“You’ll feel like a genius”
Sleeper Running Backs Part 3 of 3
By MV August 15th 2015
Now for the 3rd segment in our sleeper Running Back list. We will call this the “You’ll feel like a genius” list. This is a list of sleepers that can be grabbed in the back half of your draft and have the upside to be superstars if the stars align. Again as a baseline for identifying what constitutes a sleeper we used our Average Cheat Sheet and excluded the top 30 Running Backs listed. The Average Draft Positions are totaled from 5 of the biggest mock draft sites and we filtered by PPR 12 team league formats.
Roy Helu – ADP 13.1
Surprisingly Roy Helu is only 26, it feels like he has been in the league for a long time. Right now he is listed as the number two RB behind Latavius Murray, but he will settle into a role as the third down option on this new up-tempo Raider offense. That is a role that has proved well for him in Washington giving value to him in PPR leagues. A lot of stock is being placed on Latavius Murray to be the star of this ground game while his career really has been two big runs. If Murray does not pan out Helu figures to be more than a third down back, he could be a three-down back. We love this pick for easy PPR value as a backup flex, with the upside of an RB 2.
Danny Woodhead – ADP 10.8
PPR leagues take notice. With Antonio Gates out Phillip Rivers will need to find a new security blanket. Back comes Woodhead. He is clearly the 3rd down RB in San Diego and he will mix his way into the run game as well with rookie Running Back Melvin Gordon taking the bulk of the carries. In 2013 he caught 76 passes for 605 yards and 6 TD’s while rushing 106 times for 429 yards and 2 TD’s. After breaking his ankle and fibula in 2014 in a flukish play he has stepped back in full form in his PPR monster role. I have expectations for him to improve on his 2013 numbers and slide into the top 15 RB in PPR formats. Enjoy flex-starter stats from your 4-5th drafted Running Back.
Duke Johnson – ADP 9.3
While we do not typically like leg injuries to Running Backs in the preseason we still love Duke Johnson. Duke has the highest ADP on this list and still might prove to be the best value. He currently has a strained hamstring that has him sitting out, but comes back to practice today. The Browns reportedly have been very conservative with him despite having big plans for him this year. Meanwhile, neither Terrance West nor Isaiah Crowell have taken the lead job and built separation. Duke Johnson plays the game like the Steve Smith of Running Backs; he knocks people out of his way with his stiff arm. He runs through the hole like Adrian Peterson. He is fast, smart, confident, mean, and physical. Two issues: 1. he plays for the Browns 2. He is a Running Back for the Browns. It has been a long while since we had a Brown RB that was truly fantasy relevant. I will say that he is a difference maker and the Browns are focused on ground and pound with a good defense. Likely if he remains quiet for the preseason it will keep his ADP reasonable. He will end up as the starting Running Back for this team.
David Johnson – ADP 10.11
At his current ADP this is not much of a bargain, but with his recent hamstring injury, possible signing of Chris Johnson and Bruce Arians declaration of “no way in hell I’m putting him out there” he should drop significantly in drafts. When he goes almost undrafted or 13th round or later, grab him. He is a big Running Back that should gain the role of 2nd on the depth chart plus short yardage back. He looks a little like Matt Forte when he runs. He might be a better fit on this team than Andre Ellington. We will be looking for him late in the draft as a flier.
Matt Jones – ADP 16.2
Matt Jones is a very confident and has high expectations of pushing Alfred Morris out of a full time job. Jay Gruden has spoken very highly of his 95th overall draft pick. He is going really late in drafts and could do what he set out to do. He was working with the 3’s in the first preseason game, which is great, we like our sleepers to remain quiet in the preseason. He is big, fast, and physical. He has good vision for a big guy. He did not catch a lot of passes out of the backfield in his collegiate career, but that had more to do with the game scheme at Florida. He is athletic enough to catch and could be a complete back.
Cameron Artis-Payne – ADP 16.8
Cameron Artis-Payne is another mostly undrafted fantasy player. He is currently buried on the depth chart, but the local reports have Cameron as the favorite to take over for Jonathon Stewart when he goes down with a perennial injury. He has the type of talent to be a complete back that can take a game over late. He owned games last year with Auburn. Artis-Payne is an obvious hand-cuff to Jonathon Stewart, but he could be the surprise sleeper of the year. We love him, especially where we can get him.
Lance Dunbar – ADP 19.4
This is a smart, low-risk gamble. If the Cowboys don’t make any other moves than Lance Dunbar stands to be heavily involved with this offense. He will be the third down back for this team with an incredible offense. He will also get his bulk of carries as a change of pace back. Joseph Randle is one more underwear heist away from suspension and Darren McFadden is clearly going to miss games. Dunbar would then slide into the starting Running Back role. Remember if DeMarco Murray was still in Dallas he would be the clear consensus first overall. Lance has value as a fill in in all PPR formats, but has the upside to be the sleeper of the year.