First Down: Point break, Spiller, others, to lead PPR charge at RB

Jamie Erdahl and Dave Richard break down the season outlook for New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller.

As the summer heats up, Yahoo's resident Noisemaker will offer his hot takes on specific players, trends and strategies much discussed in Fantasyland. Naturally, whatever he forecasts, the opposite is bound to occur. Feel free to offer your two cents in the comments section below.

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Trends always come and go. Slap bracelets, shag carpet, Jheri curls, Zubaz and whatever jersey faux pas the Chicago Bears wore in 1994 are just a few. However, one flavor is and will forever be fashionable in the virtual pigskin world, PPR leagues.

Get used to it scoring traditionalists ...

Over the past two years, consumers have strayed from mundane, antiquated formats, choosing instead to enhance their overall fantasy experience. Two years ago 29.2 percent of Yahoo leagues featured some PPR element. Last year, that number rose to 31.8 percent.

With the popularity of daily games increasing (Note: Yahoo’s venture into the market is slated to begin sometime this summer), all of which score for receptions, the overflow into season-long will only boost the numbers. It's hard to get over a positive reward for a 5-catch, negative-yard output, but most, tired of the status quo, have become more willing to accept it. And why not? Additional scoring categories only enrich the fun factor. Maybe one day, yardage or TD-length bonuses will also become all the rage. Hey, Torrey Smith needs all the help he can get, especially with Colin Kaepernick throwing him the ball.

To fuel the PPR perspective, here is a six-pack of underappreciated RBs (ADP 40-plus. FYI, Justin Forsett is much appreciated) who could excel in the format this year:

C.J. Spiller, NO
PPR ADP (From Fantasy Football Calculator): 49.0 (RB23)
The former Bill is about to flash his mitts on Bourbon Street. Sans the services of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Pierre Thomas, players who accounted for 263 targets last year, there are plenty of opportunities up for grabs. Though many of those looks will go to Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston and Josh Hill, numerous check-downs and designed screens for Spiller are a certainty. Over the past five combined seasons, New Orleans RBs averaged 142.6 receptions and 1,052 receiving yards per year, far and away the most at the position. Prior to an injury-ridden 2014 Spiller was one of the more versatile assets in the pros. From 2011-2013, he hauled in 116 receptions netting a stout 7.97 yards per catch. An accomplished runner during that stretch as well, he rolled up 5.31 yards per carry and ranked top-three in breakaway percentage each year. At 27, he has plenty of spring left in his step. Mark Ingram is sure to dominate goal-line and short-yard touches, but his explosive complement is a wise bet to catch at least 60 balls. As Sean Payton recently said "finding ways to get Spiller the ball in space" will be "key." A top-20 finish in PPR seems inevitable, especially with the Saints scheduled to play a dozen games on artificial turf. After all, C.J. has a career 5.2 ypc on the fake stuff. And let's not forget New Orleans' overly friendly division. Swipe right.

Fearless Forecast: 131 carries, 622 rushing yards, 68 receptions, 503 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns 

Andre Ellington, Ari
PPR ADP: 42.8 (RB19)
Given an unfair shake by many members of the fantasy community, Ellington, who played on an extremely painful split foot tendon and dealt with a hip setback, overachieved last year. His limitations combined with the Cardinals' turnstile at QB hindered his contributions greatly. Still, in light of the situation, his stats gained were nothing short of remarkable. Before hernia surgery cut short his season, the tough back gutted out 1,055 total yards with five touchdowns over 10 games. He also snagged 46 passes. His resulting 15.1 fantasy points per game in PPR ranked No. 10 among RBs. Can you say underrated? The Cardinals selected Northern Iowa product David Johnson in Round 3 of the draft, a pick some believe arrows to the organization's dissatisfaction with Ellington. However, that view couldn't be further from the truth. As Bruce Arians declared in early May, Johnson is merely an insurance policy. The rookie is similar in style and substance as the veteran. With Arizona expected to feature more no-huddle, the pair will be shuffled about, but bank on the former logging the lion's share behind an improved offensive line. A now healthy Ellington, who ranked top-five in elusive rating, breakaway percentage and yards per route run two years ago, is about to turn a tidy profit.

Fearless Forecast: 228 carries, 939 rush yards, 58 receptions, 495 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns

No Bolshevik, Gio is still dandy in PPR. (AP)
No Bolshevik, Gio is still dandy in PPR. (AP)

Giovani Bernard, Cin


PPR ADP: 56.4 (RB25)
After a backfield shakeup midway through 2014, the working assumption is Jeremy Hill will greatly widen the touch gap in his sophomore season. Buying that, however, is foolish. Hill outperformed his compatriot measurably in yards after contact and breakaway percentage, but played second fiddle in yards per route run. Both posted nearly identical in elusive rating. Bottom line, Gio is no slouch. Because OC Hue Jackson isn't expected to deemphasize the run, a tandem approach will again be instituted, meaning approximately 11-14 touches per game are on the docket for the pint-sized rusher. Recall after Hill was unleashed in Week 9, Bernard continued to play a prominent role. Over Cincy's last seven games, including a Wild Card loss at Indy, he totaled 29 receptions for 216 yards and two scores. He also chipped in 34.3 rushing yards per game. His subsequent 12.2 points per game ranked No. 20 at RB during that stretch. Yes, his production wasn't earth-shattering, but it was serviceable. To use an old school WWE reference, Bernard is Nikolai Volkoff, Hill, the Iron Shiek. In other words, he's a quality tag-team partner capable of bear-hugging the competition as a RB2 or FLEX in 12-team PPR leagues.

Fearless Forecast: 136 carries, 566 rushing yards, 64 receptions, 481 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns

Ameer Abdullah, Det
Yahoo Composite RB PPR Rank:
PPR ADP: 94.8 (RB40)
In a loaded RB draft class, the Nebraska product has a legitimate shot to finish No. 2 to Melvin Gordon in PPR scoring. He's quick off the edge, displays excellent patience and pad level, catches everything in sight and packs a stronger-than-advertised punch. At the combine he led all incoming backs in four agility tests. No doubt, the guy can wiggle. Many scouts compare Abdullah to a young Ahmad Bradshaw. Based on his sterling talents and prolific college production (4,588 career rush yards, 5.64 ypc), it's an appropriate parallel. Abdullah is a nose-to-the-grindstone player who has already impressed Jim Caldwell and the Lions staff with his work ethic and versatility. Still, a committee of unknown distribution between Abdullah, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick is the expected blueprint, at least initially. More than likely, Bell will handle the rock 12-15 times per game functioning as the primary early-down/goal-line option. Abdullah and Riddick, meanwhile, will operate as change-of-pace weapons. Ultimately, a hot hand situation may develop which could lead to an expanded role for the rookie. Recall Bell averaged just 3.85 yards per carry last year. For now, bet on roughly 10-14 touches per game from the youngster, many of those coming via short-field passes.

Fearless Forecast: 139 carries, 599 rush yards, 51 receptions, 411 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns

Charles Sims, TB
PPR ADP: 81.7 (RB35)
Because of Doug Martin's dramatic freefall and resulting stench, many "experts" have the sophomore rusher highlighted on their cheat sheets. It's justifiable. The Muscle Hamster, once a lovable fantasy pet, was the 52nd-best back in the virtual game last year. His incredible decline in several secondary categories, including elusive rating and yards after contact, were disturbing. When you finish behind Trent Richardson in fantasy value, that essentially sums up your level of worthlessness. No surprise, reports from Bucs HQ have Sims as the likely frontrunner. To the coaching staff, his versatility is highly coveted. Though his surgically repaired ankle and transparent offensive line did him no favors last season, Sims was a favorite target. As tape shows, he was often cut down by harmless arm tackles, frequently behind the line. Nearly 44 percent of his runs went for 1, zero or negative yards. Equally deplorable, he forced just 10 missed tackles and notched a 48.6 yards after contact percentage on 85 touches according to Pro Football Focus. Eww. Still, Jameis Winston will likely make Sims a safety valve in the short-field, a role that could net him 50-plus receptions. He's worth every penny at his current Round 7 ADP in 12-team leagues, but if the hype builds, don't overspend.

Fearless Forecast: 166 carries, 627 rushing yards, 53 receptions, 405 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns

James White, NE
PPR ADP: N/A, largely undrafted
Remember this guy? Last training camp, drafters were willing to donate a kidney to acquire his services. Beat writers, attempting to read the always cryptic Bill Belichick, wrote buzzy pieces exalting the kid's explosiveness, tacky hands and interior brawn. Then the preseason got underway. In those contests, he resembled a sloth running in quick sand. On 29 attempts, he averaged a depressing 2.76 yards per carry. Predictably, he was a healthy scratch most regular-season weeks totaling only nine carries for 38 yards on the year. However, the post-hype sleeper is worth the minimal investment. Shane Vereen's departure to New York paves the way for White to emerge as the exclusive pass-down back, as Pats reporter Mike Reiss recently suggested. It makes sense. LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray are locked in for early-down work leaving Travaris Cadet, Brandon Bolden and White to duke it out for the "Joker" role. If the former Badger can secure the gig, he has 40-catch appeal. Keep in mind Vereen reeled in 99 passes in 24 games (4.1 rec/g) from 2013-2014. He could also surprise Week 1 with Blount suspended. Monitor the sophomore's progress closely later this summer.

Fearless Forecast: 93 carries, 375 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 417 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns

Others Sticky-Fingered RBs: Shane Vereen, NYG, Roy Helu, Oak, Buck Allen, Bal, Boom Herron, Ind, Matt Jones, Was, Duke Johnson, Cle, Reggie Bush, SF, Danny Woodhead, SD

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