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Deeper Running Back Sleepers - 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Value Picks

In fantasy sports, there are sleepers. We all know what sleepers are. We all get obsessed over sleepers and we play fantasy on websites called Sleeper and it's just sleeper this and sleeper that. Sleeper sleeper sleeper.

The problem is, everyone talks about the same sleepers so much that they stop being sleepers. The sleepers of today are the overhyped players of tomorrow.

So, today, I'm going to talk about some sleepers who are such sleepers that they aren't going to be overhyped to death. Below are three running backs who are deep sleepers for 2022. Guys that we aren't talking about. Guys whose path to fantasy stardom are fairly bleak to be honest, but who at least have some interesting-enough upside for me to have some exposure to. All of these guys are ranked outside of the top-50 at the running back position.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

James White, New England Patriots

Hahahahaha, look at Justin Carter, hyping up James White for seemingly the 18th year in a row.

But you know what? I'll continue to be in on White in full PPR leagues. His 2021 season was cut short by a hip injury, but in the two full games he played, White averaged 47 receiving yards and 16 rushing yards.

He was on track to be a solid piece in the Patriots' offense, something a healthy White has often been. He had four years in a row with at least 600 all-purpose yards.

And that 2020 season where White saw a drop in his numbers was also the gap year between Tom Brady and Mac Jones. Jones is a more reliable option than [insert whoever was throwing him passes in 2020, I'm not looking this one up, sorry] was.

Per Sharp Football Stats, Jones ranked fifth among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage on short passes at 73%. He'll be great for getting the ball out quickly to a pass-catching back like White.

I mean, Brandon Bolden had 405 receiving yards last season, over double his all-time high. As long as he's healthy, we're going to see a vintage James White season in 2022.

 

Damien Williams, Atlanta Falcons

Cordarrelle Patterson was the surprise of 2021. The converted receiver saw 153 carries as a running back, finishing with 618 yards and six touchdowns. He was also targeted 69 times, finishing with 548 yards and five touchdowns. He quickly displaced Mike Davis as the team's top back.

But that's not to say Atlanta was running Patterson into the ground. Davis still had 138 carries, while Wayne Gallman and Qadree Ollison combined for another 49 carries. And Davis was involved in the passing game too, with 58 targets.

With Davis now with the Ravens, someone else will be filling his role in Atlanta. It's likely to either be Williams or fifth-round rookie Tyler Allgeier, but I'm leaning on Williams because he's not too far removed from his 2019 season when he had 111 carries for 498 yards plus 30 receptions.

After sitting out 2020 due to the pandemic and then having just 56 touches last year in Chicago, Williams is a pretty young 30. His last three seasons saw him average over four yards per carry and if he gets a volume similar to Davis, he'll be able to contribute to your fantasy team any time you're dealing with injury or bye week issues.

 

Abram Smith, New Orleans Saints

This is our deep, deep guy, as Smith was an undrafted free agent who would need to jump everyone not named Alvin Kamara in the Saints backfield to have value.

But before we even talk about Smith's strengths and weaknesses, let's talk about how moving up this depth chart might not be too hard.

Smith would definitely be in the "thunder" role in this backfield, with Kamara in the "lightning" role. Mark Ingram II currently has that role, but I'm really not sure how much to trust a 32-year-old Ingram.

He had a couple of 1,000-yard seasons with the Saints last decade and then one with the Ravens in 2019, but in 2020, he had just 299 yards and was a healthy scratch at times for Baltimore, and then played for the Texans and Saints last year, combining for 554 yards. He averaged 37.1 yards per game after moving to New Orleans, with 3.8 yards per carry, the lowest mark of his career.

With now running backs age, Ingram isn't a lock to see the field as the complement to Kamara.

The other backs currently on the roster are Smith plus Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington, and Devine Ozigbo.

So, why do I like Smith out of those?

It's pretty simple: because I know I don't like the others.

Hear me out. No one should say that Devine Ozigbo is a deep sleeper. We've seen enough of Ozigbo to know he isn't leaping up a depth chart and stealing Mark Ingram's job.

For someone to be this level of deep sleeper, we almost have to know very little about them at the NFL level. Picking a guy who is this low in the rankings will rarely work out, but it has a better chance of working if that guy hasn't demonstrated that he can't be a good NFL player. Makes sense? Maybe?

Anyway, Smith only had one real year of production at Baylor, but he ran for 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. It took him a while to develop, but he showed some good vision and was a hard runner between the tackles.

He'll surprise you with his ability to evade defenders while running north-south. I know this is probably more of a dynasty play than it is a redraft play, but Smith could be putting up solid numbers by midseason.



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