Target Regression Candidates: Running Backs (Fantasy Football)
As PPR leagues become the norm in fantasy football, target stats are more important than ever. Shacking up with that trend is the ever-increasing role of the running back in the passing game. In this article, we’re going to look at some RBs that may lose valuable targets this year for various reasons. Based on half-PPR scoring, I will analyze the potential drop in production for a few notable backs.
Carlos Hyde (CLE)
Hyde is probably the most obvious choice for this article. Much was made last offseason about his lack of fit in Kyle Shanahan’s system in San Francisco, but Hyde was a pleasant surprise as a receiver. Ranking seventh in receptions, Hyde more than doubled his catches (59) from the previous season and in fact caught more balls last year than in his entire career to that point (three years).
Unfortunately, he was only 17th in receiving yardage, indicating a low yards-per-reception (5.9), which probably explains why he’s no longer in the Bay Area. Landing in Cleveland, Hyde should lose many of his targets to Duke Johnson, who has averaged 63 receptions to date. I would expect his receptions to decrease to the low-20s and his yardage by about 200, resulting in a depreciation (in half-PPR leagues) of 35-40 points. Another concern, of course, is the selection of talented rookie Nick Chubb, although I feel Cleveland may want to get some of their money’s worth out of Hyde and give him plenty of carries this year.
Theo Riddick (DET)
Another veteran back finding himself in a logjam, Riddick is currently contending with Kerryon Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, and LeGarrette Blount among others. His 71 targets last year placed him in a three-way tie for 10th (with Tarik Cohen and Mark Ingram), but there are a few “ifs” to deal with in Detroit this offseason. Abdullah had 39 receptions in 2015 and was on the same pace last year, but will the Lions retain him? If so, I could see the younger back cutting into Riddick’s targets somewhat.
Blount is no threat in that department, and Johnson only had 55 receptions in 36 games at Auburn, but camp chatter indicates the coaching staff is impressed with his hands. If he is the multi-purpose threat the Lions feel he is (since they drafted him ahead of Derrius Guice), then Johnson almost certainly will eat into Riddick’s targets.
Another factor is the organization’s apparent intent to finally fix and commit to their running game. That alone could cut down on the number of targets to all the backs. This situation is murkier than most, but I’m anticipating a 30-point drop in production this year.
Javorius Allen (BAL)
“Uncle Buck” received a solid 60 targets last season, hauling in 46 for 250 yards (resulting in an unimpressive 5.4 yards per catch average). While ranking 15th in RB receptions may not sound too bad, if you watched (or were able to stomach) the Ravens on offense last year, you’d quickly notice how many of those targets were unimaginative, dump-off passes. Allen also wasn’t especially dynamic, as his low average gain would attest, and when you factor in an equally pedestrian 3.9 rushing average, it’s hard to be too optimistic about his upcoming season.
Besides his stats, another factor to be concerned about is Kenneth Dixon. Despite his knee injury and suspension, the Ravens are expected to give Dixon an honest shot at becoming the number two back behind Alex Collins. Dixon has proven in the past that he can catch the rock, with 88 receptions in college and 30 in 2016, in which he only played 12 games. If Dixon can bring a badly needed spark to the Ravens’ backfield, then I would be wary of even drafting Allen, as I could easily see a regression of 40+ points this season.
Sheldon Curtis is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Sheldon, check out his archive.