how to pick the best running backs in dfs

How Many Points Should Running Backs Get You In DFS Based On Salary?

October 26, 2018

This is not an easy question to answer, if it was easy, everyone would have the answer and maximize the amount of points they got at the RB position.

There have been several weeks where I have overpaid for players, who have not delivered and other weeks where I underpaid for players, who have great weeks.

What Factors Affect Running Back Performance in DFS?

There are many factors that go into how a running back or really any fantasy player will perform a certain week.

  • Matchup
  • Volume
  • Weather
  • Health

All of these should be considered when deciding which running backs to choose.

Unlike quarterbacks, running backs do not get to touch the ball every snap and there are multiple running backs on every team.

Most teams in the NFL use a running back committee opposed to a workhorse running back. This gives teams the double edge sword they need at the running back position to be effective.

How Does RB1 vs. RB2 Fantasy Point Production Compare? 

Typically, one running back is the power back who runs in between the tackles and the other is a feature back who is more elusive and is effective in the passing game. Although this strategy is great for NFL teams, it makes fantasy football owner’s lives more complicated.

There are a handful of running backs that are capable of handling both workloads, Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, James Conner, David Johnson and Alvin Kamara are all great examples. Alvin Kamara is actually a part of a committee backfield but he is so efficient he is in a class of his own.

These running backs cost the most in DFS, usually upwards of $8,000, because they get the most volume and are extremely efficient with their touches.  

These players seem like an easy start every week but because of their price and popularity it may make sense to go a different route.

Should I Pay More for a Good Running Back in NFL DFS? 

Is it worth breaking the bank on these studs or taking lower priced players who can provide more value?

In this article, I am going to breakdown:

  1. How many points you should expect from a running back at a given price
  2. How much you should spend on a running back
  3. Should you start a running back in your flex

This information is based solely on Draftkings, the scoring and pricing of players is different than Fanduel but the concept is the same.

These strategies can be applied to both DFS websites.

Running Back DFS Performance To Salary Breakdown

I broke down the average cost and performance of 19 running backs through the first 7 weeks of the NFL season.

Note that some players may not be on the least due to missing games because of injuries or they played in Sunday Night Football and did not have an allocated salary that week.

Player Average Salary Average Points
Todd Gurley $9,400 30.94
Saquon Barkley $7,583 27.18
James Conner $6,883 25.17
Kareem Hunt $6,267 19.11
Christian McCaffrey $7,533 19.61
David Johnson $7,230 14.87
Alvin Kamara $9,150 27.91
Isaiah Crowell $4,471 13.97
Tarik Cohen $4,900 16.70
Kerryon Johnson $4,467 13.38
Marshawn Lynch $5,150 13.67
Jordan Howard $6,500 10.30
Alex Collins $5,160 11.37
Chris Carson $4,420 11.60
James White $5,500 20.56
TJ Yeldon $5,500 16.85
Adrian Peterson $4,866 14.37
Phillip Lindsay $4,430 13.07
Matt Breida $5,300 12.07

As you probably noticed price does not directly correlate to points. A higher price does not necessarily mean that RB will score more points.

Jordan Howard is one of the highest priced running backs so far this season, yet he is the lowest scoring running back on the list.

Vice versa, James White is averaging a low salary on the season but is amongst the best in points.

One highlight that I noticed across the board was that pass catching backs score more points. This may seem obvious but it was the case for every price range.

The NFL is becoming more pass heavy so you want backs that can stay on the field for most of the game.

Draftkings is also PPR (point-per-reception), making it easy points at the running back position that is why every running back tier is led by a pass catching back.

The Seven Running Back Tiers

  1. $9,000
  2. $7,500
  3. $7,000
  4. $6,500
  5. $5,500
  6. $5,000
  7. $4,500

You may have noticed that there is no $8,500, $8,000, or $6,000.

There are running backs that are priced in the $8,000 range any given week but on average these are the most common salaries for the season.

Each of these tiers are rounded to the nearest 500th to make things easier so if you are looking at a back that is priced at $8,000 he should be be held to the $7,500 standard.

If a running back is priced at $8,400, they should be held to the same standard as a $9,000 running back.

What standard are you talking about?

Great question, allow me to explain.

How Many Points Should You Expect From A Running Back At A Given Price

It is much more efficient to aim for a point total and expect to gain a certain amount of points from a running back than to just hope that a running back does well.

Running backs costing around $9,000 are averaging 29.43 points so far this season.

Running backs costing around $7,500 are averaging 23.40 points so far this season.

Running backs costing around $7,000 are averaging 20.02 points so far this season.

Running backs costing around $6,500 are averaging 14.70 points so far this season.

Running backs costing around $5,500 are averaging 16.49 points so far this season.

Running backs costing around $5,000 are averaging 14.02 points so far this season.

Running backs costing around $4,500 are averaging 13.00 points so far this season.

The top tiered running backs that cost $9,000 have proven their worth week in and week out so far this season, averaging almost 30 points.

30 points is more than the top paid quarterbacks are averaging!

There is a six point drop off from the $9,000 to $7,500 but only a three point difference between $7,500 and $7,000.

Every DFS lineup should consist of at least one running back in these tiers.

The drop off in points starts at the $6,500 mark. Jordan Howard is a big reason for this because he is only averaging 10 points a game while Kareem Hunt is averaging 19 so the numbers are a little skewed.

Kareem Hunt is getting more involved in the passing game every week which is increasing his value while Jordan Howard is losing touches every week decreasing his price.

Interestingly enough, running backs priced around $5,500 are outscoring their counterparts at $6,500 by 2 points.

That does not seem like a lot of difference, but saving $1,000 while maintaining the same production is a game changer in DFS. That $1,000 can be spent elsewhere, turning a $8,000 back into a $9,000 back, improving 6 more points!

The same can be said about the $5,000 tier and the $4,500 tier, there is only a 1 point difference for the $500 spent.

The main goal in DFS is to find value, you want your players to outperform their worth. If you can find value at every position you will win a ton of money in DFS.

How Much Should You Spend On A Running Back

Using the information above, if you want to maximize the amount of points you earn at the RB position you should spend around $14,500.

There are two great strategies that can be used to achieve this number

  1. Pair a top running back with a cheaper running back
  2. Purchase two running backs similar in price

Purchasing a top running back at $9,000 and pairing them with a running back that is $5,500 will maximize the amount of points you get. On average this season, this duo is combining for 46 points a week.

You get the best running back that week as well as a solid running back. Again, when purchasing lower priced running backs you want to choose a pass catching backs because it is easy to rack up points.

This strategy may give you a running back that everyone has but you will have a dark horse running back as well from the $5,500 price range that can give you the edge you need to win tournaments.

The second strategy is typically my go to strategy, purchasing one running back that is $7,500 and another that is around $7,000 make up the $14,500.

This gives your team much more balance. These tiers of running backs have averaged 43 points a week combined. This is 3 points less than the first strategy but there is a much higher floor and ceiling with this strategy.

Using two running backs that are capable of scoring more than 20 points increases your chances of one of them outperforming their value and scoring 25-30 points.

I personally use this strategy because I like the high upside between two players rather than only one.

Should You Start A Running Back As Your Flex?

The $14,500 is solely split between two starting running backs. Some DFS players like to have three running backs, stashing one in the flex because of the high floor running backs have.

However, this is not an easy question to answer because it is dependent on the amount of salary you have leftover.

If you have $5,500 leftover, a running back can be a great option because you can still earn 16 points from your flex.

Most people do not have that much leftover for their flex position though making it a tough decision.

It can be tough to find value at the running back position if you only have $4,500 or less for your salary.

You have a much greater chance of finding a receiver or tight end that may provide value in that price range.

Now, there are weeks where you can find value at that price range. We have seen it a few weeks this year already.

Since DraftKings sets their contests in the beginning of the week injuries or trades that happen during the week are not accounted for.

We saw this happen week 1 where Le’Veon Bell was expected to play but held out giving James Conner the start on a great offense for the cheapest price available.

It has happened with Gio Bernard, TJ Yeldon, Tevin Coleman, and even as recently as Nick Chubb, once Carlos Hyde got traded to the Jaguars.

These players should all be started in your flex if you can get them at a cheap price because they will provide value to your team.

Like I stated earlier, it can be easier to find value at the receiver position for a cheaper price.

This brings on the question whether you should start 3 solid RB’s (one in the flex) and 3 high upside receivers.

Running Backs Have A Higher Floor 

Running backs have a much higher floor than most receivers because they do not rely on another player to get them the ball, the QB just hands it off.

Receivers are thrown the ball from the Quarterback, so QB play affects their point total a great deal.

It is very common to see DFS players take the floor of running backs and start 3 solid RB’s while reaching for the ceiling on two of the three receivers they are allowed.

If you think there is more value in receivers a certain week than choosing 4 can get you over the hump to win a tourney or cash game.

At the end of the day, all that matters is value.

You want the best bang for your buck at every position. For a running back, it makes sense to pay up to get a monster performance.

If your running back is scoring more than quarterbacks, you are in great shape.

Optimizing Your DFS Lineup By Picking The Best Running Back For Your Dollar 

Whether you pay up for a running back and pair a lower priced back with them, or decide to go with two backs that are above average, you should be able to outscore opponents running backs.

Although there are several committee backfields in the NFL, there is a limited supply of good running backs. Paying up to get the top backs can be the difference your lineup needs to make money.

With a small amount of salary left it makes more sense to place a receiver in your flex position because on average they outscore running backs at a similar price.

Again, there are outliers every week bearing injuries or trades that DraftKings does not account for at the beginning of the week that can alter your decision.

With a small budget to fill your flex position a wide receiver has a better chance at scoring more points.

Receivers are riskier because they can exceed expectations just as easily as they can ignore them.

All that matters is finding value at every position. These techniques & strategies will put you in the best situation to score the most points on a given week.

You do not have to replicate the strategy that I use personally, but you should use the data available and expect a certain amount of points based on the price of a player.


2 thoughts on “How Many Points Should Running Backs Get You In DFS Based On Salary?”

  1. I needed to thank you for this very good
    read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. I have you
    bookmarked to look at new stuff you post…

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