Tuesday - Jan 22, 2019

Home / Commentary / LATE ROUND SLEEPERS: Running Back

LATE ROUND SLEEPERS: Running Back

Corey Clement, RB, Philadelphia

LeGarrette Blount had 173 rushing attempts for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. Blount is no longer on the Eagles roster. With all of those rushing attempts up for grabs, Corey Clement is one of the most valuable backup running backs in fantasy football this season. On top of that, the Eagles’ current starter at running back, Jay Ajayi, has never been known for his pass-catching prowess. He’s had just 58 receptions in 38 career games, meaning the opportunity for Clement to see an increase in targets out of the backfield is highly likely as well. Should Ajayi be ineffective as a runner or go down with an injury (he’s missed 10 games in his first three seasons), Clement would immediately step in as the starting running back for the Eagles and become a Top 15 fantasy running back. He showed flashes of superb play in his rookie season in 2017 and continued to improve as the season went on.

In limited action from Weeks 8-17, Clement rushed for 244 yards on 48 rushing attempts, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. After accumulating 10 receptions, 139 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown and being a legitimate offensive weapon in three playoff games, I bet the Eagles realize they have found a diamond in the rough in Clement. The return of Darren Sproles is noteworthy, but how confident are you in a 35-year-old running back returning from an injury-riddled 2017 season? With an expanded role as a runner and a receiver in 2018, Clement is a solid RB3-RB4 to have on your roster and his chances of becoming a legitimate fantasy asset at some point during the season are higher than you might think. Don’t think twice about snagging Clement when you have the chance – you won’t regret it.

Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco

In his rookie season in 2017, Matt Breida had 105 carries for 465 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. As a receiver, he caught 21 passes for 180 receiving yards and one touchdown, which proves he can be a capable receiving threat in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. As the backup to Carlos Hyde, Breida performed admirably in his “change of pace” role. The San Francisco 49ers moved on from Carlos Hyde and went out and signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million contract this offseason. I’ve been skeptical of McKinnon as a featured back for a while now. McKinnon was the backup in his first four seasons in Minnesota and has never had more than 160 rushing attempts in a single season.

The 49ers backfield reeks of a “running back by committee” approach. There will be plenty of opportunities for Breida this season, similar to how Shanahan utilized Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman during his stint in Atlanta. In 2016, Freeman logged 227 rushing attempts and had 65 targets out of the backfield. In the same season, Coleman logged 118 attempts and saw 40 targets. Coleman also finished as the 19th-best fantasy running back in point per reception formats that season. My point is, Jerick McKinnon won’t be the only fantasy relevant running back on the 49ers in 2018. After his solid rookie season, Matt Breida has the potential to see 150-plus carries and 50-plus targets this season. That type of workload will put him in the low-end RB2 conversation by the time the season is over. He is a steal at his current 14th-round price tag.

Devontae Booker, RB, Denver

When a starting running back on a theoretically much-improved offense is being drafted towards the end of fantasy drafts, you should take notice. I believe Devontae Booker will start the 2018 season as the starting running back for the Denver Broncos. Rookie running back Royce Freeman will be eased in accordingly but make no mistake, Booker will have his shot to prove he deserves the majority of touches for the duration of the season. The arrival of Case Keenum will drastically improve the Broncos offense and take some pressure off the offensive line, which struggled at times last season. Keenum’s presence will also force defenses to respect the pass more often and in turn, will open up running lanes for the third-year running back out of Utah.

The Broncos ranked 27th in points per game in 2017 and 22nd in 2016. Often trailing, there haven’t been many optimal opportunities the last two seasons for Booker to make the most of his carries. That is going to change this season. Not only will Booker be a more efficient runner, he has also established himself as a legitimate pass-catching option out of the backfield. He’s racked up 61 receptions, 540 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown in his first two seasons and will continue to be a reliable option on passing downs. At Booker’s current 11th-round price tag, he’s as good of a lottery ticket as any running back being drafted outside the first 10 rounds.

About Evan Reardon

An avid Boston sports fan, Evan has been a Patriots and NFL fan since the 1990's. Fantasy football runs in his family. He grew up in the 90's watching his father and uncles play in a 6-team, Touchdown-only league. He has been playing fantasy football since the early 2000's and has been writing fantasy sports content since 2014.