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Fantasy Football Running Backs to Fade in PPR, and Prioritize in Standard (Non-PPR)

Derrick Henry - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

While points-per-reception (PPR) leagues have become fantasy's most popular format over the years, there's still something to be said for standard (STD) settings. PPR leagues weigh productivity, such as catches, more heavily while STD formats significantly lean towards efficiency, such as touchdowns.

When it comes to running backs, PPR leagues tend to reward not only high-floor players but also those who regularly operate during passing downs. These settings favor tailbacks who consistently function during two-minute drills and also have the propensity to produce fantasy points in bunches.

STD modes advocate the use of the league's most pure RBs. This pertains to sheer downhill runners with explosive ball-carrying potential. Fantasy managers are far less inclined to target scat-backs, who generally need the ball schemed into their hands in space on the perimeter rather than in between the tackles. Let's investigate some of gridiron's most intimidating power backs to prioritize in STD leagues, but fade at their average draft positions (ADP) in PPR.

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Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans


If you’ve played fantasy football for the past half-decade, you may have guessed Derrick Henry would appear in this list. The generational athlete might very well be the NFL’s most dominant rusher. Henry shoulders the ability to carry STD league fantasy rosters to a championship single-handedly each year. The 29-year-old leads the league in rushing attempts (1249) by a landslide since his 2019 breakout season. 

This extreme level of volume has placed the three-time Pro Bowler inside the top five of RBs in full-PPR fantasy points per game each year since '19. Henry is coming off a career year in receiving with 33 catches for 398 yards. However, he ran more than 11 routes in a single game just once in 2022, which makes this wholly unsustainable.

Henry managed to lead his position in both yards per reception and yards per route run. However, he didn’t even log enough receiving production in any season prior (less than 20 catches each campaign) to qualify for ranking eligibility in most of these categories. In 2023, expect the veteran's receiving production to more accurately reflect his route-running usage.

"King Henry" has been fourth or better in dominator rating among RBs in each of the last four campaigns. But the former All-Pro will turn 30 in early January. Henry might only be worth a second or third-round pick in PPR settings, but he’s still a worthwhile investment in the first round of STD leagues. The 247-pound bruiser back remains the centerpiece of the Titans after being third in yards created last year, but he will need to overcome a highly-suspect offensive line, regarded by many as the potentially the worst in football.


Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints


Jamaal Williams is coming off a historic year in which he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with the Detroit Lions. After signing with the New Orleans Saints this offseason and teaming up with pass-catching aficionado Alvin Kamara, Williams' playstyle makes him an obvious STD league preference. Since 2017, Kamara has accumulated the second-most catches (430) among halfbacks in the league over this period.

While Williams was an RB1 option in both formats for his weekly ceiling-smashing tendencies in 2022, the 28-year-old possessed a noticeable discrepancy in aggregate value between PPR (RB13) and STD leagues (RB7).

Williams posted career lows in targets (16), catches (12), and receiving yards (73) while bulldozing his way to 17 rushing scores. The former fourth-rounder ran only 112 routes, which was 55th among RBs. He will certainly get a boost in receiving upside with Kamara suspended for the season's first three games, but Williams ultimately profiles as a STD league priority having only secured three catches over his final 10 games of '22.

The six-year veteran owns the seniority advantage in vying for an edge in touches over rookie Kendre Miller. The power back should be considered especially for zero-RB roster builds. The Saints have one of the easiest schedules in football this year, which is a recipe for plenty of possible positive game scripts.


Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks


Kenneth Walker (groin) already saw little receiving usage during his rookie year with the Seattle Seahawks. Now, add incoming rookies Zach Charbonnet and Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the mix and Walker becomes even less important in the passing game. Charbonnet brings an all-purpose skillset to the table as he hauled in 61 passes for 518 yards across 22 games at UCLA between 2021-22.

The 22-year-old Walker marked 42nd among RBs with just 116 receiving yards. The Seahawks should feature a prolific offense with their plethora of weapons, so Walker’s lucrative 52 red-zone touches could feasibly carry over into '23 to some degree. The Michigan State product has an overall RB1 ceiling as Seattle's lead back, but his stock could take a hit in PPR settings compared to those at his position being drafted around him. Walker logged only 11 targets over his last seven games, including the playoffs.

The explosive ball carrier did post 17 breakaway runs (15-plus yards) for a dynamic 7.5% rate in this category. It's not the easiest statistic to sustain but it demonstrates just how electric Walker is with the ball in his hands. Excluding a shortened Week 13 when he jammed his ankle, the '22 second-rounder churned up 84.9 rushing yards per game in 12 contests from Weeks 5 to 19 including the postseason. He merits fourth-round fantasy treatment in STD, but he's more of a fifth or sixth-rounder outside of those formats.

Walker missed a few weeks of training camp after sustaining a groin injury at the end of July. Seattle's lead back then returned to practice in mid-August and remains on track for Week 1. Fantasy managers should not be fading the second-year back based on his injury status at this time.


J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens


 J.K. Dobbins is still waiting on what's become an elusive full-fledged breakout season. The Ohio State product has averaged 5.8 yards per carry for his NFL career but has yet to capture a 1000-yard campaign due to a 2021 ACL tear. The injury has limited him to eight games played over the last two seasons. Dobbins doesn’t get much work in receiving game on the run-centric Ravens, either.

Dobbins had just a 26.6% route participation last year. The former second-rounder also has a mere 25 catches in 23 career games. He ran only 4.3 routes per game and registered a lone catch over 72 total touches across his last six regular-season outings.

The threat of quarterback Lamar Jackson provides Dobbins with a ridiculous ceiling, considering how defenses have to account for both of their rushing capabilities. The 24-year-old signifies a dark-horse candidate to lead all RBs in rushing touchdowns this upcoming season. Baltimore didn’t draft any backfield help, nor did they sign anyone to address the position this offseason.

The elusive back checked quite a few boxes in the efficiency department in '22 as well. He tallied an NFL-high 5.7 yards per carry among RBs to go with a 43.4% juke rate and 10.9% breakaway run rate over 92 rush attempts. Dobbins is a fine fantasy selection in the fifth round of non-PPR layouts for his mouthwatering rushing upside. He probably shouldn't come off the board before Round 6 in PPR, however, while projecting with such minimal production in the receiving department.


Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders

FFPC ADP: 103.0

Brian Robinson concerningly registered zero catches in 7-of-12 games played during his rookie season with the Washington Commanders. The Alabama product scraped up a mere 12 targets overall. Antonio Gibson may not be the lead back of the offense but he will certainly eat into Robinson’s workload during pass-catching situations. Washington may take on a more pass-heavy approach with former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy taking over play-calling duties, as well.

Robinson posted a paltry 18.7% route participation, rendering his receiving production almost a negligible figure. That's unlikely to change much in '23 but the 24-year-old is the favorite for early-down/goal-line touches and carries overall in the Commanders offense.

It's important to note that Robinson was working towards becoming Washington's preferred RB last preseason before unfortunately sustaining two gunshot wounds during an attempted robbery in late August '22. Perhaps that impeded his athleticism, as the 2022 third-rounder averaged only 3.9 yards per carry with a lackluster 2.9% breakaway run rate. A full year removed from that incident by Week 1, Robinson is a ninth-round fantasy consideration in STD, but perhaps a 10th- or 11th-rounder otherwise.

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