When it comes to running backs, fantasy football owners don't always need the big names such as Le'Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott to win their leagues. Sometimes, it pays to catch the next crop of ball-carriers before they become hot commodities.
Of course, managers who draw an early pick in the initial draft order should take the safe route. Don't get cute and pass on Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara or Melvin Gordon. However, if your strategy entails selecting a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round, feel free to take a chance at a sleeper.
As we go into the 2018 season, the usual names will list atop the running back rankings. Based on preference and league settings, the pecking order may vary, but the list below caters to point-per-reception leagues, meaning tailbacks who catch out of the backfield are the cream of the crop.
As for the sleepers, you can expect those ball-carriers to handle the bulk of the team's rush attempts, which typically equates to more touchdown opportunities, though, there's still the possibility of a low-volume amount of receptions.
Top 10 Running Backs
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
2. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
4. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
6. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
7. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
8. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
10. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Running Back Sleepers
Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins sent a clear message to fantasy football owners. "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."
First of all, bonus points for Collins caring about your fantasy football team. Secondly, NFL.com ranked the Ravens ball-carrier 26th in the league, which is extra motivation added to the fact the Seattle Seahawks waived him last year.
Collins finished just outside the top 15 in standard Yahoo fantasy leagues last season at 16th with 148 points. While the spotlight shines on quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson throwing to a new wide receiver corps, the Ravens lead tailback slides under the radar as a solid pick entrenched in a starting role.
In 2017, the third-year running back averaged 14.1 carries per contest and logged 18-plus rush attempts in three of the last four games. Collins' arrow points up and owners should take note.
Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos
In Denver, C.J. Anderson's departure bodes well for Devontae Booker, who's expected to take the lead role in the upcoming season, per 9 News reporter Mike Klis:
"Booker has good command of the offensive playbook and has become a competent pass protector, so he is expected to start September 9 in the season opener against Seattle."
Klis also pointed out rookie third-rounder Royce Freeman and De'Angelo Henderson will push the presumptive starter at the position. Nonetheless, it's always a safe bet to take the ball-carrier with a track record in a transitioning backfield.
Among the three Broncos running backs, Booker possesses the most in-game experience, and he's a solid pass-blocker, which protects his role on third down as a potential receiver. In each of his first two seasons, he caught at least 30 passes.
In an expanded role, Booker's receiving numbers should see a spike along with his production as a ball-carrier.
Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins
While fantasy owners go gah-gah over New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, roll the dice on another NFC East rusher in Washington.
Earlier in the offseason, Gruden described running back Derrius Guice as a first- and second-down banger. He'll handle early touches in drives and likely goal-line carries. The Redskins head coach also expects to see the LSU product touch the ball a lot in the upcoming season, per NBCS Washington reporter Rich Tandler:
"The physicality of Derrius Guice is not the issue. We just got to make sure he gets it mentally. I don't think he's going to have a problem. He picked it up very fast in OTA's. He didn't have any mental mistakes, did a great job, so I anticipate Derrius getting plenty of looks—plenty of touches."
How much more proof do you need for a potential sleeper?
Running back Chris Thompson likely remains the primary receiving back, but Guice could easily eclipse 1,000 rushing yards as Washington's lead tailback. If he sees 40-50 targets in the passing game, it's an extra bonus for PPR owners looking for a rookie steal.