10 RB sleepers to target for fantasy football week 3
It’s been an injury-filled start to the season for many fantasy teams, so check out these options if you’re hunting for last-minute RB sleepers.
Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) is one of the biggest RB sleepers heading into Week 3. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The fantasy football season tends to turn into a battle of attrition at some point in the season where almost every owner is trying to manage around injuries. It seems like that point has come very early this year after a number of big-name players have ended up on the shelf. With news coming down Sunday that even more options are unavailable, check out these last-minute RB sleepers if you suddenly need to scramble at the position.
Every week, you can find these position-focused last-minute sleepers here on FanSided along with plenty of other posts to help you throught the week. Check out my top 10 last-minute WR sleepers from earlier this morning if you’re hitting the market for receiver help.
FanSided has assembled some great tools to help you get your lineup set for fantasy football each week. You can find all our coverage by checking out (and bookmarking) the fantasy football hub where you’ll find the top 10 matchups to attack for the week as well as full Week 3 rankings. You can also get any specific lineup question answered by checking out the new start/sit tool.
You won’t find these RB sleepers at the very top of those rankings, though. Instead, I’ll use this post to try to pinpoint some players in the mid-range who could be among the top performers along with some players flying off the radar toward the bottom of the rankings who have serious potential to be the best RB sleepers this week.
All these RB sleepers are risky to some degree, but I think they can be used as cheap DFS plays or as plug-and-play options off of many league’s waiver wires. Overall, I expect each of them to out-perform their general expectations in week 3.
One final reminder–these are sleeper RBs, so don’t go crazy and take a flier on one of them over a more established play. For example, I like Cameron Artis-Payne a lot this week, but I wouldn’t start him over Mark Ingram, Melvin Gordon, or even Shane Vereen. The picks appear in order from most well-known to deepest sleeper.
Let’s get going with my five last-minute sleeper running backs week 2 by starting with a back in a juicy matchup who could be a top-10 option.
Sep 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Charles Sims (34) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson (22) and outside linebacker Deone Bucannon (20) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeat the Buccaneers 40-7. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Charles Sims-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have been platooning their running backs the last couple of years with Doug Martin as the primary early-down option and Charles Sims as the nice third-down playmaker in the passing game. I’ve always thought that Sims could be a fantasy star if he got the workload, and it looks like this week he’ll get his shot. Sims will be in for a bigger role this week which makes him a good option from the RB sleepers against the Rams in fantasy football week 3.
Martin will be sidelined for a few weeks with a hamstring injury leaving Sims the bulk of the backfield responsibility. He’ll share a little bit of work with the Jacquizz Rodgers, but look for the third-year back from West Virginia to get almost all the touches.
Sims didn’t do much in Week 2 even after Martin left totaling just 24 yards on nine rushes and only four yards on three catches. The whole Bucs’ offense was a mess against the Cardinals, though, so they should find things a little bit better as they take on the Rams at home in Tampa.
In Week 1, the Rams defense was beaten up by Carlos Hyde and the 49ers, but they looked much better last week against the Seahawks. Even though the Rams aren’t an ideal matchup for a fantasy running back, Sims is in a good spot in fantasy football week 3 since he’ll get a ton of work both as a rusher and a receiver.
Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) runs the ball for the Browns
Isaiah Crowell-Cleveland Browns
Crowell will likely be the focus of the Browns offense this week since the team will be down to third-string QB Cody Kessler. Crowell had a huge game last week racking up 133 yards on 18 carries and getting into the end zone for the second straight week.
Although Duke Johnson Jr. rotates in periodically, Crowell looks to have the feature-back job on lockdown at this point. He doesn’t get very involved as a receiver but could get more work if Kessler checks down to him. The Browns will also be without rookie Corey Coleman who broke his hand in practice this week leaving Crowell as one of the team’s few playmaking options.
Crowell isn’t available in most season-long leagues, but he gets into our RB sleepers since he’s outside the top ten but has the upside to be a good value for the price in DFS games. Start him with confidence this week against the Dolphins who have been gouged by the Seahawks and Patriots on the ground. Look for Crowell to get at least around 20 carries and be one of the better RB Sleepers this week.
Sep 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael (32) is defended by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) during the second half of a NFL game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Christine Michael-Seattle Seahawks
Michael hasn’t gone off to start the season like some of his owners were hoping, but he has been working hard and carrying the load for Seattle. The Seahwks have made it clear that they are still waiting for Thomas Rawls to be able to return to the field as their starter, but with Rawls doubtful for today we should get another C-Mike show.
Given the workload he’ll have and the matchup he’s in, Michael has the potential to be a top-10 running back. He has run for 126 yards in the Seahawks’ first two games an added 31 yards on five catches out of the backfield. Michael hasn’t found his way into the end zone and had a brutal fumble which sealed the Seahawks Week 2 loss in Los Angeles.
Even with his costly fumble, Michael should get plenty of work this week and coach Pete Carroll has said he hopes to get him 20+ carries in today’s game. Remember that Fozzy Whittaker put up 100 yards last week against the 49ers, and dream about just how big Micheal’s total could end up being if Seattle feeds him the ball all day long. Get him in your lineup this week as one of the best RB sleepers on the board.
Jan 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (31) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Minnesota won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jerick McKinnon-Minnesota Vikings
Another running back stepping into a larger role this week will be Vikings back Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon will get the lion’s share of the workload while Adrian Peterson is sidelined for the next few months.
When Peterson went down on Sunday Night Football in Week 2, McKinnon immediately made an intriguing option on the waiver wire Week 3. McKinnon had a strong preseason, and he has huge upside if he can lay claim to the every-down back job. He may initially have to share carries with veteran Matt Asiata who is best used as a short-yardage and goalline back.
McKinnon will be a high-risk flex option this week in a tough matchup against the Panthers, but if he has a good game he’ll be usable in upcoming matchups against the Giants, Texans, Eagles, and Bears. He’s one of the biggest question marks among the RB sleepers, so hold off this week if you can and be ready to roll him out moving forward if he shows well.
Sep 1, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Shane Vereen (34) rushes for yardage against New England Patriots during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Vereen-New York Giants
In the Giants first two games of the season, Shane Vereen has been surprisingly involved, and he’s set up for an even bigger workload this week. He already has 20 carries in two games after totaling only 61 carries in his 16 games last year. Vereen also has pulled in three passes in each game as well for a total of 47 yards.
He did have a tough fumble against the Saints in Week 2 but was able to total 66 yards. He couldn’t convert his goal line opportunities, but it was a good sign that he got those carries. This week, he’ll get all the work he can handle since Rashad Jennings has been ruled out for Week 3.
Vereen should be able to put together a good week against Washington on Sunday since Washington gave up over 300 yards of total offense in the first two weeks to opposing running backs. In both their games, the opposing RB’s have scored two rushing touchdowns.
While Vereen is far from a lock, he does make sense as a cheap DFS option or as a plug-and-play flex option. Vereen is risky, but the matchup and his usage make him one of the best RB sleepers this week.
Sep 1, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (34) runs up the middle chased by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort (54) during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Cameron Artis-Payne-Carolina Panthers
The Panthers lost Jonathan Stewart last week to a hamstring injury, and they’ll be without the veteran running back for the next few weeks. After Stewart went out, his work went to Fozzy Whittaker who promptly piled up 100 yards against the 49ers. Whittaker was the backup last week because the team had Cameron Artis-Payne inactive since he doesn’t contribute on special teams.
Going into this weeks game against the Vikings, however, the Panthers will have Artis-Payne active and ready to roll as their feature back. Earlier this week, Coach Ron Rivera said, “”All he’s ever needed was the opportunity.” He’ll get that opportunity this week and is a great option in DFS where some sites still have him at the minimum.
Artis-Payne finished last year with three games in a row with over 40 yards and also had a strong showing this preseason. He’s a risky option this week, but he’s one of the RB sleepers you can take a gamble on this week.
Aug 28, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) hands the ball off to running back Chris Ivory (33) in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Ivory-Jacksonville Jaguars
Chris Ivory is actually available in almost 25% of ESPN leagues since he has yet to get on the field for the Jags after they signed him to a big contract this offseason. He’s one of the RB sleepers who could come up big this week, though, even though he may be on a snap count in his first game back from his mystery illness.
Just hours before Week 1, Ivory was unexpectedly hospitalized and forced to miss Weeks 1 and 2. T.J. Yeldon had a chance to step up and steal the job while Ivory was out, but Yeldon was a disappointment. That should leave plenty of room for Ivory to step in and produce.
He’s a high-risk play this week since how much he’ll play and how effective he’ll be is still in question. However, he should dominate goal line carries and could be the team’s featured back in the near future. Grab him off waiver wires if someone dropped him prematurely, and he could be started against the Ravens if you can’t find a better play.
Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions running back Dwayne Washington (36) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown as he is tackled by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kendall Langford (90) in the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Dwayne Washington-Detroit Lions
Another running back situation thrown into chaos by injury this week is in Detroit where they Lions are trying to replace the injured Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah suffered a sprained foot in the Lions loss to Tennessee and he landed on IR by the middle of the week.
With Abdullah out, the Lions will split duties between Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, and maybe a little bit of Zach Zenner mixed in. Riddick is a solid play, but he isn’t an every-down back and could also struggle to stay healthy. The member of the Lions backfield in our RB sleepers this week is the goal-line option Dwayne Washington.
Washington was the 236th pick in last year’s draft after starring at Washington University (pretty sure it wasn’t named after him, though). He had a monster finish to the preseason to first leap into the fantasy football sleeper picture totaling 104 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the preseason including a 58-yard run to daylight against the Bills.
In his regular season action, Washington had 31 yards on his four carries against the Titans in Week 2. He could get double-digit carries against the Packers today, and his role as the team’s short-yardage specialist gives him the inside track for any rushing TDs the offense generates. He’s still a flier option even with Detroit’s current situation, but he’s worth adding in almost all formats.
Starting him this week is risky, but he’s one of the RB sleepers to watch as the situation unfolds in Detroit this week.
Sep 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Kenyan Drake-Miami Dolphins
Arian Foster has officially been ruled out, and if you took a flier on Drake from my waiver wire pickups this is exactly what you want to see.
With Arian Foster out, the #Dolphins are treating rookie RB Kenyan Drake as the starter today, source said. Opportunity awaits.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 25, 2016
Drake has a huge chance to get off to a good start against the Browns. He will still be part of a dreaded running-back-by-committee, but he does have lots of upside. He’ll share time with Jay Ajayi. However, Ajayi has been extremely underwhelming all year. He only had 14 yards on his five carries against the Patriots although he did add 31 yards on his four catches. Ajayi was actually a healthy inactive in Week 1 after a rough preseason. As a result of Foster’s injury and Ajayi’s struggles, there could be a chance for Kenyan Drake to burst onto the scene as one of the RB sleepers this week.
Drake joined the Dolphins as a third-round pick in last year’s draft out of Alabama. He got his first touches in the NFL Week 2 after Foster left injured. Drake racked up 12 yards on his two carries and caught two catches for six more yards and a touchdown. He has huge upside, and he’s a good speculative pickup although he’ll be a high-risk play this week. If you need a plug-and-play option from the last-minute RB sleepers, Drake is worth a look as a late play.
Sep 19, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) carries the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at Soldier Field. The Eagles won 29-14. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears
The Bears still have Jeremy Langford as their top running back, but they did lose backup Ka’Deem Carey for this week. Carey’s absence could be enough to get rookie Jordan Howard some extra work, and eventually he could eat into Langford’s workload. Bears’ OC Dowell Loggains praised Howard’s week of practice, and he could be ready to step into more of an involved role.
Last week, Howard quickly piled up 22 yards on his three carries and looked more dynamic than Langford did. Langford only managed 28 yards on his 11 carries and did find the end zone while also losing a fumble.
The Bears drafted Howard in the fifth round out of Indiana hoping he could contribute, and he definitely deserves watching as his role grows. At this point, it’s risky to start Howard, but he can be stashed in deeper leagues and started if you’re absolutely desperate. He’s one of the RB sleepers to watch going into next week.
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