only once over his last 9 games."

As 3.0-point underdogs, expect a close game or for game script to be working against Tampa Bay. The RBs also have a brutal matchup – New Orleans ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-6.1). They rank 7th-best in YPC allowed (3.87), 4th-best in rushing FPG allowed (11.1), 3rd-best in receiving FPG allowed (6.8), and best in total FPG allowed (17.8). David Montgomery scored just 3.1 fantasy points against them after averaging 25.7 FPG over his prior 7 games.

Basically, in spite of the bad matchup, Fournette be the 2nd-best RB value on DraftKings if we get word Jones is out. But that’s probably not going to happen. Fournette is still in play on DraftKings as a YOLO-type punt-play, but he’s not a very good one. I don’t expect to have much exposure to either RB this week.

Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
DK: $4,500, FD: $5,700

Singletary played on 66% of the team’s snaps last week, to Moss’s 34%. Moss is now out for the remainder of the postseason, which means we should see Singletary back in the bell cow role he had across Weeks 3-5 with Moss out. Over this span, Singletary played on 79% of the team’s snaps earning 75% of the opportunities inside the 10-yard-line (or 38% if including Josh Allen), 81% of the carries, 71% of the targets out of the backfield. On average, this yielded 14.0 carries, 3.0 targets, 15.9 XFP, and 13.2 FPG. That’s good fringe-RB1 volume but only high-end RB3 production. And that’s basically what we saw from him in 2019, when his only competition was a 36-year-old Frank Gore. Why is this? Because he’s not very efficient and Allen basically serves as the team’s goal-line back.

Maybe there’s a chance T.J. Yeldon or Antonio Williams steals some meaningful work, but I don’t see that as being very likely.

Buffalo has the 3rd-highest implied point total of the slate (26.25), and Vegas projects a close game, favoring Buffalo by 2.0-points. But game script isn’t a huge factor for Singletary, who (again) should be a bell cow and has been fairly productive as a receiver. The on-paper matchup is somewhere around neutral and slightly below average. Baltimore ranks 12th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-1.1). They rank 8th-best in rushing FPG allowed (8.0), which is due in part to a league-leading +165-point differential. But they also rank 14th-worst in YPC allowed (4.48) and 13th-worst in receiving FPG allowed (10.8). Baltimore just held Henry to just 8.1 fantasy points and 51 total yards, which is no small feat. But they also sold out to stop him, while they likely take the opposite approach this week (selling out to stop the pass).

I don’t want to say Singletary is a free square, but he is an easy top-2 RB value on a slate where there’s a lot of expensive QBs, WRs, and TEs worth paying up for.

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and Lead DFS Writer.

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