NFL Week 9 Fantasy RB Breakdown: Christian McCaffrey in Smash Spot
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22).
- Todd Gurley has been the best running back in football and tops the highest priced options on DraftKings and FanDuel .
- Christian McCaffrey should dominate his matchup against the Buccaneers' defense.
We’re officially in the second half of the 2018 NFL season, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.1 points per game per team. The action continues with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
With six teams on bye and six in prime-time games, we are without the following quarterbacks:
- Thursday Night Football: Raiders (Doug Martin, Jalen Richard) at 49ers (Matt Breida, Alfred Morris)
- Sunday Night Football: Packers (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams) at Patriots (James White, Sony Michel)
- Monday Night Football: Titans (Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry) at Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott)
- Byes: Bengals (Joe Mixon), Colts (Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines), Giants (Saquon Barkley), Eagles (Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood), Cardinals (David Johnson), Jaguars (Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon)
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 two 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.
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Highest-Priced Running Backs
This week, four running backs have top-five positional salaries on DraftKings and FanDuel.
It’s pretty much impossible to talk about the position without mentioning Todd Gurley.
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams (-2) at New Orleans Saints, 60 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) isn’t listed on the injury report and is fully expected to play.
- $9,500 DraftKings; $11,200 FanDuel
The undefeated Rams are entrenched as the No. 1 team in The Action Network’s NFL Power Rankings. They’ve hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 17-of-24 games under beard model and head coach Sean McVay since last season. They are significant +160 favorites to win the Super Bowl.
The Rams averaged a league-high 29.9 points per game last season, and this season they have improved to an average of 33.0. That will almost certainly regress, but this offense is as good as any unit in the league. The Rams lead all teams with their 30.5-point implied Vegas total.
In the McVay era, Gurley has easily been the best running back in football, leading the position with 28.7 DraftKings points per game, 3,244 yards and 34 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Gurley has an 83.3% market share of snaps, and he’s the unquestioned alpha on the best team in the league. Barring an injury, he’s a mortal lock for 18-plus opportunities (rushes and targets), a threshold he’s hit in every game with McVay.
Last week, Gurley had ownership rates in excess of 20% in guaranteed prize pools, and he responded with his fourth consecutive game of 30-plus DraftKings points. We’re once again projecting him to be one of the slate’s most popular players, which makes sense: Gurley is the only back with at least 25.0 DraftKings points in every game this season.
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 eight games, he has 30 carries and five targets inside the 10, and that doesn’t take into account his three successful two-point conversions. With his goal-line opportunities and scoring prowess, it’s not a surprise that Gurley leads all non-quarterbacks with his +200 odds to win the 2018 MVP award.
Model Running Backs
Christian McCaffrey: Carolina Panthers (-6) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 55 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee) is out.
- $7,800 DraftKings; $7,900 FanDuel
Besides Mark Ingram, there are two 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.
The one who warrants the most consideration is easily Christian McCaffrey.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, guest Evan Silva highlighted McCaffrey as one of his favorite cash-game plays this week. It’s easy to see why Evan is bullish on McCaffrey.
Any concerns there might have been at the beginning of the season about how McCaffrey would do in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense as a lead back have been allayed by his year-to-date performance.
- Week 1 (vs. Cowboys): 14.5 DraftKings points, +0.08 Plus/Minus, 10-50-0 rushing, 6-45-0 receiving on nine targets
- Week 2 (at Falcons): 30.9 DraftKings points, +14.78 Plus/Minus, 8-37-0 rushing, 14-102-0 receiving on 15 targets
- Week 3 (vs. Bengals): 24.4 DraftKings points, +6.02 Plus/Minus, 28-184-0 rushing, 2-10-0 receiving on two targets
- Week 5 (vs. Giants): 20.3 DraftKings points, +1.35 Plus/Minus, 17-58-0 rushing, 5-35-1 receiving on six targets
- Week 6 (at Redskins): 13.6 DraftKings points, -6.02 Plus/Minus, 8-20-0 rushing, 7-46-0 receiving on eight targets
- Week 7 (at Eagles): 14.0 DraftKings points, -4.10 Plus/Minus, 7-29-0 rushing, 6-51-0 receiving on six targets
- Week 8 (vs. Ravens): 21.6 DraftKings points, +5.48 Plus/Minus, 14-45-1 rushing, 4-11-1 receiving on six targets
McCaffrey has widely variable game-to-game usage and has just three touchdowns, but he’s still the No. 9 fantasy back with 19.9 DraftKings points per game.
Last season, he scored at a 3.6% per-touch rate. Whenever his 2018 rate of 2.2% progresses to the mean, McCaffrey could be a GPP winner.
Impressively, McCaffrey’s production has come despite roster issues around him. Continuity is crucial along the offensive line, and three of last season’s starters are not on the field: Left tackle Matt Kalil (knee, IR) was sidelined before the regular season, right tackle Daryl Williams (knee, IR) has missed most of the season and 2017 All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell is on the Jaguars. Even so, McCaffrey has become more efficient as a runner, averaging 4.6 yards per carry this year compared to 3.7 last year.
McCaffrey’s in a great spot this week against the divisional rival Bucs, who are dead last with a 22.5% defensive DVOA. On top of that, they are 29th in pass defense against running backs with a 25.4% DVOA, which is great news for McCaffrey, who has 7.2 targets per game for his career.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 9 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.