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Fantasy Football

Fantasy Points Per Touch: Running backs

The running back position is once again king in fantasy football, and it looks like it's going to stay that way for awhile. In 2019, the average age of the top 12 runners was 24.97. That's the second youngest since 2000 (the average age in 2018 was 24.03). With points being scored at such a high rate, let's dig a little deeper into who was the most productive when the football was in their hands.

And no, I'm not talking about just overall points scorers.

While the final scoring leaders offer a look at how well a player performed in the stat sheets, it fails to offer us a complete picture of how good the player really was for fantasy fans. In the case of the running backs, here's the position's top 25 players (minimum 80 touches) ranked based on a combination of rushing attempts and receptions and the positive points that resulted in 2019.

1. James White, New England Patriots (1.44): White is the NFL leader in fantasy points per touch among running backs for the second straight season. His overall production was down as the Patriots used Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead (when healthy) more often, but White still proved to be productive when the ball was in his hands. He figures to be picked as a flex starter in 2020 fantasy drafts.

2. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers (1.38): How good was Ekeler a season ago? Well, he averaged an impressive 26.75 fantasy points in four games without Melvin Gordon. Projected over a full 16-game campaign, Ekeler would have finished with 428 fantasy points. That would have been the sixth-most points scored by any player in NFL history. He'll be a top-15 selection in 2020.

3. Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns (1.27): Hunt just met our mark of 80 touches, and he made them count for fantasy fans. Most of his points came as a receiver, as Hunt scored 71.5 points catching passes and just 29.9 points as a runner. If he remains in Cleveland, which seems likely at this point, Hunt would be a viable flex starter in PPR formats playing behind starter Nick Chubb.

4. Duke Johnson, Houston Texans (1.21): Johnson saw an increase in touches compared to last season, and he once again finished in the top 4 in this department. The problem is that he was far more impactful as a pass catcher (103 points) than a runner (51) playing behind Carlos Hyde. With the Texans in the market for an upgrade at running back, Johnson's stock isn't likely to improve.

5. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (1.17): No surprise here, as McCaffrey is coming off one of the most productive fantasy seasons at the running back position. His fantasy point production was close to an even split between running (228.7) and receiving (240.5), and that had much to do with the fact that he scored 15 rushing touchdowns. CMC will be a consensus top-2 pick in 2020.

6. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (1.15): Cohen saw his fantasy point per touch total decline compared to last season (1.38), but he was still a top-6 finisher. Not surprisingly, he did most of his damage as a pass catcher while playing behind David Montgomery. In fact, 87 percent of his fantasy points came as a receiver. Look for Cohen to be drafted as a No. 4 fantasy running back ahead of next season.

7. Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles (1.14): Scott barely met our 80-touch requirement (85), and he was highly effective when he had the ball in his hands. He was productive as both a runner (54.5 points) and receiver (44.4), and his role could increase next season with Jordan Howard slated to become a free agent. Still, the presence of Miles Sanders will limit Scott's 2020 draft value.

T-8. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (1.10): Jones busted out in the stat sheets, averaging the third-most fantasy points (19.7) among running backs in 2019. He was also third in points scored as a runner (202.4), which is not a shock since he scored 16 of his 19 touchdowns on the ground. Regression in that department is a virtual guarantee, though, so temper expectations in 2020.

T-8. Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (1.10): Hines didn't make a huge fantasy impact as the RB42, but he did makes plays when he had the ball in his hands. That was mostly as a pass catcher, as nearly 70 percent of his points came as a receiver out of the backfield. With Marlon Mack locked into the top spot on the depth chart, Hines is likely no more than a late-round draft selection.

T-8. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots (1.10): Burkhead was the third option in the Patriots backfield committee, but he (like White) was effective with the ball in his hands. The problem is that Burkhead continued to lack the touch totals needed to make a real fantasy impact. That could be the case in 2020 as well, which is why Burkhead will be a late-round draft flier at best.

T-11. Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers (1.09): The Niners backfield was confusing at times in 2019, but Mostert did emerge as the main man in the second half. He was much more productive as a runner, scoring 123.2 of his 165.2 fantasy points on the ground. While a committee with Tevin Coleman and Matt Brieda (if he re-signs) is possible, Mostert has emerged as the top Niners runner.

T-11. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (1.09): The fact that Johnson was effective when he had the ball is notable, especially if the Cardinals keep him on the 2020 roster. That's because his presence would mean a committee is a virtue lock should the team also franchise Kenyan Drake. This is one of the bigger stories for fantasy fans to keep tabs on into the new league year (free agency).

13. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens (1.06): Ingram was very productive with the ball in his hands last season, especially as a pass catcher. In fact, he ranked second among runners with at least 80 touches in fantasy points per catch (3.10). In a run-based offense, Ingram figures to be a RB2 in 2020.

T-14. Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers (1.00): Williams was more of a point producer as a pass catcher last season, scoring 64.4 percent of his points as a receiver. While he will continue to have standalone value as a flex at times, Williams does have limited draft appeal with Jones ahead of him.

T-14. Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs (1.00): One of the ChiefsSuper Bowl heroes, Williams averaged over two fantasy points per catch over the course of the regular season. The team will likely add a running back either in free agency or via the draft, however, so Williams stock is in a state of flux.

16. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (0.99): Kamara experienced a big dip in his fantasy point per touch totals compared to 2018, when he was fourth among backs (1.29). I expect him to rebound in 2020 though, as Kamara's drop in touchdown production (6) was likely a career outlier and not a trend.

T-17. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (0.97): Cook busted out in 2019, finishing second behind McCaffrey in points per game average (20.9) among backs. He produced 64.1 percent of his points as a runner, but Cook was versatile with nearly 105 points as a pass catcher. He'll be a top-5 pick in drafts.

T-17. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins/Arizona Cardinals (0.97): Drake was an an absolute beast as a member of the Cardinals, finishing third in fantasy points among backs in 10 games in the desert. Whether or not he remains in Arizona, plus the status of Johnson, will determine his 2020 value.

T-17. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (0.97): Conner's fantasy points per touch average dropped compared to 2019 (1.04), and his proneness to injuries could make him subject to a committee in Pittsburgh next season. In fact, Conner could go from a RB1/2 in 2019 to a flex starter in 2020.

20. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (0.96): Sanders was a fantasy hero down the stretch of 2019, and he proved himself a versatile option with 54.4 percent of his points coming as a pass catcher. With Jordan Howard slated to be a free agent, Sanders could bust out as a featured runner.

T-21. Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers (0.92): Samuels scored almost 80 percent of his fantasy points as a receiver last season. He'll be worth a late rounder for fantasy owners in 2020.

T-21. LeSean McCoy, Kansas City Chiefs (0.92): McCoy snuck into the top 20 among the top runners based on fantasy points per touch, but he's certainly entered the downside of his (fantasy) career.

T-21. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (0.92): Henry was a monster in the second half of 2019, leading many to a league title. As expected, nearly 83 percent of his fantasy points came as a runner.

24. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (0.91): Barkley saw a big dip in his points per touch average, but he also dealt with a high ankle sprain that hindered him. I like him as a top-2 overall pick in 2020.

25. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (0.89): Gordon, who averaged 1.22 points per touch last season, experienced a huge dip due to a holdout and the emergence of star Austin Ekeler.

Notes: Tony Pollard figures to be one of the top handcuffs in fantasy drafts next season. In his 101 touches behind Ezekiel Elliott, he averaged 0.88 fantasy points. That actually tied with Zeke among running backs. ... Todd Gurley averaged 0.86 fantasy points per touch overall in 2019, which was a huge decrease from the 1.18 points he averaged the previous season. ... Joe Mixon averaged just 0.67 fantasy points per touch in the first half of the season, but he thrived with more opportunities in Weeks 9-17 with a 0.75 mark. He did enough in the second half to warrant a second-round grade in 2020 fantasy drafts. ... Nick Chubb averaged 0.76 fantasy points per touch as an NFL sophomore, but the presence of Hunt hurt his stock as a receiver. In fact, just 22 percent of his fantasy points were as a pass catcher over his final eight games. ... Leonard Fournette also averaged 0.76 fantasy points per touch, and nearly 49 percent of those points came as a pass catcher. In eight games during the 2018 season, his percent of points as a receiver was 38.3. That's a major increase. ... Phillip Lindsay went from an average of 0.98 fantasy points per touch as a rookie to just 0.76 points a season ago. On the flip side, Royce Freeman saw his totals increase from 0.70 as a rookie to 0.81 during his sophomore campaign. This trend could indicate more of a flex starter role for Lindsay in 2020 fantasy leagues.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTubeand Instagramfor the latest fantasy football news and analysis!

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