Fantasy Football Sleepers 2023: RB Targets Include Raheem Mostert, Elijah Mitchell, and More

Who are a few last-minute RB sleepers that fantasy managers can target to bolster the running back position on their roster?

Labor Day Weekend. The last major weekend of summer. Whenever I hear the phrase, my head swirls with scenes of barbeques, final vacations at the lake, and — my favorite — fantasy football drafts. Let’s dig into a few running back fantasy sleepers for 2023.

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Running Back Sleepers To Target in Fantasy

Talking “sleepers” is pretty commonplace in the fantasy world, but oftentimes the term is used loosely. Calling a player ranked in the top 50 a sleeper is a bit of a stretch for the term.

MORE Sleepers: WR | TE

When we talk sleepers here at PFN, we are talking about the guys that fall outside the top 120 players in ADP rankings. We want to find guys that you can get in the eleventh round or later of your drafts. The investment is small, but the payoff can be big.

Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins

My new nicknames for Mostert are “meme stock” and “bitcoin” because this guy’s value has been volatile. Over the last few weeks, Mostert has been one of the biggest question marks as far as his rankings in his own offense, let alone in the entire league.

All last week, rumors swirled that Jonathan Taylor was going to be traded to Miami. Up until Tuesday afternoon, Mostert seemed destined to be taking a back seat to the All-Pro running back — not just the back seat, the back bench of the station wagon.

But just a few days later, Taylor is still in Indianapolis. On top of that, the Dolphins announced Jeff Wilson Jr. is starting the season on the injured reserve. With an IR designation, the earliest we will see Wilson is Week 5 now.

This leaves Mostert as the head of the Dolphins’ backfield, with rookie De’Von Achane and fourth-year back Salvon Ahmed as the only competition in town. While not insane numbers, Mostert had 1,093 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns last year. This was good enough to finish 25th in PPR leagues a year ago.

With the running back room’s current state, Mostert appears set up to be the top guy in South Florida to start the season. While RB1 numbers are unlikely for Mostert, he is more than capable of putting up solid stats for your fantasy teams. He is a great pick for anyone that goes with the zero-RB method in drafts or even just as a flex option with high-upside.

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

Many owners may be wise to the fact that Mitchell has had some injury concerns in the preseason. But as of writing this piece, Mitchell is said to be ready to go Week 1 of the regular season.

This news also comes at a time when reports suggest the 49ers have plans to limit Christian McCaffrey a bit more in their offense than he was when he played in Carolina. The Niners understand how important McCaffrey is in San Francisco — their goals are much bigger than regular season outings.

Enter Mitchell, the 49ers’ former top back. Mitchell’s rookie year was one of the more fun surprises of the 2021 NFL season. While injuries plagued the back throughout the year, ultimately leading to only 11 total games played, Mitchell was stellar in the Niners’ offense. He finished as the RB12 in PPG in 0.5 PPR formats.

Now, an opening appears for Mitchell, who could see a solid portion of carries in San Francisco. I don’t expect Mitchell to take over for CMC (barring any injuries), but even in a backup role, he is intriguing. In his limited 45 carries last season (also affected by injury), Mitchell averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

If the Niners decide to truly split work up, Mitchell is an interesting late-round draft pick with significant upside. He won’t win leagues without a major injury to the guy in front of him. But he could easily be a flex option that puts up solid weekly numbers with occasional big splashes.

Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense was horrendous in 2022. Their 29 offensive touchdowns were second-worst in the NFL. And every other offensive stat was average at best.

But a rookie running back out of Oklahoma St. caught my eye a few times last season. This was Jaylen Warren. Even though the rookie only saw the field for 31% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, he found a way to average 4.92 yards per carry and 7.64 yards per catch on 28 receptions.

Warren has shown flashes of talent in both the running and passing games. This preseason, the Steelers have kept lead back Najee Harris on a controlled amount of snaps in practices and games. This has given the chance for Warren to show out. He did so in a big way in Week 2 of the preseason with a 62-yard touchdown scamper. That single run showcased strong vision, good burst, tackle breaking, and the ability to outrun his opponents.

While Harris is still the lead back for now, he has been run hard his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. Including the playoffs, Najee has had 708 touches in two years. The Steelers still want Harris to be their lead guy, but it is possible that Warren sees much more action as we progress in the season.

The Steelers can’t afford to completely run Harris into the ground. Warren has plenty of talent to warrant playing time. I’m buying Warren where I can and waiting for those snap totals to increase as 2023 progresses.

Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans

This is a much deeper sleeper than our first three and one that comes with the most chance of having zero impact on your team. However, Tyjae Spears is bringing serious talent from Tulane, and his preseason numbers only further excite me.

Spears is a gamble pick, as the odds are that he will see few snaps this year. However, at a cost this low, I just can’t resist. Currently being drafted in the 15th round, taking Spears in a draft would still set you up for selecting him as your fifth running back. We don’t typically expect much out of picks this late, and Spears may ultimately not have an impact in 2023.

Let’s talk through this. Derrick Henry, the clear lead back in Tennessee, has 1,337 touches over the last four seasons. He has been as bell cow as bell cow gets. But, this kind of usage can take a toll on a back who is now 29 years old. Will Henry be able to hold up throughout the 2023 season?

If something were to happen, Spears sits right behind “Tractorcito” in the depth chart. He was electric in the Titans’ preseason games this year, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 22 attempts.

While this is preseason competition, Spears showed that his tape in college can translate to the pros. He is someone to stash on teams. It may turn into a lot of nothing, but the outcomes if Spears pans out are tantalizing. Low risk and high reward has me buying Spears when possible.

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