The Top DFS Running Back and Defense Stacks: Week 1
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These are the Week 1 running back-defense stacks on FanDuel and DraftKings. I'll examine where we might be able to get a solid defensive performance and volume-driven running production, including at least one RB-defense stack that will have minimal usage.
One should not base their weekly DFS lineup composition on the RB-DEF stack, as the correlation isn’t nearly as strong as the QB-WR1 combo, for example. But considering RB1s—and only RB1s—get a decent bump in production when their team’s defense scores at least 15 fantasy points, it’s worthwhile to see where this stack might offer upside and differentiation for those who play large-field DFS tournaments.
Running backs and defenses from the same team often face positive circumstances together. It's these conditions that lead to fantasy points. Sometimes a lot of fantasy points—the kind that swing DFS tournaments.
Let's see how we might double-dip on that sweet, sweet positive game script in Week 1...
Combined percentage of FanDuel salary: 17.3%
Combined percentage of DraftKings salary: 17%
Austin Ekeler ($6,400 FD/$5,500 DK), barring a last-minute contract concession from Melvin Gordon, enters the season as LA's top runner after playing the majority of snaps with the team's starting offense during the preseason. Probably Ekeler won't see massive carry workloads as the Chargers' RB1, but opportunity will be there: he notched 6.8 targets per game last year when Gordon was out of the lineup. He saw almost 14 carries per game in those contests.
This combo is particularly sexy on FanDuel, where 22 RB-D/ST stacks are more expensive this week.
The Chargers enter this one as 6.5-point home favorites against what was a fairly squishy Colts defense in 2018. Indy opponents last season averaged 25.9 rushes per game. Better yet for a receiving threat like Ekeler: only Atlanta allowed more receptions to running backs in 2018, as backs averaged 6.8 catches against the Colts. That's ... not a small amount, as we say in the industry. There's little reason to believe LA won't have game script firmly on its side in this matchup, but even if the Colts put up a fight and the Bolts face negative script, Ekeler's opportunity would hardly vanish.
The Chargers' defense ($4,000 FD/$3,000 DK), meanwhile, takes on Jacoby Brissett, who has completed less than 60% of his passes in 12 of his 15 NFL starts. He's thrown at least one interception in six of those games. The idea here is that negative game script will force the Colts to throw and throw some more against a solid LA secondary. The Chargers' upside is also linked to the pressure the front seven puts on the passer: the LA defense sacked the quarterback last season on 6.76%of their plays. You can't beat the price point of the Chargers' defense, as 24 defenses are priced ahead of them on DraftKings. Week 1 prices, of course, were set before Andrew Luck hung up the old cleats.
Chris Carson/Seattle Seahawks
Combined percentage of FanDuel salary: 18.5%
Combined percentage of DraftKings salary: 17.6%
While this stack will cost you a bit extra on FanDuel this week, it's well worth considering as a way to take full advantage of a wildly lopsided game. The Seahawks ($4,500 FD/$3,100 DK) are 9.5-point home favorites, facing off against a Bengals team without their top receiver and what's expected to be a porous offensive line. This game features one of the week's lowest Vegas totals—it profiles as an ugly affair perfect for running and defense. Just what we're looking for in this stacking space.
Andy Dalton, who should be forced to drop back and throw quite a bit in this one, has averaged 1.2 interceptions in career losses. Dalton's completion rate plummets to 58% in losses. That's precisely what we want: an inaccurate quarterback whose offense could become a one-dimensional attack as the team chases points. The Seattle defense once again got the quarterback frequently in 2018, sacking the passer on more than 7% of their plays. That was a top-10 rate.
Chris Carson ($6,600 FD/$5,700 DK) is expected to see the lion's share of carries in an extraordinarily run-heavy Seattle offense (the Seahawks rushed on 53% of their offensive plays in 2018). Carson saw at least 17 carries in six of Seattle's nine wins in 2018, scoring at least one touchdown in all but two of those victories. If Seattle is going to win, Carson is very likely going to find pay dirt. In not-so-shocking news, 33% of the yardage gained against the Cincy defense last year were on the ground—the 10th-highest mark in the NFL.
Carson's FanDuel cost—19 running backs are priced above him in Week 1—make him almost irresistible if you believe the Seahawks will have game script on their side.
Matt Breida/San Francisco 49ers
Combined percentage of FanDuel salary: 15.1%
Combined percentage of DraftKings salary: 12.4%
This is a stack you plug in while screaming "in a GPP" into the nearest pillow. The Breida-Niners combo has no floor because, see, the 49ers defenses is likely going to be (very) bad and Vegas expects this game to be high scoring. That shouldn't preclude us from seeking RB-defense stacks in high scoring games, since what we're seeking here is turnovers and maybe, just maybe, the fluky defensive or special teams touchdown.
Jameis Winston is a low-key disaster in Bucs losses; if you think the Niners can bring down the Bucs in Week 1, the San Francisco defense ($3,700 FD/$2,200 DK) makes at least some modicum of sense. Winston, who completes less than 60% of his passes in losses, has averaged 1.6 interceptions per game in Tampa losses over his career. Sure, Winston manages to throw for a bunch of yards in losses—thank you, garbage time—but we don't care about that. We want turnovers. We want picks. And that's what Winston has delivered time and again for opposing defenses. Tampa's offensive line, which appeared to be a total debacle in the preseason, allowed the 10th most sacks per game in 2018. Perhaps even the 49ers defense can pressure Winston in this one.
Breida ($5,400 FD/$4,000 DK), listed as the starter on the team's depth chart, is in line for (at worst) a decent Week 1 workload against a Bucs defense that was targeted by enemy run games throughout 2018. Almost 43%of the plays run against Tampa in 2018 were rushes, mostly because they stunk and teams could burn the clock and keep the ball on the ground in the second half. The Niners posted the ninth-highest rush percentage in 2018, giving us reason to think Breida has volume on his side—volume not reflected in his DFS price tag. While Breida will likely cede pass-catching duties to Tevin Coleman, that probably won't matter here unless Tampa opens up a big lead against the 49ers. The Bucs are listed as one-point favorites.