It’s that time of year to start looking at player props bets for the upcoming 2021 NFL season. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at some over and under future bets worth considering at each position group.
Earlier this week we looked at which running backs are likely to go over their rushing yards props.
Up next: which running backs are likely to go UNDER their rushing yards total?
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- Inconsistent production during his rookie year
- Carson Wentz, even when healthy, might not help
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor closed out his rookie year strong and finished third in the league with 1,169 rushing yards in 2020. However, his production was uneven, and it might be worth betting on him to fall under these totals:
- 1200.5 rushing yards on FanDuel
- 1175.5 rushing yards on DraftKings
- Off the board on BetMGM
To hit the over on FanDuel, Taylor needs to average 70.6 yards per game, less than his 77.9 rushing yards per contest in 2020. That sounds easily attainable at first glance, but prior to a 253-yard outburst against the tanking Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17, Taylor was averaging only 65.4 yards per game.
The addition of Carson Wentz could also hurt the Colts’ run game this season 一 and a similar effect is plausible if Jacob Eason or rookie Sam Ehlinger takes the field in Wentz’s expected early-season absence.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Philadelphia Eagles running backs faced stacked boxes on just 40% of their carries through Wentz’s first six starts in 2020 一 likely because defenses were respecting the former, more competent, version of Wentz. After Wentz’s miserable start to the year, that rate climbed to 58% over the next six games.
A possible explanation could be a shift in personnel formations (more two-tight-end sets would put more defenders in the box). But Philadelphia actually made the opposite move, dramatically increasing their use of 11-personnel run plays later in the year.
Eagles RB vs stacked boxes in Carson Wentz’s starts
|Weeks||% of Att vs 7+ Defenders in Box||% of Att in 11 Personnel||% of Att in 12 Personnel|
This is further evidence that defenses simply lost respect for Wentz, and shifted their focus to stopping the run.
If Wentz doesn’t rebound and force defenses to respect the Colts’ passing game, it’s going to be difficult for Taylor to find running room this season.
- Schedule loaded with strong run defenses
- Competition for snaps with Jamaal Williams
- Likely in unfavorable game scripts
In four starts during his rookie year, Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift averaged 61.8 yards per game, which would put him on pace for 1,050 over a 17-game schedule.
Maintaining that pace would allow Swift to easily hit the over on these numbers, but a number of factors could get in the way.
- 900.5 rushing yards on BetMGM
- 900.5 rushing yards on DraftKings
- 875.5 rushing yards on FanDuel
One of the reasons the Lions run game often sputtered in 2020 was the difficult schedule. Detroit faced the fifth toughest slate based on rush efficiency defense. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier, as this year’s schedule is projected to be the third most difficult by the same metric.
Running back Jamaal Williams, a free agent addition from Green Bay, is also likely to cut into Swift’s workload. According to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, head coach Dan Campbell recently expressed a desire for them to share the load similar to Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray in New Orleans.
In 2020, Kamara (the better comparison for Swift) saw 53.7% of the running back handoffs when active.
During Swift’s four starts last year, he accounted for 70.6% of the carries out of the backfield. So if this backfield ends up closer to a 50/50 split, it’s unlikely Swift approaches that 1,000-yard pace from his brief stint as the starter in 2020.
Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has also stated he wants to stick with whoever is hot, implying we could see an inconsistent workload for each running back from game to game.
Unfavorable game scripts also have to be factored into Swift’s projection 一 entering the year, Detroit is not favored in a single contest.
- Murray’s usage is game-script dependent
- Saints offense is worse without Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray has topped 550 rushing yards every season since his rookie year, but the 30-year-old may finally take a step backward this season and fall short of his rushing yards prop:
- 550.5 rushing yards on BetMGM
- Off the board on FanDuel and DraftKings
In 2020, 45% of Murray’s carries and 48% of his yardage came in the second half of games with the Saints holding a lead 一 both rates ranked as the second-highest in the NFL.
The Saints like using Murray in those situations because he’s a reliable downhill runner who moves the chains. Only 11.6% of Murray’s carries went for negative yards, the lowest rate in the league.
The flip side, however, is that Murray doesn’t produce game-changing plays and is a significantly worse option when playing from behind. According to Sports Info Solutions, Murray generated at least +1 EPA on only 5.5% of his carries (ranked 34th), compared to 9.6% for Alvin Kamara (ranked sixth).
New Orleans went 12-4 a season ago, but without retired quarterback Drew Brees this year, their win total prop bet sits at just nine wins at most sportsbooks.
Murray was given four or fewer carries in three of the Saints’ four losses in 2020. So if New Orleans is going to flirt with a .500 record, we should expect a significant drop-off in Murray’s production.