• Pat Opperman

5 Late-Round Running Back Picks to Make You Look Smart

(A version of this article was written for Five-Fifteen. Check them out at http://five-fifteen.net/)


One of the most predictable things about NFL Fantasy Football is that some unpredictable things will happen.


Another predictable thing is that thousands of NFL fantasy owners will swear they knew those unpredictable things were going to happen the whole time.


That is why we reach for a running back in the later rounds of the draft.


We all fantasize about a record-breaking season from some lesser-known or less-respected rusher at the end of our roster. The ultimate sleeper pick.


Someday, I will tell my grandchildren how I picked up the RB-1 of 2017, Todd Gurley, in the sixth round of my NFL Fantasy draft and tacked on Alvin Kamara (RB-3) in the ninth.


If they ask about 2018, I’ll change the subject. (Although my 12th-round selection of James White (RB-7) worked out pretty well.)


Who do you think might shock the 2019 NFL Fantasy world by leaping out of the beer-drenched recesses of late draft rounds to command a top-20 selection in 2020?


Hey! We don’t really want to know what you think yet. Wait until you reach the comments section.


These are five running backs we think could save the season for you.


1. Matt Breida, SF (current ADP: RB45, 10th round)


Tevin Coleman is getting a lot of attention in NFL Fantasy drafts. Everyone knows the 49ers’ free-agent addition had his best seasons when Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator in Atlanta.


But do you know what role Coleman played in those golden years under Shanahan? He was the second running back, a change of pace to Devonta Freeman.


Do you know who is ahead of Coleman on the 49ers’ running back depth chart? Matt Breida occupies that spot.


That is the same Matt Breida who averaged a league-best 5.6 yards-per-carry in 2018 despite playing through injuries.

Last year’s free-agent signing, Jerick McKinnon, might start the season on the PUP list. If he comes back, he is more likely to be relegated to third-down duties than he is to knock Breida out of the starter’s role.


If Breida can stay healthy in his third season, he could be a great RB-2 or flex for someone.


2. Latavius Murray, NO (current ADP: RB36, late 6th round)


Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints, despite their history of success, aren’t one of the most-followed teams in the NFL.


Maybe that is why no NFL Fantasy owner outside of Southern Louisiana is treating Latavius Murray like a running back moving into the role of Mark Ingram.


Payton announced he has no intention of increasing Alvin Kamara’s touches in 2019. Kamara’s sidekick, Ingram, was the RB-6 in that role two years ago. His replacement is being drafted as the RB-36.


Ingram didn’t do as much last year. He was suspended for the first four games and there was tension thereafter between him and Payton. Ingram’s numbers still projected to the RB-16.


Murray didn’t do much, either. Of course, he wasn’t asked to do much. The situation in Minnesota was appalling, with no offensive line and no identity.


There is ample reason to suspect Murray’s career could be resurrected as part of the offensive machine of the Saints.


3. Duke Johnson, Hou (current ADP: RB51, late 11th round)


Duke Johnson played for some pretty awful Cleveland Browns teams. Despite the lack of coaching acumen in Ohio, Johnson still managed to provide some fantasy relevance, especially in PPR leagues.


Lamar Miller is the starting running back for the Texans. But for the past several seasons, head coach Bill O’Brien has desperately searched for a worthy number-2.


O’Brien convinced the Texans to risk a third-round draft pick to acquire Johnson from Cleveland. At that price, The coach won't leave his newest running back on the bench much.

Duke Johnson might not be a top-20 standard-league running back, but he offers great value in the late rounds. If Lamar Miller gets hurt, Johnson becomes a top-ten rusher.


4. LeSean McCoy, Buf (current ADP: RB40, late 8th round)


LeSean McCoy looked like a shell of the man who ran for over 10,000 yards in his first ten seasons last year. Buffalo’s 2018 season fell apart around him.


But am I the only NFL Fantasy owner who remembers the situation he was in?


The Bills played with a decimated offensive line, a rookie quarterback, and no receivers.


McCoy got clobbered and abused from the git-go. He played hurt all season with a painful chest wall injury, a hand injury, and a bunch of other bruises and insults.


Buffalo added veterans Frank Gore and TJ Yeldon along with rookie Devin Singletary in the off-season to compete with McCoy. As of August 16, who is listed as on top of the depth charts? LeSean McCoy.


His quarterback is better. He has a new offensive line. There are wide receivers who warrant coverage. Plus, McCoy is motivated to prove he deserves at least an RB-20 draft position.


5. Ty Montgomery, NYJ (current ADP: undrafted)


New York’s new head coach, Adam Gase, says he nearly fell off his seat when he saw Ty Montgomery was still available in April.


Gase re-worked the entire Jets playbook to take advantage of the team’s newfound versatility.


You might remember back when Gase was hired, there were reports he wasn’t thrilled to learn he’d be coaching Le’Veon Bell this season.


Word out of the Jets' practice facility is Montgomery and Bell are regularly lined up together in the backfield. Montgomery, a former wide receiver, also lines up in the slot and can roll out wide.


Gase calls Montgomery a “major part” of the Jets’ offense. Even if that doesn’t bring us much NFL Fantasy value on its own, Montgomery is the handcuff to Bell and the wide receivers.


What do you think? Is there another NFL Fantasy genius sleeper pick out there? Tell us in the comments section below.

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