Top RB Sleepers for 2019 Fantasy Draft

Top RB Sleepers for 2019 Fantasy Draft

Feast your eyes on our favorite NFL RB Sleepers going into the 2019 fantasy football season.

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 5 RB sleepers that we think you should target in your 2019 fantasy football draft.

Top 5 RB Sleepers Guide for 2019 NFL Fantasy Football Season

HR RankRunning BackADPSoSAdditional Notes
15Derrick Henry165Derrick Henry finished the season on an absolute burner last year, averaging almost 130 YPG and 2 TD/G. They say he will be a workhorse back, new OC is an O-Line coach, HC is a DC so they may run even more this season.
23Kenyan Drake2723We are high on the Drake again this year. Was incredibly productive last season (4.5 YPC w/ 9 TD on 170 touches). Gore is gone, along with Gase, and O’Shea brings in New England offensive system.
33Royce Freeman3814Was better in pass pro than Booker, so Booker snap count made zero sense. We will see how Scangarello divides work load, but his role should certainly increase this season.
38Miles Sanders3923Just when we thought Jordan Howard would finally give us some early-down clarity in Philly… Sanders is a perfect fit for the early down work here, is a one-cut, downhill runner that can make people miss on 2nd level.
51Darwin ThompsonNA17Taking 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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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.

Here are five running backs we think could be this year’s best value picks at RB:

#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.

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.

But, he was RB2 behind only McCaffrey over the last 4 games of the regular season.

Derrick Henry Draft Strategy

You have to set up your draft board and just trust it. We have Wentz as QB5, but have no interest in any quarteRBack before round 7. He is currently going in the middle of round 8, but jump on him in the 7th if tier one is off the board (Mahomes, Rodgers, Luck, Watson).

#23 RB: Kenyan Drake

Drake was one of our favorite picks this time last year, but we love the Drake again in 2019.

Kenyan Drake

RB Sleeper | Miami Dolphins
Drake was extremely productive when given a consistent workload last season. The problem was he could never seem to get on Gase’s good side. Drake ended last season as RB21 despite getting only 120 carries. He also averaged 4.5 YPC, scored 9 TD’s on 173 total touches, all behind a bad offensive line.

This offseason saw several shakeups within the Miami organization. Gase is gone, replaced by a Patriots duo in Brian Flores at HC and Chad O’Shea at OC. While this Dolphins roster is far, far from a Pats roster, the Patriots did have two top 25 fantasy running backs last season.

Additionally, Frank Gore, who got nearly 30% more carries than Drake, is now a Buffalo Bill. The only competition left on this roster for carries is really Kalen Ballage, another back we are high on, with a ton of upside (great size at 6’2″ and speed w/ 4.35 40). More on Ballage in our draft strategy for Drake.

Of the two backs, Drake has more experience, more big play ability, and graded out much higher than Ballage did in 2018. We see this time share at least initially working out as Drake as the RB1 getting all three downs for 3/4 series.

Given his big play ability as both a runner and pass catcher, that sort of work load would likely equal a ton of production for Drake this season. Just using last year’s production rate, if we can to just 225 touches with Drake he coul be a top 10 back.

Kenyan Drake Draft Strategy

Drake’s current ADP is RB27, which makes him a mid-to-late 5th round pick. We have him slightly higher than that, and are good with drafting him as high as RB20 which puts him into the back half of the 4th round. Either way, unless you go super WR heavy in the early rounds, he will likely be your RB3 and has arguably the highest upside of all RB3 options.

#33 RB: Royce Freeman

Will a new staff find a way to get more out of the uber-talented Freeman?

Royce Freeman

RB Sleeper | Denver Broncos
Royce Freeman was one of the hottest names in fantasy football at this time last season… then came Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay ended 2018 as a pro bowler and appears to be the lead guy in Denver now.

However it isn’t Lindsay that was the real issue with Freeman’s value. Based off his size and skill set, Lindsay will likely never be a 250 carry back. That leaves plenty of work on the table for Freeman on a weekly basis, certainly enough to make him a solid flex option.

The real issue was Devontae Booker’s 29.42% snap share count in 2018. Booker only got 36 carries on those snaps, and was mostly used in pass protection. The issue is Freeman graded out 40 points higher in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus. Completely wasted snaps and there is no justifying it.

Rich Scangarello is in as the new Denver OC, and their HC is Vic Fangio, a defensive minded coach (2018 Bears DC) that will likely want to emphasize sustained drives and TOP. Of all of the backs on this roster, that mindset should favor Freeman.

Combine that with the fact that both the 49ers and Falcons have had multiple backs play significant roles in the Scangarello/Shannahan system, and we think Freeman ends up getting enough work a solid flex play most weeks.

Royce Freeman Draft Strategy

Freeman is currently the 39th RB off the board, and the 95th player overall. This means he is going with the final picks in the 8th round. If you follow the Hello Rookie drafting model, you are likley looking to take a QB in rounds 7 or 8, and come out of the 8th round with at least 3 RB’s and 3 WR’s. So you are drafting Freeman as your RB4 and as depth at the flex position. Not only will he be the best option available in that area, but we think he has legitimate RB2 upside given the system change, quality O-Line in front of him and potential workload. If Lindsay misses time you are looking at a top 12 RB play every week.

#38 RB: Miles Sanders

Can he beat out the vet Howard? Look out if he does…

Miles Sanders

RB Sleeper | Philadelphia Eagles
Pro Football Focus recently named Sanders as the second most likely Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate right behind Kyler Murray. While he was one of the more impressive running backs in college football last season, he doesn’t have the upside as a pass catcher that last year’s winner Saquon Barkley has, and doesn’t have the big play ability that runner up Philip Lindsay possesses.

So what makes Sanders such an intriguing upside play in 2019? It’s a combination of skill set and potential role. The Eagles are desperate for an early down, short yardage, goal line back. So much so that they traded for one in Jordan Howard, then turned around and drafted another in the 2nd round of this year’s draft with Miles Sanders.

Both Sanders and Howard offer somewhat similar skill sets. Both were 4.5 guys at the combine, both were extremely productive Big 10 RB’s, both have the size and strength to run between the tackles. However, where Sanders separates himself is on the second level of defenses. He has way more suddenness and ability to make guys miss in the open field.

Combine that with the fact that he has about 1,500 fewer carries on his body after sitting behind Barkley in college while Howard racked up carries for the Bears, and I think he has a legitimate shot at beating out the veteran this season.

Whoever wins the job is going to hold significant value. The Eagles offensive line graded out as the second best unit in the NFL last season, and were one of the better run blocking groups in football, despite the lack of overall production. Philly ranked 30th in YPC last season, and that is exactly what they hoped to change when drafting Sanders this year.

Miles Sanders Draft Strategy

Sanders’s fantasy stock has risen slightly over the past week and he is currently going as RB41 in standard league drafts. His overall ADP is currently 102, meaning he is going in the middle of round 9 in 12 team leagues. So, if you draft Miles he should be your RB4 or even RB5 given his current ADP. This is the perfect example of a great sleeper pick. If he’s the lead back in this Philly offense at any point this season he will give you top 15 RB production, and you are getting him as a backup flex option.

#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 a 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 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 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 in 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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