Every year there is always a deep sleeper or two in the draft and a huge bust. Last year James Robinson was the big sleeper of running backs in the draft. And we all know the person who drafted him would not shut up about how they got him in the eighth round, even if they did not make the playoffs. As for busts, Ezekiel Elliot and Miles Sanders did not show up to their potential last season. Lets not make that mistake again. Well, today I’m going to give you some of my top running back sleepers and one deep sleeper for the 2021 season. All of these running backs can be taken from the sixth or seventh round and on. Then you will be the one bragging about getting a stud in the 10th round.
I will also be giving you some busts to stay away from, and one hot take on a bust going in the first round.
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Running Back Sleepers
Now that Jamaal Williams is out of the picture, AJ Dillon will be a top handcuff to Aaron Jones. We all saw the big game Dillon had in week 16 against the Titans when we went for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Even before Williams left, head coach Matt LaFleur used a two running back scheme quite a bit. Now Dillon will have opportunities to snag some goal line touchdowns from Jones. Similar to Mike Tolbert in the San Diego Chargers days.
The beauty of this is Dillon’s ADP is around pick 90, which lands him around the ninth round. If Jones goes down, which we have seen him miss games in the past, Dillon will have huge value in the ninth.
Mike Davis was a powerhouse PPR monster when Christian McCaffrey went down. Now Davis has his own backfield with the Falcons. The backup running back in Atlanta is Cordarrelle Patterson or Qadree Ollison. Yeah, Davis is going to have a field day.
This means Davis is likely to be the workhorse again like he was when McCaffrey went down. Davis is going around the sixth or seventh round right now. He was a top-five running back in receptions last year, and I see Davis going the same distance again this year. Atlanta lost a lot of offense, and Davis will be there to rack up the fantasy points.
Philip Lindsay had a rough season last year with injuries and the emergence of Melvin Gordon II in Denver. But, in Lindsay’s first two seasons he went for over 1,000 yards and quickly took over the starting role in 2018 and 2019. He also went for nine touchdowns in 2018 and seven in 2019.
He is currently the backup to David Johnson, who was solid for the Texans last season. But, Lindsay has seen this role before. Sharing the snaps with the starter, but Lindsay can be just as effective in the passing game as Johnson.
Lindsay is going way past the 10th round so, you can snag him with one of your last picks. Lindsay still had a decent season last year going over 500 yards even with injuries holding him back. Also, Johnson has had a history of injuries so, Lindsay is a solid pick in the late rounds.
I do see Antonio Gibson having a huge breakout season this year. But, J.D. McKissic has shown his production in both the rushing and passing game from last year. Even if Gibson is the primary running back, McKissic did go for 589 yards on 80 receptions last season.
So even if McKissic is not getting the handoffs, I see Washington Football Team utilizing him in the passing game. McKissic is another one going late in the draft around the 11th or 12th round. In a deep league, McKissic will be a huge asset to your championship team.
In the final weeks of last season, McKissic went for 133 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 17 receptions. He has shown to come up in the clutch in the late weeks for those playoff pushes.
Running Back Busts
Miles Sanders is going in the third round and going before Josh Jacobs and sometimes Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Sanders did have an off-year last season due to injuries, but so did the entire Eagles team.
Now with Jalen Hurts as the starter I see Hurts taking more of the rushing attempts over Sanders. The Eagles in general are just a frustrating team to watch in terms of fantasy. Travis Fulgham was a star for a few weeks then went ghost. I see the same happening with Sanders.
After the emergence of Boston Scott, while Sanders was hurt, I see him splitting the carries more with Scott. However, a healthy offensive line will help Sanders in the run game. I see the Eagles relying heavily on the passing game to DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor. They are both assured to have huge fantasy seasons over Sanders.
The Seahawks offensive line did not upgrade this offseason, so you know what that means? Chris Carson is going to be a bust this year. To be fair Carson did miss some games due to a foot injury last season, but even in 12 games he only put up 681 yards and five touchdowns.
In 12 games Sanders went for 867 yards, and Nick Chubb went for 1,067 yards. So the offensive line did not help Carson in the rush game, and this season looks to be the same. Even though Carson is the clear number one back in that offense, his ADP is way too high for him to go in the third or fourth round.
Along with his injury history, the line isn’t going to help with that. I expect Carson to miss around three or four games this season. The Seahawks also lost a key defensive player in Shaquill Griffin, and the defense does not look too hot.
The Seahawks will be playing from behind throughout the season so, expect Russell Wilson to be throwing his way back into the game.
Melvin Gordon II
Melvin Gordon II finished in the top 20 in fantasy points last season for running backs, but with the Broncos drafting Javonte Williams in the draft shows Gordon’s time could be up.
Gordon has always had fumble problems going back to his Chargers days, but now at 28, I see Javonte Williams taking over in the second half of the season. Javonte Williams had 19 touchdowns in his final year at North Carolina with over 1,000 yards.
Just like how Jonathan Taylor took over for Marlon Mack, I see Javonte Williams doing the same for this year. Gordon didn’t even finish in the top 25 of running backs for receptions or receiving yards.
So Gordon’s notion of being a solid pass-catching back is far behind him now. Gordon is going early in drafts, usually in the third or fourth round. The earliest I would take Gordon would be in the sixth.
Hot Take Bust
Ok, hear me out, this is a hot take on a potential first-round pick. This was a close call between Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb. But, the reason I see Chubb being a bust, is he is just not a versatile running back. Chubb only had 18 receptions for 150 yards last season.
Chubb is going at the end of the first round, but I would much rather take Tyreek Hill or Stefon Diggs, who both finished higher than Chubb in fantasy points last year. Plus, in the second round, you can grab Cam Akers or Austin Ekeler.
Chubb also has to share the ball with Kareem Hunt, who had 841 yards last season and had 304 receiving yards. Hunt will be more involved in the red zone this season and cut into Chubb’s production.
I’m not saying Chubb is going to be terrible this year, but his production is going to go down drastically for a first-round pick. His value is terrible going in the first round and is not a great first pick to build around your team.
Good luck in this year’s draft, and hopefully you can snag some of these sleepers. Then you can be the one bragging in the championship, looking like a fantasy genius.
For more Rankings and Analysis please check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
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