The 2023 NFL season is right around the corner, which means that the fantasy football season is close to getting underway as well. If your leagues drafts haven't been conducted yet, they will be in short order, which means it's important to have your strategy set before you start making your picks in order to put together the best season possible.
Of course, the first few picks you end up making on the year will almost certainly be the most important picks you make. However, there's value to be had with every single pick you make this year, which is why it's important to identify some potential sleepers that will be available when you are up to pick that your opponents may not know about.
The running back market is probably the most confusing spot for fantasy managers, as there's never really a set spot to pick your top running backs. We are here to help you figure that out, though, by picking out some of the top sleepers at the position that could end up being great value picks later in the draft. So with that in mind, let's look at the top five sleeper picks at running back who you should select during your drafts.
5. Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles
With Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts leading the way, the Philadelphia Eagles had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL in 2022. Sanders is now with the Carolina Panthers, though, and the Eagles have a handful of running back options on their roster in Rashaad Penny, D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott. Add in Hurts at quarterback, and all these guys will get carries for Philadelphia at some point.
Of this group, it seems like Penny has the highest upside of this group. Penny cannot seem to stay healthy, playing just 18 total games over the past three seasons, but when he's on the field, he's one of the most productive per carry running backs in the league. Playing in an explosive Eagles offense, Penny will have tons of opportunities to rip off big plays as their early-down back, and he is a perfect late-round running back you can stash on your bench while seeing how Philly's running back situation unfolds.
4. James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
On a per carry basis, James Conner isn't really worth getting excited over. But he gets a ton of volume in the Arizona Cardinals offense, which is going to be a mess in 2023, especially while Kyler Murray is out. And while the numbers may not always be pretty, Conner should be able to put up some big outings in the Cardinals offense this upcoming season.
Conner is easily Arizona's lead running back this year, and should continue to operate as the team's three-down running back for much of the year. Conner is also skilled at finding his way into the end zone, which is perfect for fantasy football purposes. He's not the flashiest option, but Conner will put up consistent points, especially in PPR leagues, making him a terrific option that many managers are overlooking right now.
3. James Cook, Buffalo Bills
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Even though the Buffalo Bills basically ended up swapping Devin Singletary for Damien Harris this offseason, it's clear that second-year stud James Cook is going to be their lead option in the backfield in 2023. Cook was really solid as a secondary option behind Singletary last year, and in a lead capacity in the Bills high-powered offense, he appears to be in store for a breakout campaign in 2023.
Aside from Harris potentially vulturing some of his carries, there's a ton to like about Cook's fantasy prospects. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry last year, which makes him an easy 1000 yard rushing candidate should he get 200 carries this year. With Josh Allen and Buffalo's aerial attack opening up lanes for him, Cook will likely be one of the top breakout stars at the running back position this season.
2. Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rachaad White finds himself in a bit of a similar situation as Conner. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense could end up being a mess, but regardless of what happens, White is going to get touches. With Leonard Fournette gone, White is clearly Tampa's new lead running back, and after a strong rookie campaign from a fantasy perspective, White could be in store for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Not only is White going to be getting a ton of carries on the ground, but he figures to be a viable checkdown option out of the backfield for Tampa, which makes him an extremely valuable pick in PPR leagues. White's not going to rack up a ton of yards per carry, but as long as he's getting touches (which he will be) he will be an extremely productive option for fantasy football managers in 2023.
1. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
Cam Akers endured one of the strangest fantasy seasons of all time in 2022 with the Los Angeles Rams. Akers was supposed to be the team's lead running back, but had a disagreement with head coach Sean McVay that rendered him virtually useless for fantasy football managers. Then, he eventually came back and became one of the best running backs in the league during fantasy playoffs.
Akers will be reprising the lead running back for Los Angeles this upcoming season, and he should have no hiccups deterring this production this time around. He was putting up monster numbers last season with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, so with Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp back on the field, that should only make things easier for Akers. Akers could be an RB1 right out of the gate, but you couldn't tell based on his average draft position, which makes him the top sleeper option for running backs in 2023.