How highly should you prioritize running back receptions in PPR leagues? Obviously, catches matter, especially in full-point PPR formats, but if the yards and TDs aren’t there, too, they only matter so much. Conversely, even if a guy doesn’t get many catches, he can still have significant value — assuming he gets into the end zone. That creates more potential sleepers and busts, which means our 2021 fantasy RB PPR rankings are even more volatile than our standard edition

The differences start at the top. Derrick Henry is our top overall player in standard leagues, but he falls to fifth in PPR formats. Last season, he finished third among RBs in PPR leagues behind Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook. The (hopefully) healthy returns of Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley will further move him down the list. However, if Henry once again leads the league in rushing and rushing TDs, which he has two years in a row, he should be no worse than a top-five PPR back (which he has also been two years in a row).

Nick Chubb is another notable dropper after catching just 16 passes in 12 games last year. Still, you might be surprised to know he finished 11th among RBs in PPR scoring, proving once again that if you score and rack up yards on the ground, you can be a stud. Kenyan Drake (16th ranked), Ronald Jones II (20), Miles Sanders (23), and JK Dobbins (24) also finished as RB2s despite all having fewer than 30 catches on the season. Sanders, who caught 50 passes as a rookie, is a prime candidate to greatly improve on an already solid finish, and Drake will likely go back to more of a receiving-back role (with fewer TDs) now that’s the backup in Vegas.

On the flip side, several backs make big jumps in PPR thanks to their pass-catching prowess. Nyheim Hines and J.D. McKissic combined for 745 rushing yards and 10 total TDs (four on the ground), but they were both top-17 PPR RBs thanks to 63 and 80 catches, respectively. We’re not ranking them that highly heading into this year, largely because both play behind stud sophomore backs who are no slouches themselves when it comes to catching passes, but it’s clear they have a lot of upside. James White and Tarik Cohen also fit this mold, with Austin Ekeler being the gold standard because he also gets a good amount of carries.

Ekeler might be a little too good to solely be considered a “receiving back,” and players like that are usually undervalued studs in PPR leagues. Going into this season, Myles Gaskin, Kareem Hunt, Chase Edmonds, Travis Etienne, Devin Singletary, and possibly Leonard Fournette fit that bill. With the exception of Hunt, all could be their teams’ primary backs in addition to getting 40-plus catches. That could result in top-15 seasons if everything breaks right (see Mike Davis’s No. 12 PPR ranking last year). At the very least, they should rack up catches and get at least 115 carries (likely more) and work as flexes.

The biggest PPR breakout candidates this year are Joe Mixon (no Giovani Bernard), D’Andre Swift (46 catches in 13 games last year, should get significantly more carries), and Najee Davis (43 catches his final year at Alabama). Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Antonio Gibson were good pass-catchers in college and could also be primed for more receiving work in their second seasons, while Michael Carter and Javonte Williams (25 catches apiece while splitting time at North Carolina last year) both have the potential to catch a decent amount passes. 

Touchdowns will always matter most in fantasy, whether it’s a standard, half-point PPR, or full-point PPR league, so don’t overvalue catches early in your PPR drafts. However, in the middle and late rounds, taking chances on players expected to see a good amount of targets is the way to go. That’s more reliable than hoping your mid-tier RBs gets lucky and scores a lot.

We’ll be adjusting these RB PPR rankings and providing further analysis from now until Week 1, so check back for updates! For individual player analysis, check out our standard-league RB rankings.

2021 Fantasy RB PPR Rankings

Rankings are based on full-point PPR scoring formats

Rank Player
1 Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
2 Saquon Barkley, Giants
3 Alvin Kamara, Saints
4 Dalvin Cook, Vikings
5 Derrick Henry, Titans
6 Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
7 Aaron Jones, Packers
8 Antonio Gibson, Washington
9 Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
10 Austin Ekeler, Chargers
11 Nick Chubb, Browns
12 Jonathan Taylor, Colts
13 David Montgomery, Bears
14 Miles Sanders, Eagles
15 D’Andre Swift, Lions
16 Najee Harris, Steelers
17 Joe Mixon, Bengals
18 JK Dobbins, Ravens
19 Myles Gaskin, Dolphins
20 Kareem Hunt, Browns
21 Josh Jacobs, Raiders
22 Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
23 Mike Davis, Falcons
24 Travis Etienne, Jaguars
25 Darrell Henderson, Rams
26 Javonte Williams, Broncos
27 Devin Singletary, Bills
28 Melvin Gordon, Broncos
29 Michael Carter, Jets
30 Raheem Mostert, 49ers
31 David Johnson, Texans
32 Nyheim Hines, Colts
33 JD McKissic, Washington
34 Damien Harris, Patriots
35 Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers
36 Phillip Lindsay, Texans
37 James Robinson, Jaguars
38 Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers
39 Tarik Cohen, Bears
40 Jamaal Williams, Lions
41 Gus Edwards, Ravens
42 Zack Moss, Bills
43 James White, Patriots
44 Latavius Murray, Saints
45 Trey Sermon, 49ers
46 James Conner, Cardinals
47 AJ Dillon, Packers
48 Tony Pollard, Cowboys
49 Kenyan Drake, Raiders
50 Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles
51 Alexander Mattison, Vikings
52 Tevin Coleman, Jets
53 Darrel Williams, Chiefs
54 Justin Jackson, Chargers
55 Malcolm Brown, Dolphins
56 Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
57 Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons
58 Devontae Booker, Giants
59 Marlon Mack, Colts
60 Benny Snell Jr., Steelers
61 Kerryon Johnson, Eagles
62 Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
63 Darrynton Evans, Titans
64 Samaje Perine, Bengals
65 Chuba Hubbard, Panthers
66 Damien Williams, Bears
67 Salvon Ahmed, Dolphins
68 La’Mical Perine, Jets
69 Jeff Wilson Jr., 49ers
70 Joshua Kelley, Chargers
71 Mark Ingram, Texans
72 Jeremy McNichols, Titans
73 Anthony McFarland Jr., Steelers
74 Javian Hawkins, Falcons

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