It’s running back week here at CBS Sports, and we’re taking a deep dive into the position. While wide receivers have become the dominant players for Fantasy managers, especially in PPR, we know running backs still matter in a big way.

Here, we’re looking at sleeper running backs, and we’ll focus on breakouts and busts later in the week as well. For this column, we’ll look at running backs going after pick No. 100 overall based on the NFC Average Draft Position from Aug. 1-8. 

These are running backs I want on my roster, and hopefully many of them will turn into difference makers this season.

Dillon is on the cusp of being off this list with an ADP of 101.4. I don’t mind drafting him a little earlier than his ADP for two reasons. On his own, Dillon should be a borderline flex option in all leagues. He closed last season on a high note with at least 17 PPR points in three of his final six games, while averaging 13.8 PPR points over that span, and he had three outings with at least three receptions. And he’s an Aaron Jones injury away from being featured for the Packers, which would make him a top 20 running back in all formats.

Penny has only played 18 games over the last three seasons, but he’s been amazing when healthy, which includes five games with more than 130 rushing yards in his last 10 appearances. Now, he gets to run behind the Eagles offensive line, and by all accounts he has looked great so far in training camp. He’ll share work with D’Andre Swift and potentially Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, but none of those running backs offer the same upside as a healthy Penny. But that’s the question — how long will he stay healthy? That’s why Penny’s ADP is at 103.9, but it’s been steadily climbing. I would start to look for him as early as Round 7, and if he plays the majority of the season then he could be a league winner.

Perine’s ADP has gone down since Javonte Williams (knee) avoided the PUP list and should be ready for Week 1, but I’m still targeting Perine as a sleeper. I’m nervous about Williams coming back from last year’s torn ACL because running backs in the first year off that injury tend to struggle. The Broncos made Perine their main running back addition this offseason, and new coach Sean Payton is excited about his new toy. Perine had four games in 2022 with the Bengals with double digits in touches, and he scored at least 13 PPR points in each outing. I’ll gladly draft him at his current ADP of 105.9.

All three of the Bears running backs are in play as sleepers since Herbert (ADP of 107.5), Foreman (144.9) and Johnson (152.3) are being drafted in this range. I would take the chance on drafting Herbert first, but Johnson is my favorite Bears running back at cost. Last season, of running backs with at least 100 carries, Herbert led all of them at 5.7 yards per carry. He had six games with at least 12 carries in 2022, and he scored at least 15 PPR points in three of them. He should get the first chance to replace the departed David Montgomery. But Johnson, who played behind Bijan Robinson at Texas, might surprise you. He could already have an edge in pass protection over Herbert, and that might earn him more playing time in his rookie campaign. As for Foreman, the veteran has done well the past two seasons in stops with Carolina and Tennessee. He doesn’t offer much in the passing game with 23 career receptions in five seasons, but Chicago might value him the most as a rusher. 

In May, I wrote this about Charbonnet in a previous sleepers column that “it might take an injury to Kenneth Walker III for Charbonnet to become useful for Fantasy managers in his rookie campaign,” and that’s what we’re dealing with now. Walker has missed time in training camp with a groin injury, and the longer he’s out the more Charbonnet can prove himself to Seattle’s coaches. Charbonnet also missed time with a shoulder injury, but it was a short-lived absence that could drive up his price from his current ADP at 110.5. We still don’t know how the Seahawks plan to use Walker and Charbonnet this season, but if you want a piece of the Seattle backfield then pass on Walker and draft Charbonnet as early as Round 8.

Like the Bears, it’s easy to take three chances on the Dolphins backfield to see who emerges as the best option this year. All three — Achane (ADP of 115.4), Mostert (151.2) and Wilson (163.6) — are being drafted after pick No. 100 overall. I would gamble on Achane first with the chance that his speed earns him plenty of playing time. He’s small at 5-foot-8, 188 pounds, but he ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel loves speed. It’s why he’s stuck with Mostert and even Wilson, and we’ll see which veteran steps forward from this committee. After Achane, I would draft Wilson second and then Mostert, but I have no problem leaving my Fantasy draft with a Dolphins running back as a key reserve. This should be an explosive offense, and one of these three guys could be a league winner.

When we talk about lottery tickets, the best one this season might be Mitchell, who has an ADP of 129.5. He’s dealing with a hip injury now, which hopefully is minor, and Mitchell should be ready for Week 1. He’ll be the primary backup to Christian McCaffrey, and the 49ers used both running backs in tandem last season when both were active, which ended up being six games. In those six games (four in the regular season), McCaffrey had 67 carries but Mitchell still had 62. I wouldn’t want to trust Mitchell as an even a flex option if McCaffrey is healthy since Mitchell only averaged 8.5 PPR points per game in those six outings. But should McCaffrey miss any time then Mitchell would be a must-start Fantasy option in all leagues. In his rookie season in 2022, he totaled 1,326 yards from scrimmage in 14 games, including the playoffs.

Bigsby has made plenty of highlights in training camp so far, and he should be the No. 2 running back for the Jaguars behind Travis Etienne. I expect the two to play in tandem quite a bit this season, and any struggles for Etienne could open the door for Bigsby to get a healthy workload in his rookie campaign. Bigsby, a third-round pick in the NFL Draft from Auburn, is a lottery ticket this season, especially at his ADP of 133.8, which continues to climb. The expectations are that Bigsby could work at the goal line for the Jaguars and also contribute in the passing game. And should Etienne miss any time then Bigsby could be a starter in the majority of leagues. I’m drafting him as early as Round 9.

Mike Tomlin has generally preferred to lean on one running back and avoid a tandem or committee, but that could change this season. The Steelers seem to want Warren on the field, which could come at the expense of Najee Harris. Warren played in 16 games last season and had 77 carries for 379 yards and one touchdown and 28 receptions for 214 yards. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, which is a yard better than what Harris has averaged in his two-year career. We could see Warren have a bigger role in the passing game this season, and he would be a lottery ticket if Harris were to miss any time. It’s easy to stash Warren on your bench at his current ADP of 142.2.

We’ll see if Ford remains the No. 2 running back in Cleveland behind Nick Chubb, and Ford injured his hamstring in Monday’s practice, which is something to monitor. When healthy, Ford could find himself in a good spot, and he’s a steal at his current ADP of 163.4. With Kareem Hunt no longer in Cleveland, there are a lot of vacated touches in the Browns backfield. The non-Chubb carries over the past three seasons are 136, 190 and 240, and Ford has been impressive this offseason. And he could have a surprising role in the passing game. Ford likely won’t get as many touches as Hunt, but he could be a great running back to stash on your bench. And if Chubb were to miss any time then Ford could be a league winner in 2023.

The Chiefs got good news that Isiah Pacheco (hand/shoulder) should be ready for Week 1, and he should be the No. 1 running back in Kansas City. But McKinnon (ADP of 114.8) and Edwards-Helaire (199.0) will also have roles, and they are worth drafting with late-round picks. For McKinnon, he should play on passing downs like he did last year, and he was amazing with nine receiving touchdowns, including a six-game scoring streak to end the regular season. That will be hard to replicate, but he should remain a valuable weapon for Patrick Mahomes out of the backfield. Edwards-Helaire flopped last season, but keep in mind that he scored at least 14 PPR points in each of the first four games for Kansas City last year. While he might not be a long-term fixture for the Chiefs, he should play a prominent role in 2023 and is worth a late-round flier. 

The longer Josh Jacobs remains a holdout for the Raiders the more opportunity White has to impress coach Josh McDaniels. Now, you won’t want any part of White while Jacobs is healthy, and White did little as a rookie with 17 carries for 70 yards and no receptions in 2021. But he’s having a strong training camp, and he could be a surprise starter in Week 1 if Jacobs continues to stay away from the team. That would be a shock if he remains a holdout into the regular season, but we said the same thing about Le’Veon Bell with the Steelers in 2018. It’s easy to stash White on your bench right now at his current price of 177.3.

Hunt’s status is worth monitoring because if he signs with Indianapolis that gives him plenty of sleeper appeal, especially at his current ADP of 195.6. That will skyrocket if he signs with the Colts, and it could be fantastic for Hunt if Jonathan Taylor is a holdout during the season or gets traded. For now, treat Hunt as a handcuff for Taylor, and we would much rather see Hunt in Indianapolis instead of New Orleans. With the Saints, Hunt would get lost in a crowded backfield. His best path to success, of these two teams, is definitely with the Colts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *