2023 Fantasy RB Sleepers
Jamaal Williams had scored 13 touchdowns over his first five pro seasons while carrying the ball an average of 130 times for 517 yards per year. He began 2022 as the backup to and possible goalline vulture to D’Andre Swift but saw action in all 17 games, had 262 carries for 1,066 yards, and led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns to the delight of many fantasy players after Swift missed the better part of the season.
The running back sleeper category can differ from other positions in that injuries and committees can open up windows of opportunity for players to shine that vary in length. There were several examples of this last year to learn from ahead of the 2023 season.
Rhamondre Stevenson is a player that emerged from a position battle in New England to finish as RB11 in half-PPR leagues after being the 36th running back drafted in 2022 behind former teammate Damien Harris. Other examples of sleepers last year include players like Jerick McKinnon and Cam Akers.
During the preseason, their roles were unclear due to crowded position rooms, but both emerged for bursts of top-level performance toward the end of the year. McKinnon was RB2 over the final six weeks of the regular season in 2022, while Akers was RB4, and the pair was better than all backs not named Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler over that period.
Looking ahead to the 2023 season, we'll provide some options for sleeper potential at the running back position.
Javonte Williams, DEN (ADP 81, QB29)
Williams was RB17 in his rookie year while splitting time and carries with Melvin Gordon and appeared to be primed for a big sophomore season in 2022 before tearing multiple ligaments in his knee in Week 4.
His ADP last year was 23rd, toward the end of the second round, and he saw an average of 17 touches in the first three weeks before his season-ending injury. New head coach Sean Payton has emphasized his desire to establish the run game in Denver, and Williams could be poised for a bounceback year if healthy.
Brian Robinson Jr., WSH (ADP 97, RB32)
Robinson had one of the more miraculous starts to a career in professional sports history and took advantage of his opportunity in Washington. He averaged 17 carries per game in 12 appearances as a rookie but managed just two touchdowns despite 14 carries inside the ten-yard line. That was the most carries by a back who didn’t score 3+ touchdowns in the NFL, per FantasyPros.
Robinson still needs to compete for snaps with Antonio Gibson, but he seems locked into at least 12-15 touches per week which warrants a starting spot in most fantasy leagues. At an ADP of 97, he’s worth prioritizing as a player with a high upside.
Chase Brown, CIN (ADP 194, RB60)
Brown will assume the second running back spot on the depth chart in Cincinnati after a productive college career at Illinois. Samaje Perine filled that role for the last three seasons, and the former Sooner had his best season in 2022 with 95 carries and 51 targets to his name before departing in free agency.
Joe Mixon is the unquestioned lead back for the Bengals, but Brown will get opportunities to spell him weekly. Brown will be poised for a significant workload if Mixon misses any time this season, as he did in 2020.