Today we’re going to look at points per touch (PPT) which is a particularly relevant metric for RBs in PPR leagues, since PPR rules allow RBs to be extremely valuable even with a limited amount of touches per game. For reference, I’m defining points per touch as a player’s total number of points divided by their total touches (rushes and receptions). By reviewing PPT, we should be able to compare both receiving backs and bell-cow, run-between-the-tackles backs on the same scale.

Additionally, this PPT data should help us to identify some potential 2017 breakout candidates. With running back platoons in vogue, there were a number of backs that handled less than 50% of the carries for their team but were far more effective on a per touch basis than their backfield colleagues. Some of these players may have earned an increased workload in 2017 or may even be given the opportunity to take over as a lead back. Alternatively, PPT should help us to isolate the more inefficient RBs from 2016. Finding these players allows us to find not only players to avoid in 2017 but also players who may benefit from an off season of roster turnover: if a player was inefficient in 2016 and their team bolstered its offensive line, a more efficient season may be on the way.

With all that said, let’s take a look at the data. There’s some pretty compelling stuff here. Keep in mind, this is for qualified RBs in 2016, which is defined as having greater than or equal to 100 touches.

Leaders

Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons. He takes the cake as the number one RB in terms of points per touch among qualified players. He was more efficient than his teammate Devonta Freeman who, to be fair, also had a great PPT year. With Coleman’s productivity and Freeman approaching time for a new contract, you’ve got to wonder if Atlanta eventually says goodbye to Freeman and lets Coleman take the reigns as the lead back.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals. My God, how incredible was David Johnson last year? While his peers in the PPT top five were mostly receiving backs who shared a backfield, Johnson was an absolute workhorse and the unquestioned lead back on the Cardinals. Despite that workload, Johnson was able to maintain a comparable PPT to PPR mavens like Theo Riddick, Duke Johnson, and Darren Sproles due to his inhuman ability to pile up rushing yards and touchdowns with incredible efficiency.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers. Nothing new here. This guy was a stud in 2016 and he’ll probably be one in 2017 too.

Breakout Candidates

Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders. Richard was in a perfect situation this year before Marshawn Lynch signed with Oakland. He was extremely productive with limited touches in 2016 and he certainly passes the eye test with his explosive, game breaking potential. If Marshawn Lynch doesn’t come back in “Beast Mode,” Jalen Richard could step in and be a great fantasy player.

Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia Eagles. I know, I know. I questioned my sanity when I started typing this, too. However, as a Mathews owner in 2016, I did get to see periodic flashes of brilliance and the chart above supports that. His biggest issue was getting consistent touches but when he did touch the ball, he was a legitimately solid fantasy player. If he can earn the trust of his coaches, I think he could be a bona fide top ten running back in 2017. I still can’t believe I’m saying this.

Chris Thompson, Washington Professional Football Team. He’s been mostly relegated to passing downs, but man is this guy explosive. I think if he gets a chance to surpass Rob Kelly on the depth chart he could really be a big time player. He was far more efficient than Kelly and obviously has an added dimension to his game as a contributor in the passing game as well as the running game.

Players to Avoid

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins. He had a couple of impressive games assuming you’re the type of person who’s impressed by 200 yards rushing. And if not, is nothing good enough for you? Ajayi ended up eleventh in total points for RBs last year, but he wasn’t very productive by PPT. In the past, I’ve focused on drafting guys like Ajayi because they get so many touches. Since the NFL has progressed into more of a running back by committee type of league, though, it may make sense to hone in on players that may only get 8-12 touches per game, but at a higher PPT rate. That’s not Ajayi. There were several RBs who were far more efficient with their carries than Ajayi was in 2016 and these players can be had in late rounds or at low auction prices and should provide comparable output.

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears. Kind of like Ajayi, Howard actually had a pretty good year last year. With that being said, he wasn’t terribly efficient. I think he’s safe as the starter in 2017 but he needs to improve on efficiency or else someone lower on the depth chart will find a way to supplant him.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts. I love Frank Gore because seemingly every year I predict that he’ll have a huge downturn and every year he just keeps trucking along, getting a good amount of touches without ever being terribly efficient. I don’t know how much longer it can last so I’m going to quadruple down and say that 2017 will be the beginning of the end for Gore as a starter in the league. He’s going to win the rushing title now, isn’t he?

Author

Mike Bergsman is a contributor and the lead data analyst at The Read Option.