Running back sleepers are often hard to come by since most leagues value the running back position the most and will, therefore, spend a majority of their high draft capital on them. Unlike the wide receiver position, there is really only 1 or 2 main backs in an offense, which means you have a small chance of choosing a league winning running back late in the draft.
That being said, there are plenty of rookies, handcuffs, and potential split carrybacks that are worth a shot in the late rounds. It never hurts to stack late-round running backs in hope of finding a gem. Let’s take a look at some sleepers based on their ADP. The following ADPs come from our 12-team PPR mock draft.
Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
So if you were like me last year, you tried to snag Alexander Mattison as a potential starter if injury-prone Dalvin Cook were to go down. Unfortunately (and fortunately for Cook), it never happened, and Mattison finished the season with 100 carries for 462 yards and 1 touchdown. The Vikings never really were a 1-2 punch type of backfield, so Mattison really could not be started weekly.
This year, however, maybe a different story. Now currently Mattison is sitting at 10.03 ADP (he was taken mid 8th round in our mock), which is pretty late for one of the most promising handcuffs in the league. This is especially true since Dalvin Cook appears to be headed for a holdout unless he gets a big contract extension. If you are drafting early, Mattison is a steal in the 8th round. With how much the Vikings run the ball, you could find a late-round league winner.
Matt Breida – Miami Dolphins
Matt Breida looked like the best back in San Francisco last year, rushing 123 times for 623 yards and 1 touchdown. He also caught 19 passes for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. Breida is known around the fantasy world as the guy who has a serious injury but somehow is listed as questionable and still starts the next game, so if anything, he is reliable.
Unfortunately for Breida, he was shipped off to the league’s worst rushing offense: the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were actually led by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in terms of most rushing yards, so that doesn’t set the bar too high. Breida was drafted at the very end of the 8th round (8.11 ADP overall), and should be the only back worth much in that backfield.
With an almost 9th round ADP, he is absolutely worth the shot, even with RB Jordan Howard also joining the fold this offseason.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If there is any team that is vastly different than they were in 2019, it’s the Buccaneers. They rid themselves of the TD/turnover machine that was QB Jameis Winston and added one of the best QBs to ever play the game in Tom Brady. Oh and I guess Gronk is back too?
Ke’Shawn Vaughn was drafted in the 3rd round, 76th overall in the 2020 NFL draft, and most fantasy players are hoping that he will save the Buccaneers’ run game. After all, it was a Bruce Arians’ offense that led RB David Johnson to one of the best fantasy years we have ever seen.
Currently, Vaughns’ ADP is 12.02, but in our draft, he went as early as the 7th round, which means people are starting to see the potential. Now it’s hard to say what this offense will really look like but taking a shot at a potential starting rookie this late in the draft should be an easy risk to take.
Justin Jackson – Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Jackson has had a few chances now to show what he can do, but he really hasn’t taken advantage of Gordon/Ekeler injuries or Gordon’s holdout in 2019. He only rushed for 200 yards, which is actually worse than he did his rookie season. Now some of that is because Austin Ekeler was just unstoppable right out of the gate, but maybe this time around the Chargers will be forced to play the 3rd year back a bit more.
Thanks to the departure of Melvin Gordon, Jackson now becomes the primary ball carrier since Ekeler is more of a receiving back. Philip Rivers also left, and he was a major proponent of the “dump-offs”, so the Charger offense may have to actually run the ball a bit more.
Jackson was taken at the 12.07 spot, two rounds higher than his 14.02 ADP. Not only is Jackson a solid handcuff, but he is also in line for a lot more carries in the split backfield.
A.J. Dillon – Green Bay Packers
If there is one thing head coach Matt LaFleur likes to do is make questionable decisions when it comes to running backs…or at least that’s what Aaron Jones’ fantasy owners believe. Whether you believe it or not, you have to think it’s a bit odd the Packers drafted a running back in the 2nd round when they already have a solid backfield.
Dillon was one of the more hyped backs coming into the 2020 NFL draft after 3 solid seasons of over 1000 yards rushing at Boston College. It wouldn’t be insane to think that Dillon could take the #2 spot from Jamaal Williams and become a huge part of the Packer offense.
Dillon was taken in the 15th round of our draft but is currently undrafted when it comes to ADP. If Jones goes down to injury, Dillon could be a massive league winning type of player. He is worth taking a shot on as the last pick in your fantasy draft.
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