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It’s Time to Flip Marlon Mack; Plus 6 Other Dynasty RB Takeaways from Week 1

Week 1 provides a huge influx of extremely valuable information to fantasy owners. But that information is also filled with noise. Using the RotoViz Screener and NFL Stat Explorer, I’m cutting through the noise to deliver dynasty advice on seven RBs.1

As a quick refresher, EP stands for Expected Points (PPR), and is calculated using the line of scrimmage for each carry or target a player received. FPOE stands for Fantasy Points over Expectation, and is a measure of player efficiency. As workload is generally stickier than efficiency, we want to identify situations where player value may be out of line with the workload we expect going forward.  

Sell High

Marlon Mack

Marlon Mack absolutely crushed in Week 1, but his performance came with multiple red flags. First of all, Mack had a ridiculous 13.1 FPOE as a rusher. This was the second-highest overperformance on the ground in Week 1, and the second-highest FPOE of Mack’s career.

Second, Mack’s 12.3 EP — while not horrible — came entirely on the ground, as Mack was not targeted in the game.

Far from answering our concerns about him, Week 1 reinforced worries that Mack will be limited to a rushing-only role, thereby becoming heavily reliant on game script and occasional outbursts of efficiency.

Looking Ahead

Mack faces a Tennessee defense in Week 2 that absolutely stomped Cleveland. He’s likely to post significantly worse efficiency on a smaller workload.

How to Play It

Shop Mack as a late second-round dynasty value this week, and accept deals that put him at a third-round valuation.

After Week 1, Stefon Diggs might be in reach in RB heavy leagues. Calvin Ridley+ could also be possible. Tyler Boyd-plus, Copper Kupp-plus, or Robert Woods-plus should all be fairly easily accomplished. Mack bailed you out in Week 1 with a great performance, but let him try and repeat his heroics on a new roster.

9/11/19 Update:

If the one league where I owned him is representative, I overestimated Mack’s market. However, I was able to flip Mack straight up for Robert Woods tonight. Woods is likely to have similar PPR output this season and is safely tied to the Rams offense through 2021.

Mark Ingram

Ingram had a healthy 12.9 EP in Week 1 and tacked on 9.8 FPOE for a juicy PPR total of 22.7 points.

Moreover, Ingram was the clear lead back before the game got completely out of hand. Although Gus Edwards actually had a higher EP than Ingram on the day, Edwards accumulated 64% of his EP in the second half. Ingram meanwhile racked up 82% of his EP before the Ravens went to the half with a 42 to 10 lead.

That said — no Ravens RB was targeted in this game.

There are much worse days ahead for Ingram if this offense won’t be regularly utilizing RBs in the passing game. And Baltimore won’t be able to steamroll future opponents like they did Miami.

Looking Ahead

Ingram gets Arizona in Week 2 as a huge home favorite. He’s no-brainer start and should continue to roll as the Ravens look to control the game against a bad Cardinals defense. He then gets another great matchup (on paper) against the Chiefs. However, if Ingram is not going to be involved as a pass-catcher, this could be the game when Ingram turns into a pumpkin.

How to Play It

Despite the plus Week 2 matchup, I recommend shopping Ingram aggressively on Ravens hype. After Week 1, you may be able to trade him straight up for a WR like Christian Kirk, Tyler Lockett or Courtland Sutton.

If you can’t get anyone to bite, simply plug Ingram back into your starting lineup, but closely monitor his targets in Week 2.

Latavius Murray

Murray had a strong fantasy outing in Week 1, posting 12.7 PPR points. However, Murray’s night was made on big runs (highlighted by his 30-yard scamper for a TD).

But Week 1 looks very bearish for Murray when looking at EP. Murray had just 6.3 EP compared to 16.8 for Alvin Kamara. This is much closer to the 4.6 EP that Murray averaged last season when Dalvin Cook played than it was to Ingram’s old role. As you can see below, in his two years sharing the backfield with Alvin Kamara, Ingram bested 6.3 EP in 27 of 28 games played.

His only exception? Week 17 of last year when the 13-2 Saints gave him just 19 snaps with Teddy Bridgewater at QB.

And Ingram still managed to rack up just one less expected point than Murray had on Monday night.

Looking Ahead

Murray travels to LA to face a Rams team freshly eviscerated by Christian McCaffrey in Week 2, so there’s no need to panic sell here. It’s possible his value increases further.

How to Play It

Murray looks like a perfect player to include in a two-for-one package to an RB-needy team. Week 1 was highly concerning for his future value, but your league mates may not see it that way.

Given his matchup in Week 2 and PPR total in Week 1, you should hold out for value at least slightly above his pre-season ADP. But assuming you can get that, he’s a strong sell.

Wait for a Sell Window

Kerryon Johnson

As someone with an ungodly amount of Cardinals exposure in my high stakes portfolio, I was glued to this game. And frankly, if Johnson was going to smash this season, he would have done so in this spot. For three quarters the Cardinals offense was an absolute train wreck, setting up the Lions to control the clock with their workhorse RB.

Except that’s not what they did at all.

Despite running 80 plays (second on the week to only the Cardinals) and rushing the ball 32 times (the fourth highest total of the week) the Lions provided Johnson with just 10.1 EP — comprised of 16 carries and two targets. This was due to an unexpected three way committee with C.J. Anderson and J.D. McKissic, costing Johnson both carries and targets.

Anderson saw 11 carries — stealing 5.4 rushing EP, while McKissic saw two targets — stealing 2.9 receiving EP. All told, the RB EP for the Lions was a healthy 18.92 but Kerryon Johnson was only able to secure 53% of the workload.

As you can see below, a game dripping with potential opportunity for Johnson,3 ultimately became his fourth-worst EP total since entering the league:

 

It’s important to keep in mind that Johnson’s ADP (in both dynasty and redraft) was not reflective of his past production and role. He was drafted on his potential to take a leap in 2019. So far, the odds of that happening look considerably worse than they did a week ago.

Looking Ahead

All is not lost with Johnson. The Lions play a Chargers team whom the Colts ran all over in Week 1. And Johnson also had two targets this week, indicating that he will at least be used in both facets of the game.

How to Play It

Shop Johnson at preseason value or at a slight discount. But if the trades aren’t there, hold through at least Week 2. Johnson also has potential shootouts in Week 3 (Eagles) and Week 4 (Chiefs) that could boost his value, particularly if the Lions continue to throw him the ball.

Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley‘s Week 1 workload was nearly a worst case scenario. Gurley had just 14 attempts to Malcolm Brown‘s 11 and saw just a single target. His combined workload was a measly 7.6 EP, his worst in the Sean McVay era.

However, I see two reasons for retaining some optimism going forward. First, Gurley was highly efficient with his touches, gaining 101 yards on 15 opportunities. If the Rams were concerned about what Gurley could do once fully rested, he passed that test with flying colors.

And second, Darrell Henderson was completely uninvolved — seeing just one attempt and zero targets.

Looking Ahead

Sentiment on Gurley already leaned pessimistic heading into the season, and two lost goal-line TDs to Brown has only made things worse. Luckily, Gurley faces a Saints team in Week 2 that just allowed 8.3 YPC to Carlos Hyde and 6.3 YPC to Duke Johnson.

How to Play It

Gurley is a hold for now, but look to sell if he overperforms a similar workload in Week 2. Pay close attention to his opportunities within the 10-yard line.

Buy Low

Miles Sanders

Miles Sanders had a rough fantasy outing in Week 1, scoring just 3.7 PPR points. However, Sanders had a fantastic week if we’re looking purely at his long term prospects. First, Sanders clearly led the backfield with 11.3 EP to 8.4 for Darren Sproles and just 7 for Jordan Howard. Second, the Sanders owner in your league may not know that Sanders had a spectacular 21-yard TD run called back on a holding penalty.  It didn’t count for fantasy, but I’m willing to bet it factors into who sees RB snaps going forward.

Sproles’ workload (nine carries and three targets) is definitely a concern, particularly if you’d need production from Sanders right away. But at 36 years of age, Sproles is unlikely to maintain his Week 1 usage for the entire season. Some of the work he eventually cedes will go to Jordan Howard, but Sanders saw 62% of the Sanders/Howard workload, so any additional work likely favors Sanders.

Looking Ahead

Sanders has plus matchups over the next two weeks with the Eagles first traveling to Altanta and then home for the Lions.

How to Play It

This is might be the last good opportunity to aggressively send offers for Sanders. He looks to be ahead of Howard in the rotation, and should start producing double-digit fantasy totals as soon as next week.

Ronald Jones

Ronald Jones is my highest owned player in dynasty, so I was delighted to see him look like an absolute stud as a rusher on Sunday. And it probably didn’t hurt that his only target was a tackle-breaking 18 yard pickup on 3rd and 17, while Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale were each targeted on pick-six interceptions. He was also the only one of the three to post positive FPOE on the day.

Unfortunately, the Buccaneers backfield was the true three-headed committee that many feared it would be, with Barber leading in EP with 9.2, Jones second with 8.6 and Dare Ogunbowale adding 7.6.

You’ll still need to believe in Jones as a player in order to invest. But Sunday definitely added to the case for Jones as a vastly underrated talent.

Looking Ahead

Jones faces a Carolina team in Week 2 that allowed strong efficiency to both Rams RBs in Week 1. He then gets a Giants defense that Dallas just gutted.

How to Play It

Jones isn’t a classic buy low, because he’s coming off a strong start. But I was able to trade for Jones just before the season at throw-in prices, so even if his price has increased since then, he’s still far too cheap.

Jones is probably best targeted in package deals to disguise your interest. But his owner may be secretly delighted to find a buyer for his once toxic asset.

Make sure to act quickly, as Jones is on a short week.

Image Credit: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Marlon Mack.

  1. This is largely applicable to redraft as well, although my final recommendations will have a dynasty focus.  (back)
  2. including a carry for Ty Johnson worth 0.5 EP.  (back)
  3. Phrasing.  (back)

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