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Fantasy Football: Running Back Targets Guide

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

It is best to start with running backs because of the age-old question: Are running backs targeted because of their skill set or because of a particular quarterback’s tendencies? For a great discussion on that, check out Ryan Heath’s article. But, we are now checking out what the stats are telling us.

So, whether you are playing weekly fantasy or DFS, it is essential to know what running backs are getting the targets and who is being ghosted.

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2021-2022  The 16 Most Targeted Running Backs

NAME TOTAL TARGETS WEEK TARGET WEEK TARGET WEEK TARGET AVERAGE TARGETS/GAME
Austin Ekeler Los Angeles Chargers 94 Week2 v Dallas Cowboys

9 targets

Week8 v New England Patriots

10 targets

Week 12 v Denver Broncos

8 targets

5.9 average targets per game
Najee Harris Pittsburgh Steelers 94 Week 3 v Cincinnati Bengals

19 targets

Week 16 v Kansas City Chiefs

7 targets

Week 11 v Los Angeles Chargers

6 targets

5.5 average targets per game
Leonard Fournette Tampa Bay Buccaneers 84 Week 10 v Washington

9 targets

Week 12 v Indianapolis Colts

8 targets

Week 13 v Atlanta Falcons

8 targets

6.0 average targets per game
D’Andre Swift Detroit Lions 78 Week 1 v San Francisco 49ers

11 targets

Week 7 v Los Angeles Rams

10 targets

Week 3 v Baltimore and Week 6 v Cincinnati

7 targets

6.0 average targets per game
Cordarrelle Patterson

Atlanta Falcons

69 Week 5 v New York Jets

9 targets

Week 2 v Tampa Bay and Week 3 v New York Giants

7 targets

Week 4 v Washington and Week 9 v New Orleans

6 targets

4.3 average targets per game
Alvin Kamara New Orleans Saints 67 Week 7 v Seattle Seahawks

11 targets

Week 5 v Washington

8 targets

Week 9 v Atlanta

7 targets

5.2 average targets per game
Aaron Jones Green Bay Packers 65 Week 8 v Arizona Cardinals

11 targets

Week 2 v Detroit; Week 10 v Seattle; Week 16 v Cleveland; and Week 17 v Minnesota

6 targets

Week 5 v Cincinnati and Week 7 v Washington

5 targets

4.3 average targets per game
Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys 65 Week 6 v New England Patriots

9 targets

Week 12 v Las Vegas Raiders

8 targets

Week 8 v Minnesota; Week 11 v Kansas City; and Week 14 v Washington

6 targets

3.8 average targets per game
Josh Jacobs Las Vegas Raiders 64 Week 13 v Washington

9 targets

Week 11 v Cincinnati Bengals

7 targets

Week 14 v Kansas City Chiefs

6 targets

4.3 average targets per game
Myles Gaskin Miami Dolphins 63 Week 5 v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10 targets

Week 3 v Las Vegas; Week 6 v Jacksonville; and Week 9 v Houston

6 targets

Week 1 v New England and Week 2 v Buffalo

5 targets

3.7 targets per game
Mike Davis Atlanta Falcons (now Baltimore Raven) 58 Week 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7 targets

Week 1 v Philadelphia; and Week 8/14 v Carolina

6 targets

Week 5 v New York Jets

5 targets

3.4 average targets per game
Darrel Williams Kansas City Chiefs (now with Arizona Cardinals) 57 Week 10 v Las Vegas Raiders

9 targets

Week 8 v New York Giants

6 targets

Week 5 v Buffalo Bills

5 targets

3.4 average targets per game
Saquon Barkley New York Giants 57 Week 13 v Miami Dolphins

9 targets

Week 15 v Dallas Cowboys

8 targets

Week 3 v Atlanta Falcons

6 targets

4.4 average targets per game
Nyheim Hines Indianapolis Colts 57 Week 1 v Seattle Seahawks

8 targets

Week 3 v Tennessee Titans and Week 9 v New York Jets

6 targets

Week 8 v Tennessee Titans

8 targets

3.4 average targets per game

 

2021 Most Targeted Running Backs by Average

It is great to have the raw numbers but what also matters is who is averaging the most targets per game?

Fournette is third in total targets for 2021. He played in 14 games and averaged 6.0 targets per game.

Swift tied Fournette for most average targets per game, but Swift only played in 13 games.

Ekeler played in 16 games last season while averaging 5.9 targets per game.

Meanwhile, Harris played in all 17 games, tied for the lead in targets, and averaged 5.5 targets per game (fourth-best). Harris will also be playing with a different quarterback this season. So, we will be monitoring who is under center and their propensity to throw to the running back.

Kamara only played in 13 games last season, and there is a chance he will be suspended for some games this season. In his 13 games, Kamara averaged 5.2 targets per game.

McKissic played in 11 games and averaged 4.8 targets.

Davis, Williams, and Hines only averaged 3.4 targets per game. Davis and Williams are on to new teams, and Hines will play with a new quarterback.

When you get beyond Ekeler, Harris, Swift, and Fournette, it is imperative to find teams with a high passing volume and those whose defenses are giving up the most points to the running back position.

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Statistics To Consider

Stats from Teamrankings.com

2021 Teams Passing Attempts Per Game

TEAM Average Passing Attempts Per Game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 43.3
Kansas City Chiefs 39.9
Los Angeles Chargers 39.6
Pittsburgh Steelers 39.3
Dallas Cowboys 38.4
Las Vegas Raiders 37.9
Buffalo Bills 37.7
Miami Dolphins 36.2
Baltimore Ravens 37.7
Los Angeles Rams 35.7
Jacksonville Jaguars 35.5
Minnesota Vikings 35.5
New York Jets 35.5

Teams in bold will have new coaches for the 2022 NFL season, so let’s see what happens. But when you are looking for running backs to target (see what I did there?) see what teams are passing the ball the most on an average.

Stats from FootballDatabase.com


2021 Defenses That Gave Up the Most Targets to RB Position

Team RB Targets Given Up In 2021 Season
Seattle Seahawks 147
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 144
Philadelphia Eagles 140
Cincinnati Bengals 135
Kansas City Chiefs 131
Las Vegas Raiders 130
New York Jets 125
New England Patriots 119
Atlanta Falcons 117
Washington 117
Green Bay Packers 112
San Francisco 49ers 112
Miami Dolphins 112

2021 Defenses That Gave Up the Most Rushing Touchdowns

TEAMS Rushing Touchdowns Allowed to the Running Back Position Season Total
New York Jets 23
Los Angeles Chargers 19
Detroit Lions 18
Houston Texans 18
Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Las Vegas Raiders 16
Seattle Seahawks 14
Atlanta Falcons 14
Philadelphia Eagles 14
Buffalo Bills 14
San Francisco 49ers 13
Cincinnati Bengals 13
New York Giants 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 13

2021 Most Fantasy Points to RB Per Game Avg

TEAM Average Fantasy Points Given Up to RB
New York Jets 24.6
Detroit Lions 21.4
Seattle Seahawks 20.7
Los Angeles Chargers 20.7
Houston Texans 20.2
Las Vegas Raiders 19.8
Pittsburgh Steelers 19.4
New York Giants 18.6
Minnesota Vikings 18.2
Atlanta Falcons 18.1
Jacksonville Jaguars 16.9
Philadelphia Eagles 16.8
Cincinnati Bengals 16.4

It helps when the defense your running backs are going up against are generous in giving fantasy points to the running back position.

Running Backs to Draft/Play

If you are drafting, how does your league score the running backs? For instance, for those playing in the ScottFishBowl, there are additional points for first downs (.5) and points deducted for fumbles (-2).

If you are playing in a PPR league (points per reception), targets are more important than those playing in a standard league.

Know your scoring.

When the league starts (September 11) and DFS starts, DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo, and the many other sites will have different scoring as different as their sites.

Keeping up with the changes in teams’ rosters, both offensively and defensively, is essential.

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