Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs

Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs

Positional Analysis

Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs


A sleeper is a player taken as a backup who ends up worthy of being a starter or at least far outplays the draft slot where you selected him.  Average Draft Positions (ADP) are taken from  using only real drafts conducted after August 1.

The Average Draft order shows a general picture of how your draft will happen and where values/sleepers and bad values/busts likely exist. Any green check means the player is a good value that could be taken earlier. A red “X” signifies an overvalued player that is a bad value or just too high of a risk for that spot.

Other positions: Quarterback | Wide Receiver | Tight End

Average Draft order – Value plays

ADP Value Player Team Analysis
1 David Johnson ARI He’s talking about being the third guy with a 1,000/1,000 season. I would not bet against him.
2 Le’Veon Bell PIT  He’s top ten when he misses several games. Franchise Tagger making $12M this year but playing for monster money in the future.
3   Ezekiel Elliott DAL  Old school 300-carry guy that wants to catch more passes. Even a short suspension won’t tarnish his glow if it even happens. Make that a long suspension. Until completely resolved, have to assume no Elliott for the first half of the fantasy season. 
4 Melvin Gordon LAC  Almost doubled rookie season. Dual threat. Only concern is that last year Todd Gurley was the stud moving to LA where it all fell apart. Now Gordon is the stud, moving to LA. Changing towns at least makes this slightly riskier. Staying healthy would help. Every reason to pick him here but I want him later. Cannot fault this though.
5 Devonta Freeman ATL  Top 6 last two years so no reason to change this year. New OC but offense still loves to use him regardless. Freeman another one looking for Pay Day El Grande. Contract year.
6 LeSean McCoy BUF  McCoy is solid and should have at least one big year left. BUF is changing but McCoy ain’t.
7 Jordan Howard CHI  Huge surprise last year and now starts all 16 games for the first time. Good O-line and better schedule help even more. Another heavy-use solid pick.
8 Jay Ajayi MIA  Was already leery since he only topped 100 total yards four times last year.  Sure, he had 200+ yards three times. But that was about all. Switching to Jay Cutler at QB shouldn’t be too much disruption but Ajayi needs more consistency.
9 Leonard Fournette JAC  J’Ville has (hopefully) a better O-line and the schedule looks better.  This is the halo-effect from Ezekiel Elliott only without the DAL O-line. This is still a swing for the fence but an exciting pick to make.
10   Todd Gurley LAR  The Rams did a crash and burn on The 110 outside Memorial Coliseum last year and Gurley was a casualty.  But he was Top 10 as a rookie while missing three games. New coaches. New scheme. A couple of blockers. This should be the least of what he’ll do and should be more like 2015.
11 DeMarco Murray TEN Was #5 last year and #2 in 2014. Skipped 2015 while vacationing in PHI. TEN has a good O-line and better schedule. Derrick Henry may horn in a bit more this year. But Murray as one of the worse RB1s? No way. Caught 53 passes last year too.
12 Christian McCaffrey CAR  I love a rookie RB as much as the next guy (which usually means way, way too much). And he was electric at Stanford. And CAR has a great schedule. But they also ranked #32 in RB catches for the last two years. And Jonathan Stewart still owns a helmet. Long-term – love the player. For 2016? Not as an RB1. Probably better later in the year but the entire offense has to change to accommodate his potential. The risk seems more like a deep RB2 at best. But again – how great does this feel before Week 1?
13   Lamar Miller HOU  Hmm… He wore down last year and they plan on dropping his carries. Drafted D’onta Foreman just to help make that happen. Ranked 19th last year. O-line still one of the worst while schedule is THE worst. NOMT (Not on My Team).
14 Joe Mixon CIN  Man, the rookies are popular this year. If all hit, it would be historic. Mixon lands where Jeremy Hill has faltered and Giovani Bernard has lived only on third down. There is risk to be sure and this pretty much ignores that. But he is in a good situation unless Hill steals TDs – very possible. Cannot fault this upside pick but they usually don’t meet expectations. Then again, who was Jordan Howard this time last year?
15 Isaiah Crowell CLE  Crowell was right at this good last year and expected to improve. Very good O-line helps and decent schedule. Fortunately, CLE also tends to run the ball even when the game is hopelessly out of hand which helps. He may not ever be Top 5 but he should be at least this good and likely better.
16 Ty Montgomery GBP  We all want to like the GB RB1. It screams fantasy points. But ex-wideout Montgomery still learning the position and rarely had more than 10 carries for a team that had no other RBs. GB drafted 3 RBs. He’s like the shiny car you want to buy but have trouble putting faith in the mechanics. They are all risks by this point though…
17 Dalvin Cook MIN  Cook was one of the top backs on everyone’s draft boards. MIN upgraded O-line and has a great schedule. Unlike last year, they already know who the starting QB and offensive coordinator already are. He’s no Adrian Peterson, mind you. And he may lose TDs to Latavius Murray eventually. But love the situation for a multi-talented back.
18 Marshawn Lynch OAK This pick would be hard to skip thinking about the Raiders O-line and Lynch racking up TDs. But he’s 31, two years removed from great play and broke down in 2015. Not a dainty runner, his durability is a concern and “managing” his workload could also reduce fantasy points. This feels good when you spend the money but you have to worry that he can rekindle 2014 when he was still in his 20s.
19 Carlos Hyde SFO  Reports are all over the place from Hyde being released before the season to him being the primary back that looks great. All I know is that it is a miracle if he can stay healthy for 200 carries and no matter how good he looks in practice, you have to know he will get injured anyway. Oh yeah, new offense and bad schedule and O-line.
20 Ameer Abdullah DET  He’s averaged almost 5.0 yards per carry but lost almost all of 2016 with a Lis Franc injury. But there is little competition for him and he has just enough upside and potential that I’d be willing to make him an RB2. But this is a swing for the fence with that injury history.
21 Mike Gillislee NEP Yay! The new LeGarrette Blount! The Patriot that scored 18 TDs last year! But never more than 7 in his other two seasons there. Four backs will mix in a rotation. Gillislee is the best bet but here says he is a solid RB2. Blount was that in just one season ever. And LeGoaline Blount weighed 31 pounds more. Pats already said they want more diversity in their backfield for 2017.
22 C.J. Anderson DEN  Sure. Anderson has burned more people than microwave pizza. Once upon a time (2014) he was the #11 RB. Blew an ACL Week 7 last year. But he has a dramatically better schedule, is “in the best shape ever”, and really only has Jamaal Charles (pre-ACL III) and Devontae Booker to share with. So I am buying again, knowing at least that the human spirit is alive and never really learns.
23 Derrick Henry TEN If DeMarco Murray is out,  Henry is a top ten guy. However. Murray is not out. he had 362 touches last year. Henry is a lock to get more than his 123 touches of last year. But this pick says he is an RB2. Love him as a RB4. But this high must mean Murray misses most of the season.
24 Spencer Ware KCC   Ware took over as the full-time back last year once Jamaal Charles was officially gone. But he was average at best and only rushed for three TDs. The Chiefs drafted Kareem Hunt to at least mix in if not eventually take over. Too much risk to mess with a back that is only average on his best days and that will be looking over his shoulder.
25 Tevin Coleman ATL  Coleman won’t be much more than this ever but he offers RB3 stats in most games.More of a practical than an exciting pick.
26 Mark Ingram NOS  This could change either up or down. Ingram has been Top 15 in each of last three years and comes off a career year. But the Saints also brought in Adrian “HOF” Peterson for his swan song. And they drafted Alvin Kamara likely to replace Tim Hightower as the third-down back. This is an appropriate spot. He could be RB1. He could be RB4.  This splits the difference.
27 Bilal Powell NYJ  Powell seems like a risk with Matt Forte still there but he’s more likely the primary back in the committee backfield. Powell looked good for the last month of 2016 It is a risk here but by now they are all risks.
28 Danny Woodhead BAL  In a PPR league, this is low. When healthy, he is capable of 75 catches.  If no reception points, this is far too high. He’s 32 but still has gas in the tank.
29 Adrian Peterson NOS  Two knee surgeries in the last three years are enough to lose a job in MIN. But the 32-year-old Peterson has been beyond human when healing and rebounding. Risky pick with Mark Ingram likely the remaining starter. But if Peterson was to rush for 1,100 yards and 10 TDs would you be shocked? Playing in the best offense of his career (by a large margin).
30 Paul Perkins NYG Only rushed for 456 yards on 112 carries as a rookie and still has never scored an NFL TD. May be the best of the field for NYG RBs but what does that mean? This is an RBBC team that is below average in total, let alone for any back.

Sleepers and over-valued players

ADP Value Player Team Analysis
31 Eddie Lacy SEA This is appropriate for what he could do behind that terrible SEA O-line. There is enough upside here to merit an RB3 swing for the fence but a risk that he remains out-of-shape and less effective.
32 Doug Martin TBB  Which Martin shows up? Twice he had Top 5 seasons and three times he wasn’t worth owning. And he misses the first three games due to suspension (grab Jacquizz Rodgers).  But he looks good by all reports and TB looks ready to take a step up with their offense.
33 Kareem Hunt KCC  Hunt could become this season’s Jordan Howard. Or he could languish behind Spencer Ware. This deeply it is worth the chance. Hunt has shined leading up to training camp and the Chiefs are not content with Ware.
34 Samaje Perine WAS  Perine was the offseason hype master as the replacement to Rob Kelley. He was a beast at Oklahoma. But Kelley is still the named starter and the transition may not be smooth or soon. He’s a nice buy for RB depth but will cost a starter spot to draft.
35 Theo Riddick DET  If Riddick stays healthy, this is a good pick for a player that should offer some weekly fantasy points for bye week coverage. If you get reception points, this would be a great pick. 80 catches in 2015. And 53 catches in 10 games last year.
36 LeGarrette Blount PHI Blount comes off a monster year but scored more than 7 times any other season. Blount ranked 39th and 37th his other two years in NE. PHI offers goal line work but plenty of other backs in the committee.
37 Frank Gore IND  Gore has been Top 20 for years. He is slowing down but he was 12th in 2016. Loading up on WR and grabbing Gore this late? Score…
38 Duke Johnson CLE  As the third-down back in CLE, his worth is far more with reception points with 53 catches last year. HC Hue Jackson says he wants more work for him and finding a close target appeals to whatever QB is starting. Not many TDs but lots of catches for this RB4 slot.
39 C.J. Prosise SEA  Prosise is a sleeper to some. But the third-round pick of 2016 only played six games because of his shoulder injury.  SEA has a terrible O-line and both Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls there to take touches. It could happen but not on my team.
40 Terrance West BAL  Kenneth Dixon blew an MCL so West gets more work with less looking over the shoulder. This is deep for the primary back of an NFL team but West is nothing special. But he had 238 touches last year and should see even more for 2017.
41 Matt Forte NYJ  Forte may be passed by Bilal Powell (and may not), but this deep he’s worth the pick.  Even last year he totaled 1,076 yards and 8 TDs. He’s worth a bye week cover at the least and could still remain a low-end fantasy start.
42 James White NEP  The NE backfield is always a mess and this year is no exception. But he is most likely to lead in receptions. Could offer spot fantasy duty.
43 Rob Kelley WAS  Kelley is either going to do much better than this as the lead back or he gets passed by Samaje Perine. Not sure I want to wait around for the Skins to sort it out. And fear it may not sort of quickly.
44 Joe Williams SFO  Williams was initially a sleeper with the new regime in SF and he could still surprise. But he’s not looked nearly as good as hoped and Carlos Hyde is looking good until his next injury. Need to see something in training camp.
45 Thomas Rawls SEA  Not a bad spot for Rawls who could take over if Eddie Lacy flops.  But mostly just a handcuff for the Lacy owners.
46 Jacquizz Rodgers TBB  Great pick for the Doug Martin owner since Rodgers gets the start for the first three weeks. And then offers a handcuff. But could end up worth stealing since even after Week 3, Martin could always get hurt or have another down year.
47 Alvin Kamara NOS  This is another popular sleeper because he is a Saint and Tim Hightower is gone. Kamara would be huge if only Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram were gone. But they are not and Kamara is a definite #3 back. If he shows up in preseason games his stock rises, but still likely in advance of what touches he actually gets.  Mark Ingram was already the most targeted back last year.
48 Jonathan Stewart CAR Stewart is 30 years old and the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey. Stewart is not going to be Top 20 ever again but he is still the primary rusher for now. If you loaded up on all non-RBs, Stewart is a later round chance to get at least some fantasy points each week.
49 Jamaal Charles DEN  Eight games and two knee injuries over the last two years. Last year could have been the comeback story. But even KC no longer believes. Not touching him.
50 D’Onta Foreman HOU  Lamar Miller starts and HOU O-line is bad. Schedule is bad. Foreman is just a handcuff though slated to take a bigger load than just a COP back.
51 Jamaal Williams GBP  Ty Montgomery is a converted WR that never had a high volume of carries last year. Williams is a great grab as an RB5 who could end up with a lot of work for the Packers. Love this pick here and would take him much earlier if I had Montgomery.
52 Latavius Murray MIN  Still not practicing and may miss start of season. Eventual goal line back at best. Mostly just a handcuff for the Dalvin Cook owner.
53 Giovani Bernard CIN  Was Top 20 in reception-point leagues for three years but hurt his knee in 2016. Expected to be full strength for the start of the season. Great depth pick with 40+ catches every year.
54 Darren McFadden DAL  Handcuff for Ezekiel Elliott owner.
55 DeAndre Washington OAK  Could really step up if Marshawn Lynch proves to be  31 years old and no healthier than he was in 2015 in his last season.
56 James Conner PIT  Handcuff for Le’Veon Bell.
57 Jonathan Williams BUF  Handcuff for LeSean McCoy. New coaches mean RB2 no lock for short yardage TDs.
58 Marlon Mack IND Was initially a sleeper-type but Frank Gore remains the starter and Robert Turbin is the goal line guy. They don’t use the #3 guy.
59 Kenneth Farrow LAC  Back-up for Melvin Gordon.
60 Jeremy Hill CIN  Rookie year is dot in the rearview mirror and last two years were flops. Joe Mixon is the new Hill but Hill could still get goal line work.

Best undrafted value

Darren Sproles (PHI) – Probably his final year but already ended with 52 catches, 865 yards and four scores in Carson Wentz’s first season. Best value in a reception point league.

Shane Vereen (NYG) – Returning from torn triceps but expected to be okay and is good for 50+ catches if healthy. Low ceiling but weekly reception points.

Jalen Richard (OAK) – Should offer more of a third-down role this year and figure into the committee. Great O-line and Marshawn Lynch will be limited.

Robert Turbin (IND) – Colts like the short-yardage ability of Turbin who ran in seven touchdowns last year. Would step up if Frank Gore was ever mortal and missed a game.

Other positions: Quarterback | Wide Receiver | Tight End


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