The Target Report: Running Backs

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 18: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a second half rushing touchdown against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field on December 18, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Last week, I took at look at the receivers, wide receivers and tight ends, who had the most targets in 2011, and then reviewed the trend in the number of times they were targeted over the past three seasons. This analysis can help fantasy owners on draft day when trying to decide between drafting one receiver over another. Today, I will take a look at the running back position to see which running backs you should target in PPR leagues or late in drafts.

Here is the list of Running Backs who received the most targets in 2011, along with their number of targets in 2010 and 2009:

Running Back

# Targets - 2011

#Targets - 2010

#Targets - 2009

Darren Sproles, NO

111

75

57

Ray Rice, BAL

104

82

103

Chris Johnson, TENN

79

57

71

Mike Tolbert, CHI

79

29

22

Matt Forte, CHI

76

70

71

Arian Foster, HOU

71

84

9

Lesean McCoy, PHI

69

90

56

Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX

63

44

71

Jonathan Stewart, CAR

61

13

27

Dexter McCluster, KC

61

39

N/A

Pierre Thomas, NO

59

29

45

Ryan Matthews, SD

59

26

N/A

I will be interested in seeing how much playing time Mike Tolbert gets in Carolina with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart playing in front of him. Tolbert will probably see plenty of goal line looks, but he may not see as many targets as he did in San Diego in 2011.

Chargers runnjng back Ryan Matthews is getting plenty of love in mock drafts this offseason, with many predicting a breakout season in 2012. With Tolbert gone to Chicago, and Le'Ron McClain, Curtis Brinkley and Jacob Hester as his only competition in the Chargers backfield this season, Matthews should get plenty of targets in the Chargers passing game. Factor in the loss of Vincent Jackson this offseason, and Matthews could be a workhorse in the Chargers offense this season, assuming he can stay healthy.

Texans running back Arian Foster will probably be the #1 pick on many fantasy drafts this season, and for good reason. Not only is he a good runner, but he is a main target in the Texans' passing attack as well. He collected 71 targets in just 13 games last season, so it is not crazy to think he could exceed that number in 2012.

If Foster isn't the #1 pick in drafts this season, Lesean McCoy will be a candidate to be picked there as well McCoy scored 20 touchdowns last season. McCoy is two years removed from 78 catches out of the backfield, and caught 48 balls last season.

Raven's running back Ray Rice has seen 100+ targets in two of the last three seasons, so I wouldn't expect the trend to reverse much, if at all. The Ravens rely on Rice quite a bit, and he has touched the ball over 1,000 times in the last 3 seasons, and is just 25 years old, so while the number of touches are very high, he is still young and hasn't missed a game since 2008.

Finally, as a Kansas City Chiefs fan, I am hoping their offense can improve from their 2011 performance. With Jamaal Charles presumably healthy and Matt Cassell returning from injury as well, the offense could be a bit more entertaining in 2012. One guy who could help is running back Dexter McCluster, who was a bigger part of their passing game last season. He has the talent to be a Darren Sproles-lite type back.

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