Fanelli’s Fantasy Files: Five Best Ball Sleeper Running Backsby Mike Fanelli July 3, 2021 0 comments
Fantasy football has been around for a long time. However, recently fantasy football has expanded into different styles of play. From keeper to dynasty to DFS, we also have best ball. Unlike season-long leagues and DFS, you don’t set your weekly lineups with best ball. All you do is draft your team and forget about it until after the season. Each week, the highest-scoring lineup automatically gets set for your team. Unlike season-long leagues, where you have to worry about the weekly floor of your players, in best ball, you want the players with the most upside.
Superstar players like Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Davante Adams, and Travis Kelce are still very valuable in best ball. However, players with safe weekly floors but limited upside like Josh Jacobs and Tyler Boyd are less valuable. Instead, fantasy owners want to target players with massive upside to go off any given week or score zero fantasy points like Mike Williams and Latavius Murray. However, just like in any fantasy football format, there are sleeper players that can help you win your best ball leagues. Today, I gave my five favorite sleeper running backs with an ADP outside the top 100 on Underdog Fantasy.
Be sure to check out all of Fanelli’s Best Ball Sleepers.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (106.6 ADP)
Health has always been the issue with Conner. When on the field, Conner averaged 14.7 fantasy points per game over the last three years. However, he has missed 12 games over that span and left several others early. After the Cardinals lost Kenyan Drake to the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency, they signed the former Pittsburgh Steeler. While many are in love with Chase Edmonds, understandably so, Conner has a chance to be worth fantasy gold if he stays healthy. Most of Drake’s 10 rushing touchdowns came on goal-to-go situations. A third of Drake’s 179.7 fantasy points last season were from on those 10 rushing touchdowns. If Conner can match that rushing production, he will be a steal at his current ADP.
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (106.9 ADP)
Pollard has been a sleeper for many fantasy football fans since he entered the league. However, last season, Pollard took a step forward thanks to Ezekiel Elliott’s fumbling issues. Pollard had twice as many rushing touchdowns and targets in 2020 compared to his rookie season. There are reports that the Cowboys want to lighten Elliott’s workload during the regular season to keep him fresh for the playoff push. If they do that, Pollard’s role will expand. Furthermore, in the one game Zeke missed last season, Pollard had a career-high 28.2 fantasy points against the San Francisco 49ers. If Zeke misses substantial time this season, Pollard will turn into a league winner.
Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams (124.0 ADP)
Like Pollard, Henderson would turn into a league winner if Cam Akers misses time because of injury. However, unlike Pollard, Henderson has a chance to take over the starting role this season. Last year, Henderson started the year as the lead back, totaling 93 touches (15.5 per game) from Week 2 to Week 7. Then, injuries took effect on Henderson, and Akers took over as the featured back to end the season. While many are excited about Akers after his playoff performance, he did that with Henderson injured. With Malcolm Brown in Miami, Henderson is an injury or impressive performance away from being the lead running back in Los Angeles and potential RB1 status.
Javian Hawkins, Atlanta Falcons (213.4 ADP)
The running back room will look very different in Atlanta this year. Last season, Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, and Ito Smith accounted for 97.8 percent of the rushing attempts in the backfield. This year, all three will play elsewhere. They got replaced by Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, and a pair of rookies, including Hawkins. Much like James Robinson last year, expect Hawkins’ ADP to rise as we get closer to the start of the regular season. While Davis projects as the starter, he had no experience in that role before last season, while Patterson is more of a gadget player than a pure running back. If Hawkins has an impressive training camp, he could take over as the lead back in Atlanta and become the steal of your draft.
Jeff Wilson, San Francisco 49ers (215.5 ADP)
Fantasy owners will have to wait for Wilson’s services as he will miss the start of the season with a torn meniscus. However, once he returns, he has a shot at the starting running back role in San Francisco. Last season, Wilson finished the year on fire. Over his final three games, Wilson averaged 20.7 touches for 117.3 scrimmage yards and 20.4 fantasy points per game. Wilson will have competition from Raheem Mostert, Trey Sermon, Wayne Gallman, and others, but his performance to end last season could give him a leg up. The San Francisco backfield historically is a nightmare for fantasy owners. However, if Wilson can win the lead role, he has the upside to win your league with your final pick.
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