2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers: Get Stacked


With the shift of the NFL into a predominantly passing league, running backs are no longer en vogue as far as most fantasy players are concerned. This past season has seen something of a renaissance at the position with most rankings have running backs as their top three.

With that said, there remains a large percentage of players who do not want to pay up for a running back due to their perceived lack of durability and value. For players like this, finding good late round options at running back is crucial, because while you make think the position isn’t the thing to have, you still have to fill the roster spot.

On the other hand, people who want to zig when everyone else is zagging might employ a running back heavy strategy. Taking advantage of the value left behind by those only interested in receivers can also be worthwhile. Some may even take it a step further. To try to create something of a monopoly on running backs in an attempt to choke out the market will pay off about halfway through the year when everyone else is scrambling for startable backs.

The point is whether you love Zero RB, hate Zero RB, or just let the draft come to you and take the best players available, getting value out of late round running backs is essential to success. I have defined a sleeper as someone who I expect to well outperform his ADP and provide excellent value.

2017 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers, RB56

The Packers were so desperate for a running back in 2016, they converted receiver Ty Montgomery and thrust him into the starting role. He did not disappoint. Montgomery averaged 5.9 yards per carry in the regular season and was a hot add on the fantasy waiver wire.

So why is rookie 4th round draft pick Jamaal Williams headlining this list? Because he represents what Green Bay has been looking for ever since Eddie Lacy let himself go: a true running back.

Don’t get me wrong, Ty Montgomery has filled the role nicely, and will continue to see time and maybe even start for the Packers. There are reasons, however, that Montgomery only received double-digit touches once in the regular season. The first reason is Aaron Rodgers. The second is that Green Bay rightfully does not see him as a workhorse back. The playoffs were a different story, with Montgomery getting double-digit touches in two of three games. That sterling 5.9 YPC dropped to 3.6 as a result.

Jamaal Williams is really the only true running back that Green Bay has who can come in and run the ball between the tackles on a consistent basis. I do not think the Packer coaching staff will be able to ignore this, and I look for him to get early down work and possibly even goal line looks sooner rather than later. Going in double-digit rounds of some drafts, Williams is the guy who falls into the “I am going to draft him in every league” category.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RB36

It is not very often that within the span of one career can a player go from a top-10 fantasy pick to a sleeper candidate. Doug Martin has officially done it. Serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy isn’t helping his case, but it is also making him go for relatively cheap.

Martin is now fresh out of rehab and back with the team, looking to recapture some of the old magic. It is almost a certainty that he will get that opportunity, as he is the only early-down running back on Tampa Bay’s roster. And no, I will not be sold on Charles Sims again.

Doug Martin is the perfect pick for those running a Zero RB strategy, as you get a potential starting running back who we have seen play well before if you are willing to wait. I could even see a return to top ten form with the new weapons spreading the field for Tampa Bay.

Paul Perkins, New York Giants, RB32

Paul Perkins finds himself in a similar situation to Doug Martin. He is really the only guy the Giants have who is a true between the tackles runner, as disinterested as New York might be in this concept. He will surely cede passing downs to Shane Vereen, but the early down work looks to be all his.

Perkins did about as well as anyone would expect a back to do in the Giants’ offense, averaging about four yards per carry for the year, and getting double-digit runs in each of the last five games of the season. The addition of Brandon Marshall and highly touted rookie tight end Evan Engram should only open running lanes for Perkins.

The stigma of running the ball for the New York Giants is surely affecting his ADP, as he is roughly a 7th round pick currently. That price for a starting running back with little competition is going to be tough to beat.

Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders, RB63

Lost in the hype of returning running back/entertainer Marshawn Lynch is running back Jalen Richard. With Latavius Murray as the primary back in Oakland in 2016, Richard shared the rest of the snaps with DeAndre Washington. Richard actually did more with fewer carries than Washington and is easily the better pass catcher.

Richard is going at the very end of most drafts right now – if taken at all. I found this very shocking for a player who will definitely be the third down back in a solid offense. Not to mention the fact that the starting running back is on the wrong side of 30 and has been out of the game for a year.

Jalen Richard is a pass catching back with a secure role in a good offense with the upside and potential opportunity for even more. Keep his name in mind for the last few rounds of your draft.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers, RB71

Over the past two seasons in games that Le’Veon Bell has missed, the top running back in fantasy was DeAngelo Williams. The Pittsburgh offense will do that for you. Now, with Williams out of the picture, rookie 3rd round pick James Conner will likely take his place.

Le’Veon Bell is as true of a three down back as there is in football today. James Conner will most likely need an injury to see meaningful fantasy production, but Bell’s high usage rate and injury history make this a likely scenario.

Conner is an essential Bell handcuff, but can also be a guy you can take a late round flier on if you have the patience. If Conner isn’t already on your roster if something happens to Bell, good luck getting him.

Jonathan Williams, Buffalo Bills, RB65

Jonathan Williams’ situation is the same as James Conner. A running back who is replacing a very successful backup to a top five running back who is no stranger to missing time. Williams’ advantage is that almost no one runs as much as the Bills.

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Even if LeSean McCoy plays all sixteen games, I expect Williams to still hold some fantasy value. Even with McCoy having a mostly healthy 2016, Gillislee still managed to see 100 carries. Jonathan Williams should see something close to this and would be a fifteen to twenty carry candidate in the event of a McCoy injury.

2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

About Chris Wright

Chris is a self-diagnosed, non-recovering Fantasy addict. Balances stats on paper with actual on field evidence when making projections. Check him out on Twitter @ChrisWright_F6P

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