Six teams will be out of action this week, and several high-profile running backs are off as well. High fantasy picks like David Johnson, Saquon Barkley, and Joe Mixon are on the sidelines. As are players who have emerged of late like Marlon Mack and T.J. Yeldon. Despite so many viable options being unavailable, there are still plenty of Week 9 running back sleepers out there. Some of the players on this list are ones we have been patiently waiting on for much of the season. This week may be the week that patience is rewarded. Let’s take a look at my Week 9 running back sleepers.
Week 9 Running Back Sleepers
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots
If Week 8 was any indication, things are about to get much better for those who have patiently rostered Aaron Jones. The second-year pro out of UTEP saw a season-high 61.5 percent of the snaps in Week 8. His previous high was 38.2 percent. Jones parlayed that usage into 86 rushing yards and a score. Jones may see the field even more when Green Bay squares off with the New England Patriots in Week 9.
Jamaal Williams played a season-low 25 percent of snaps in last week’s loss. He has also seen his touches decrease each week beginning in Week 4. Williams is not an effective runner, and I think even Mike McCarthy is starting to realize that. Ty Montgomery also saw season-lows in touches and snap percentage last week. He also had a costly fumble that cost Green Bay a chance to win the game. I think this sets up as a heavy usage day for Jones. The matchup is not ideal, but the Patriots do allow over four yards per carry and have given up the second-most receiving yards to opposing running backs. If you have been on the fence about whether or not to start Jones in recent weeks, you should start him with confidence in Week 9.
Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Peyton Barber was left for dead by many at the end of September, myself included. I for one believed that Barber had not proven himself worthy of the starting gig and that Ronald Jones was soon for the bulk of work in the Buccaneers’ backfield. But Barber has continued to keep Jones at bay, tallying 197 rushing yards over his last three games, averaging 4.58 yards per rush in the process. Jones, meanwhile has totaled 13 rushing yards over those same three games. Jones also injured his hamstring last week and is out for at least a couple of weeks. This means that Barber should continue to be the primary running back in Tampa for the foreseeable future. That should lessen concerns going into a Week 9 game in Carolina against the Panthers.
Carolina is a top-10 team in terms of fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs. But their defense is not as imposing as that ranking suggests. Their 4.61 yards allowed per carry to running backs is the ninth-highest in the league. They have also allowed three receiving scores to enemy backs. That is not necessarily an area where Barber excels, but he did catch a touchdown pass in Week 6. I believe Peyton Barber enters Week 9 as a high-floor Flex play and has the potential for much higher returns this week.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns v. Kansas City Chiefs
I am going to give Duke Johnson one more shot. Truth be told, his lack of production this season is not really on him. It is on his coaching staff. Johnson has touched the ball an unfathomable 42 times through eight games. This is the same player who finished as an RB1 in PPR leagues and an RB2 in standard leagues on just 9.8 touches per game. You would think they would try to get him more touches, not less. I thought Johnson would be in for a boost once Cleveland traded Carlos Hyde. But Johnson has only seen nine touches in two games since. For whatever reason, Todd Haley and Hue Jackson refused to get Johnson the rock. New offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens will now call the plays in Cleveland. He was serving as the Browns’ running backs coach. Hopefully this means he will work to get Duke his fair share of touches.
If Johnson does see an increased workload this week, good things will happen. Kansas City allows 5.31 yards per rush to opposing running backs. That number is the second-highest in the NFL. They also have permitted 551 receiving yards to backs this year. That number is the highest in the NFL. Johnson has always excelled in the passing game, and this is an area I expect him to be better utilized in. With so many teams on a bye this week, I think it is worth starting Johnson in the hopes that the new staff will utilize him more effectively in what is an exploitable matchup. He is a high-upside Flex play and one of the best running back sleepers on this week’s slate.
Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos v. Houston Texans
When Royce Freeman sat out last week’s game with an injury, Phillip Lindsay was rightfully touted as an RB1. But Devontae Booker stepped up and had a very nice game in his own right against the Kansas City Chiefs. Booker’s workload is largely tied to the health of Freeman. Prior to last week, Booker had seen five or fewer touches in six of seven games. But Booker is an interesting Week 9 running back sleeper heading into a matchup with the Houston Texans.
If Freeman sits, Booker would likely be Denver’s change-of-pace and receiving back in this game. That is an area where Houston has struggled. While the Texans have allowed just two touchdowns on the ground this year, they have given up an NFL-high five receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs this season. Booker’s floor is a bit lower than most, particularly if Freeman returns to the lineup. But he is a speculative Flex play in PPR leagues and could be an RB2 in that format if he and Lindsay are the only healthy running backs Denver this week. Devontae Booker is a prime Week 9 running back sleeper, particularly in deeper PPR leagues.
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.
Ready to amp up your Fantasy Football game even more? Check out The Fantasy Black Book Show, where Joe Pisapia, Scott Bogman, and The Welsh bring the goods every week.