NFL Week 8 Fantasy RB Breakdown: Roster James Conner as a Big Home Favorite
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) dives over he top for a one yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Heinz Field.
- Todd Gurley has a high price tag in Week 8, but has consistently performed for the Rams this season.
- James Conner continues to produce for the Steelers with Le'Veon Bell holding out.
The 2018 NFL season rolls on, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.0 points per game per team. We could be in for another week of high scoring with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m. ET.
With four teams on bye, two in London and six in prime-time games, we are without the following quarterbacks:
- Thursday Night Football: Dolphins (Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore) at Texans (Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue)
- International Series (London): Eagles (Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood) at Jaguars (T.J. Yeldon, Carlos Hyde)
- Sunday Night Football: Saints (Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram) at Vikings (Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray)
- Monday Night Football: Patriots (James White, Sony Michel) at Bills (LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory)
- Byes: Falcons (Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith), Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott), Titans (Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry) and Chargers (Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler)
For analysis on the smaller slates, consult Chris Raybon’s premium strategy guides (released throughout the week).
In writing this piece, I’ve relied primarily on the FantasyLabs Models. This breakdown is less of a comprehensive analysis of each running back and more of an introduction to this week’s players via our large suite of analytic DFS Tools.
We’ll start with four high-priced running backs, follow with three rushers at the top of our individual Pro Models and finish with the rest of the slate’s fantasy-relevant backs.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest NFL conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.
Highest-Priced Running Backs
This week, four running backs have top-five positional salaries on DraftKings and FanDuel.
As is the case every week, Todd Gurley is at the top of the salary scale.
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) vs. Green Bay Packers, 56.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (10/27): Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) is officially doubtful and fully expected not to play.
- $9,800 DraftKings; $11,000 FanDuel
If you listened to the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, you know how we feel about Gurley: You pretty much have to jam him into your lineup every week.
Ever since beard model and head coach Sean McVay joined the Rams, Gurley has easily been the best running back in football, leading the position with 28.3 DraftKings points per game and 3,049 yards and 33 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Gurley has an 82.3% market share of snaps, and he’s the unquestioned alpha on the No. 1 team in The Action Network NFL Power Rankings. Barring an injury, he’s a mortal lock for at least 18 opportunities (rushes plus targets), a threshold he’s hit in every game in the McVay era.
Last week, Gurley had an unreal slate-high 70.15% ownership rate in the high-stakes Luxury Box guaranteed prize pool on DraftKings, and he responded with his third consecutive multi-touchdown game. We’re once again projecting him to be the slate’s most popular back, which makes sense: Gurley is the only back with at least 25.0 DraftKings points in every game this season. Of all the backs to play 10 or more games over the past two seasons, Gurley has easily the highest Plus/Minus at +8.27.
Gurley led the league (in 15 games) with 37 opportunities inside the 10-yard line last season, and he’s on pace to shatter that mark in 2018. Through seven games, he has 28 carries and five targets inside the 10, and that doesn’t take into account his two successful two-point conversions in Week 2.
With Gurley’s goal-line opportunities and scoring prowess, it’s not a surprise that he leads all backs on the slate with 0.55 fantasy points per snap in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. Additionally, Gurley leads all non-quarterbacks with his +500 odds to win the 2018 MVP award.
Green Bay should be rested and prepared coming off a bye, but Gurley has a decent matchup against the Packers, who rank 25th with a Pro Football Focus (PFF) rush-defense grade of 70.0. While the Rams’ offensive line ranks first with 5.74 adjusted line yards per attempt and a 12% stuffed rate, the Packers defense is 29th and 32nd with marks of 4.96 and 12%, respectively (Football Outsiders).
The matchup probably doesn’t matter for Gurley because of the focused way in which the Rams use him. Of all backs with 10 or more carries per game, Gurley has faced fronts of eight or more defenders on a league-low 9.03% of his runs (per Next Gen Stats).
When the box is loaded, the Rams audible to the pass. As a result, Gurley tends to get the ball in matchup-neutralizing situations. If a team is running primarily when it has advantageous fronts, the overall strength of the opposing run defense matters less.
As a big home favorite, Gurley could benefit from a run-heavy game script. With wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) questionable to play after missing last week, Gurley could seize a larger portion of the goal-line work: Kupp leads the team and is top-six in the league with seven targets inside the 10. As a home favorite throughout his career, Gurley has averaged 1.12 touchdowns per game.
On Sunday morning, I might look to bet the over on Gurley’s rushing touchdown prop. In 22 games with McVay, Gurley has scored 24 touchdowns on the ground, and this year he’s scored as a runner in five of seven starts. Given that the Rams lead all teams with their 33.0-point implied Vegas total and that their game has the slate’s highest over/under, I like Gurley’s chances of putting one into the end zone.
To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 150-71-5, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
With his high usage, three-down ability and multi-touchdown upside, Gurley is a game script-independent potential GPP winner. Under McVay, the Rams have hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 17-of-23 games, and Gurley has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models and is tied for first with nine DraftKings and 15 FanDuel Pro Trends.
Model Running Backs
Besides Joe Mixon and Kareem Hunt, there are three running backs atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
My favorite of the three is James Conner.
James Conner: Pittsburgh Steelers (-8) vs. Cleveland Browns, 49 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee) is out. Backup Matt Feiler is expected to start in his place.
- $7,500 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
Death. Taxes. Le’Veon Bell’s counterproductive holdout.
As the Steelers entered the Week 7 bye, there was the expectation that Bell (contract dispute) would report to the team during the week, collect a paycheck for doing nothing and then play the rest of the season. One week later, Bell still isn’t with the team, which means that we should expect another game of Conner as the lead back.
Through his six games as the backup-turned-starter, Conner hasn’t been quite as good as Bell, but he’s been an elite arbitrage option in fantasy and reality, highlighting the extent to which Bell is replaceable at a fraction of the cost. (Side note: Bell needs to fire his agent.) …
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 8 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.