Remember years ago when someone asked if your fantasy football league was PPR and you had no idea what they were talking about? Your mind began racing…
Um… Passing-Punting-Rushing…? No? Hmmm…
People-Protesting-Redskins? No, that can’t be it…
Ah, is it Piere-Paul Reenactments?
Thankfully, NFL players have stayed away from fireworks so far this summer. Our favorite Point-Per-Reception running backs have all their fingers intact, healthy and ready to light it up on the field. Let’s take a look at which undervalued PPR running backs will be making the brightest fireworks on the field in 2016!
Note: Any references to ADP are based on 12-team, 15-player teams drafted at Fantasy Football Calculator as of July 23, 2016.
2015 was supposed to be the year of Jeremy Hill, Gio was pushed aside like your pet hamster after your parents finally bought you a dog. The Bengals offense lost some key pieces this off-season, wide receivers Mohamad Sanu and Marvin Jones are out; and tight end Tyler Eifert is likely to miss regular season games as he recovers from ankle surgery. We’ve seen Gio do it before; his hands out of the backfield, his breakaway speed, his elusive Kevin Hart like frame hiding him from would be tacklers… Expect the former second round draft pick to have an uptick in usage with an offense lacking playmakers not named AJ Green. Running behind one of the best offensive lines in the game, Gio offers plenty of value in the sixth round.
A new chapter will be added to The Chronicles of Riddick in 2016. The absence of Joquie Bell and Calvin Johnson should open up some Vin Diesel size doors for one of the best pass catching running backs in the league. The Lions have been talking about getting Theo more involved this season and QB Matt Stafford was fifth in the league in pass attempts last year. Expect the Lions to keep chucking it. Last year Theo was targeted a whopping 99 times finishing with 80 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns. Ameer Abdullah should get the majority of carries, but Riddick will see plenty of snaps. A late eighth round draft pick for Theo? Don’t be Riddickulous, take him.
A couple weeks ago, wide receiver Sammy Watkins posted a video on Instagram of himself running in a straight line. Not quite as entertaining as the Chewbacca mask lady, but certainly more impressive considering he had foot surgery in April. The Bills are going to struggle moving the football through the air in 2016, and an injured Sammy won’t be rushed back into action. McCoy is the best receiver the Bills have if Watkins isn’t ready by week one, and he might be the only running back at Rex Ryan’s disposal after all the off-field issues in Buffalo this summer.
Bill’s running back Karlos Williams is suspended for the first four games of the season for abusing a substance. What that substance is, we’re not sure; but he showed up to mini-camp about 20-25 pounds over-weight so we’ll go with marijuana. McCoy caught 32 passes on 50 targets in 12 games last year. Expect more targets and better efficiency during his second year in Buffalo. We’ve saw LeSean’s elite talent in Philadelphia, after a few down seasons I think we’ll see the real McCoy in 2016. He offers nice value in the late second/early third round.
Sproles will fill your holes. If you find yourself wide receiver heavy on draft day and have a hole at running back, look no further than PPR veteran Darren Sproles. The Eagles got rid of failed experiment DeMarco Murray and used a fifth round pick to replace him with a man who goes by the name of Wendell Smallwood. Hell of a name, heck of a talent. Wendell has pass catching skills out of the backfield as well, but the raw rookie shouldn’t be considered a threat to Sproles’ workload. Currently Sproles is being drafted in the 11th round. That’s a lot of value for such a little man. New Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is an understudy of Andy Reid, and we know how Reid likes to use his running backs as receivers. Sproles is a low risk option who at worst can help you in a pinch. It’s worth repeating, Sproles will fill your holes.
Pow Pow Powell’s wheels! The Jet’s just signed this underrated speedster to a three year contract with $6 million guaranteed. They liked what they saw from Bilal in 2015, snagging 63 catches in just 11 games. The jets replaced last year’s starter Chris Ivory with legendary PPR running back Matt Forte. Although Powell and Forte have a similar skill set, Forte will be turning 31 in December and appeared in decline mode. Powell helped savvy PPR managers down the stretch last year, finishing with at least five catches in his last four games. Don’t underestimate Powell’s powers!
What happened Le’Veon? Was Legarrette Blount in town again? It looks like Le’Veon Bell is going to miss the beginning of the season again, for the second year in a row. Where there is crisis, there is opportunity. If you go wide receiver heavy at the beginning of your draft, DeAngelo is a fantasy loop hole that can even out your roster in a jiff. It’s tough to say where he’ll be drafted by the time your fantasy draft comes around, but as of now he’s being taken in the ninth round. Reach for him if you have to, you’ll have a legitimate No. 1 running back for at least the first four games. DeAngelo caught 40 balls with 47 targets last year, he’s got great hands and we know Big Ben loves his check downs. Like a fat man wearing Spanx instead of dieting, drafting DeAngelo in the mid rounds instead of a high priced running back is a great loop hole to take advantage of.
Another Lions running back makes the list. In 2015, Detroit’s running game was like Chris Katan’s career post SNL, non-existent. Unless you liked “Corky Romano.” They finished dead last in rushing, but made improvements by drafting three offensive linemen in the first five rounds of the 2016 NFL draft. Abdullah is expected to handle most of the rushing duties this year after a quiet rookie season. He showed flashes of why the Lions drafted him in the second round, but was limited by a shoulder injury and Joique Bell’s presence. Joique is gone, Abdullah is the man. He caught 25 of 38 balls last year; expect more targets in his featured role. He’s a reliable pass catcher with breakaway speed; you won’t see this guy getting caught from behind. Ameer is a 2016 breakout candidate that might fall to you in the beginning of the seventh round.
Duke pulled a hammy in training camp last year, his rookie season got off to a slow start. Much of the year was spent with him looking from the sidelines as Isiah Crowell inexplicably got the majority of carries. Like Roger Pistorius’ blades fleeing a murder a scene, Duke was criminally underused by head coach Mike Pettine. Thankfully, Pettine is out and former Bengals’ offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is in. Jackson is known to have a great eye for talent and placing players where their skillset is utilized best. As head coach of the Raiders back in 2010, Hue transformed Darren McFadden from bust to beast; McFadden finished with the fifth highest total yards from scrimmage that year. Right after the Raiders fired Jackson, however, McFadden reverted back to complete bust form. Despite being used sparingly, Duke was still able to finish with 61 catches last year. Hue Jackson will find ways to get him in open space early in 2016; he’s a bargain in the early sixth round of your fantasy draft.
Fergie has been up in the gym workin’ on his fitness, Irsay is his witness. The Colts owner praised Ferguson this off season, saying he has the chance to be something special. The undrafted free agent out of Illinois is a 5’10” athletic freak who ran a 4.48 forty. He’s on this list because he has a great set of hands, is on an electric offense, and might be in line for the starting job if 33 year old starter Frank Gore goes down. He’s a fantastic lottery ticket to pick at the end of your draft.