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5 Running Back Sleepers (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 11, 2022
Devin Singletary

Sleepers can mean different things to different fantasy managers. We’re referring to players that we feel provide upside compared to their draft day cost, otherwise known as average draft position (ADP). Let’s look at our favorite early sleepers of the fantasy football draft season.

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Rankings noted using FantasyPros half-PPR Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) and Consensus ADP.

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Running Back Sleepers

Devin Singletary (BUF)
ECR RB33 | ADP RB29

The Buffalo back was unleashed down the stretch for the Bills, finishing as the RB3 in PPR scoring over the final six weeks of the season with 17 fantasy points per game. He gained the coaching staff’s trust by earning 54-plus snaps to close out the season, the highest snap number Singletary saw all season dating back to Week 1.

With a proven track record and two years of bell cow back usage in spurts, don’t be surprised when PFF’s fourth-ranked running back in rushes of 15-plus yards and seventh-ranked player in forced missed tackles in 2021 is the highly sought-after RB breakout who emerges from a high-octane ambiguous backfield.

Rookie James Cook is talented, but it remains to be seen how much work the undersized back will see from the get-go. As noted by the Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia, “It would be illogical to think Cook is going to step into a gargantuan role as a rookie while Singletary remains on the roster. Still, Cook’s skill set can help them use the rookie more creatively than their other backs.”

Either way, you should always be trying to leave your drafts with at least one, if not both, Bills’ running backs because their upside in a high-powered offense is not being captured in their asking price.

Rhamondre Stevenson (NE)
ECR RB36 | ADP RB36

Rhamondre Stevenson experienced a very successful rookie season that should not be overlooked. After fully escaping the Bill Belichick doghouse in Week 9, Stevenson earned top grades across the board.

He was PFF’s third-highest graded running back (84.2). Additionally, Stevenson ranked 13th in rushing yards and yards per route run (1.41). For fantasy, the rookie running back was the RB25 in total points scored, eight spots behind his backfield teammate Damien Harris.

Stevenson (93) and Harris (86) split touches nearly 50/50 in the team’s remaining seven games. In the six games together, Stevenson slightly edged out Harris in expected fantasy points per game (9.3 vs. 8.9).

There’s a high ceiling for Stevenson, especially if you ask former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. The ESPN analyst said that Stevenson “…will be one of the better, if not one of the top three, running backs in the league based on what I saw with his strength, explosion and catch-and-run ability.”

With rumors coming out of Foxborough that Stevenson is a dark horse to see an expanded role on third downs with James White returning from injury, the second-year back needs to be a priority target as the draft slips into the double-digit rounds.

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Rachaad White (TB)
ECR RB55 | ADP RB51

Rookie RB Rachaad White looks just like Leonard Fournette’s backup at the moment. But there’s an outcome where he delivers massive upside should Lenny go down with an injury or revert to Fat Lenny.

White has shades of David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell in his style of play, which didn’t go unnoticed by the new senior football consultant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Arians.

The Arizona State product ranked first in his class in receiving yards, No. 1 in yards per route run (2.24) and second in receptions (43). His 16% target share is bonkers for a running back at the college level, and it did wonders to generate his Day 2 draft capital.

The same sentiment can be made for White’s 31% dominator rating and 3.33 offensive yards per snap over the past two seasons. Both would have ranked in the top three in last year’s class.

His yards per snap and PFF receiving grade also rank first among the class. White’s career receiving grade was superior to anybody from last year’s class as well.

After a strong showing at Senior Bowl week — PFF’s highest-graded rusher (74.9) — and at the NFL combine — 38-inch vertical jump (86th percentile), 125-inch broad jump (87th percentile) — White has league-winning potential if given the opportunity in the Buccaneers’ offense.

Melvin Gordon (DEN)
ECR RB35 | ADP RB34

Melvin Gordon is bound to be written off by fantasy draft pundits this offseason due to his age, but he proved that he still had gas in the tank in 2021. The 29-year-old running back was efficient across the board, ranking eighth in both PFF rushing grade (83.4) and forced missed tackles (45) while compiling 231 touches (16th).

Gordon finished right behind Javonte Williams as the fantasy RB18 and played one fewer game. However, Williams finished as the highest-scoring running back that week.

With him back on a high-powered offense and with the potential to receive goal-line touches — he led the Broncos with 46 red-zone touches last season — Gordon could easily become a screaming value in 2022 like James Conner or Leonard Fournette last year.

All the rhetoric out of Broncos’ camp is that Denver will man a two-RB platoon between Gordon and Javonte Williams, ensuring MG3 gets his requisite touches to be fantasy relevant.

Sony Michel (MIA)
ECR RB58 | ADP RB55

Give credit to Sony Michel after he finished third in rushing yards and first in carries over the final six weeks of the 2021 season. The former Rams’ running back performed admirably in relief of Darrell Henderson, but Cam Akers immediately supplanted him once the second-year back was deemed healthy enough to play a full-time role.

He signed a one-year, $1.75M contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, joining a backfield with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. Michel offers the least explosiveness of the bunch but has the most proven track record of shouldering a workload that translates into fantasy production at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds.

Considering neither Edmonds nor Mostert (entering age 30 season) have ever commanded a consistent three-down workload, Michel has super interesting appeal if he becomes the No. 1 runner in the Miami backfield. Don’t rule it out despite his very mediocre one-year contract.

I’m shocked that Michel hasn’t fully taken over Mostert in terms of early offseason ADP because he’s probably the most proven three-down back in the entire Miami backfield. From an experience standpoint, Michel has twice as many starts (35) as anybody else in the Miami backfield. Mostert (9), Edmonds (15) and Myles Gaskin (17) just don’t have the same pedigree that Michel does as a former first-round pick.

He was also used heavily in the red zone last for the Rams, finishing top-10 in carries inside the 10-yard line (22).

I’ll continue scoping him up in the late rounds. However, it seems more probable than not that he’ll carve out a role at the goal line — a role Edmonds has never been able to grasp.

FantasyPros Staff Consensus 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings

2022 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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