NFL Fantasy Football: Seven sleeper running backs who might wake up before draft day

Don't be the guy who smacks himself in the head for not drafting one of these worthy late-round options!

It’s getting close to the big day and the internet is filled with bust alerts and sleeper tips. Here are seven running backs who offer high-ceilings and late-round value. All are currently sporting 2017 ADPs over RB48, which means they are not getting drafted off some boards! 

Let us explain why you should show these guys a little more love on draft day. 

1. C. J. Prosise, Seattle (ADP: RB49, 11th round) 

All the buzz about Seattle is whether Eddy Lacy is really in shape and if Thomas Rawls can stay healthy. If they are both healthy, Pete Carroll is considering a share of the load in an attempt to keep either from breaking down. 

Meanwhile, C. J. Prosise has the best-defined role on the team. He will see action in passing situations. Since Carroll wants to preserve his other backs, Prosise will carry a bigger load if either one goes down. If both get hurt, you would do well to have him on your roster already. 

But what are the odds Lacy and Rawls both get hurt? That hasn’t happened since… last year… and the year before that. Prosise is also poised for more action if Lacy’s conditioning is an issue, which is a point of much discussion in the great northwest. 

2. Duke Johnson, Cleveland (ADP: RB50, 11th round) 

We all know that David Johnson caught more passes than any other running back last season. But did you know that Duke Johnson caught the second-most? He didn’t run much, but he had some PPR value. 

This season, he will garner even more than the 13.5% of targets from Cleveland’s bevy of quarterbacks. Hue Jackson plans to line him up as a slot receiver at times, allowing him to be on the field with Isaiah Crowell. He is a legitimate PPR WR2, with the bonus of being Crowell’s handcuff. 

3. Joe Williams, San Francisco (ADP: WR52, 12th round) 

It appears Carlos Hyde’s status as the best running back in San Francisco will allow him to retain his starting position, for now. This despite general manager John Lynch’s question as to whether he fits new head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme.

Joe Williams has to jump past Tim Hightower on the depth chart, too. However, you can’t look past the fact that Coach Shanahan successfully lobbied management to move up in the fourth round to get him. 

Hyde’s days as a three-down back may be over as early as Week 1 under the guise of preserving Hyde’s shelf life while the coach tries to prove his draft pick was worth the trouble. 

4. Jonathan Williams, Buffalo (ADP: WR54, 12th round)  

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Joe Williams, or for that matter, with Green Bay rookie Jamaal Williams (who is also getting drafted too low in the 9th round), Jonathan Williams is turning heads in Buffalo. 

He inherits the role of a handcuff to starter LeSean McCoy, which worked out pretty well for Mike Gillislee last season and Karlos Williams in 2015. Reports from Buffalo are that the 29-year-old McCoy, with over 2200 career touches, will be spelled a little more frequently than in the past, which will give this Williams some immediate value. 

5. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis (ADP: WR55, 13th round) 

I understand that Frank Gore is never going to get old and slow down. I also understand that Colts’ coaches are clamoring for a way to get Mack on the field. They are impressed with his speed and elusiveness and also surprised with his ability to break tackles. 

It is safe to say Mack has passed Robert Turbin on the depth chart. Gore remains reliable and the starter, but at age 34, he can not be expected to handle the full load. If Mack’s preseason performance carries into the regular season, look for more of a time share.

6. DeAndre Washington, Oakland (ADP: RB60, 13th round) 

Jalen Richard’s name could easily have been placed here, but he isn’t even registering an ADP, so that would have looked silly. Richard and Washington shared the load with Latavius Murray last season. Only two other teams had less than the Raiders’ three games where any one back handled more than 65% of the carries. 

For some reason, fantasy owners think that a 32-year-old running back coming out of retirement will convince the Raiders to change their committee tendencies. That’s not going to happen. Richard may get third down duties right from week one and Washington will also be involved. Plus, he is the handcuff for Marshawn Lynch, should the year off have softened him up too much to carry (if you pardon the pun) the full load all year.

7. Darren Sproles, Philadelphia (ADP: RB67, 14th round) 

LeGarrette Blount will not have the magic Bill Belichick dust to help him through this season with the Philadelphia Eagles. His preseason is disastrous so far (17 yards on 9 carries and a scoring-drive-killing fumble), but contrary to reports, he is the team’s starter and workhorse.

That does nothing to Sproles. He will remain the third down back and the most reliable performer in their running game. The Eagles hope they drafted their Sproles of the future in Donnel Pumphrey, but he has been a dud so far in camp. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement is surprising the staff so far, but he and incumbent Wendell Smallwood are only a threat to Blount’s workload. 

Sproles finished 2016 as the RB30 and I expect he will be close to that again as the Eagles seem destined to have a lot of passing situations for him to work in. 

So… grab ‘em! 

There you have seven potential bargains currently drafting outside the RB4 position. I am certain this will come back to haunt some owners who passed them up for lesser talent. Don’t be one of them! 

Be sure to check back in January to see what you should have listened to! 

Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?

Pat Opperman


Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.