In what will be a common theme throughout the landscape of fantasy football this week, owners will scramble to replace their Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt enter Week 12 as the overall RB1 and RB3, respectively. While there is no easy way to replace such guaranteed weekly production, there are plenty of Week 12 running back sleepers who have the pedigree and the matchup that could make them useful this weekend. Here are my favorite Week 12 running back sleepers.
Week 12 Running Back Sleepers
Kenyon Drake, Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts
Kenyon Drake has not had a great fantasy season overall. He enters this week’s action as the overall RB25 on the year. But he has had some spike weeks. Drake has four weekly RB1 performances on the year, which puts him in rather elite company. For reference, David Johnson (overall RB10 in 2018) has had just two such weeks. Drake has largely split time with veteran Frank Gore for Miami this season. While Gore leads the club in rushing, Drake is the preferred pass catcher. He ranks 20th among running backs in receiving yards this season. This role makes Drake more likely to produce a big fantasy day when the Dolphins head to Indianapolis to face the Colts on Sunday.
Of Drake’s four RB1 weeks, three have come in Miami losses. This would appear to fall in line with his standing as Miami’s pass-catching option out of the backfield. The matchup sets up well for Drake in that regard. The Colts have allowed the third-most receptions and fourth-most receiving yards to opposing backfields so far this season. Indianapolis also stands out as one of this week’s largest favorites according to Vegas. If Miami is forced to play catch-up, Drake should get some looks in the passing game. Kenyan Drake is no lock to replace the type of production one gets from a Todd Gurley or a Kareem Hunt. But he does have the type of upside that makes him a nice value this week. Drake tops my list of Week 12 running back sleepers.
Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens v. Oakland Raiders
Last week was a classic example of a “process over results” decision which was correct in theory but failed to pan out in practice. I mentioned in my streamers piece and on Twitter that the Lamar Jackson effect would be most felt on Baltimore’s supporting cast. I believed that Baltimore would be able to support multiple fantasy-relevant running backs, and I was correct in that assessment. They had one running back finish as last week’s RB7 and another finish as last week’s RB26. However, I was way off on the particulars.
I was convinced Alex Collins was in for a big day. He entered the game as Baltimore’s lead back and had at least 35 rushing yards in eight straight games. It started out well. He ran for the game’s first score in the first quarter and all seemed to be going according to plan. But a funny thing happened on the way to an RB1 finish. Gus Edwards came in and got most of the touches Collins was expected to get. After seeing no more than 14 snaps in a single game this season, Edwards parlayed 49 snaps into 115 rushing yards and a score on 17 carries.
Edwards got a lot of run this preseason and has made his way up the depth chart. He may be Baltimore’s unofficial starter going forward, but that does not mean Collins will go away. I still think Baltimore can support multiple starting fantasy running backs for as long as Jackson remains the starter. This is especially the case in favorable draws like the one Baltimore will see in Week 12 when they host the Oakland Raiders.
Three of the last four primary running backs to square off against Oakland came away with RB1 results. The lone exception was David Johnson, who amassed 137 rushing yards. Simply put, there will be plenty of rushing yards and fantasy points to go around. If Collins can manage 10-12 carries, he should do enough damage against Oakland to hit value. He also has the potential for much more, as Edwards is certainly not guaranteed the lion’s share of the work after one game, impressive though it may have been. I think Collins is going a bit under the radar this week, which makes him an ideal sleeper in a cake matchup.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
While Nick Chubb deservedly got a lot of pub following his 209-yard, two touchdown performance in Week 10 against Atlanta, Duke Johnson had a second consecutive top-20 fantasy finish. Johnson has led the team in receptions in each of those games and has caught three touchdowns during that stretch. He should have a chance to keep that momentum going when Cleveland faces Cincinnati this week.
The Bengals allow the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in the NFL. In their last six games, they have allowed six RB1 performances. Among those were three running backs who caught a touchdown and exceeded 50 receiving yards. That failure to contain pass-catching backs is a weakness that Cleveland would be wise to exploit with Johnson. Johnson does not have the type of guaranteed workload that makes him a must-start, but he has enough upside in this matchup to make him one of the top Week 12 running back sleepers.
Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions v. Chicago Bears
Detroit’s leading rusher, rookie Kerryon Johnson, will not suit up for their Thanksgiving home date with the Chicago Bears. This puts a drain on what already figured to be a difficult matchup. Chicago has allowed just one rushing touchdown to running backs this year, best in the NFL. LeGarrette Blount is not likely to get much going on the ground in this game. Matthew Stafford gives Detroit its best chance to pull off the upset. An emphasis on the passing game would make Theo Riddick the Detroit running back you want shares of this week.
Since last month’s trade of slot receiver Golden Tate, Riddick actually leads the Lions with 18 receptions. He will not do much on the ground (he has a grand total of zero rushing yards in those three games), but he will see plenty of looks out of the backfield. While Chicago has held rushers out of the end zone, receivers out of the backfield have had more success. The Bears have permitted four receiving touchdowns by opposing running backs this year. Riddick has yet to find pay dirt in 2018, but a trip to the end zone this week could boost him into starting territory in fantasy leagues. As it is, Riddick is a viable Flex option in PPR leagues and makes for a sneaky sleeper in Week 12.
Mick Ciallela has been writing for FantraxHQ since July 2017. He has also written for Bleacher Report. He is a lifelong sports fan and has been an avid fantasy sports player for many years. Mick was the Overall Champion of both the 2016 Football Challenge – Roto and 2017 Play 3 Football contests hosted by CDM Sports. Mick was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York and currently resides in New London, Connecticut.
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