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6 PPR RB Sleepers

By Jared Smola 8:07am EDT 7/25/18


Mining for late-round RB gems in your PPR draft? Seek out targets.

Get this: Last season, a RB carry was worth an average of .56 PPR points. A RB target was worth a whopping 1.52 — nearly 3 times more than a carry.

With that in mind, let’s highlight some late-round RBs set to play significant pass-catching roles this season. All 6 of these guys are going in the 10th round or later and are projected to see 40+ targets.


Theo Riddick, Lions

We only have 6 RBs projected for more targets this season than Riddick’s 72.

He’s averaged 5.64 targets per game over the past 3 years — a full-season pace of 90. Among RBs, Riddick ranks 2nd behind only Duke Johnson in targets (237), catches (186) and receiving yards (1,512) since 2015. His finishes in PPR points per game the last 3 years: 18th, 25th and 26th.

Yet Riddick is lasting until the 13th round as RB50 in recent fantasy drafts.

It’s a bit crowded in Detroit with a strong WR duo of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. But TE Eric Ebron leaves behind 86 targets from a year ago. And the Lions will remain a pass-heavy offense after ranking 1st, 2nd and 2nd in pass rate under OC Jim Bob Cooter the past 3 seasons.

The Lions did add RB Kerryon Johnson in the 2nd round of this spring’s draft. But there’s been nothing to suggest that he’s a threat to Riddick’s role as the primary pass-catcher in this backfield.


James White, Patriots

White is the cheapest way to get a piece of the always-productive Patriots backfield. And he has the most secure role.

While Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will duke it out for early-down work, White should continue to control passing-down snaps. He’s filled that role over the past 3 seasons, totaling 156 catches for 1,390 yards and 12 TDs. No RB has compiled more receiving scores over that span — a product of 28 total red-zone targets. White ranks 5th in both catches and receiving yards during that stretch.

And he’s been efficient. White ranks 12th in yards per catch and 15th in yards per target among 58 RBs with 50+ catches over the last 3 years. He finished 10th among 49 RBs in Pro Football Focus’ 2017 receiving grades.

So expect White to again serve as the Patriots’ lead pass-catching back in 2018 — a role that’s helped him to 3 straight top 40 PPR finishes. He’s currently being drafted as RB57.


Giovani Bernard, Bengals

Bernard brings a bigger rushing projection than the 2 guys above him on the list. He sports a career 4.2 yards-per-carry average, including 4.4 over the last 3 years. And he’s topped 100 carries in all 4 seasons in which he’s played 13+ games.

We currently have Bernard projected for 92 carries this season, but there’s upside well beyond that if Joe Mixon isn’t more efficient than he was last year.

Of course, we’re here for the receiving numbers. And Bernard has churned those out consistently, tallying 39+ grabs in each of his 5 NFL seasons. He’s averaged 3.24 catches per game — a full-season pace of 51.8. Only 13 RBs topped that mark last year.

Even with a diminished ball-carrying role the last 2 seasons, Bernard has ranked 28th and 42nd in PPR points per game. That 28th-place finish last year came on a Bengals offense that ranked 26th in points, 32nd in yards and 32nd in snaps. We’re expecting significant improvement in Cincinnati this year.

Consider Bernard’s floor somewhere around RB40 in PPR leagues. And he’s shown us top 20 upside with bigger rushing workloads. That makes him an excellent value at his RB48 ADP.


Ty Montgomery, Packers

Montgomery failed as Green Bay’s lead back last season, struggling with injuries and inefficiency. He’s unlikely to get another shot at that gig this year. But Montgomery will remain a significant part of this offense, specifically in the passing game.

Remember that this guy played WR at Stanford, compiling 122 receptions over his final 2 seasons. Montgomery has remained an effective pass-catcher since moving to RB for the Packers 2 years ago, tallying 67 grabs and averaging 7.8 yards per. Last season, he received a better receiving grade from Pro Football Focus than both Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.

“We have to take advantage of Ty's skills, and there's no question about that,” HC Mike McCarthy said in June. “Ty can play from the backfield and still has the ability to flex him out and get the matchups we're looking for. We have plenty of that in the offense.”

This is obviously a passing game we want a piece of. The Packers have finished top 9 in passing yards in 7 of QB Aaron Rodgers’ 8 healthy seasons. And there are over 150 targets missing from last year’s squad. Expect a chunk of those to go to Montgomery.


Darren Sproles, Eagles

The most accomplished receiving back on this list, Sproles leads all active RBs with 532 receptions. 147 of those came in his 3 healthy seasons with the Eagles.

Sproles’ 2017 campaign ended in Week 3 with a torn ACL and broken arm. He was playing a significant role before going down, though, leading Philly RBs in snaps in both of the first 2 games and totaling 12 carries, 12 targets and 7 catches.

Sproles is recovered from last season’s injuries and was re-signed by the Eagles this offseason. Reports this spring on Sproles’ 2018 role were mixed. NJ Advance Media’s Eliot Shorr-Parks wrote in May that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sproles lead the backfield in snaps this season. Insider Jimmy Kempski, on the other hand, believes Sproles’ playing time is set to decrease.

If Shorr-Parks is right, we could be looking at a top 30 PPR RB — territory Sproles finished in for 3 straight seasons from 2014 to 2016. And if Kempski is right, you didn’t waste much. Sproles currently carries a 19th-round ADP.


Nyheim Hines, Colts

Frank Reich’s history as an OC is short, but it includes a couple of big seasons from pass-catching RBs.

The Colts’ new HC has spent the past 4 years as an OC — 2 in San Diego and 2 in Philadelphia. That run featured an 80-catch, 3rd-place PPR finish from Danny Woodhead in 2015. And a 52-catch, 24th-place finish from Darren Sproles in 2016. (Sproles looked primed to catch a bunch of balls again last year before his torn ACL and broken arm.)

It looks and sounds like Reich views Hines as his new Woodhead/Sproles.

“One of the things that you have to have to have position versatility is high football intelligence,” Reich said during May’s rookie minicamp. “You have to be able to move and play a lot of positions and move around and play fast. [It’s] very evident that [Hines is] very intelligent, besides being a 4.3 speed guy.”

Hines lined up all over the formation and was “among the most active players on offense” during spring practices, according to the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer.

The 4th-round rookie certainly boasts the skill set to be a terror in the passing game. He goes just 5’8, 198 pounds but blazed a RB-best 4.38-second 40 time at the Combine. That followed a 3-year career at North Carolina State that saw him play both RB and WR and rack up 89 catches.


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