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2023 Fantasy Football RB Sleepers

Aaron White
Written by Aaron White
June 22, 2023
2023 Fantasy Football RB Sleepers

With Underdog’s Best Ball format of 2 RBs and 3 WRs, fantasy owners have to be careful when drafting at the running back position this season.

Similar to an NFL General Manager, the question “Do I really need more than one top tier running back? has to be internally posed before the draft.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of backups with increased roles, priority handcuffs, and some breakout sleepers as we get deeper into the running back draft room.

Rachaad White

Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | ADP: 85.3 (RB27)

My eyes lit up when White’s ranking was below the twenty mark. The 6’0 running back out of Arizona State ran the ball 129 times and caught it 50 times from Brady last season.

However, the key to White’s outlook in Tampa Bay was the direction the team was heading. Two extreme positives came of this.

First off, they are tanking, meaning more check downs to White and high-usage games. Secondly, they didn’t draft, trade, or sign a competitor for White’s targets, making his ADP of 85.3 appetizing.

2022-23 Fantasy Season Recap

While only scoring 3 TDs last season with the Bucs, White turned heads later in the season with his increased role. Starting in the final eight games of the season, Rachaad averaged 45 YPG on the ground alongside 30 receptions with a 91% catch rate.

While the touchdowns didn’t come because of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans’ role, there is a real chance that 2022-23 was the last rodeo in what feels like the fever dream of the Buccaneers success.

Making the Case for White as a 2023 Fantasy Sleeper

When looking at rosters in June, we don’t quite get the full grasp on how bad or good a team might be. For example, Seattle and Miami are a few extremely underrated squads right now that you should invest in. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a fire sale come late October.

The starting Quarterback will be either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask which sounds much better on paper. Mike Evans is due to post his first season under 1,000 yards as a professional, and the defense is nowhere close to the juggernaut they were in the 2021 Super Bowl.

So what does this mean for White? One year of experience is all I need to bank of White finishing as a top 20 running back. Post the Week 11 bye last season, Rachaad posted 35 receptions which should easily carry into the Bucs scheme this season.

As a third-round draft pick, there is still that feeling of an “investment” surrounding White and this is the season that might pay off for the Buccaneers management. With 56% of the snaps played as a rookie on a Tom Brady-led playoff team in which the team was dismantled by Dallas, there’s a real possibility Rachaad White gets 60% or more of the snaps alongside the 3rd most targets on the team. Sign me up!

James Conner

Team: Arizona Cardinals | ADP: 88.0 (RB28)

Similar to White, banking on target share and total touches is always a safe bet. James Conner is undoubtedly one of the toughest players in football.

Whether the Cardinals win 10 games or lose 14 games, Conner won’t falter fantasy wise as one of the top options on Jonathan Gannon’s team. With a new offensive coordinator, I could see the Cards heavily relying on the RB, especially in the red zone.

2022-23 Fantasy Season Recap

After a tumultuous stint in Pittsburgh to start his career, Conner’s first season in Arizona was David Johnson 2016-like. Ok, maybe not that impressive. However, after finishing as the RB5 that year, James dropped off to the RB19 in his second season in the desert, only scoring ½ the amount of TDs as the breakout year.

So, what happened? Well, the Kyler Murray injury, Hopkins absence, and Conner’s own lingering injuries took a toll on the entire offense, which is why Kliff Kingsbury is sitting in his Malibu home, coaching Caleb Williams at the moment.

The bright side to Conner’s down year was the 46 receptions and 4.27 YPC. In a broken offense, the Pittsburgh Panther still looked fantastic at times and has that mentality you want in a 2nd tier fantasy football running back.

Making the Case for Conner as a 2023 Fantasy Sleeper

Reports have already surfaced praising Conner’s offseason work-ethic along with Kyler Murray’s. Although I’m bullish on Kyler’s future and non-contact injury, Conner has this offense in his palm post Hopkins departure.

He will command around 20 touches per game as the next best backfield option is… Keyontay Ingram? As for Colt McCoy or David Blough starting in Murray’s place, you better believe that checkdowns are on the way.

And even if the Heisman winning quarterback ends up returning mid-season, expect Gannon and the Cardinals to almost force Murray to check down more instead of running around outside the pocket like a madman, waiting to get hurt again.

While I won’t bank on the touchdowns increasing for Conner, he has a great chance to finish top 10 in halfback receptions and total touches. This is one of the best low-risk, high-reward plays in Best Ball Drafts.

Elijah Mitchell

Team: San Francisco 49ers | ADP: 123.0 (RB41)

Back when Mitchell posted an unofficial 4.32 second 40-yard dash in 2021, his name was on the fantasy radar.

After an extremely successful rookie season in San Francisco, fantasy experts view him as an afterthought after Christian McCaffrey joined the team, bumping the 25-year-old second-year player down the depth chart. However, why could Mitchell’s third season become his best one to date?

2022-23 Fantasy Season Recap

The bad news? Mitchell had 45 carries in just 5 games last season. The good news? If able to qualify, Elijah’s 6.2 YPC would have led all Running Backs in 2022. Another statistic to keep your eye on.

Christian McCaffrey had an unbelievable 2022 campaign with 329 touches and close to 2,000 all-purpose yards. However, as the 49ers try and make another playoff push this season, I’d expect more Mitchell in this offense as Kyle Shanahan will want to preserve CMC for the postseason in an extremely winnable NFC.

You should always bank on high yards per carry (YPC) guys later in the draft, and Mitchell is exactly that.

Making the Case for Mitchell as a 2023 Fantasy Sleeper

When watching Mitchell play on Sunday, he seems to create yards out of virtually nothing at times. Behind one of the best offensive lines in football and alongside the best offensive mind in football, Mitchell isn’t just a “change of pace back”.

He is an above-average runner in one of the best offensive schemes designed for speedsters such as himself, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel. Only three non-quarterbacks touched the ball more often than McCaffrey last season.

With injuries being a constant concern for the former Stanford running back, I bet that GM John Lynch is in the coaching staff’s ear trying to limit the total touches CMC receives when Mitchell is one of the best backups in football.

Ty Chandler

Team: Minnesota Vikings | ADP: 192.0 (RB60)

Dalvin Cook’s departure from the Vikings had an impact on Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and obviously, Alexander Mattison. However, no one is talking about the impact it will have on 2nd year running back Ty Chandler.

The North Carolina product and 5th round draft selection ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and showed bursts of becoming a solid NFL RB at North Carolina.

2022-23 Fantasy Season Recap

Chandler only played in three games last season, racking up 20 yards total. While that won’t impress anyone, Alexander Mattison’s overlook and fantasy football history is something to talk about.

Mattison has started in six games throughout his Vikings career with Cook sidelined. A rather unimpressive 3 rushing touchdowns and solid 4.1 YPC to show for, I’m not buying him as a 3-down back on a contending team in the NFC.

Making the Case for Chandler as a 2023 Fantasy Sleeper

The Vikings have made their decision. They’ve seen what the Chiefs, Bills, and Eagles have done. Running back by committee is a staple for contending teams, as the running back market might collapse soon as Dalvin Cook, Zeke, and Leonard Fournette are all job-less.

As for Chandler, he has the ability to step into a 30-35% snap share guy off the bat, which should give him enough touches to remain fantasy relevant this season. With Mattison not eclipsing the 500-yard mark or 5.0 YPC mark in his four seasons with Minnesota, you wonder if he will produce positive numbers in Cook’s role, or if Minnesota will go after a committee.

In his time with the Los Angeles Rams, we saw Kevin O’Connell ride the hot hand more than often. While this is more of a training camp story to watch, keep Chandler on your radar as a late round flier, due to Mattison’s inability to be a workhorse halfback.

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