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Running Backs to Fade in PPR Leagues

josh jacobs fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

For fantasy GMs, draft season is gearing up. Preparing for what is waiting for us in our virtual war rooms is a key part of the process, and the first thing to know is the language our leagues will speak to us in.

The first step is to know if you're going to battle your foes in Standard or PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring systems. The difference between those leagues comes down to a simple matter of awarding one extra point to players that catch a pass. Standard scoring was a staple in the early days of fantasy football but PPR has become the most played system lately.

With both Standard and PPR-scoring systems in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets in one system but potential duds in the other. Today, I'm highlighting some running backs who are primed to become studs in Standard leagues but not so much when used in PPR-format ones.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Standard Running Backs

Today, I'm highlighting some running backs who are primed to become studs in Standard-format leagues but not so much when used in PPR leagues.


Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Let's lose nobody's time and get straight to the point: Derrick Henry is the purest of Standard-format running backs ever. As great as Henry is and has been for his whole career, and although he doesn't know how to stop improving (PPR points through his five seasons: 105 to 135 to 201 to 294 to 333!), the truth is that he's making it on a pure rushing basis more than on pass-catching development.

See, Henry is a monster you need in your lineup no matter if you play in a PPR or standard league. It's as simple as that. But he's a much better play in the latter format. Looking at his projections for the upcoming season (via PFF), Henry's expected to finish as the RB8 in PRR leagues but a tastier RB3 in the standard format. Looking at his projected statline, it can't make more sense: 1,400+ rushing yards on 300+ carries compared to a laughable 30 targets and 170 receiving yards.

If you want a throwback rusher, one of those players that won your grandparent their fair share of fantasy leagues back in the '80s, Henry is your boy to draft. Nobody is projected to break the 1,300-yard mark other than Henry--on rushing alone, that is. On the other hand, and among RBs with at least 100 STD points on the 2021 projections, Henry's 173 receiving yards rank a paltry seventh-worst (or 35th highest). Get the rock, run the rock; that's Henry's motto.


Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

While not as steep as Henry's fall from one format to the other, projections are eerily close when it comes to Josh Jacobs and Henry's distance when played in those two different formats. Henry would go from RB3 to RB8, but Jacobs himself would gain four spots, going from RB20 to RB16 moving from PPR leagues to Standard ones.

There is just a 30-PPR points distance between his projections, and that's because Jacobs projects to a measly 36 targets in 2021 for only 224 receiving yards on the year. Those numbers could be even lower considering the Raiders have signed Kenyan Drake--a good pass-catcher in Arizona--to back Jacobs up and share the floor with him, mostly taking third downs away from Josh.

That being said, Jacobs is still the Raiders' no. 1 running back and he should command at least his customary 230+ rushing attempts with upside for 300+ touches over the 2021 season, all things considered. Back-to-back seasons of 1,065+ rushing yards adorn Jacobs' two-year resume and it's more than probable that he can keep numbers that high. Jacobs is not a bad PPR player, mind you (he finished RB8 in the format last year), but he's a much safer bet in STD leagues given his pure-rusher profile.


Damien Harris, New England Patriots

Harris is about to enter his third season as a pro, but it could very well be deemed his sophomore one as he only played a couple of games in 2019, logging a virtually non-existent four touches back then. Last season, even though he could only feature in 10 games, he still averaged 9.1 PPR points per game and finished RB53 with 91.3 total points (he would have posted an RB2 season pro-rating his average to a full 16-game line).

League-wide, Harris thrived in all statistical departments. Fantasy-wise, though, not so much. That's the thing about NFL players, folks. All of them are insane athletes and beasts at the sport, but when talking about fantasy-viable players, the margins tighten a lot, and all of a sudden not everyone looks good among his top-tier peers. That's Harris for you. Harris, who has been targeted seven times in two seasons, catching five of those passes, carried the ball a healthy 137 times in 2020 for 691 yards (5.04 YPA!) and a couple of scores.

Harris not only had to deal with the stupid backfield approach of New England (three players with 67+ rushing attempts) but also with a running-QB in Cam Newton. That might change in 2021, as Mac Jones is expected to start at some point through the year, freeing some carries for the actual rushers on the team.

Harris is projected to the second-largest difference between his expected RB-finish in PPR and Standard formats, going from RB45 in the former to RB39 in the latter. That six-place difference is definitely not mindblowing but is almost on par with Ekeler's 6-to-13 drop--only in reverse. Harris is not a player to draft early but could be a great option for those in Standard leagues going by the Zero RB strategy and loading on players at the position late in their drafts.

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