July 20, 2024

2024 NFL Draft Sleepers: Running Backs

5 min read

I covered Sleeper Quarterbacks, and now here are my sleeper running backs. (Here are Cody Folden’s  top 10 running back prospects — Part One and Part Two.)

I am going to be giving you a few more names that are outside the top ten but we have seen running backs in later rounds can have huge impacts. These sleeper running backs will most likely be day three players but with the value of running backs decreasing, higher profile backs are going day three now.

 

Re’Mahn “Ray” Davis, Kentucky

 

Ray Davis took a long road to get to where he ended his college career. He started at Temple in 2019 and had a very strong start with 936 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns in his Freshman season. After only playing four games in the 2020 shortened COVID year, he transferred to Vanderbilt. He only played in three games in 2021 but in 2022 he bounced back with over 1,000 rushing yards.

Davis decided to stay in college for a fifth year and used his second transfer to chance SEC schools from Vanderbilt to Kentucky. This proved to be a great decision as he had the career best in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per rush, receptions, and receiving touchdowns. He would finish the year with 1,452 total yards and 21 touchdowns from scrimmage.

 I liked a lot what I saw from Davis on film in 2023 but there were huge holes for him. So I didn’t get to see how great his vision was but great things always happened when the ball was in his hands. He is a back that gets extra yards after contact and does have some nice moves at the point of attack. I think he has a fourth-round grade because he does a lot well but he does not possess elite speed and is a one-cut runner. This could cause his options to be limited based on the blocking scheme of teams.

 

Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

 

Jaylen Wright was a three-star running back who in 2021 decided to commit to Tennessee over Arizona State and Arkansas. As a Freshman, Wright played in nine games and had only 85 carries but he did average 4.8 yards per carry. In 2022, he played in every game and was able to increase his workload to 146 attempts for over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Wright as a Junior, really broke out for the Tennessee offense. He had nine fewer attempts but averaged over seven yards a carry and was able to run for over 1,000 yards. Another big step in his game was his role as a receiver out of the backfield. He only had eight catches in his first two years, but in 2023 he had 22 for 141 receiving yards.

Wright stepped up his game in 2023 and now is getting some buzz before the 2024 NFL Draft. He has the speed to take it the distance as he did against Georgia early in the game and has a great burst to get through the hole quickly. He shows patience at the line of scrimmage and uses hesitation to avoid defenders. I think most of what he needs to improve on is making decisions quicker behind the line of scrimmage.

Sometimes if a hole is not there, he can dance or try to cut it outside, which he won’t be able to do consistently in the NFL. Wright could move into the third round, but I think he will most likely be a day-three player. With the right landing spot, he could get immediate playing time as a change of pace back for a team.

 

Cody Schrader, Missouri

 

Cody Schrader would receive many honors in high school, including four-time all-conference running back, but would attend Division II Truman State University. He would finish with over 3,000 yards and 39 touchdowns there and decide to try to play Division I football as a walk-on at Missouri.

Early on he would show that he belonged as he finished with over 800 total yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. He would be named team captain in 2023 and would have a monster season for Missouri. Schrader finished with over 1800 total yards and 14 touchdowns on his way to finish eighth in the Heisman voting. You don’t see many sleeper running backs finish that high in voting.  He would have nine of 13 games over 100 rushing yards, including six in a row to end the season. 

I think Schrader could be the next day three running back who could surprise people in his rookie year. He is a very good receiver and has the speed to run in different schemes. He excelled at outside zone plays but with his burst, he can go up the middle as well. He can break arm tackles by defenders but will not be mistaken for a short-yardage back. At times he gets swallowed up behind the line with penetration. He needs to work on the technique of blocking but he is a willing blocker which is what I look for going to the next level. I am interested to see how the week at the Senior Bowl helped elevate his draft stock to NFL teams.

 

Tyrone Tracy Jr., Purdue

 

Tyrone Tracy was a three-star player who committed to Iowa in 2018 and played there for four years. He played receiver there but he only was able to rack up around 1,000 total yards in four years. He had less than 100 rush yards and never had more than 42 touches in a season. 

In 2022, he transferred to Purdue and was set to make the move to running back. I was excited about this move in the spring game as he looked like he could have a big role. Tracy did play in 14 games but only had 17 attempts but was involved in the passing game with 28 receptions. The transition just took a little longer because in 2023 he had over 700 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

Tracy is going to be a day three player but there is definite intrigue in his skill set. He has the receiving skills from playing that position and more teams in the NFL are looking for a receiving back nowadays. He will be a great complement to a backfield but the lack of carries has positives and negatives.  On one side there is less wear and tear but on the negative he just is still learning the position. For his size, he shows strength, so I think he could start as a special teams guy and grow a role with a team. Fantasy wise he is a player I would take a chance in the fourth round of rookie drafts if I have a taxi spot. He is the perfect sleeper running backs. 

 

These four sleeper running backs are not going to be handed starting jobs but we have seen day three backs in recent years be fantasy-relevant and can help you stay on top of your leagues.