Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner

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Fantasy Plays: Injuries Mean Good Pricing For Backup RBs

December 05, 2018 - 1:18 pm
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With so many season-long leagues shifting to their playoffs, lots of fantasy players are turning toward daily game — especially if they're no longer contending for the title.

And key injuries like those to running backs James Conner, Matt Breida and Melvin Gordon have created opportunities in daily fantasy without the downside seen in seasonal leagues.

Here are a few situations that will be pivotal in Week 14:

JAMES CONNER

The Pittsburgh running back having a strong year replacing Le'Veon Bell is out against Oakland with a sprained left ankle, creating a huge opportunity for Jaylen Samuels. Samuels is a top five value in DailyRoto's projections at his price for both FanDuel ($4,600) and DraftKings ($3,700). While head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Conner will be replaced by a committee, Samuels has the most appeal. Samuels averaged five catches a game during his senior year at NC State and will be the first back targeted in the passing game and 2-minute offense. Samuels has outsnapped Stevan Ridley 2-1 over the previous few weeks and even with a conservative projection of 50 percent of rushing attempts, he projects for top five value. While a "fade" or pivoting off of Samuels may be viable on FanDuel, where touchdowns are critical, he should be a staple of DraftKings cash games and tournament lineups this weekend.

MATT BREIDA

With Samuels a trendy option, one name that could fly under the radar as a pivot is 49ers running back Jeff Wilson, who costs just $5,600 on Fanduel and $3,800 on DraftKings. When Matt Breida went down with an injury in Week 13 it was Wilson who emerged, playing on 73 percent of snaps and getting 15 carries and eight catches. With San Francisco again projected to be playing from behind, Wilson could receive more checkdowns from Nick Mullens. They key to watch with Wilson will be the news around Alfred Morris and Matthew Dayes. Both were inactive last week, leading to Wilson's large workload. If either are inactive again this week it could be a sign that San Francisco is willing to trust the undrafted free agent with a heavy workload. Like Samuels, Wilson was a strong receiver in college with over 500 yards on 70 receptions and could be particularly valuable in the point-per-reception format on DraftKings.

The other benefit of Wilson is his game starting in the late afternoon window. Both FanDuel and DraftKings offer the ability to use late swaps, allowing you to edit rosters for games that have not yet started. Samuels will be the highest owned player this week and savvy fantasy owners who need to catch up to their opponents will leverage late swaps to pivot off Samuels to Wilson.

MELVIN GORDON

Gordon projects to remain out again in Week 14 and Austin Ekeler eased any doubts about his workload in Week 13, playing on 78 percent of snaps. Some fantasy owners may be scared off by his results, ending with just 43 yards, but his workload is encouraging with 13 rushing attempts and eight targets. On the season, Ekeler is averaging 0.35 fantasy points per snap, which is higher than a few notable names, including Christian McCaffrey, James Conner, Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Mixon and David Johnson. Ekeler is particularly attractive at a $6,700 FanDuel price and also a strong play at $6,200 on DraftKings. Look for Ekeler to provide a strong boost in a game where the Chargers have a 31-point implied team total and are 14-point home favorites.