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REALLY DEEP Sleeper RBs for 2019 – Tom Kovack

by Tom Kovack

We know you all get that tingly feeling inside when you pick a guy in the draft that no one else thinks about taking and then they turn out to be a weapon in your fantasy league. You just can’t wait to go into your group chats and hear your friends say, “Wow, how did you pick that one?”

One way could be by reading articles out there like this. Take it to the bank: There are going to be at least a handful of fantasy stars out there that either get picked in the last couple rounds of drafts or don’t get picked at all.
Alvin Kamara is a top-5 pick now, but just a couple years he was a late flier. David Johnson had his breakout season after not getting a touch the first couple weeks. And Phillip Lindsay was drafted by 0% of teams last year, but picked up by 90% after week 1.

So the million-dollar question is “How do I hit the lottery?” Well, that’s the hard part to predict because injuries play the story in many cases, but if you read between the lines of training camp news, you can see some running backs who are getting talked up in camp and getting reps with first teamers in practice and even in games.

Yes, I admit, I was one of those 0% of guys who drafted Phillip Lindsay last year. Why? I read the Broncos blogs and the coaches were bragging about him. I’m doing the same thing with other teams now, trying to find that secret weapon…the next Phillip Lindsay. Who’s it going to be for 2019? I am going to give you five players to take a late, late flier on. I’m not talking about Darwin Thompson or Alexander Mattison. Heck, no. I’m going deeper than that.

Dare Ogunbowale, Tampa Bay

You’ll definitely have to search for his spelling on Google because he’s not going to show up on many draft boards. But Ogunbowale is turning heads at Bucs camp. And Bruce Arians loves him.

Ogunbowale has been getting reps with the first team in practice and his pass-blocking skills and receiving threat make him the perfect third down back. If you’ve watched the Bucs preseason, their offensive line is a major concern. They’re going to need backs who can block. Peyton Barber is the Bucs starter, but he was Ogunbowale just a couple years, deep down on the depth chart and rising from the ashes. If this offensive line is as bad as it has looked, it’s going to make life tough for Ronald Jones who needs holes to excel.

Ogunbowale has reportedly won the job as the Bucs No. 3 back, but questions remain how Barber will be in the number one role and if Ronald Jones is going to work? Everyone thinks Jones will because he’s a second rounder, but he has yet to show that ability at the pro level. He has struggled and there are some in camp who are not impressed thus far.

At the very least, Ogunbowale is worth a late risk. If Barber gets dinged up, Ogunbowale could become the number one guy over Jones because he brings more size and pass-blocking ability. So keep an eye on the running back situation in Tampa.

According to Yahoo Fantasy Football, 5% of owners currently own Ogunbowale.

Chase Edmonds, Cardinals

The Cardinals offense will be fun to watch this year, even if there will be a lot of growing pains under Kyler Murray. One thing Arizona’s offense has is a lot of youth, and they’re going to use a lot of it. That includes at running back.
Chase Edmonds enters the season clearly supplanted as the number two back behind starter David Johnson, but Klingsbury is going to use both backs plenty, particularly in the passing game. Klingsbury will look to ease Murray into the offense with a lot of short passes and screens to Johnson and Edmonds, and Edmonds is one injury away from Johnson from being the star back behind the speedy rookie qb.

While I don’t think he’s a guy who is going to get a ton of work the first couple weeks, I believe as the season goes on, Edmonds will get more and more work. With Arizona likely to be trailing a lot in games, Edmonds has the opportunity to get a lot of receptions, good for PPR leagues. He’s a younger back than Johnson and has more upside with the organization moving forward. He has the kind of speed the organization wants alongside Murray. I think Edmonds will be a flex starter for a lot of owners at times this year.

According to Yahoo Fantasy Football, 6% of owners currently own Edmonds.

Ty Montgomery, Jets

The growing word that Elijah McGuire may be on the cutting block in New York gives huge opportunity to Ty Montgomery as Le’veon Bell’s backup. If you draft Bell in the first or second round, I would highly suggest drafting Montgomery as a handcuff to Bell since Bell has not completed a full NFL season yet.

Montgomery comes in as a PPR weapon regardless of Bell’s health. Darnold is known to look for checkdowns and this will help Bell and Montgomery’s value as pass-catchers. Montgomery had some success in Green Bay as a utility guy, but mostly worked as a third back behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. In New York, he will behind only Bell.

In the Jets third preseason game, Montgomery was used an every down back, so there is definitely some distance between Bell and Montgomery and Bilal Powell and McGuire on the depth chart. A great late value that you can pick up in deep fantasy leagues, and with Bell an every-year injury candidate, Montgomery could see starting action at some point.

According to Yahoo Fantasy Football, 14% of owners currently own Montgomery.

D’Ernest Johnson or Dontrell Hilliard, Browns

Listing two guys here because either one could emerge as the backup running back in Cleveland and it’s not clear which one will be the No. 2 guy. Kareem Hunt is the backup on the depth chart, but he is missing eight games because of suspension, and by the time he returns, you will almost be ready for your fantasy league playoffs. Either Hilliard or Johnson will step into Hunt’s spot the first half of the season. The thought here is it will be Hilliard, but his nagging injuries during preseason and lack of game reps could propel Johnson into that role.

Make no doubt about it, Nick Chubb will earn the bulk of the carries and action, but in an offense that is likely to be points heavy with some of the weapons they have in place, it would be good to have the backup running back when Chubb needs a breather or if he gets hurt. At the very least, it’s a good idea to have one of these two as a handcuff to Kareem Hunt while he’s gone, so draft Hunt in the later rounds and then snag one of these two in the meantime. They’re likely not to be drafted. Keep an eye on the news to see who ends up as the Browns backup early in the season with Hunt out. Odds are it will be Hilliard.

According to Yahoo Fantasy Football 0-1% of owners currently own Johnson and Hilliard.

Ty Johnson, Lions

The sixth-round rookie has shined at training camp, and with the release of Zach Zenner, figures to be the No. 3 man on the running back depth chart and should get a handful of snaps per game. The fact he didn’t get any playing time in the last preseason game is a good indication he will not only make the roster, but be third on the depth chart.
If anything were to happen to Kerryon Johnson, Ty Johnson‘s stock would skyrocket as he presents himself as a speed demon who can make plays both with his feet and his hands. He presents a different skillset that backup running back C.J. Anderson lacks.

While injuries are impossible to predict, Kerryon Johnson does not have a good history avoiding the injury bug. Like Le’veon with the Jets, Kerryon has struggled to stay healthy his whole career. In high school, he suffered right and left shoulder injuries that held him out of games, along with a sprained MCL and broken thumb. At Auburn, it only got worse as he was hampered with shoulder issues again along with ankle injuries and hamstring problems. Last year, Kerryon was placed on IR the last month of the season with a knee injury.

If anything happens to Kerryon during the season, Ty Johnson figures to be a huge benefactor because of his playmaking receiving skills and the fact Anderson is not an every down back like he used to be.
For the record, I think Kerryon could be the breakout back of 2019 and is one of the most talented backs in the league. But you always have to have caution and can’t ignore history. My piece of advice is that if you draft Kerryon Johnson, I would snag Ty Johnson as a last round pick or waiver wire pick and stuff him on your bench as a good handcuff.
According to Yahoo Fantasy Football 0% of owners currently own Johnson.

Other Deep Sleepers I really like: Devine Ozigbo, Saints; Mike Boone, Vikings; Damarea Crockett and Karan Higdon, Jr., Texans.

My Running Back Awards for 2019

Fantasy MVP for 2019

Saquon Barkley: The second-year back will continue to develop and shine and put up monster numbers as the Giants begin to change eras at quarterback. He will make plays and win games by himself for the Giants. I’ll even go on a limb and say he will be the NFL Offensive MVP in 2019.
Other top players: Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara

Breakout Player for 2019

Kerryon Johnson: As 2018 wore on, Johnson got better and more comfortable in a starting role. After a slow start, Johnson began to become the back the Lions thought he would. Johnson brings all the things Lions want: power, pass-catching ability, shiftiness, and good blocking. I am concerned about Johnson’s injury-proneness, as mentioned above, but I am still going to roll with him as this year’s big breakout player.
Other breakout players: Derrius Guice, Matt Breida, Chris Carson, Darwin Thompson, Austin Ekeler

Biggest Disappointment of 2019

Dalvin Cook: When Cook was drafted a few years back, he was thought by many to be one of the top-5 backs in fantasy football by 2019. Instead, he’s dropped to a third or fourth tier back in fantasy drafts. The major problem has been Cook’s ability to stay healthy, and when he has been healthy, he just hasn’t shown what we thought he would show in explosiveness and play-making. With the drafting of Alexander Mattison and word that Mike Boone has raised eyebrows amongst coaches, Cook could be in for a year where the coaches are more cautious with health and split some of his reps.

Other disappointing players: Kenyan Drake, Jordan Howard, Aaron Jones

My top 5 depth chart predictions for the 2020 draft:

1. Saquon Barkley
2. Christian McCaffrey
3. Darwin Thompson
4. David Montgomery
5. Nick Chubb

My Wildest Prediction of 2019: The Chargers frustration with Gordon grows and Austin Ekeler becomes a top-15 fantasy back in the fantasy with Justin Jackson also rising behind him and becoming a flex option. Gordon is traded to the first team that loses a major talent at running back without a decent backup option.

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