If you have read any of my previous work you know I am very pro zero running back draft strategy. So, of course, my sleeper projections are tied very closely with zero running back teams. Also when reading about sleepers you have to remember sleeper does not mean unknown. It means getting more value for them based on where you draft them. Think of it as more like people were sleeping on them and you got them for a steal.
Jeremy Hill (18th RB – 68th overall) – I know what you are thinking here. How can a guy ranked 68 overall be considered a sleeper? Well, think back to our sleeper definition, a player that exceeds expectations. Right now you can draft Hill in the 5th or 6th round and I believe that Hill can return to RB1 status this season. So basically you are getting an RB1 for the price of a high RB3. This is actually perfect for someone looking to do a zero running back draft strategy because that is right about the time you look to start drafting your RB’s and if you can steal a guy the produces RB1 numbers you are in great shape. Even if you are drafting based on need and availability you could still end up with two RB1’s without having to draft them in the first 2 or 3 rounds. I know some people will argue that with the loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu will make it more difficult for Hill to find running room, but remember in 2014 Jones missed the entire year, AJ Green played hurt most of the year and missed some games, and Eifert missed time with injury as well. So to say Hill will struggle because of the roster I believe is wrong. I think he will be better because they have to focus on using him, not try to find a way to include him like they did last year.
Melvin Gordon (30th RB – 77th overall) – Just for the record Gordon was on my list before the first preseason game, but I will admit I feel better about him being here now. Gordon was a huge disappointment last season, and that is about as nicely as I can put it. Obviously, his number can’t get much worse so logic dictates that he should be better this year, but how much better? I believe he is a capable RB2 this season, which is a good Jump from his low RB3 status currently. If Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates can both stay healthy and on the field, it should help Gordon even more. Last year to me he did not look ready for the NFL, but he was clearly talented enough. This year I expect that he will look more comfortable in the offense and we will see an uptick in his yards per carry and the number of carries he gets per game. Actually, my biggest concern with Gordon is his fumbling issue that he had last year. He fumbled 6 times losing 4 of them. If he gets a better handle on the ball, I think that alone will make him an improved player over last year. So a healthy compliment of players, more comfortable in the offense, and less fumbling will all make Gordon much better than last year.
Charles Sims (32nd RB – 82nd overall) – In PPR leagues you have to be targeting Sims. He average ADP has him going around the 7th round, but I find many people sleeping him on and you could possibly get him as late as the 10th round. As a runner Sims contributed to the Buc offense, but as far as fantasy goes he barely made a difference, where he does make a difference is in the passing game. He pulled in 51 receptions for 561 yards and 4 TD’s. Add that to the 529 yards on the ground and you have a running back finish 16th at his position. That is a solid RB2 that you can get in the second half of your draft and start as your flex. I think the Bucs found the perfect balance between Doug Martin and Sims and I suspect that we should see a similar split again this year. Meaning that Sims should have no problem repeating last year numbers. I am all in on Sims and see no concern relying on him all season long.
Jerick McKinnon (50th RB – 147th overall) – Probably one of my favorite sleepers this year. This guy showed last year he has the potential to make big plays. McKinnon actually scored 1.1 points per touch last year, compared to Adrian Peterson‘s .75 points per touch. In fact, he scored more per touch than Devonta Freeman, Doug Martin, and Lamar Miller as well. Honestly, the only thing standing in his way is Peterson. The good news is youth is not on the side of Peterson. Although Peterson is still the unquestionable top dog in Minnesota, he has to be wearing down by now. If Peterson gets hurt I expect a huge bump in McKinnon’s output, but even if AP stays healthy all year I suspect the Vikings will look to find ways to get McKinnon the ball more. I think it is even possible we are looking at a similar split between Peterson and McKinnon as Martin and Sims have with the Bucs. Maybe not as many rushing yards for McKinnon, but I can easily see the passing number being there. If McKinnon gets that kind of opportunity he can easily break into RB2 status. I caution that this is a risk, but I believe it is a calculated risk that just might be worth it.
Christine Michael (71st RB – 217th overall) – For three years this man has haunted me in dynasty. I had Marshawn Lynch and knew his days were numbered. Well, I missed out on drafting him and spent the next 2 years trying to get him from the guy that drafted him. The guy that drafted him finally cut him last year but of course so did the Seahawks. All that time and energy wasted chasing him was for nothing. Then as luck would have it, I got him off waivers as he resigned with the Seahawks. Then this past offseason the Seahawks drafted something like 14 running backs so I cut Michael this offseason. Then in true Michael fashion, he is showing why the Seahawks drafted him in the first place. Well, I am not buying, but I feel obligated to mention that he has a real possibility of getting the backup job to Thomas Rawls and if something happens to Rawls, Michael could become a very strong RB on a very good team. I would not draft him as a sleeper, but I would keep an eye on things. If he wins the backup job and Rawls is not 100 percent following his ankle injury that end last season early on him, Michael’s value just might become relevant.
Article originally posted on Going For 2 on August 17th, 2016.