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  • Mo Money, Mo Problems: Notorious' NFL Strategy Guide

Running Backs

Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

“The price is wrong, bitch!”

-Happy Gilmore

Even with all of this strategy talk, pricing dictates everything in daily fantasy sports.

Running backs are similar to quarterbacks in that they are a more consistent source of fantasy production than wide receivers and tight ends. The NFL is all about opportunity, and running backs have the ball in their hands more often than receivers do. More touches equals more opportunity, which is why we see more consistent outings from running backs week to week.

Game Script

Game scripts dictate workload for running backs more than any other position in football. When a team gets behind early, they are not going to continue to run the ball. The running game not only takes more time off the clock, but it’s also more difficult to gain yards in big chunks. Running backs who rely on carries for their touches are often afterthoughts when their teams get down early.

Conversely, when teams are ahead, their goal is to protect the lead and to milk the clock. Both of those are done with a successful running game. Running backs who are on favored teams see more touches on average than running backs on underdog teams. The reasoning for this is fairly straightforward, as running backs on winning teams are going to be a factor throughout the game.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to avoid all running backs that are underdogs for the week. Running backs that are a large part of the passing game can actually benefit from being down, especially on full-PPR sites. If the running back in question does not see any targets out of the backfield, he should be avoided when his team is expected to be losing.

Anticipated Workload

If we can predict a player’s opportunity each week, we will have a leg up on the competition. While the majority of people focus on matchups and statistics, I am all about giving my players as much opportunity to play well as possible. For running backs, opportunity comes down to two main things: touches and snap counts.

Looking at week-to-week touches for running backs (especially in recent weeks) will allow you to look for trends within each team’s backfield. Is the running back in question seeing more or less touches throughout the course of the season? A team’s run/pass balance can also be very helpful when predicting touches, especially when you can combine it with the expected game script.

Weekly snap counts are a statistic that often gets overlooked by most weekly fantasy football players. A running back may see a lot of touches one week, but if he still isn’t the primary back in terms of snap counts, it may be hard to rely on him moving forward. Looking for trends in a team’s snap counts can give you a good idea of which players teams are starting to utilize out of the backfield more, especially in running back by committee approaches.

Matchup

While I did say that predicting opportunity can be just as important as the matchup, it’s still important to factor in matchups each week, especially when it comes to running backs. In fantasy football, the matchup may be more important for a running back than for any other position. Analyzing Defense vs. Position rankings is a great tool to use in weekly fantasy football, but again, they are based on a very small sample size, especially when you are using them early in the season.

A couple of long plays against a defense can largely impact a DvP ranking, even though a team may be one of the best in the league at stopping the run. For that reason, I like to combine the DvP rankings with rush defense rankings on ProFootball Focus or Football Outsiders. You should also look for injuries to key personnel on the opposing defense. Anytime a team loses their defensive anchor, it can create huge problems for their ability to stop the run.

Streaming RB2s

While running backs are one of the most consistent sources of fantasy production, that doesn’t mean that we should automatically pay up for running backs each week. Injuries play a critical role in weekly fantasy football and one of my favorite strategies (even in cash games) is to stream an RB2 that is filling in for an injured RB1. In addition to the huge discount, if you look at the historical success of RB2s that are filling in for injured starters, the production is fairly similar. Streaming backups that are starting will allow you to spend up at quarterback and even target some of the more consistent higher-priced wide receivers.

Cash Games

When it comes to cash games, we want to maximize our floor. We do that by targeting running backs that are going to see a lot of carries and a lot of targets out of the backfield. The more touches, the better. I always avoid running backs that rely on big plays for their fantasy production. These are third-down backs such as Shane Vereen or Darren Sproles, whose touches are very limited each week. We do not like volatility from our cash game players, which is why workhorse running backs are preferred when we are trying to maximize our floor.

The flex position on DraftKings brings an added element of skill into the mix. When it comes to cash games, I try to use the Flex spot on a running back, unless the value at another position is just too good to pass up. Once again, running backs see more touches than wide receivers, which makes it a little easier to predict their fantasy production.

One interesting statistic that I’ve found useful is that opposing running backs have a negative correlation, meaning the success of one running back typically has an inverse relationship with the production of the running back on the opposing team. This makes sense because a successful running game uses up a lot of clock, which results in less opportunity for the opposing offense. Again, pricing overrules everything else, but unless there are two extreme values facing each other, try to avoid taking two running backs in the same game.

Tournaments

For tournaments, the strategy changes a bit. Once again, our biggest concern is ownership levels. If DeMarco Murray has a big day, but is 50 percent owned in tournaments, that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. However, if you can find a running back who is expected to be low owned and has a big day, you will put your lineup at a huge advantage.

One strategy that I like to employ is to target the running backs who don’t see many targets in the passing game. These players are almost always overlooked because most people like to target the running backs who can rack up fantasy points in multiple ways. Players like Alfred Morris always have a low ownership percentage, even in favorable matchups. Finding under-owned players who have great upside can help differentiate your lineups, while still having plenty of upside.

“The price is wrong, bitch!”

-Happy Gilmore

Even with all of this strategy talk, pricing dictates everything in daily fantasy sports.

Running backs are similar to quarterbacks in that they are a more consistent source of fantasy production than wide receivers and tight ends. The NFL is all about opportunity, and running backs have the ball in their hands more often than receivers do. More touches equals more opportunity, which is why we see more consistent outings from running backs week to week.

About the Author

  • Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

  • Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

Instructor

Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

RotoGrinders.com is the home of the daily fantasy sports community. Our content, rankings, member blogs, promotions and forum discussion all cater to the players that like to create a new fantasy team every day of the week.

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