FAVORABLE MATCHUPS (CASH/GPP)
Todd Gurley (DK – $9,400/FD – $9,100): Over the first four games, Gurley has 532 combined yards with six TDs and 15 catches to place him second in RB scoring behind Alvin Kamara. He’s averaging 22.5 touches per game. Last year Todd had his coming out party in his start in Seattle when he gained 170 combined yards with four TDs and three catches. This season the Seahawks rank 10th RB Fantasy defense while showing risk in two games vs. the run (32/146 and 19/166). They allow 4.6 yards per rush, but ball carriers only have one rushing TD. Overall, RBs have 15 catches for 149 yards and one TD on 23 targets while facing Jordan Howard, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson. LA will test Seattle in all areas on defense, which invites multi TD upside for Gurley in this matchup.
Melvin Gordon (DK – $8,600/FD – $8,700): Gordon doesn’t get as much press as the other top RBs in the leagues plus he has Austin Ekeler stealing touches and TDs from him. Melvin looks electric behind an improved offensive line. He’s gaining 5.1 yards per rush, which is well above his last three seasons (3.5, 3.9, and 3.9). Over four games, Gordon has 78 touches for 475 yards with five TDs and 24 catches. Last year he had 150 combined yards with two TDs and nine catches in his start in Oakland. The Raiders have struggled with the run game in three contests (LAR – 26/140, DEN – 28/168/2, and CLE – 31/208/3) while only failing in the passing game vs. RBs in Week 1 (5/57/1). Rivers completed 37 percent of his passes in 2018 to RBs, which sets a high floor in catches for Melvin. This game should be played at a fast pace setting up a favorable game for Gordon, but he needs a pair of TDs to create a separator score.
James Conner (DK – $7,500/FD – $7,800): The excitement of Conner being an impact RB is starting to fade. Over his last three games, James struggled to find running room (32/97/1) while averaging only 3.0 yards per carry over this span. He did catch 13 of 18 targets for 107 yards to help raise his value in his last three games. On the year, James has 396 combined yards with three TDs and 18 catches. The Falcons allow the third-most Fantasy points to RBs while having success in all areas (TDs – 7, catches – 42, and yards – 686 yards). Conner now has a lower salary and one of the better RB matchups on the week. Possible center square due to his lower salary.
T.J. Yeldon (DK – $5,600/FD – $6,500): Yeldon tends to fall short of his expected value when given a chance to start. Last week with minimal Fantasy owners started him with Leonard Fournette starting, T.J. finished with a season-high 100 combined yards with two TDs and three catches while receiving 62 percent of the RB snaps in Jacksonville. Yeldon has 340 combined yards with three TDs and 14 catches. The Chiefs allow 5.5 yards per rush with RBs scoring six TDs plus failure defending RBs in the passing game (31/385/2 on 38 targets). A favorable matchup with a reasonable salary, but a Fantasy owner could still get beat by the coaching staff in play calling and playing time.
Mike Davis (DK – $3,500/FD – $5,500): Seattle has over 100 yards rushing in back-to-back games. Davis earned a surprise start after Chris Carson couldn’t suit up with his hip issue. David finished with 124 combined yards with two TDs and four catches while receiving 25 touches. The Seahawks had him on the field for 71 percent of their plays. The Rams allow 4.6 yards per rush with one poor game (LAC – 20/141/1). I don’t expect Carson to play this week, which gives Davis a chance at plenty of touches at this level. His downside may come in a chaser game leading to Rashaad Penny getting a bump in chances. Top backend RB filler of the week.
MATCHUP RISK / AGAINST THE GRAIN (GPP)
Ezekiel Elliott (DK – $8,400/FD – $8,400): After seeing the tail lights of Gurley and Kamara after the first two weeks, Elliott picked up the pace of his game in Week 3 (138 combined yards with three catches) and Week 4 (240 combined yards with one TD and four catches). Last week he carried the Cowboys on his back, which led to a season-high 29 touches with two explosive plays in the passing game. Ezekiel now has 551 combined yards with three TDs and 15 catches. This season Houston played three games vs. teams with weakness at RB (NE, TEN, and IND). They allow 3.5 yards per rush with RBs scoring one rushing TDs. The Texans did struggle in two games vs. RBs (10/71/1 and 9/63/2). Houston will give up points, but their defensive line is starting to come together (eight sacks in the last two games). Not the best matchup on the road even with Elliott looking special in the run game.
Devonta Freeman (DK – $6,500/FD – $6,800): The Falcons expect to have Freeman back in the starting lineup this week after missing the last three games. In the normal rhythm of Atlanta’s offense, Devonta tends to be on the field on early downs for about 62 percent of plays with a 40 to 60 percent split on passing downs depending on game flow and matchup. Last week Tevin Coleman missed some time with a shin issue. If he doesn’t play, I don’t expect Devonta to be rewarded with more snaps. The Steelers haven’t allowed a rushing TD over the last three games with RBs gaining 4.2 yards per rush on the year. Pittsburgh played well so far defending RBs in the passing game (12/75/2 on 21 targets).
Jay Ajayi (DK – $5,100/FD – $6,300): The Eagles had Ajayi on the field for 53 percent of their plays last week, which was a season high. He gained 81 combined yards with three catches on 18 touches. In his three games played, Jay has 41 touches with 170 yards and three TDs. Ajayi isn’t on the injury report this week, which is a positive sign. The Vikings allow 3.9 yards per rush with no RBs scoring no rushing TDs. I need to see a lot more playing time before trusting Jay in the daily games.
Alex Collins (DK – $5,000/FD – $6,500): A month into the 2018 season, Collins has 258 combined yards with three TDs and eight catches. Alex averages only 13 touches per game while gaining only 3.5 yards per rush. Last year he struggled in his game in Cleveland (52 combined yards with five catches). The Browns allow 4.0 yards per rush with RBs scoring four rushing TDs. On the year, Collins has been out snapped 145 to 141 by Javorius Allen. Playing time concern plus he’s not a lock to get goal line carries.
LeSean McCoy (DK – $4,900/FD – $6,300): McCoy was unimpressive in his return to the Bills’ starting lineup in Week 4. He gained only 37 combined yards with three catches while being in the field for 60 percent of Buffalo’s snaps. The Titans haven’t allowed a TD to a running back in 2018, but they have struggled against the run (4.9 yards per carry). RBs also have 19 catches for 96 yards on 26 targets. McCoy tends to play better at home, but he’s more of a gamble un till his rib injury clears up.
Derrick Henry (DK – $4,400/FD – $5,800): Henry doesn’t have a hit in 2018. He’s averaging 14 touches per game and 3.0 yards per rush with no TDs. The last two Titans’ opponents rank in the top six defending RBs. The Bills allow only 3.9 yards per rush with RBs scoring five TDs. Tennessee has a poor offensive line leading to Henry barely reach the line of scrimmage without getting hit. I have to believe he’ll get better, but I don’t have the guts to donate to his cause in the daily games.
Bilal Powell (DK – $4,400/FD – $5,700): Powell earned more playing time with each game that passes in 2018. Last week the Jets had him on the field for 64 percent of their plays in a chaser game. Over the last three games, Bilal has 205 combined yards with one TD and nine catches. Denver will give up rushing TDs (5), but RBs gain only 3.2 yards per rush. Passing catching upside, but New York may play from the lead this week.
BAD MATCHUP (AVOID)
Kareem Hunt (DK – $5,800/FD – $7,800): For Fantasy owners doubting the value of Hunt in 2018, he showed in a big way that he looks primed for a big year in Week 4 (175 combined yards with one TD and three catches). Kareem averages about 19 touches per game while still underperforming in catches (4 – 53 in 2017). On the year, Hunt has 346 combined yards with one TD. The Jaguars have the sixth-best defense vs. RBs with their only failure coming in Week 1 (143 combined yards with one TD and four catches) due to a 75-yard TD run by Saquon Barkley. Tough matchup while being a low percentage own.
Carlos Hyde (DK – $5,200/FD – $6,700): Hyde is the 11th highest scoring RB in PPR leagues, but his future replacement (Nick Chubb) shined brightly last week (105 yards and two TDs) despite receiving only three touches. Carlos has 300 combined yards with five TDs and four catches, but he’s gaining only 3.4 yards per rush and 3.8 yards per catch. Hyde averages almost 22 touches per game. The Ravens allow 3.9 yards per rush with RBs scoring two TDs. More risk than reward with each week that passes in 2018.
Latavius Murray (DK – $4,500/FD – $5,100): Murray has been on the field for over 55 percent of the plays run by the Vikings over his last two games with Dalvin Cook injured, but he gained 49 yards with seven catches while receiving 11 touches. Latavius averages 3.4 yards per rush with no runs over 20 yards. Philly allows only 3.4 yards per rush with RBs scoring two TDs. Avoid even with a starting role.
Isaiah Crowell (DK – $4,100/FD – $5,900): Last week Crowell only had five touches against a tough Jaguars’ defense leading to three yards and one catch. Over the previous three games, Crowell averaged 14 touches while scoring four TDs with 192 combined yards. Denver plays well vs. the run, and Isaiah is losing playing time to Bilal Powell. Avoid.
PLAYING TIME / INJURY RISK
Joe Mixon (DK – $6,900/FD – $7,100): The Bengals expect Mixon back in the starting lineup in Week 5 after missing the last two games. Joe turned only a limited practice on Wednesday, which may lead to him splitting time in his first game back. Over the first two games, Mixon had 236 combined yards with one TD and six catches while being on the field for 81 of 131 plays. Miami struggled last week v. the Patriots RBs (246 combined yards with three TDs and eight catches) while ranking 29th in RB Fantasy defense. Tough buy even with an upside matchup due to playing time concern and a higher salary.
Giovani Bernard (DK – $6,800/FD – $6,900): Bernard played well over his last two games with starting snaps. He gained 182 combined yards with three TDs and nine catches, which works out to 22.6 Fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. He left last week’s game with a knee issue, which puts him at risk to play on Sunday. If given the green light, Gio will be in a split role in Week 5. Avoid with Mixon expected back on Sunday.
Tevin Coleman (DK – $6,400/FD – $6,900): Over the first four games, Coleman ranks as the 21st ranked RB in PPR leagues with four boring games despite a bump in playing time with Devonta Freeman injured. On the year, Tevin has 294 combined yards with one TD and ten catches while averaging 16 touches per game. Coleman came out of last week’s game with a shin injury. Overpriced for his drop back in playing time and injury status.
Dalvin Cook (DK – $5,300/FD – $6,300): The Vikings had Cook on the field for only 18 of 74 plays last week, which led to only 20 yards on ten rushes. He continues to battle a hamstring issue pointing to minimal playing time in Week 5. Tough to trust on all fronts.
Javorius Allen (DK – $4,700/FD – $5,400): Allen has yet to gain over 60 yards in any game this year, but he does have four TDs and 15 catches to help raise his value in the season-long games. Javorius averages only 2.4 yards per rush and 5.8 yards per catch, which points to more downside than upside at this price point.
Lamar Miller (DK – $4,700/FD – $6,100): Miller left last week’s game with a chest injury leading to him missing practice on Wednesday. Over four games, Lamar has 279 combined yards with one TD and eight catches. Houston has huge issues on their offensive line, which makes Miller a failed investment in most weeks. Too injury risk for the daily games.
Austin Ekeler (DK – $4,200/FD – $6,200): Ekeler is the 15th highest scoring RB in PPR leagues despite receiving only ten touches per game. On the year, Austin has 351 combined yards with 13 catches and two TDs. Playmaker with sneaky value in the right matchup.
Nick Chubb (DK – $3,800/FD – $5,300): Over the first four games, Chubb has only been on the field for 15 plays. Last week he touched the ball each time (3) on the field. He broke two long runs for TDs (41 and 63 yards). Special player who needs to find his way into the starting lineup.
NEUTRAL (MME GPP)
Christian McCaffrey (DK – $8,000/FD – $8,100): Last season McCaffrey was really only a one trick pony in the Fantasy market. His best value came in the passing game (80/651/4) while struggling to make plays on early downs (3.7 yards per rush). Christian was only on the field for 70.1 percent of the plays run by the Panthers in 2017. In his last start in Week 3, McCaffrey exploded for 184 rushing yards on a career-high 28 carries. He’s now averaged 5.0, 4.6, and 6.6 yards per rush in each game this year. The most important stat taken out of his last game played was that Christian was on the field for 100 percent of the plays run by Carolina (85 and 94 percent over the first two games). He’s still looking for his first TD while still having questions with his value in short yardage runs and TDs at the goal line. On the year, McCaffrey has 428 combined yards with 22 catches. RBs have 80 rushes for 354 yards and four TDs against the Giants with reasonable success defending RBs in the passing game (23/142/2 on 35 targets). Love his direction, but he’ll fly more under the radar this week while needing TDs to shine up his value in the daily games.
Saquon Barkley (DK – $7,700/FD – $7,900): Barkley has been extremely consistent over his first four games (20.80, 24.80, 22.70, and 22.00 Fantasy points in PPR leagues) while showing big play, scoring, and pass-catching ability at some point in each game. On the year, Saquon has 453 combined yards with three TDs and 27 catches leading to the fourth highest ranking at the RB position. Barkley averaged almost 21 touches per game. His best value will come when the Giants play from the lead. The Panthers allow 4.9 yards per rush while allowing three rushing TDs (two by Matt Ryan). Carolina has done a nice job so far defending RBs out of the backfield (13/68 on 19 targets). More an against the grain play while needing two TDs to fill his salary bucket.
David Johnson (DK – $6,300/FD – $7,600): Johnson pushed his way to 16th in RB scoring in PPR leagues after turning in his third high teen game. David has 291 combined yards with two TDs and 13 catches while being below his expected pace in all areas. Johnson averages about 17 touches per game. The 49ers will give up catches to RBs (35/269/2 on 46 targets) while doing a better job against RBs on early downs (91/379/2). San Fran did play three very good offensive teams (MIN, DET, KC, and LAC) to start the year. His salary is about 71.5 percent below his top-level in 2016 while receiving about two-thirds of his previous success in touches. The bottom line here is the improvement in QB play in Arizona.
Matt Breida (DK – $5,700/FD – $6,200): Breida has 51 touches over the first four games leading to 398 combined yards with one TD and ten catches. Matt already has six runs over 20 yards. San Fran gave him a season-high 63 percent of the RB playing time last week. He remains on the injury report with a shoulder issue. Arizona ranked poorly vs. RBs due to game score and 35 rushing attempts per game. Ball carriers gain 4.0 yards per rush eight TDs with some risk as well in the passing game (21/231/1 on 25 targets). If the 49ers play from the lead, Matt is going to have a chance at a nice game. His floor in the passing game has raised to about three catches per week. Possible bump in touches while carrying early game exit risk due to his lingering injuries.
Marshawn Lynch DK – $5,500/FD – $6,500): Lynch returned to beast mode in Week 4, which led to 157 combined yards with three catches. On the year, Marshawn has 360 combined yards with three TDs and ten catches while averaging 19.5 touches per game. The Chargers allow 4.2 yards per rush with RBs scoring two rushing TDs. Their biggest failure came in Week 3 vs. the Rams (35/171/1). Grinder type RB that needs two TDs or over 100 yards rushing with one TD to fill his salary bucket.
Dion Lewis (DK – $5,400/FD – $5,700): The anti-Derrick Henry fans haven’t been rewarded with much success from Lewis over his last three games. Over this stretch, Dion gained only 68 yards on 27 rushes (2.5 yards per rush) with a bump in catches last week (9/66 on nine targets). Lewis averages about 15 touches per game. RBs have 29 catches for 230 yards and two TDs against Buffalo on 35 targets. I don’t expect a big chaser game, which points to avoiding Lewis in this matchup.
Phillip Lindsay (DK – $4,800/FD – $6,100): The RB situation continues to be a mess in playing time. Last week Lindsay was on the field for 24 of 60 plays compared to 16 Royce Freeman and 20 by Devontae Booker. Last week Phillip finished with 14 touches for 79 yards with two catches and one TD. In his three full games, Lindsay has 292 combined yards with five catches and two TDs. Over the last three starts, ball carriers have 98 rushes for 315 yards and three TDs plus 15 catches for 130 yards and one more TD. Playing well, but so is Freeman. Phillip is nothing more than a coin flip for touches and goal-line chances.
Kenyan Drake (DK – $4.700/FD – $5,900): The Dolphins forgot who their lead RB was over the last two games. Drake only has 26 combined yards in his last two games with three catches while receiving only 11 touches. Last week Miami had him on the field for 22 of 49 plays after seeing about 65 percent of the RB playing over the first three weeks. Over the first two games, Kenyan had 136 combined yards with one TD and seven catches. Cinci played well vs.the run in three of their four games with their failure coming in Week 3 (39/194) vs. the Panthers. I thought Drake looked good in Week 2, but a Fantasy owner can’t make a head coach give him the ball.
Kerryon Johnson (DK – $4,600/FD – $6,100): Johnson looked sharp for the second straight game, but the Lions only gave him ten touches while being in the field for 37 percent of the RB snaps. Over the last two games, Kerryon has 29 touches for 166 combined yards with one TD and three catches. Detroit needs to remove LeGarrette Blount from the equation before Johnson can’t have a playable opportunity in the daily games. Green Bay allowed 4.5 yards per rush with RBs scoring three rushing TDs. Not a bad swing, but he needs 15 or more touches to reach a winning score.
Aaron Jones (DK – $4,300/FD – $6,100): Last week Jones flashed his potential upside when he gained 82 combined yards with a TD and a catch while ending out Jamaal Williams in playing time (38 to 37). His success should lead to more touches as long as game score doesn’t work its way to a chaser game. The Lions have struggled in three games vs. rushers (36/169/2, 28/190/1, and 35/183). A favorable matchup with a chance at a TD and/or 100+ yards rushing.
Royce Freeman (DK – $4,200/FD – $6,000): Freeman has a TD in three straight games while pushing his season average to 5.0 yards per rush. He runs hard and breaks tackles, which is required to gain more playing time. On the year, Royce has 45 touches while being on the field for 33.6 percent of the RB playing time in Denver. If he gets the hot hand, Freeman could breakthrough with an impact game. His lack of passing catching value does lead to some emptiness in some games.