Running Back Opportunity: 3 to Target and to Avoid

In fantasy football, you always want to increase your chances of scoring points. Opportunity is a major factor as a player receives more snaps, carries, targets, the higher chance he has to score points. Below, I look at different metrics to evaluate the top 30 running backs (PPR points per game) and see who made the most (or least) of their opportunities. I also stayed away from the big name bell cows.

Before I get into the article, here are some of the different metrics I used:

  • Points per opportunity – fantasy points a player accumulates for every target/carry.
  • Breakaway runs – a run of at least 15 yards.
  • Red zone touchdown conversion rate – rate player scores a touchdown when given an opportunity in the red zone

Three players to target:

1. Raheem Mostert

This player will depend on if his team uses him like the end of last year, but Raheem Mostert is one player who took advantage of his limited opportunities. Among the top 30 running backs from last season, he was last in snaps per game, opportunities per game, and 5th to last in carries per game. However, he had the fifth most points per opportunity, ahead of players like Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley. His 35.30% red zone touchdown rate was second behind only Kareem Hunt. Mostert also averaged the seventh highest amount of break away runs per game despite his minimal carries. His only downside is he does not receive a lot of attention in the passing game as he averaged just 1.5 targets a game. Mostert’s opportunities and playtime increased towards the end of the season due to injuries the other running backs on the team faced. When given the opportunity, Mostert showed he can be efficient. Even with the return of the other running backs, Mostert could finish in the top 15 if he is given a regular workload.

2. Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt was one of the top running backs in fantasy just 2 years ago before off the field trouble. The Chiefs cut him and Hunt was suspended for half the season. The Browns took a chance on him and made him the backup to Nick Chubb. From when Hunt returned in week 10 to the end of the season, he had the 17th most points in ppr among running backs. Among the top 30 running backs, he had the 7th fewest snaps per game. However, he had the 3rd highest points per opportunity which shows even though he did not get a lot of snaps, he made due with what he was given. He was also tied for 6th in targets per game making him valuable mainly in PPR leagues. With an offensive minded head coach in Kevin Stefanski, and playing a full season, Kareem Hunt could finish as a top end RB2 next year in PPR formats, even behind Nick Chubb.

3. Austin Ekeler

One of the hottest players to start last season was Austin Ekeler. With Melvin Gordon now on the Broncos, Ekeler is slated to be the Chargers full time workhorse. In the four games he played without Gordon, he averaged 26.8 points a game, second behind only Christian McCaffrey. While he would go on to finish the season 6th in points per game, Austin Ekeler only averaged 15 opportunities per game. Among the five that had more points per game, Aaron Jones was the next closest at 19 opportunities per game. Ekeler had the highest fantasy points per opportunity and per snap last year showing that he was efficient with his limited touches and play time. He also had 13 red zone targets, behind only McCaffrey and James White. However, Ekeler had the best red zone touchdown conversion rate at 23.30%. The average among the top 30 running backs was 20.18%. Of course, he has his risks. It has yet to be seen if he can handle the workload that playing a full season entails. He also no longer has a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers throwing him the ball. I think he can be a top 10 running back again and should be drafted as one. 

Three players to avoid:

1. Phillip Lindsay

After a promising rookie campaign, Phillip Lindsay experienced a sophomore slump. He finished 2018 as the 13th ranked running back with 222.8 fantasy points averaging 14.9 per game in 15 games. Last year, he was the 19th ranked running back with 197.7 points and an average of 12.4. He played the full season and was still 25 points short of his rookie mark. Lindsay had the eighth lowest points per opportunity. He also had a 13.9% red zone touchdown rate which was also eighth lowest among top 30 running backs. To make matters worse, the Denver Broncos also went out and signed Melvin Gordon who is expected to be the lead back. Lindsay now has to compete not only with Royce Freeman, but Gordon as well.

2. Marlon Mack

Marlon Mack is another running back who most likely won’t be the team’s starter for the 2020 season. The Colts drafted Jonathan Taylor in the NFL draft and is projected to take over lead back duties from Mack. While Mack had a respectable year from a football perspective, he had a lackluster year in fantasy. He averaged just 13 points a game which ranked him 23rd in PPR leagues. Mack also had the 2nd lowest points per opportunity despite having 18 carries a game, 6th most among running backs. A lot of this was attributed to the fact that he had almost 0 production in the passing game. He averaged just 1 target per game and finished the year with only 14 receptions. Even if Colts did not select Taylor, Mack is not someone I would be targeting in PPR leagues.

3. Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell is the final name on this list. Bell averaged 16 carries and 5 targets a game last year, putting him tied for 9th with 21 opportunities per game. He was also 6th in snaps per game. However, Le’Veon had the lowest fantasy points per opportunity. He also had the fewest breakaway runs averaging one every 10 games. The only other player averaging that few was James White, who got only 4 carries a game on average. I truly believe the combination of play calling and personnel of the New York Jets played a major role in Bell’s fantasy production and will continue to limit his value.

Which running backs are you targeting and avoiding in 2020? Let us know in the comments below!