Three PPR Running Backs to Roster in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
There are specific NFL running backs that are worth a draft pick in PPR drafts. Making sure to obtain one or two of these guys will end up advantageous in the long run. There are plethoras of early-round backs that are certain to be effective in the passing game, including Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Austin Ekeler, to name a few. Later round gems or players on the waiver wire are also worth checking into as they are safe targets (both on the field and in your draft).
Pass catching backs are particularly useful in PPR leagues and worth keeping on your radar. The Ultimate Draft Kit is an impressive tool worth referencing when exploring PPR backs. There will presumably be various other backs with these skill sets available on waivers once the season starts, so keep that in the back of your mind. These sorts of backs are great Flex plays and can easily be thrown into a line-up whenever injuries or bye weeks occur. Having some of these types of players on your bench can ultimately bail you out when you need it most.
Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears offense was abysmal as a whole last season, minus wide receiver Allen Robinson. Still, a lot of that was attributed to poor quarterback play. Even with the quarterback play, there was a player who had career highs in both targets and receptions in 2019 and was not a wide receiver. This player was the number two option in the passing game for the Bears.
Tarik Cohen is not the first person you think of when you think of Chicago players, but he should be on your radar. Cohen goes into the year in a spot he is used to being; the number two back on a team filled with question marks.
Cohen’s first two years in the league were ones to applaud. He had 814 total rushing yards in those two seasons as well as five touchdowns and 186 carries. Things changed in 2019, and Cohen only managed 213 yards on 64 carries while registering zero touchdowns.
Although Cohen will not show off his rushing ability, he could impress with his other expertise. He is the ideal back for PPR purposes because of his catching strength. The 2019 campaign saw Cohen catch 79 passes on 104 targets. The primary passing back also possessed 49.8% of snaps out of the slot, which his quarterback Mitchell Trubisky heavily relied on. (Yes, Trubusky has been named the starter, at least for now).
The 25-year-old pass-catcher does lack the extended plays to be a constant startable running back in 2019, but he does appear to be set up for success this season. David Montgomery, selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, is the number one guy in Chicago at the running back position. He is currently dealing with a groin injury that will keep him out of action for two to four weeks. Montgomery should miss at least one game, which presents many opportunities for Cohen.
The PPR running back is a trustworthy play and someone to consider in your flex spot for those safe points. Cohen will get peppered with targets, and having him rostered will be useful in PPR leagues. He is a solid value pick, playing in all 16 games last season. The trend should continue this year, so feel confident drafting him.
Chris Thompson – Jacksonville Jaguars
August 31st will be remembered as the day Twitter freaked out over Leonard Fournette’s release from the Jaguars roster. What was even more of a shake-up to the fantasy (and real) football world was his signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fournette led Jacksonville in receptions for the 2019 season. Another example of a running back doing work in the passing game. He ended the season with 76 receptions. Now that Fournette is out of the way, someone else on the team needs to step up in the receiving game. Enter Chris Thompson.
Thompson was a PPR monster as a member of the Washington Football Team for seven seasons. Now he finds himself in Jacksonville, reuniting with Jay Gruden. Gruden was the head coach of Washington for six years while Thompson was there. He often concentrated on getting the ball into Thompson’s hands.
Last season, Thompson had 42 receptions and gained 378 yards off of those catches. During that campaign, he sat out for five games due to a toe injury sustained in week six versus Miami. The most notable thorn in the 29-year-old’s side is his injury history. He has only played a total of 66 games since coming into the league in 2013. Thompson has played in 12 or fewer games in all of his seasons except one.
Thompson’s injury history is baked into his value; thus, he is often available in the last round or off waivers. Fournette’s departure, along with assumed starter Ryquell Armstead’s addition to the Reserve/Covid-19 list twice in two months, should present Thompson with opportunities to gain coveted PPR points. Although his draft value has been more than ideal as of late, he will continue to climb up draft boards due to all the running back news coming from Jacksonville.
The 2013 fifth-round pick out of Florida State University does not have many running backs on his team to compete for receptions. Armstead managed to grab 14 receptions for 144 yards in his 2019 timespan. He was targeted 24 times in that season, and it confirmed that he is not a pass-catching back.
James White – New England Patriots
James White is a running back out of New England that has been discussed year after year when talking PPR backs. In his 2018 season with the Patriots, White had 87 receptions while adding five receiving touchdowns. For his 2019 season, White marked 72 receptions but only one touchdown.
Over his past two seasons in New England, the 28-year-old athlete has been a top-20 fantasy running back. Tom Brady is no longer quarterback of the Patriots, but in steps Cam Newton to fill the signal-caller role. While healthy in his 2018 season with the Carolina Panthers, Newton tossed the pigskin 124 times to running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey, in turn, led the team in targets that season.
White is not in the same tier as McCaffrey, but that does not mean he won’t see passes in his direction. Newton should still rely massively on the back who is first in receptions and receiving yards among the running back position since 2015 (315 receptions and 2,786 receiving yards).
No offensive player on the Patriots is knocking off anyone’s socks at the moment, but White could change that perspective. Running back Sony Michel is known to have chronic knee issues that could harm his performance this season. He only had 19 catches in his NFL career, so he is not a PPR threat. Lamar Miller was signed in the off-season, but he just came off the PUP, has not been relevant in years, and was just cut from the team. Damien Harris has been impressive in camp, but a hand injury could set him back. On top of that, Harris only equated 13 catches a year while playing college ball, so he also does not threaten White’s status in the passing game. White should be the one getting thrown the ball out of the backfield.