A Look at Best-Ball Tandem Backfields for 2019
Best-ball leagues lack the ability to make trades or have access to the waiver wire, so planning your roster for the entire season is imperative for success in this format. With the trend leaning RB-heavy early so far in 2019, getting the best value for your backfield group could differentiate yourself from the other drafters around you.
In creating these rushing tandems, I’ve taken several factors into account including bye weeks, strength of schedule, team backfields and other variables that could assist in gaining the most points possible from your best-ball RBs.
Let’s get to it.
Strength of Schedule
4for4’s Hot Spot tool is a fabulous way to get a snapshot into a team or player’s road ahead in 2019. Using schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed, or aFPA, we remove schedule bias, therefore can level the playing field and compare matchups in an apples-to-apples manner.
Mark Ingram (BAL) & Miles Sanders (PHI)
Up until their bye in Week 8, the Ravens face opponents that were all weak in 2018 against the rush, with Miami, Arizona, Kansas City and Cincinnati all falling 24th or worse in the league in RB aFPA, surrendering an average of 21.51 PPR points per game to opposing backs. Ingram sits atop the depth chart of a backfield that was third last season in rushing plays with 47.74%.
Sanders landed in a great spot in Philly, and their second half of the season appears to be soft against the rush. The Eagles take on the Giants twice after their Week 10 bye, who ranked 31st last year in RB aFPA and also have tilts with Washington and Miami who were 28th and 27th in aFPA to opposing backfields. By drafting Sanders as early as they did, the Eagles sent a message that they plan to run more this season and with the first half of the season under his belt, the rookie could be solid down the stretch.
Both Ingram and Sanders are great choices for those going with zero RB-type strategies, as they are currently the 22nd and 32nd backs off the board, respectively.
Saquon Barkley (NYG) & Tevin Coleman (SF)
Barkley is a no-brainer this season for a myriad of reasons, but his schedule should also be thrown onto the pile. The Giants only play two defenses all season that were stout against the rush in 2018, but their final stretch includes the Eagles twice, who were dead-last in RB aFPA, plus Miami (27th) and Washington (28th).
If you’re fortunate enough to be at the top of the draft and can select Barkley, Coleman is a guy that pairs well in terms of schedules. The 49ers backfield isn’t the clearest, but Coleman had a great run with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, averaging 13.6 yards per catch and while in Atlanta, Shanahan’s offense saw a 59.8% touch share to RBs, which bodes well for Coleman this season. San Francisco has an early bye this year in Week 4, but their first three matchups are against defenses that allowed an average of 21.44 PPR points to RBs weekly. It’s also of note that during Barkley’s Week 10 bye, the 49ers face Arizona, who was 24th in RB aFPA last season.
Barkley is first off of the board this season, and Coleman is currently RB31, with a mid-to-late fifth-round ADP.
Run vs. Pass Rates
Pairing backs on teams that tend to rush more with pass-catching backs on heavily throwing teams can have its advantages over the course of the season.
Chris Carson (SEA) & Dalvin Cook (MIN)
The Seahawks offense led the NFL last season with 52.44% of their plays called as runs. Carson finished as RB9 in touches per game with 19.1, and his 14.4 PPR points a contest was good enough for RB15. In his short 18-game career, Carson has close to 1600 combined yards and 10 touchdowns and has proven he can be the workhorse in this offense.
Minnesota had the fourth-highest pass percentage among NFL offenses last season, but they were also missing Cook for five contests. With Latavius Murray in New Orleans, Cook should be their go-to guy and he’s solid in the passing game to boot. He’ll no longer get vultured by Murray in the red zone either, so barring another injury, Cook certainly has top 10 upside this season.
Currently, Carson’s ADP lands in the fifth round as RB25, while Cook is the RB11, leaving boards in the mid-second.
Derrick Henry (TEN) & Aaron Jones (GB)
Tennessee was second only to Seattle in their 48.51% of running plays in 2018. Henry exploded over the final four weeks of the season, rushing for a whopping 585 yards and seven touchdowns in that time frame. He earned the starting role and should have a career year for the Titans in 2019.
When Jones is healthy and used as the feature back, he’s been solid. The 24-year-old averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his first two seasons and posted 26 receptions for 206 yards and a score in 2018. With a new HC in Matt LaFleur, we should see not only a bump in rush plays but Jones more involved in the passing game this season.
It may be tough to get both of these guys on the same squad since their ADPs are so close, but it could pay off if you can swing it at the 3/4 turn. Henry is currently being drafted as RB16 in the third round, while Jones also has a third-round price tag as RB17.