In addition to playing around with the projections, the Game Splits App, and understanding game flow, one of the ways I like to zero in on running backs for a given week is to roll up my sleeves and dig into the offensive and defensive line match-ups. While it’s beneficial to have a good grasp on team level rushing metrics, it’s just as important to learn where a team is doing well with respect to directional runs in comparison to the opposition match-ups.
Football Outsiders’ Offensive Line and Defensive Line YTD performance is the best place I’ve found to really get granular in the trenches and learn which players will have an edge, and which players appear to be over matched. I’m mainly looking at Adjusted Line Yards, yards earned and allowed by position along the line, as well as yards earned and allowed at the second level and in the open field. The site offers a brief primer, so I won’t go into them further here.
It’s important to note that these metrics aren’t available until Week 2 each year, and even though they’re now available, these should be taken with a grain of salt as we’re obviously dealing with a small sample size thus far. But we’re starting to see trends develop, and we’re starting to see where teams run most effectively (or ineffectively), which can also help determine which running back within a RBBC might be best suited to take on a feature role based on the defensive line draw.
Another way to use this data is to help break ties within RB tiers. For instance, I might be trying to pin-point whether I want to play Le’Veon Bell or Adrian Peterson in DFS this week. I’ve already taken a look at the Vegas data and know that I’m comfortable using either one based on anticipated game flow, point spread, over/under, etc. Sure, I can simply look at team rushing DVOA, but how do the two teams facing one another specifically match-up? After going through the O-line information:
- I know that the Steelers have run 70 percent of their run plays up the middle for 4.66 ALYs, however,
- The Rams are yielding a respectablly stingy 3.12 yards in the same area.
- The Vikings also run majority of their plays up the middle,
- And the Chargers are allowing 5.17 yards up the gut.
- Both the Rams and the Chargers aren’t as strong on the right side of their defensive line, and both seem like feasible attack plans.
- The Chargers are allowing a little bit more wiggle room in both the second level and in the open field vs. the Rams.
- The Vikings haven’t been running to the left as much as it would appear they should be, but there could be fireworks if they realize this and keep feeding Peterson behind his left tackle.
- There’s enough above to make me feel okay starting Peterson this week given the matchup, and let Bell likely be owned at a higher percentage in a lesser match-up.
There are some really good nuggets in this data, but I just wanted to get this data out as I know it’s late in the week. A few quick notes:
- They have to travel through a couple time zones, but based on match-up alone, Latavius Murray could absolutely shred the Browns this weekend.
- The Patriots are getting worked in the run game; it’s too bad the Jaguars have been equally horrific on the ground.
- I was admittedly thinking about whether or not Devonta Freeman would be a good low cost volume play this weekend. The Cowboys have been pretty dominant in the trenches, and the Falcons only sign of life isn’t playing (Tevin Coleman). You do not want to play Freeman this week, unless you’re sure he’s going to be targeted a ton out of the backfield. This is just not a good match-up for Freeman. At all.
- The Cardinals are in a really good spot this week vs. the 49ers. If you think that Bruce Arians might finally gain a little sense, David Johnson could have a really nice week.
- You couldn’t possibly pay me to play Ryan Mathews against the Jets, even without DeMarco Murray.
- Fire up Bilal Powell. He’s in a really good spot.
I’ve included the data images below, and here’s the link to the Google Sheet.
Good luck this weekend.