Running Back “Sleepers”

Like I did for wide receivers, I want to look at five running backs who are projected in round 8 or later that show really good value. I will be writing this based on Fantasy Football Calculator’s Average Draft Position (ADP) for a 10-team standard league.

Note: Running backs come plentiful in fantasy football. Waiver wires end up as starters, and top picks end up on the bench due to injury or underperformance. Finding a valuable back in the later rounds can prove to be huge later in your season.

1. Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals)

It’s weird to be calling Bernard a “sleeper” of any sort, considering he’s entering his fourth year in the league and has tallied over 1,000 yards (rushing and receiving) in each of his first three years. But that’s exactly what the 24-year-old dual back is when you consider his ADP. He’s projected to fall to the later-half of the 8th round, while fellow back Jeremy Hill falls in the 6th.

Let’s take a further peek at Gio’s first three NFL seasons, courtesy of pro football reference:

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Bernard had the least number of carries in his career last year, but still ended up with the most rushing yards thanks to picking up almost five yards a carry. It’s clear Cinci wanted Jeremy Hill to be their #1 back, but they can’t ignore his fumble problems nor can they forget about the type of production Bernard has given them. The Bengals are losing multiple receivers this year, which is a great sign for Bernard. Not only should he see carries, but he’ll also see a ton of receiving targets. If he stays healthy, he’s almost certain to give you over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He’s a consistent option for a guy projected to get drafted in the 8th round. Gio is the guy to own in the Bengals’ backfield. 

2. Terrance West (Baltimore Ravens)

Someone’s got to run the ball behind Baltimore’s formidable offensive line. Originally, I expected Forsett to carry the load. He’s projected to go in the 8th round and was dominant two seasons ago, when he was atop of the rushing leader boards all season long.

After a down year, and probably because of his age, Forsett doesn’t seem to be the favorite in camp. West is reportedly a sleeper to take over the role, and you can find him basically anywhere: he’s not even projected to be drafted yet. I’m sure that will change, but his ADP will certainly be appealing.


3. Bilal Powell (New York Jets)

Powell is definitely a “deep sleeper.” He’s projected to fall to the 14th round, where he is certainly worth as a flyer. Powell isn’t the Jets starter right now, but he very well could end up as that guy later in the year. Matt Forte was signed for a reason, but the Bears let him go for a reason. He’s old and the amount of carries a running back gets inevitably always takes its toll on the athlete.

Powell is a young guy who proved to be pretty valuable last year when Chris Ivory went down; he put up 700 yards and three touchdowns from scrimmage. The Jets offense should be good, and someone’s going to have to take the lead out of the backfield. Powell is a guy who may be stashed on your bench for the first few weeks of the season, but there’s no way Forte plays 16 games. Either way, Powell will get his touches and may end up as their top back. He’s worth a 14th.

4. TJ Yeldon (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Speaking of back ups, the second-year back out of Jacksonville is likely taking a backseat to signee Chris Ivory. Yeldon won’t be your traditional backup, though; he’s supposed to see at least 40% of the carries, and I think the Jags would love him to step up as their starter considering his age.

The rookie tallied over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in only 12 games, and I expect the Jags offense to be really good next year. He’s reportedly worked hard to get stronger this offseason, and he’s projected to fall to the 10th round of fantasy leagues. I think that’s great value for a guy who can end up being the #1 back on one of the league’s better offenses.

5. Paul Perkins (New York Giants)

Speaking of better offenses, let’s move to the New York Giants rookie back Paul Perkins. He’s another guy who will start the season on your bench, but he can end up being your #1 guy on an explosive offense that will move plenty. Perkins is projected to fall to the 14th round, and you can probably steal him with your last pick.Nebraska

This is a clip of what Perkins can do. It’s not crazy to think he can be the Giants #1 back considering their current roster. Rashad Jennings will be the guy, but if he goes down, the Giants certainly will give Perkins opportunities considering their lack of trust in Andre Williams.

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