With most NFL teams now deploying committee backfields in this era of football, there are plenty of complementary and No. 2 running backs worth acquiring in dynasty trades. There are goal-line runners like Rashaad Penny and Damien Harris as well as handcuffs with elite upside like Jaylen Warren and Tyler Allgeier.
The aforementioned running backs can typically be acquired for second-round rookie picks in dynasty, but there are some high-ceiling dynasty running back sleepers available for even cheaper. Here are a few dynasty running back sleepers to consider targeting in trades. Current ADP referenced below is courtesy of Dynasty League Football (DLF).
2023 Dynasty Running Back Sleepers
Jerome Ford (RB55)
There have been reports dating back to early March that the Browns “like Ford a lot.” While not all reports are substantiated by actions, Cleveland seems confident in Ford’s ability to handle the No. 2 role alongside Nick Chubb. The organization neither signed a free-agent running back nor did they spend any of their seven draft picks on one. Ford heads into the 2023 season as a high-upside handcuff to the soon-to-be 28-year-old Chubb.
Ford has been handling first-team work at OTAs, and beat writers have reported that he “appears headed for a much larger role this season”. In previous years, Kareem Hunt was routinely valued as a mid or even early second-round rookie pick as the No. 2 running back in Cleveland. And yet, Ford is available for far cheaper, likely due to lack of name value. Ford is one of the biggest dynasty running back sleepers and should be acquired for any third-round rookie pick, and perhaps even for a late second.
Malik Davis (RB57)
Tony Pollard heads into the 2023 season as the lead back for Dallas on the franchise tag, and it’ll be fun to see what he can do with Ezekiel Elliott gone. When Elliott was out in Week 8 of last season, Pollard exploded for 131 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on just 14 carries against the Bears. However, don’t expect a workhorse role for Pollard. He himself told coaches that he was “done” in the fourth quarter of that game, and then-Dallas running backs coach Skip Peete compared Pollard to a race car that can “go very fast” but also “run out of gas”.
Malik Davis served as a complement to Pollard last year when Elliott was out, and Davis could see significant touches in 2023. Although Dallas added sixth-round rookie Deuce Vaughn to bolster their running back depth, Vaughn is likely to be used sparingly, as he weighs less than 180 lbs. Davis projects to see change-of-pace work alongside Pollard, and he would have RB2 upside if Pollard were to miss time, putting him on the list of dynasty running back sleepers to target for a third-round rookie pick or less.
Pierre Strong (RB68)
The two running backs mentioned above are oft-discussed, but this next prospect on the list of dynasty running back sleepers has rarely even been mentioned this offseason. Many dynasty GMs have high expectations for Rhamondre Stevenson after his impressive showing in 2022, but his 63 percent opportunity share last season could be attributed partially to injuries to both Damien Harris and Ty Montgomery. Harris is now in Buffalo, but Montgomery still figures to have a receiving role if healthy in 2023.
While Kevin Harris is the best fit as a one-for-one replacement for Damien Harris’s bruising role, fellow sophomore Pierre Strong has the skillset to win a change-of-pace role alongside Stevenson and to be a direct handcuff. Like Stevenson, Strong is a capable pass-catcher who can play on all three downs, and he also has the 4.37 speed to break big plays, which he showed last year with a 44-yard run in Week 14 against Arizona. Strong can be acquired for a third or fourth-round rookie pick right now and might even be available on the waiver wire in shallower dynasty leagues.
Ty Chandler (RB81)
In college, Ty Chandler was an explosive runner who created big plays with his 4.38 speed, and the rookie showed his vision and ability to create yards after contact last preseason. Although Chandler missed most of his rookie season last year due to a thumb injury, there were reports all of last preseason that the Vikings really liked their fifth-round draft pick, and there were even rumors that Minnesota was open to trading Mattison after Chandler’s impressive preseason performances.
Expect Chandler’s dynasty ADP and value to rise steadily now that Dalvin Cook has officially parted ways with the Vikings. The newly re-signed Alexander Mattison figures to be the lead back heading into the 2023 season, but Chandler “probably has the advantage” right now for the No. 2 job over DeWayne McBride and Kene Nwangwu. Dynasty GMs may no longer be able to acquire Chandler as one of the more hyped dynasty running back sleepers, but it’s still worth a shot to try and offer a third-round rookie pick for him.
Jordan Mason (Undrafted)
Talk about dynasty running back sleepers. Jordan Mason isn’t even being drafted in the top 277 picks according to DLF’s dynasty startup ADP, which is understandable. Elijah Mitchell worked as the No. 2 back alongside Christian McCaffrey last year and has flashed, but Mitchell has had trouble staying on the field. As a rookie in 2021, Mitchell missed five games due to shoulder, rib, finger, and knee injuries in addition to a concussion. Then last season, Mitchell missed 12 games due to a twice-sprained MCL.
Mitchell has now already been nursing an injury during OTAs, which allowed Mason to work as the No. 2 back in minicamp and display his pass-catching prowess. Mason was already the highest-graded back in the NFL last preseason per Pro Football Focus, and a strong training camp coming up could help him supplant Mitchell for the No. 2 role in a very efficient Kyle Shanahan-led scheme. Like the aforementioned Strong, Mason can be acquired for a third-round rookie pick or less, and he could even be available on the waiver wire in many dynasty leagues.
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