FantasyDraft Week 1 DFS Plays: Running Backs and Defenses

Rich Holman previews DFS plays at Running Back and Defense on FantasyDraft for Week 1.

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Welcome to Week 1 of the football season. I’ll be providing you with DFS content each week, covering Running Backs and Defenses. We’ll take a look at some potential cash-game plays as well as some pivots that could be used in tournaments. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out in the comments section below.


Running Backs

Cash Game Options:

Dalvin Cook, MIN ($12,500) vs. ATL

If you end up with the money to spend up for Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey, more power to you, but I figure that type of analysis isn’t very helpful. Fantasy owners everywhere finally get the treat of a healthy Dalvin Cook again in a matchup that should feature plenty of scoring. With Latavius Murray gone, Cook should have the opportunity to be a true three-down back, making him a bargain when comparing him to the other three-down backs on this slate.


Chris Carson, SEA ($10,600) vs. CIN

I have a feeling Chris Carson will be the highest owned running back on today’s slate. The Seahawks are 9.5 point home favorites against the Bengals, which means they should be cruising in this game. OC Brian Schottenheimer has already expressed that the team will keep up its run-heavy ways from 2018 and their desire to increase Carson’s role in the passing game. With the Seahawks projected to win easily, they should be able to feed Carson the ball.


Devin Singletary, BUF ($7,400) at NYJ 

Everyone’s “shiny new toy”, Devin Singletary, could be pretty heavily owned, following the LeSean McCoy cut. I won’t talk you off this price, because it’s certainly a value IF he gets enough touches. There are some issues with this play though, despite its value. First off, the Jets have one of the best run defenses in the game, which is only bolstered by first-round-pick Quinnen Williams. Second, there is still two veteran running backs in this backfield. Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon certainly lack the sexiness of Singletary, but they’ll still have roles in this offense.


Tournament Options:

Leonard Fournette, JAC ($12,500) vs. KCC

Need a pivot off a high-owned Dalvin Cook? Look no further than Leonard Fournette. Fournette will likely go under-owned due to a matchup with the Chiefs. However, I see two ways that this could go where Fournette can still earn his value. One is that the Jaguars are content with slowing the game down to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field, giving Fournette a ton of touches. The second is that the Jaguars try and keep up with the high-powered Chiefs and get Fournette involved more in the passing game as well. The game has a 51.5 point total, so Vegas is leaning towards the latter.


Kerryon Johnson, DET ($10,900) at ARI

While everyone is rostering Chris Carson, you can add a little extra money to get a lower owned Kerryon Johnson. The Lions’ offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell made it clear this offseason that the Lions’ intentions were to move more toward a run-first offense, as well as get Johnson more involved in the passing game. They double-downed on the second part by cutting long time third-down back, Theo Riddick.

We’ll have to take a wait and see approach when it comes to C.J. Anderson‘s role in the offense, but I’m going to treat Johnson as a three-down back until further notice. The icing on top, according to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals are coming into 2019 with the 30th ranked defense against the rush.

Mark Ingram, BAL ($10,900) at MIA

The Ravens and Mark Ingram have the cushiest matchup of the week with the already tanking Dolphins. The Dolphins are projected to have the 29th ranked run defense. Reading the tea leaves of Vegas tells us this will be a low scoring affair (38.5), which should be dominated by the Ravens (-7). The Ravens made it clear with Lamar Jackson that their game plan is ground and pound, and they should have no problem asserting their authority against the Dolphins.


Justin Jackson, LAC ($7,200) vs. IND

Justin Jackson provides us with a potential pivot off Devin Singletary if you’re looking to pay down at running back. With Melvin Gordon sitting out until lord knows when Austin Ekeler and Jackson will get the bulk of the workload.

At 5’10”, 200 pounds, Ekeler profiles as a third-down back – aka the role the Chargers wanted him to have the entire time. With Gordon being out, I just don’t see the Chargers giving Ekeler the full workload. Instead, I envision a scenario where Jackson gets 65% of the early-down work, leading him to about 15 touches. Vegas has the Chargers as a 6.5-point favorite, so if the Chargers pull away, I could see Jackson closing out the game, potentially leading to a bigger workload.


Frank Gore, BUF ($6,900) at NYJ

Old man river, Frank Gore, is my second pivot off Devin Singletary. There’s a decent chance that the Bills slowly work in Singletary versus just giving him the lion’s share of the touches. OC Brian Daboll told reporters that all three backs (Singletary, Gore, and Yeldon) will all get work. Yeldon’s role will be as the passing down back. Singletary and Gore will split the early-down work. If Gore takes gets off to a hot start, I could see the Bills leaning on him for the game.



Cash Game Option:

Buffalo Bills ($5,500) at New York Jets

Let’s start this off by addressing the Baltimore Ravens ($7,000). Without a doubt, they have the safest matchup of the week, but I’m not paying that price for a defense. Instead, I’m looking to the Bills for my cash game defense.

The Bills defense should have no problem getting pressure against the Jets offensive line, which Pro Football Focus has ranked at 28th against the pass rush. In Sam Darnold‘s rookie season, he was the 25th best (worst?) quarterback in DVOA on plays with pass pressure. The Bills/Jets game also has the second-lowest total on the Sunday slate, with the Jets implied total sitting at 21.75.


Tournament Options:

Los Angeles Chargers ($6,300) vs. IND

The Chargers are as far up as I’m willing to pay for a defense and their price should keep them relatively low owned. The Chargers bring a special combination of elite pass rush, led by Joey Bosa, with a top ten secondary. While Jacoby Brissett is no stranger to the spotlight, he is being thrust into the starting position rather abruptly following Andrew Luck‘s retirement. I’d be surprised if the Chargers didn’t bring plenty of pressure to see if they can force Brissett into a couple of mistakes.


Detroit Lions ($5,000) @ ARI

Everyone’s all hyped up about Kliff Kingsbury and the revamped Cardinals’ offense, which should keep the Lions ownership on the low side. However, we’re still dealing with a rookie quarterback, a first-year head coach, and the 30th ranked offensive line. The Lions are also projected to have a very good front seven and a decent secondary, led by Darius Slay. There’s a reasonable chance the Lions spoil Kyler Murray‘s debut.

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(Photo by Rich Gabrielson/Icon Sportswire)

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