The Top DFS Running Back and Defense Stacks: Week 5
These are the Week 5 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.
Once again, two of our three RB-defense stacks panned out in Week 4, with the Chargers defense and Austin Ekeler combining for 41 fantasy points against the zombified Dolphins, James Conner and the vicious Pittsburgh defense scoring 46 points, and, sadly, the Colts and the injured Marlon Mack combining for seven points. Nevertheless, as the kids say.
Combined percentage of FanDuel salary: 19.5%
Combined percentage of DraftKings salary: 18.6%
If New England had a dependable early-down running back, stacking said back with the Patriots defense might cost upwards of 27% of your DFS budget this week against Washington. You may have noticed that they do not, in fact, have a reliable early-down banger—Sony Michel is barely useable on a team that always has a lead—so stacking the Pats' defense with pass-catching back James White won't break your budget.
We have that going for us, which is nice.
No RB-defense combination has a higher projected ceiling than James White ($6,200 FD/$5,000 DK) and the Patriots this week on DraftKings, and only one stack has a high ceiling on FanDuel. Washington hasn't given up a ton of receptions to enemy runners—teams aren't usually in a position to throw a whole lot against Jay Gruden's canceled squad—but White is reliably involved in the New England offense, drawing 22 targets through three games. White saw 10 targets last week against Buffalo. With New England's implied total of 28.75 points, going against a Washington defense giving up the sixth-most yards per play and 3.9 touchdowns per game, I like White's chances of getting in on the scoring action. White's ceiling, per the 4for4 floor and ceiling projection machine, is in line with running backs that cost $1,000 more than him on DraftKings.
The inevitable flood of horrifying game script for Washington will force either the dinged up Case Keenum or rookie Dwayne Haskins (who completed 52% of his passes and threw three picks last week against New York) to drop back time and again against the vultures in the New England secondary. The Patriots' Week 5 ceiling is well above any other team's best-case scenario, according to 4for4 projections, and only the lifeless Dolphins allow more schedule-adjusted fantasy points to opposing defenses than Washington. I'm willing to pay up here: only four teams turn the ball over more than Washington, and no one has more takeaways through four weeks than New England ($5,500 FD/$4,300 DK).
I feel compelled to mention Sony Michel ($6,600 FD/$5,500 DK) and the New England defense as a viable and (likely) low-owned DFS tournament stack against Washington since Michel has at least 15 carries in three of four games this season. White, of course, is far more appealing in DK's full PPR scoring. The Patriots and Michel have the third-highest projected ceiling on FanDuel this week.
Derrick Henry/Tennessee Titans
Combined percentage of FanDuel salary: 19.1%
Combined percentage of DraftKings salary: 18%
The Titans are at home, favored by three, and possibly facing Buffalo backup Matt Barkley. Even if Josh Allen suits up a week after the Patriots' defense tried to remove his head from his neck, Allen's splits are hopeful for those deploying the Titans defense: he's thrown 13 interceptions and completed a mere 50% of his passes in eight career losses.
The Titans ($4,800 FD/$3,000 DK), fantasy's fourth-highest scoring defense, have at least nine fantasy points in three of their four games. In short: If Marcus Mariota and the team's offense can create some semblance of decent game script, the Titans' defense can take advantage. Tennessee is averaging 1.5 takeaways per game and have sacked the quarterback on 8% of their defensive snaps—the seventh-highest rate in the NFL. They sport the week's third-highest projected ceiling, according to the 4for4 machine. I love their chances of hitting that ceiling (14.7 points on DraftKings and FanDuel) if they can grab a lead and force Barkley or Allen into a pass-heavy script.
Derrick Henry ($6,700 FD/$6,000 DK), meanwhile, is (almost) a lock for a touchdown in Tennessee victories. He's averaged 1.1 rushing scores on 17 carries in Titans wins since the beginning of the 2018 season. Volume and upside are our twin aims in this stacking space; that's exactly what we get with Henry. Only once in his past eight games has Henry failed to see 17 carries. The only way Henry won't see volume Sunday against Buffalo is if the Bills run roughshod over the Titans. I don't like those odds. Buffalo is allowing 25.6 schedule-adjusted fantasy points to running backs this season. Tee up Henry, the 17th-highest priced runner on the FanDuel main slate and the 16th priciest on DraftKings.
Combined percentage of FanDuel salary: 19.1%
Combined percentage of DraftKings salary: 19.0%
This seems reactionary, I know. Maybe it is reactionary. I don't know. Here's what I know: John Paulsen has projected Jordan Howard ($6,500 FD/$5,100 DK) higher than his backfield mate Miles Sanders ($6,000 FD/$4,500 DK), the matchup is right, and the likely game script very much favors at least one of the Eagles running backs to get solid opportunity against the Jets this week.
The Eagles, 13-point home favorites with a 28.25 point implied total, face off against a Jets team that could once again be quarterbacked by someone called Luke Faulk. It's true that Philly's defense ($4,900 FD/$3,700 DK) isn't getting to the quarterback and not producing a lot of takeaways, but they remain a strong option against Adam Gase's inept offense, which ranks last in yards per game and second to last in points per game. Only New England's defense has a higher projected ceiling than the Eagles in Week 5. Philadelphia's defense is $600 cheaper than the Pats on DraftKings and $500 cheaper on FanDuel.
Howard has 29 touches over the Eagles' past couple of games—contests that have featured neutral or positive game script throughout. Barring injury to Sanders, Howard won't be in line for a hefty workload here, but that might not matter in a game that could (should) be dominated by the Eagles. Jets' opponents are running the ball an average of 24.5 times against Gang Green, with the Jets allowing three rushing scores in three games. I suppose Sanders ($500 cheaper than Howard on FanDuel and $600 cheaper on DraftKings) is in play for stacking purposes with his team's defense, but we stick with RB1s in this space, and according to recent usage and Paulsen's Week 5 projections, Howard is the guy. The Howard-Eagles stack features the week's sixth-highest ceiling.