20 Deep Sleepers at Running Back

The Footballguys staff digs deep for sleepers at running back

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the Top 150 and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.

They gave us 20 names. That's a lot.

If you want all of the players, keep on reading. If you just want the top vote-getter, it was a three-way tie between Ryquell Armstead, Darrell Henderson, and Jerrick McKinnon with five votes each.

NOTE: We know all these different opinions can be a lot. And certainly, not everyone agrees on everything.

If you want to cut straight to the chase and get our "Bottom Line" for where we project every player right down to the last yard, you can see that here. That's our Bottom Line and where we plant the Footballguys Flag for all these players.

If you'd like to see more detail about how the staff sees different players, here is every wide receiver who was mentioned and the reasons why.

Players Receiving 5 Votes

Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville

James Brimacombe: The whole Jacksonville running back situation is reminding me of two years ago in Pittsburgh when Le'Veon Bell held out and James Conner was inserted into his role and won people fantasy Championships. The Jaguars have been trying to trade Leonard Fournette for two years now and have even benched him in the past. The big question is will Jacksonville release him before the season and maybe even think about tanking this season altogether as part of a rebuild. I like Armstead as a late-round pick just in case the Jaguars decide to part ways with Fournette.

Andy Hicks: With the Jaguars seemingly in rebuild mode and Leonard Fournette not part of their future, there is every chance we see significant playing time for Ryquell Armstead this year. Whether he is good enough is debatable, but getting an opportunity is everything in the NFL. Armstead will need breaks to go his way to play all three downs with the arrival of Chris Thompson but can, at the least, play third down very well. With the injury history of Thompson and the tenuous situation regarding Fournette, Armstead is a player that should be on your radar as the year unfolds

Jeff Pasquino: Armstead has late-round sleeper value as both the handcuff to Leonard Fournette and his relatively unknown potential. Armstead would see a ton of work if Fournette misses any time - and he has missed 12 games in his first three seasons. He is worth a very late pick, especially for Fournette owners. Fournette is in his final season with Jacksonville, making Armstead a sneaky addition in keeper and dynasty formats.

Danny Tuccitto: As a rule, my deep sleeper targets at running back are A) in their first or second season, and B) the immediate backup behind a starter that's in the last year of their contract. Armstead fits the bill on both counts and is also a Top 15 receiver among running backs with respect to True Yards per Route Run (15th) and True Touchdowns Per Route Run (6th) -- which is kind of important in PPR formats.

Jason Wood: The Jaguars may be the worst offensive team in the league and are clearly focused on 2021 and beyond. But Armstead has the talent and physicality to step into Leonard Fournette's lead role if the opportunity presents. The former Temple Owl has a complete skill set, with good vision, functional power, and a low center of gravity. It's hard to get excited about a bad team's backup running back, but all No. 2 running backs have draft value and Armstead is in the top third of projected backups from a talent perspective.

Darrell Henderson, LA Rams

Andrew Davenport: Not every rookie in this running back class is going to come in and contribute for their teams. The runaway optimism for the rookies, Cam Akers among them, is the way drafters can find value. Last year at this time of the draft season Henderson was climbing draft boards despite the presence of Todd Gurley. Now with Gurley gone, fantasy owners are suddenly in favor of a rookie holding him off for the job? At the very least Henderson will start the year getting the chance to earn a significant share of the opportunities, and at best he commands half of the work in Los Angeles. Taking a shot on him late is a smart investment.

Ryan Hester: What's keeping Henderson from the top of Sean McVay's depth chart? Maybe the answer is Cam Akers, but with Akers being a rookie in a pandemic-altered preseason, those same reservations should apply to him. Yet Henderson is being selected at least four rounds after Akers. If Henderson has even a 20% chance to emerge ahead of Akers, he's worth an investment at a smaller price.

Andy Hicks: It is being presumed that Cam Akers comes in and starts for the Rams straight away. This is despite the presence of veteran Malcolm Brown and second-year man Darrell Henderson. Henderson has the advantage of a year in the system and gaining valuable experience behind Todd Gurley last season. His injuries held him back a little, but there is considerably more value in Henderson than Akers in fantasy drafts. It does smell like a committee, therefore you look for value if you want a piece of that pie.

Matt Waldman: The 2019 draft pick struggled to adapt to a wide zone scheme after massive success running gap at Memphis. The Rams changed to a gap rushing attack in the middle of last year, which suits Henderson and rookie Cam Akers. While Akers is the favorite to earn the lead role, McVay's coaching influences ingrained a strong desire to have an explosive scatback role in his offenses that has never come to fruition. Both Akers and Henderson have strong receiving chops. While Akers has more promise to become a feature back and shut the door on Henderson's potential in L.A. an Akers injury could make Henderson a massive play-making starter.

Jason Wood: What on Earth is happening? Yes, Henderson was overvalued in drafts last year because Todd Gurley was still going to be the workhorse. Henderson not only failed to displace Gurley, but he also struggled to hold onto the No. 2 role. Todd Gurley is now in Atlanta, but Los Angeles used a high pick on Cam Akers as the presumptive new lead back. While Akers is talented and could step into the lead role, the pandemic makes it harder for any rookie to win a starting job quickly. Henderson is still the explosive runner who excited the fantasy community a year ago, and he's well suited for the gap scheme that Sean McVay appears to be favoring now. Even if it's a coin toss between Henderson and Akers, Henderson's price is too good to ignore considering how many clear No. 2s with no chance at a lead role are going rounds earlier.

Jerrick McKinnon, San Francisco

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