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Playing in half-point per reception leagues are one of the more difficult things to do in fantasy. Owners need to weight which players not only will catch passes, but also have touchdown upside as well.

Running backs that catch more passes should certainly have increased value over backs that are strictly running the football on first and second down, but at the same time, bigger backs with double digit touchdown upside need to be valued as well.

Here’s the breakdown of the running back tiers in half PPR leagues.

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Half-PPR Running Back Tiered Rankings

Tier One

1) David Johnson
2) Le’Veon Bell

The clear two top options at the position for redraft leagues in 2017 are David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. David Johnson was not only a monster in the running game with 16 TDs in 2016, but where he was a true difference maker was in the passing game. Johnson was 24th in the NFL in targets, that’s amongst all players. Fantasy owners don’t have to expect over 360 touches for Johnson in 2017, but he should continue to be one of the total touch leaders in the NFL. His workload is some of the safest in all of fantasy. Bell will have returned to Steelers practice on September 1st so fantasy owners need to be aware that he may develop the dreaded soft-tissue injury prior to week 1. That being said, Bell is one of the most often used players in the NFL and was the number four running back in standard leagues in only 12 games. Bell’s receiving game skills are another key to his massive fantasy value heading into 2017 as he was on pace for almost 119 targets if he played a full 16 games in 2016. Both Bell and Johnson are locks for the top of the first round with the slight edge going to Johnson due to his lack of injury history.


Tier Two

3) LeSean McCoy
4) Devonta Freeman
5) Jordan Howard
6) DeMarco Murray
7) Melvin Gordon
8) Jay Ajayi

A lot of the backs in this tier are very close in terms of potential workload and production. LeSean McCoy has the most consistent track record out of any these backs averaging at least 74.6 rushing yards per game and 15.6 carries per game over his last 4 seasons. He deserves the top slot in this tier even though the Bills have a chance to be one of the worst offenses in the NFL. McCoy will be a focal point in both the running and pass game where he’s seen 50+ catches in three of the past five seasons. Even though Devonta Freeman is due for some regression, he has a 200 touch floor in an at least above average offense in 2017. He has caught at least 54 passes each of the last two seasons, giving him a bit of a boost in PPR formats. Melvin Gordon could be and should be the next highest player in this tier. There will be little if any competition for touches for him and he also saw an expanded role in the passing game in 2016 where he caught seven more passes and increased his target count by 20. Gordon also demonstrated that he can find the endzone and should continue to do so in 2017 on an improved offense.

DeMarco Murray might be playing on the best team out of any of the players on this list, but that doesn’t mean he should be ranked as highly. There are concerns about Derrick Henry taking more of the workload this season and a more pass heavy approach with the editions of Eric Decker and rookie Corey Davis. Jordan Howard should be another every down back, but there are concerns over his lack of passing game skill after catching just 29 of 50 targets. He is also playing on an offense that stands to be one of the worst in the NFL and should be ranked near or at the bottom of this tier. Jay Ajayi will either be a boom or bust player in 2017. If his offensive line is healthy, expect Ajayi to impress, but if Center Mike Pouncey misses some time, it could spell trouble. Ajayi should be at the bottom of this tier with Jordan Howard.


Tier Three

9) Todd Gurley
10) Lamar Miller
11) Leonard Fournette
12) Ezekiel Elliott

This tier is made up of many boom or bust options. Todd Gurley and Lamar Miller were both major disappointments in 2016, but additions their offenses should allow them to regain their previous season(s) form.  Gurley should be the head of this tier with the most certainty in his workload to start the season out of the group. If Gurley can be his explosive like in 2015 when he had runs of 71, 55 and 52 yards then he could vault himself back into the top tier. Leonard Fournette deserves to be second in this tier even though he hasn’t played an actual down in the NFL. Fournette has the ability to be a generational talent and if the Jaguars can figure out their quarterback situation this season, a stat line of 1300-1400 total yards and 8-10 TDs isn’t out of the question.

One of the biggest question marks heading into fantasy drafts is the status of Ezekiel Elliott. If Elliott’s suspension is reduced to four games or less, he deserves to be drafted in the back end of round one. Lamar Miller should be the lowest ranking member of this tier with questions surrounding potential workload due to rookie D’Onta Foreman. Miller should see the bulk of the work and have around 225-245 touches on the season, but he’s now proven to wear down with heavy workloads. Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a quantum leap with the Texans offense in 2017 even with the removal of Brock Osweiler.


Tier Four

13) Ty Montgomery
14) Christian McCaffrey
15) Isaiah Crowell
16) Marshawn Lynch
17) Carlos Hyde
18) CJ Anderson

Being Aaron Rodgers' caddy has its perks and one of them is double digit touchdown upside. That upside alone should allow for Ty Montgomery to make his case as a high-end RB2 in any PPR scoring format. Also factor in his prowess for catching the football and that makes Montgomery the class of this tier if he can hold onto the starting job for the entire 2017 season. Christian McCaffrey has a chance to catch 50+ passes in 2017, but compared to the rest of the backs in this tier, he won’t be around the goal-line nearly enough to justify the number 14 ranking. He should be closer to the bottom of this tier as the other backs, even including Marshawn Lynch and Carlos Hyde will catch the ball out of the backfield. Crowell will be on a bad offense with the Browns yet again, but it appears he won’t have to fight off Duke Johnson for touches in the early season. Also, don’t sleep on Crowell as a pass catcher; he did haul in 40 receptions in 2016.

The big wild card is Marshawn Lynch. If he duplicates Latavius Murray’s production from a year ago, fantasy owners will be dancing in the streets, and Lynch will finish as a low-end RB1. Lynch could also break down as a 31-year old running back and be dead weight on a fantasy roster. His high upside is deserving of the middle of this tier. CJ Anderson just can’t stay healthy and that’s why he belongs at the bottom of this tier along with Carlos Hyde and McCaffrey. Carlos Hyde might be playing in a sub-par offense in 2017, but Kyle Shanahan will try and get him in the best position to be effective as possible. There is still too much worry to rank him any higher.


Tier Five

19) Frank Gore
20) Danny Woodhead
21) Dalvin Cook
22) Ameer Abdullah
23) Joe Mixon

Both rookies in this tier could easily be ranked five spots higher as they are by far the most talented backs on their teams. Cook has been given the reigns in Minnesota throughout the preseason and has demonstrated flashes of why he could be a strong weekly fantasy contributor. He should be the top of this tier. On the other hand, Joe Mixon appears to be in a battle for carries and touches with Jeremy Hill at least to start the season. Mixon has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield this preseason and for full season ranks should be ahead of Frank Gore and especially Ameer Abdullah. There is so much uncertainty around the Colts and Andrew Luck right now that even if they plan to lean on the running game it might not get Frank Gore into middle RB2 range. He also has the concern of Marlon Mack taking some passing down work and should be near the bottom of this tier. Danny Woodhead appears to be on one of the potential dumpster fire teams in 2017, but should find plenty of work and might even see some short yardage and goalline work in Baltimore. He is fairly valued at 60th overall in ADP and could easily have 60+ catches this season. Ameer Abdullah is certainly talented but stands to share time with one of the best pass catching backs in the NFL in Theo Riddick and also share goal-line work with Zach Zenner. He deserves to be the lowest in this tier by far.


Tier Six

24) Eddie Lacy
25) Mark Ingram
26) Paul Perkins
27) Tevin Coleman
28) Bilal Powell

Running back starts to get ugly as the next tier of players appears. Eddie Lacy might be losing his grip on a job in Seattle or at least will be in a timeshare situation with Thomas Rawls and should be ranked as such, near the bottom of this tier. Mark Ingram and Paul Perkins have the least concerns about their roles in their respective offenses, even if those roles won’t include 75% of the touches in the backfield. Both backs should be at the top of this tier with Ingram slightly higher due to his touchdown upside. Even though Bilal Powell plays for the Jets, it’s clear he has a defined role on that team that includes a ton of receptions (he had 58 in 2016) and the ability to carry the load if need be averaging 20.5 carries per game in his last four contests in 2016. Even Powell should be ahead of Eddie Lacy’s murky situation. Tevin Coleman deserves to be last in this tier after coming off an 11 TD season on just 149 touches. That kind of efficiency in scoring touchdowns is simply unsustainable and he should be ranked as such.


Tier Seven

29) Mike Gillislee
30) Darren McFadden
31) Rob Kelley
32) LeGarrette Blount
33) Adrian Peterson
34) Doug Martin

The vast majority of backs in this tier will not catch 30 or more passes which will decrease their overall value in this format. McFadden and Martin may have the most receptions out of this group even though they will not play the full 16 games this season. Mike Gillislee is one player in this tier with double digit touchdown upside and deserves to be near the top of this tier where he should be joined by Doug Martin. There are some analysts that question Martin’s role on the team once he returns from his three game suspension to start the season, but from the preseason most can see he’s getting most, if not all of the first team work. Martin has the talent to outperform this tier and be considered a top 10-15 running back once he returns.

Rob Kelley seems to have a handle on the early down work in Washington, but he might not be long for the job with rookie Samaje Perine looming even after a sub-par preseason. He belongs closer to the bottom of this tier than the top. LeGarrette Blount has struggled throughout the offseason and preseason working his way into the Eagles offense and should be considered the lowest member of this tier especially with his struggles in the passing game. The wild card in this tier is Adrian Peterson as depending if the Adrian Peterson of 2014 or 2016 shows up will go a long way into determining his value this season. He is accurately placed within this tier due to his smaller role in the passing game. Peterson does have a career high of 43 receptions, but that was back in 2009 and hasn’t had a 40 catch season since 2012.


Updated Tiered Rankings and Analysis