College football is built primarily on passing games. That’s where and how most offenses get their yards and points. This makes finding a fantasy football running back more of a challenge today. However, if you’re building either a weekly DFS roster or playing season-long college football fantasy, you need some good runners. What are some examples of running backs who could provide unexpected or above-average production (or both)? We dove deep to find some of the best sleeper running backs in the nation that are offering some good value.
Terence Williams, Baylor Bears
Here’s the much bigger picture to put together with Williams: Baylor will be low on bodies this year due to the exodus of recruits after Art Briles’ departure and the fallout from the school’s sexual abuse scandal. First-year coach Matt Rhule is picking up the pieces and inheriting a rebuilding project, not a quick-fix situation. Because Baylor is shorthanded in terms of bodies, it will become important for the Bears’ offense to control the ball as much as possible, which means Baylor will try to run a lot of clock. That leads to a heavy run-based attack, which means that the Bears have every incentive to want to feed a star running back a lot of carries. Williams is in that mix, and therefore, even though the Big 12 has a lot of great passing teams, this is a running back who could bust loose.
Thomas Tyner, Oregon State Buckeyes
The Oregon State Beavers are not in a position all that different from Baylor. They are not suffering in terms of bodies, but they do play in a conference and a division (the Pac-12 North) with a lot of high-powered offenses. Oregon State does not have the same levels of speed or skill as its competitors, so it is also in OSU’s interest to run the ball a lot. Tyner is not the No. 1 running back on his team – that’s Ryan Nall – but the need to run the ball will give Tyner an ample amount of touches per game, or at least it should. He will remain fresh because of the shared workload, and he can creep up statistical leaderboards because – when fresh – he might go against tired defenses in third and fourth quarters of games.
Tony Brooks-James, Oregon Ducks
The Ducks do not have a great defense, so their need to control the ball will exist as well. Oregon has a very solid offense and a history of developing dynamic, multi-talented running backs no matter who has been the coach. Brooks-James can step into this situation under new coach Willie Taggart and continue the Ducks’ running back tradition. This is a very good and promising spot for him. The Ducks are in good shape on offense; their skill people won’t suffer this season. It’s only on the other side of the ball where Oregon faces an uphill battle.
Najee Harris, Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama running back group is legendarily deep on an annual basis. All the backs split time, but being a freshman is no impediment or hindrance if the player is the real deal. Harris is viewed as the real deal by a lot of scouts and analysts. Very simply, if he is worthy of the hype – and being on Alabama’s roster is itself a statement of quality – Harris could break through to a degree even higher than a lot of experts currently think.
Tonny Lindsey, Utah State Aggies
Lindsey is one of only two Mountain West Conference running backs to be named to the preseason Doak Walker Award watch list. He will be the primary threat on the Aggies, and since Utah State will play teams such as Boise State and Wyoming which can strike quickly, Utah State will have a chance to accumulate a lot of possessions and a lot of plays per game, which will fatten Lindsey’s stats. Utah State can also pound on the not-as-stingy defenses which exist in the Mountain West Conference. Lindsey will have many chances to accumulate good numbers.
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