Target Hogs-Preeminent PPR RBs

By John Laub
John Laub



        The Target Hogs:

            Preeminent PPR Running Backs





In 1859, Charles Darwin published Origin of the Species and changed the world when he introduced evolutionary biology. Over 150 years later, many football diehards have assimilated points-per-reception (PPR) into the scoring guidelines of their leagues as the fantasy universe also progresses.  


In order to assist fantasy coaches, lets examine the top running backs that are significantly more valuable in PPR scoring formats and must be targeted in PPR drafts. A profile is provided for the top runners and key statistics—Snaps, Touches, Targets and Receptions—to identify how integral each is to their respective offense and fantasy rosters.


1. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers

Fantasy managers who play in PPR leagues already know the value of the dynamic Woodhead. In 2014, he played in only three games and returned to action last year. The lightening-quick Charger became the most productive pass-catching runner in San Diego history. Woodhead led the club in receptions (80), receiving yards (755) and touchdown catches (6). A tremendous red-zone runner, he is elusive in one-on-one matchups and finds seams in the defense to gain additional yards. Despite not being the starter, Woodhead will be an integral component in coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Woodhead 593 178 30.0% 667 106 15.8% 80 75.5% 755 9.4 9 50


2. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

Since joining the Bengals in 2013, Giovani Bernard is the gold standard of PPR running backs. In three seasons, the Bengals slasher has recorded 148 catches for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns. He has also toted the pigskin 492 times for over 2,000 rushing yards while scoring 12 touchdowns. A low-center of gravity, Bernard scampers with a compressed pad level, easily changes direction and does not shy away from contact. The veteran signed a lucrative contract extension in June (an additional three years at over $15.5 million), which illustrates the organizations commitment and belief in their dual-threat ball carrier. Employed in a timeshare with Jeremy Hill, the speedy playmaker will not become a top-10 performer, but will out produce his backfield mate. 


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Bernard 580 203 35.0% 505 66 13.1% 49 74.2% 472 9.6 2 63




3. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns

In college, Johnson displayed explosive feet, tremendous balance, impressive acceleration, good hands and nice vision. In his first two NFL games, the third-round selection failed to catch a pass; however, he ended with 61 in the final 14 contests, finishing second among all rookies and trailing only Amari Cooper. Coach Hue Jackson groomed and nurtured Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati, and Johnson possesses a similar athletic profile. In early July, Kirby Wilson, the Browns run game coordinator, called Johnson “an ultimate weapon” for the club, which was music to fantasy diehards’ ears. The pass-catching sophomore will become an integral component of the aerial assault under the guidance of Jackson. 


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Johnson 560 165 29.5% 609 74 12.1% 61 82% 534 8.8 2 62

4. Dion Lewis, New England Patriots

Last season, Dion Lewis played in only seven games and blossomed into a breakout fantasy star when on the gridiron. He became one of the most important components of the Patriots passing game during the first two months of the year. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels masterfully designed plays to isolate Lewis against defenders and take advantage of his quickness and elusiveness. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in mid-season against Washington. Early reports indicate that Lewis is recovering and should be on the field for training camp in August. A fifth-round draft pick in 2011, Lewis has never played a full 16-game schedule, missing the entire 2013 and 2014 seasons after severely breaking his leg. The Patriots playmaker is the foremost risk-reward runner in fantasy drafts this summer: He could miss the majority of the campaign once again or top all running backs in catches and yards. 


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Lewis * 294 85 28.9% 274 50 18.20% 36 72% 388 10.2 4 39


* Based on seven games played



5. Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Entering the NFL, the former Mountaineers’ resume encompassed 203 catches and 51 touchdowns. A three-down back in college, Sims displayed good vision, terrific hand-eye coordination and soft hands. He is a quick-footed runner with tremendous short-area explosion and a nose for the end zone. As rookie, Sims saw little action in the Buccaneers’ attack; however, he became a lethal option in 2015 with over 500 rushing and receiving yards while catching four touchdowns. Doug Martin dominates the Tampa Bay ground game; nevertheless, Sims very quietly carved out a significant role in the offense, playing early and often for coach Dirk Koetter last year. A high-end pass catcher, astute fantasy mangers will draft Sims at a discounted price in 2016. 


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Sims 453 158 34.9% 535 70 13.1% 51 72.8% 561 11 4 88

6. Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions

During the past three seasons, the Detroit offense has relied on the aerial game to score points. Scrutinizing the offensive personnel, quarterback Matt Stafford is likely to approach 600 attempts once again. A cluttered backfield—Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner—provides opportunity for astute fantasy diehards. Riddick is being taken at a significant discount in recent ADP averages compared to Abdullah. Last year, the third-down specialist caught as many passes (80) as Woodhead and finished second in receiving yards (697), setting Detroit records in both categories among ball carries. With the offseason release of Joique Bell, the uber-pass catcher’s role is well defined, and likely duplicates last season’s targets and receptions. 


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Riddick 469 123 26.2% 632 99 15.6% 80 81.0% 697 8.7 3 85


7. Shane Vereen, New York Giants

At times, expectations cloud a fantasy owner’s perspective: It is clear when examining Shane Vereen. After catching 11 passes in Super Bowl XLIX, the former Patriot seemed on the verge of fantasy stardom. In 2015, the former LSU product signed a contract with New York and many diehards expected a significant increase in production: Mission Accomplished. Vereen set career highs in catches (59), yards (495) and touchdowns (4). Yet, most fantasy managers are overlooking the Giant pass-catcher in early ADP data. With new coach Bob McAdoo calling plays and seeking matchup advantages against opponents, Vereen’s snaps and targets should mirror last years’ totals. 


Player Snaps Touches Touch % Pass Atts. Targets Target % REC. Comp % Yards YPC. TD ADP
Vereen 428 120 28.0% 623 81 13.0% 59 72.3% 495 8.4 4 154


With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar. 

Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: