PPR fantasy football leagues are a completely different animal than standard (gross) or half-point PPR (our favorite) leagues. While standard and PPR leagues have decreased in popularity across the fantasy community, both rule sets are still deployed in leagues across the country.
Simply put, RB targets matter because they are nearly three times as valuable as a handoff. Last season RBs as a whole scored 0.65 fantasy points per rushing attempt, compared to 1.51 fantasy points per target. That is on par with previous seasons as well. Think about it like this: in PPR, which is becoming more and more the norm in fantasy, you are rewarded one point per catch. That means before any yards or touchdowns are added on, if your running back catches his target, he has already scored you a fantasy point. Plus, since those RB targets are usually close to the line of scrimmage, they are much easier to convert than a downfield throw.
Here are some of my top PPR running backs who are currently being drafted outside of the first round in Underdog Fantasy best ball tournaments. Use promo code RSJ or click this link to get a 100% first deposit match up to $100 to take advantage of these ADPs.
Also read: Top Wide Receivers to Draft in PPR Leagues
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 14.7 overall (RB8)
Swift has somewhat gone under the radar despite his elite efficiency in the passing game. He hasn’t received worthy respect for a couple of reasons. First, the Lions have been awful since Swift was drafted in 2020, going 8-24-1 over that span. This has resulted in limited media attention towards the Lions and specifically towards Swift. While nobody was watching, he recorded the highest yards created per touch. Despite a bum supporting cast, Swift was an outlier once he had the ball in his hands. The lions evidently took advantage of this — as they got the ball to him out of the backfield – Swift averaged 4.7 receptions per game in 2021. An absolute RB target hog, Swift can break into even higher targets as he continues to grow with Jared Goff in 2022.
Next, he’s been in and out of the lineup over his first two seasons. He missed five games in each of the past two seasons with head and shoulder injuries. Detroit’s running back’s coach, Duce Staley, specifically mentioned he hopes to see a tougher Swift going forward.
If he can stay healthy, expect Swift to continue his progression as a true third-down running back in PPR formats. Swift has real potential to finish as a top-five PPR RB as long as he stays healthy. Swift checks in at RB10 on The Wolf’s 2022 Fantasy Football Rankings.
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 23 overall (RB12)
After a monster 2021 season, where Fournette posted 1,373 total yards and 12 touchdowns, it appears the veteran got complacent over the off-season. The running back showed up to offseason workouts noticeably out of shape, which raised eyebrows in Tampa Bay. It appears his only runs this offseason were to McDonald’s.
Fournette’s fantasy critics also caution taking him due to the Bucs drafting do-it-all running back Rachaad White. However, Lenny clearly proved his three-down worth in 2021, and the Bucs had no issue giving him the majority of the workload over Ronald Jones and Gio Bernard. In my opinion, there’s no reason to assume a third-round running back poses a threat to Fournette this season.
Last year, Lombardi Lenny led all running backs with 78 receptions and was second among running backs with 92 targets — even while missing three games. There’s no reason to expect Fournette’s receiving numbers to drop off since Brady loves to make the smart play and check down to his running backs. In 2021, Brady finished second in pass attempts behind the LOS. In the years before that, Brady finished first, second, first, and first in the same category. One thing is for sure, Brady loves dumping it off to his pass-catching backs, and Lenny will be ready to devour those opportunities again in 2022.
The Wolf has Lenny ranked as the 17th-best RB. Expect Fournette to be hungry this season, craving screens and swing passes as the Bucs look to ascend in the NFC.
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 63.4 overall (RB22)
Unlike Fournette who faces a new potential threat in the backfield, Jacobs will look to continue his reliable production in the passing game. Last year he finished seventh in receptions among running backs and he should only improve with Josh McDaniels leading the offense.
The only threat to Jacobs is Kenyon Drake, who posted a humble 545 total yards last season. PPR drafters should disregard the addition of Adams to an already strong receiving group of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, as Derek Carr ranked fourth in completions behind the LOS.
The Raiders were not good in the screen game under Jon Gruden. Out of Carr’s 4,804 passing yards in 2021, only 5.2 percent came on screen plays. Under McDaniels, roughly 10 percent of Mac Jones’ yardage came on screens.
We all know James White was McDaniels’ top pass-catching running back, but a number of other running backs caught passes out of the backfield over the years. In place of an injured White, Brandon Bolden caught 41 of his 49 targets, Damien Harris snagged 18 of his 21 targets, and Rhamondre Stevenson corralled 14 of his 18 targets. Back in the early 2010s, Shane Vereen saw seasons with 77 and 69 targets. White himself has also had 123, 95, and 86 target seasons and likely would have been in the 90s again this past season.
The winner of this third-down role could be in for a monster PPR season. The Wolf has Jacobs as the 25th-best running back for 2022.
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 93 overall (RB31)
With former 49ers OC Mike McDaniel calling the shots for the Dolphins, it looks like he found his RB1 after the team signed former Cardinals’ RB Chase Edmonds. The Cardinals primarily deployed Edmonds as a third-down back, but he shined at times when given lead-back opportunities. In his two games without James Conner last season, Edmonds averaged 19.95 PPR points per game — highlighted by a 26.7 PPR effort.
Edmonds will have to fight off the likes of Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel for carries, but he should be the clear third down and pass-catching back of the bunch. Playing in an inconsistent role in the desert, Edmonds was still able to secure 96 receptions over the last two seasons. That average should shoot to the moon as the RB1A in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme.
Edmonds ranks RB28 on The Wolf’s Big Board.
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 111 overall (RB38)
It seems analysts were so shocked by Patterson’s outburst last year that they can’t imagine it happening again. In a rare year-nine breakout, Patterson exceeded all expectations on a mediocre Falcons offense led by Matt Ryan, Kyle Pitts, and a cast of nobodies.
The Swiss Army Knife finished fifth in targets and second in receiving yards among running backs in 2021. Patterson was a rock-solid RB1 before he sustained an ankle injury in Week 11.
In addition to his dropoff in performance, critics worry about the quarterback downgrade of Ryan to Marcus Mariota. However, in Mariota’s last season as a starter (2018), he led the league in the percentage of passing attempts behind the line of scrimmage (21.5%). Ryan finished 25th among quarterbacks in the same category this past year, conveying Patterson’s receiving upside with Mariota under center.
The Wolf ranks Patterson RB31, but I think he should be drafted in the late teens or early 20s.
HONORABLE MENTION: 3RD DOWN BACKS
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 81 overall (RB27)
Commonly regarded as Ezekiel Elliott’s backup in Dallas, Pollard has shown high-level efficiency when called upon. Despite relatively low usage behind Elliott, Pollard finished last season with the 21st most receptions among running backs. Reports this offseason hinted towards more usage for Pollard out of the slot are logical because the Cowboys traded Amari Cooper and are waiting for Michael Gallup to return from injury.
The report is great news as Pollard led running backs with the highest percentage of targets per route out of the slot. The combination of additional passing game usage, Pollard’s overall efficiency, and the constant potential as a handcuff, makes Pollard a real threat in PPR leagues. The Wolf has Pollard ranked as the 26th overall running back.
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 139 overall (RB45)
Frank Reich told reporters back in May that the offense was too “run-centric” with All-Pro Jonathan Taylor and he wanted to get Nyheim Hines more involved in 2022. Reich even gave some fantasy advice to the community.
“I was just laughing with (senior director of football communications Matt) Conti coming in here, talking about Nyheim, and I said, ‘If I was a fantasy owner, if I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think I’d pick Nyheim this year. I think I’d consider drafting Nyheim. I think it’s worth [it] to consider drafting him.'”
Hines is coming off a down season where he only caught 40 balls for 310 yards and a score. But, he has two previous seasons where he eclipsed both 60 receptions and 85 carries in the same season. If Reich wants to limit Taylor’s wear and tear, then Hines could flourish as a weekly Flex option in PPR leagues.
Underdog Fantasy ADP: 176 overall (RB55)
Instead of competing against Clyde Edwards-Helaire for touches in the KC backfield, Williams will be the backup for James Conner in Arizona. He did meaningful work in the passing game in 2021, tying Alvin Kamara and Devin Singletary with 47 receptions.
Fantasy owners in PPR formats should expect similar output as Williams looks to fill in for Edmonds as the Cardinals’ pass-catching back. Expect Williams to remain consistent in addition to being a lethal handcuff in case Conner gets injured. Williams checks in at RB47 on our Big Board.
Other names to consider: Devin Singletary (BUF), JD McKissic (WAS), Rhamondre Stevenson (NE), Michael Carter (NYJ), Kenneth Gainwell (PHI), Rachaad White (TB)