How are you feeling about your running backs after three weeks? Did you go robust running back, and are you staring at a dead Christian McCaffrey, a broken Antonio Gibson, or an underperforming David Montgomery? Or did you go Zero RB, blow all your FAB on Elijah Mitchell or Ty’Son Williams after picking up (and dropping) James White? No matter how you decided to attack running back this season, chances are at least one of your guys left you in the lurch. But, never fear, we have some sleeper running backs for you this week in order to help stave off the pain of having a guy blow up in your face. To make this list, a running back must be on rosters in fewer than 50% of leagues, with one guy available in at least 90% of leagues.
Week 4 Sleeper Running Backs:
J.D. McKissic at Atlanta (37% rostered)
McKissic had just four opportunities last week, but this one feels like a get-right game for the Washington Football Team offense. McKissic played just six fewer snaps than Gibson last week, and he was out there about half the time. That means that there are opportunities available for him, they just have to go his way. We saw what could happen in week two against the Giants. McKissic was the two-minute drill back, and he ended up with five catches for 83 yards, and he kicked in a rushing touchdown to boot. That’s the formula for a J.D. McKissic game.
The Falcons won’t put up much resistance. They rank middle-of-the-road against running backs on the year, but four guys have at least ten touches against them. Three of those guys finished with 11 half-PPR points or more.
Kenny Gainwell versus Kansas City (31% rostered)
I would prefer Gainwell to McKissic, though both are long-shot options if we are being honest. The Chiefs are currently tied with the New York Jetterbockers, allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs on the season. If you saw anything in the Chargers & Chiefs games, it was one of two things: Mike Williams dominating this passing game, and Austin Ekeler doing basically whatever he wanted in the running back receiving game. In three games, the Chiefs allow the tenth-most yards per target (7.35) to the running back, and they have allowed the second-most running back touchdowns overall.
Gainwell is definitely the #2 running back in Philadelphia, so you are banking on him making the most of his opportunities like he did against Atlanta in week one. Still, he plays on about one-third of snaps so far this season, but he has had an opportunity on about 42% of snaps. That’s a decently dense number of opportunities and something that we can lean into this week.
J.J. Taylor versus Tampa Bay (1% rostered)
With James White out for the year, the James White Role ™ is up for grabs in New England. Long-term, I still like Rhamondre Stevenson (9% rostered) more, but for this week, I’m going J.J. Taylor. He’s a little scrappy dude who can catch passes, and that’s something the Patriots will need this week. Unless you live under a comically large pile of rocks, you know that Tom Brady will return to Foxborough with revenge on his mind. Given that the Patriots aren’t very good, it’s likely that the revenge will be swift and thorough. That will put the Patriots on their backfoot against Brady (a situation they aren’t used to) and that means passing a lot more than they would otherwise want. That puts Taylor in the 6-7 target upside range, which could lead to him cobbling together a 10+ PPR day against the Buccaneers.