Better Ways To Help Pick Your DFS NFL Running Backs
We’re just five weeks away from real football that really counts. That means we’re also five weeks away from our first chance to win big in DFS NFL. We’ve been looking at strategies to help you win this year and these pieces will run through the preseason. If you missed any of the previous pieces, just click below:
Since we talked about quarterbacks and stacking receivers with quarterbacks, let’s head to the backfield. How do you pick the best running back options? Do you look at matchups? Are there stats that can help you? The truth is there are more ways than you probably think to help you find the upside plays.
Obviously, picking running backs starts with the player’s talent. That’s the easy part though. Everyone knows Adrian Peterson is better than Doug Martin is, but that’s why DFS sites have player pricing. If you could just pick anyone out of the pool, everyone would end up owning some mix of Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles and Le’Veon Bell nearly every week… at least once Bell’s suspension is over. Okay, there are a few more names we could toss in there, but you get the point. As I said though, that’s easy. Any DFS player can scroll through the names and figure out who the better player is for the most part, and if not, there are a myriad of weekly rankings out there you can reference every week. So where can DFS players gain an edge and/or make the tough decisions between similar options? Here’s where you should be looking:
Number of Plays per Game
This one should seem like common sense, because truthfully, it is. If a team runs 70 plays a game (ahem, Eagles) and the other runs just 57 (Titans), taking the Eagles running back is going to give you better odds by providing more opportunities for the running back. Obviously, if we’re talking running backs, you want to focus on rushing attempts per game. Last year, the Texans led the league with 34.4 per game and the Raiders came in last with 21.1. If all else were equal and you were deciding between Alfred Blue and Latavius Murray, Blue would be the clear choice by running plays attempted. Again… if equal, but there are other factors that come in and make it not.
Offensive Line Ability
Why is everyone excited about Joseph Randle and clamoring to know if he’s going to share work or get 20 touches a game? It’s because everyone knows that whoever is behind the Cowboys offensive line is going to do great. Heck, I could probably get 50 a game back there (okay, maybe 10).
There are a few stats you can look at, and unfortunately, one isn’t free. The yards before contact stat is behind ProFootballFocus’ premium wall. It’s a great stat, but you can still find similar metrics to help you in analyzing a team’s offensive line at FootballOutsiders.com. They break down the offensive line into five different metrics: RB Yards, Power Success, Stuffed, Second Level Yards and Open Field Yards. These are all great stats for seeing how effective a team’s offensive line is in the running game. Stuffed is the key stat here, as it tells you the percentage of rushing attempts that were stopped in the backfield. Using these metrics is a terrific way to judge the potential success of a replacement too. If a lead back is hurt, was his success largely due to his talent or is the offensive line so good that an average replacement player can do well?
One of the best things Football Outsiders does is account for differences in matchups. As with xFIP in baseball and how it looks to level the playing field by adjusting for defense behind the pitcher, DVOA (explained here) does the same in football. This way, if a team faced the Seahawks 16 times and another faced the Raiders 16 times, you could still get a fair comparison of the team’s effectiveness even though the defenses faced are vastly different.
On the Offensive Efficiency Ratings page, they rank teams by Rushing Offense and Variance (a few others too, but those are most important here). The Rushing Offense rank is self-explanatory, and it ranks teams by the effectiveness of the rushing attack. The Variance is a quality metric to use with that stat, as it tells you how consistent a team is. Basically, a team that rushes for 225 yards against one team and then 75 against the next two would have a pretty good overall rating by averaging 125 yards per game, but the consistency would be poor. Use both of these stats when trying to decide between closely ranked running backs.
This is simply looking at a team’s ability from the defensive side. I write a weekly matchups column at RotoExperts.com, which has proven exceptionally useful and extremely accurate, and I incorporate some of these metrics in my calculations. You can get the overall strength of a defense, or in the case of running backs, look solely at the Rush Defense. Even better is if you scroll down, you can see defenses versus running backs on pass plays. Yep, if you’re thinking about a Darren Sproles type play, you can see if his matchup is truly beneficial for pass-catching running backs and not just weak against the run game overall.
This is how you gain an edge and win more often in DFS Football: research key metrics. Just a tad more extra preparation each week, and you can pick some of the best running backs each week.
How do you pick your DFS NFL running backs? Let’s hear it!