Value of RB Targets in PPR Leagues

One thing to consider in PPR leagues is the value of RB targets. Sure, taking the likes of Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb at the top of a draft might seem like a good idea. In alot of cases it can be. However, in PPR leagues, if you aren’t taking a good pass-catcher, then you need your player to be scoring plenty of TDs. Let’s dive into it a bit further.

Value of an RB Target

The easiest way to work out the importance of a target for a running back is looking at the stats. On average last season RBs scored 0.64 points per rushing attempt, scoring 1.53 points per target. The reason is pretty obvious when you think about it. In a PPR league, as soon as a player catches the ball he gets a point. Then you add the points from the yards and TDs, and a target is much more valuable.

Unlike other targets on the field too, a target to a running back has a much higher success rate, as the distance is (likely) the shortest pass that will be attempted. That success rate is around 75% across the league, so from 4 targets you are looking at 3 points. That’s the same as 30 yards rushing. With an average of around 4 yards per carry, you are looking at just over nine carries to achieve that total. And that’s just the catch, not even taking into consideration the yardage from the catch!

What does that mean for your draft?

The value of a target is exactly why the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are the true elite of the position. They are heavily involved in both aspects of the game. But what should you do with players that are more heavily involved in one part of the offense?

Well, while it might seem that a player that gets handoffs might feel more secure, you would be better getting a pass-catcher if you are deciding between them. So, for example, taking Austin Ekeler over Nick Chubb or Aaron Jones could be safer in the first round. As it’s more likely that even with concerns over his TD total, his path to a points total for an RB1 is easier than a player that needs to be hugely effective on the ground. Another reason to go with the pass-catcher is that as a result of having a safer floor, they additionally have a higher ceiling.

Let’s take Derrick Henry as an example. Last season, he ran for 2,027 yards and 17 TDs, while only catching 19 passes for 114 yards. That rushing yardage total was the fifth-highest mark in NFL history. On those stats, his PPR total would be 335 points in 16 games. Compare that to Dalvin Cook’s season, he only played 14 games, and managed to rush for 1,557 yards and 16TDs, but caught 44 passes for 361 yards and 1 TD. That totals 337 points!

Which player is more likely to be able to repeat that feat? Henry with another historically high rushing total? Or Cook, who didn’t even play in 16 games? That might be an unfair example, as you are looking at a top-level RB regardless of format.

Ekeler or Chubb?

Nick Chubb is a popular selection in first-rounds. This season, like last season, he is likely going to be used as the early down back, with Kareem Hunt being used as the pass-catcher out of the backfield. However, let’s have a look at their 2020 seasons:

NameGamesRush YardRush TDRecsRec YardRec TDPPR Points
Nick Chubb121,06712161500209.7
Austin Ekeler105301544032165.3

The 2020 season wasn’t even a great one for Ekeler, with the injuries that he suffered meaning that he really struggled to make a big impact. Even so, because of his receptions, he only finished 44 points behind Chubb. That is playing two fewer games, 200 yards and 9 TDs!

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Image Credit: Darren Yamashita – USA TODAY Sports