Five PPR Running Backs
Each year, there are a few running backs that excel primarily in the passing game, due to their skillset or specific roles on their respective teams. For those who employ the zero RB strategy and select WR/TE early on, these running backs can prove to be the winning difference in PPR leagues. Below is a list of a few players that contribute through the air, and have the ability to hold their own in a PPR league. I used FantasyPros.com for PPR ADP and projections data.
Danny Woodhead – ADP: 54, RB21
Until Melvin Gordon proves he can be a true three down back, Danny Woodhead will have PPR value. The preferred third down and redzone running back of the Chargers, Woodhead is an elusive runner that slips between tackles and accelerates through his cuts in the open field. In three seasons with the Chargers, Woodhead has had 75-plus receptions in two of those seasons. He received an astounding 106 targets last year, nearly a sixth of the total 667 passing attempts by San Diego. With the return of Keenan Allen (WR), and the signing of Travis Benjamin (WR), the Chargers figure to once again be an aerial focused offense, with Woodhead having a similar role. Consider Woodhead an RB1/RB2 for PPR leagues.
Theo Riddick – ADP: 109, RB40
Riddick flourished in his role as the pass catching back for the Lions, breaking out for 80 receptions in 2015. While his rushing attempts and yardage totals were low, Riddick has a specified role on the team, factoring in as a consistent threat through the air each week. The Lions team are a pass heavy team, attempting 632 passing attempts in 2015, compared to just 354 rushing attempts. Riddick received 99 targets last year, and with the loss of Calvin Johnson, I expect a few more targets to be fed towards Riddick. With his slight build, he may be too small to ever generate consistent ground yardage. I’d expect to him to trail out of the backfield on third downs, or perhaps even run some slot routes. His ADP is criminally low for his PPR return, likely due to his lack of rushing stats. Grab him in PPR leagues and enjoy the steal. Consider Riddick an RB1/RB2 for PPR leagues.
Duke Johnson– ADP: 75, RB29
Duke projects to be in a near-even timeshare with Isaiah Crowell to start the year, splitting carries on first and second down. He possesses the ability to start most games for Cleveland, but I imagine that Crowell isn’t going to simply disappear, despite Crowell’s mediocre play. With the build of a speed back, Duke truly shines in his ability as a receiver. Johnson is expected to fill the pass-catching role again this year on a Cleveland team filled with primarily rookie wideouts, which may lead the team to rely on Johnson even more. With 74 targets in 2015, I expect around 90 targets and 65-70 receptions for Johnson. Consider Johnson an RB1/RB2 for PPR leagues.
Charles Sims – ADP: 85, RB33
As the clear backup in Tampa Bay, Sims figures to receive more carries than a typical third down back, as he’ll occasionally spell Doug Martin on first downs. While he is a talented receiver, Sims does tend to get lost in the game flow at times, and he likely won’t get many touchdowns. However, he has the ability to reach the second level quickly, as demonstrated by him having a reception or rush greater than 15 yards in 9 out of 16 games in 2015. I’d expect him to finish around 1,000 total yards and 50-55 receptions. Consider Sims an RB3/4 for PPR leagues, with the ability to break the game open with the occasional long run or reception.
Shane Vereen – ADP: 141, RB49
In his first year with the Giants, Vereen collected a career best 59 receptions. He has at least 47 receptions in three straight seasons, split between New England and New York. The Giants struggled to run the ball in 2015, compiling just 1,609 yards on 403 attempts. With a full-out running back committee in New York, Vereen cannot be counted on for rushing stats. He can, however, contribute through the passing game. With both Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard lining up as WR for the Giants, they figure again to be a pass heavy offense. This likely leaves Vereen as the third read in this offense, perhaps even as a slot receiver, instead of Victor Cruz. Consider Vereen an RB3/4 for PPR leagues.