I decided to chart for several other metrics using PFF data like targets-per-route-run, yards-per-target, total target percentage, and missed tackle percentage. They join several other statistics in the charts that you will find below. I looked at total team involvement as well as individual player involvement. For the player charts, I used the top 36 most targeted backs in addition to a few other fantasy relevant ones.
The goal of charting this data was to find running backs who are set to see their involvement in the passing game increase or decrease in 2014. From there we can find undervalued and overvalued running backs according to their current ADP for PPR leagues. In part one, which debuted over the weekend, I looked at trends from 2013 and projections for 2014 in the NFC. You can find that here.
For the sake of space, I will refer to each metric by its abbreviation throughout the piece. Please refer to the key that you will find just above the first chart until you get the abbreviations down, which won’t take long.
SIR: Snaps In Route = how many snaps a running back ran a route on
TPRR: Targets Per Route Run = total targets divided by total routes run
YPRR: Yards Per Route Run = total yards divided by total routes run
YPT: Yards Per Target = total yards divided by total targets
TTP: Total Target Percentage = player or group’s targets divided by the team’s total pass attempts
MT Rec: Missed Tackles On Receptions: how many missed tackles a player forced on all of his receptions combined
MTPR: Missed Tackles Per Reception: a player’s forced missed tackles divided by their total receptions
*Note: Both the team and individual player charts are sorted by TTP, as I found this to be the best indicator of how they were used in the passing game. You can sort by any statistic by clicking the toggle button at the top of the chart. You can also adjust how many rows you can view at one time.
Takeaways And Projections For 2014
New England Patriots
Despite losing Shane Vereen—their only running back threat in the passing game—for eight games last season—the Patriots finished with the 11th-highest TTP. They ran the seventh-most SIR, but their TPRR was low, specifically in the games where Vereen was absent. Although Brandon Bolden played the part of passing game back in Vereen’s absence, he totaled 39 less targets than Vereen despite running just 48 less routes. Vereen led the league in TPRR and finished second in YPRR. Assuming he can stay healthy, Vereen makes for an absolute steal in PPR leagues at his current ADP.
The Bills “up-tempo” offense featured a heavy dosage of run plays, but also plenty of targets for their running backs. Despite finishing with the 18th-most SIR, the Bills finished with the eighth-highest TTP and seventh-highest TPRR. Beat writers believe the Bills want to feature C.J. Spiller on “20 touches” per game, which should include more involvement in the passing game. Due to a nagging injury, Spiller finished in the bottom of the pack in TTP, but he finished with the third-highest TPRR. Spiller has a chance to as much as or more than double his 145 SIR and given his TPRR, this makes him someone to target in PPR leagues.
New York Jets
The Jets version of the west coast offense, much like that of the Packers, does not feature the running back in the passing game. Jets running backs finished with just 79 total targets, but still managed to end the season with the second-lowest YPT. Chris Johnson was never featured in the Titans offense, and those expecting a boost in PPR after signing with the Jets will need to think again.
Under outdated play-caller Mike Sherman, no team targeted their running backs less than the Dolphins in 2013. They finished last in targets (58) and TTP as only one of two teams to target their backs on less than 10 percent of their passes. This season, the Dolphins hired Bill Lazor who plans to install a similar scheme to the one he learned under Chip Kelly. Although this scheme doesn’t heavily feature the back in the passing game from a volume perspective, they were very productive when targeting their backs. I expect Lamar Miller to win the feature back job here, and he should see an increase in targets and yards, which makes him a great value in PPR leagues at his current ADP.
Bengal running backs ran the least SIR in the NFL by a considerable margin, yet still managed to finish above average in TPRR. This is in large part thanks to Gio Bernard, who racked up 69 of the team’s 75 targets for 514 of the team’s 544 yards, finishing with the sixth-best YPT. With Jay Gruden gone, new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is likely to feature Bernard more in the passing game. In 2010 as offensive coordinator of the Raiders, Jackson featured both Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece in the passing game—Raiders backs racked up 119 targets on just 427 SIR.
With Kyle Shanahan likely to inherit an almost identical offense to the one he ran with the Redskins, the Browns are set to be a barren wasteland for running backs in PPR leagues. The Redskins were dead last in TPRR and finished with the second-least TTP—under 10 percent. Ben Tate and Terrance West won’t provide much added value in PPR leagues.
Although Gary Kubiak based his offensive scheme off of what he learned from Mike Shanahan, their schemes aren’t entirely the same. Last season, the Texan backs totaled 103 targets on 490 SIR—both numbers were actually down from the 2012 and 2011 season. However, these numbers and the Texans’ TTP were all lower than the offense the Ravens ran in 2013, and I would expect passing game involvement to drop across the board in 2014. Despite totaling 58 receptions on 70 targets, Ray Rice forced just four missed tackles all season finishing near the bottom in YPT. His individual TTP of 11.4 percent should significantly decrease as well.
The Steelers are said to be looking to feature more of an up-tempo no-huddle approach after seeing it work so effectively towards the end of 2013. Overall, Steeler running backs finished just above the average in TTP, TPRR, and SIR last season. Despite missing the first three games of the season, Le’Veon Bell totaled 62 targets on 328 SIR while finishing with a 10.62 percent TTP. Bell should see a moderate increase in targets just based on the fact that he will be on the field for more snaps.
In 2013, the Titans finished with the fourth-lowest TTP and targeted their backs only 71 times all season. Chris Johnson saw 51 of those targets, and he is no longer with the team. Shonn Greene was second out of the backs with just seven targets the entire season. Ken Whisenhunt was hired as head coach, and he will be bringing with him an offense that targeted their backs 122 times with a TTP of 22.43 percent. The Titans have potential to be a PPR gold mine for rookie Bishop Sankey and free agent acquisition Dexter McCluster—especially if they fall behind early in games due to their porous defense. McCluster has potential to fill the Danny woodhead role in this offense and Sankey can take over everything else. Both should be targeted in PPR leagues at their current ADP.
Bill O’Brien has been hired as the head coach, and the specifics of his offense have not yet been revealed. Some expect him to bring some sort of hybrid between the old Patriots offenses he coached under and his offense at Penn State. In 2013, Penn State running backs only accounted for 18 total receptions. We will need to see this offense play out during the preseason to get a better idea of how the backs will be utilized.
Coach-speak this offseason in Indianapolis is centered around the team’s desire to feature a more up-tempo and attacking offense in 2014. There are legs to this, as the team launched a massive comeback in the playoffs after moving to their up-tempo offense. Last season, they finished with 102 targets and with the 13th-highest TTP. Trent Richardson has a chance to make a sneaky impact in PPR leagues. On just 28 receptions, Richardson forced 16 missed tackles. He had a solid TPRR because he made the most of his targets finishing in the top 15 of all backs in YPT. He is a good bet to improve on his 209 SIR, and he could end up being a great value in PPR leagues at his current ADP.
The Jaguars like to throw to their backs, racking up 103 targets last season despite mediocre results in yards, YPT, and YPRR. Toby Gerhart was added this offseason, and he should make an impact right away in PPR leagues after making the most of his limited SIR and targets during his time with the Vikings. For more on Gerhart’s overall impact, check out Pat Thorman’s in-depth analysis here.
In 2013, the Broncos called the most offensive plays and threw the most passes. Although they finished in the bottom half of the league in TTP, the sheer volume of their passing game led to 112 targets to their running backs on just 522 SIR. Their backs finished with the second-best YPT for all teams with over 100 running back targets. With Knowshon Moreno out of the picture, Montee Ball stands to gain in PPR leagues. Despite being targeted on just 27 passes while running just 145 SIR, Ball finished in the top 15 in TPRR. He also put together a solid YPRR and YPT. He finished with a TTP of just 4.10 percent in 2013, which is sure to rise closer to 11-14 percent in 2014 considering Moreno finished with a TTP of 11.93 percent last season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs finished second in TTP behind only the Saints, and in the top five in every other category charted above. Individually, Jamaal Charles finished with the highest TTP out of all running backs, as he was targeted on 18.70 percent of the team’s pass attempts. This season, the Chiefs may look to get Knile Davis involved in the passing game. However, Charles is essentially too talented to be removed from the offense for too many plays, and his value in PPR leagues should remain close to the same.
The Raiders bring back both Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece, and replace Rashad Jennings with Maurice Jones-Drew. The former three accounted for 116 of the team’s 130 targets to running backs in 2013. The Raiders finished with the third-highest TTP, and I expect that number will remain similar in 2014 given the team’s lack of talent at both quarterback and wide receiver. This is great news for both McFadden and Jones-Drew in PPR leagues—if they can stay healthy.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers finished with 122 targets to their backs and the seventh-highest TTP. Their offense made Danny Woodhead a PPR star, as he racked up the second-highest TTP in the entire NFL on route to 609 yards on 76 receptions. Woodhead was effective in this role, and it should stay the same in 2014. Ryan Mathews is not a player to target in PPR leagues as his 5.33 percent TTP bested only five other backs who made the chart.
If you want to know any of my other evaluations on skill position players, continue the conversation, or yell at me for something I missed, you can find me on Twitter @DanSchneier_NFL. You can also add me to your network on Google+ to find all of my past material.