The value of the running back position is at an all-time high for fantasy football. When in doubt, the default has been to select a running back in the first round, but what happens if you miss on that top tier of talent? This could force a switch in draft strategy, targeting top players at other positions, then finding some running back sleepers a little later.Recency bias is massive in fantasy football but especially for the running back position. If a player is coming off a poor season, you can bet they saw their average draft position (ADP) tank for this season. This creates value. Using Awesemo’s season-long rankings and consensus ADP, these are the top three running back sleepers for the 2020 fantasy season.
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Awesemo’s Fantasy Football Sleepers: Top Three Running Backs
David Johnson, Houston Texans
Awesemo Rank: 18 | ADP: 49
Many are completely writing off Johnson, labeling him a bust following a tough season after receiving a big contract. However, many forget the simple fact that the Arizona Cardinals teams he was on stunk.
Last season, Johnson was able to average just 1.86 yards before contact. He was also stuffed 5.3% of the time, and he totaled 170 of his 345 rushing yards after contact. While the Houston Texans offensive line didn’t blow anyone away, they still helped Carlos Hyde average 2.14 yards before contact, and there was very little sign of Hyde being a good football player before joining Houston last season.
This is Johnson’s second chance. Not only is he on a new team with a new opportunity, he was dealt in exchange for Houston’s best player, which creates another added layer and pressure with him having something to prove. He will be a featured part of this offense, replacing Hyde’s 1,070 rushing yards but also helping to replace the receiving production left by DeAndre Hopkins.
Johnson always talked about a 1,000-1,000 season being his goal in Arizona, but it could be a possibility in Houston, making him one of the top running back sleepers.
Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Awesemo Rank: 93 | ADP: 124
Cohen completely gets brushed aside after all of the inconsistencies of the Chicago Bears offense last season. But with Nick Foles competing with Mitchell Trubisky, one would think the quarterback play in 2020 is a bit better. This is especially useful for Cohen, who is more of a receiving back.
While Cohen averaged just four carries per game, he was targeted 104 times in the passing game, with him often lining up in the slot. This creates big opportunity for him in PPR leagues if the quarterback play improves. He turned those targets into 79 receptions for 456 yards and three touchdowns.
Playing in a competitive NFC North, the Bears will likely have few opportunities where they can lean on the running game and milk the clock. However, they can dink-and-dunk down the field, making safe, easy throws underneath, which is where Cohen shines. He is a big part of this offense, and Cohen should not be as forgotten as he is.
More Fantasy Football Sleepers
Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers
Awesemo Rank: 37 | ADP: 63
Mostert is a running back sleeper for a couple of interesting reasons. First, we saw what he is capable of during the end of last season. Mostert ran for 50-plus yards in eight straight games, including his 220-yard outburst in the postseason. The other reason Mostert is intriguing is that he has demanded a trade from the 49ers. Should he stay, they may give him more of a consistent role to make him happier. If he leaves, he could go to a better situation. Of course, he could go to a worse one as well, making him risky … but possibly a risk worth taking.
From Weeks 12 to 17 last season, Mostert was RB8 over this stretch in PPR scoring. While this is impressive as is, he only got 70 carries over the six games. This could be viewed as a workload issue or as the potential for much more, if he gets more work. The mystery surrounding the situation is helping to keep his ADP down, and while he is a risky situation, the potential makes him a top sleeper candidate.
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