Rams RB Lance Dunbar could offer sneaky PPR fantasy value in 2017

The ex-Dallas RB started 2015 as a big-time pass-catcher before injury. Now with the Rams, he could offer that production again.

| 3 weeks ago
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Rams RB Lance Dunbar could offer sneaky PPR fantasy value in 2017


(“Today’s Crazy Fantasy Stat” is an occasional offseason offering from PFF that highlights something that catches our eye and aids in our preparation for the 2017 fantasy season.)

Forgive the small sample, but through Week 3 of the 2015 season, Dallas Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar led all running backs in targets (22), receptions (21), and receiving yards (215). Second place in all three categories — respectively, 18, 16, and 179 — all lagged well behind. Dunbar was only 27th in fantasy scoring, because he hadn’t found the end zone — he was 13th in yards from scrimmage, a viable fantasy option.

(I should know, because I traded for him after that Week 3 in a PPR league.)

In Week 4, Dunbar only played the first half, before tearing his ACL on the opening kickoff of the second half and missing the rest of the year.

(I should know, because I traded for him after that Week 3 in a PPR league.) (Sigh.)

Dunbar returned for the 2016 season, but with Ezekiel Elliott in the fold and Cole Beasley and Jason Witten getting most of the short-yardage passes, there wasn’t much work for Dunbar. He played 13 games, recording 24 targets, 16 receptions, and 122 receiving yards. Whatever momentum he had built in 2015 was gone.

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This offseason, Dunbar left the Cowboys and signed with the Rams, where he’ll ostensibly be the third-down/pass-catching option in the offense. And if he’s used in the same vein as he was early in 2015 in Dallas, there’s a PPR option in there.

Over the last two years, only three running backs have more receiving yards over any three-game stretch than the 215 Dunbar had to start off 2015 — Giovani Bernard (222 in Weeks 10-12, 2015), James White (224 in Weeks 13-15, 2015), and David Johnson (twice, 251 in Weeks 11-13, 2016, and 235 in Weeks 12-14, 2016).

Dunbar’s PFF receiving grade in 2015 was 88.7, the 15th-highest receiving grade for any running back in the PFF era (2006-present). The top 50 RB receiving grades in that span (Dunbar excluded) averaged 64 targets, 53 receptions and 485 yards. Dunbar’s totals rank second-to-last (targets), third-to-last (receptions), and fourth-to-last (yards) among that top 50, and for good reason — guys who prove they can catch passes as well as those guys don’t often get abandoned in the offense.

The Rams have brought in Dunbar to be the team’s third-down/pass-catching back and ease the burden on Todd Gurley. If they do work him into the offense that way, Dunbar has fantasy relevance. He’s not an easy fantasy starter, but in deeper PPR leagues, as a flex play/bench depth, Dunbar can be a super-late option — and considering he essentially has no ADP right now, that’s better than where he’s going. If you’re playing PPR, consider Dunbar late.

| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.

  • Todd

    Lance Dunbar has been in the league 5 years (not a small sample) and has never put up more than 316 total rushing and receiving yards. Dunbar has 1 TD in his NFL career. That’s not a “sneaky value”, that’s called a sleeper.