Sleepers and Value Plays (Final): Running Backs

Sleepers and Value Plays (Final): Running Backs

Fantasy Football Sleepers and Undervalued Picks

Sleepers and Value Plays (Final): 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 25.

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.

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Average draft order – value plays

ADP Value Player Team Analysis
1 David Johnson ARI Just all kinds of attractive angles here.
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 LeSean McCoy BUF  McCoy is solid and should have at least one big year left. BUF is changing but McCoy ain’t.
4 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 just became the richest RB and maybe not quite so hungry?
5 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.
6 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. Seems aggressive to make him Top 6.
7 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 caught 53 passes last year too.
8   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.
9 Ezekiel Elliott DAL Six game suspension was upheld on SEP 4 Tuesday and Elliott will play in Week 1. Ruling by 5 PM EST on the injunction that could throw this into court for now and still let Elliott play. Potentially this could drag out all year like Brady. Or not – and no way to know until Friday.
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 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. Exciting pick but still a rookie with a foot injury that kept him out of preseason games. Same foot a problem in college. Have to like him but a bit high all things considered.
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 RB2. But again – how great does this feel before Week 1? Looked great in preseason games.
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.  This is the right spot for him.  But NOMT (Not on My Team).
14 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 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. Been rising in drafts for the entire summer. My favorite rookie back.
15 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.
16 Isaiah Crowell CLE  Crowell was  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.
17 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. Will be primary back but does his workload get any bigger?
18 Joe Mixon CIN 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.  He’s been falling in drafts in recent weeks. He’ll get a slow start and I hate that. Hill and Bernard are not going away.
19 Carlos Hyde SFO  Recent reports are positive. 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. He may outperform this per game, but no faith on his health.
20 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.
21 Mark Ingram NOS  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  to replace Tim Hightower as the third-down back. This is an appropriate spot. He could be an RB1. He could be an RB4.  This splits the difference.
22 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.
23 Kareem Hunt KCC Ware is out for anywhere from one week to the rest of his life and Hunt starts the year as the primary back. He has looked very good and the only real reservation here is that KCs schedule sucks. Not a bad spot for the risk involved.
24 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 super-human when healing and rebounding. Risky pick with Mark Ingram likely the remaining starter.    Playing in the best offense of his career (by a large margin). Was a great value earlier in the summer as a RB3 but this high makes him just a reasonable risk. Imagine if there was no Ingram. I bet Peterson does.
25 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.
26 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. The only real consensus is that Powell is the only Jet anyone wants to draft this year. Judging by the state of the receivers, Powell may end up with an obscene amount of catches.
27 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.
28 Mike Gillislee NEP 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. Would be atop depth chart if they actually had one in NE.
29 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.
30 LeGarrette Blount PHI Blount comes off a monster year but never 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. Mixed reports but some speculate he won’t be a big factor there. This pick says I like last year too much.

Sleepers and over-valued players

ADP Value Player Team Analysis
31 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.
32 Eddie Lacy SEA This is appropriate for what he could do behind that terrible SEA O-line. There is barely enough here to merit an RB3 swing for the fence but a risk that he remains out-of-shape and less effective.
33 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 individual back.
34 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…
35 Darren McFadden DAL  Handcuff for Ezekiel Elliott owner and worth stealing if the six game suspension for Elliott stands. This is too early and yet you better do it if you own Zeke.
36 Rob Kelley WAS Kelley was a nobody early in the summer when Samaje Perine was the darling but no one told the WAS coaches who fully intend on starting Kelley. Perine faded in the preseason.
37 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.
38 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.
39 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. Some expectation that he will start but even if he does, it is a  terrible O-line and Rawls is injury-prone.
40 Duke Johnson CLE  As the third-down back in CLE,  worth is far more with reception points after  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. Love this pick here and even earlier.
41 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.
42 Samaje Perine WAS Perine was the offseason hyped rookie  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 fallen all summer.
43 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.
44 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. Loss of Julian Edelman is expected to get more passes for White.
45 Jeremy Hill CIN Was almost undrafted earlier this summer while all the cool kids talked about Joe Mixon. But Hill is still the starter, still a better scorer near the goal line and worth at least this pick. Even if Mixon takes over, it will take some time.
46 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.  Has an injury history and already pulled a groin muscle in the second preseason game.
47 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. Rose in drafts but leveled off with Montgomery looking better in Week 3.
48 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.
49 Darren Sproles PHI Always good for 50 catches, Sproles in a reception point league makes plenty of sense here. Had 52 catches, 865 total yards and four scores last year.
50 Latavius Murray MIN Will serve some role but mostly just a handcuff for the Dalvin Cook owner. May be the goal line back.
51 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.
52 Rex Burkhead NEP Throwing darts for a NE RB is just too risky no matter where you pick them up.
53 Jamaal Charles DEN  Eight games and two knee injuries over the last two years. Last year could have been the comeback story. I shy away from players whose only positives so far are “he may make the team!”
54 Giovani Bernard CIN  Was Top 20 in reception-point leagues for three years but hurt his knee in 2016.  Great depth pick with 40+ catches every year.
55 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.
56 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.
57   Wendell Smallwood PHI Rising on reports that LeGarrette Blount may not score 18 TDs this year in PHI. Not a bad spec pick this late.
58 Jonathan Williams BUF  Handcuff for LeSean McCoy. New coaches mean RB2 no lock for short yardage TDs. Just a handcuff.
59 James Conner PIT  Handcuff for Le’Veon Bell.
60 Dion Lewis NEP Oh yes, please, give me the #4 back in NE… not.

Best undrafted value

Shane Vereen (NYG) – 59 catches and 755 total yards with four scores in 2015 before triceps injury ruined 2016. Nice bye week cover in reception point league.

Matt Breida (SF) – The new back-up for brittle Carlos Hyde is a true sleeper type. Joe Williams on IR so no one to challenge him.

Jalen Richard (OAK) – 5.9 YPC on 83 runs last year and 29 catches. Latavius Murray replaced by Marshawn Lynch who in 31, won’t catch much and hasn’t been good since 2014. Richard could figure in more.

Robert Turbin (IND) – Mostly a handcuff for the Frank Gore owner. Turbin already scored eight TDs last year and should have a bigger role.

DeAndre Washington (OAK) – Good handcuff for the Marshawn Lynch owner.

Tarik Cohen (CHI) – Little guy won’t ever be a workhorse but has impressed as a third-down type for the Bears.


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