NFL Fantasy: Week 2 sleeper running backs

Why play things safe when you can look like a genius playing a sleeper?


By now, you have digested all the stats from last week and read the warnings about overreacting. Then you overreacted and sold the farm to get Tarik Cohen or Buck Allen on your roster. Or, maybe you were smart enough to wait for the RealSport sleeper recommendations.

Best bet: James White, New England (at New Orleans)

Tom Brady wants to put so many points on the board this week that the guy holding the down marker might earn fantasy points. But let’s go with a safer bet in James White. The Patriots’ passing down back was on the field for over half the snaps against Kansas City, probably because New England was playing catch-up most of the night.

There are a few reasons why I think Brady will pass even more in this week’s game. For one, the Saints’ Drew Brees is the only quarterback in the league who has a winning record against Brady (3-1). Also, New England and New Orleans are the two highest scoring teams since 2011. Neither quarterback has reason to suspect the opposing defense will slow them down much. Trust me. There will be quite a bit of passing going on.

Another interesting twist in the Patriots’ opening night contest was how much James White ran the ball. As a true passing down back, White only ran 39 times in 2016 and that was a career high. Against Kansas City, White took a handoff ten times. I would bet this is Coach Belichick’s attempt to disguise the offense better and not just another fluke in an unusual football game.

White had a relatively quiet night receiving, garnering only five targets. He wound up rushing for 38 yards while tallying only 30 through the air. His receiving yards should rise in Week 2, not only because the Saints give up more NFL fantasy receiving points to running backs than any other team, but also because the Patriots lost another key receiver. Danny Amendola is not only in the concussion protocol, he has some type of knee injury, too. It does not look like he will be active for the Saints game.

Recently acquired Phillip Dorsett will be the third wide receiver, while White could be the fourth option. Dorsett and fellow ex-Colt Dwayne Allen failed to bring in any of the three combined targets they saw against Kansas City. The Patriots’ coaching staff might not be comfortable enough to count on them just yet. With this team, anything is possible. White could end up playing as a wide receiver all night.

Where ever White lines up, Brady will be throwing a lot of passes to a limited number of receivers. This bodes well for James White. It wouldn’t surprise me if he winds up with over 100 total yards and a touchdown in a wild game in New Orleans.

Good bet: Chris Thompson, Washington (at Los Angeles Rams)

Philadelphia stymied the Redskins’ running game last week, with lead back Rob Kelly held to 30 yards on ten carries. He also did not come up with his only pass target. Chris Thompson did nothing to make a case as the featured back, managing only four yards on three carries. He did, however, catch four passes for 59 yards. More importantly, he looked more competent.

Head coach Jay Gruden is calling the plays for Washington this season. He vowed to run the ball more, but only called 13 runs to 43 pass plays. This week, he is going up against his former offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, who knows the Redskins’ tendencies and looks. His defensive backs are not among the most feared in the league, but they will be ready to anticipate patterns and take away options.

That is the main reason I think Chris Thompson sees more action this week. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will need to use more check downs and Thompson is by far the better option in a passing situation. I don’t see a great day, but with a touchdown, about 70 yards receiving will be worth a play.

Awful… but intriguing bet: Orleans Darkwa, NY Giants (vs. Detroit)

Giants’ head coach, Ben McAdoo, has proven to be as stubborn as his predecessor, Tom Coughlin when it comes to changing things on offense. But while watching the Dallas game film, even he had to see why Giants’ fans are clamoring for Orleans Darkwa to push Paul Perkins from the starting running back role.

Any Giants running back is at a disadvantage running behind what is possibly the worst offensive line in the NFL. But sometimes the right running back can make a bad line look good. Perkins isn’t that back. Darkwa makes quicker decisions and anticipates holes better. He is not a miracle worker, but he has shown he can squeeze through the mess in front of him better than Perkins. In three carries last week, Darkwa broke a 12-yard run, then took a four-yard loss and then picked up six yards.

McAdoo sees the light this week. Darkwa will not start, but he will see more snaps. With 12 handoffs, Darkwa gives the Giants 50 yards, a touchdown, and a new starting running back. For good measure, he takes a couple of check down passes for 16 more yards.

So there you have a solid sleeper option, a deep sleeper, and a comatose sleeper. Check in with us weekly to see who else is destined to beat the odds and become an NFL fantasy star… if only for one game.

Got an NFL fantasy football question or a sleeper candidate? Send them to us at [email protected] We’ll answer them in our Mailbag post every Wednesday.

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