• Sat. May 27th, 2023

Post-Hype Sleepers: Running Backs

By Alex French

Welcome to the next in my post-hype sleepers series! Today, I’ve got some running backs to wet your appetite. Hear me out, as they may not be what you expect. First, let’s define what I mean by post-hype sleeper again. This is a player who received large amounts of hype prior to last season, but failed to reach those expectations. Lets jump right in!

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

It seems like a long time ago. But, at this time last year, Melvin Gordon was the consensus number 5 overall pick. He was coming off a 2018 season where he posted a true yards per carry of 4.8, which was a career high for him.  He led the league in catch rate at the running back position, and managed to score an average of 22.6 fantasy points per game. To put it simply, he dominated. 

Did someone say dominate? 

Speaking of dominating, his college dominator rating of 47.1 is 97th percentile. I believe that player is still there.  In 12 games with the Chargers last year, he had over 900 total yards. Gordon averaged 75.7 yards per game with 3.5 receptions per game. He showed flashes of the workhorse we all saw in 2019. 

This off-season he signed a two-year deal with the Broncos worth $16 million. That sort of financial investment leads me to believe he will serve as the primary back in what we believe to be an improved Broncos offense in 2020. I think Gordon is in line to finish as a top-end RB2 this year. He will also arguably have the best offensive line of his career with the Broncos also adding Graham Glasgow at Guard.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

Like Gordon, last year Conner was a consensus first round pick.  If you owned Conner last year, you were severely disappointed.  However, the Steelers offense as a whole was a trainwreck without Big Ben under center. Roethlisberger is back at the helm and ready for week 1, which means this offense should be firing on all cylinders again. 

Conner struggled to stay healthy last season, and with Covid-19 this year, there’s always a risk. Conner has been hard at work to reshape his body this offseason, and now 4 years cancer-free, he should be poised to return to the 2018 form that helped people win fantasy championships. 

The Steelers have always been a team to feature one back, and that trend should continue. Look for Conner to provide potential RB1 upside in a much improved Steelers offense in 2020.

David Johnson, Houston Texans 

This pick may not be the most popular, but there are reasons for optimism here. Last season, Carlos Hyde received 245 carries in the Texans offense. Hyde is now in Seattle. 

Enter David Johnson. 

Johnson was the primary piece in the trade that sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, and he will be used as such. Many fantasy players may forget that before his injury, Johnson was performing as a top-10 fantasy option at the position. 

Johnson is in line for over 250 touches, there’s over 150 vacated targets from the Hopkins trade, and the offensive line in front of him will be better. All these things are a recipe for fantasy success for David Johnson in 2020. Research also shows a trend over the last few seasons, that more often than not, vacated targets tend to go towards running backs the following season. 

I understand that these names probably don’t give you the warm and tingly feeling, but all three have a great opportunity to return value in both dynasty and redraft formats. Particularly in dynasty formats, their value is trending the wrong direction. This means the opportunity cost to acquire them should be quite low. This screams value to me. In dynasty, it's important to play for 2-3 years at a time. Many players tend to look a little too far out, which can hurt them in the long run. 


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