While everyone will be flocking to grab Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in their respective Fantasy Football drafts, there are some hidden gems that might slip through the cracks.
To be fair, most people are probably fully aware of all of the sleeper candidates around the NFL, but not everyone will be able to pinpoint which halfbacks are in for a breakout season heading into 2019.
So, here are five breakout candidates at running back for this year.
5. Austin Ekeler
With the Melvin Gordon holdout not appearing to have any end in sight, Austin Ekeler could very well end up being the Los Angeles Chargers’ No. 1 running back going into Week 1.
Ekeler is entering his third NFL season and is coming off of a 2018 campaign in which he rushed for 554 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry while hauling in 39 receptions for 404 yards and three scores as Gordon’s primary backup.
Think about that: Ekeler posted that type of production as an essential reserve, so imagine what he can do from a fantasy football standpoint if he is given the keys at running back?
Ekeler is fast, shifty and also has great hands for a running back, so look for him to take on a much larger role within the Chargers’ offense is Gordon remains sidelined.
4. Kerryon Johnson
Kerryon Johnson may have been the most overlooked running back in the NFL this past season, and much of that had to do with the fact that he sprained his knee in Week 10 and ended up playing in just 10 games as a result.
But when he was on the field, Johnson was very productive, totaling 641 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. In addition, he caught 32 passes for 213 yards and a score.
You have to figure Johnson will see a rather significant bump in production if he plays a full season, and given his efficiency and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, there is a lot to like about Johnson going into 2019.
3. Dalvin Cook
Had it not been for the torn ACL he suffered early during his rookie campaign, Dalvin Cook may already be one of the top running backs in Fantasy.
Nevertheless, Cook is a bit of a sleeper as a result of his injury history, as he also played in just 11 games in 2018 due to injury issues. For that reason, Cook is a bit of a risk, but there is a potentially high reward attached.
The 24-year-old recorded 615 yards and a couple of touchdowns while registering 4.6 yards per carry this past year, adding 40 catches for 305 yards and a pair of scores.
There is very little doubt that Cook, who was an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses at Florida State, has the talent to eventually become one of the league’s best halfbacks, and if he can just stay on the field, that could happen as soon as 2019.
2. Aaron Jones
Like Cook, Aaron Jones’ main problem thus far has been staying healthy.
He missed four games in each of his first two seasons due to knee issues, but when he is on the gridiron, Jones is a ridiculously efficient rusher who averaged 5.5 yards per carry in both 2017 and 2018.
New Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur seems prepared to take full advantage of Jones’ talents, meaning a 1,000-yard campaign with a bunch of receptions could be in Jones’ near future.
Again, the key here is simply avoiding injury.
1. Marlon Mack
Had it not been for the three games he missed in 2018, Marlon Mack would undoubtedly be coming off of a 1,000-yard season, as he racked up 908 yards and nine touchdowns in just 13 games this past year.
With Andrew Luck looking more and more likely to miss Week 1, Mack becomes that much more important to the Indianapolis Colts’ offense, which means we could see an awful lot of him early on.
So long as he stays on the field, it would actually be a bit surprising if Mack didn’t tally 1,000 yards on the ground in 2019, making him a valuable fantasy football asset.
Of course, it would be nice if Mack could make more of an impact as a receiver, as he has logged just 38 catches through two NFL seasons, but he could be among the league leaders in rushing this year.