Fantasy football sleepers 2022: Which RBs stand out as values?

Heading into the 2022 NFL season, who are some fantasy football sleepers at the running back position as we look towards the start of drafts?

The term sleepers in fantasy football can be somewhat overused simply because everyone has different interpretations of that term. For some, a sleeper simply refers to a player they view as being slightly better than the rest of the fantasy landscape. For others, a sleeper defines a little-known player expected to become a household name. For this article, in order for a player to be a fantasy sleeper in 2022, he needs to be ranked at least 10 spots higher at his position than his Sleeper PPR ADP as of July 21, 2022.

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Fantasy football sleepers | RBs to target in 2022

Cordarrelle Patterson | Atlanta Falcons

Sleeper ADP: 84 (RB31)

There is a lot of concern surrounding the role of Cordarrelle Patterson with the Atlanta Falcons this year. The 2021 season saw Patterson set highs for carries (153), touches (205), rushing yards (618), receiving yards (548), total yards (1,166), and touchdowns (11). Meanwhile, he matched a career high for receptions with 52 for his best career fantasy finish. Those numbers led Patterson to finish as the RB9 in PPR and the RB12 in standard formats.

Expecting him to have a repeat performance would be extremely optimistic. The reports out of camp that Patterson’s workload will likely be managed also add to the questions over his workload. However, it’s a big drop-off from a top 10-12 RB to one who’s being selected outside the top 30 at the position and at the back end of Round 7.

One thing that makes the concern around Patterson somewhat strange is the almost total lack of serious competition for touches at the RB position on this roster. The other backs on this roster are rookie fifth-round selection Tyler Allgeier, and veterans Damien Williams, Avery Williams, Qadree Ollison, and Caleb Huntley. Allgeier and Williams are solid options, but neither seems likely to take a huge workload this year.

The key to Patterson’s value — especially in PPR — is the floor that his receiving work affords him. He played 16 games last year and averaged 4.3 targets per game. If he can repeat his 75% catch rate, that is 3.2 receptions per game at an average of around 10 yards per reception. Even at a line of three receptions for 30 yards, that’s six fantasy points without any rushing work or touchdowns baked in.

At the current cost, Patterson only needs to be an RB2 to return value. Meanwhile, with his receiving work and the lack of competition, he retains that RB1 upside.

Gus Edwards | Baltimore Ravens

Sleeper ADP: 175 (RB55)

People can be somewhat forgiven for forgetting about Gus Edwards after he missed last year with an ACL tear. However, when he’s been on the field for the Ravens in the last few years, Edwards has been a considerable factor. In a three-headed backfield in 2020, Edwards led the position with 144 rushing attempts and a 26% market share. In 2019, he managed 133 carries with a 22.3% market share.

Going all the way back to his first season with the team in 2018, Edwards has never had fewer than those 133 rushing attempts or 22.3% market share. Granted, he’s never had more than 144 attempts or the 26% market share from 2020, which caps his ceiling. Nevertheless, the key point is that the Ravens have very much operated with a backfield-by-committee approach in recent years. The 202 carries by Mark Ingram in 2019 were the most by a single player in any one season.

That is the prime reason why Edwards is a sleeper for fantasy this year at his current price. Both he and J.K. Dobbins are returning from season-ending injuries suffered last preseason. While Edwards is being selected as RB55 and barely inside the 15th round, Dobbins is being selected inside the top 50 and just fractionally outside of Round 4.

Unless you expect the Ravens to completely change their theory and suddenly give a player in Dobbins, who is returning from serious injury, 250+ carries, that discrepancy simply doesn’t make sense. Edwards has proven to be productive with a relatively limited workload. In 2020, he was the RB28 in standard and RB37 in PPR.

The key for Edwards is to see what his floor is with that workload. Well, in 2019, he was the RB52 in PPR and RB43 in non-PPR formats. That means the price for Edwards right now is his floor. Given the fact we’ve seen that he has RB3 upside, the risk with this selection is low. Don’t be afraid to take Edwards a round earlier than his ADP, because even if he struggles, at this point in the draft, you’re not risking much.

Kenyan Drake | Las Vegas Raiders

Sleeper ADP: 250 (RB70)

When it comes to Kenyan Drake in 2022, the price is simply so low that he becomes a no-risk sleeper for fantasy managers. Last season, Drake struggled with injuries and a confusing role as Josh Jacobs’ backup. Even when Jacobs was injured or limited, the Raiders looked at other options, despite Drake having the pedigree.

Now he has a new head coach and one that has been running an offense where they’re happy to mix and match their RB options depending on the situation. The key for Drake is the role he plays in the passing game. We’ve seen James White be a cheap and fun fantasy option in New England thanks to his work in the receiving game. Drake has the statistics to prove he can play that role for Las Vegas.

Drake has a career 73.7% catch rate on 270 targets with 1,535 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2019, White turned 95 targets into an RB29 finish in standard formats and RB18 in PPR. Even in 2020, when he had just 62 targets, White was still RB42 in PPR and RB57 in non-PPR. There’s no reason Drake cannot at least reach those numbers from 2020, and the 2019 numbers are more than possible.

Additionally, Drake could easily be the primary backup to Jacobs. The other backs of note on the roster are Brandon Bolden and Zamir White. Bolden is a useful, but limited running back, and it would be surprising if Drake didn’t beat out White as the primary backup.

The news that Drake will be back for training camp may see his ADP bump slightly. However, it’s considerably low right now that the bump shouldn’t have a major impact. If you draft Jacobs, Drake is a solid late-round handcuff. However, even if you haven’t drafted Jacobs, Drake has the skill set and the potential opportunities to have RB3/RB4 value on his own accord.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor and the Fantasy Football Director at Pro Football Network. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN

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