Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs

Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs

Fantasy Football Sleepers and Undervalued Picks

Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs


Below are running backs ranked by the current Average Draft Position (ADP) as found on considering all scoring systems as a general basis.

Green Players are the values/sleepers I like while Red Players are the ones I do not value high enough to draft at that draft slot. If not red or green, the player is slotted pretty close to where I rank him.

Average Draft Positions taken from using only real drafts conducted after August 15th.

Starters – Value Plays

ADP Player Team Analysis
1 Todd Gurley LA He’s a throwback to the age of Stud Running Backs and the centerpiece of the offense. He’s the new Adrian Peterson. And we still have the old one too.
2 David Johnson ARI Hard not to love a back with 15 catches in his two playoff games last year. Hard to believe he is here after just 581 rush yards last year but he was golden in the final eight games of last year.
3 Ezekiel Elliott DAL Certainly this may be the highest any rookie running back has ever been taken in an average draft ever. But he’s the Gurley of 2016 only without a torn ACL recovery, with maybe the best O-line in the NFL and one of the best schedules. A risk but the upside is undeniable.
4 Adrian Peterson MIN He may be 31 years old but there is nothing to suggest he is mortal. Can you use 1500 total yards and maybe 12-14 TDs? This is where you get it. Peterson is the only one of the Top 5 backs who have actually been here before. Lot to be said for that. Like saying his name on draft day.
5 Lamar Miller HOU The Top 5 is mostly “ain’t been there before” players but all have good reason. Miller was stuck in MIA where they always limited him despite his healthy career 4.5 YPC. The Texans are not looking for a committee and have a top offensive line. Miller gets a golden opportunity and everything points at him being more than worth the risk. I would not take him higher than this but the upside is downright Ezekiel-ish only with more of a track record.
6 Le’Veon Bell PIT Not faulting anyone who takes him here. And he’s missing just three instead of four games (assuming no repeat injury). I just cannot personally draft a guy who cannot play for three weeks. On the plus side, DeAngelo Williams became a less attractive steal but you still have to take him in the sixth round or so when you could be taking every week starters. Just saying…
7 Devonta Freeman ATL If there are no reception points, then this is too high. Freeman blew up last year but then cooled for the final seven weeks but still racked up major receptions. Tevin Coleman will be more involved and Freeman falls from here without reception points but he had 73 catches last year and could easily repeat that. No way he repeats the yardage or rushing scores.
8 Jamaal Charles KC Not sure anyone knows for sure what to make of Charles this year. He tore an ACL in 2011 and blew up the next year but was only 26 years old. Now he headed toward 30 and coming off a second knee injury. The Chiefs already say they want to take it easier on him. He could be golden once again but the risk has never been higher. The upside is there IF he can repeat the past. I’m looking elsewhere and letting someone else take the plunge.
9 Mark Ingram NO he schedule is not bad and Ingram may be more involved in the passing game. But 5 years later and he’s never broke 1000 rush yards and has only lasted all 16 games once. He is missing around three games per year. He has little competition which is good but he still never gets the heavy load or stays healthy. He has plenty of value just not top ten to me. Love him as a RB2 but chances unlikely that can happen.
10 Eddie Lacy GB cy flopped last year while he was overweight and surprisingly less effective. But he had around 1500 yards and 12 TDs in each of the two previous seasons. Which Eddie do you get? He showed up slimmer to camp and in better shape. So he’s probably worth this spot but he isn’t used much as a receiver and relies mostly on rushing TDs. Just a bit too pricey for me. Likely more justifiable if no reception points.
11 LeSean McCoy BUF McCoy managed almost 1200 total yards and 32 catches over 12 games. He’s 28 years old and in his second season with the Bills. I’d still buy him here with no problem and maybe a bit higher since he catches as well.
12 Doug Martin TB Apparently most were not impressed with his 1673 total yards and 7 TDs last year which ranked him around 4th best in most scoring systems. They still have an excellent running back schedule and to keep continuity the offensive coordinator was made head coach. There’s just no reason to drop him from the top ten. I could argue the top five.
13 C.J. Anderson DEN Anderson is likely worth this spot and the upside is there for more. He also has a 4.9 YPC average. But he disappoints each year and has been notoriously slow starting and that was when the Broncos had a passing game to fear. He’s very possibly worth this but I am not taking the plunge this year. His rushing schedule is better as well. I may change my mind later kind of in the way you say you are not going to have one more drink and then realize there is a bottle in your hand. Anderson could swing between Top 5 and 30th.
14 Carlos Hyde SFO After two years, Hyde only has 115 carries at most in any season thanks in part to missing 11 games over that time. The 49ers have a much better rushing schedule this year and Chip Kelly is bringing his RB-friendly system that should heavily rely on Hyde. He has to stay healthy but he is in a dream spot to kick start his career. This is as good as Hyde will likely be. Risk is admittedly there but the upside is tremendous at this point in the draft.
15 Thomas Rawls SEA This is all about his ankle and the Seahawks are not going to be any more forthcoming than they must. Rawls was very impressive when called on last year but then fractured his ankle. So risk is there but he is clearly the best back on the roster. I’d take the chance here. SEA contends all is well with his health for Week 1 even if we never see him in the preseason. Remember, defenses have to actually defend the SEA pass now.
16 Latavius Murray OAK Murray hasn’t turned into anything special and he could get some competition from the rookie DeAndre Washington. By this point you’re probably happy enough to get him since you loaded up on WR in the early rounds. Not saddled with a bad schedule like 2015 will help. Second year of the offense also helps.
17 Matt Forte NYJ The Jets got 1287 yards from Chris Ivory last year and upgrade with the aging Forte.He’s not going to be asked to do as much in New York and will lose at least some receptions to Bilal Powell. But he is still safe as a middle of the road back. This seems like a set-up where a star RB changes teams late in his career but is drafted thinking of past years on a different offense. And he gets injured, doesn’t meet expectations. Seen it before but the risk/reward around here starts to balance out.
18 DeMarco Murray TEN he Titans brought in Murray after his year off in Philly in the hopes he rekindles 2014 in a run-heavy attack. But the Titans offensive line remains below average and Derrick Henry will have some impact as well. Yeah he looked great in the preseason in that way a veteran should. Long as he stays healthy, he could easily out perform this spot. Figure he was a beast in 2014, took a well-financed vacation for a year, and now he’s back and will be the central focus of the offense.
19 Jeremy Langford CHI Honestly the more I see Langford and the Bears, the better I like him. There will be some committee aspect to the backfield like literally every other team. But he’s worth a go at this point. In the three games with Forte out last year, Langford scored in each. I have no problem with this pick that I like more and more.
20 Dion Lewis NE Yeah scratch that one. Second surgery on the knee keeps him out for two months or more.
21 Duke Johnson CLE Drafters are in love with Johnson as a sleeper so common that he’s no longer a good value. He’ll take the “Giovani Bernard” role in Hue Jackson’s offense and that will pay off with plenty of receptions. He already had 61 last year – more than the 56 that was tops for Bernard in Jackson’s scheme. He was 24th best overall last year. He’s always grabbed by someone else in all my drafts. News that they might split him out as a WR no doubt increases confidence but Corey Coleman and now Josh Gordon already vastly upgrades the receivers from last year. He’s a good pick, just his hype has him going earlier than I would ever take him.
22 Jeremy Hill CIN Hill was a big disappointment in 2015 and fell to just a 3.6 YPC average. He has minimal role as a receiver and struggled to top around 60 yards per week but he scored 11 times. If he can get over his bad sophomore slump, he could be a very nice buy at this point. He is another back that seems to be reverting to previous form and for him that was 1339 total yards. Love him as RB3 but can live with him as a RB2 if I got rich on WR first.
23 Matt Jones WAS The Skins have a tougher schedule this year and now Jones gets the keys to the backfield after only recording a 3.4 YPC average as a rookie. He’ll improve over 2015 but the bar was not high anyway. He’s just another filler type that will mostly just offer consistently mediocre results. Separated his shoulder in the preseason but could be ready for Week 1. No thanks. Nothing up to this point indicates he has any upside.
24 Giovani Bernard CIN Bernard’s role is not going to change since the Bengals replaced OC Hue Jackson by promoting QB coach Ken Zampese. In a reception point league, Bernard offers enough points each week to merit a RB2 start.
25 Melvin Gordon SD Gordon is a starter and was successful at Wisconsin. But his 833 total yards and zero touchdowns was a big disappointment last year. His schedule is a bit better this year but any higher than this is just too risky,
26 Danny Woodhead SD He is 31 years old but has never had that heavy of a use. And the last time he played under OC Ken Whisenhunt was when he turned in 76 catches, 1034 total yards and eight TDs in 2013. In a reception point league, Woodhead is a great RB3 and could turn in RB2 stats just as easily.
27 Ryan Mathews PHI He should get a heavy load with Demarco Murray gone and the new offense of Doug Pederson liked using Jamaal Charles in KC. But Mathews always gets dinged up even with a lower volume of work. I’d gladly take him here and he has some upside, but he carries risk as well.
28 Arian Foster MIA The Dolphins and Texans ended up swapping starting RBs but Houston got the better end of the situation. It is not that the 30-year-old Foster has no talent. It is that he’s openly talked of retiring in the past and is coming off an Achilles injury that forced him to miss 12 games last year. He already was an injury risk having missed at least three games every season since 2012. He was great in 2014 for the 13 games that he lasted but this is not the same guy. I’ll let someone else wonder where he went about midway in the season.
29 Jonathan Stewart CAR His schedule is worse and even playing without DeAngelo Williams still saw him limited to only 1088 total yards and 7 TDs thanks to Cam Newton’s penchant to run in a score. It also made the fourth straight season that he missed at least three games. He has minimal role as a receiver and even less as the goal line back. He’ll never be much better than this but he probably won’t be much worse – unless his annual injury ends up taking more than three weeks.
30 DeAngelo Williams PIT I would never draft a RB in the RB3 range that I could not be certain that he would have more than three games of starting. But if I owned Le’Veon Bell (and as noted above, I would not) you have to take him no later than here. He was a monster value last year when Bell got injured. I guess it depends on how much I liked the Bell owner. Or don’t like.

After the Starters are taken, look for sleepers and avoid bad values for your backup

ADP Player Team Analysis
31 Ameer Abdullah DET The Lions have a better schedule this year and Abdullah could be poised for the year 2 leap. He played much better under OC Jim Bob Cooter in the second half of 2015 and now gets a chance for a heavier load as the clear primary back. Definitely worth a RB3 slot.
32 Frank Gore IND He’s mostly playing for improving his records but Gore only managed a 3.7 YPC with 34 catches in a season when the Colts desperately needed help from the rushing effort. The O-line is still questionable for rush blocking and the 33-year-old Gore is not likely to have a revival.
33 Rashad Jennings NYG Like the Giants schedule and that they intend on relying more on Jennings who totaled 1159 yards and four scores last year. He should flirt with RB3 stats and if the passing game takes off, it will benefit Jennings as well. This deep he is a very nice grab.
34 T.J. Yeldon JAC There’s not much to like about the Jags running back schedule this year and Yeldon ended his rookie season with just 740 rushing yards and three touchdowns. They brought in Chris Ivory for more than just good looks. Yeldon could improve this year but he’s going to be in a committee behind a bad offensive line with a poor schedule. Not what I am looking for.
35 Derrick Henry TEN This seems feast or famine to me. But the risk is high for Henry to have a down year anyway since he’s coming off 395 carries in 15 games at Alabama and likely needs a year to recover anyway, let alone learn the NFL game. The O-line in TEN is getting better but still is not great and DeMarco Murray will be the lead dog until he gets hurt. In that case, Henry might surprise but the bottom line here is that this offense hasn’t been very good and is still a work in progress.If I own Murray, then I make this pick for sure.
36 Chris Ivory JAC Not a terrible pick from a back that gained 1287 yards and 8 TDs last year for the Jets. This will have some committee to the backfield and Yeldon still could end up better than we expect. Ivory is a decent pick here at the end of RB3 and he did catch 30 passes last year as a surprise.
37 Charles Sims TB Good schedule and by now Sims is who he is – a receiving back with 51-561-4 in catches last year with 529 rush yards. He’s no difference maker but in a reception points league he’s consistent enough to merit a start consideration if you went WR-happy early in your draft. A tougher passing schedule for the Buccaneers could result in more dump-off passes to Sims.
38 Justin Forsett BAL Forsett’s shocking 2014 season evaporated last year when the schedule was tougher and most of the offense was injured including his own ankle that cost him six games. He’s the top back here but it is a mess on the depth chart that may constantly change as the season progresses. If you take him here, cross your fingers because there are no less than three backs that could be involved as well.
39 Jay Ajayi MIA The Dolphins are confident in Ajayi taking the reins and being the primary back ready for a big jump this year…. just kidding. Arian Foster signing is all you need to know about why Ajayi being drafted as a RB3 is folly. There is no guarantee he will have his career first 50 rushing yard game this year. Pass on by.
40 Theo Riddick DET Riddick has almost no role as a rusher but he caught 80-697-3 last year and in a reception point league that’s a nice bye week cover or even a starter if pressed. The loss of Calvin Johnson shouldn’t make Riddick any less attractive of a target.
41 Tevin Coleman ATL Coleman was the starter last year until Devonta Freeman went nuts in week three. Coleman seems the better runner and had a 4.5 YPC last year. He’s bound to improve on 2015 but he has almost no role as a receiver and that makes him hard to start outside of covering a bye week.
42 Isaiah Crowell CLE With Hue Jackson coming over from the Bengals, Crowell gets to be the “Jeremy Hill” of the backfield. He could end up with RB3 stats in the right matchups. This late for a starting back isn’t all bad. He could surprise.
43 Bilal Powell NYJ The Jets are in the second year with OC Chan Gailey and Powell is the only holdover from last year in the backfield. He ran for 4.5 YPC and caught 47 passes for 388 yards in just 11 games thanks to an ankle injury. The 31-year-old Matt Forte will be the primary but he’s already had a hamstring injury this summer. I like Powell this deep.
44 LeGarrette Blount NE This does not look like a year I want anything to do with a Patriot RB. Blount is already 30 years old and will fight for a roster spot while he recovers from a hip injury that kept him out of the offseason. He could be just fine offering the big back role this year. Or he could be released. In NE, you’ll never know. There is upside here but his risk – every week – drives me away.
45 Devontae Booker DEN Honestly, this is as much about not being confident in C.J. Anderson than liking a rookie who has never played a down in the NFL. He was an accomplished receiver at Utah and could be an every down back as long as his torn meniscus from last year is all healed. This deep, I love this sort of pick. Definite need for the Anderson owner.
46 Christine Michael SEA This is like a dog that bit you a few other times but now he in on his back, wagging his tail while wanting a belly rub. I like dogs. I like friendly dogs. But I love having ten fingers. I’d only do this if I owned Murray. And if you own Murray, you probably need to grab him a bit earlier to be sure.
47 James White NE The departure of Dion Lewis for a few months opens the door to White as the receiving back. While I normally would never take a NE back, this deeply I’d grab White if I had reception points. He may be the only”somewhat certainty” in the NE backfield for the first two months or more. What? You want a belly rub? Why sure…
48 Darren Sproles PHI I don’t rely on 33-year-old backs that only gained 3.8 YPC and totaled only 705 yards and four scores over all 16 games. The offense is going to settle down more with Chip Kelly gone and I just see little upside. Sproles has declined in yardage in each of the last four years. I’d never take him but for a bye week filler in a reception point league you could do worse.
49 DeAndre Washington OAK Because we all love rookie running backs and waiting until your RB5 makes it worth the risk.
50 Jerick McKinnon MIN Still mostly a handcuff for Adrian Peterson. They say McKinnon gets more work this year but as long as Peterson is healthy, McKinnon will never generate fantasy starter points. But a great handcuff pick.
51 Kenneth Dixon BAL The Ravens backfield is a mess with Justin Forsett as the primary and then Javorius Allen and Terrance West also in the mix. I am staying away from all four-way backfields.
52 Spencer Ware KC Sometimes you have to go with your gut. I like Ware as a deep pick because I do not like Jamaal Charles as much this year. At worse, he takes up a spot on your roster. Or he is a needed handcuff for the Charles owner. But I think he is worth stealing. Charles is coming off his second ACL tear and is 30 years old. So yeah, I want his capable back-up even if I don’t own Charles.
53 C.J. Prosise SEA Prosise was a sleeper type earlier this year when the status of Thomas Rawls inspired fear to his owners and the rookie could step in as a third down type with a chance for even more work. But then Prosise suffered a hamstring strain and Christine Michael started looking much better during the offseason.He’s already dropped about ten spots in ADP and can keep going far as I am concerned. Rawls looks better and Prosise has not made any strides.
54 James Starks GB A good spot to take the handcuff for Eddie Lacy. He paid off surprisingly well last year and re-signed for two more seasons but no one in GB wants to rely solely on Starks.
55 Alfred Morris DAL Morris looked good in the preseason against mostly scrubs and he has obvious talent. But he also has Ezekiel Elliott in front of him and Darren McFadden at his side – if not also ahead. McFadden ranked 13th best last year as the starter in DAL. Morris was only 53rd in WAS. In 16 games.
56 Shane Vereen NYG I want to like Vereen more and I might take him a little earlier than this. He had 59-495-4 as a receiver last year and the coaching staff is all just promoted position coaches. But this will remain a committee and this is likely as good as Vereen is going to get. A bye week cover in a reception points league but not a difference maker.
57 Jordan Howard CHI This feels like the right spot for taking a flyer on a rookie playing in a committee backfield. Howard is a big back that could end up with at least short yardage duty since he rings in at 6-0/230 lbs. This deep of a pick is exactly where you should start swinging for the fence a time or two. He did fall almost 10 spots in ADP in the past month because Jeremy Langford’s outlook is improved.
58 Paul Perkins NYG Rashad Jennings will be rushing and Vereen will be catching. Now Andre Williams is still the #3 for reasons no one knows. That leaves #4 Perkins likely waiting for an injury or two to get any chance to matter. Why bother?
59 Javorius Allen BAL Too crowded to bother far as I am concerned. He played well later in the year when called upon but there are far too many backs on the depth chart to make Allen worth the pick to me.
60 Charcandrick West KC Spencer Ware is the named backup for Jamaal Charles and West get sloppy thirds. Not buying personally. Don’t see the upside.

Undrafted – Best Value

Shaun Draughn (SF) – Chip Kelly’s offense has plenty to share and Draughn showed up as a rusher (5.0 YPC) and as a receiver had as many as eight catches in a game in 2015. Not a difference maker but worth a late round grab to cover bye weeks.

Tim Hightower (NO) – Four TDs over the final four games last year. He’s everything that Spiller isn’t. Bye week filler kind of guy.

Chris Johnson (ARI) – What if David Johnson gets hurt? Chris had four games with 100+ yards last year over his ten full games. The #2 guy in ARI falls behind the #3 guys on the list above? Not if I am there.

Chris Thompson (WAS) – Third-down back in WAS has some bye week filler in him if you get reception points.

Wendall Smallwood/Kenjon Barner (PHI) – Barner passed Smallwood on the depth chart since the rookie missed lots of practice due to injury. But both these guys could show up in 2016. Ryan Mathews has his own training table and Darren Sproles doesn’t automatically throw away those AARP mailers anymore.

More Sleepers and Value Plays:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers  |  Tight Ends


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