Breaking down fantasy football points per touch for running backs

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Which running backs gain the most fantasy points when they touch the ball? You might be surprised at some names toward the top.

Running back is probably the toughest position to draft in today's fantasy football leagues. Overall, it's a thin position, because most NFL teams like to run with some type of a committee in the backfield. That's what makes each touch so valuable to fantasy owners.

Only two running backs eclipsed 300 carries in 2013: LeSean McCoy (314) and Marshawn Lynch (301). Twenty other backs took over 200 carries.

I decided to examine how many points the top running backs earned for every time they touched the ball last season. To get fantasy points per touch (FP/T), I simply divided the number of points by how many times a back touched the ball. Here are the results for standard scoring leagues.

Player Fantasy points (standard) Total touches FP/T
Jamaal Charles 308 329 0.936
Danny Woodhead 147 182 0.808
Andre Ellington 126 157 0.803
Knowshon Moreno 236 301 0.784
LeSean McCoy 278 366 0.760
DeMarco Murray 205 270 0.760
Joique Bell 163 219 0.744
Fred Jackson 187 254 0.736
Giovani Bernard 166 226 0.735
Matt Forte 263 363 0.725
Marshawn Lynch 239 337 0.709
Rashad Jennings 138 199 0.694
Reggie Bush 185 277 0.668
Adrian Peterson 203 308 0.659
Eddie Lacy 207 319 0.650
Montee Ball 88 140 0.629
Chris Johnson 198 321 0.617
Le'Veon Bell 173 289 0.599
Frank Gore 174 292 0.596
Alfred Morris 169 285 0.593
Ryan Mathews 184 311 0.592
Zac Stacy 157 276 0.569
Maurice Jones-Drew 144 277 0.520
C.J. Spiller 121 234 0.517
Ben Tate 111 215 0.516

Jamaal Charles was a stud. He averaged 0.936 points per touch for standard scoring. Charles finished with the second-most carries of his career (259) and by far the most receptions he's ever had (70).

A few telling stats:

  • Giovani Bernard is No. 9 in FP/T for standard leagues, and he's even higher for PPR leagues (we'll get to that shortly). It's no secret that Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants to run the ball more frequently. Playing behind one of the league's better offensive lines, Bernard will see more touches in 2014. He's looking like a worthy second-round pick.
  • Knowshon Moreno is No. 4 on the list, which should interest Montee Ball fans. Ball is a better player who will be a workhorse for Denver in his second season. If he can replicate Moreno's 0.78 FP/T on 300+ touches, he'll easily be a top-five back.
  • Matt Forte is No. 10 overall. I think his workload, the improvement of Chicago's offense and the lack of a reliable No. 2 back makes him easily a top pick in 2014.

Now let's see how some of the top running backs fared in PPR leagues.

Player PPR points Total touches FP/T
Danny Woodhead 223 182 1.225
Jamaal Charles 378 329 1.149
Andre Ellington 165 157 1.051
Joique Bell 216 219 0.986
Knowshon Moreno 296 301 0.983
Gio Bernard 222 225 0.982
DeMarco Murray 258 270 0.957
Pierre Thomas 212 224 0.947
Matt Forte 337 363 0.928
Fred Jackson 234 254 0.921
LeSean McCoy 330 366 0.902
Reggie Bush 239 277 0.863
Marshawn Lynch 275 337 0.816
Montee Ball 108 140 0.771
Eddie Lacy 242 319 0.759
Le'Veon Bell 218 289 0.754
Adrian Peterson 232 308 0.753
Chris Johnson 240 321 0.748
Ryan Mathews 210 311 0.675
Zac Stacy 183 276 0.663
Frank Gore 190 292 0.651
Alfred Morris 178 285 0.625

It's hard not to be impressed by Danny Woodhead and Andre Ellington. Woodhead is your top scorer in FP/T in PPR leagues from 2013. Who would have expected that?

While he has more competition in San Diego this season, I don't think owners should write him off as a late-round gem, especially in PPR leagues. Mike McCoy's offense will continue to utilize his receiving abilities.

Bruce Arians is promising everyone Ellington will receive more touches in 2014. While it's reasonable to be wary of coach speak leading up to the season, we should expect an increased workload to an extent. Given how explosive Ellington is (5.5 yards per carry as a rpokie), his ADP is skyrocketing.

A lot of owners I talk to hastily rank Adrian Peterson over almost every other player, but you can make a case for Forte as the No. 3 running back overall. McCoy and Charles will go ahead of them, but Forte is a PPR monster and a reliable standard RB1 as well.

Alfred Morris is perhaps the most overdrafted player in fantasy leagues right now. I've seen him go among the top 10-15 players in mock drafts. He finished No. 16 overall last season in standard scoring among running backs.

Jay Gruden's move to Washington doesn't derail Morris' fantasy value as some have suggested. Gruden plans to keep the same blocking scheme Washington has been using, which bodes well for Morris. But Gruden likes to pass the ball, and Morris is not a great receiver.

Take into account his FP/T in PPR leagues. The Redskins want Morris to develop his receiving skills. However, Roy Helu is a superior receiver and pass blocker, and after seeing the usage in Cincinnati last season with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard, owners should approach Morris with some caution. There are more valuable players getting valuable touches in the passing game.

FP/T is a basic statistic that shouldn't be the most important factor on your mind. However, this simple stat can help owners find some late-round gems and determine which players are in the best situations to score points when given the ball. Marshawn Lynch's FP/T is more in the middle of the road; keep that in mind when you hear more about Christine Michael taking snaps. Lynch needs volume to produce for owners. That's where this type of resource proves valuable.

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