Fantasy points per touch: 2017 running back recap

Fantasy football is all about points. The more you score, the better chance you have to win.

(It ain't rocket science, folks).

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 on how good the player really was for fantasy fans. Case in point, Chris Thompson ranked 28th in PPR points among running backs this past season. However, he averaged more points per touch than all but one runner (Alvin Kamara). Clearly, Thompson was an underrated and prolific PPR scorer before he went down due to a broken leg. In fact, his full-season projections (based on his 10 games) would have put him ahead of running backs like Carlos Hyde and Leonard Fournette.

So, let's take a deeper look into the numbers to see how our heroes performed when the football was in their hands. In the case of the running backs, here's the position's top 30 players (minimum of 90 touches) ranked based on a combination of rushing attempts and receptions and the positive points that resulted via rushing and receiving yards gained, receptions and total touchdowns.

1. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (1.59 FPPT): Kamara was a monster in the stat sheets as a rookie, as he made fantasy gold almost every time he touched the football. A versatile athlete, he averaged more than double the points per reception (2.39) than points per rush attempt (1.01). Keep this in mind, too ... Kamara averaged just nine touches and 58 scrimmage yards in his first four games. After that, he put up 14 touches a game and averaged 111 scrimmage yards. A first-round lock in 2018 fantasy drafts, Kamara should see an increase in touches in what should remain one of the league's top offensive attacks.

2. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (1.47 FPPT): Thompson was one of the best waiver-wire adds in fantasy football last season, as he emerged as the top Redskins running back ahead of "sleepers" like Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine. The pass-catching extraordinaire was on pace for better than 100 receptions and over 1,000 scrimmage yards based on the totals he produced in 10 games before going down with a fractured fibula. Thompson also projected to rank in the top six based on PPR points among running backs. Barring a serious setback in his return, Thompson could be a decent bargain in fantasy drafts next season.

3. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns (1.39 FPPT): Notice a trend? That's right, there are solid PPR backs who can be picked in the middle to late round who can produce at a high level. Johnson, who wasn't even the first Cleveland runner picked in most 2017 fantasy football drafts, hauled in 74 receptions (fourth among backs) and averaged 2.12 PPR points each time he caught a pass. Whether or not he can sustain such a level remains to be seen, however, as the Browns could add an impact running back in the NFL draft. What's more, the team should have wideouts Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman in the pass attack.

4. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots (1.38 FPPT): Burkhead, who missed six games due to injuries, was one of the more productive running backs in the league when he touched the football. He scored more points as a receiver (73.4) than he did as a runner (56.4), and his 16-game projection based on those points would have put him ahead of Jordan Howard at the position. His 2018 value is up in the air at this point, however, as Burkhead and Dion Lewis are both scheduled to become free agents. His best bet to remain a potential fantasy football asset is to stay in New England as part of a backfield committee.

5. James White, New England Patriots (1.35 FPPT): White finished 4.2 PPR points ahead of Burkhead among running backs, but he played in four more games. Overall, the talented runner had the second-fewest touches among qualifying runners who finished in the top 10 in points-per-touch average. White's value is also in a state of limbo due to the status of Lewis and Burkhead, but he's going to be worth a PPR grab in most drafts regardless. Based on his production when he touches the football, White could see his value increase if the Patriots lose both of his backfield teammates. This is a situation to watch.

6. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (1.16 FPPT): McCaffrey might be listed as a running back, but he checks off a lot of the wide receiver boxes as well. Le'Veon Bell (85) and Kamara (81) were the lone backs to finish with more receptions (80), and only Kamara (193.6) and Todd Gurley (178.8) scored more PPR points via catches (175.1). On the flip side, the Stanford product ranked 43rd among qualifying runners in terms of points per rush attempt (0.46). Look for McCaffrey to be a top-25 overall selection in PPR drafts next season under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

T-7. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (1.12 FPPT): The highest-scoring running back in fantasy football, Gurley ranked third in touches (343) among running backs in 15 games this past season. While he put up a career-best 64 receptions and finished second behind Kamara among qualifying players in points via receptions, the talented Georgia product led all backs with 204.5 PPR points via rush attempts. One of the more versatile runners in the league, Gurley also averaged 12.3 yards per reception. While some level of regression wouldn't be a surprise, he's still going to be a top-three fantasy pick next season.

T-7. Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (1.12 FPPT): You might be surprised to see that Riddick tied Gurley in points per touch last season, but that's due in large part to the fact that he saw 206 fewer touches in the Lions backfield committee. Much like McCaffrey, Riddick's stats more closely resemble that of a wide receiver ... 71 percent of his total PPR points came on receptions. The Lions backfield rotation could have a much different look next season, but Riddick should remain in his role as a pass catcher for new coach Matt Patricia. He'll be worth a middle- to late-round selection in all PPR draft in 2018.

9. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (1.07 FPPT): Cohen, who recently told The Chicago Tribune he "can do some of the same things" as Tyreek Hill, scored 63 percent of his PPR points as a result of pass catches. Of course, his numbers tailed off after a hot start due to a lack of touches ... after averaging 14 touches in his first four games, Cohen averaged just nine over the next 12 contests. That's an odd trend when you consider how thin the Bears were at wide receiver. He has a chance to turn into a Darren Sproles-like threat for the Bears, but his value in PPR drafts is limited to the middle or late rounds.

10. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (1.03 FPPT): Believe it or not, Bernard was the best running back in Cincinnati last season based on a point-per-touch basis. While he saw 60 fewer touches than rookie Joe Mixon, Bernard averaged 0.35 more PPR points than Mixon. Much of that success came late in the season, however, as Mixon missed time due to injuries. While the Oklahoma product is the clear-cut favorite to start next season, he will no doubt lose some opportunities in the pass attack to Bernard. Look for Bernard to come off the board somewhere in the late rounds of both PPR and standard drafts.

Michael Fabiano is the senior fantasy analyst for NFL Digital Media and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. For the most up-to-date fantasy football news, updates and analysis, follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

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