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
Justice Hill RB
BAL Baltimore • #43
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
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 • #37
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
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: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
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.
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: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
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.
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.
Dion Lewis RB
NYG N.Y. Giants • #33
Age: 29 • Experience: 9 yrs.
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: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
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.
NYJ N.Y. Jets
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
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.
Matt Breida RB
MIA Miami • #20
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
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.
LV Las Vegas • #30
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
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.
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.
Ronald Jones RB
TB Tampa Bay • #27
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
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.
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.
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.