Fantasy points per touch: 2018 RB leaders


The running back position is once again king in fantasy football, and it looks like it's going to stay that way for awhile. In 2018, the average age of the top 30 runners was 23.9. That's the youngest since 2000, when the average age of the top 30 runners was 26.5 ... or almost three years older. With points being scored at such a high rate, let's dig a little deeper into who was the most productive when the football was in their hands. And no, I'm not talking about just overall points scorers.

While the final scoring leaders offer a look at how well a player performed in the stat sheets, it fails to offer us a complete picture of how good the player really was for fantasy fans. In the case of the running backs, here are the position's top 25 players (minimum 80 touches) ranked based on a combination of rushing attempts and receptions and the positive points that resulted via the rushing and receiving yards gained in addition to total touchdowns scored from last season.

1. James White, New England Patriots (1.53): White finished the season on a low note, but he did rank seventh among backs in PPR formats. He ranked just 26th at the position in touches, however, so he wasn't a true featured back. White's best success came as a receiver, averaging 2.35 points per catch.

2. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns (1.52): Johnson barely met our criteria with just 87 touches, but he did produce when allowed the chance. In fact, he averaged 2.3 points per reception. His 2019 value is up in the air after the Browns added Kareem Hunt, but an offseason trade might make him very relevant.

3. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (1.38): Cohen was a draft bargain in his first season under Matt Nagy, rankings 11th among backs. Most of his statistical success came as a pass catcher, of course, with 73.3 percent of his points coming from that role. His PPR point per rush attempt average was just 0.59.

4. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (1.29): Kamara was 2018's point-per-touch leader at 1.59, and he was back in the top four among running backs as an NFL sophomore. And how's this for being versatile: 50.4 percent of his points as a runner, and 49.6 percent of his points came as a receiver.

5. Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders (1.27): Richard's top-five rank proves that he's a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately, he had just 123 touches last season. His point-per-catch rate (1.89) was right behind Kamara, but Richard will find it hard to make an impact in Oakland's committee.

6. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (1.22): Gordon went from T-23rd in points per touch (0.84) last season to sixth in 2019. Part of that increase was that he had 117 fewer touches because he missed four games due to injuries. Still, Gordon remains an elite fantasy runner heading into 2019.

7. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins (1.19): It still boggles the mind how Drake was held back in terms of touches when he was so productive with the football. His teammate, Frank Gore, had just five fewer touches, but the Alabama product averaged 0.58 more points per touch. It's an enigma, friends.

T-8. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (1.18) McCaffrey ranked second in PPR points behind only Saquon Barkley, and he did it despite seeing just 26 fewer touches. While CMC did more of his point scoring as a receiving threat, he did produce 40.4 percent of his total PPR points as a true runner.

T-8. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (1.18): Gurley's production per touch actually improved slightly compared to his 2017 average (1.12), but he also saw 28 fewer touches. A total of 61 percent of his points came as a runner, but Gurley did average a solid 1.72 PPR points per receptions as well.

10. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers (1.16): Ekeler finished 25th among PPR running backs, but he was a top-10 performer based on point-per-touch totals. He was ultra-impressive as a pass catcher, averaging 2.45 PPR points per reception. He'll remain a popular handcuff for Gordon owners in 2019.

11. Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (1.15): Riddick was actually better on a point-per-touch basis this past season than in 2017, but he also saw 36 fewer touches. He's now just a late-round PPR flier.

12. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs (1.11): Hunt improved his point-per-touch average compared to his rookie year (0.91), but he's facing suspension and a potential committee scenario in Cleveland.

13. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (1.10): Barkley was second in touches to Ezekiel Elliott, and his points scored as a runner (196.7) and receiver (187.1) were close. He's my top pick in 2019.

T-14. Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers (1.09): Samuels' success as a point-per-touch back is further proof that Steelers runners are almost all guaranteed to have a high level of fantasy value.

T-14. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (1.09): Thompson ranked second in points-per-touch average (1.47) a season ago, but injuries have kept him from reaching his true statistical potential.

T-14. TJ Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (1.09): Yeldon produced 73.7 percent of his PPR points as a receiver last season. He's slated to become a free agent this offseason, so his value is up in the air.

T-14. Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (1.09): Hines, who finished his rookie season ranked 27th among backs, produced 73 percent of his fantasy points as a pass catcher. He'll be a late-rounder in 2019.

18. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (1.08): Jones was able to improve his points-per-touch total by 0.19 points compared to last season. He'll be a big-time breakout candidate for fantasy fans in 2019.

19. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (1.05): Bernard actually averaged slightly more points this past season than in 2017 (1.03). Still, he remains a low-end handcuff for Joe Mixon owners next season.

20. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (1.04): Conner actually averaged 0.20 more PPR points per touch last season than Le'Veon Bell did in 2017, but on far fewer touches (406 to 270, to be exact).

21. Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles (1.02): Smallwood was the most effective runner in a mostly ineffective Philadelphia backfield. The Eagles should add some help this offseason, though.

22. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (0.98): Lindsay caught 35 passes in a surprising rookie year, but he scored nearly 71 percent of his PPR points as a runner with the help of nine rushing scores.

23. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons (0.97): Coleman actually averaged more points per touch than Devonta Freeman did in 2017, but he did it on 33 fewer touches. Coleman will be a free agent in 2019.

24. Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks (0.94): Davis was better on a points-per-touch basis than Chris Carson, but the latter had far more touches (267). Davis won't have more than late-round value in 2019.

25. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (0.93): Johnson's rookie season was cut short due to a bum knee, but he'll be a breakout candidate in 2019. Almost 60 percent of his points came as a runner.

Notes: Ezekiel Elliott ranked outside of the top 30 in this category for the second straight season, but it's not a negative in this case due to his high volume of touches. In fact, Barkley was the lone runner within 45 carries of Zeke's 304 totes last season. Elliott also lapped the field in terms of touches (381) at the position. In his case, volume is truly king. ... Nick Chubb averaged 0.90 PPR points per touch and scored almost 76 percent of his PPR points as a runner. To compare, Hunt averaged more points per touch (1.11) and was wildly successful as a pass catcher (4.07 points per reception). Once Hunt has served his suspension, fantasy fans have to fear a backfield committee in Cleveland next season. ... Matt Breida averaged 0.90 as the lead back for the 49ers this past season. Ironically, Jerick McKinnon averaged nearly the identical total (0.89) in what was his final season in Minnesota. With McKinnon coming back from an injured knee, a committee scenario is very likely in San Francisco in 2019. ... Mark Ingram saw an obvious decrease in touches (remember, he missed the first four games due to a suspension), but he still averaged fewer points per touch (0.90) than he did in 2017 (0.97). A free agent in 2019, I'd like to see Ingram land with the Baltimore Ravens. ... Dalvin Cook finished an injury-plagued second NFL season with a points-per-touch average of 0.88. If you project that total over a season with 300 touches, he would have ranked ninth among running backs in PPR points. ... Derrick Henry averaged a very unimpressive 0.68 PPR points per touch from Weeks 1-13. That was 38th among backs. He went off in the fantasy postseason, however, with a 1.29 points-per-game clip. That led his position over that three-week stretch. Let's hope we see more of the latter Henry in 2019.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for the latest fantasy football news and analysis!