Fantasy Sleepers at Running Back: Two rookies among possible 2019 draft steals

Fantasy Sleepers at Running Back: Two rookies among possible 2019 draft steals

“Sleeper” is a complicated and often misused word in fantasy. Everyone has their own preconceived notions and explanations for what a sleeper is and who qualifies as a sleeper. For this exercise, we’re focused on UNDERVALUED options available outside the running back position’s top-75, according to Yahoo ADP.

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

Andy: Henderson is the guy you want, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who either A) caught his work at Memphis (8.9 YPC!) or B) has any awareness of Todd Gurley’s ongoing medical issue(s)...

Henderson was a monstrously productive rusher at the collegiate level, plus he caught 63 balls over three seasons. He’s been a high-buzz player throughout the offseason, guaranteed a significant first-year role.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots

Dalton: New England running backs have finished second in PPR scoring in three of the past four seasons, and the Patriots should become even more run-heavy with Rob Gronkowski retired and Tom Brady now 42. Moreover, Sony Michel recently underwent yet another cleanup surgery on his left knee that’s almost certainly not going to be the last time to cause him problems. Harris doesn’t have blazing speed but is capable of playing on all three downs and has fresh legs with a clear path (should Michel go down) to becoming the lead back in a tremendous situation. He’s a strong candidate to go down as this year’s steal of the draft.

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Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans

Liz: The Titans may not be concerned about Derrick Henry’s calf strain, but when a top-20 ranked RB is in a walking boot, I’m thinking about alternatives. If Henry were limited this season, Lewis would obviously see an expanded role. An explosive talent with the ability to rush inside and excel as a receiver, Lewis evaded 62 tackles (3.9/game) in 2018 while also managing a catch rate of 88 percent (RB1).

It’s that ability to work as a safety valve in the passing game that’s particularly interesting, especially given the questions surrounding the health of A.J. Brown and Delanie Walker. Furthermore the uncertainty of the Titans o-line in tandem with Marcus Mariota’s proclivity towards injury, it seems likely that new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith would encourage the fifth year QB to get the ball out quickly, which could translate into a high number of check downs to Lewis. With an ADP of 128.5 (RB57), the former Patriot is well worth the speculation.

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Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins

Matt: At this point, if you’re willing to ignore the building drumbeat o n Ballage, I almost have to commend your stubbornness. The reports of him getting first-team reps along with Kenyan Drake have been a constant in Miami. Ballage was a mercurial college prospect but was an 85th percentile SPARQ athlete who flashed with 4.4 yards after contact per attempt, per Sports Info Solutions, in a tiny sample as a rookie. The Dolphins figure to get a pace boost this year with an influx of Patriots coaches. New England ranked second in plays run in 2018, while Miami finished in the basement. Ballage is as solid a bet there is outside the Top-40 running backs.

Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers

Scott: When discussing Breida, the first thing to note is that the San Francisco backfield isn't is jumbled as you might think. We don't really have any proof that Jerick McKinnon is actually a good football player (compare his Minnesota returns with Dalvin Cook’s), and I don't view him as competition to Breida.

Obviously Kyle Shanahan has history with Tevin Coleman and Coleman is going to play a lot. But Coleman will probably get a lot of that work as a receiver, and he doesn't have the features of a full-time back, either (same as Breida, to be fair).

I envision this as a committee for sure, like everybody does, but I can see Breida getting half the work or maybe even the majority of the work. His efficiency was off-the-charts last year (5.3 yards per rush, 9.7 yards per catch, 87 percent catch rate), a splash play waiting to happen. Bottom line, I'm going to bank on a coach I trust, and a player who wowed me on the stat sheet and on the film last year. I'm not going to be blinded by Coleman's contract or McKinnon's reputation, which I don't even buy anyway.

The upside play in this backfield is Breida.

Follow the Yahoo fantasy football crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, Brad Evans, Matt Harmon, Liz Loza, Scott Pianowski and Tank Williams

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