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5 potentially elite running backs to target in PPR leagues

These pass-catching runners have the potential to help your fantasy team.

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Points per reception (PPR) leagues area different animal than standard formats. They are more exciting and require managers to analyze everything from pass catching ability to game script and quarterback play.

Now, we already know that Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, and company will get you some points regardless of the league type. But who can you target in trades (if your league has no deadline) or the waiver wire (if you are lucky enough) outside of that elite group of runners?

Here are some running backs outside of the top 15 to 20 who can help you in PPR leagues as we ramp up to the fantasy football playoffs.

James White, New England Patriots

White has been New England’s passing-down back in the past, but this year his production had been capped thanks to Rex Burkhead. With Burkhead likely out for the year, White’s role could increase a bit. He will never dominate touches while both Damien Harris and Sony Michel are active, but PPR managers will find him very appealing.

In Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans, White caught six of his nine targets for 64 yards. The Patriots are not particularly good this year, and they may play from behind more than we’ve grown accustomed to in the last decade. That could mean lots of targets for White. He’s also due for his first touchdown of the season one of these games! His ownership percentage in Yahoo! is 40%, go change that.

J.D. McKissic, Washington Football Team

In standard leagues, McKissic is an unreliable back, with only one touchdown on the season. However in PPR formats, he is an asset. In his last three contests, he has 33 (!) targets and 19 receptions.

Antonio Gibson has rightfully become Washington’s clear lead back, but McKissic is the unquestioned passing down man in the Football Team. He may be a bit inconsistent week to week, but you know he will be targeted heavily.

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts

Hines was a popular pickup after his Week 10 performance (12 carries, 70 rushing yards, five receptions, 45 yards, a couple of touchdowns) but good luck trying to figure out the Colts’ backfield. In Week 11, he got just six attempts on the ground, but he kept catching the ball and racking up the receiving yards (3/4-31). On the year, Hines is the fifth most targeted running back in the NFL (45) which is a terrific sign for his usage.

If you play PPR formats and he somehow hit your league’s waiver wire, change that in a hurry. In these leagues, he carries a reasonable floor and a bit of upside.

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

The fact that Raheem Mostert is expected back this week means that a fair share of McKinnon owners could potentially dump him to the wire. But he could still be of use in fantasy football, particularly in PPR formats.

When everybody is healthy, Mostert and Tevin Coleman are expected to share early-down duties, but McKinnon’s role as the pass catching back is assured. McKinnon is third on the 49ers in targets and leads both Mostert and Coleman in that category by a healthy margin.

Additionally, you should keep in mind that both Mostert and Coleman are returning from injury, and they may be eased into action at first. And if you are looking for another sign not to dismiss McKinnon as a PPR contributor, four of the remaining six 49ers games will come against strong, over-.500 opponents: Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks. That means a negative game script for San Francisco, which could translate into more targets for McKinnon as they try to come from behind.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

Despite the fact that he can be found on several waiver wires, Giovani Bernard should actually receive RB2 treatment in PPR leagues. Due to Joe Mixon’s injury, Gio will have a larger share of the workload for the next few weeks if he can remain healthy himself.

Before Week 11, came along, Bernard totaled 52.1 PPR points in three games between Week 7 and Week 10. He struggled somewhat this past weekend, and now that quarterback Joe Burrow is out for the season, he will probably see stacked boxes and less room to run. But the downgrade at quarterback could spell more targets for Bernard as he’s peppered with check downs. As long as he catches passes, which he probably will, PPR owners won’t complain.