There are only 23 running backs on this list. They include Marion Grice, Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker.
A lot of daily fantasy owners are going to have the same running backs as you.
Let’s make sure we either start the right ones or do our best to pick out the players with the best chance of surprising everyone.
Tough matchup for Murray .. or is it?
First, let’s talk about the best back on the list, DeMarco Murray. Detroit is the No. 1 rush defense according to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. They’ve allowed 16.9 fantasy points per game to running backs the last five weeks, the fifth lowest total in the NFL.
Still, Murray is as matchup-proof as running backs get and because of his price there won’t be a lot of players owning him this week. If you can find a way to fit him into a tournament lineup it could pay off in a huge way. Despite the offense vs. defense averages and my adjustments based on matchup, Murray is still projected to lead the league in rushing this week and has the second-highest touchdown chance (0.6 to Joique Bell’s 0.7) this week.
Hill, Gio both in play
We’ll keep going down the line for now because Jeremy Hill is an interesting play. He’s underpriced so he’ll probably be owned in a lot of lineups. The Colts gave up 94 yards to Shonn Greene last week and who can forget Jonas Gray‘s 4-TD, 199-yard game? But the game logs and fantasy points allowed in the last five weeks paint another picture.
Indianapolis has allowed 19.4 PPR fantasy points per game to running backs in the last five weeks. That’s the 11th-lowest number. That’s kind of unimpressive until you rattle off the names. They held Murray under 60 yards on 22 carries. They stopped Arian Foster just short of 100 yards despite the Texans giving him the ball 26 times. They held Alfred Morris to 67 yards on 17 carries. In Week 8, the Colts held Le’Veon Bell to 92 yards on 24 carries.
Finally, in Week 7 Hill and Giovani Bernard combined for 11 carries and 32 yards against them. Now, that game got out of hand and Andy Dalton had one of the worst performances in fantasy football history, but it still fits this storyline that the Colts defense can slow down running backs.
They do allow running backs to catch passes out of the backfield, giving up 47.9 yards per game and ranking 31st according to DVOA. However, over the last few weeks, Bernard has emerged as the pass-catching change-of-pace type back, which means he will benefit from that matchup more than Hill.
I’ve just spent a lot of time bashing Hill. He’s a different back than he was in Week 7 and he’s in a different role. I’ll have him in a couple lineups, including at least one in a big-field tournament with a big jackpot. And I’ll probably make room for Bernard in at least one lineup. He has touchdown catches in each of the last two games and had 46-yard and 32-yard catches earlier in the season.
One player I’ll probably over-roster is Dan Herron. Herron hasn’t eclipsed 100 total yards and hasn’t scored a touchdown since taking over the Ahmad Bradshaw side of the dreaded running back committee. He has been better than Trent Richardson but he’s still splitting touches. That has kept his price down. Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) points out in his always excellent Levitan’s Leverage column this week that the Colts played the same game last year, then unleashed one running back, Donald Brown, in two playoff games. He expects them to unleash Herron this week. His logic is sound. I’m following it.
The one really big unknown this week is Steelers rookie Josh Harris. Will Pittsburgh give him half the carries they gave to Bell? More than half? It’s a poor matchup against a stout Ravens run defense which allowed 16.4 fantasy points per game to running backs over the last five weeks of the season. That’s the fourth-lowest total in the NFL. DVOA ranks them fifth against the run.
Still, if there’s any sort of volume of carries there we have to consider Harris as a sleeper because of his basement-level price.
UPDATE – JAN. 3
I have a few more notes from the Steelers-Ravens game that really need to be addressed.
1. Haloti Ngata is expected back for the Ravens which means their run-stuffing defense got stuffier.
2. Troy Polamalu is expected back for the Steelers, whose defense can use all the help it can get.
3. Weather is expected to be bad — 100% chance of precipitation with high winds. This is typically only a bad thing for kickers and for some passing games. Ben Roethlisberger is a mudder. Joe Flacco doesn’t like the Super Bowl being played in cold weather, but he did throw 13 TDs and only 5 interceptions with two rushing touchdowns in November and December.