It’s fantasy football week one! Welcome, we’ve made it through the long, dark offseason and we are ready to set our lineups for week one. Not every team is perfect in every roster spot, so maybe you need a little help. Or maybe you just want to overthink things? Either way, we are here with our sleeper running backs for week one of the NFL season. If this is your first time here, welcome! Each week we take a look at each position to find sleepers available in more than 50% of leagues. For those of you in deeper leagues, we also get you some sleeper running backs available in at least 90% of leagues. These roster figures come from Yahoo!’s standard fantasy football game.
Sleeper Running Back #1:
J.D. McKissic versus L.A. Chargers (37%)
I’m not quite sure what went wrong here. J.D. McKissic had 110 targets last year and isn’t on a roster in more than half of leagues. He’s not even on a roster in 60% of leagues. Seems a little weird for the guy. Ultimately, there are a lot of question marks in Washington, so I sort of get it. But, it seems like one of those questions stems from McKissic locking down the third-down role for WFT. In a PPR or half-PPR league, this feels like a no-brainer.
Ron Rivera isn’t a dummy, and he knows that the Chargers are coming hard for Ryan Fitzpatrick with Joey Bosa. Why not just pop it over the top of the pass rush to McKissic, and dare Derwin James & Co. to stop McKissic and TE Logan Thomas over the middle of the field? The Chargers ranked sixth in running back receptions last year, and that is J.D. McKissic’s wheelhouse. If you’re somehow already in a bind (if you started Cam Akers/J.K. Dobbins/Travis Etienne, for example), then McKissic is your guy.
Sleeper Running Back(s) #2:
James White versus Miami (32%)
Rhamondre Stevenson versus Miami (25%)
If there’s one thing we know about Bill Belichick, it’s that his running back rotation happens somewhat at random. I say somewhat at random because he has archetypes he gets tied to, but then everyone else is interchangeable. The archetypes are the pass-catching back (Danny Woodhead, James White) and goal-line bangers (LeGarrette Blount, Cam Newton, Rhamondre Stevenson). So, that gives us a chance to buy into this backfield on the cheap, while shying away from the hype and price of Damien Harris.
I’d be lying to you if I told you that this is a great matchup. The Dolphins were in the bottom half of teams in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs last season, and they ranked dead last in the last five weeks of 2020. But, I believe in the magic of Bill Belichick to make chicken salad from chicken you-know-what with schemes and usage.
Rhamondre Stevenson was relatively unheralded coming out in the 2021 NFL Draft, so I understand the trepidation, but James White had literally his worst possible year last year after finishing as RB22 in 2019. I’m going to lean into the pass-catching back in a non-Cam Newton run Bill Belichick offense.
Deep Dive Running Back Sleeper:
Kenneth Gainwell at Atlanta (9% rostered)
Kenneth Gainwell is a rotational rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles, but his #1 skill is getting the ball in his hands around the goal line and obliterating would-be defenders in space. The Atlanta Falcons have a weakness around pass-catching running backs, ranking top-ten in 2020 in RB receptions and RB receiving touchdowns, and they ranked twelfth in running back receiving yards.
Bonus Deep Sleeper:
Wayne Gallman versus Philadelphia (8% rostered)
Gallman has a chance to swipe the RB1 role from Mike Davis and is worth a speculative stash in every 12 teams or deeper league on the off chance that he pulls that off.
Do you want more 2021 NFL discussion? Then check out these links!
[Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/James_White_%28running_back%29.JPG, cropped under CC BY SA 2.0]