2019 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Running Back Edition

Pro Bowl Cheerleaders rooting you on in your draft.

Jesse Balasus

Sleepers: Jordan Howard and Derrius Guice

I’m going full NFC East this week, (even though it’s the most overrated division in the NFL) to pick my two running back sleepers. Both are currently projected in the early 30s for backs, Guice at RB32 and Howard at RB35, but I’m confident they will finish as top 20 backs. Howard came out of nowhere as a rookie in 2016 and racked up 1600+ total yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games. Yes, his numbers have declined in the two years since then, but that’s only because Tarik Cohen emerged as the better back for Chicago’s system. Now Howard is the main back in a Philadelphia offense that can potentially be as dangerous as saying Pat’s cheesesteaks are the best in front of a Geno’s lover. Yes, that is a regional food joke, and no, I’m not ashamed I said it.

Going into the 2018 draft, Guice was almost a lock to be drafted in the first round. Then some bs “maturity issues” report came out, causing him to slide late into the second round. (Kind of ironic that the player with supposed maturity issues ends up in Washington D.C. but back to sticking to sports.) He missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in camp, but he’s had Adrian Peterson help guide him through the rehab process. Guice will likely have to split carries with Peterson for the start of the season, but the Redskins’ offense is young and definitely talented. They grabbed star QB Dwayne Haskins, stud WRs in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon, and beefed up the line with Wes Martin and Ross Pierschbacher all throughout the draft. Guice is a high risk-high reward pick. If the Redskins’ offense plays up to potential, he’s going to be a top 15 RB, but also, when have the Redskins ever lived up to expectations?

Candy Andy 

James White. Yes, James White again. 

This is getting too easy. The seventh overall running back in PPR leagues last year is going as the 33rd overall RB at his current ADP. His backfield counterpart, Sony Michel, is going 14 spots ahead of where he finished last year. Since 2015, James has never played less than 14 games in a season. 22% of total Brady throws went his way last year to make him the most targeted Patriot (123). His approximate value in 2018 was the same as James Conner, Tarik Cohen and Chris Carson at 10. James edged out Christian McCaffrey (.377) and Alvin Kamara (.402) with a consistency rank of .373. 195 targets are available with the losses of Gronk (72), Hogan (55) and Gordon (68) Demaryius Thomas and a full season from Edelman will decrease his target share but Tom Brady is at the helm. 

Per Player Profiler, even though Brady ranked 23rd in interceptable passes and 32nd in “danger plays” (a play where QB lacked awareness or took an unnecessary risk). He was 23rd in “money throws” (pass requiring exceptional skill or pass completed in a critical moment) and his wide receivers were among the worst in the league with target separation at 1.39 yards (28th overall). Tom Brady doesn’t take chances when he gets in trouble, he doesn’t throw deep, he checks down to his safety blankie James White.

Nyheim Hines

Then27th overall running back from 2018 is barely being drafted in the top-50 this year. Andrew Luck had the second-most pass attempts in the league last year with 639 and 13 percent of those targets went to Hines. 80-90 targets are well within reach even with the addition of Devin Funchess and Spencer Ware. He saw five more targets than David Johnson last year, almost had an identical consistency rank to Austin Ekeler and averaged .6 points per game less than Sony Michel. 

Looking at Andrew Luck’s third interceptable pass rank and seventh overall in “danger plays” leads me to surmise he will try to dump it down more often. He has a top-5 offensive line in the league; there is no reason he should rank seventh in dangerous plays. No, I’m not saying draft Hines over Mack but he’s a hell of a cuff in the 15th round. 

Bonus: Tarik Cohen

The dude is being drafted nearly 20 spots later than he finished last year; he was a top-15 running back in PPR leagues for Christ sake with 71 catches on 91 targets. Yes, they brought in Mike Davis (34 catches last year with Seattle) and just signed their 87th overall draft pick David Montgomery (22 catches at Iowa State last year). Tarik knows the offense, he was underutilized and is motivated.

Lukas Kacer

Nick Chubb

You wouldn’t think that a starting running back in a good offense would be considered a sleeper, but with a current ADP of RB13 it seems almost too easy to put Chubb on this list. Once Chubb became the full-time starter he produced five top 16 running back weekly finishes in just eight starts, and the games that were not RB1 finishes he still managed to finish as an RB2. The main reason we see his ADP so low is the fact that Kareem Hunt will be in the backfield post suspension, but with a six- game suspension and a Week 7 bye week that delays Hunt’s return to Week 8. Chubb is going to be the workhorse those first six weeks in an offense that should be super high powered, and I can’t imagine Hunt taking that many carries away from Chubb for him to not return late second-round value.

Kenyan Drake

After a very confusing season, it seemed as if Drake lost all hope for fantasy relevance, but if you take a closer look, Drake is quietly stepping into the role of a fantasy breakout for this season. Drake only brought in a 61.3 percent snap share and averaged 7.5 rush attempts per game. With these underwhelming numbers he still managed to finish as the RB14 in full point PPR scoring formats, and I can only see improvement for this upcoming season. With the departure of Frank Gore and a new head coach, I believe new coach Brian Flores will lean on Drake as a workhorse as we all know Drake is a huge playmaker. Drake is currently being drafted as the RB24 in full-point PPR formats, so do yourself a favor and take him in the late 4th as your RB2 and watch him return great value.

Sleeper/Bust Series:


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