Fantasy Football Running Back Targets: Who Led the Way in 2017?

Christian McCaffrey had the most targets among RBs last season

In most cases, fantasy owners don’t play attention to targets to running backs. Wide receivers and tight ends are the pass catchers and running backs run the ball. However, as the league is evolving, running backs are taking on more of a pass-catching role. In some instances, running backs had more targets than wide receivers (T.Y. Hilton had fewer receptions than the running back target leader).

 

For those in PPR formats, looking at targets (and receptions) for running backs can make a difference as the league plays out. All of those receptions are more points that owner may not have been counting on. A key indicator of receptions is targets. And in 2017, here are the running backs with the most targets:

 

Player

Targets

Receptions

Christian McCaffrey, CAR

113

80

Le'Veon Bell, PIT

106

85

Alvin Kamara, NO

100

81

Duke Johnson Jr., CLE

93

74

Carlos Hyde, SF

88

59

Todd Gurley, LAR

87

64

Melvin Gordon, LAC

83

58

LeSean McCoy, BUF

77

59

James White, NE

72

56

 

These are the top nine, as there was a three-way tie for 10th place between Mark Ingram, Theo Riddick and Tarik Cohen. It seems crazy to even lump those three players in the same group as Ingram was treated as a RB1 and the other two weren’t even on most fantasy rosters by the end of the season.

 

In terms of receptions, for running backs with at least 50 targets, Kareem Hunt had the highest percentage of receptions per targets. He caught 53 of his 63 targets. He also finished fourth in terms of fantasy points among running backs.

 

Touchdowns can be fluky, but for running backs, they do get a chance more often than, say, tight ends. At the end of the day, fantasy owners are concerned with points. Here are the top point leaders in 2017 among running backs:

 

Player

Total Fantasy Points

Receiving Touchdowns

Todd Gurley, LAR

353.3

6

Le'Veon Bell, PIT

301.1

2

Alvin Kamara, NO

289.6

5

Kareem Hunt, KC

270.7

3

Melvin Gordon, LAC

259.1

4

Mark Ingram, NO

252.0

0

LeSean McCoy, BUF

236.1

2

Leonard Fournette, JAX

213.2

1

Carlos Hyde, SF

208.3

0

Dion Lewis, NE

201.3

3

 

These 10 running backs are the ones that had more than 200 points in a PPR format. Most shouldn’t be a surprise, but Dion Lewis may be a little bit of a shock. He didn’t really have a fantasy impact until Week 6. He also had 35 receptions (of which he caught 32 of them). Lewis has been used as a pass-catching back before, and as a pending free agent, it's possible he will be with a new team in 2018. Keep an eye on where he lands.

 

Alvin Kamara (above, right) had a great rookie season, and that’s sharing the backfield with Ingram. The Saints historically spread the ball around, but they utilize their running backs. In the past, they have been one of the top teams in terms of passing to running backs. In 2017, even without Adrian Peterson’s stats, they are the top team in targets to running backs, followed closely by the New York Giants. Looking ahead to 2018, New Orleans is more of a sure thing while the Giants are a team in transition undergoing a coaching change and, most likely, plenty of roster turnover.

 

Surprisingly, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Arizona Cardinals and the Tennessee Titans are the teams that have the fewest targets to opposing running backs. In looking at each of those teams, all had reasons for not utilizing their running backs. The Eagles lost Darren Sproles and added Jay Ajayi. The Cardinals lost David Johnson to a Week 1 season-ending injury, which was a huge blow to their offense. The Titans couldn’t quite figure out how to use DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Moving forward, those three offenses should use a pass-catching running back more, but it is a trend to keep an eye on heading into 2018.

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Event Date: 
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 22:00

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