Running backs are a scarce commodity in fantasy football this year. After round 3, taking a running back may feel like taking a shot in the dark. Between having to share the backfield, passing slowly taking over as the primary method to move the ball and the position’s short shelf life, there are plenty of reasons the position is prioritized so heavily in the draft. Nevertheless, these reasons make it all more important to have some depth at the position, and while the big names will be gone in the blink of an eye, these guys have the potential to outperform running backs taken way earlier than them in the draft. Here are some Fantasy Football Sleepers Running Backs coming into the 2021 season.
1. Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons (current ADP: 75)
Mike Davis did a great job of filling in Christian McCaffery’s shoes while he was injured last year, putting up four top-10 running back performances last year. He’s proven himself to be both a good workhorse candidate routinely getting 15-20 touches a game, and a talented receiver as well. He now leads the backfield in Atlanta with no apparent competition insight, as Todd Gurley is now a free agent. Now that he has a leading role on an offense with more firepower compared to the 2020 Panthers, he’ll have a lot more room to show what he can do.
2. Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals (current ADP: 89)
Last year, Chase Edmonds finished as the RB25 while sharing the backfield with Kenyan Drake. With Kenyan Drake gone to Vegas and James Conner taking his place, fantasy managers are hesitant to pick up Edmonds in the earlier rounds. 2021 should be a big year for him, though, as his versatile playstyle will be a great compliment to Conner’s amazing running skills, and now that Edmonds is in a contract year, it may be now or never for him to prove himself as an elite running back.
3. Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills (current ADP: 105)
The 2020 third-round draft pick was quiet in his rookie year, but there are whispers from Buffalo beat writers that Zack Moss is gearing up to take over the majority of the carries in the backfield in his second year. While he didn’t get as much work as he hoped for last year, he still averaged 4.3 yards per carry, which is definitely not too shabby from a rookie. While Josh Allen remains the top contender for goal-line scoring, Moss may get his work cut out for him on a high-scoring Bills offense.
4. Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos (current ADP: 106)
Denver traded up to pick Javonte Williams in the second round of the 2021 draft, and with Phillip Lindsay out of the picture, Williams is already second in line for carries behind Melvin Gordan. With Gordan’s age beginning to catch up to him and Denver’s love for Williams, it would not be surprising if he took over the lead role by the end of the year. Williams is already a high-profile player in dynasty leagues, but his redraft value may become apparent sooner than people think.
5. Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (current ADP: 170)
This one’s a true sleeper pick. The 2018 first-round pick from Seattle has had an unfortunate injury-ridden start to his career, but 2021 could be his chance to prove the ‘bust’ label wrong. With Carlos Hyde gone in the offseason, Penny is second in line for carries behind Chris Carson, a player who has yet to play a full season, so some significant time in the leading role isn’t out of the question for Penny either. With Pete Carroll’s desire for a run-first offense and Penny being denied his fifth-year option, this could be his big prove-it year.
He showed what he’s capable of during his time at San Diego State, rushing for over 2,000 yards and finishing as a Heisman finalist, not an easy feat for a running back. Even if the worst-case scenario happens and Penny is traded away, Seattle will want to get some production out of their first-rounder to increase his value.
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