Running Back Sleepers, Values and Targets
This season, there are 22 lead running backs with reasonably predictable workloads. I’m referring to Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kenyan Drake, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Miles Sanders, Aaron Jones, Todd Gurley, Chris Carson, James Conner, David Johnson, Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon, Le’Veon Bell and David Montgomery, though the efficiency of this group varies greatly. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Montgomery.)
This is similar to the depth that I observed at this time last year. In 2018, I counted 13 such running backs, so the backfields continue to be relatively settled, with several notable exceptions. The receiver position continues to enjoy excellent depth, and tight end is deeper than usual, so it seems logical to draft two or three of these running backs and then focus on receivers in the middle rounds.
The only problem with this strategy is that running backs tend to get injured more often than receivers, which not only punishes those owners who draft running backs early—those who get injured, anyway—but also rewards those owners who draft backup and/or committee running backs as part of a Zero-RB or “wait on running back” strategy since some of those backups will find themselves in a starting role due to injury. Since so many (22) of the backfields are more or less settled, there aren't as many Zero-RB types this year. Drafters can still utilize a Zero-RB strategy, but it may not be as easy as in years past, though COVID-19 will have something to say about that.
For this article, I will break the position into three groups: Values (ADP in the fourth to seventh round), Sleepers (eighth round or later), and Targets (players outside of the first two rounds that I’m actively trying to draft). All ADP assumes a 12-team half-PPR format. I’ll also include a section for Attrition Plays—players who are poised for starter-caliber numbers if there’s an injury further up the depth chart.
Note: Players with an asterisk next to their names have extra value in PPR formats and are not quite as valuable in standard leagues. Players with a ^ before their name were added or moved after the article was originally published.
Continue reading for 4 values, 10 sleepers and a list of John's targets (7) and attrition plays (16)!
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