2023 College Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

It has been a chaotic week for college football, but we're back with a round of college fantasy football running back sleepers for 2023. Whether you're playing college fantasy football or NFL fantasy football, finding reliable running backs late in the draft is imperative to winning. You can never have too many running backs with the possibility of injury always looming. I like to leave any draft with running back being the position that takes up most of my bench.

Finding sleeper running backs in the NFL gets more challenging every year. There is so much information available now that sleepers almost don't exist with only 32 teams. College fantasy football running back sleepers still exist because instead of only 32 teams there are 133 teams! Some of those teams won't have running backs that are of interest at all, and others (Ohio State) will have multiple running backs that are drafted in fantasy leagues. It's up to you to do the research to find those sleepers to carry your teams to fantasy championships.

A good starting point is to read the 2023 college fantasy football running back sleepers article below!

2023 College Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

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Cody Schrader, RB, Missouri Tigers

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Last season, every college fantasy football player was trying to determine who would be the replacement running back at Missouri for Tyler Badie. Two seasons ago, Badie went for over 1,900 total yards and 18 touchdowns while touching the ball 322 times! It wasn't the first time that we have seen a running back in head coach Eliah Drinkwitz's system dominate with touches. Actually, it was an expectation going into last season.

In the shortened 2020 season, Larry Roundtree reached 1,000 total yards on 224 touches over 10 games. In Drinkwitz's only season as the head coach of Appalachian State in 2019, running back Darrynton Evans accumulated 1,678 total yards and 23 touchdowns on 276 touches. It was easy to see why everyone was trying to determine who was next.

Then, last season Missouri changed into something that resembled a committee. Running backs Cody Schrader and Nathaniel Peat are both back this season after each touching the ball over 100 times last season. Schrader led the way in both rushing and receiving amongst running backs with 882 total yards and nine touchdowns. Because he led last season, I expect that Schrader will lead the way again this season. If Drinkwitz returns to his more typical ways of featuring a single back, Schrader could become an absolute steal at his current price.

Shaadie Clayton-Johnson, RB, Tulane Green Wave

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Head coach Willie Fritz has been with Tulane for the past seven seasons. Only one of those seasons has the team averaged fewer than 200 rushing yards per game. There have been years where it has been a committee, but there have also been times where he has leaned on a primary back. During Fritz's tenure, we've seen 1,000-yard rushing seasons from Dontrell Hilliard, Darius Bradwell, and Tyjae Spears the past two seasons. Running back Shaadie Clayton-Johnson could step into that Spears' role as a workhorse back for the Green Wave.

The reason that Clayton-Johnson is undervalued in fantasy drafts is that there is also a chance this is a committee again. Running back Iverson Celestine was on the team as well last season and actually received more carries than Clayton-Johnson. Plus, Liberty running back Shedro Louis also transferred to Tulane in the offseason. I can see where Fritz distributes carries close to evenly amongst the three and none of the backs are fantasy relevant. But that risk is built into the draft value of Clayton-Johnson. You can likely draft him with one of your very last picks with the possibility he steps into the vacated 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns that Spears left behind.

Bhayshul Tuten, RB, Virginia Tech Hokies

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There are not even pictures yet of Bhayshul Tuten he is so far off the radar. I will admit to never having seen Bhayshul Tuten play a down of football when he was with North Carolina A&T. But the stats and the highlights that you can find jump off the page. Last season, Tuten rushed for 1,363 yards and 13 touchdowns while also catching 31 passes for an additional 342 yards and two more touchdowns. One of those highlights I found was here, where he shows plenty of speed to be effective at a higher level.

That is what we will get to see this season as Tuten has transferred to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech struggled to generate many rushing yards at all last season as the team barely averaged over 100 yards rushing per game. I assume that Tuten will step into the primary back role with the Hokies. I wasn't able to find any practice reports that referenced Tuten, but Pro Football Focus has certainly bought in, already ranking him as their highest-graded ACC running back. Any player transferring from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level all the way to the Power 5 of the FBS level is always a question. However, North Carolina A&T played ACC member Duke last season. In that game, Tuten was able to rush for 133 yards on just 13 carries.

Trey Sanders, RB, TCU Horned Frogs

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247's 2019 running back recruiting rankings only had three five-star running backs. One of those three running backs was Trey Sanders. Out of high school, Sanders was thought to be an eventual successor in the pipeline of Alabama running backs. He was biding his time behind stars such as Najee Harris and Brian Robinson. Then, a dangerous car accident in the fall of 2020 almost cost him his life. He survived the accident but suffered multiple injuries and fractures including a broken hip. The rehab was long and arduous, but we did see him take 14 carries last season at Alabama proving to be healthy. After all the rehab, he had fallen down the depth chart at Alabama which routinely recruits multiple top-end running backs each cycle.

Wanting one last chance to be the primary running back at an established program, Trey Sanders transferred this offseason to national championship runner-up TCU. Last season's TCU running back Kendre Miller had over 1,500 total yards and 17 touchdowns. Miller has since been drafted by the New Orleans Saints which vacates all that production. It is possible that Sanders isn't the back who steps into that role but rather Emani Bailey who was with the team last season. All indications from the TCU spring game were that Sanders was ahead in that pecking order, but the competition is continuing now. I recently completed a draft in which Sanders was selected 159th overall which was 59th among running backs. Kendre Miller's season last year had him finish as the 16th running back.

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Alton McCaskill, RB, Colorado Buffaloes

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In my conference preview for the Pac 12, I discussed the transfer chaos that Colorado has gone through since hiring Deion Sanders. One of the intriguing transfers was running back Alton McCaskill. McCaskill burst onto the scene in 2021 as a true freshman at Houston. In that season, he finished with 1,000 total yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished as a top-30 running back and was a popular top-20 pick very early in the draft season last year. Then, McCaskill tore his ACL in spring practice and missed all of last season.

Predicting how the offense will run in Colorado is extremely difficult. I do think they'll try to run the ball while games are close, but games might get away from them quickly with the defense they have. McCaskill showed to be a competent pass catcher in his season with 21 receptions so that doesn't necessarily mean that he will be taken off the field in those situations. I understand why McCaskill is free in drafts. I also know that we've seen him be a high-end fantasy option in the past. Perhaps he can be productive again with a full year to recover from his devastating knee injury.

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