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A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (which can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the Top 150 and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.
Here is the player who received the most votes:
- Chuba Hubbard, and it wasn't that close
And here are all of the payers mentioned and the reasons why.
Player Receiving 6 Votes
Chuba Hubbard, Carolina
Sigmund Bloom: Which backup running back was the most valuable in the NFL last year? The one backing up Christian McCaffery - Mike Davis. While we want to see McCaffrey play 17 games and earn his No. 1 overall value this year, if he doesn't, the Panthers' fourth-round pick, Hubbard, will be the next man up and have a good chance to help fantasy teams this year. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule knows Hubbard's game well after he ran for 171 yards and two scores against Baylor in 2019, and he said his wife implored him to take Hubbard when he was still there while the Panthers were on the clock.
Victoria Geary: Christian McCaffrey played an average of 92% of snaps per game in 2018 and 2019. After his injury-riddled 2020 season, it remains to be seen if the coaching staff adjusts their mindset on McCaffrey's workhorse usage. With Mike Davis leaving in free agency, Hubbard has the potential to carve out a role worthy of some solid FLEX weeks.
Jeff Haseley: Whomever the back is in Carolina's offense has the ability to produce fantasy points. We saw that with Mike Davis last season in place of the injured McCaffrey. Hubbard was one of the top college running backs after the 2019 season totaling over 2,000 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns. The 2020 season saw a drop-off in production that ultimately led to him opting out after seven games. Hubbard has the tools to be the next best behind McCaffrey and could have fantasy relevance later in the season, especially if an injury elevates his usage.
Ryan Hester: A fourth-round rookie being Christian McCaffrey’s clear backup suggests more about McCaffrey’s secure workload than Hubbard’s potential. But in the event of another injury to fantasy football’s top pick, Hubbard would inherit nearly the same role. While inexperienced at the NFL level, Hubbard has the skill set to make plays on every down.
Chad Parsons: While Hubbard slid in the NFL Draft to Day 3, his profile is a sturdy one to project potential NFL starts with strong upside. Christian McCaffrey returns from injury and the injury-away role, which produced an impact 2020 from Mike Davis, has Hubbard as the betting favorite. Rodney Smith is a deep sleeper as the incumbent, plus Trenton Cannon and Reggie Bonnafon have also spent more time in Carolina than Hubbard. However, Hubbard's profile and upside dwarf any other non-McCaffrey back on the roster.
Jason Wood: Christian McCaffrey is the No. 1 overall fantasy pick again this year despite missing the majority of last season. Mike Davis -- the definition of journeyman -- was an every-week fantasy starter in McCaffrey's absence. Imagine what a young, talented, fresh-legged tailback like Hubbard can do with the same opportunity?
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Phillip Lindsay, Houston
James Brimacombe: The Houston backfield might be the hardest to predict in all of football with David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Rex Burkhead, and Phillip Lindsay all occupying the depth chart. Houston is set up to have one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, and if that is the case, I don't see a path for Johnson and Ingram to get heavy workloads. Lindsay has shown over his career that he has an underdog mentality and is the type of player that won't back down from any situation, no matter how bad it can get. Lindsay finished as RB13 and RB19 before his injury-riddled final season in Denver. He is worthy of a late-round pick to prove all the doubters wrong once again.
Jeff Haseley: After two strong years in Denver in a part-time role, Phillip Lindsay's shine lost a bit of luster in 2020. Injuries to his knee, hip, and ankle held him to 11 games last year, where he ultimately finished outside of the Top 60 to end the season. He's a versatile overachiever who will fight for playing time. He'll compete with Mark Ingram for touches in the backfield behind David Johnson and could be fantasy-relevant, especially if an injury elevates his standing on the depth chart.
Jason Wood: Lindsay was unceremoniously cast aside in Denver and landed in Houston -- arguably the league's worst team. He has the likes of David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Rex Burkhead vying for touches, too. But Lindsay was arguably as good on a per-snap basis as Melvin Gordon in the Mile High City and has youth on his side relative to his Texans peers. If Houston is in full rebuild mode, wouldn't it make sense to give the youngest back in the committee a long leash to see if he warrants a multi-year extension?
Rashaad Penny, Seattle
James Brimacombe: The buzz for Chris Carson continues to pick up steam as the offseason moves along and even more so when the news about Penny having a slow recovery from his 2019 ACL/meniscus injury. Penny was slowly eased into playing time in 2020 but just played 38 snaps the final three weeks of the season. Penny will be battling for the reserve role behind Carson with Travis Homer, Alex Collins, and DeeJay Dallas. This is Penny's last opportunity to show his worth to the Seahawks in what looks to be a make or break type of season.
Drew Davenport: The knee injury suffered at the end of 2019 is still having a ripple effect as Penny didn't play much last year, and he's already had a cleanup procedure during this calendar year. But, the actions of the team say quite a bit. Their depth chart is mediocre, and they didn't move to sign anyone in free agency. When Penny got hurt, he was coming off a two-game stretch where it appeared the Seahawks were ready to use him as a complement to Chris Carson. In those two games, he posted 29 carries, 4 receptions, 236 total yards, and 3 touchdowns. Watch Penny's health closely in the next eight weeks, and if he can show he's ready to go, he should earn significant touches for Seattle this year.
Ryan Hester: Penny hasn’t returned the value Seattle hoped for when they made him a first-round pick. And this could be the last season he’s given a chance to do so. Penny is clearly a backup to Chris Carson, but he’s the most well-suited player to step in and lead the backfield in touches in the event of an injury.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay
Sigmund Bloom: Bernard has fallen off of the radar in redraft leagues, but he could revive the James White role for Tom Brady and be the most consistent fantasy running back in the Bucs backfield in PPR leagues. We already know Bernard is the best suited to play on passing downs and in the two-minute drill offense. Those situations should produce valuable targets and scoring opportunities for Bernard. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II are also prone to developments that put them in the doghouse, while Bernard usually plays assignment sound football and earns his coach's and teammates' trust.
Jeff Haseley: Tampa has several running back options in Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, KeShawn Vaughn, and Bernard, but the glaring low point last year was Brady's lack of a consistent go-to receiving back in the James White mold that he gravitated to so often in New England. White and Bernard were members of the same backfield in high school, and they have long been good friends. It made sense for Bernard to sign with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, especially after talking to White about the move. My gut says Bernard will be used in a similar role to White's when he and Brady were teammates with the Patriots. Tampa has more weapons and downfield options than Brady had in New England, but the James White role that featured north of 60 receptions on average should be similar. Bernard has a greater-than-zero chance of reaching 50 receptions in 2021.
Devontae Booker, NY Giants
Andy Hicks: Susceptibility to injury at the running back position is high. Saquon Barkley went down last year. If that were to happen again in 2021, the depth chart looks clear for Devontae Booker to be the main back. Booker struggled with the Broncos as a raw prospect but finally figured it out with the Raiders in 2020. He may lack the upside you would like but will offer bottom-end RB2 production if given a chance.
Jason Wood: Booker isn't a star and wouldn't be an every-week fantasy starter in Saquon Barkley's absence. But he is talented and would presumably be the lead back in a committee if Barkley can't stay healthy. The Giants' offensive line is better than your league mates realize, and Booker could be a quality spot starter for a few weeks when you need him most.
Malcolm Brown, Miami
Drew Davenport: The Dolphins' backfield isn't made up of guys with a lot of draft capital or large salaries. Gaskin is, of course, the favorite to carry the load, but Brown fits the mold of a player Brian Flores was looking for when he brought Jordan Howard to town last year. That didn't work out, but Brown showed enough in Los Angeles to hang around for a couple of years as a valuable contributor, and the Dolphins are taking a shot that he can help them as well. None of the guys he's competing with are extraordinary, so Brown could carve out a role all on his own or benefit greatly if the situation were to change because of an injury or a roster cut down.
Andy Hicks: Malcolm Brown survived for six years as a Ram as an undrafted free agent. In the last two years, he managed five touchdowns and was solid as a runner. The depth chart in Miami is weak. The other runners are either late seventh-rounders or undrafted as well. We do not get certain production from running backs late in a fantasy draft. We look for upside and opportunity. Brown could easily come out of training camp as the starter.
Tevin Coleman, NY Jets
Phil Alexander: Rookie Michael Carter is the upside play in the Jets backfield, but it wouldn't be shocking if Tevin Coleman opened the season as New York's primary back on early downs. We're at the point in Coleman's career arc where we can safely dismiss the possibility he'll break out in a featured role. But his familiarity with the Jets' new coaching staff from their time together in San Francisco should give Coleman an early leg up on youngsters Carter and LaMichael Perine. Absent injury to a team's current starter, Coleman has a much stronger chance of turning in startable weeks than other backs drafted in the same tier, like Chubba Hubbard and Darrynton Evans.
Chad Parsons: Coleman is the leader in the clubhouse for a 1A role to start the season. His profile of production is the best on a shaky Jets running back depth chart. While much of the fantasy attention is towards Day 3 rookie Michael Carter, playing the field with Coleman and even Ty Johnson or LaMical Perine is the best bang for the buck if there is a clarified right answer.
Darrynton Evans, Tennessee
James Brimacombe: We all know that the Titans offense goes through Derrick Henry when it comes to the running attack. But what if Henry wasn't available? The Titans running back depth chart is very thin with Darrynton Evans, Brian Hill, and Jeremy McNichols. I want to bet on Evans seeing the field more in 2021 and not just as a handcuff to Henry but also as someone that can play a third-down role and show flashes while he does it.
Pat Fitzmaurice: Derrick Henry holds the deed to the Titans' backfield, but there might be room for Evans to contribute as well, and the second-year back could become immensely valuable if anything happened to Henry. A third-round draft pick in 2020, Evans is an explosive playmaker with 4.4 speed and pass-catching chops. He's somewhat slightly built at 5-foot-10, 203 pounds, yet he handled 255 carries in his final college season at Appalachian State, rushing for 1,480 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. Evans missed half of his rookie season with a hamstring injury, which helps explain why he's being overlooked this year. He's a terrific late-round flyer.
Wayne Gallman, San Francisco
Drew Davenport: The 49ers signing Gallman was a bit of a puzzler when they did it, but the Jeff Wilson injury adds a bit of clarity. While Gallman is technically third on the depth chart, he sits behind 29-year-old Raheem Mostert, who couldn't stay on the field last year, and a rookie. Trey Sermon could very well be the answer for the 49ers, but this wouldn't be the first time the fantasy community has been excited about a rookie in San Francisco that didn't pay off. The offense is obviously fantasy-friendly, so don't turn your nose up at Gallman late in drafts. His path to fantasy relevance isn't as daunting as it appears at first blush.
Andy Hicks: Following the injury to Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman demonstrated he was a more than capable running back in the NFL. Signed for basically nothing in free agency by the 49ers, he fits their system well. Opportunity will be the problem. The injury to Jeff Wilson opens a door. Raheem Mostert has trouble staying on the field, and the rookie Trey Sermon is no sure thing. Gallman can probably be taken on the waiver wire, but if he gets action will not disappoint.
Ty Johnson, NY Jets
Victoria Geary: Johnson "made a strong impression" during minicamp per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. As it stands, the New York backfield is a huge question mark, and Johnson has a chance to emerge as the early season starter. He averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry and tallied 104 yards against the Raiders in Week 13 when given a chance at the starting role. Though 28-year-old running back Tevin Coleman was signed in free agency, he averaged under two yards-per-carry last year and struggled to stay healthy and on the field. Rookie Michael Carter is expected to take over this backfield at some point, but Johnson is a good last-round target that could provide FLEX value.
Andy Hicks: The Jets backfield is a mess. With an improved offensive line and a rookie quarterback, expect the running back position to be utilized heavily. Probably be a committee. Ty Johnson could be anything from starter to cut before the season starts. He did have a great game against the Raiders under the previous regime and has as good a chance as anyone else to be productive. This is a battle to watch in training camp.
Damien Williams, Chicago
Ryan Hester: After opting out of the 2020 season, Williams might be an afterthought. But he shouldn’t be discounted. He put up multiple RB1 stretches in Kansas City, including consecutive postseasons in which he was among the most dynamic players in the league’s most dynamic offense. He’s obviously behind David Montgomery, but all backs selected this late in drafts are behind someone. And Williams would slot into at least a two-down role in from of Tarik Cohen, who can safely be considered a specialist rather than a workhorse at this point in his career.
Justin Howe: David Montgomery was a fantasy darling down the 2020 stretch, taking on 25.7 touches a game as the PPR RB3 from Weeks 12-17. But Montgomery has yet to prove he can dominate coach Matt Nagy's backfield when it's stocked and healthy. With the return of Tarik Cohen, Montgomery should slip a notch or two in terms of overall usage and opportunity. And with former Super Bowl hero Williams on board as well, Montgomery could find himself in a full-on committee. Should that happen, or should Montgomery go down to injury, Williams would benefit far more than Cohen as a three-down producer. Cohen caught 150 passes from 2018-19, a juicy role that the versatile Williams could share - or even steal outright as the one-trick Cohen returns from ACL surgery. Any real role in the backfield would produce value on Williams' ADP, but there's upside here to obliterate it.
Darrel Williams, Kansas City
Drew Davenport: The Chiefs let Damien Williams walk and made no move to retain LeVeon Bell for the upcoming season, either. The only addition they made was to sign 29-year-old Jerrick McKinnon. Even though Williams hasn't set the world on fire when he's been given the opportunity, he obviously delivers something the coaching staff likes. He continues to get opportunities on third downs and in the passing game, and when given a chance, has been a solid, if unexciting, producer in the Kansas City offense. If something were to happen to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams would be given a sizeable role and instant fantasy appeal.
Chad Parsons: LeVeon Bell is gone from 2020, and Damien Williams' opt-out last season turned into a free agent exit. Williams is left of the incumbents with a consistently managed -- due to durability -- Jerick McKinnon, the notable addition. While Williams lacks the flash of McKinnon's best moments of his career, Williams has shades of Alfred Blue, an all-around solid veteran who has more NFL appreciation than fantasy acclaim.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Salvon Ahmed, Miami
Phil Alexander: Are we sold on Myles Gaskin as the Dolphins' bell-cow? When forced into emergency duties as a rookie, Ahmed was impressive, turning in weekly top-12 numbers twice in four starts. The former undrafted free agent out of Washington showed more juice in his legs as a runner than Gaskin and proved capable as a pass-catcher. A case can also be made for Malcolm Brown in this spot, but Ahmed is younger and has greater upside. Regardless of which backup you prefer, Miami's backfield hierarchy is ambiguous enough to target the cheaper pieces as late-draft lotto tickets.
Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia
Anthony Amico: Gainwell was a dominant producer at Memphis but opted out of the 2020 season. That may have caused him to slip into Day 3 of the 2021 draft. Nick Sirianni has a history of using a committee at running back, and Gainwell should be the current favorite for a Nyheim Hines-esque role. But Miles Sanders is not Jonathan Taylor, and Gainwell has more workhorse history than someone like Hines. He has a nice floor with upside if this Eagle offense can jam under Jalen Hurts.
Khalil Herbert, Chicago
Jason Wood: One of Matt Waldman's favorite rookie running backs, per the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, Herbert ends up in Chicago with no guarantee to make the game-day roster. But the talent is undeniable, and the Bears' offense needs a workhorse in the backfield. If David Montgomery gets hurt, Herbert is a far more credible alternative than gimmicky scatback Tarik Cohen.
Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City
Phil Alexander: After missing the 2018 and 2019 seasons entirely, it appeared doubtful McKinnon had much left to offer an NFL team. But when injuries to Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman forced McKinnon into the 49ers lead-back role early in 2020, the 28-year-old veteran acquitted himself well. Through four weeks, McKinnon ranked as the RB11 despite only starting two games. Predictably, he quickly wore down under the heavier-than-expected workload and only touched the ball 21 times over his next four games. A stinger suffered in a Week 10 start would effectively end his season. McKinnon's roster spot in Kansas City is not guaranteed, but he's the most experienced player in the Chiefs running back room, as well as the most athletic. It's easy to envision him carving out a role in the league's most dynamic passing game and re-entering the RB1 conversation if forced into starting duties.
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco
Chad Parsons: The 49ers have been a consistent run game to churn through backs in-season due to durability and availability. Jeff Wilson is already likely out until at least midseason and possibly longer. Trey Sermon warrants breakout consideration and chatter, but Mitchell is one step closer to relevancy with Wilson out of the picture. Raheem Mostert could be a cut candidate if the 49ers like what they see from Sermon, Mitchell, Wayne Gallman, and JaMycal Hasty over the next two months. Plus, while there is no exact replication of James Robinson's magical situation from 2020 as a breakout player from relative obscurity, Mitchell (with a Mostert cut and possessing a good enough prospect profile himself) has the best 'squint and see a Robinson-like perfect storm' of the sleeper rookie running backs.
Qadree Ollison, Atlanta
Sigmund Bloom: If you're skeptical that Mike Davis will hold down the starting running back job in Atlanta for the whole season, you're not alone. The problem is how to make this belief actionable in your fantasy dealings. Ollison has already elicited praise from the new coaching staff, and his hard-charging style should please new head coach Arthur Smith, who just lost having Derrick Henry set the tone for his offense in Tennessee. If Davis isn't up to the task of being a bell cow this year, Ollison will probably be the Falcons back you want on your roster.
Samaje Perine, Cincinnati
Sigmund Bloom: There is widespread skepticism about Joe Mixon's ability to stay healthy for an entire season, yet there is little interest in fantasy circles in his backup. Perine played well enough for the Bengals last year while Mixon was out to merit a two-year, 3.3-million dollar deal with $700,000 guaranteed, which puts him in a position to be the first running back off the bench and the starter if Mixon goes down. Perine is one of the more potentially valuable #2 backs in fantasy football, but his ADP doesn't reflect that.
Stevie Scott, New Orleans
Pat Fitzmaurice: He's undraftable in all but the deepest of leagues, but Stevie Scott is a name to keep on file for future waiver runs. An undrafted rookie free agent, Scott is a 6-foot-1, 231-pound bruiser who ran for 10 touchdowns in each of his three college seasons at Indiana. He's a physical runner with nimble feet, and he had 55 career receptions for the Hoosiers. He won't be able to muscle his way past Alvin Kamara or Latavius Murray on the Saints' depth chart, but Scott could be just one injury away from fantasy viability.
Rhamondre Stevenson, New England
Pat Fitzmaurice: Fantasy managers have fallen in love with Najee Harris, largely because he's a bigger back with pass-catching skills. Meanwhile, Rhamondre Stevenson is standing in a corner largely unnoticed, clearing his throat. Stevenson is listed at 6-foot-0, 227 pounds on the Patriots' website but played at over 230 pounds at Oklahoma (and maybe close to 240). He's a powerful, tackle-busting runner who could be the next LeGarrette Blount, but with softer hands. Stevenson had 18 receptions in just six games in his final college season at Oklahoma, averaging 11.7 yards per catch. And, man, this guy is a load to bring down. Ask the Florida Gators, whom he trampled for 186 rushing yards in last season's Cotton Bowl. Stevenson will enter training camp behind Damien Harris on the depth chart but has a chance to earn a significant role in the Patriots' backfield.