Running backs and the (extra) point

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When in his prime, there were few better options on fantasy Sunday than running back Brian Westbrook.

During his playing days with the Philadelphia Eagles, Westbrook was a first- round lock in fantasy drafts before injuries, including the dreaded concussion, knocked him down many pegs on the fantasy RB pecking order. He used to keep opposing defensive coordinators up all night trying to game plan how to stop the elusive back.

Most times they failed.

Still, Westbrook was never really among the league leaders in rushing yards the way current running back studs Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson are. In fact, the 5-foot-10 Villanova product only had two seasons in which he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and only surpassed 250 carries once in his career.

So how did he dominate the fantasy world? The answer is points-per-reception.

In addition to being a touchdown machine -- a combined 64 rushing and receiving from 2003-2008 -- Westbrook made the screen play a work of art. He posted at least 60 receptions in each season between 2004-07, including an eye-popping 90 in 2007.

With Frank Gore's season-ending hip injury suffered this past Monday night, Westbrook is once again set to make a fantasy impact. He ran for 136 yards with a score on 23 carries in the 27-6 victory, and though he didn't have a catch, don't forget that Gore had hauled in 46 passes before his injury. Westbrook, if he can stay healthy, should step right into that role with no problem.

Points-per-reception can definitely change the landscape of a fantasy league. It's why LeSean McCoy, who has taken over Westbrook's old role in Philadelphia, and his value take a big jump in PPR leagues due to his running back-leading 59 catches.

It's why Ravens running back Ray Rice (47 catches) is so valuable even though he loses touchdowns to Willis McGahee. It's why Bills running back Fred Jackson had such a big day versus the Steelers despite just 59 rushes on 12 carries: add in his five receptions and you get nearly the same value as a 100-yard rushing day and his 65-yard TD reception was icing on the cake.

Points-per-receptions also make big games even bigger. Arian Foster's 143 rushing yards versus the Titans on Sunday already had him among fantasy leaders, but another nine catches for 75 yards more than made up for him not finding the end zone.

Fantasy owners often have a tough decision to make when looking at the matchups their running backs face each week, but being in a PPR league makes rolling the dice that much easier.


Here are three players I'm loving for Week 11 with bonus PPR value:

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles - Quarterback Michael Vick is always a threat to make plays with his legs and wideout DeSean Jackson comes through with long touchdowns week in and week out. However, the Texans are likely to try to take away Vicks' legs and cut down on Jackson's big-play chances, leaving Maclin with plenty of space against one of the worst passing defenses in the league.

PPR value: At least four catches in all but two games this year.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs - He has topped 20 rush attempts just twice this season and has totaled over 170 rushing yards in both games. One of those came last week in Seattle, a 22-carry outing that featured 173 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City head coach Todd Haley is still going to give backup/vulture Thomas Jones his time in the backfield, but he can't ignore Charles and his 6.3 yards per carry average in a big division game versus the Broncos.

PPR value: Has at least four catches in five of last six games, including five versus Denver on November 14th for 80 yards and a score.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills - Buffalo showed last weekend versus Pittsburgh that Jackson is going to be involved in the offense regardless of the matchup. After rushing for 249 yards total over the previous two weeks, Jackson was limited to under 60 by the Steelers defense, but came through with five catches for 104 yards. Jackson has six touchdowns over his last four games and rookie C.J. Spiller isn't completely healthy yet. A game in Minnesota no longer looks as scary.

PPR value: Has 19 catches over last four weeks with two receiving touchdowns in that span.


Be wary of these three players for Week 11:

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots - Brady has thrown just four interceptions this year, but two came in a Week 2 loss at the New York Jets. Though he threw a pair of TD passes, Brady had just 248 yards and a 72.5 QB rating, his second-lowest single-game rating total this season. The Jets will be zeroing in on stopping Brady in this big AFC East matchup.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens - Boldin has less than four catches in three of his last four games and hasn't topped 50 yards in any of those games. His sudden lack of production has come in four games since the bye, so one has to wonder if spreading the ball out was a focus of the Ravens during that break. Boldin did have seven catches and 68 yards on October 3rd versus the Steelers, but didn't score and Pittsburgh ranks third in scoring defense.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers - Stewart returned from a brief absence due to a concussion and posted a season-high 98 yards on 12 carries versus Cleveland. However, he is still going to split time with the red-hot Mike Goodson, who ran for 220 yards in the two games Stewart missed. Seattle has a weak defense, but a carry-splitting situation doesn't favor Stewart.


Here is my top sleeper pick for Week 11:

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins - Since it was a PPR theme this week, I have to give a shout out to Bess. He is second on the club with 55 catches, three back of Brandon Marshall, but finished with six catches for 111 yards last week in Oakland with Marshall sidelined. Even if Marshall plays this weekend despite a hamstring injury, Bess should still haul in a healthy number of passes against a shaky Cleveland secondary.

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