2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Running back sleepers

It's awesome to find sleepers on Draft Day, especially at running back. If you end up with the right player, you could end up with a huge difference maker in your league.

And that's what we're trying to help you with here.

Our CBS Fantasy staff has identified some of our favorite running back sleepers at the early part of training camp. We're using the CBS Sports Average Draft Position as a guide, and targeting players being selected at pick No. 100 overall or later.

The later you can get these running backs, the better. But if there's someone you like then make sure you draft him. Don't miss out on a sleeper who can help you win your league in 2019.

Here's who you'll be hearing from: 

  • Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
  • Dave Richard, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
  • Heath Cummings, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
  • Ben Gretch, CBS Fantasy Editor
  • Chris Towers, CBS Fantasy Senior Editor
Running Back Preview
Sleepers
Jamey Eisenberg's sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
BAL Baltimore • #43
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
121st
RB RNK
48th
PROJ PTS
84
SOS
31
ADP
143
2018 Stats (Oklahoma State)
RUYDS
930
REC
13
REYDS
68
TD
9
Hill is among my favorite players to draft this season, and he could be a league winner if something happens to Mark Ingram. We know the Ravens are going to run the ball — they led the league in rushing attempts in 2018 — and Hill should work in tandem with Ingram. He was a star at Oklahoma State with 3,539 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on 5.6 yards per carry, as well as 49 catches for 304 yards and a touchdown in three seasons. I'm drafting Hill as early as Round 9 in most leagues.
NE New England • #53
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
125th
RB RNK
47th
PROJ PTS
104
SOS
32
ADP
127
2018 Stats (Alabama)
RUYDS
876
REC
22
REYDS
204
TD
9
Sony Michel seems to be fine now despite opening training camp on the PUP list with a knee injury. That's a good sign for Michel. But I'm skeptical of Michel staying healthy all year, and the Patriots spent a third-round pick in the NFL Draft on Harris for a reason. We've heard reports that Harris could have a prominent role, whether Michel misses time with an injury or not, and I plan to stash Harris in all leagues. Should he get the chance for increased carries in New England's offense then Harris could become a quality Fantasy option.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #22
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
104th
RB RNK
45th
PROJ PTS
85
SOS
25
ADP
198
2018 Stats
RUYDS
206
REC
15
REYDS
135
TD
2
FPTS/G
4.6
CBS Sports NFL sideline reporter Evan Washburn appeared on Fantasy Football Today on CBS Sports HQ on Monday from training camp with the Chargers, and he spoke with Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. Lynn described Jackson as a Lamborghini. I don't know about you, but I like Lamborghinis. Now, the only reason we're speaking highly of Jackson is because Melvin Gordon is a holdout, which could last into the regular season. If that's the case then Jackson would work in tandem with Austin Ekeler, and Jackson could have a prominent role. He's worth at least a late-round pick in all leagues.
Dave Richard's sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
KC Kansas City • #25
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
150th
RB RNK
59th
PROJ PTS
93
SOS
11
ADP
141
2018 Stats
RUYDS
1044
REC
23
REYDS
351
TD
16
Thompson is kind of a clone of Damien Williams. He's short, but stocky. He's fast and has nice hands. He can block a little bit but is better at making defenders miss. Williams will begin the year as the Chiefs' starter, that's a no-brainer, but if he stumbles, I wouldn't expect Carlos Hyde to become a Fantasy whirlwind, not after last year's touchdown-inflated stats with the Browns (and ugly numbers with the Jaguars). Stash Thompson late.
MIN Minnesota • #25
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
134th
RB RNK
50th
PROJ PTS
92
SOS
20
ADP
173
2018 Stats
RUYDS
1415
REC
27
REYDS
173
TD
17
Mattison is a stash candidate with heaps of upside. Playing behind Dalvin Cook paid off handsomely for Latavius Murray, coming to the Vikings' rescue when Cook got hurt each of the last two Octobers. Mattison, who is a powerful rusher with underrated receiving skills like Murray, "could have the upper hand" in the battle for the backup job according to TwinCities.com. Even coach Mike Zimmer has come away impressed with his vision and pass-blocking since training camp started.
BUF Buffalo • #40
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
144th
RB RNK
56th
PROJ PTS
59
SOS
19
ADP
149
2018 Stats
RUYDS
1348
REC
6
REYDS
36
TD
22
Everyone knows it's a matter of time before Singletary takes over the Bills' backfield. The kid nicknamed "Motor" creates yards with sick juke moves and the ability to slip out of tackles. The sooner he proves his unique skill-set can work for him at the pro level, the sooner we can talk about him contributing to our Fantasy teams. And given how poorly last year went for LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, it won't take long.
Heath Cummings' sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
TEN Tennessee • #33
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
117th
RB RNK
46th
PROJ PTS
120
SOS
22
ADP
135
2018 Stats
RUYDS
517
REC
59
REYDS
400
TD
2
FPTS/G
10
Dion Lewis is the type of sleeper running back I look for in the later rounds. Like Ausytin Ekeler, he has PPR value as a flex even if nothing happens to Derrick Henry. Henry is not a pass catcher and I expect this Titans team to be playing from behind more often than not. Ten of their games are against the Colts, Texans, Chiefs, Chargers, Saints, Falcons, Panthers or Browns. I don't anticipate them slowing down many of those offenses. That should give Lewis a good opportunity to match last year's 59 catches, and I'd expect better touchdown luck as well. He had scored 15 times on 417 touches before reaching the end zone just twice in 2018. Lewis finished as a top-30 back last year without a Henry injury, and in the month of July he's being drafted as the 49th running back off the board at pick 133. Draft him for the value he currently is and know there's huge upside if Henry's injury lingers.
DEN Denver • #28
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
95th
RB RNK
39th
PROJ PTS
92
SOS
28
ADP
110
2018 Stats
RUYDS
521
REC
14
REYDS
72
TD
5
FPTS/G
7.2
Everything coming out of Denver suggests we're going to see a timeshare at running back. So it's really hard to figure why Phillip Lindsay is going 70 picks before Freeman. I expect the Broncos to be run-heavy with a defensive head coach and Joe Flacco at quarterback. Both running backs should see 180 carries if they both stay healthy. Freeman's upside comes from a Lindsay injury, which could vault the former into the top-20 running backs.
MIA Miami • #27
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
96th
RB RNK
40th
PROJ PTS
106
SOS
24
ADP
147
2018 Stats
RUYDS
191
REC
9
REYDS
56
TD
1
FPTS/G
3.1
I've had Kenyan Drake as one of my favorite breakout candidates, but it's getting harder to ignore the fact that every coach seems to view Drake as nothing more than a change-of-pace guy. With that in mind, Ballage is currently a huge value at his ADP. This is a competition in camp with multiple possible outcomes. The most likely now seems that it will be a committee with Ballage getting at least half of the rush attempts. If he wins the job outright? You may have just won your league.
Ben Gretch's sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
SF San Francisco • #22
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
128th
RB RNK
51st
PROJ PTS
106
SOS
5
ADP
163
2018 Stats
RUYDS
814
REC
27
REYDS
261
TD
5
FPTS/G
11.6
Recent reports that Jerick McKinnon has hit a snag in his rehab have only elevated my enthusiasm for Breida. Yes, Tevin Coleman is now in town, but Breida is coming off a 1,000-yard season for a bad team where he was very clearly the lead back when healthy. And he was very efficient, notching 5.3 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per target. That he was ever being drafted behind McKinnon has been something of a conundrum to me, but the path to retaining a solid role in Kyle Shanahan's offense is even clearer now.
OAK Oakland • #30
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
141st
RB RNK
56th
PROJ PTS
99
SOS
26
ADP
209
2018 Stats
RUYDS
259
REC
68
REYDS
607
TD
1
FPTS/G
9.7
Richard's usage in 2018 correlated very well with Fantasy success, as he showed up near the top of my TRAP leaderboard that measures receptions and high-value green zone touches. The addition of Josh Jacobs has made Richard an afterthought, though his receiving ability should allow him to retain some standalone value and the upside if Jacobs isn't able to play all 16 games would be apparent given the Raiders have a thin running back room.
KC Kansas City • #25
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
150th
RB RNK
59th
PROJ PTS
93
SOS
11
ADP
141
2018 Stats
RUYDS
1044
REC
23
REYDS
351
TD
16
I'm a Damien Williams believer, but there's also inherent risk in a limited track record. If Williams isn't productive, he isn't likely to have a long leash, and he also hasn't shown he can hold up as a lead back over an NFL season. Enter Thompson, who showed off strong dual-threat ability at Utah State and posted a 74th percentile SPARQ-x athletic profile this offseason, per Player Profiler. As Carlos Hyde has had an inefficient career, specifically as a receiver, I'm firmly on team Thompson over Hyde at their relative draft costs.
Chris Towers' sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
TB Tampa Bay • #27
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
108th
RB RNK
44th
PROJ PTS
100
SOS
3
ADP
105
2018 Stats
RUYDS
44
REC
7
REYDS
33
TD
1
FPTS/G
2.2
For a little while there, it seemed like Jones' stock was about to take off, but the hype seems to have died down a bit. Jones is garnering much better reviews than this time last year, and this could be a high-volume, high-scoring offense. Consider this: Jones is still months younger than rookies Miles Sanders and David Montgomery, going several rounds ahead of him in ADP.
KC Kansas City • #25
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
149th
RB RNK
59th
PROJ PTS
93
SOS
11
ADP
141
2018 Stats
RUYDS
1044
REC
23
REYDS
351
TD
16
I love Damien Williams this season, and it only has a little bit to do with Williams as a player. It's all about getting a share of this Chiefs offense. If Williams falters, I would imagine Carlos Hyde will get plenty of opportunities, but he's been a relative non-factor in the passing game, which means he won't dominate touches. That's where Thompson can come in. Even if he's just a satellite back in this offense, that's probably a borderline starting option for Fantasy.
BUF Buffalo • #40
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
144th
RB RNK
56th
PROJ PTS
59
SOS
19
ADP
149
2018 Stats
RUYDS
1348
REC
6
REYDS
36
TD
22
When you compare Singletary to David Montgomery, they actually look pretty similar. Both are middling backs who showed a preternatural ability to force missed tackles in college, and both find themselves in crowded backfields as rookies. Montgomery is in a better offense, so it makes sense that he is being drafted higher, but there's about a 100-pick difference in their ADP, which doesn't make much sense. Singletary might need a little while to break away from the pack in Buffalo, but it's a question of when, not if, for me.

So which Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge season, and find out.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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