If you want to find running back sleepers in 2018, you have to draft players in committees. Remember Alvin Kamara last year? Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson were both drafted before him, but Kamara finished the season with more Fantasy points than Antonio Brown.
Or what about Kareem Hunt?
I remember drafting Hunt as late as Round 10 before Spencer Ware was injured.
But how can you identify who has a chance to start and who is just a backup?
Finding Running Back Sleepers
When looking at a running back who is in a committee before the start of the season, I always follow training camp reports on how they’re blocking.
You’re going to see a perfect example of how well that works in finding under-valued backs in just a minute.
I also weigh my opportunity costs and the risks I have to take.
If I’m drafting an unproven rookie back in Round 4, I have to pass on proven receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Golden Tate. Those two receivers have shown they can be Fantasy assets, but the rookie is still a wild card.
Instead of taking such a huge risk, I look for the back in the committee who isn’t as flashy. If the overlooked player wins the jobs, that means I drafted a starter in Round 10 or later.
2018 Running Back Sleepers
All ADP data is from FantasyPros.com and is up-to-date as of July 26th.
2018 Running Back Sleepers OVR Under 200
Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos (ADP: 45, OVR118)
When everyone else was drafting Montee Ball in Round 4 in 2013, I was adding Knowshon Moreno to my roster.
Reports out of camp said Moreno was the better blocker, and the coaching staff was only going to start the player who could keep Peyton Manning on his feet. That lead me to believe he could be one of the best running back sleepers of 2013.
And as we now know, Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards that year and scored a total of 13 touchdowns.
Ball, on the other hand, rushed for just 559 yards.
For this season, I see a similar situation playing out with Royce Freeman and Booker. A lot of Fantasy players assume Freeman will be the starter in Week 1 because he was drafted in Round 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, I believe Booker has an edge in becoming the starter. Aside from his NFL experience and two seasons with the Denver Broncos, Mike Kils of 9News.com says that the 26-year old back has become a competent pass protector.
Freeman is the 28th back off the board, so I’d rather take the discount with Booker.
Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 47, OVR138)
This backfield has been a headache the last few seasons, but Carson could pay off big for those willing to roll the dice.
Carson only appeared in four games last season thanks to a broken leg, but he was effective when he had a chance to touch the ball. He showed promise with 93 rushing yards in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Chris Carson, not Rashaad Penny, to open camp as Seahawks #1? https://t.co/1flvFyA2LS
— Fantasy Football Live (@ffootballLIVE) July 22, 2018
Now, it’s true Seattle drafted Rashaad Penny in Round 1 in the NFL Draft his year. He’s a beast, rushing for 2,248 in 2017 at San Diego State University.
But this is another case where pass protection will prove key in deciding who gets to start. Last season, Russell Wilson was the fourth-most sacked quarter in the NFL. He needs to stay on his feet if the Seahawks are going to make the playoffs this year.
Penny could certainly be the starter in Week 1, but he’s the 20th back off the board.
It’s not a risk to see what Carson has to offer.
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 50, OVR164)
Robert Turbin would have made sleeper lists this year (like he does every year), but he got hit with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on PEDs.
That leaves a battle for the backfield.
Marlon Mack was drafted in Round 4 of the 2017 NFL Draft, and he’s a favorite to lead the Colts in carries. Christine Michael will fight for opportunities, but I’m looking at Hines.
The rookie did a little bit of everything in college.
In 2016, he caught 43 passes for 525 yards, but he only recorded 13 carries for 44 yards. But he showed off his rushing abilities the following year with 1,112 rushing yards on 197 attempts. In 2017, he also returned 12 punts and even turned one into a touchdown.
According to reports out of camp, Hines has been lining up in multiple positions.
Hines has the talent to earn a big role.
2018 Running Back Sleepers OVR 200+
Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 61, OVR209)
I’ve only drafted Kenyan Drake in one league this year, and I still feel like that was one too many.
I’m mostly worried about his consistency. With seven carries in Week 10 of the 2017 NFL season, he rushed for 82 yards. But with nine carries in Week 12, he rushed for just 20 yards.
Now, it’s true he performed well when given a bigger workload.
He rushed for 120 yards on 23 carries in Week 13 and 114 yards on 25 carries in Week 14.
But if the Dolphins were really confident he was a lead back, they wouldn’t have brought over Frank Gore from the Colts or drafted Ballage this year. Gore may steal some goal-line touches, but I’m not worried about him.
As a Drake owner, I’d be worried about Ballage. Head coach Adam Gase said in May that the rookie has everything they look for in an all-round back, and he’s apparently performing well as a pass catcher.
If you still want to own Drake, just make sure to handcuff him to Ballage.
Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 65, OVR217)
If you can’t tell by now, I’m not a fan of this rookie class. I just don’t like being forced to draft them so early when they are stuck in a committee.
Remember, not every first-year back is going to perform like Hunt or Kamara did last year.
And while other players are drafting Ronald Jones in Round 4, I’m happier adding Barber near the end of my drafts. In fact, he’s one of my sleepers in my ebook I just released on Amazon.
Even though the offense was a mess last year, Barber produced 537 yards of offense on a limited amount of touches (124). He also led the team in 2017 with 21 red-zone rushing attempts.
He’s a bigger back than Jones, so he should once again be asked to punch the ball in on the goal line.
To start the season, I would be worried with Jameis Winston suspended. If the offense struggles, the Buccaneers will constantly be playing from behind and have to throw the ball.
But the good news is that backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick could lean on his running backs as safety blankets. A few extra catches each game can really add up in a PPR league.
Now that you know all the running backs to add to your roster, make sure to check out our list of wide receiver sleepers for the 2018 Fantasy Football season.
- Week 4 Waiver Wire: Top Picks Include Dallas Goedert and Tyler Boyd - September 27, 2018
- Week 3 Waiver Wire: Top Picks Include Corey Clement and Corey Grant - September 19, 2018
- Week 2 Waiver Wire: Top Picks Include T.J. Yeldon and Austin Ekeler - September 11, 2018