In PPR leagues, receptions are king. Wide receivers are going earlier than ever in drafts: according to ADP, the WR to RB ratio in the first two rounds is 10:11. And with good reason: wideouts catch the most passes, are more consistent, and have a longer shelf life than running backs. Most importantly, they are much more likely to stay healthy. Running backs who catch passes rarely make it to the 7th round, and if we are taking wide receivers early then we have some work to do at running back in rounds 7-10. In PPR leagues, an important fantasy statistic is being often being undervalued or even ignored: rushing touchdowns.
While touchdowns are not as easy to predict as receptions they still hold value, even in PPR leagues. I’ve noticed that there are a few running backs with a decent chance to score 8-10 touchdowns available in the middle portions of fantasy drafts. Best of all, they are all in line for pretty big roles on their team besides goal work. Let’s take a look at who can get us some inexpensive rushing touchdowns:
Stevan Ridley, NE
We forget that Stevan Ridley’s 1,283 yard and 12 rushing score season was only two years ago. But due to a fumble and bench-filled 2013, Stevan Ridley is still clearly in the doghouse with some fantasy owners as evidenced by his late 6th round ADP. But a running back with no early-down and goal-line competition who has put up 1,200+ yards and double digit scores?
He doesn’t catch passes, but this makes him a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch and a discounted Alfred Morris. Keep in mind, despite his fumbling troubles Ridley still had 773 yards and 7 scores on a mere 178 carries on a Patriots offense that is a lock to improve.
Sure, Gronk will steal some goal-line scores, but that will likely be offset by how often the return of Gronk gets them in scoring position. There will be plenty of touchdowns to go around, and Ridley has the monopoly at the goal-line. 240 carries would likely ensure double digit touchdowns.
Jeremy Hill, CIN
Drafted in the second round by the now ground-and-pound Bengals under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Jeremy Hill is likely ticketed for an immediate role as a rookie. More specifically, he is probably going to take over for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who put up 756 yards and 7 touchdowns on 220 carries in 2013.
Yes, this is Giovani Bernard’s backfield but it’s all but common knowledge that Bernard is not a true workhorse. Unless he completely face-plants in training camp and preseason, Hill will beat out the Law Firm for between-the-tackles and goal line work. With more carries to go around this year as they try to copy the Seahawks and 49ers model, expect around 190+ carries for Hill with a good chance for 8+ touchdowns.
Steven Jackson, ATL
Look, I know Steven Jackson is long past his prime. I know he is on the wrong side of 30 coming off of an injury-filled season. But I’m not including him in this list because I think he’ll rush for 1,200 yards- he’s on this list because he’s the current starter and goal-line back for a team with a potent offense.
While only seeing 156 carries on a lost Falcons team that finished 20th in scoring offense, Jackson still scored a respectable 6 rushing touchdowns. With Roddy White and Julio Jones finally healthy at the same time, a revamped offensive line, and a porous defense that will force the offense to score points, Jackson has an excellent shot at a decent touchdown total even if he misses a game or two.
When I think of Steven Jackson for 2014, I think of Jerome Bettis late in his career. Take a look at what Jerome Bettis did from his age 30 season until retirement (four seasons):
|Jerome Bettis From Ages 30-33||Age||G||Att||Yds||TD||Y/A||Y/G|
I don’t think a line too dissimilar to that is out of reach for Mr. Jackson. With Tony Gonzalez gone, there are going to be red-zone scores to make up for on an offense that will have to score a lot of points to stay competitive.