Best ball is ever evolving, and every year ADP brings us different areas of the draft where we can find values. This year with wide receivers being pushed up draft boards on the success of the best players in 2022, running backs have, in turn, fallen down the draft boards, and this article will highlight five who could have a big impact on the 2023 NFL season.
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Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers
Let’s check out running backs that present value later in fantasy football drafts.
Samaje Perine (RB – DEN) – ADP 103
The Bengals lost Samaje Perine after an impressive 2022 campaign where he was more efficient than starting running back Joe Mixon, with 4.2 yards per carry to Mixon’s 4.0 and 26 missed tackles to Mixon’s 33, but on 110 fewer attempts, as well as outproducing Mixon in yards per reception with 7.6 to Mixon’s 7.3. Perine opted to leave the Super Bowl-chasing Bengals for an identical contract from the Broncos, with head coach Sean Payton personally pitching his vision to Perine of how he could use both Perine and the injured Javonte Williams in this system. Williams is making positive strides in his recovery from an ACL and LCL injury suffered in October, but there are reasons to believe, even when healthy, that Perine could be a valuable pick here and will likely be very valuable if Williams struggles on his return as JK Dobbins did last year in his own recovery from a similar injury.
The Broncos had the 8th-most RB targets last season
Samaje Perine had a career-high 51 targets last season and signed a $7.5M contract with the Broncos on the first day of free agency
New Orleans, under Sean Payton, was top-5 in RB targets every single season from 2013 to 2021
— Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler) June 25, 2023
Khalil Herbert (CHI) – ADP 123
This offseason didn’t play out quite like some Khalil Herbert truthers hoped, but it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Former lead back for the Bears, David Montgomery, was moved on in free agency, and when the team signed D’Onta Foreman to a modest $2m deal, it seemed there was still plenty of room for Herbert to be a clear RB1 on this offense, but then the draft came along, and Roschon Johnson was added to the mix, muddying the waters even further. In fantasy football, a running back room of two often leads to opportunities in the ambiguity, but when there are three, sometimes it gets tricky. Here though, in this run-heavy Chicago offense, there is room for hope. Foreman’s contract is low enough that the team could move on from him with minimal cap repercussions, or Johnson could fail to live up to the hype that follows many rookies and play like a fourth-round back who isn’t a complete package. Herbert has been efficient during his career. Last year he out-carried Montgomery 5.7 yards per carry to 4.0, along with having a big run rate of 5.88% compared to Montgomery’s 1.55%. This backfield feels messier than we’d like, but if there’s any back who could see the majority of carries, it feels like Herbert is the safest bet.
Jaylen Warren (PIT) – ADP 140
It is true that over the years, Mike Tomlin has preferred a single running back to carry the vast majority of the workload, but what Jaylen Warren did in 2022 has likely helped change Tomlin’s mind somewhat and open the Steelers head coaches eyes to what has become clear to the rest of the NFL, running back committees are the way of the future. Harris’s opportunity share was 83% in 2021, but it dropped to 63% in 2022, with Warren taking some of the work away. Warren outproduced Harris in yards per carry with 4.8 to Harris’s 3.8 and had 8.3 yards per reception to Harris’s 5.5. Harris has plenty to prove and will be looking to bounce back this year, but if he doesn’t start hot, then Warren will be breathing down his neck before long.
Jaylen Warren 👑
“Warren is a beast, and the second year for running backs usually results in a body transformation. The way he attacks the hole during drills is something to be seen. He looks bigger, but he says he’s not. It doesn’t matter, because there is no way offensive… https://t.co/8X6IfFa007
— Derek Brown (@DBro_FFB) June 19, 2023
Tank Bigsby (JAC) – ADP 146
Way back at the NFL combine, Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson signaled his intent to bolster the Jags running back room when he announced without prompt that the team would be looking to add another back and that they did with the drafting of Tank Bigsby, who can be a between the tackles, ground and pound type back that will perfectly compliment Travis Etienne. Etienne wasn’t drafted by this regime, and when they did move on from James Robinson last season, Etienne went on to be the RB17 between Weeks 8 and 17, averaging just 13.7 PPR points. Etienne may have flashed at times, but it seems the Jaguars don’t want an every-down back, and Etienne might struggle to come good on his cost without that. If Etienne should miss time, Bigsby could immediately vault into RB2 territory.
Tyjae Spears (TEN) – ADP 178
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Tyjae Spears has no ACL in one of his knees, and that is not particularly common. However, the Titans don’t seem concerned by that fact, and if they’re not, perhaps we shouldn’t be either. Particularly in best ball, with it focused on a single season’s outcomes. Betting against the 29-year-old Derrick Henry hasn’t always been a good idea over the last few years, but Father Time is always undefeated, and with the Titans not flush with pass-catchers, Spears could find himself with a big role if anything happened to Henry.