Daily Fantasy Football Basic Strategy: Part 3

In this edition of Building Blocks, we’re going to be taking a look at running backs. Not only are they the bread and butter of many offenses in the NFL, they’re often the bread and butter of many offenses in daily fantasy sports lineups. And, just like in a real NFL game, opportunity breeds success for running backs in DFS.

When making daily fantasy football lineups, a lot of the toughest decisions we’ve found on a week-to-week basis are at the running back positions. There will be weeks where the collective group of top tier running backs have horrible match-ups and our job is to find the one whose situation isn’t as bad as it seems. There will also be weeks where a dozen running backs seem like great value plays and our job becomes to figure out who the real value is out of the bunch.

Our considerations towards running backs will vary, just like with quarterbacks, depending on the game type we’re building a lineup for. There are, however, several things that we look for in a running back that are common to both cash games and GPPs, so let’s take a look at those first.

All Types of Games

First and foremost, the most important information that will determine a running back’s potential value: is he getting touches? This is especially true in cash games, but even in GPPs we’re generally not going to be very interested in a running back if we don’t think he’s going to eclipse 20 touches in a given game. Granted, there are several running backs who can break big runs like LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson, but you want your player to have as much volume as possible.

Marshawn Lynch (flickr.com/keithallison)
Marshawn Lynch (flickr.com/keithallison)

We then need to take a look at whether or not a running back has a good situation, which means we will be asking plenty of questions about his team and the opposition. We will want to know whether or not he’s running behind a good offensive line. We will need to examine how much of a team’s plays are focused on running versus passing. Is the team he’s facing this week stout against the run? Is his team projected to win or lose by a large margin? These are important questions to ask when considering potential running backs.

We also want to seek value. Are there players whose salaries don’t reflect their potential output? We want to find players who have upsides much larger than their salary represents. Often this comes as a result of injuries, in situations where the starter gets hurt and the back up is in line to get all the carries. You’re not always going to draft these players, but having a running back who costs the minimum price gives the rest of your lineup construction a lot more room to take high priced studs.

One last thing to note is that unlike year long fantasy sports, we are putting little to no stock in injury prone players thanks to the fact that each week is a new team with new players.

Cash games (50/50s and head-to-head)

In our quarterback article we talk about choosing quarterbacks with high floors in cash games, and the same is true for running backs. Due to only needing to finish in the top 50% of the field, we need a reliable point output from our players. And so, while we still seek value in our running backs, a solid floor is a huge priority.

As discussed earlier, finding running backs who are set up to get a ton of touches creates a solid floor to start with. Something especially important for a high floor in cash games, however, is game script. This is where we look at a game’s point projection.

If a player’s team is projected to win by a large margin, there is a good chance that they will be ahead in the 4th quarter, which means more carries for the running back. Conversely, if a team is projected to get crushed, they are likely to be throwing the ball in the 4th quarter rather than running, which means less carries for the running back. The former situation is often described as a good game script for the running back, whereas the latter situation is often described as a bad game script. We almost always want our cash game running backs to be on a team with a good game script.

We should also consider whether or not a running back is targeted by their quarterback for passes. Top tier pass catching backs are extremely valuable in NFL DFS, especially in cash games. Their floor immediately becomes much higher than your average running back thanks to their versatility when it comes to either running or catching. Note that this doesn’t mean we can take just any pass catching back. If they’re still getting a small number of rushing opportunities per game, they are likely still too high variance to consider.

Lastly, we are not often going to be picking cheap running backs in cash games. Occasionally we might pick a low costing running back when he becomes great value due to an injury, but usually we will be going for higher costing player that are consistent at scoring points.

In the second part covering running backs in this Building Blocks series, we will be discussing choosing running backs for GPPs and the effects weather can have on the position. If you have any questions or want to discuss running backs in cash games, please post in our Building Blocks: Running Backs in Cash Games discussion topic. Please post in our daily fantasy footfall forum if you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future articles of the series.


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