We've finally reached August and that means Fantasy Football draft preparation is kicking into full gear. We won't go another Thursday without football from this point on until the end of Thursday Night Football so we've got that going for us, which is nice. We'll be tackling different position groups in the coming weeks and this week we are focusing on the running back position -- arguably the one group Fantasy managers spend the most time debating.
Today, we're tapping into the Fantasy Football Today team to gauge their favorite running back sleepers for the 2021 season. Without further ado, let's dive right into it.
Running back sleepers
Jamey Eisenberg's picks
We all know it's risky to trust a Patriots running back, and New England has several options to use this season with Harris, James White, Sony Michel and Rhamondre Stevenson. White is locked into a pass-catching role, so we'll see what happens with Harris, Michel and Stevenson. And let's not forget about Cam Newton and his rushing prowess. Sounds great so far for Harris, right? Last year, Harris had six games with at least 14 carries, and he had either 95 total yards or a touchdown in four of them. The offensive line in New England is better this season, and the Patriots figure to be among the most run-heavy teams in the NFL. I expect Harris to lead the team in carries, and hopefully he can hold off Newton for some rushing touchdowns. He's a great mid-round pick in all leagues.
I liked Moss as a sleeper last year after the Bills selected him in the third round from Utah, and I expected him to be better than Devin Singletary in 2020. When healthy, Moss had his moments, but he never proved to be the better running back in Buffalo. We'll see if that changes this year, and Moss should be healthy after hurting his ankle in the playoffs. Moss had eight games with double digits in touches as a rookie, and he scored at least 11 PPR points in four of them. He never had the chance at a consistent workload because of Singletary's presence, and the Bills were among the best teams throwing the ball last year. But I'm hopeful Moss can improve with a full training camp, and the Bills showed plenty of faith in Moss (and Singletary) by only adding Matt Breida this offseason for competition. Moss is worth drafting with a mid-round pick in all leagues.
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J.K. Dobbins should be a star, but I still want to have plenty of Edwards on my Fantasy rosters. He played well in a three-headed backfield with Dobbins and Mark Ingram in 2020, and with Ingram gone, he should excel as the clear-cut No. 2 option behind Dobbins. Edwards had six games last season with double digits in carries, and he had at least 70 total yards in four of them. He also scored six touchdowns on the season, and he's averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry in all three years he's been in the NFL. If Dobbins were to miss any time, Edwards would be considered a weekly starter.
Dave Richard's picks
The best non-starting Fantasy running backs are the ones who have set roles in their offenses even when they're not leading the way in touches. Dillon is a physical, powerful runner with some burst, offering the Packers a change-up to starter Aaron Jones. Make no mistake, Jones is going to be the guy, but he played just five games with more than 65% of the snaps in 2020. Jamaal Williams averaged 9.1 touches per game in the 14 he shared with Jones (playoffs included). Those figure to fall to Dillon, with one possible twist: Dillon is better suited for short-yardage and goal-line carries. If he gets those on top of the nine touches per game Williams is vacating, Dillon would have low-end starting upside every week. And then if Jones misses time, Dillon would become a must-start with a huge workload.
Look, it's not like he's dead. And maybe that's the most convincing selling point I can give on Johnson. No, wait, it's his ADP, which is 100.85 as of early August. Johnson is old, unpopular and declining, but still appears to be in the driver's seat to lead the Texans in rushing. I know, that's like being the most eligible bachelor at a family reunion, but it's still a spot that can help Fantasy managers. Think about this: The Texans ran the ball 15.8 times per game last year, the lowest average over the past 15 years, and Johnson still found a way to average 14.1 PPR points and 11.3 non-PPR points per game. Picking between Johnson and a backup running back in Round 9 isn't really that hard of a decision.
Gio Bernard, Buccaneers
With fewer pass-blocks missed, fewer drops, a better receiving average and more receiving touchdowns, Bernard did a better job on passing downs with the Bengals last season than Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette did combined. Now imagine what he'll be able to do with the Bucs, with Tom Brady, and with one of the best offenses around?! Bernard is seemingly locked into that pass-downs role, but what would happen if Fournette and/or Jones struggle in the running-downs role? Last year, the Bucs just oscillated between the two of them. This year, they have a third option in Bernard, who might have just enough left in the tank to cruise to decent numbers if given the chance. I love drafting Bernard with a late-round pick in PPR drafts.
Heath Cummings' picks
Jamaal Williams, Lions
I love D'Andre Swift this year (more on that below) but with Williams' ADP in the double-digit rounds it's OK to love both Lions' backs. After all, Anthony Lynn's running backs have ranked top-four in total touches each of the past two seasons. And looking at the Lions' depth chart at receiver, I would expect the Lions' backs to be amongst the league leaders in targets. Williams is a solid flex with Swift healthy and he has immediate top-15 upside if Swift gets hurt. Williams had 102 total yards and scored 18.2 PPR Fantasy points in his lone game without Aaron Jones last year.
Devin Singletary, Bills
A four-game stretch at the end of 2020 has the Fantasy Football community convinced that Zack Moss is going to be the starter in Buffalo. They could be right, but in the 11th round it's worth taking a shot on Singletary just in case they're not. Last year Singletary was better on a per carry, per catch, per target, and per game basis than Moss. They are both 23 years old and Singletary was the preferred option in the passing game last year as well. The truth is, both backs will likely share and be flexes at best unless there's an injury, but Singletary is being drafted like he's completely lost the job.
Jamaal Williams is going to play the Latavius Murray role in Detroit, so much of what I said about Williams applies to Murray. As we saw last year, Murray has enormous upside if Kamara gets hurt, and there's more upside for Murray when Kamara is healthy than what we saw last year. With Drew Brees gone, I expect a more run-heavy attack and Kamara won't absorb all those carries.
Chris Towers' picks
The Jets figure to have one of the most improved offenses in the league after 2020's historic futility, and Carter should be a big part of that. I'd be surprise if he ever got a consistent 15-20 touch per game role given his limited usage in college, but he's already getting first-team reps in training camp and seems locked in the passing down's role already. 50 catches and 200 carries is a perfectly reasonable goal for Carter, and while he's undersized and playing in what will likely be a pretty bad offense still, Carter is a solid target if you can get him for your bench outside of the first 30 running backs selected.
A.J. Dillon, Packers
We know Dillon is going to have a bigger role for the Packers than he did last season with the loss of Jamaal Williams, so the question is, "how big?" Can he get to something like a 50-50 split in carries with Aaron Jones? Williams hadn't been close to that since 2018, but Dillon figures to be a better playmaker than Williams was, and with Jones likely to see a larger role in the passing game, maybe they take something off his plate as a rusher. If Dillon can get to right around 12 carries per game, he's going to be a solid starting Fantasy option on a team that should create plenty of scoring opportunities, with the upside to be a borderline No. 1 RB if anything happens to Jones. Dillon is going right around pick 100 in drafts on average, making him actually one of my favorite values at the position right now.
James Robinson had a once-a-decade kind of season as an undrafted free agent in 2020, so I don't want to put anything like those kinds of expectations on Hawkins. But if you're looking for a situation where an undrafted free agent could make an impact, this is it. The Falcons have Mike Davis at the top of the depth chart and, while he was solid for the Panthers early last season, he was relegated to a non-existent role in Chicago the prior season after entering as the starter. He's exactly the kind of back who could very quickly lose his job if anyone behind him shows a spark. Maybe that'll be Qadree Ollison, but he's been in the NFL for two seasons and hasn't been able to earn that role yet. Hawkins is a long shot himself, but he's well situated to return value as a last-round pick.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.