Fantasy Football: Running Backs that Receive a PPR Bump
Last week, an article went up talking about the difference in strategy between standard and PPR formats, highlighting which positions to target, and when to target them. If you missed it, you can find it right here. Inside that article, I promised that I’d return to talk about some of the players that see the biggest bump in PPR leagues. Today, we’ll start with the running backs.
Going through the research was quite interesting, as even I learned a few things, like Isaiah Crowell wasn’t any worse in PPR than he was in standard, finishing as the No. 14 running back in both formats. On the flip side of that, Jacquizz Rodgers finished six spots lower in PPR, which is something I’m not sure anyone would’ve guessed.
I understand that it’s hard moving a player like Danny Woodhead into RB1 status simply because of a league setting, but did you know that he finished as the No. 3 running back in PPR leagues just two years ago? He was also the No. 12 running back in 2013, No. 23 in 2012, and No. 25 in 2010, yet I still feel like I can’t draft him as high as I want to. Why? Because I don’t consider him as talented as some of the other running backs above him. But in the end, fantasy points scored is all that matters and these are the types of players who are continually undervalued in PPR leagues.
We’ll go through and talk about the players who were worth more in PPR leagues, as well as those who were worth less in the format in 2016. It should give you an idea as to the types of players you want to target in 2017 drafts, as well as how much you should really be moving them up/down your boards.
Players Worth More in PPR Formats
Duke Johnson (RB – CLE) Standard Finish: 40, PPR Finish: 31
This shouldn’t really surprise anyone, as Johnson has now garnered 74 targets in back-to-back years. Bilal Powell is the only other running back who’s seen at least 63 targets in each season. The Browns seem committed to involve Crowell in the passing game as well, but Johnson deserves at least a 5-8 spot jump in your PPR running back rankings.
James White (RB – NE) Standard Finish: 35, PPR Finish: 26
Last year’s Super Bowl MVP… sorry, I snapped out of it for a second. The only thing that should shock you about White here was that he finished as the No. 26 running back in PPR formats, despite touching the ball just 99 times. The Patriots made a huge commitment to him this off-season, extending him through the 2020 season, saying that he’s earned Belichick’s trust. He’s currently the No. 48 running back off the board in early ADP, easily one of the biggest steals in PPR formats. He has an RB1 ceiling.
Chris Thompson (RB – WAS) Standard Finish: 37, PPR Finish: 28
Raise your hand if you knew Thompson was a top-30 running back in PPR leagues last year. Now put your hand down, liar. On average, it took 7.6 PPR points in order to finish as a top-36 running back last year, and Thompson did that in 12 of 16 games. He isn’t going to give you a big ceiling or anything, as he scored more than 12 PPR points just twice, but he’s an interesting bye week filler who’s not being drafted at this time.
Theo Riddick (RB – DET) Standard Finish: 31, PPR Finish: 25
This one isn’t the least bit shocking, as I would’ve guessed he saw the biggest jump in PPR formats, though it was ‘just’ a six-spot jump. Going back to look at his 2015, he finished an amazing 20 spots higher in the PPR format. It should be interesting to see if he takes that leap once again in 2017 with Ameer Abdullah returning to the backfield, but it’s clear you need to bump him up at least six spots in your PPR rankings.
Players Worth Less in PPR Formats
Mike Gillislee (RB – NE) Standard Finish: 27, PPR Finish: 40
The biggest drop-off of any running back, Gillislee was clearly not someone you wanted to target in PPR formats. When looking back, I suppose we should have expected a big drop considering he scored nine touchdowns on just 110 touches. Going to the Patriots this off-season isn’t going to help him much in this department, as most figure to see him take over the old LeGarrette Blount role, who finished two spots lower in PPR formats (not as much as you would’ve thought, right?). The gap will shrink for Gillislee this year, but how much? I currently have him ranked as my No. 24 running back in standard and No. 32 in PPR, though that can change if we get confirmation that he’s the starter.
Rob Kelley (RB – WAS) Standard Finish: 26, PPR Finish: 37
Man, he really would’ve been something back in the early 2000’s. As I’ve continually said this off-season, Kelley simply lacks what NFL coaches want in today’s game. He cannot catch the ball smoothly out of the backfield and doesn’t have the speed to outrun linebackers. He’s simply a bruising running back who loves contact, and because of that, he wore down as the season went on despite not starting until Week 8. The Redskins brought in Samaje Perine, who is a better version of what Kelley is/was. The question becomes, does Perine turn into the lackluster PPR option that Kelley was?
Jonathan Stewart (RB – CAR) Standard Finish: 23, PPR Finish: 29
When you’re the workhorse for a team, this isn’t supposed to happen. The reason I hoped that Christian McCaffrey would go elsewhere was for this reason; Cam Newton doesn’t target his running backs. Stewart caught just 24 passes over the last two seasons, making him a clear “avoid” in PPR leagues, especially with McCaffrey coming to town. It shouldn’t shock you to see him finish 20 spots lower in PPR formats in 2017.
Derrick Henry (RB – TEN) Standard Finish: 39, PPR Finish: 45
There are some expecting a second-year breakout from Henry (myself included), though this article should be noted for those who play in PPR leagues. Despite seeing his role grow as the season went on, Henry saw more than two targets just once on the season. Don’t be afraid to give him a bump in your standard rankings, but he needs to be a half-dozen spots lower in PPR.