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Best ball sleepers: Late-round running backs to target in drafts

We look at sleeper running backs who you should target late in your 2022 best ball drafts.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL season is still a few months away, but if you’re looking for a football fix, it is never too early to start planning your fantasy football strategy for the season. Here, we’re going to take a peek at some late-round sleepers at the running back position, specifically focused on best ball leagues.

If you’re not familiar with best ball leagues, the TL;DR summary is that you draft your players and that’s it. No lineup changes, no scrambling for the waiver wire, etc. Rosters are locked from day one. As for scoring, you’ll get the points for the top performer at each position on your roster. For example, if Derrick Henry is getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage on that rare Sunday, but Washington’s backup comes out of nowhere for 100+ yards and a pair of touchdowns, you’ll the points for the guy you definitely would not have started over Henry.

Sounds pretty good, no? It is! But since you can’t make lineup changes during the season in best ball leagues, it’s really all about acing your draft. Fortunately, we’re here to help.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots

Harris is probably on the fringe of being a sleeper and a common mid-round pick, but if he’s still on the board when your draft is snaking into the eighth or ninth rounds, he’s someone you should very much consider. Harris leads the Patriots’ backfield, but it’s still a committee approach with Rhamondre Stevenson, James White and Pierre Strong. Still, he scored 15 times on the ground last season, and that’s with just 202 carries. He’s also in a contract year.

Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders

In the late rounds, you’re not going to land an established bell-cow running back. But you can safely take some chances on guys who do at least see a regular complement of snaps and, better yet, poised to take over in case of injury.

Washington spent a third-round pick on Alabama’s Brian Robinson this year, which isn’t the kind of draft capital a team invests in a player they plan to leave on the bench. In fact, head coach Ron Rivera has already pointed to having Robinson as part of a committee. He’s going to spell Antonio Gibson, and if Gibson ends up missing time, Robinson’s going to play a huge role.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings

The trouble with this pick is that when Dalvin Cook is healthy, Mattison isn’t going to see the field for any meaningful snaps. But, Cook’s health is enough of a concern that you easily justify snagging Mattison with a late rounder. Cook missed four games last season, and Mattison posted a very respectable stat line of 351 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 86 carries during that stretch. He finished the year with 491 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and 228 receiving yards on 32 receptions.

Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers

Technically, the fourth-round pick is still just another candidate for the No. 2 running back job behind Austin Ekeler, but it’s his job to lose. And he’s not going to lose it with Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree as his only competition. Spiller is a do-it-all back who’s going to see plenty of playing time in relief of Ekeler, who’s already talking publicly about limiting his touches this season. And if Ekeler misses any time with injury, Spiller’s going to see a ton of work in his absence.

Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

I said that you’re typically not going to find a regular starter in the later rounds, but there is one possible exception. The lead back in Houston’s backfield is Pierce’s job to lose; all he has to do is out-play Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead. A fourth-round pick this year, Pierce showed some tantalizing flashes at Florida, scoring 13 times last season on just 100 carries. The biggest limiting factor for Pierce is his team. The Texans aren’t going to be in a lot of games where they can lean on the run and let the rest take care of itself. Still, he’s going to see work, and that means there’s going to be those weeks where he is productive enough to help put your fantasy team over the top.