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Fantasy football (DFS included) is a game where we often look to the past for help predicting the future. So far in the Exploiting Footballguys Tools Series, we’ve covered how to look back on Target Stats, Snap Counts, Game Logs, and much more to help augment projections, spot outliers, and cut against narratives.
But when it comes to backward-looking analysis that helps us improve our forward thinking, there may not be a more useful tool offered by Footballguys than Historical Stats, which can be customized to both FanDuel and DraftKings scoring formats.
Want to see which running back has scored the most fantasy points on FanDuel over the last three weeks? Or maybe which wide receivers have racked up the most receptions, yards, and touchdowns since Week 4? The answers to simple questions like these are no more than five mouse clicks away with Historical Stats, but that’s nowhere near the tool’s limit for DFS purposes.
I’ve personally found historical stats most useful in analyzing both opportunity and efficiency in running backs. It’s easy to find running back statistics for all the major rushing categories on just about every major fantasy football site. But Historical Stats is one of the few places on the web that includes both rushing and receiving statistics for running backs in the same place, along with total fantasy points specific to the major DFS site you’re playing on.
With a little massaging in Microsoft Excel, Historical Stats allow you to determine usage metrics like total touches (catches plus rush attempts), total touchdowns, and percent of team touches for running backs, which give a clearer indication of their fantasy value than just looking at a list of the top fantasy scorers at the position.
Also, because total touches can be easily tallied using Historical Stats, metrics such as yards per touch, touchdowns per touch, and fantasy points per touch can be calculated to measure how efficient a running back has been with the touches he has received. When an injury opens up a starting spot for a low-priced back-up, these numbers provide a window into how they might perform with a heavier workload.
For where to find Historical Stats, and how to use them to build your own running back workload and efficiency spreadsheet, check out this instructional video:
Here are a few of my top running back plays this week, inspired by Historical Stats:
Melvin Gordon ranks as the cumulative RB3 on Fanduel at the season’s midway point, on the strength of 10 total touchdowns, which leads all running backs. While his 3.6 rushing yards per attempt leave plenty to be desired, it simply doesn’t matter for DFS, where opportunity trumps all for running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Not only is Gordon getting opportunity (23 touches per game, 78% of San Diego’s total running back touches), he’s getting it where it counts. His 11 carries from the five-yard line, or closer, rank fourth in the NFL, and he’s converted a league leading seven of those looks into touchdowns. Is Gordon a regression candidate based on his 5.4% TD/Touch ratio (best among running backs with at least 100 touches)? Probably, but this doesn’t look like the week he starts backsliding.
San Diego opened as a five point home favorite against Tennessee, with a 26 point implied team total. The Titans field a top-10 rush defense according to Football Outsiders DVOA metrics. Their high ranking against the run is supported by the Game Log Dominator, which shows they haven’t allowed more than 82 rushing yards to a running back in any game this season.
But the list of running backs Tennessee has shut down isn’t all that impressive, and if the game stays on script, Gordon’s volume will far outweigh the bad matchup. He’s reached at least 22 carries in each of the last three games, to go along with seven targets in each of his last two. Get heavier exposure to Gordon on DraftKings where his role in the receiving game gives him more upside and he’s priced as the RB8, compared to RB4 on FanDuel.
As of this writing, it’s too early to know if Spencer Ware’s concussion will keep him out of the Chiefs Week 9 game against Jacksonville, but if Ware sits, Charcandrick West becomes a free square on both major sites for either cash games or GPPs.
Despite seeing only nine touches before being forced out last week, Ware has accounted for 65.7% of Kansas City’s total backfield touches this season, and ranks third in FanDuel fantasy points per touch behind only LeSean McCoy and David Johnson. Ware owes much of his success to being #GoodAtFootball, but the lead back role in Andy Reid’s offense has long been the catbird seat for fantasy production.
The Chiefs have both the highest projected margin of victory (-9) and implied team total (27.25) on this week’s slate, which suggests West is in line for at least 18 total touches should Ware sit out against the Jaguars. In the four games West received at least 18 touches last season, he averaged 23.25 touches, 124.25 total yards, and 1.25 touchdowns per game.
In a week without much glaring value at the running back position, you can’t afford to fade West at $5,600 on FanDuel and $4,400 on DraftKings if Ware scratches.
Terrance West is likely to fly under the radar this week, especially if Ware sits, since most people will pay up at RB1 (likely to Ezekiel Elliott and his matchup against the dreadful Browns) and use Charcandrick West as their RB2.
Since taking over Baltimore’s lead back role in Week 4, West has accounted for 83% of the team’s backfield touches. With the exception of a Week 7 dud against the Jets stout run defense, he has been highly efficient, averaging 5.46 yards per carry across his other three starts, to go along with 97 rushing yards per game and three touchdowns.
Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule shows the Steelers have allowed the fourth-most adjusted fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season. In fact, Pittsburgh has let up DOUBLE the league average fantasy points per game to the running back position over the last three weeks, in which they were annihilated by Jay Ajayi (25-204-2) and LeGarrette Blount (24-127-2).
The one worry with West is that Baltimore will look to get a fully recovered Kenneth Dixon more involved coming off their bye week. But with West playing exceedingly well as the starter, why buy into that theory sight unseen? Get most of your exposure to West on FanDuel, as he’s less valuable in full PPR scoring formats.
LeVeon Bell has only appeared in four games this season, yet he ranks as the cumulative RB24 (FanDuel scoring) for Weeks 1-8. Only Ezekiel Elliott (24.9) has averaged more total touches per game than Bell’s 24.8, and Bell’s 7.5 reception per game average leads the league by nearly 34% over the next closest running back (Theo Riddick - 5.7).
Bell will likely be the highest-owned running back in tournaments, outside of Elliott and C. West (if Ware sits), but there’s simply no good reason to fade the engine of the Steelers offense on this slate. Baltimore has the top-ranked rush defense (DVOA), but Bell has posted huge yardage totals in similarly tough matchups with the Jets and Patriots. Plus, he should be getting Ben Roethlisberger back this week, which will give the entire Pittsburgh offense a boost.
Bell is an especially strong play on DraftKings where he’s priced more comparably to the other top-tier running backs and will benefit from full PPR scoring.
I’m excited to play the Sunday-Monday slate this week just to get some exposure to Christine Michael in GPPs. After disappointing the masses in a plum spot against the Saints miserable run defense last week, Michael’s price is down $300 on FanDuel, which screams low ownership.
Skeptics will point to the 103 total yards C.J. Prosise racked up on only eight touches last week, and Pete Carroll’s subsequent promise to get Prosise “a lot more involved” as reasons Michael’s arrow is pointing down, but this is a case where we can use the prevailing groupthink to our advantage.
Prosise’s value at this stage in his career is as a pass catcher, but the game script doesn’t point to much passing for the Seahawks this week. Seattle hosts the Bills as seven point favorites, with an implied team total of 25.5 points, which suggests three offensive touchdowns is a strong possibility. Considering Russell Wilson has passed for more than one touchdown only once this season, Michael has multi-touchdown upside as Seattle’s primary early down and goal line option.
The Seahawks are averaging 25 points per game at home this season (compared to only 14 on the road), so there’s reason to believe they can meet their implied total. With a projected run-heavy game script against a Jekyll & Hyde Bills rush defense that has allowed some monster running back performances this year, Michael is an excellent tournament differentiator on both sites.