8 Ways to Win with Running Back Props
Running backs are one of the keys to success in fantasy football but often times, you’re banking on season-long performance. If you’re looking for more immediate gratification, betting on running back props at a sportsbook is ideal.
While fantasy football often focuses on the overall performance of a running back and mostly only rewards you for success, you have far more options with betting. You can pick one area of a back’s performance to bet on and you can bet on whether they’ll outperform or underperform what the oddsmakers are thinking.
Let’s dive into the strategy of betting on running back props because there is good money to be made – especially by those who know fantasy football inside out.
Learn The Rotation
There are some situations in the NFL where there’s a workhorse running back and the rest of the depth chart just gets scraps. However, these types of rotations are growing fewer and fewer as teams opt for a one-two punch. Many times, the one-two punch also comes with a third-down back who is in the picture.
When you’re looking at running back props like Anytime Touchdown or over-unders for yards, you have to be apprised of what the rotations are. Does the team switch by series? Does the team opt for one back when they’re leading and another when they’re trailing? Does the coaching staff have the backs on a pitch count?
Understanding the rotation is the first step to having success here. If you know that a team likes to deploy their backs, you’ll be in far better position to
- The Roles Are Key – understand who is the lead dog in the backfield, who is the backup and who comes in for blocking or receiving on third downs. Sometimes it’s one player who fills multiple roles but sometimes there’s no alpha.
- Who’s The Goal Line Back? – Many props are related to scoring, so you want to know who the team opts to use primarily as the goal line back. To find out, you can read various fantasy news sites like Rotowire for player updates or check the game logs/player histories of the running backs on the team on a site like ESPN.
- Who’s The Third Down Back? – This role is crucial for a lot of receiving props. You want to know who serves as the team’s primary receiver out of the backfield. That can guide you as to what might be a good bet for an over-under on running back receptions, receiving yards or receiving touchdowns.
What’s The Expected Game Flow?
There’s a sneaky way to make a little correlation from the regular game betting lines to props (or even to fantasy football): it’s from looking at the total.
When you’re thinking about player performance stats, the total can serve as a guide as to what way you want to go with . If you see a total that’s in the range of 55 to 60, that would indicate that the oddsmakers are thinking it will be a high-scoring game. In that scenario, you might want to consider over on the props for the running backs. More points likely means more yards and offense. However, if the game total is sitting at something like 35, it suggests the game will be low-scoring. In that case, unders for a lot of the running back props would be a wiser investment.
Midweek Reports Can Provide Clues
Running back situations can be pretty murky these days. It might seem like there’s a lead dog in a backfield but many times, the coaching staff will go with the hot hand on Sunday. That makes it tough to make your decisions early in the week. One thing that a lot of sharp bettors will do is stay plugged into the depth charts, mid-week practice reports and see what the coaches are saying. In many cases, you also want to read into what the running back or offensive coaches are saying. The head coach might be mysterious about the situation but the offensive coordinator or running backs coach might give you some more direct information.
One of the best tells tends to be how the running backs are practicing. Who is running with the first team or who is getting the first snaps when practice starts? Monitor these reports, local news and Twitter can help you get an edge.
Who’s The Opponent?
While the total is one piece of the puzzle, knowing the opponent is another consideration you have to make. Just because the total says there will be lots of points doesn’t mean it’ll be your team or players doing the scoring.
The Saints defense in the 2nd half of last season:
-2nd in DVOA
-1st in yds/play
-1st in opp passer rating
-4th in EPA/play pic.twitter.com/YPyYYADWOT
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 15, 2023
A good place to do some research on these is the official NFL.com stats section or a place like ESPN. There you can go in and start to dissect how teams perform against running backs. Some defenses are pretty stout against the run, so maybe that’s where you start to look at unders for rushing yards or rushing scores. Some defenses actually struggle with receiving running backs and that’s something that can also be evident in the stats. This is sometimes tough to gauge early in the season but as the games play out, you’ll start to see patterns. However, as the more games are finished and more data comes in, you’ll start to see the patterns.
Outlier’s Trends Can Reinforce Your Decisions
Building on the last point, you can do a lot of the work manually if you like but leaning on Outlier’s tools can not only save you time but unearth more opportunities. If you’re doing the digging yourself, you have to go through each game and each matchup to find where there might be an edge. However, one of the best aspects of Outlier is that it will find a lot of these opportunities for you. All you have to do is login and you’ll be presented with a number of trending player props right in front of you.
When you’re doing your research, you’ll want to make sure that Outlier is one of your stops for one of two reasons: either it’ll help support your decision and that means it’s probably a good bet, or it’ll disagree and help you steer clear from something that maybe it’s such a great play.
Take note of the green and red tabs underneath each trending player prop. You’ll see that the trends will point you in the right direction as green means go whereas red might be something you should avoid.
Track The Injury Reports
Running backs are among the most battered and bruised players on the NFL field. Each week, they take a pounding, which means they’re often playing through a lot of different things. It’s important to stay plugged into the injury reports because that’s where you can find a lot of value.
Players out Sunday include Miles Sanders, Alshon Jeffery, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, Greedy Williams, Kevin Johnson, Justice Hill, Chris Moore, Denzel Mims, Josh Norman, Geno Atkins, Mike Pouncey, Deebo Samuel, Jason Verrett and Marcus Davenport.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 13, 2020
Outlier has an up-to-date injury report for every game, so make sure you check-in before placing your bets. Then delve into the local reports and fantasy sites and that will add more color to the picture. If someone is questionable but playing, that can mean they’ll be hampered. Or if a player is questionable but deemed out last minute, that can create opportunities for the backups to step in. When you’re on top of these headlines, you can bet accordingly and take advantage of the news. Nowadays, you can often beat the oddsmakers to the breaking news. However, if you’re not on top of the bumps and bruises, you’ll be working at a disadvantage. Make sure you double-check Outlier’s injury report before placing your bets.
Factor In The Betting Line
A lot of fantasy sports players or casual sports fans who are new to betting might think that some running back props are really easy to predict. For example, you might find something like Adrian Peterson (in his prime) to have 5+ carries or a player to have at least one catch. The key here is to understand the betting odds because just because something is easy doesn’t mean it’s profitable.
Some running back props might have a price tag of -1000 – or even higher – if they’re really obvious. That means that you’ll get paid out $10 for every $100 you bet. That also means that if you bet this exact bet 10 times, losing once will wipe out your profits. Is it that much of a lock?
It’s important to understand the odds because what you’re trying to do is use your knowledge and research to find a bet that beats the odds. You want to find something that the oddsmakers think is less likely to happen but based on your research, you believe it’s more likely.
It’s not simply finding an obvious prop; that’s easy. The key is to find a good bet and get good value on the lines.
Common Running Back Props To Bet On
Anytime Touchdown Scorer – This is the bet you’d focus on if you believe a player will score a touchdown. One scenario where you might bet this is with a player that’s a known goal line back that’s going up against a softer run defense.
Over-Under Rushing Yards – This type of prop focuses solely on the player’s rushing yards. Touchdowns are not a factor. That can be quite useful when you want to bet on a runner and avoid the scoring scenario. Many good running backs will pile up the rushing yards only to see someone else step in and vulture a touchdown. In this case, all you care about is whether the player piles up the yards and goes over or under the rushing yardage total.
Over-Under Carries – This type of prop is useful if you feel that a player is going to be used a lot or a little in a specific game. For example, if you’re betting on a team to hammer the opponent on the ground and there’s just one workhorse in that backfield, you can bet over on carries. Or if you think they’ll be trailing and have to throw more, under might make sense. It’s important to distinguish carries from rushing yards because carries can focus on opportunities whereas rushing yards is how productive (or unproductive) a player is with those opportunities.
Over-Under Receiving Yards – This type of prop is ideal for scatbacks and third-down running backs. If a team has a player who is known as the primary receiver out of the backfield, that’s the player you’ll want to consider for a prop like this. Understanding game flow (will the team potentially be trailing and passing more?) can paint a picture as to which way to go with these props. And you don’t have to worry how many times a player will run the ball or if they’ll score.
Over-Under Receptions – Receptions and receiving yards paint slightly different stories. Of course, receiving yards is how many yards the player piles up but receptions is a good option if you know a player will collect dump-offs. Maybe the offense and/or quarterback is bad, and the running back will get a bunch of little dump-off catches. They might get swarmed by the defense because the rest of the offense isn’t very good but that doesn’t matter because a catch is a catch with this prop. That one way to differentiate with receptions versus receiving yards. Keep it in mind as a slight variation that is better in certain scenarios.