Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers: Focus on Teams With Rookie Running Backs

Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers: Focus on Teams With Rookie Running Backs

NFL

Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers: Focus on Teams With Rookie Running Backs

Nailing a later round running back in fantasy football can propel you to a championship. It’s also really hard to do, and each year may provide only a handful of opportunities. Most of the top scorers at running back tend to be drafted early.

I went through the last decade of fantasy football draft information, and found the top 12 scorers at running back among those drafted on average outside the top three rounds (in a 12-team league).

Here is a summary of those sleepers:

2008, DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

Fantasy Points Scored (non-PPR): 286 
Fantasy Point Rank at RB: #1
Average draft position for team: Jonathan Stewart, RB23, Overall 55; Williams RB31, Overall 80

Jonathan Stewart was drafted in the first round that year by the Panthers, and Williams (himself a 1st rounder two years earlier) had topped at at 717 rushing yards the year before while playing in a platoon. The general expectation was that Stewart would take over, but he battled injuries and Williams went on to lead the NFL in touchdowns scored.

2008, Michael Turner, Atlanta

Fantasy Points Scored (non-PPR): 273
Fantasy Point Rank at RB: #2
Average draft position for team: Turner, RB20, Overall 43; Jerious Norwood, RB44, Overall 123

Turner had been LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup in San Diego for four seasons, and signed with an Atlanta team that would be starting a rookie quarterback in Matt Ryan and had been a disaster the year before. Turner was fully expected to be the top back but there was uncertainty about his and the team’s situation, which kept his value in the 4th round. He broke out and the team went to the postseason.

2009, Ray Rice, Baltimore

Fantasy Points Scored (non-PPR): 249
Fantasy Point Rank at RB: #4
Average draft position for team: Rice, RB 19, Overall 40; Willis McGahee RB48, Overall 138

Ray Rice was entering his 2nd year, and expected to take over for veteran Willis McGahee after being little used as a rookie. McGahee’s presence kept Rice’s cost down (4th round) but he went on to a top 5 finish in his first season starting.

2015, Devonta Freeman, Atlanta

Fantasy Points Scored (non-PPR): 243
Fantasy Point Rank at RB: #1
Average draft position for team: Tevin Coleman, RB36, Overall 87; Freeman RB41, Overall 109

Freeman had just been drafted the year before, but when Tevin Coleman was drafted, the expectation was that it would be a committee with Coleman slightly more favored. As it turned out, Coleman was hurt and Freeman (like DeAngelo Williams 7 years earlier) exploded to a top overall finish.

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA – MAY 16: Rookie running back Devonta Freeman #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility on May 16, 2014 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

2008 matt forte, Chicago

Fantasy Points Scored (non-PPR): 243
Fantasy Point Rank at RB: #3
Average draft position for team: Kevin Jones, RB27, Overall 67; Forte, RB28, Overall 69

Forte, the second round pick of the Bears, was seen as platoon option, but he took over the position and had over 300 carries as a rookie, and finished in the Top 5.

2012 Alfred Morris, Washington

Fantasy Points Scored (non-PPR): 241
Fantasy Point Rank at RB: #5
Average draft position for team: Roy Helu, RB39, Overall 101; Morris, RB48, Overall 136

The Washington running back situation was in flux, and not highly thought of entering the 2012 season. Morris, a late pick, was impressing in camp and began to shoot up draft boards, and went on to a top 5 finish.

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