It’s always tricky to do a sleepers column because the definition of a “sleeper” varies wildly based on who you talk to. I’ve never been a fan of “Deep Sleepers” articles. I don’t see how knowing about some obscure 4th string WR or RB that could rise to mediocrity if a bunch of injuries happen is all that helpful to most people that are trying to craft a draft strategy. In this column I’m going to focus on players you should target to fill out your bench positions in a 12 team standard or PPR draft.
We already went over our 6 WR Sleepers to target in 2014 so now lets focus in on some Running Backs with high upside that deserve a spot on your bench. The RB position is generally much thinner than WR as a rule. Unlike the WR position where unknown players often come out of nowhere to shine, at RB most teams have a set primary starter going in to the season. As such most of the picks are high quality backups that have a chance to start if an injury or other unforeseen event occurs.
**Note** For the purposes of determining ADP in this analysis we used data for 12 team standard scoring leagues provided by http://fantasyfootballcalculator.com/adp.php
RB Sleepers (in no particular order)
Devonta Freeman RB ATL (ADP 116) – Freeman is one of my top bench RB picks for the 2014 season. He plays behind an older slightly injury prone back in Steven Jackson. There’s a great chance that Freeman will ascend to a starting role at some point this season. Even if he doesn’t there is some Flex appeal here particularly as the season presses on. Atlanta HC Smith described Freeman as a complete player that needs to work a bit on pass protection. Well most rookies do. Still I could see Freeman in a Shane Vereen type role behind a healthy Jackson with the possibility to ascend to RB2 status if Jackson goes down.
Knile Davis RB KC (ADP 150) – Davis flashed in limited appearances behind Jamal Charles in 2013. This one is purely a handcuff play because KC Head Coach Reid tends to lean on his workhorse back. Still if Charles gets hurt Davis becomes an instant RB1. Not a bad risk to take with one of your last draft picks.
Terrance West RB CLE (ADP 86) – OK so I’m not sure West qualifies as a sleeper based on this ADP but I digress. West is currently battling with Ben Tate for the starting role in Cleveland’s backfield. Tate has had some injury issues throughout his career and has not shown that he can handle the load of being a feature back. West could easily ascend to the feature back role this season. Target him for your bench if he is available in the later rounds of the draft.
Andre Brown RB HOU (ADP 156) – Brown was brought in to Houston to back up Arian Foster. Brown has had some injury concerns throughout his career. Still when given the opportunity to start with the Giants last season he showed some real talent. Back injuries are notoriously fickle so there’s a good chance that Brown could see action as a starter at some point this season.
Carlos Hyde RB SF (ADP 120) – Hyde was drafted as the heir apparent to Gore in San Francisco. Gore is getting older and his tires have seen a lot of mileage. The 49ers are a team dedicated to the run. If Gore goes down Hyde becomes an instant RB1. This is exactly the type of player that belongs on your bench.
Lance Dunbar RB DAL (ADP 156) – This is another player you could potentially draft in the last round of your draft. Word out of Dallas is that they are looking to get Dunbar some passing down touches to spell Murray this season. Murray has had some injury problems throughout his short career. If he goes down someone will need to carry the load in Dallas’ explosive offense. Dunbar makes a nice late round gamble.
Darren McFadden RB OAK (ADP 94) – Oh how the mighty hath fallen! Oakland brought in MJD this season to operate as their lead back. Drew looked old and slow last season before going down to a season ending injury. I won’t go anywhere near MJD at his 6th round ADP. That said McFadden could be a nice bench filler later in the draft. If MJD gets hurt, McFadden should be able to put some decent numbers together in the Raiders revamped offense. He is still a young player and had RB2 upside if thrust in to a starting role.
These six players are solid bench picks that all have a chance to ascend to starting roles this season. If your draft is early this season another tip is to avoid drafting a kicker completely. Keeping an extra RB sleeper on your bench even for just the last few weeks of the pre-season increases the odds that if an injury occurs the backup will be sitting on your bench.
What did you think of this list? Are you targeting any RB sleepers that I left out of this list? Let us know who and why in the comments section below!