Skip to main content

Going Deep: Pass-catching RBs are value-added

My favorite athletes have generally been the guys whose games were well-rounded. I loved Ken Griffey Jr's abilities as a five-tool baseball player. And Marcus Allen's skills as both a runner and receiver immediately caught my attention.

OK, I might be lying a little bit about that last part. Maybe it had something to do with sharing the same name. But his talents didn't hurt, either.

The larger point is that it was once pretty common to see guys who were do-it-all players. Roger Craig would have been a fantasy monster -- especially in PPR leagues -- during his heyday. Then something changed. Namely specialization. Baseball found its situational relief pitchers. Football found its third-down backs. Henry Ford would love it. Fantasy owners? Not so much.

But here's the thing: having a guy who's good at one thing is nice, but having a guy who can do more than one thing -- even if he's not particularly special at any of them -- is even better.

The list at the right is Exhibit A. What you see there is the list of the top 25 fantasy running backs through the first two weeks of the season. The names in bold are the rushers who are not among the top 25 most targeted running backs in their respective passing games.

You probably noticed that you went a little way down the list before you came to the first bolded name. You probably also noticed that those names have yet to put up the type of performances that are likely to keep them among the top 25 fantasy running backs. Or if they do ... what kind of production are they actually giving fantasy owners?

Are you really going to be fired up about Rashard Mendenhall's 63 rushing yards per game? Chris Johnson's 83 rushing yards per game is notably better, but unless he can do better than scoring a touchdown once every three weeks, he's no one's first-round pick.

Newsflash: We're heading into Week 3 and Chris Johnson doesn't have a touchdown yet. So there's that.

It's certainly not impossible to find a quality running back who isn't a big part of his team's running game (or who plays on a team that struggles with throwing the football). Last season, there were 11 fantasy backs in the top 25 that weren't among the 25 most-targeted rushers. There were even three of those guys in the top 10 -- their names were Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson. All they had to do with finish in the top five in rushing touchdowns. No big deal.

Even more dire was 2011. Just nine players landed in the top 25 in fantasy points at the position without seeing a slew of pass targets. And only Adrian Peterson was a top 10 player.

With all apologies to Earth, Wind and Fire, that's the way of the world. If you read last week's column, you know that there seem to be fewer touches being spread among more running backs. That means your most productive backs either adapt or die a slow fantasy death.

This is also something to keep in mind if someone is dangling a running back in front of you in a trade offer. You don't necessarily need someone who catches passes on a Darren Sproles or LeSean McCoy-type level. But you'd certainly like to know he has a decent pair of hands and that his quarterback occasionally looks in his direction.

After all, you'd rather have the fantasy football equivalent of Ken Griffey, Jr. over Jeff Blauser. Look it up.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for and a guy who's mother threw out most of his old baseball cards. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.