NFL | Spotlight: PlayLine Running Backs | Week 4

On Saturday afternoon, I ran a one hour Twitter poll asking my followers what I should write about in this spotlight. You voted for running backs, but it was an extremely close vote with 39% RBs, 35% WRs, and 26% QBs. Quarterback was below 10% until Riddick Bowe started telling people he would beat their ass if they didn’t vote for quarterback. Riddick, I’m sorry quarterback didn’t win. You are welcome to DM me for quarterback advice if you promise not to beat up any of my followers.

If you’re wondering what PlayLine is, it’s a DFS site that asks you to predict exact stat lines for players. You earn bonuses based on how close your predictions are to their real stats. I’ve found it to be quite a fun sweat, as the live scoring shows you a meter of where their current stats are and what you predicted. If you predict Le’Veon Bell for 75 yards and he’s at 68 in the 3rd quarter, you suddenly find yourself rooting against him so he doesn’t go way over and bust your prediction. Speaking of Bell, I’m giving away his signed jersey on Twitter right here so make sure you retweet that before the Steelers game ends on Sunday.

One of the most fun aspects of PlayLine right now is that it’s free to play, and if you guess all the stat lines correctly in any given contest, you win a million dollars. Last week, someone was about four or five yards away on a couple wide receivers. I can only imagine how intense it was to watch the end of those games for that person.

If you already have an account, I recommend opening the contest called Week 4 1PM/4PM Featured RBs. If you don’t have an account yet, click here to open the page in a new tab.

Once you open the Week 4 Featured RBs contest, it should look like this:


If anyone who works at Twitter is reading this, peep the blue check in the top right of the screen. PlayLine verified my account. Follow suit.

Back to the contest. The scoring is available where it says PlayLine Rules & Scoring, but to make sure we’re all on the same page I’m going to post it right here:

As you can see, you gain the most points if your yardage projection is close. This is a good scoring system because when touchdowns are overvalued (looking at you FanDuel) then luck plays a much larger factor.

The last thing we should consider before making our picks is the breakdown of the payouts. We know we’d like to be spot on and win a million dollars, but we also know how math works and we’re probably not going to accomplish that. So here’s the money we actually have a good chance to bring in:

As you can see, it’s pretty front-loaded. This gives us a justifiable reason to make some bold calls in pursuit of first place. It’s also completely free to enter these contests and there are a bunch of them in the lobby, so if you submit contrarian PlayLines into every contest you’ve got a decent shot to win some free money.

Now that we understand how this works, we can start making the picks. If you already knew everything I just told you, thanks for your patience as I brought the noobs up to speed. It’s a great time in DFS to be taking advantage of the newer sites while DraftKings and FanDuel raise the rake to record highs, so I just want to make sure none of my followers miss out.

Leading off our running back discussion will be Le’Veon Bell. Season-long fantasy players can’t be happy with their first two picks so far. In all likelihood, they have Bell or David Johnson, and neither guy has been worth their draft spot so far. That being said, I expect Bell to be just fine. His issue thus far seems to be more about the game flow rather than a sudden decrease in his abilities. For starters, the Steelers only have one running play inside the 5-yard-line this season. They converted it for Bell’s only touchdown. For whatever reason, the Steelers aren’t getting inside the 5 this year, severely limiting Bell’s opportunities to score touchdowns. On the bright side, only Kareem Hunt is receiving a higher percentage of his team’s carries in the red zone, which means Bell is due to regress positively. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to project him for one or two touchdowns on your PlayLine. Two would obviously be more contrarian and give you more upside, but if he got zero, you wouldn’t even get the 25 points for being one away. Picking one gives you the most safety for touchdowns because you’ll get some points for zero or two, and of course you’re spot on if he gets one. You’ll find this theme to be pervasive throughout the touchdown projections, meaning that I think one touchdown is often the right projection, especially when PlayLine eventually offers paid cash games.

For Bell’s yardage, we don’t think there’s a team out there that can overpower the Steelers’ offensive line in the trenches. They’ve been getting Bell 2.27 yards before contact this year, which is quite good. The Ravens’ run defense is pretty average on paper. The Steelers have a well above average ground game, which means Bell should have a solid outing. While his yardage totals haven’t blown anybody away this season, I think he’s due for some positive regression. I recommend projecting his yardage total somewhere between 80-120. His season average is around 60, so we’re high on him relative to what he’s done so far.

Moving on to Melvin Gordon, this is the toughest one to project. On one hand, his 66% snap percentage isn’t very impressive for an upper tier running back. On the other hand, he touches the ball over 45% of the time when he’s on the field. He gets all of the goal line work, which drastically increases his value for fantasy owners, but for PlayLine we’re just in the business of making the right projection. We aren’t deciding if he’s worth playing or not, we’re deciding how much production we should expect out of him. As we discussed before with Bell, one touchdown is probably the correct choice here. Although the Eagles have been hurt my running backs this year, we think their run defense is much better than the Chargers’ run blocking. Gordon offers value to fantasy owners by catching a lot of passes, as shown by his 12 receptions in the first two games. His elite overall fantasy numbers probably mean that not many people will be willing to give him a projection below 50 rushing yards, but we think it’s not a bad idea. You could project him anywhere from 30-70, but the lower you are willing to go the more you will separate yourself. It’s very important to understand that Gordon can be a strong play in fantasy football where total points are all that matters, but it could still be a smart move to project him for a mediocre day in terms of rushing yards.

The next guy to analyze is CJ Anderson. This is a pretty average matchup for him, but with Trevor Siemian and the Broncos’ receivers in a great matchup through the air, we don’t expect a monster game from Anderson. Project him for about 30-60 yards and you’ll probably be fine. We also think Anderson is the guy you want to project for zero touchdowns in this contest. He’s been receiving 2.3 carries per game inside the 5 yard line, which is crazy high, and he’s only converting 14% for touchdowns, which is crazy low. Look for Siemian to take advantage of the weak Oakland secondary, which will probably limit CJ Anderson’s overall stat line.

The last running back in this contest is Todd Gurley. Gurley could have a very solid day if the Rams can keep the score close. The crowd seems to be thinking the Cowboys will crush the Rams and therefore they’ll be throwing a lot, but I think the Rams can hang in there. This is where I plan to go contrarian on the high end and project Gurley for 80-120 yards just like Bell. I think the Rams’ offensive line will create plenty of holes for Gurley against the Cowboys’ front seven, and if they can stay in the game or even grab an early lead, they should be leaning on the ground game. Project Gurley for one or even two touchdowns if you want to go contrarian.

I hope you liked this breakdown and if the feedback is good I’ll try to do one of these each week for the position you guys most want me to cover. I think PlayLine has a fun concept and obviously the fact that it’s free makes it even more fun. I’ll keep my eye out for other new DFS sites as I feel like there are so many good ones popping up and I’ve been told by a lot of my followers that they’re really enjoying FantasyDraft since I wrote that article explaining why I started playing on there. Feel free to DM me if you play on any site that everyone doesn’t already know about. Have fun watching the games this weekend and make sure you join me in the DFS Week 4 War Room on DFIUniversity.com to talk more about the slate and get my favorite bets for the games this weekend.

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