Cheap Pass-Catching Backs To Target If You Punt On RB2

by Joshua Kellem · Draft Strategy

It’s draft night. It was only right to go RB in the first round, then three straight receivers to start. Some call it Hero RB. Then, T.J. Hockenson was there in the fifth, while the last elite QB was there in the sixth. Instead of force picking an RB in the seventh, you take the value of a fourth receiver. Now, it’s the eighth round, and it’s time to patch up the RB2 slot with a rotation of two or three backs. Here are three names to consider while on the clock.

Below are key statistics to know while following along:

Route Participation – How frequently a pass-catcher runs a route on his team’s pass plays.

Target Rate – Targets Per Routes Run. How frequently a pass-catcher commands a target in context with his Route Participation mark.

Weighted Opportunities – Determines which backs receive the most meaningful touches.

James White (Underdog ADP: 184.2) (RB55)

James White averaged 8.3 (No. 46 among qualified running backs) Fantasy Points Per Game last season. While that’s nothing that’ll get the group chat talking, his 17.8-percent (No. 3) Target Share and 4.4 targets per game might. Opportunity is king. And when you double up with a message saying the Patriots targeted backs at a league-leading 29.2-percent clip, some chatmates may throw you a like (though it’s worth noting that the Patriots threw to TEs at the second-lowest clip and that’s a good bet to balloon up to at least the league average with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in the fold). For context, White’s Target Share ranked No. 3 in New England’s pass-catcher pecking order. He was one of four to command 50-plus targets, while no other pass-catcher topped 40.

More impressive, White’s passing numbers were accrued on a mere 12.1 routes run per game average.

Meaning he was targeted about once every three routes, or a 36.4-percent Target Rate. For context, Stefon Diggs, the league leader in targets last season, ranked No. 8 in routes run and had a 28.2-percent Target Rate. In fact, White’s been one of Cam Newton‘s most targeted pass-catchers in minicamp. White’s passing numbers were accrued on an offense that averaged 31.4 (No. 3) Team Run Plays per Game. Just the year before, they averaged 27.9 (No. 9) Team Run Plays Per Game, leaning toward more passing.  That was with Tom Brady at QB, who newly-drafted Mac Jones resembles in style of play.

Basically, there’s hidden upside not accounted for in White’s current ADP if/when Jones supplants Newton. DraftKings set New England’s win total at 9 this season, indicating the team’s -2.72 (No. 23) Game Script mark is a good bet to repeat. Meaning White will have the same opportunity for cheap receptions while the Patriots play from behind. And in a game of probability such as fantasy football, gamers shouldn’t make habit of going against Vegas. With a 79.0-percent (No. 16) Catch Rate, a 2.22 (No. 2) Yards Per Route Run average, and a 7.9-percent (No. 3) Slot Rate, any increase in routes run per game, leading to more targets per game based on Target Rate, suggests White can be one of those backs drafted in Rounds 7-10 that become the coveted league winner.


Tarik Cohen (ADP: 168.6) (RB50)

While David Montgomery is an early-round fade, Tarik Cohen is worth a dart throw at his ADP. In Weeks 1-3 when healthy, Cohen averaged a 37.3-percent Snap Share, 4.7 carries per game, 18 routes run per game, and 3.0 targets per game. For context, Montgomery averaged a 51.9-percent Snap Share, 14.3 carries per game, 16.3 routes per game, and 3.0 targets per game. Cohen’s going to have a defined role. Just the year before, he totaled 6.5 targets per game, as opposed to 2.2 targets per game for Montgomery. Now, enter Andy Dalton, who targeted backs at the 15th-highest clip in Weeks 11-17 last season as Dallas’ starting QB. He also targeted backs at the 14th-highest clip from Weeks 5-7 before suffering an injury.

Tarik Cohen Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

While we agree that the Bears should start Justin Fields in Week 1, that’s not what they’re going to do. Sharp fantasy gamers will adjust. Dalton starting over Fields reminds us of last season when the Chiefs routinely played Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson over Mecole Hardman. We agree Hardman is the more talented player, but it only matters what the coaching staff thinks. To paraphrase Adam Levitan: Don’t make your fantasy decisions based on what teams should do, make decisions based on what they will do. That’s where the edge is (also, Robinson is a sleeper to be Kansas City’s No. 2 WR!)

Nyheim Hines (ADP: 136.3) (RB46)

In my first article for PlayerProfiler last season, I outlined the case for Nyheim Hines as the ultimate late-round flier. The main thought was that with a potential bump in targets, a better QB, and better skill position players around him, he would be worth banking on to become potentially more efficient in Year 3. The best-case scenario was that he’d be an early-season waiver wire pickup that provided limited, but efficient, touches at Flex and RB2 in deeper leagues. Which is pretty close to how it ended up playing out. He went on to be fantasy football’s RB27 on a points-per-game basis, averaging 15.8 routes run and 4.8 targets per game. During the past two seasons, with two QBs, Hines has averaged 4.2 targets per game. He has a defined role and remains undervalued in PPR leagues for the third season in a row.