Deep – Sleeper Running Backs
By MV August 9th 2015
Part 2 we will be focusing in on the next tier of Running Back Sleepers which we have dubbed “Deep-Sleepers”. These are players that with a little bit of circumstance an opportunity to become a fantasy star is possible. This is a low-risk high-reward list of RB’s that you should be targeting late in drafts. When you are filling out your roster it is always important to carry at least 50% of your bench as Running Backs. It pays to take fliers on these names; injuries happen, schemes change, and talent rises to the top. In short, this list of deep-sleepers is a total evaluation of talent coupled with opportunity.
Again 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.
We will break the list into three articles as we tier the sleepers into 3 categories:
1. Sleepers (very likely to outperform their ADP)
2. Deep-Sleepers (has a great chance to be fantasy starter)
3. You’ll feel like a genius (long-shot with the upside to take a flier on)
Ryan Matthews – ADP 9.5
Maybe I am just buying into Chip Kelly’s madness. I will say I am a believer in how he runs an offense. Ryan Mathews is probably the most talented backup Running Back in the NFL. It is speculated that Ryan stands to carry approximately 1/3rd of the Eagles run plays. Chip loves to run the football, a lot. In 2014 the Eagles ranked first in the NFL with 70 run plays per game. This offense could support more than one fantasy relevant Running Back. Mathews and Murray are very similar runners, but Mathews is a bit more athletic and has the potential to break through the line with a slightly better burst. The Eagles offense is a run-first scheme with a one cut and go style. Some at the Philly Inquirer say that Ryan is a better fit for this offense than Murray.
Mathews has been known as oft injured. He played 12, 14, 12, 16, and 6 games in his first 5 seasons. Now it’s time for the extrapolation game: he played the equivalent of 3.6 seasons and averaged 250 carries for 1100 yards and 40 catches for 300 yards while finding the end zone 6 times per year. Not bad. DeMarco Murray has missed 11 games in the last 4 years as well. It is impossible to forecast injuries but injury risk provides an opportunity to take a gamble on a low-risk candidate. Mathews is exactly that with an ADP of 9.5. The Eagles have an excellent offensive line that we have ranked as the 8th best in the NFL. Philadelphia was the perfect landing spot for Ryan Mathews, and he should have the best season of his career.
Tre Mason – ADP 8.1
Todd Gurley is a ferocious beast of a running back. His combination of power and speed is undeniable. This is about Tre Mason though. First of all, Tre was pretty good last year. He will start the season as the starting running back for the St. Louis Rams while Todd Gurley is going to be eased into game action for at least the first half of the year. Gurley might eventually take the job over and then take the league by storm, but he is coming off a torn ACL and Mason played well in his rookie year. There are no guarantees coming off a torn ACL. We are only 10 years removed from it being a career-ending injury, so I will put my stock in the guy that already has the job 4 rounds later. Even if he splits carries down the stretch Mason should provide a solid ROI on his 8.1 ADP. I make a living on starting RB’s that have talent drafted in the 8th round. Tre Mason has dropped 10-12 pounds this year to improve his quickness (he looked pretty quick in the clip), and Jeff Fisher is known to be conservative with rookies. All in, Mason might be the safest pick of this group.
Bishop Sankey – ADP 8.10
After a subpar rookie season many have written Bishop Sankey off, so much for a “ramp-up period”. Sankey was the first Running Back selected in the 2014 NFL draft. This was a very inconsistent offensive team last year and the offensive line did not make Bishop look any better. Titan’s camp buzz has been surrounded around Marcus Mariota’s professional composure and his passing ability. Marcus has no interceptions yet which serves as a huge confidence builder. That confidence should help him develop consistency on an offense that could use a facelift. We are betting that he will make this team better. Early camp reports from Titansonline.com say that Bishop Sankey has clearly been the top Running Back after the first full week of training camp. He has shown plenty of burst through the line into the secondary and has shown better instincts. He added seven pounds of muscle in the offseason which will make him a stronger and more durable back. It is hard to be in love with anyone in this offense, but with an ADP at 8.10 for a starting Running Back we see the value. Sankey carries some solid flex option value rather than true sleeper upside.