J.D. McKissic Can Be a PPR Superstar Again in 2021 (Fantasy Football)
When you think of a fantasy asset at the running back position for the Washington Football Team, your mind automatically thinks of Antonio Gibson (and it absolutely should).
What if I told you there is actually another running back on the Washington roster with value in PPR leagues? J.D. McKissic joined Washington last season. An athlete who hadn’t knocked anyone’s socks off at the pro level finally proved he could be an important figure on both a real and fake football team.
The undrafted running back played college ball at Arkansas State, playing wide receiver and returning kicks. When McKissic first entered the NFL in 2016, he tried to obtain a spot with the Atlanta Falcons. After McKissic didn’t make the 53-man roster, the team released him from the organization. Subsequently, McKissic signed with Seattle. He had small flashes of potential and was a decent player for both the Seahawks and later the Detroit Lions. With each team, he never found himself in a spot to fill a specific role.
Enter the 2020 season. McKissic was now on the Washington Football Team roster, listed as second on the depth chart at running back behind rookie Gibson. Gibson had a solid first season, rushing 170 times for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games. The offense had a burst of energy they hadn’t seen in quite some time with the debut of Gibson, but McKissic still had a silently good fifth season in the league.
McKissic’s role with Washington was at last defined, giving fantasy football managers a clearer view of the Football Team backfield. For standard leagues, McKissic provided to have no appeal. But he showed he is a PPR monster, putting up crucial points for fantasy managers dealing with injured players, bye weeks, and flex spot conundrums.
Over the years, there have been plenty of these PPR gold players – your Chris Thompson, Duke Johnson, Theo Riddick types. These types are never the guys you write home about, but they are still solid plays on a situational basis. McKissic is that player this season, the one that will get you PPR points in a pinch.
Gibson dealt with injury in 2020, dealing with toe turf. Being sidelined and not at 100-percent was a situation that helped McKissic’s fantasy value. Gibson is not fully back to where he was pre-injury, but his progress has him close.
These factors may seem like they would hurt McKissic’s value, but having both of these RBs out there benefits new Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Gibson was also a wide receiver at Memphis. The two WR-converted-to-RB roster build is intriguing to me.
Fitzmagic is set up for success with this running back duo. The 2020 season saw Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke, Dwayne Haskins, and Kyle Allen under center for Football Team. The veteran will provide stability at the quarterback position, even if for just a year.
McKissic had 20.6% of his team’s receptions in 2020 compared to the 10.7% Gibson tallied via the Market Share Report. Only Alvin Kamara, James White, and Austin Ekeler had more of their team’s receptions than McKissic.
Most receptions by RBs in 2020:
1. Alvin Kamara – 83
2. J.D. McKissic – 80
3. Nyheim Hines – 64
4. Mike Davis – 59 pic.twitter.com/wCG5wU5Q6o
— PFF (@PFF) January 8, 2021
Last season, wideout Terry McLaurin showed he is a legit fantasy option as he obtained 24.0% of Washington’s receptions. Curtis Samuel is now on the roster, but the team has needed another pass-catching option for some time. Samuel looks to take targets away from McKissic. However, even if McKissic sees fewer targets, he will still have value in PPR leagues.
McKissic was targeted 110 times, the most targets seen by a running back in 2020. That total was good enough for second in targets on the team, only trailing McLaurin who gained 24 more targets. If the number of balls tossed in McKissic’s space decreases, he would still see a healthy amount of passes his way.
Logan Thomas could be the one who sees less action in 2021. Last year, the 29-year-old tight end garnered 72 receptions on 110 targets (yes, the same number of targets as McKissic). He put up 670 yards and six touchdowns. Without Smith at QB, it is uncertain if Thomas can repeat those solid tight end stats in the upcoming season.
I do not believe Gibson will take complete control of this backfield, and McKissic will be a sneaky get in drafts. McClaurin will see plenty of attention from defenders, giving McKissic more opportunity to get open. Last season may have been the ceiling for what we can expect from McKissic going forward. Still, his floor has definitely found itself closer to that ceiling in 2021.
The UDK Average Draft Position (ADP) has McKissic currently going at 12.03 in 12 team Half PPR leagues (tied at this spot with Alexander Mattison). Players going around him are Rashaad Penny (11.12), Jamison Crowder (12.02), and Darnell Mooney (12.05). In half or full point PPR, I shoot my shot on the running back who led RBs in targets and has a quarterback who is not afraid to throw the ball.
McKissic was a PPR beast last year no doubt, but in order to sell me on him this year I would have to see something in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tendencies that points towards him checking the ball down. Also perhaps something about how many of “Smooches” targets were plays designed for him rather than Alex Smith checking down. Fitz has better weapons than he did in Miami, weapons I think he’ll trust to grab 50/50 balls while under pressure. https://www.nfl.com/news/next-gen-stats-top-10-qbs-under-pressure-in-2020-ryan-fitzpatrick-outshines-comp This article talks about how FItz was the best QB under pressure last year. “He tended to let it fly more often when under pressure, averaging 1.7 more air yards per attempt than he did on unpressured throws.” All of that being said I really enjoyed reading your article! Great read!
“I do not believe Gibson will take complete control of this backfield”
That’s the total opposite of what the Washington beat writers who cover the team are saying. Thanks for the insight, but I’ll take Mike’s take on Gibson and also the people covering the team :)