Running Back Sleepers, Values and Targets
This year, there are roughly 21 running backs whose workloads and/or roles are reasonably predictable. I’m talking about Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, Joe Mixon, James Conner, Damien Williams, Todd Gurley, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Kerryon Johnson, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, Devonta Freeman, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, Leonard Fournette and Marlon Mack. This is more depth than last year, where at this point in the offseason I counted 13 such running backs. The receiver position continues to enjoy excellent depth, 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 (20) 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.
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 three 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.
Running Back Values
In an effort to become less predictable, the Bears traded away Jordan Howard and signed Mike Davis (34 catches last year in a part-time role with the Seahawks) before trading up to draft Montgomery in the third round. Montgomery was reportedly “a problem” for the Bears’ defense in spring workouts and led “the rookies, if not the entire team” in big plays this offseason. HC Matt Nagy praised Montgomery’s route-running and said that the team knew he had “great hands.” Montgomery is the clear favorite to lead the team in carries, though he’ll have to deal with Tarik Cohen if he hopes to have a major role as a pass-catcher. One thing to note: When I studied "Trade Up" running backs earlier in the offseason, I found that third round "Trade Up" running backs outscored their counterparts by 54% in their rookie seasons. I am a little worried that Davis's dual-threat ability will limit Montgomery's upside in his first season.
Continue reading for four more RB values, seven RB sleepers, five RBs John is targeting regularly and 21 RB attrition plays...
- All Premium Content
- The Most Accurate Rankings Since 2010
- Expert Draft Picks w/ DraftAnalyzer
- Highest Scoring Lineup + Top Available Players w/ LeagueSync
- ...and much more!