The Long Gain: Bargain running backs to target in week 3

by Zach Krueger ·

If there’s one thing we’ve learned by now as consumers of advanced stats and metrics, it’s that they do little in the way of predicting touchdowns. Potential opportunity is a bit easier to spot. We saw it last week when both Sony Michel and Matt Breida were chosen as two of the three bargain buys in Week 2, and both came up a little shy of falling into RB1 territory. Michel saw a 56.8-percent Opportunity Share among Patriots running backs last week, yet still finished as the RB22. While Matt Breida saw only a 27.7-percent Opportunity Share, yet finished as the RB16 due to his explosive running style but also his failure to find the end zone.

Throughout this weekly series, we will continue to push to find players with ample opportunity, big play potential or a combination of the two. This week, we’ve dug DEEP to find three players who should be the truest of bargain buys a fantasy gamer has ever found if they hit this weekend. Where will these crafty veterans and rising stars take us in Week 3?

Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos

Draft Kings: $4400
FanDuel: $5900

Royce Freeman was hampered by an ankle sprain suffered in Week 7 last season. It caused him to miss two games in his rookie campaign, and limited him to only 9.9 touches per game after he returned. While we’re only two weeks into the 2019 season, the former third round draft pick finally looks healthy and is already outperforming last year’s undrafted free agent stud Philip Lindsay. Last week, against a stout Bears defense, Lindsay out touched Freeman 17 to 16. It was Freeman who had the last laugh though, racking up 102 total yards to Lindsay’s 66. Freeman has out gained Lindsay in total yards (163 to 122) despite having five fewer touches. Despite the marginal touch difference, it shouldn’t surprise us that Royce Freeman is finally outproducing Lindsay. This is what should be expected when stacking a 6-0, 229-pound running back up against a 5-foot-7, 184-pound back.

Royce Freeman Advanced Stats and Metrics Profile

The most overlooked quality that Freeman brings to the table is his receiving skills out of the backfield. He saw only 20 targets (1.4 targets per game) last season, which felt a bit on the low end for a player who had an 8.3-percent (60th-percentile) College Target Share. He is well on pace to eclipse his mark for targets set in his rookie year, having already seen eight passes come his way while currently averaging four targets per game. This week, he goes up against a Packers defense that has surrendered +2.33 fantasy points above league average (No. 11) to opposing running backs. He will look to continue his emergence as Denver’s top back.

Frank Gore, RB, Buffalo Bills

Draft Kings: $4400

Every season we have a chance to watch the corpse of Frank Gore thrust his hand up from a shallow grave, only to re-emerge as a top back in what feels like his 20th season in the league. Entering his age 36 season, he is now a 15-year veteran of the NFL. Despite the excitement surrounding Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary, Gore has doubled his touches through the first two weeks.

Check out Frank Gore on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:

It’s hard to justify Gore dominating the Bills backfield in touches after posting 3.2 (No. 48 among qualified running backs) Yards Per Touch thus far. However, Gore seeing a significant Opportunity Share is among the only guarantees in football heading into Week 3. Singletary suffered a hamstring injury late in his Week 2 matchup against the Giants, which is likely to leave him sidelined this week against the Bengals. With the only running back who was threatening Gore for touches potentially being sidelined, and the Bills facing a Bengals defense that has allowed a league-leading +18.23 fantasy points above league average to opposing running backs, Gore may have one more big game left in the tank. Don’t miss out on what may be his last chance at an RB1 week!

Ty Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions

Draft Kings: $3000
FanDuel: $4500

Kerryon Johnson hasn’t gotten off to the booming start that fantasy gamers hoped for when drafting him in round two. He snuck his way into the RB10 spot last week after scoring a 32-yard receiving touchdown. His 4.7 Yards Per Touch on the season lives a bit to be desired. If you look close enough, you will notice his rookie teammate Ty Johnson. Thanks to his 4.45 (92nd-percentile) 40-yard dash, he’s quickly gaining on Kerryon for touches in this Detroit backfield. He toted the rock seven times in Week 2, compared to the one touch he had in Week 1. A key component to (Ty) Johnson’s increased work load that is now missing in Week 3 is C.J. Anderson. Following a Week 2 performance in which he had five carries for eight rushing yards and no receptions, Anderson was released.

Ty Johnson Advanced Stats and Metrics Profile

Johnson brings a strong athletic profile to the Lions with his 107.1 (86th-percentile) Speed Score and 120.2 (59th-percentile) Burst Score. While his 7.0 (93rd-percentile) College YPC lends reason to believe that he could flourish in an expanded role. If there was ever a buy low window for a cheap DFS running back, this is it. He broke off a 17-yard run last week against the Chargers and hauled in two passes for an additional six yards. He’s clearly shown enough to make the Lions feel comfortable in releasing Anderson. Throwing him into your weekly lineups given his current price will create the ultimate upside for you should he manage to see a significant increase in touches. He’s an interesting Week 3 tournament play who brings high upside given his cost efficient price and potential to tear off a play for a big gain.