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Fantasy Football Running Back Archetypes to Target, Fade

Fantasy Football Running Back Archetypes

Last year, a version of this article went viral. This year, I’m breaking up the archetype articles by position to make them easier to read and more actionable.

When you’ve finished this article, you’ll have a firm grasp on how running backs score fantasy points, along with the archetypes to target and fade in fantasy football. Throughout, I’ll use 2023 examples to help you understand how I’m applying this research to individual player takes.

The Process

The past three seasons of NFL running back play-by-play data was analyzed — roughly 45,000 rows. Those 45,000 data points represent any time a running back received a rush attempt or was targeted in the passing game during the 2020-2022 seasons.

Fantasy Points Per Touch


Below, we can see how many fantasy points the average rush attempt and target are worth in the three main fantasy scoring settings. The multiplier is included to make the value of running back targets easier to understand. 

In half-PPR fantasy leagues, one running back target is worth the same as 1.8 rush attempts. It jumps to 2.5 rush attempts per target in full-PPR fantasy leagues.

Event Standard Half-PPR Full PPR
Rush Attempt 0.62 0.62 0.62
Target 0.75 (1.2x) 1.13 (1.8x) 1.52 (2.5x)

A simple example makes this even easier to understand. In a full PPR league, a running back averaging 20 carries and two targets per game is expected to score similarly to one averaging 10 carries and six targets per game. 

(20 rush attempts * 0.62 fantasy points per rush) + (2 targets * 1.52 fantasy points per target) = 12.4 fantasy points from rushing + 3.04 fantasy points from receiving = 15.44 fantasy points

(10 rush attempts * 0.62 fantasy points per rush) + (6 targets * 1.52 fantasy points per target) = 6.2 fantasy points from rushing + 9.12 fantasy points from receiving = 15.32 fantasy points

If you skipped completely over the math, just remember this simple catchphrase: carries don’t score fantasy points.

Red Zone

If we narrow the scope to only red zone carries and targets, we see all the values increase significantly, as players are more likely to score when touching the ball within 20 yards of the end zone.

Event Standard Half-PPR Full PPR
RZ Rush Attempt 1.28 1.28 1.28
RZ Target 1.43 (1.1x) 1.79 (1.4x) 2.15 (1.7x)

Again, the importance of targets over carries is present, but we also see that the numbers for rush attempts are far elevated. Regardless of the fantasy scoring format, targets are still more valuable than carries in the red zone. 

Compared to the non-red zone-specific touches above, a red zone carry is worth 2.1 average carries, and a red zone target in half-PPR is worth 1.6 average targets.

Goal Line

Here, goal-line touches are defined as within five yards of the end zone.

Event Standard Half-PPR Full PPR
GL Rush Attempt  2.50 2.50 2.50
GL Target 3.07 (1.2x) 3.40 (1.4x) 3.73 (1.5x)

Goal-line targets are still more valuable than goal-line carries across the board, as one goal-line target is just as valuable as 1.5 goal-line carries. 

Compared with the general section, a goal-line carry is worth four average carries for fantasy football. A goal-line target is worth 5.5 average carries or three average targets in half-PPR formats.

A complete chart is available at the bottom of this article, containing all the stats above, along with the fantasy points breakdown for the average non-red zone carry and the average non-red zone target.

Archetype to Fade

Fade running backs who receive the majority of their touches on the ground. Last year, Miles Sanders averaged a career-high 15.2 carries per game behind an elite Eagles offensive line. 

However, due to his pass-blocking deficiencies, he averaged only 1.5 targets per game. Sanders tallied 1,269 rushing yards at 4.9 yards per carry and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. Despite this heroic performance on the ground, Sanders was only the RB17 per game in half-PPR leagues and the RB22 in PPR leagues.

Using the averages, 15.2 carries and 1.5 targets per game should result in 11.1 fantasy points per game in half-PPR — Sanders was at 12.2 fantasy points per game, thanks to touchdowns.

If you’d like to get more granular with Sanders and separate his touches based on red zone/goal-line usage, our free flagship tool, The Edge, has a filter for field position, shown below.

Several other players fit this archetype, with a few mentioned below.

Jonathan Taylor has never been a high-volume pass-catcher, and with the mobile rookie Anthony Richardson under center, it’s unlikely Taylor will see more than a couple of targets per game in 2023.

Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker became the team’s starter in Week 5 of his rookie season. From that point, he averaged just 2.3 targets per game. 

The team selected Zach Charbonnet, a superior pass-catcher, in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Walker will need significant touchdown variance to go in his favor to be a league-winning fantasy asset.

While Sanders experiences a change of scenery, moving from Philadelphia to Carolina, he looks like the perfect running back to fade. Sanders is getting drafted around where he finished last season despite the Panthers having a much worse overall offense than the Eagles. 

Those hoping Sanders enjoys an uptick in pass-game usage need to consider that any blown pass block will result in undersized quarterback Bryce Young taking unnecessary hits. I wouldn’t bet on a large increase in Sanders’ targets in 2023.

Archetype to Target

Draft the running backs targeted in the passing game, particularly those who also receive a share of the team’s red zone and goal-line work.

Last season, Leonard Fournette was cooked by nearly every metric. His 3.5 yards per carry was abysmal, and he lacked elusiveness with the ball in his hands. He received 11.8 rush attempts per game and only scored six total touchdowns. 

Yet, he finished as the RB13 per game in PPR leagues (14.2 per game), thanks to 5.2 targets per game.

Fournette and Sanders averaged 16.4 touches (carries + targets) per game, yet Fournette out-scored Sanders in PPR formats despite scoring half as many touchdowns.

Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and Saquon Barkley are good examples of this archetype's upside. They all receive a decent chunk of their team’s red zone and goal-line carries while heavily involved in the passing game.

There are concerns rookie runner Jahmyr Gibbs — taken at Pick 12 by the Lions — won’t receive many goal-line touches due to his 199-pound frame. As a rookie with similar size, draft capital and skill set, McCaffrey carried just 117 times, but his 113 targets propelled him to the RB10 finish in PPR leagues in 2017. 

Gibbs can be minimally involved in the run game and still pay dividends as a fantasy running back because of his elite receiving ability, paired with Jared Goff’s immobility.

Targets Fix Bad Offenses

When looking at the past five seasons, we have 60 running back seasons we can classify as top-12 fantasy seasons. The running backs on offenses that scored a top-10 overall amount of touchdowns averaged 63 targets per season. 

The running backs on the 11th through 20th touchdown-scoring offenses averaged 68 targets per season. The runner on the bottom-12 touchdown-scoring offenses averaged 79 targets per game. 

As a running back, the way to counteract a bad offense is to be involved in the passing game. 

Players like Rhamondre Stevenson and Najee Harris can overcome a weak offensive environment if their receiving usage remains high.

Running Back Rankings

Full fantasy running back rankings with detailed write-ups for every player will be coming soon. To better understand what this article will look like, here are my top-25 fantasy tight end rankings from last week. 

You can use the table below to start postulating how my rankings will look.

Complete Table

Event Standard Half-PPR Full PPR
Non-RZ Rush Attempt 0.49 0.49 0.49
Any Rush Attempt 0.62 0.62 0.62
RZ Rush Attempt 1.28 1.28 1.28
GL Rush Attempt 2.50 2.50 2.50
Non-RZ Target 0.64 1.03 1.42
Any Target 0.75 1.13 1.52
RZ Target 1.43 1.79 2.15
GL Target 3.07 3.40 3.73

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