A deep sleeper should be a player people haven’t heard about, but that ship has sailed for fantasy football. If a player is on the roster, he probably has a fantasy article written about him. But, we do need to be on top of those third and fourth stringers who might make an impact in training camp and get their chance with an injury or two. If you don’t have deep benches, these players go on your personal watchlist, but if you do have room, some of these guys are worth stashing this season.
DeAndre Washington, Chiefs
Washington isn’t a deep sleeper anymore, but he very much needs to be on your radar if he isn’t already. Washington was a productive back when Josh Jacobs went down last season for the Raiders. He isn’t extraordinary, but he is capable in all aspects of the game and now that Damien Williams has opted out, he should be drafted in most leagues. Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams are also worth rostering, but in leagues with longer benches.
Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
Edmonds rushed 60 times for 303 yards and four touchdowns last season and now doesn’t have David Johnson clogging up the backup job behind Kenyan Drake. I’m not going to predict a Drake injury, but he’s never been the starter for 16 games and his chances to miss games will go up this year. Edmonds is a strong lottery ticket in an ascending offense.
Anthony McFarland, Steelers
Benny Snell is a bruiser who would see work if James Conner suffers another injury, but McFarland is also stout, especially for his size. At just 5’8” the Steelers fourth-round pick weighs 207 pounds. That’s very much in the Ray Rice range. Conner, if he stays healthy, will likely control the majority of running back touches, but if he falters, the job is up for grabs and McFarland has a good shot at taking the job.
Boston Scott, Eagles
Scott played well last season after Jordan Howard went down with an injury. On 61 rushing attempts he went for 245 yards and five touchdowns while catching 24-of-26 targets for 204 more yards. He should wrap up the No. 2 job behind Miles Sanders and see more work than your average backup. He’ll have trouble being playable in most leagues unless Sanders misses time, but we know he’ll be used both on the ground and through the air and has been successful in that role.
Damien Harris/J.J. Taylor, Patriots
Sony Michel will once again miss a potion of training camp again after offseason surgery. Michel has put up usable fantasy numbers in his short career, but last season was a step back and his injuries are piling up. Harris was red-shirted much of last season, but he was selected 87th overall and there is no doubt the team will give him a chance to earn snaps this season.
Taylor is a bigger long shot, but should be able to make the team with Brandon Bolden opting out for the season. He could easily be in the mix in a backfield that has room for movement if Michel is hindered and Harris can’t win more time.
Carlos Hyde, Seahawks
Hyde is a well-known commodity that will likely continue to be overlooked. He showed he’s still a capable back last season by running for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry rate in Houston. Chris Carson is the lead back, but he’s coming off a hip injury while backup Rashaad Penny will more than likely miss games to start the season. The Seahawks are going to run the ball and Hyde will see work, but if Carson falters, he becomes a strong play with a good workload.
Justin Jackson, Chargers
Behind Austin Ekeler in the pecking order is Justin Jackson and rookie Joshua Kelley. Jackson has played extremely well in limited work. Last season he finished with the highest DVOA of any back with more than 20 rushes, which is too small a sample size, but still excellent. The trouble is that Kelley is a good prospect and could win work, but I prefer Jackson by a little bit. The Chargers will look to run the ball and Ekeler isn’t going to be a back who gets 10-15 carries between the tackles. Jackson or Kelley should get those and I prefer Jackson.
Reggie Bonnafon, Panthers
Bonnafon is set up well to see good usage if Christian McCaffrey’s workload ever catches up to him. The Panthers don’t have much depth at running back and Bonnafan is the closest approximation to McCaffrey on the team.
Jerick McKinnon, 49ers
McKinnon, if he can stay healthy, will start the season as RB3 in San Francisco. That’s a good place to be in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Shanahan will get the ball to players who make things happen, as seen by Raheem Mostert’s ascension last year. It’s hard to know where McKinnon is after two years out with injuries, but the team let Matt Breida go and seem to believe in his recovery,