I’m a value seeker when looking for futures. I’ll take a few of the most obvious bets on the board, but I’m also out there looking for the rare +500 bets and above to throw a few bones at and hope it skyrockets into a large sum.
Earlier last month, we took a look at some of my favorite picks among receivers to lead the league in receiving yards. This article is going to follow that similar structure breaking down the top candidates, surprise plays from the secondary tier, and then favorite overall value bet.
Remember, futures bets are generally risky propositions. Even just missing one game due to injury puts a player significantly at a disadvantage. The highest “favorite” as rushing leader is still listed at +260 odds.
Note: All odds listed below are from MyBookie.
The early top contenders here are Ezekiel Elliott (+260) and Saquon Barkley (+300).
Since entering the league in 2016, nobody has more rushing yards than Elliott (4,048). Even more impressive is that he’s done this despite playing just 40-of-48 possible games. In the two seasons he’s played 15 games (2016 and 2018), he led the league in rushing both times. Adding Amari Cooper to the Cowboys offense mid-season actually led to an even greater rushing workload for Zeke. His carries per game climbed from 18.3 per game without Cooper up to 25.4 carries per game in the final eight games with Cooper in the lineup. The Cowboys offensive line gets center Travis Frederick back in the mix to solidify an already strong offensive line. I’m honestly surprised +260 are the current odds and it’s not lower.
The problem with Barkley (+300) and his current odds are that the Giants are very likely to be facing negative gamescript for most of their games. Their defense has very few playmakers and should be a sieve to opposing offenses. That’s going to take the Giants out of rushing situations and force the team to pass. I’d much rather invest in Barkley as a yards from scrimmage prop bet leader. He led the league in this category last season (2,028) narrowly beating Zeke (2,001). Barkley could be in line for even more receptions this season in a year where the Giants should have difficulty matching last year’s five wins. I’m not biting on this rushing prop one bit.
The next tier has some interesting candidates that kind of surprised me when going through this list.
After taking a year off, Le’Veon Bell (+1,200) makes his Jets debut this season in 2019. He’s an interesting proposition here at +1,200. On one hand, the Jets offensive line under-performed across the board last year in giving their running backs a chance at success:
Adding Kelechi Osemele at left guard should help this line. Osemele was a rising star in Baltimore before a three-year stint in Oakland stunted his progression. If he can get back to 2015/2016 form, the left side of the line should be vastly improved. The Jets also have one of the easiest run schedules in terms of SOS. Bell’s hesitating, patient, stutter-step-and-explode type of running style may take some getting used to in the early part of the season, but don’t be surprised if the running game looks much improved during the second half of the season. The Jet’s run schedule during the final six weeks is loaded with soft competition.
Tied for the third-highest odds, Derrick Henry (+1,200) was an interesting candidate up this high. Vegas looks to be extremely bullish on the way Henry finished the 2018 campaign. During the final month of December, Henry rushed for 585 yards in a four-game span. He reached the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his three-year career. Consistency is the biggest question mark for the Titans entering the 2019 season. Can Henry’s explosive December carry over to a full season? Prior to that four-game stretch, Henry averaged less than 40 rushing yards per game over his career. That’s an extremely stark contrast to his 146.3 YPG December in 2018. Look for a future #FridayFantasyFocus with me diving more in-depth on this topic.
The arthritic Todd Gurley (+1,400) comes in with the fifth-highest odds here. Everything we’ve heard this offseason is pointing toward the Rams dialing back Gurley’s usage to keep him fresh throughout the year. I’m struggling to find a reason for taking this bet as it just looks like an easy fade.
Henry’s name surprised me on this list, but I think including Nick Chubb (+1,600) this high was even more surprising. Chubb has a chance to see the bulk of the Browns’ rushing work early in the season, but Kareem Hunt returns to the fold in Week 10 with a chance to siphon off some of the rushing work. Hunt has been one of the more consistent fantasy options since entering the league, averaging 19.8 PPG and having a coefficient of variation (CV) of 53.4% over the past two years — 16th-highest among 51 qualifying backs. While it’s anyone’s guess how the backfield will be split between these two and Duke Johnson at this point, what we do know is that the Browns HC Freddie Kitchens comes from an “Air Croyell” offensive system and that OC Todd Monken stems from the “Air Raid”. It shouldn’t shock anyone if the Browns elect to use the run to supplement the pass. Chubb should dominate the first half of the year with a possiblity of cresting the rushing leaderboard, but the second half of the season should see him ultimately fall short of the rushing title.
I’m going to list two of my favorite bets here for different reasons.
If we take out the Week 13 Chargers game that James Conner (+2,800) left early, Conner was on pace for a 1,200-plus rushing season. There’s certainly room for growth there considering how well Conner did in his first year starting and the peripheral advanced stats that Conner excelled in. His 2018 CV% of 46.5% ranked eighth best in the study previously mentioned above on week-to-week consistency. He owned the Steelers backfield, seeing 84.8% of the running back snaps, 87.0% of the RB carries, and 76.1% of the RB targets. Pittsburgh also has the second-easiest run SOS per my findings. Additional volume merited by Conner’s progression combined with the Steelers’ soft schedule isn’t a realistic proposition. The Steelers have operated through a bellcow running back for each year dating back to Bell’s arrival in the league (2013). If they continue that philosophy in 2019 — and we’ve recently explicitly heard Conner stating he’ll have a similar role in 2019 — then this wager could pay off handsomely.
These odds are just outrageous ones, but I don’t mind throwing even just $10 bucks at David Montgomery(+15,000). The Bears offense had the sixth-highest run play percentage last season (45.2%) and their offensive line has had four of the five starters playing together since 2016. Montgomery shattered NCAA records in terms of missed tackles forced, sporting two of the top-three seasons recorded. He has Mike Davis to beat for pure RB1 touches, but it’s not unrealistic to see the Bears opt for the third-round rookie as their lead back after trading up in the draft to acquire him. Jordan Howard has slugged his way to multiple 1,000-yard seasons behind this line despite a career yards per carry of just 4.3. Montgomery’s combination of elusiveness, vision, and workhorse potential could see him be among the league’s top rushing leaders by season’s end given their top-10 easiest run SOS. Why not throw a few bones at him being the rushing leader at such outrageous odds?