Watch Now: Dave's Running Back Breakouts (7:45)

If you want a great Fantasy running back, he either must score a lot of touchdowns or catch a lot of passes. And as Ben Gretch will tell you, the ones who do both are the most valuable for Fantasy.

Twenty-six running backs had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2019. Of those 26, only a dozen caught at least 40 balls. Of those 12, eight not only finished in the top-12 in PPR scoring but also in the top-10 in PPR Fantasy points per game. Side note: Only six finished among the top-12 in non-PPR.

It's already great when a running back can average 15 carries per game, but it's a league-winning recipe when they can start piling on receptions. As league trends point to running backs doing more in the passing game, I wanted to see how many running backs had potential to become 40-reception players in 2020 after catching fewer than 40 passes in 2019. Any player who registered over 40 receptions in 2019 isn't on the list.

The rushers are listed in likeliest to catch 40 passes, NOT the order of how I would take them in PPR. That's here.

James Conner, Steelers

2019 reception stats: 38 targets/34-251-3, 89.5% catch rate, one drop, 1.64 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 110 targets/89-748-4, 81% catch rate, five drops, 1.40 yards per route run.

Conner was on pace for 66 receptions in 2019 until he got hurt, and he had 55 receptions in 13 games in 2018, so it's pretty clear he can get the receptions you'd like to see. It's a matter of staying on the field for Conner. The good news is that the Steelers have spoken highly of Conner this offseason and only added rookie Anthony McFarland in the draft. There's definitely optimism about Conner being in a position to bring home big Fantasy numbers.

  • Odds of a 40-catch season: 80%
  • Odds of a 50-catch season: 40%

Todd Gurley, Falcons

2019 reception stats: 49 targets/31-207-2, 63% catch rate, six drops, 0.53 yards per route run (ranked dead last).
Career reception stats: 301 targets/218-2,090-12, 72% catch rate, 23 drops, 1.25 yards per route run.

Anyone with eyeballs could tell Gurley wasn't his usual explosive self in 2019. But he got a lot of opportunities, and that figures to carry over to some solid numbers with the Falcons, particularly since their running back depth is not so good. Atlanta has fed an average of 103.3 targets per season to its rushers, and never less than 89. Forty receptions isn't asking too much from Gurley — between that and his expected red-zone production, it might be just enough to help him retain good Fantasy numbers. You know, as long as he stays on the field and doesn't share playing time with anyone.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 75%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 40%

Devin Singletary, Bills

2019/career reception stats: 41 targets/29-194-2, 71% catch rate, five drops, 0.72 yards per route run.

It appears the Bills' plan at running back is to mix the rushing downs with Singletary and rookie Zack Moss and seemingly give Singletary the bulk of the passing downs work (T.J. Yeldon could factor in a little). That should help Singletary's produce good receiving numbers, but Moss is a physical bull who could gobble up touches near the goal line and in clock-killing spots. Singletary is a good player who's fun to watch, but his upside is capped based on the roles of others around him. If he were to be a feature back, he could catch a ton of footballs.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 75%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 30%

Chris Carson, Seahawks

2019 reception stats: 47 targets/37-266-2, 78.7% catch rate, two drops, 0.87 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 79 targets/64-488-3, 81% catch rate, five drops, 0.95 yards per route run.

Two big factors are in Carson's favor: One, he's previously proven to be a solid receiver out of the backfield. Two, no one else on the Seahawks roster could reliably handle passing-down work. So he could work obvious passing situations, and he already has an iron grip on leading the rushing attack — so long as he doesn't fumble like crazy. Carson was three catches shy of 40 in 2019 and has taken sizable leaps in reception totals every year of his career. He should get there in 2020.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 70%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 30%

Joe Mixon, Bengals

2019 reception stats: 45 targets/35-287-3, 78% catch rate, four drops, 1.19 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 134 targets/108-870-4, 81% catch rate, eight drops, 1.29 yards per route run.

Mixon should be a cinch to hit 40 catches — he had 30 grabs in 2017, 43 in 2018 and 35 in 2019. But it's difficult to expect him to get much more than that since the Bengals should spread the ball around to their receivers, plus Giovani Bernard could siphon just enough to hurt Mixon. Also of concern: When Mixon ran wild in the second half of 2019, he averaged just 2.5 targets per game. Hard to average three catches per game on that. 

Odds of a 40-catch season: 65%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 20%

Nick Chubb, Browns

2019 reception stats: 49 targets/36-278-0, 73.5% catch rate, three drops, 0.95 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 78 targets/56-427-2, 72% catch rate, six drops, 0.98 yards per route run.

Chubb can catch the ball — he had 25 receptions in his first eight games while Kareem Hunt was suspended. The Browns' new coaching staff might be smarter about how they use Chubb and Hunt, both of whom are three-down backs. With the Vikings, Kevin Stefanski was not shy about giving his running backs targets last year (126 total including fullbacks). Given Chubb's career catch rate, all he would need is 55 targets to hit 40 receptions. That doesn't seem unreasonable, plus he had 36 receptions last year!  

Odds of a 40-catch season: 55%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 20%

David Johnson, Texans

2019 reception stats: 47 targets/36-370-4, 77% catch rate, one drop, 1.59 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 309 targets/208-2,219-15, 67% catch rate, 16 drops, 1.65 yards per route run.

Johnson ran out of steam as a rusher last year but still contributed as a pass catcher. Will the Texans use him that way or will they insist on shoving him between the tackles over and over? Since Deshaun Watson came to town, Texans running backs (not just one guy) have averaged 54.0 receptions per season. That's low. And the team traded for Duke Johnson last year and seemed to mis-cast him. New offensive coordinator Tim Kelly mentioned how both David and Duke Johnson are adept in the passing game, so he knows they can do it, but it'll take a real effort from the Texans offense to change this element of their offense. So not only must David Johnson get that going for him, he must also fend off Duke Johnson for playing time and stay healthy, which has been a problem.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 50%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 20%

Ronald Jones, Buccaneers

2019 reception stats: 40 targets/31-309-0, 77.5% catch rate, one drop, 1.82 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 49 targets/38-342-0, 78% catch rate, three drops, 1.53 yards per route run.

It took Bruce Arians all of one week of training camp to declare Jones as his "main guy" who will "carry the load" after seeing him show up to training camp in great shape and with great focus. Already there's evidence via social media of Jones catching the ball from Brady, and if his offseason regimen meant anything, we'll hear about improvements in his pass protection. There's always the chance mistakes push him to the bench, but there's obvious potential in his receiving ability based on his first two seasons (he has the highest yards per route run of anyone you've read about so far). If Tom Brady likes him, we'll see Jones play three downs a little more often than you might have believed a year ago.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 50%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 20%

Matt Breida, Dolphins

2019 reception stats: 22 targets/19-120-1, 86% catch rate, two drops, 1.22 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 89 targets/67-561-4, 75% catch rate, eight drops, 1.35 yards per route run.

Breida's got sneaky good receiving stats — his catch rate over the past two seasons is at nearly 87% and his receiving average is 8.3 yards per grab. That's excellent, not to mention a complete 180 from the running-downs focused back he was in college (22 receptions in three years at Georgia Southern). So why didn't he get the chance to catch more in San Francisco? A rough rookie year (six drops) could have played into it along with injuries and a crowded backfield. No one in Miami is as suited to handle passing downs as Breida is. There's potential here.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 45%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 15%

Josh Jacobs, Raiders

2019/career reception stats: 27 targets/20-166-0, 74% catch rate, three drops, 1.13 yards per route run.

When Jon Gruden announced he had to "get more out of Josh as a receiver" last year, Jacobs caught 10 passes over four games, then was mostly forgotten about. So think twice when you hear about Gruden reportedly planning to give Jacobs more catches (and carries) in 2020. Gruden re-signed passing specialist Jalen Richard and added gadget player Lynn Bowden in the draft. About the only positive is that Jacobs' four games with three receptions in 2019 nearly matches the number of games he had at Alabama with three-plus receptions (five).

Odds of a 40-catch season: 40%
Odds of a 40-catch season: 10%

David Montgomery, Bears

2019/career reception stats: 35 targets/25-181-1, 71% catch rate, two drops, 0.77 yards per route run.

Despite understandably losing out on passing downs to Tarik Cohen, Montgomery had three-plus catches in four games in 2019. It's close to the pace he had in college when he had three-plus receptions in 12 of 37 matchups. And it's to be expected to remain that way in 2020, making Montgomery unlikely to break out thanks to his receiving chops.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 25%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 10%

Derrick Henry, Titans

2019 reception stats: 24 targets/18-206-2, 75% catch rate, three drops, 1.06 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 74 targets/57-578-3, 77% catch rate, seven drops, 1.11 yards per route run.

It would be absolutely brilliant for the Titans to find ways to get Henry the ball in space to steamroll over smaller defenders. But it would have been brilliant to do it at any point over the past four years. They haven't. Henry has three career games with three or more receptions. So even when he says he wants to catch more passes, it's tough to believe. In Mike Vrabel's two seasons as head coach, his running backs in total have averaged 4.5 targets per game.

Odds of a 40-catch season: 20%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 5% 

Raheem Mostert, 49ers

2019 reception stats: 22 targets/14-180-2, 64% catch rate, two drops, 1.21 yards per route run.
Career reception stats: 29 targets/20-205-2, 69% catch rate, two drops, 1.10 yards per route run.

Last season was the first time Mostert had more than 20 targets in a season SINCE COLLEGE, and he only had that many one year at Purdue. For him to take a jump in this category would be a surprise, though I wouldn't put it past Kyle Shanahan, who is desperately searching for passing-game threats in the wake of Deebo Samuel's foot injury. Another issue: Jerick McKinnon is finally healthy and seems like a lock to work in obvious passing situations, further hurting whatever Mostert's upside is. 

Odds of a 40-catch season: 15%
Odds of a 50-catch season: 5%

A shot at 40 receptions

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs: He had 55 receptions at LSU last year, and the Chiefs have averaged 116.0 targets per season to their running backs since Andy Reid parked at Arrowhead. Expect at least 50 receptions, and expect him to be a first-round pick. 
  • D'Andre Swift, Lions: The combination of Swift being a good receiver at Georgia (73 receptions over three seasons) and Kerryon Johnson not able to stay on the field for long periods of time points to Swift getting a nice dose of numbers via the air. Round 6 is a fine time for Swift.
  • Cam Akers & Darrell Henderson, Rams: If Akers has the opportunity to be a three-down back then of course he'll notch a lot of catches. He had 69 receptions over three years at Florida State. But if Akers can only handle the early-downs work, Henderson is equally competent at passing situations. Despite only four receptions over limited snaps last year, he was a decorated pass catcher at Memphis (63 grabs in 38 games). Akers will go first in drafts, but Henderson may have much better value.
  • Boston Scott, Eagles: Yes, this is Miles Sanders' backfield. Yes, Sanders will catch a bunch of passes. But make no mistake, the coaching staff really likes Scott and will use his versatility. His 16-game pace from the final four regular-season games was 92 receptions! He's not a bad late-round pick in PPR.
  • Antonio Gibson, Washington: Gibson is a converted receiver who blends good size and speed to make big plays. Washington's coaching staff compared him to Christian McCaffrey, and they're the same folks who drafted and turned McCaffrey into a stud! That's good enough for me! I'd spend a Round 10 flier on him in PPR. 

Unlikely for 40 receptions

  • Jonathan Taylor & Marlon Mack, Colts: Can both guys catch? Yes. Will they? Not enough. Nyheim Hines is locked into Indy's passing downs role and is the best bet for a slew of receptions.Taylor might get overdrafted in Round 3 or 4 while Mack 
  • Mark Ingram & J.K. Dobbins, Ravens: Ingram hasn't had 40 receptions in a season since 2017. The Ravens may mix and match running backs all season long. Dobbins has a nice set of hands but doesn't appear to be on track to get enough opportunities.
  • Derrius Guice, Washington: He has seven career receptions, but he's only played in five games. In three years at LSU, Guice had 471 carries and just 32 receptions. It seems unlikely Guice will become a receiving dynamo when he already has to watch his snap count.
  • Jordan Howard, Dolphins: He's never had 30 receptions in a season.
  • Phillip Lindsay, Broncos: It was his poor work in the passing game last year that forced the coaches to bring in Melvin Gordon this year. It would take Gordon missing time for Lindsay to even have a prayer at 40 grabs.