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10 Best Ball Running Back Sleepers - 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Targets Include James Cook, Samaje Perine, De'Von Achane, more

Samaje Perine - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

With the 2023 NFL season just over a month away from kicking off, it is time to get in your best ball drafts if you haven’t already done so.

Each year, there are running backs in best ball drafts that are taken very late but end up changing the entire trajectory of teams. In 2022, some of these late RBs included Rhamondre Steveson, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, and Jamaal Williams. All typically went outside the top 30 RBs but finished inside the top 11 in the Underdog best-ball format.

To make the “sleeper” term as straightforward as possible, I will only be including RBs that are not currently ranked inside the 30 at the position in Underdog drafts. These are the RBs that you should be targeting when you desperately need some valuable upside late in your best-ball draft. This will be based on Underdog scoring and ADP.

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James Cook, Buffalo Bills

ADP: 72.6, RB23

I expect Cook to lead all Bills’ RBs in touches for the 2023 season. With Nyheim Hines out for the season, the Georgia product will be the clear pass catcher in the backfield while only competing with Damien Harris and 33-year-old Latavius Murray for carries. 

Cook did not have a lot of volume by any means but did average an exceptional 5.7 yards per carry in 2022. While Harris will more than likely take on the goal line and short-yardage work, Cook can flourish as a change of pace and pass-catching back in one of the league's top offenses. 

 

Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos

 ADP: 116.9, RB38

Despite Javonte Williams fully participating in drills this offseason, I am still not completely confident that he’ll be at his best for at least the start of the season. Williams suffered from a brutal injury just 10 months ago where he tore his ACL, LCL, and PCL. Running backs have historically not been able to recover from this type of injury in such a short amount of time. 

The fact that Perine got paid as much as he did in a league where RBs are not getting the money they want goes to show how highly Denver and Sean Payton value him. Payton has publicly said to have a clear plan for Perine. I expect a large part of it to be pass-catching duties, as Perine did very well with Cincinnati.

 

Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks

ADP: 104.7, RB36

Seattle shocked many people when they took Charbonnet with the 52nd pick after Kenneth Walker dominated in his first season. Charbonnet reminds me a lot of AJ Dillion coming out of college as he dominated as a runner at UCLA. He put up 1359 rushing yards and 14 trips to the endzone in 2022 while averaging a mindblowing seven yards per carry. 

Assuming both Seattle RBs are healthy for week one, I expect a 65/35 split to start the year. Charbonnet is primarily the pass-catcher, with the potential to get it closer to 50/50 as the season progresses.  

 

De'Von Achane, Miami Dolphins

ADP: 131.0, RB43

Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel was a huge advocate in drafting Achane and has done nothing but rave about the speedy back. We know McDaniel loves speed and Achane ran a 4.32 at the combine, which was the fourth fastest in history among RBs. 

Assuming that Miami does not add any relevant RBs to their roster, Achane will only be competing with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson for touches. I expect Achane to be the primary pass-catcher for the Dolphins and have a very increased role as the season progresses. This is an absolute smash at his current ADP -- despite his shoulder injury that isn't expected to sideline him for long.

 

Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

ADP: 93.6, RB32

With the departure of David Montgomery, Herbert is expected to lead Chicago's backfield in front of D’Onta Foreman and rookie RB Roschon Johnson. Herbert has yet to get the opportunity to show that he’s a starting RB but has shown nothing but dominance when he has been on the field.  

The former sixth-round pick racked up 731 rushing yards on just 129 carries playing behind Montgomery. The starting back in the best-rushing offense in the league going this late in drafts is just ridiculous and should be taken advantage of.

 

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

ADP: 131.3, RB44

Mitchell will be the clear number two back in San Francisco. Despite being hurt for much of the 2022 season, Mitchell still averaged over 11 touches per game in the six games with Christian McCaffrey, including the playoffs. 

While CMC will dominate the backfield, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan showed a willingness to rest him for Mitchell down the stretch. As we have seen over the past few years, any RB will produce in this offense with Shanahan calling the shots. Mitchell can bring a ton of value at his current ADP even with CMC healthy. but will be a huge steal if the all-pro RB misses any time whatsoever. 

 

Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs

ADP: 125.3, RB42

After testing free agency, McKinnon decided to sign back with Kansas City for the third straight year. The 31-year-old back started his 2022 season slow but ramped it up and ended up dominating over the last six weeks of the regular season. Patrick Mahomes loves using his RBs in the passing game and McKinnon has done that very well for the Chiefs over the past two seasons.

While he is in a backfield with Isiah Pacheco and a returning Clyde Edwards-Helaire, McKinnon proved to be the best receiving back out of the bunch and I expect his role to stay the same. McKinnon scored in each of the last six regular season games in 2022 and ranked as the overall fantasy RB2 during that time. The pass-catching back for the league's top offense should be going much higher than his ADP.

 

Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints

ADP: 121.7, RB41

Williams may have been the best value pick in best ball drafts last year and could very well have a case again in 2023. The former Lions back exploded this past season as he put up over 1,000 rushing yards. He also led the entire NFL in rushing TDs with 17 on the year. He finished as a top-eight fantasy RB and will look to dominate once again

While Williams will have some real competition in the backfield with Alvin Kamara and rookie third-round pick Kendre Miller, I expect him to lead the team in carries and be the clear goal-line back. With Kamara suspended for the first three games of the regular season, Williams will be the clear lead back during that time and can still produce when Kamara is back.

 

Devin Singletary, Houston Texans

ADP: 171.1, RB54 

After spending his first four seasons in Buffalo, Singletary agreed to a one-year deal with the Texans. Damion Pierce will be the lead back in Houston but the team did not show complete confidence in him as a pass-catcher and this is where Singletary will play a role. The former Bills' back has shown that he can give consistent rushing production as well as competent receiving out of the backfield.

Houston has a much-improved O-line and has made it an emphasis to establish a run game. Singletary has great value at this spot even as a backup to Pierce, but is also one of the best handcuffs that you can have at the RB position.  

 

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

ADP: 141.6, RB48

The Eagles showed a willingness to play Gainwell a ton late in the season and even sat Miles Sanders in playoff games for him. Gainwell played about 43% of offensive snaps during the playoffs, which was a substantial increase from the 28% that he had during the regular season.

While they did sign Rashad Penny and trade for D’Andre Swift, Gainwell is already established in this backfield and I think the only one guaranteed a solid role in this dominant offense. Swift will more than likely be the primary pass-catching RB and Penny will take a ton of carries away, but these two backs have not proved that they can stay on the field. 

Gainwell will mix in everywhere for Philly and is an absolute steal going this late, I believe that he is a must-target in every draft.  

 

The Free Agents: 

Both of these values are very solid as of right now as their ADPs will go up significantly if they do sign with a team. I think the risk of taking these guys is well worth it considering how late in the draft it is and the upside that we know they can provide.

Fournette was connected to both the Patriots and the Jets. While these destinations won't happen now, there are still several teams that could use his abilities in their backfield. Kareem Hunt is an incredible value as he has met with the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, and the Minnesota Vikings. Hunt has a real shot to be the lead back for the Colts if he signs there, as they have permitted Jonathan Taylor to seek a trade. 



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