2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers: Pass the Hines

by Jonathan Chan
2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

There are so many ways to complete a Fantasy Football Draft. "Zero-RB" "Zero-WR" and "Best Player Available" are the three most common. This season, there seems to be a huge shift towards drafting running backs early. As I went over in my RB Position Preview, filling the RB slots early seems to be the safest strategy to use.

An entire draft room going after running backs early can create problems for some owners. Reaching for mid-round running backs rarely works out, and can leave a lot of talent on the draft board. Owners able to snag tumbling wide receivers remain with one question: Where can I find RB value in the later rounds?

In the RB Position Preview, I went over a couple of players that have the opportunity to outperform their current ADP. Check out the link above if you want more details about Tarik Cohen and C.J. Anderson. I also go over some of the more intriguing members of this years RB class.

In the 2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers, we'll take a look at a few guys that might provide value at their ADP and a couple of deep picks that can be potential lottery tickets later in the season.

2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

ADP Bargains

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Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers (FantasyPros ADP: RB45, 119 overall)

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Until a week ago, the Packers backfield was shaping up to be a Fantasy nightmare. Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Montgomery appeared on the slate to be a full-blown committee to start the season. Many owners believed Jones to be the RB to own in this backfield, thanks to his mini-breakout last season. However, the two game suspension of Jones gives some clarity to the situation in Green Bay. At the very least, Williams and Montgomery will have those games to establish themselves before Jones makes his return.

I believe we are overlooking Montgomery at his current ADP. Having played receiver, Montgomery is easily the best pass-catcher of the three. In a very pass-heavy offense (59% pass attempts), Montgomery's versatility will make him a dangerous weapon. Before breaking his ribs in Week 5, Monty was flashing RB1 potential, coming in as the RB10 in PPR leagues. He hasn't shown the durability needed to be a bell-cow, but Aaron Rodgers seems to have a good rapport with him.

Late last season, with Montgomery and Jones hurt, Williams made waves as the starter. However, he averaged just 3.3 YPC on just over 20 carries per game. If he doesn't show the ability to move the chains, Montgomery should be on the receiving end of plenty of passes. At his discounted draft price, Montgomery is well worth the dart throw in hopes that he can once again become the starter. Even if he ends up doing just the 3rd down and passing work, owners could be looking at another Chris Thompson. But this one has Aaron Rodgers as his QB.

Dion Lewis, Tennesee Titans (FantasyPros ADP: RB27, 64 overall)

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Fun fact: Dion Lewis was an RB1 last season. This is despite remaining "stuck" in Bill Belichick's rotating backfield. Lewis ran for 896 yards and six TD on 180 carries and caught 32 passes for 214 yards and three TD. Lewis was also very efficient, averaging 5.0 yards-per-carry and 6.7 yards-per-catch. Despite his reputation for being a "passing back", Lewis averaged a higher YPC than his backfield counterpart Derrick Henry.

In fewer carries than Lewis (176) Henry averaged 4.2 YPC. If you remove his 75 and 72 yard TD runs, his YPC goes down to 3.4. Now I'm not saying that those outliers runs shouldn't count, because they absolutely do. But will Matt LaFleur run his offense through a straightforward, one-dimensional bruiser? And should owners trust a RB who needs long TD's to be productive? If Henry struggled for consistency in an offense tailored to the run, how productive would he be in an offense that highlight his two biggest flaws, pass-catching and pass-blocking?

If the Rams' offense was any indication, LaFleur loves for his running backs to be able to move into space and make a catch when needed. Todd Gurley averaged over 50 receiving yards per game and Lewis will be the main beneficiary of those touches. This backfield looks like an even split to start. However, Lewis' consistency and skills on passing-downs will keep him on the field enough for him to be an RB2 with upside, especially in PPR.

James White, New England Patriots (FantasyPros ADP: RB55, 159 overall)

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The Patriots offense is going to look very different this season. Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola have moved on, leaving 200 targets unaccounted for. If Julian Edelman maintains the same pre-injury target numbers, his return following his suspension will account for 118 of those targets. That leaves 82 targets unaccounted for. White won't be getting all of those targets, but I'm willing to bet he improves on the 72 targets he got last year.

The presence of rookie Sony Michel won't change White's workload too much. At best, he will slide in and take the touches that Dion Lewis left behind. Michel is a talented back, but he has well-documented fumble issues, and Belichick is not afraid to bench players who can't hold onto the ball. White has proven himself to be a big-time player and will remain a key member of the offense going forward.

White is basically free in drafts right now and is one of the best values in both standard and PPR drafts. Even if nothing changes in his target share, he's looking at 14% of the targets in the Pats offense. He finished last season as RB38 in PPR and should only improve this season. Merely repeating last season's output would give owners plenty of value in the last rounds of the draft.

Lamar Miller, Houston Texans (FantasyPros ADP: RB25, 55 overall)

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Yes, Miller has been disappointing in his time with the Texans. He's averaging just 3.87 YPC across 506 carries in the last two seasons. His depressed ADP is a result of poor performance, the presence of a capable backup, and overall owner fatigue from the frustration that comes from owning him. I might be crazy for saying it, but this might finally be the year Miller performs at to owner expectations.

The biggest thing working in Miller's favor is the return of Deshaun Watson. The presence of the dual-threat QB will open up running plenty of running lanes for Miller. We saw Watson's positive impact on Miller last season. Miller averaged 11.83 fantasy PPG in the games Watson started while averaging just 7.22 PPG in games Watson did not play.

D'onta Foreman is still recovering from a torn Achilles and will likely need a few games to get back up to speed. Even then, a torn Achilles is the most difficult injury for a running back to come back from. In addition, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus will return to greatly improve the defense.

The 2018 Texans are looking much improved, and the benefits should trickle down to Miller. Until proven otherwise, Miller will own he three-down role. Miller is a great bargain at his current ADP and could produce high-end RB2 numbers from the fifth round.

Deep Sleepers

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (FantasyPros ADP: RB48, overall 158)

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With the departure of Frank Gore, Marlon Mack and Hines will lead the Colts backfield.  Mack was underwhelming last season, as he was unable to wrestle the starting job away from Gore. He had massive issues in pass-protection and simply did not look very impressive, leading the Colts to draft Hines and Jordan Wilkins.

Of the two, Hines is drawing more attention for his speed and athleticism, something the Colts have lacked at RB for a long time. With Andrew Luck back at the helm, the Colts will be passing the ball more frequently than last season. New head coach Frank Reich called plays as the OC for the Eagles. Looking at his style in Philadelphia, Reich likes to spread the ball around to his RBs. Two years ago, Reich gave Darren Sproles 94 rush attempts and 71 targets. It just so happens that Sproles is one of Hines' more common NFL comparisons. He has also drawn comparisons to another highly touted RB

His skills don't seem to be in doubt, but his small stature and the questionable situation has led him to be a relative unknown in Fantasy circles. If Mack continues to be awful at pass-blocking, expect Hines to get plenty of opportunities to play. At the very least, Hines will be in one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the league, with a head coach that plays to his strengths.

Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles (FantasyPros ADP: RB46, overall 146)

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Despite Jay Ajayi named as the Eagles starting RB, Clement should still see a lot of work. His outstanding performance in the Super Bowl turned a lot of heads and instantly made him someone to keep an eye on.

Last season Clement led the Eagles backfield in receiving yards, receiving TD and rushing TD. With LeGarrette Blount out of the picture, Clement should be in line for even more goal-line work this season. Clement currently lists as the third down back, giving him a clear role and an easy path to top the 74 carries he received last season.

The Eagles resigned Darren Sproles so he will be in the mix as well. However, his advanced age and injury history should keep him from taking too many of Clements touches. If Ajayi falls to injury, Clement immediately becomes an RB2; making him one of the best handcuffs in Fantasy.

Owners who draft Ajayi should reach for Clement to ensure they have him as a handcuff. Owners who don't have Ajayi can take a risk on Clement in the late rounds. He has the skills and opportunity to take over should Ajayi falter.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football Draft Kit Page for more advice to prepare for the 2018 season.

2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit Categories
RankingsPosition PreviewsTeam PreviewsSleepersBusts

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