NFL - Fantasy

Top Sleeper Running Backs for 2021 Fantasy Football Season

Max Staley
Trey Sermon is one of the top sleeper running backs in the 2021 fantasy football season.
Trey Sermon is one of the top sleeper running backs in the 2021 fantasy football season. / Michael Zagaris/Getty Images
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Running back is extremely top-heavy in fantasy football this year. After you get past the top 15-20 RBs, the position gets dicey in a hurry. Savvy fantasy managers will be loading up on RBs early, then hammering the position in the mid-to-late rounds searching for a few diamonds in the rough.

Here are three of the best sleeper running backs to target in fantasy drafts this year.

Sleeper RB 2021

Note: Only running backs with an average draft position (ADP) of RB31 or higher were considered for this list. All ADP information is from FantasyPros.

3. Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: RB51)

Sony Michel is one of the top sleeper running backs in 2021.
Sony Michel is one of the top sleeper running backs in 2021. / Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

We have no idea how the Los Angeles Rams' backfield is going to shakeout. The team went out and traded for Sony Michel to complement Darrell Henderson, but it's entirely possible that he wins the job outright. Or, that Michel gets most of the early-down work and cedes receiving duties to Henderson. If anything like that happens, look out. Michel finally flashed the explosiveness that caused him to be a first-round pick back in 2018. The Georgia standout averaged a career-high 5.7 yards per carry and had the highest rushing yards over expectation per carry among qualified RBs. He did so despite facing plenty of eight-man boxes on the New England Patriots' terrible passing attack. That's unlikely to happen with Matthew Stafford and the Rams. Michel is coming off of the most efficient season of his career and could be a late-round gem if that translates over to his new team.

2. Michael Carter, New York Jets (ADP: RB 32)

Michael Carter fantasy outlook includes big-time sleeper potential in 2021.
Michael Carter fantasy outlook includes big-time sleeper potential in 2021. / Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Michael Carter is likely to be part of a three-headed backfield for the New York Jets in 2021. He'll primarily be splitting RB duties with Tevin Coleman and La'Mical Perine. But much like the next name on this list, he has big-time upside if he wins the RB1 job, or even just earns the lion's share of the touches. Carter was a monster for North Carolina last year, generating 1,512 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns across 11 games. In what should be a much-improved Jets' offense, Carter has huge upside if things break his way.

1. Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: RB33)

Trey Sermon fantasy football outlook includes great sleeper potential in 2021.
Trey Sermon fantasy football outlook includes great sleeper potential in 2021. / Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Trey Sermon has virtually no floor. It's completely possible that he's stuck behind Raheem Mostert for the majority of the season. But it's hard to ignore his ceiling. He racked up 965 yards from scrimmage on 128 touches last year for Ohio State. If he Mostert goes down, or Sermon just outright wins the job at some point, he has legit, league-winning upside. Last year, this offense had no trouble generating RB1 performances. In fact, a 49ers back finished as a weekly RB2 in 11 of 16 games last year, according to ProFootballNetwork. The thing is, it was tough to figure out who it was going to be. JaMychal Hasty, Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Jerick McKinnon all flashed at times. If anyone wins lead-back duties, they're going to have RB1 upside in 2021; Sermon has the opportunity and talent to do just that.


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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

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