Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs FINAL

Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs FINAL

Fantasy Football Sleepers and Undervalued Picks

Sleepers and Value Plays: Running Backs FINAL


A sleeper running back 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 15.

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Average Draft order shows a general picture of how your draft will unfold 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.

Average Draft order – Value plays

ADP Value Tm Player Analysis
1 NYG Saquon Barkley Ends up all that rookie hype about a “generational back” … pretty accurate…
2 NO Alvin Kamara Never worse than the #4 RB in his two years and now Mark Ingram is gone.  Golden in any league and almost unfair in PPR.
3 CAR Christian McCaffrey 107 catches. 1,965 total yards. 13 TDs. And no plan on dialing his touches back.
4 DAL Ezekiel Elliott He signed. All is well.
5 ARI David Johnson High upside to be sure. But – his one great year was 2016 when ARI O-line was top-ten. Now it is bottom-ten. New offense could be huge for receptions or maybe Murray just runs past? High risk, high upside.
6 NYJ Le’Veon Bell Best RB in NYJ last year was the #35 fantasy scorer. Bell’s replacement in PIT was #6. Bell hasn’t played since 2017. Trades great line for one of the worst. Did you hear, he is a Jet now? Sure?  Oh yeah, new offense too.
7 PIT James Conner Maybe his ceiling isn’t as high as the first six but was the #6 fantasy RB last year. His floor may be as high as anyone. Safer pick than Johnson or Bell but won’t feel as exciting.
8 LAR Todd Gurley He’s maybe undervalued and maybe spectacularly so. But 34 total yards and no score in the biggest game of his life? Good luck, amigo. Let me know how it ends up for you.
9 CLE Nick Chubb  For the first 8 weeks, could be the #1 rusher in the NFL. But then I think of Kareem Hunt returning on a one-year deal with everything to play for after his suspension is up. Duke Johnson to HOU should be great for Chubb though. He’s still open to Hunt raiding touches but for the first half of the season, he should be golden.
10 MIN Dalvin Cook  There’s no denying that he has workhorse RB talent. He should be a top ten RB. Two years of injury and it is harder to keep the faith. Upside is strongly here. But a bigger workload doesn’t usually go with becoming more durable.
11 CIN Joe Mixon Might be as talented as any RB. Offense wants to showcase him. Super solid pick that could go earlier than this and still pay off.
12 KC Damien Williams This is what happens when a very average back plays for a very great offense. So long as no one else shows up, Williams may be better than this spot. But he was never special before. Enters his sixth season with only two 100-yard games. Adding LeSean McCoy hurts Williams further.
13 JAC Leonard Fournette Another back with injury concerns but undeniable upside. New offense wants to feature him as runner and receiver.  Totaled 1,342 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie over 13 games. Nice schedule but below average O-line.
14 DET Kerryon Johnson Another back with injury concerns but undeniable upside. New offense wants to feature him as runner and receiver.  Lions want to become a run-first team for the first time since Barry Sanders. Was on pace for 1,400 total yards last year along with 50+ receptions.
15 LAC Melvin Gordon It isn’t enough that he is holding out. Each new report just gets worse. Melvin, see this 10-foot pole? Not going to feel it.
16 GB Aaron Jones Another back with injury concerns but undeniable upside. New offense wants to feature him as runner and receiver.  Has a career 5.5 YPC and can catch. Cannot fault the pick since GB wants more passing to RBs.
17 OAK Josh Jacobs Concerning that Jacobs wasn’t even the primary rusher at Alabama but dual-threat with minimal competition in the backfield. And pretty fresh too. Lots of upside from the first RB drafted this year. Defenses will worry more about Antonio Brown.
18 ATL Devonta Freeman Missed almost all of 2018 with knee and foot problems. But had been a 1,500-yard, 13+ TD RB in 2015 and 2016. HC Dan Quinn says Freeman looks fully recovered and ready to be featured. If he stays healthy, this is a steal.
19 IND Marlon Mack Less high on Mack who either had monster games or flops with few in between. Colts want him to be a workhorse whatever that means in an Andrew Luck offense. May very well end up better than this and has a good O-line that matters. But minimal work as a receiver and kinda up and down from week to week. Loss of Andrew Luck depresses what Mack can do since the defenses will key more on the running game now.
20 TEN Derrick Henry Henry finally blew up over the final month of 2018 and TEN intends to finally ride him as a workhorse. Great schedule helps and O-line is not a liability. Lack of receptions not ideal, but should outperform this spot with his rushing alone.
21 CHI David Montgomery David Montgomery is hoped to be everything that Jordan Howard was not. Bears have a great schedule and good O-line. Should challenge for best rookie RB of the year. Dual-threat hand-picked to be showcased in Matt Nagy’s offense. Love this pick here. He’s moved up the ADP all summer.
22 SEA Chris Carson Surprised last year with 1,151 yards and nine TDs. SEA wanted Rashaad Penny to be the primary but Carson was just plain better. The backfield may be a committee, but Carson gets his share on a team that actually rushes more than it throws. 267 touches last year and could be more in 2019.
23 BAL Mark Ingram Like this pick. Ingram leaves NO and lands on another team with a good O-line and a great schedule. Lamar Jackson concerns the first and second level of defense, so Ingram could really surprise here. No problem with this RB2. None at all.
24 NE Sony Michel Great O-line, offense that loves to run. But – has a knee condition that has to be “managed” and had surgery on it. Almost never catches a pass. And now Damien Harris was the fifth RB drafted in April. I’d let him slide but he could be golden at least in some games.
25 DEN Phillip Lindsay Lindsay was perhaps the biggest Week 1 surprise in fantasy history last year since he was buried in every depth chart except for the Broncos secret one. Concern is that Broncos want to pair Lindsay more with Royce Freeman who was supposed to be the man last year. Signing Theo Riddick as third-down back doesn’t promote a warm and fuzzy feeling either.
26 NE James White White was the #7 fantasy back in PPR leagues last year with 87 receptions. If no reception points, then he’s this good at best. With reception points, this feels like a steal.
27 CHI Tarik Cohen In a PPR league, can see this.  Ended with 71 receptions and totaled 1,169 yards and eight TDs last year. But the addition of David Montgomery will dial back Cohen’s third-down impact. Not my pick since almost no upside here. Even HC Matt Nagy said they over-used him last year.
28   SF Tevin Coleman Coleman reunites with Kyle Shanahan, knows his system and is expected to be the primary back there. Granted – a committee will be used but that’s undefined behind Coleman. With McKinnon gone, will share with Brieda but most hype has been about Breida.
29 WAS Derrius Guice Skins have a below-average O-line and yet another offensive coordinator. Guice returns from a torn ACL that killed his rookie year and already had a hamstring issue in camp. Oh yes, and Adrian Peterson is still there. Guice did look sharp in the Wk 3 preseason game though and will no doubt rise on draft boards.
30 HOU Lamar Miller Miller injured his knee in the Week 3 game and is  out for the year.

Sleepers and over-valued players

ADP Value Tm Player Analysis
31 PHI Miles Sanders Problem is that there is Jordan Howard who was talked up as the primary rusher.  No RB had more than 120 carries there last year in the NFL’s worst RBBC. If all the RBs there get injured, I am all over Sanders. He has talent but will need higher volume than offense seems willing to give for this early of a pick.
32 LAC Austin Ekeler  Ekeler seems like a complementary player with marginal upside but the holdout by Gordon has to net him more work if it extends into the season. Nothing wrong with this pick even if Gordon signs and a steal if he doesn’t. And he hasn’t.
33 PHI Jordan Howard Howard lands on the Eagles where committee backfields thrive and no one player ends up that busy. But Howard looks like the lock for the primary rusher role (such as it is) and the preferred goal-line guy.  Maybe not as much upside as he once had in CHI, but he’s likely to do at least this well if not better.
34 MIA Kenyan Drake Want to like Drake. Probably a solid pick here in a PPR league. Concerned about terrible O-line, new offense that seems likely for RBBC and hearing more about Kalen Ballage lately. Injured his foot and now “might” be ready for Week 1. Started out high on Drake but his stock has fallen all summer.
35 SEA Rashaad Penny The 1B of the SEA backfield was expected to take a bigger role after just 85 carries and nine catches as a first-round rookie. Penny did battle nagging injuries and flashed some as a rookie. But almost no role as a receiver limits him and the preseason has Chris Carson still looking much better.
36 NO Latavius Murray The #2 RB in NO as the 39th RB taken? Let me back up the car and we can shovel all of the Murrays into my trunk. Ingram spent four straight years as the #6 to #14 fantasy RB when not suspended. Murray is not Ingram, but he’s going to be better than the #39 RB.
37 CLE Kareem Hunt Who knows? Sits out for eight weeks. Maybe no reason why the Browns disrupt their offense and he’s a bit player and backup. Maybe he balls out with every touch knowing he is on a one-year deal and needs to show up big to end up with a starting gig in 2020 somewhere else. Maybe the Browns trade him at the deadline to an RB-hungry team.  But the #4 fantasy RB as a rookie is pure upside.
38 BUF LeSean McCoy Trade to the Chiefs makes McCoy less attractive since he’s no lock to be the #1 there. He mostly brings down Damien Williams.
39 LAR Darrell Henderson Exactly what to expect from Henderson is impossible to say since Todd Gurley’s workload is not certain. But Henderson will see some time regardless. A must-have for the Gurley owner, but worth stealing? Not as sure. If they manage Gurley all year, then Henderson likely never turns in enough touches to merit a fantasy start.
40 BUF Devin Singletary Gotta love McCoy leaving. Starting RB in BUF now.
41 DEN Royce Freeman  Is slated to see more work than his 130 carries and 14 catches as a rookie. He needs to show up better in preseason games to merit this high of a pick. DEN offense not looking to be a juggernaut this year.
42 MIA Kalen Ballage Fins offense is shaping up to be shaky again and their O-line may be the worst in the NFL. That all said, Ballage is expected to pair with Kenyan Drake though he won’t catch much. The 6-2, 231-pound Ballage could end up as the primary rusher and he gained 5.3 YPC, somehow, behind that O-line last year. Worth the pick here and maybe a bit earlier.
43 HOU Duke Johnson The knee injury to Lamar Miller means that Johnson’s workload is due for a major increase and adding Hyde at least cast a shadow on the workload.
44 PIT Jaylen Samuels Samuels filled in for James Conner a few times last year and looked great, including a 152-yard effort against NE. At worst, he’s the #2 RB in PIT with some weekly fantasy value as a change-of-pace, third-down kind of guy. At best, he ends up in a timeshare with Conner. Great O-line and great RB schedule make this pick worthwhile speculation.
45 TB Peyton Barber Playing behind bad O-line and being challenged, again, by an RB who only ran for 1.9 YPC is not exactly confidence-inspiring. But same was true last year when he turned in 963 total yards and six TDs. He is the starting RB until unseated so this deep in draft is a solid pick. Ronald Jones hasn’t looked like a challenge yet.
46 WAS Adrian Peterson Once Derrius Guice was lost in 2018, Peterson stepped in as the primary back and ended with 1,250 yards and eight TDs. Peterson seems convinced that he can do even better this year despite Guice coming back. That’s unlikely but Guice is no proven commodity or particularly durable so far. Peterson makes a great RB5 or even RB4.
47 SF Matt Breida Breida started 2018 standing on the side but ended 1,075 yards and 5 TDs. Good spot since Jerick McKinnon isn’t looking like a factor at least for the start of the season. Breida is nothing special but he knows the system and is better than all but Tevin Coleman.
48 TB Ronald Jones Maybe he is a sleeper. He’s just 22 years old so maybe that 23 carry rookie season should be ignored. But he only gained 1.9 YPC for a supposed open-field speedster. TB still has one of the worst O-lines. Still hasn’t impressed in camp or preseason games.
49 DAL Tony Pollard Elliott signed and Pollard now has value only for the Elliott owner.
50 TEN Dion Lewis Lewis is just the latest ex-NE RB that proved one good year there means nothing for the next team. Handcuff for Henry but not expected to be any better than his 400-yard, 1 TD 2018.
51 KC Darwin Thompson Looked terrific in preseason play.  Nice spec pick in a scary good offense without any real stud RB there. He’s rising up the boards as well. LeSean McCoy joining the team clouds 2018.
52 LAC Justin Jackson Handcuff for Melvin Gordon. And until Gordon returns, Jackson is worth far more than the #58 RB.  Austin Ekeler will get the most work with no Gordon but Jackson will figure in.
53 IND Nyheim Hines Only gained 3.7 YPC on 85 runs behind a great O-line but caught 63 passes for 425 yards as a rookie. 800 total yards and four TDs may be his ceiling. Bye week filler mostly. Loss of Luck drops Hines further down in drafts.
54 BAL Justice Hill In a best-ball league, Hill is a fine pick since he could turn in a few big games from breaking a long run or catch. But in a redraft league, he’s a #3 RB on a team that doesn’t throw even on third down. He’s impressed in preseason games and that helps.
55 MIN Alexander Mattison Maybe Dalvin Cook can stay healthy and become the stud expected since 2017. Or maybe Mattison replaces Latavius Murray and repeats his 800-yard, 6 TD totals from each of the last two years. Mattison a must-have for the Cook owner but worth a shot anyway. Glowing reports from the coaching staff about Mattison.
56 KC Carlos Hyde  Going to HOU can only help Hyde’s limited appeal. He may have fantasy value now though not a lot.
57 NE Damien Harris Being the #3 RB on any team is rarely a recipe for success but Harris plays for the Pats that are now a big-time rushing team. More importantly, Sony Michel has durability issues and the Pats spent their third-round pick on him. Maybe he does nothing this year.  Hasn’t been impressive so far and that will at least lower his early-season playing time.
58 ATL Ito Smith With Tevin Coleman gone, there’s a hole that this #2 RB should fill but he only managed 3.5 YPC as a rookie and was marginal as a receiver. Rookie Qadree Ollison and even Brian Hill could challenge him. Doesn’t spawn enough confidence that he’ll be a productive #2 RB all season.
59 SF Jerick McKinnon On Injured Reserve
60 WAS Chris Thompson By this late, I am looking for pure upside players. And Thompson does not fit that bill. Missed 12 games over last two years and firmly behind Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson. Guice could become the preferred receiver out of the backfield. No thanks.

Best of the rest

C.J. Anderson (DET) – Must-have handcuff for the Kevin Johnson owner and three-straight 100-yard games for the Rams says the 28-year-old back still has plenty left in the tank. Johnson hardly a picture of durability anyway so Anderson makes an interesting depth stash.

Ty Montgomery (NYJ) – Looked very good in preseason games and Elijah McGuire may be on the outs. Good handcuff for the Le’Veon Bell owner.

Qadree Ollison (ATL) – Ito Smith doesn’t create a lot of confidence and Ollison is a 6-1, 232-pound bruiser that could take over in helping out Devonta Freeman.

Ryquell Armstead (JAC) – The backfield is unsettled behind Leonard Fournette (and completely unsettled if Fournette is injured yet again). Worth at least tracking in the preseason and could end up beating out the mediocre Alfred Blue for the #2 RB.


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