by Will Overton
It is not just Wide Receivers who can have their value effected by your league being a PPR league. The more the NFL turns towards being a pass first league the more important it is going to be for you to have running backs who catch passes in PPR leagues.
While being in a PPR league can effect all backs in some way or another, here are ten guys who stand out to me as being significantly higher or lower in value in a league where catching passes gets you points.
The top backs, Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy are all good pass catchers, and have more value, but they’re also the top three backs no matter what and likely top five picks overall, a PPR league doesn’t change that one way or another really. But for these ten guys I have listed here, being in a PPR league can move a guy up or down a round or more in your draft, or at least it should if the owners are paying attention.
Here are my top ten value gainers and losers at running back in PPR leagues:
Guys To Upgrade In PPR Leagues
Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints: The biggest jump of any running backs in a PPR format is Darren Sproles, hands down. Sproles had 86 catches last year for the Saints, second on the team only to Jimmy Graham. The Saints have a lot of weapons, but they also threw the ball last season more than any other team in the league with the exception of the Detroit Lions. Sproles Brees has always been a fan of throwing to his running backs, part of the reason Pierre Thomas was so valuable for so long. A healthy Mark Ingram may mean less carries for Sproles, but I don’t think it will mean less catches. Sproles goes from a borderline top 20 RB to potentially top 10 in PPR leagues.
Reggie Bush – Miami Dolphins: While Bush was busy having his best year ever in terms of rushing numbers, he was also steadily putting up his typically strong receiving numbers as well. While it was surprising to see Bush limited to just 296 receiving yards on his 43 catches, he was still making the catches. And now that he has proven his worth as a runner he should spend even more time on the field. The Dolphins have a makeshift receiving corp and a rookie QB who is going to need a safety valve at times. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bush clear the 50 catch mark this season for the first time since the 08-09 season.
Roy Helu – Washington Redskins: I’m not crazy about drafting anyone from the Skins backfield with the way Mike Shannahan does things, but as far as pure talent goes Helu is my favorite and he gets an upgrade in PPR leagues. As a rookie Helu caught 49 passes despite not being a mainstay in the Redskins backfield. Helu had both a game where he caught 14 passes and another game where he caught 7 proving the extent of his receiving potential. Helu may be splitting time with Evan Royster and Tim Hightower, but Helu should be the mainstay on passing downs.
C.J. Spiller – Buffalo Bills: It’s unclear how things will play out with Fred Jackson and Spiller in Buffalo. Jackson was one of the league’s best backs last year before getting hurt, but Spiller is the young, big play back that showed a lot of potential in the last five games of last season with Jackson out. In the final six games of last season Spiller caught 24 passes, including a nine catch game. Jackson is a nice receiver as well, but he doesn’t have Spiller’s open field ability. The Bills will be looking to find ways to use Spiller this season and passing downs should be a good way to do it. Last year Jackson and Spiller both caught 39 passes, this year I think Spiller tops 50 catches while Jackson loses some catches.
Jacquizz Rodgers – Atlanta Falcons: A lot of people are down on Michael Turner this year, and I do believe Turner will see less time on the field than normal with Rodgers getting more. I’ll cover Turner’s inability to catch passes later in this post, but Rodgers is the opposite. I have some doubts about Rodgers potential as a future featured back, but I do like him as a pass catching specialist. In very limited playing time last year Rodgers caught 21 passes. This year the Falcons want Rodgers on the field more, which will likely be passing situations, and the Falcons seem intent on passing the ball a lot. Rodgers may be just a handcuff to Turner in standard leagues, but in PPR leagues he holds actual value.
Ronnie Hillman – Denver Broncos: No matter what your take on Willis McGehee’s career resurgence is, one thing that can’t be denied is that McGehee is not a pass catcher, not in the slightest. I don’t anticipate that Hillman will get a ton of carries this season, but I can see him getting a fair amount of pass receptions. Hillman is far more athletic than McGehee and has serious quickness with good open field ability to make defenders miss. Even in PPR leagues Hillman should probably only be relegated to deep leagues, but his value certainly goes up in those.
Guys To Downgrade In PPR Legaues
DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers: It’s hard to separate DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in terms of fantasy value, unless you’re talking about a PPR league. Williams caught 16 passes last season, Stewart meanwhile caught 47. Not only that, but Carolina brought in another RB to take time away from Williams in Mike Tolbert and Tolbert caught 54 passes last season in San Diego. Williams will be lucky to hit double digits in pass receptions this season and the already declining value of Williams loses even more in PPR leagues.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals didn’t do much passing to the running back when Cedric Benson was in town and I don’t think they’ll do any more of it with Green-Ellis who caught 9 passes on a team that does use the running back as a receiver in New England. And when the Bengals do face passing downs it would likely be Brian Leonard coming into the game to handle those spots. I do like Green-Ellis getting a real shot at being a featured back this season, but I don’t like him nearly as much in PPR leagues.
DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys: Don’t be mistaken by this, I do believe that Murray is going to be the featured back for the Cowboys this season. It’s just that I don’t think much of him as a pass catcher. Murray caught 26 passes last season and I think he’d be lucky to match that total this season. The Cowboys seem ready to give up on Felix Jones, but he still has value as a pass catcher and I think he will see the field on third down and long spots more often than Murray will. I would still take Murray in a PPR league, but I would be downgrading him.
Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons: Like I mentioned above, Turner is not a pass catcher, at all. Turner has always been the famous example of a guy to downgrade in PPR leagues and it’s still true now. In fact it may be even more true now that the Falcons have a pass catching back like Jacquizz Rodgers. Turner caught a career high 17 passes last season and even that number will be hard to replicate.