Big Blue United

How to Deal with the Steep Running Back Drop-Off in Fantasy Football (PPR)

Fantasy Football

There are many years when you win and you lose your fantasy football league with the RB quality and depth. This year is likely to be no different. (Photo Credit: Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports)

By Sam Marsdale – Big Blue United 8/14/17

The position with the biggest drop off in all of Fantasy Football is the running back. It is also the position where a some of the players have an unexpected down year, have a nagging injury that hinders their performance all year, or end up splitting snaps with another running back on their team for whatever reason. According to, the consensus rankings on running backs one through three are David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and LeSean McCoy. Ezekiel Elliot was four, but was just handed a six game suspension from the NFL on Friday that pushed him all the way down to 11

The odds say that if you are in a 10 or 12 team league that you probably won’t get one of these running backs in your draft. After that, consensus four through 10 are Devonta Freeman, Demarco Murray, Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Todd Gurley, and Isaiah Crowell. Freeman loses touches to Tevin Coleman, while Murray had a bounce-back year. Gordon improved after his rookie year, while Gurley regressed. Isaiah Crowell will most definitely lose snaps to Duke Johnson Jr. Even going back to the top guys, Johnson had his first great full season last year. Bell came back from a torn ACL, McCoy came back from nagging hamstring issues the previous year. The first or second tier guy you get may not even pan out, and you may just get one of the top 10. The key isn’t star power for running backs: it’s depth and the hot hand.

After you snag one of the top 10 guys in your draft, there are a lot of guys who split touches and some guys who will carry the full load but have a lot of other concerns, whether it be injury or performance based. Lamar Miller is ranked 11, but had some durability concerns last year. However, if he is healthy, he is the guy. Marshawn Lynch and Leonard Fournette are ranked 14th and 15th, respectively. They will be “the guys” on their teams, but come with concerns. Lynch is returning from retirement after one year, while Fournette is a rookie behind a dreadful offensive line. Even with his suspension, Elliot still checks in at 13. If you love your first three, or maybe even two picks, depending how your league is set up, you could be in position to snag him. If you’re championship is week 15 or 16, you are getting hopefully 8 or 9 games from a guy who was an MVP candidate last year.

I chose to do PPR because that is what most leagues are going to this year. Even ESPN standard league’s are starting to do PPR. This makes fantasy a lot more fun and solves the “running back problem” to an extent. What I always prepare for while drafting is for my top running back to have a bad year or possibly get injured. You can still win your league if this happens.

One thing you can do is focus on getting one pair of “handcuffs” This is when you take two running backs from the same team who are projected to split carries, and you just ride the hot hand. The best handcuffs to own are probably the Freeman (4) and Coleman (26) pairing, or the Crowell (10) and Duke Johnson Jr. (T-33) pairing. These allow you to have insurance if your top back loses carries to a back-up. There are many cases like this.

The final thing I will touch on is to shoot for 3rd down backs. Heck, Danny Woodhead is the 12th ranked running back by Fantasy Footballers. He will see a lot more than 3rd down snaps, due to the fact that “3rd down running backs” come in a lot in the two minute drill and receive a fair amount of carries every game. Shoot for a lot of these guys early and often when drafting in PPR, and ride the hot hand to a championship. There are ways to get around the steep running back drop off, you just have to plan accordingly and have solid depth.