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Top 5 running back sleepers for 2019 fantasy football

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Watch out, these guys have the best shot at outperforming their current ADP.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

I’d like to make the argument here and now that there is no better feeling in fantasy football than hitting on a sleeper pick. Making that selection where everyone in your draft is like, “Really, that’s who you’re taking?” and then making them eat a dead crow you found on the side of the road when your pick suddenly becomes the best player in fantasy. THE POWER! Can you tell I have a mildly vindictive side?

While hitting on a sleeper is fun, hitting on a sleeper running back is the greatest thing in the world. Suddenly you might find yourself with two or even more top 10 running backs on your roster and you’ll be so flush with backs your friends will call you a chiropractor’s waiting room (thank you, thank you).

Here are five backs who in my mind, offer the most upside for their current draft position (ADP and rankings via fantasyfootballcalculator.com). Quickly, I want to give an honorable mention to Mark Ingram who, for the first time in his career, will be playing in an offense that actually emphasizes the run and there’s no one in his way. He’s proven himself to be a top 10 fantasy back in New Orleans, just imagine what he could be in the Ravens’ run-heavy attack.

With that out of the way, here are my five picks.

Chris Carson

Current ADP: 4.05 | Current ranking: RB23

If you listen to the RB1 podcast—which you all should be doing—you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of the Seahawks’ backfield. Call me crazy but I like my backfields to be clearly defined with each running back having a specific and known role. However, I have a hard time passing on Carson in the middle of the fourth round when he easily has top 10 potential. He played only 14 games last season and yet still managed to rush for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns. I know you have to take Rashaad Penny into the equation, but everything coming out of Seahawks camp seems to point to Carson starting the season as the primary back and I’ll happily take that upside at this current value.

Derrius Guice

Current ADP: 6.01 | Current ranking: RB29

In my mind, Guice is the biggest enigma at running back this year. Will he have another disappointing season due to injury (not already off to a hot start as he’s currently dealing with a hamstring injury after missing last year with a torn ACL) or will he be the 4.49 running, 225 pound running back that had people all kinds of excited heading into last year? WHO KNOWS! All I know is that if he is healthy, he could quickly find himself the lead back on an offense that was top 15 in rushing attempts and made 300-year-old Adrian Peterson into a fantasy commodity last year. That’s all I need to take the risk.

Damien Harris

Current ADP: 9.08 | Current ranking: RB43

Yes the Patriots have Sony Michel and James White still but Harris brings something to the table that the other two backs lack: power. Harris has already been impressing the team during training camp and if he even sniffs a goal line role in the Patriots offense, he suddenly has big fantasy upside. The Patriots love rushing the ball once they get down by the end zone and whichever back has that role is basically a lock for double digit touchdowns (never forget LeGarrette Blount’s 18 touchdown season). If Harris finds himself in that job, he’s going to wildly outperform his ADP.

Kalen Ballage

Current ADP: 11.11 | Current ranking: RB51

I have absolutely no idea what the Dolphins are going to look like in 2019. Are they going to be an exciting, air-it-out offense led by the journeyman beard of Ryan Fitzpatrick? Are they going to hand over the reigns to Josh Rosen only to Josh Rosen the crap out of him and draft a quarterback with their first overall pick in 2020? What I do know is that the running back position in Miami seems wide open and all signs are pointing to Ballage being the early favorite for the starting role, or at the very least, a substantial amount of touches in 2019. Getting a possible starting running back in basically the 12th round is value you can’t pass up.

Duke Johnson

Current ADP: 14.09 | Current ranking: RB63

What to hear a fun fact that I just remembered thanks to Nic’s RB rankings? Kareem Hunt is suspended until Week 10 this season. Week 10. Somehow I didn’t realize it was so late. First off, I’m really annoyed now because I actively wasn't buying Nick Chubb stock because I didn’t want to deal with a committee. Dumb Pete. But more than that, that means there’s still a clear role for Duke Johnson for the first half of the season in an offense that is primed to score lots and lots and lots and lots of points. Even if Johnson puts together just a few weeks of solid fantasy production, could you ask for more from one of your final draft picks?

Poll

Who’ll outplay their ADP the most this season?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Chris Carson
    (85 votes)
  • 27%
    Derrius Guice
    (75 votes)
  • 6%
    Damien Harris
    (18 votes)
  • 23%
    Kalen Ballage
    (64 votes)
  • 11%
    Duke Johnson
    (30 votes)
272 votes total Vote Now