Top RB Sleepers for 2019 Fantasy Draft

Top RB Sleepers for 2019 Fantasy Draft

The running back position is arguably the most important position in fantasy football. Elite running backs are hard to come by, particularly if you’re playing in a standard format league where you can’t plug in a guy like James White, Tarik Cohen, Nyheim Hines, or Theo Riddick and count on 4-6 points per week in receptions alone.

rb sleepers 2019

Luckily, we have this fantasy class graded as one of the deepest RB classes in recent history. There are 16 guys we think could be considered RB1’s this season. The top of the class is deeper than ever (Tier 1 includes 7 guys: Gurley, Barkley, Elliott, Kamara, McCaffrey, Conner, Gordon), but having so many clear number 1 running backs comes with a price.

With the majority of teams in the NFL set at the running back position, there are fewer RB sleepers available for 2019 than in past seasons.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value on the board in just about every round, or deep RB sleepers that may pay huge dividends. It means you have to be sharper than ever this season and slightly more aggressive with your sleeper picks.

Here are our top 6 RB sleepers that we think you should target in your 2019 fantasy football draft.

Top 6 RB Sleepers Guide for 2019 NFL Fantasy Football Season

HR RankRunning BackADPSoSAdditional Notes
15Derrick Henry1615Derrick Henry finished the 2018 season on an absolute burner, averaging almost 130 YPG and 2 TD/G over last month. New OC is an O-Line coach, HC is a DC so they will likely run even more this season.
33Miles Sanders3623We have gone back and forth on Sanders this offseason. The Eagles used a 2nd round pick on him for a reason and Jordan Howard is awful (3.7 YPC last season). While he doesn’t have Montgomery’s ceiling he is arguably a better value at current ADP
41Peyton Barber12230Will be the lead back again in 2019, and has been getting a lot of work in passing game this offseason. Arians and the new staff seem to have confirmed what we already knew, Ronald Jones can’t play football.
43Alexander MattisonNA5More than a handcuff. That is our motto for Alexander Mattison. Cook has missed as many games as he’s played allowing Latavius Murray to rack up 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
44Chris Thompson6522As Guice and AP battle for the early-down role, Thompson still has zero competition for 3rd down work, and could see his role increase w/ Crowder now a Jet.
51Darwin ThompsonNA31Taking a flier on a rookie in a crowded backfield is never a good idea, but Hill will be an interesting player to watch. An absolute burner capable of taking any touch the distance.

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#15 RB: Derrick Henry

Henry won leagues for fantasy owners down the stretch, but can he carry that momentum into 2019?

Derrick Henry

RB Sleeper | Tennessee Titans
If you were asking for one guy outside the current top 10 ADP running backs that could finish the season as a top 10 back, Derrick Henry would be our pick. We think he has a legitimate shot at leading the league in rushing in 2019.

Henry’s current ADP, RB16, makes no sense at all. He finished last season as RB13 despite not winning the lion’s share of snaps until well into the second half of the regular season. It was the last month of his 2018 season that has fantasy owners excited, a stretch of four games that he went RB2 over, including a 17/238/4 point performance against the Jags.

Not only will Henry be the focal point of one of the more run-heavy offenses in football, behind arguably the best run-blocking line in football, but the Titans also want to get Henry more involved in the passing game. With his size and speed, he is a nightmare on the second level and will be extremely effective after the catch.

Henry may end up being the steal of the draft at his current ADP in the middle of round 3.

Derrick Henry Draft Strategy

Henry is currently our RB14, which puts him as a late 2nd round pick, and that is where we recommend you target him. He certainly belongs after the top tier of RB’s and WR’s, but may end up being the best pick outside of those top 15-17 guys.

#23 RB: Miles Sanders

Sanders may have the most question marks on this list, but we know three things: draft picks don’t lie, Howard can’t ball, and Sanders will be the #1 RB in Philly this year.

Miles Sanders

RB Sleeper | Philadelphia Eagles
Mile Sanders landed in a dream scenario in Philadelphia. He will play on a team that led the league in scoring in 2017, his only competition is a guy that has averaged less than 4 YPC over the last two seasons, will run behind PFF’s 6th rated offensive line, and play for a RB coach that is widely regarded as one of the better position coaches in the league.

Sanders was the player of the year in Pennsylvania in 2014, and chose Penn State over 21+ other major offers including Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Michigan. After waiting behind Saquon Barkley for two seasons, Sanders’ Junior year was, for the most part, a success, running for 1,200+ yards and 9 touchdowns on 220 carries. The Eagles spent a second round pick on Sanders in April.

While he wasn’t one of our favorite backs in last season’s draft (1. Montgomery, 2. Henderson, 3. Jacobs, 4. Armstead) Sanders could very well end up being the best of the bunch. While he isn’t the pass catcher that Montgomery and Jacobs will likely be, he looked undeniably elite as a one-cut downhill runner for Penn State last season. The problem is he tends to get too cute in the hole, and lacks the explosiveness to run that way.

We think the combination of Pederson and Staley will have him much improved over the college-Sanders we saw at Penn State last season, and he may end up being one of the best steals of the draft. Early reports out of camp are extremely positive, saying he has looked like the best back on the roster in his reps with the ones.

Miles Sanders Draft Strategy

Sanders current ADP of 84 makes him a great value pick in the late 7th/early 8th rounds of 12 team leagues. While picking him in the 6th may be a little too aggressive, he is a great pick anywhere around or after the 6/7 turn. There are very few, if any, RB’s with Sanders’ upside available at that stage of the draft, in fact Howard is the next back off the board at 86.

#41 RB: Peyton Barber

Will be the #1 RB on a potent Bruce Arians offense…

Peyton Barber

RB Sleeper | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I get it, there is nothing sexy about Peyton Barber’s game… he was a late-round draft choice, isn’t fast, not a great pass catcher, and has never been productive as a pro. But he’s also all that Tampa’s got. Ronald Jones can’t play football, and the Bucs staff seems to be growing wise to that fact.

Reports out of Tampa’s offseason program are that Barber is not only going to get the early-down work but has seen significant work in the Bucs passing attack recently. Given he was RB26 despite only catching 20 passes in 2018, this could be a massive fantasy development.

If Barber is able to keep 230+ carries, but simply add another 25 receptions, I think he instantly becomes a top 20 RB in a Bruce Arians system. That is a ton of upside for a guy that is currently going in the middle of the 11th round in most fantasy drafts.

Peyton Barber Draft Strategy

Barber is currently going in the early 11th round, after Ronald Jones, but should be going in the late 9th or early 10th round. Take him ahead of these RB’s that have higher a higher ADP: Carlos Hyde, D’Onta Foreman, LeSean McCoy, Damien Harris, and Ronald Jones.

#43 RB: Alexander Mattison

Latavius Murray was RB22 over the past two seasons as Cook’s backup…

Alexander Mattison

RB Sleeper | Minnesota Vikings
Based solely off the fact that Murray was RB22 over the past two seasons, Alexander Mattison is one of the most important handcuffs in fantasy football for 2019.

While Murray was RB20 in this role in 2017, Cook would have to miss several games for Mattison to reach that level in 2019. Assuming Cook is healthy, Mattison will likely receive close to 10 carries per game, and there are already rumors of him stealing goal-line work from Cook this season.

This role is certainly not enough to give Mattison any sort of consistent fantasy value, however, we have to also weigh in the fact that Cook has missed 17 out of 32 games in his career. Going back to Florida State, while he didn’t miss significant time, he was always on the injury report with nagging injuries. If Cook does miss time again this season, Mattison will certainly have top 15-20 value.

Alexander Mattison Draft Strategy

Mattison is our first of three RB’s you can target in the last few rounds of your draft. This is a guy that we feel strongly enough about to go get him a round early, just to ensure you don’t miss on him. If you do draft Cook in the second round, you should be targeting Mattison at least one round earlier than his ADP at the time of your fantasy league’s draft.

#65 RB: Chris Thompson

Thompson was averaging well over 15 fantasy PPG prior to his injury in 2018, does that back still exist?

Chris Thompson

RB Sleeper | Washington Redskins
Washington has a need for guys that can get open and make plays in the short to the intermediate passing game. Both of their starting outside receivers are big-play guys that struggle in this area, both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are another year older, and Trey Quinn is still just a second-year player with 10 career targets that was put on the IR not once, but twice last season. A healthy Chris Thompson would be a game-changer for Jay Gruden and whoever the QB ends up being.

Prior to his injury in week four of last season, Thompson was putting up over 15.5 fantasy PPG on almost 8 targets per game, he never got back to form after missing the majority of the next six games. It is worth noting that that pace would have put him at RB11 last year, and he finished RB11 the year before as well.

Given that Thompson has little-to-no early-down value for as long as both Guice and Peterson are healthy, he is the one RB on the roster that knows exactly what his role is. In fact, it is a role that may hold more fantasy value in PPR formats than whoever ends up the starter here. We think he at the very least hold flex value for however long he stays healthy, but it’s likely time to dump him and hit the waivers once that first injury pops up.

Chris Thompson Draft Strategy

With a positional ADP of RB65 right now, Chris Thompson will likely be available in the last few rounds of your league’s draft. We are taking him ahead of most of the other RB’s going in that range, including Jamaal Williams, Matt Breida, Devin Singletary, and even teammate Adrian Peterson. Thompson is a particularly intriguing pick in these rounds in PPR leagues, where his 6 weekly targets in this system could make him even more of a late-round steal.

#51 RB: Darwin Thompson

What if we refuse to believe Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde are relevant? Darwin Thompson suddenly becomes relevant.

Darwin Thompson

RB Sleeper | Kansas City Chiefs
We are suckers for a great underdog story, and Darwin Thompson is just that. A relatively unrecruited prospect out of Oklahoma, Thompson went the Junior College route out of high school. After leading his JC team to a national title, he ended up at Utah State and led them to an 11-2 record in his only season in Logan. He was not invited to the combine but ran a 4.4 at the USU pro day.

Clearly, the Chiefs targeted Thompson because RB was a position of need and they waited until the 42nd pick of round 6 to address it. Thompson is already impressing in camp flashing the shiftiness and big-play ability that allowed him to average 7 YPC and 15 YPR as a Junior for Utah State last season.

For those unaware, Utah State had a monster year in a better than advertised Mountain West in 2018. That conference includes Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, and Wyoming… all ascending programs. USU went 7-1 in conference play and averaged 47.5 PPG which was second in the nation behind Oklahoma.

The Chiefs need a big play guy… Tyreek Hill’s future remains in serious doubt after yet another domestic abuse issue popped up this offseason. Thompson’s skill set is a perfect fit for how KC likes to use their backs in the passing game, and he could be fantasy relevant with even a Cohen-like role in this offense.

Looking at the depth chart, this is arguably the weakest RB group in the NFL in front of Thompson. Damien Williams is a Dolphins’s hand-me-down, and Carlos Hyde’s spot on the roster is already rumored to be in doubt. The door is wide open for Thompson to come into camp and make enough plays that it becomes impossible for Reid to keep him off the field.

Darwin Thompson Draft Strategy

Darwin Thompson is currently going undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues, but we don’t count on that when it comes to sleepers with this much upside. Don’t waste your 13th round pick on Jimmy Graham… snatch Thompson early if you believe in him if it doesn’t work out in the first few weeks of the season you hit the waiver wire and move on. Don’t end us stuck as the guy saying I wanted him but he went right before I was going to pick him. Go get the players you want in the late rounds of the draft.

rb sleepers worth targeting in 2019

Our Favorite Sleeper RB Targets for 2019

Choosing RB sleepers is no easy task.

There is no official metric, rubric, system or data set to dissect in order to project the top RB’s in the coming season.

We can, however, use general football knowledge and pool together relevant publicly available information to indeed make informed decisions in choosing our RB sleepers.

From new offensive coordinators and offensive linemen to head coaches and systems, evaluating the top RB sleepers also frankly involves a hint of luck.

Again, the term RB sleeper essentially includes any running back who is likely to fall further in your draft than what they should.

Most typically, this is due to the RB being on a new team, returning from an injury, relevant offseason moves and or being a rookie.

rb sleepers summary

A Summary of Our RB Sleepers for 2019

Every year there is a small handful of undervalued NFL running backs that emerge in a big way.

Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are clearly backs who will later than what they should. No big surprise with these names, take them if they fall to you in a decent round.

Miles Sanders and Darwin Thompson are perhaps deep sleepers. While these sleepers may very well not emerge in a big way, there’s a chance they could.

That chance, that opportunity is what we’re sorting through in choosing who to target.

Another reason to focus on RB sleepers hard is the potential trading value they can create. The best places to find RB sleepers is with rookies, committee situations that could fade and players returning from injury.

After all, deep sleepers are those who you take a shot on in the final rounds. If they don’t pan out, you can drop them on waivers and move on.

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