Three Sleeper RBs for the 2021 Season

Target Texans RB Phillip Lindsay

Marcel Boudreau (@Marcel_BFF)

With 32 teams in the NFL, and typically only one running back (RB) on the field at a time, it’s important to strike value on later-round running backs that other league mates are undervaluing. It would be easy to write an article on the known commodities with known upsides like the Gus Edwards, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon’s of the fantasy world. The goal of this article is to highlight RBs going outside of the top 48 RBs (as per 4for4.com ADP), that have a chance of finishing as a valuable fantasy asset and are worth stashing in your drafts.

Phillip Lindsay (RB50 – 165 overall)

Lindsay is the easiest player to talk about in this section, especially with the release of the Houston Texans unofficial depth chart. Lindsay was “co-starter” with Mark Ingram, both ahead of last season’s RB21 overall and 2017’s consensus fantasy first overall pick, David Johnson. Lindsay has career yards per carry of 4.78, which is a very impressive mark. His reputation was stained last season when he failed to score touchdowns as Melvin Gordon was brought into Denver and took the goal-line role. This should not alter how we see Lindsay, as the two years before he averaged 8 touchdowns per season, and caught 35 passes per year, to lead him to 19th and 13th overall finishes. It is also key to note that the Denver offense has struggled over the last three seasons, limiting Lindsay’s scoring attempts and positive game script carries. Other than his smaller frame, there are not many reasons we cannot see Lindsay take over as the RB1 in this offense, and finish as a top 30 RB. 

Kenneth Gainwell (RB62 – 224 overall)

Gainwell slipped much further in the 2021 draft than most expected. This may have been due to a lack of RB need across the league, his smaller body size, or his decision to opt-out of the 2020 college season for COVID reasons. Regardless, Gainwell is an extremely talented pass-catching RB, and many ranked him top 3 in this draft class as a pass-catcher. Why is this relevant? Philadelphia Eagles starting RB, Miles Sanders, struggled mightily in the passing game last season. This Philly team brought in Nick Sirianni as the head coach, who comes from the Frank Reich tree of coaching, who produced the RB15, Nyheim Hines, along with the RB6, Jonathan Taylor just last season (both in PPR scoring). The Philly backfield duo will not produce these finishes, but it comes to show the usage in this running back by committee approach. If Gainwell is lucky enough to see near the passing work that Hines had, Gainwell could produce high floor PPR weeks, with a decent ceiling due to his break-away ability. On top of this, Sanders missed 4 games last season, which could open the door for Gainwell to have top-20 weeks if Sanders misses more time next season. 

Rashaad Penny (RB52 – 181 overall)

Yes, we’re doing it again. When on the field, and on a per touch basis, Rashaad Penny has been very good. In fact, in his five career games with 10+ attempts, Penny has put up four top-14 weekly finishes. Why is he not being drafted higher? A combination of his horrendous injury history and splitting the backfield with Chris Carson. The Seahawks have been rumored all off-season to want to run the ball more, and because of this, there’s a world where both these backs can co-exist, while both being relevant fantasy options. To add, Chris Carson has yet to play a full season in the NFL, and if he were to miss any time, Penny would be an auto-start top-20 RB with weekly top-10 upside. Penny is a player you want to stash at the end of drafts to see his role in the offense in week 1. He has shed some weight and is reported to be looking a lot more explosive in camp, which is a scary thought, for a player who has a lot to prove after being a former first-round pick and potentially entering free agency following the season. 

To conclude, these are not the only guys that have the potential to outproduce ADP at the end of the draft, but these are backs who have could have sneaky weekly upside. Other honorable mentions: Darrynton Evans, Xavier Jones, Gerrid Doaks. I hope this article helps you prepare to go into re-draft season! Thanks for reading.

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