The top picks in your Fantasy Football draft are almost certainly going to go to running backs, and for good reason. The combination of touchdown potential and touch volume makes them the most valuable assets in the game, and ending up with an elite back tends to go a long way toward making your roster a contender.
Of course, a first-round pick isn't the only way to find elite running back production. Late in the 2019 season, Miles Sanders and Raheem Mostert provided dominant production at a middling cost, while Austin Ekeler finished as a top-seven back even in Non-PPR outside of the first few rounds. And 2018 had even more late-round backs emerge as must-start options: James Conner, James White, Phillip Lindsay, and Chris Carson all finished as top-15 backs in both formats at a fraction of their worth.
Finding sleepers on Draft Day is one of the most important things you'll need to do, especially given how often early-round backs will disappoint you. Ending up with multiple reliable backs is key, and finding one in the mid-to-late rounds is like a Fantasy cheat code, whether you loaded up early at the position or eschewed it.
As part of our RB preview week at CBS Fantasy we've already taken a look at the state of the position, a comprehensive breakdown of the position, a look at where ADP stands right now, and updated tiers and strategies, and now we're looking for sleepers, breakouts, and busts, focusing on sleepers here. The Fantasy Football Today team has their top sleeper picks at running back here for you, but before we get to who Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings, and Ben Gretch like, here are some of my favorite sleepers they didn't mention:
- Tarik Cohen: I'm a firm believer in the, "Well, Things can't be worse!" theory of the Chicago Bears offense in 2020. Cohen doesn't have the every-down potential to be an elite option, but we've seen top-12 finishes from Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, and James White over the last three seasons, three backs without the rushing role you typically look for. Cohen should see a significant improvement on his efficiency from 2019, and if 100-plus targets are still there, it's not that hard to see him getting back over 1,000 total yards and eight touchdowns.
- Damien Harris: I get the feeling Harris' ADP is going to take off over the next few weeks. Sony Michel is recovering from a foot surgery and is on the PUP list at the start of football activities. Michel showed in 2019 he's probably not anything special, though the fact the Patriots took Harris in the third round one year after taking Michel in the first may have been a sign they weren't sold on him to begin with. If Harris gets a chance, he could emerge as a starting Fantasy back.
- Giovani Bernard: Bernard seems set in his role as the passing down's back for the Bengals, which gives him a bit of standalone value even when Joe Mixon is healthy. However, we don't have to go too far back into the past to remember that Bernard has plenty of value in a larger role — he had 45.2 Fantasy points across two starts with Mixon out of the lineup in 2018. Bernard is an underrated handcuff, especially if this Bengals offense takes off with Joe Burrow. One place where it's easy to find sleepers for the 2020 Fantasy Football season is at quarterback. No matter what your definition of the term is, quarterback is positively overflowing with options, from late-round guys with big upside to players who are generally being undervalued by the Fantasy community. This is a passing league, and increasingly, a running quarterback's league, so there are more opportunities for quarterbacks to produce than there are spots on your Fantasy lineup.
Zack Moss RB
BUF Buffalo • #20
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Moss is currently being drafted as the No. 41 running back off the board based on the CBS Sports Average Draft Position data, 21 spots behind Devin Singletary, and I'm not sure the gap should be that big. Moss should step into Frank Gore's vacated role, and Gore led Buffalo in carries last season. While Singletary should get a bump in touches, don't be surprised if Moss is the more productive back, especially when it comes to scoring touchdowns and working in the passing game. I would have more confidence in Moss with a full offseason and preseason action, but I still plan to invest in him with a pick in Round 8 in all leagues.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #27
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Justin Jackson and Kelley are expected to compete to be the No. 2 running back for the Chargers behind Austin Ekeler, but I like the rookie from UCLA better. There are 162 carries and 42 catches available in the Chargers' offense with Melvin Gordon gone as a free agent to Denver, and while Ekeler will take some of those touches, Kelley could see a good portion as well. He might even help replace Gordon as the touchdown leader for the Chargers, and Gordon has scored at least nine total touchdowns in four years in a row. I'm buying plenty of stock in Kelley at his current ADP on CBS as the No. 55 running back off the board.
WAS Washington • #24
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Washington's offense needs playmakers. Gibson is a dual-threat speedster (4.39 in the 40) with size (6-foot, 220 pounds). The Washington Football Team has already been working on moving him around and utilizing his skill set, with coaches comparing him to CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY — and they were on the staff in Carolina when they took McCaffrey! Best of all, there aren't a lot of strong options blocking him from playing on passing downs, and if Derrius Guice can't hold up, Gibson could start eating up carries, too. He's got a shot to contribute in many ways — you can't usually find guys like this late on Draft Day.
Matt Breida RB
MIA Miami • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Does Breida just need a chance to take off like Raheem Mostert did in 2019? Breida watched from the bench in San Francisco when Mostert ran wild, and now it could be his turn in Miami playing alongside Jordan Howard. There are two distinct advantages Breida has over Howard — his speed and his versatility. It's hard to question how Breida moves when he's averaged 5.0 yards per carry over his three-year career and 5.2 yards per carry in his past two seasons, and his hands have been good, too (87% catch rate, 8.3 yards per catch over 2018-19). Miami may begin the year with Breida as a pace-changer at running back, but there's a little bit of worry about Howard staying healthy after dealing with a long-term stinger issue last year. Breida's not exactly the king of durability either (five games missed in past two years), but his sneaky PPR upside makes him a bench-worthy running back who could pop if the breaks go his way in Miami.
SF San Francisco • #26
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
People started to wake up to Coleman when Raheem Mostert requested a trade, but I'm not sure why their ADP was ever this far apart in the first place. Coleman is the guy the Niners brought in and paid as a free agent. He's also the guy who has multiple top-25 Fantasy seasons under his belt. Mostert had a good six-game stretch and has never handled even close to a feature role in his career. Both of these backs should be drafted in Round 7 or Round 8, which makes Coleman a sleeper at his current ADP.
JAC Jacksonville • #23
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
While the Jaguars are talking nice about Leonard Fournette now, they made it pretty clear earlier in the offseason how they feel about him by looking to trade him over and over. Fournette may start the season as Jacksonville's starting running back, but that's no sure thing, and he's on a short leash at the very least. Armstead is the guy who would benefit if Fournette was jettisoned or benched. In Armstead's lone game as a starter he caught five passes, recorded 85 total yards and scored a touchdown. He belongs much closer to Alexander Mattison, Tony Pollard and Chase Edmonds than his ADP suggests.
Boston Scott RB
PHI Philadelphia • #35
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Scott's exactly the type of back I look for who will play a part-time role but has the potential to see a high percentage of what I call high-value touches — receptions and green zone touches (touches inside the 10). In the four games where Scott got solid playing time late in 2019, he saw seven green zone touches, with at least one in three of the four games. He also caught at least four balls in each of those games, adding three more in the Eagles' playoff loss for 26 across those only five games where he played at least a quarter of the team's snaps. Now seemingly locked into the No. 2 role behind Miles Sanders, Scott has that Austin Ekeler vibe as an undersized player who is nevertheless an incredible athlete and reportedly a workout warrior. He'll have a solid standalone PPR role and should Sanders miss any time, his touch mix suggests the potential to explode in the way Ekeler did in the absence of Melvin Gordon in 2019, or Sanders himself did after Jordan Howard went down.
TEN Tennessee • #32
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Another athletic back, Evans ran a 4.41 at the combine before Tennessee took him in the third round. Evans profiles as an explosive change of pace from Derrick Henry, and apart from 25 career rushing touchdowns, Evans also notably scored six times on just 39 career receptions. Evans wasn't asked to play a ton in the passing game, but when asked about Evans' pass protection, Titans GM Jon Robinson noted after the draft, "There were enough clips where you could see him stepping up and sticking his face into the core of the protection, taking on a linebacker coming downhill. His toughness as a runner – I like the fact that he'll lower his shoulder and try to run through a tackle. I think from a mindset standpoint you see his willingness to play tough ... So I think with all those things combined we felt very comfortable with what he's going to be able to do in pass pro." That the team considered this is key, because rookie backs so often struggle to get on the field due to pass protection. There's little competition for the No. 2 job and Evans looks locked into a role that could provide surprising standalone value with considerable upside were Henry to miss time, making him an easy back to grab in the double-digit rounds.