Fantasy Football Values: RB Sleepers You Should Draft in 2023, Including Jaylen Warren, Tyjae Spears, and Others

Identifying values in your fantasy football drafts can give you a massive advantage in your league. Who are several RBs you should target going into 2023?

Getting the running back position right can certainly be one of the biggest keys to a successful fantasy football season. However, by nature, the position also suffers plenty of attrition, which means making prudent later-round selections can prove especially valuable as a season unfolds.

Accordingly, here are five potentially undervalued candidates — along with two additional considerations — that could pay off for you in 2023.

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Who Are Some Fantasy Football Values at Running Back?

De’Von Achane, Dolphins

A shoulder injury derailed what was turning into a noteworthy summer for Achane, a versatile rookie third-round pick who averaged an impressive 6.4 yards per carry and posted a 65-554-5 line through the air over 28 college games at Texas A&M.

Jeff Wilson was placed on injured reserve with an abdominal injury Thursday, and although he technically has a chance to return after four games, head coach Mike McDaniel implied the veteran back’s projected recovery timeline could be much longer when asked.

Naturally, that development boosts No. 1 back Raheem Mostert’s value significantly, but Achane is certainly going to see his stock improve in its own right.

Backfield mate Salvon Ahmed does have a significant experience edge on Achane — including a year’s head start in McDaniel’s system — but Achane is an explosive talent that’s reportedly been able to add some more weight in recent months without sacrificing his 4.3 speed.

If Wilson is out for at least the first half of the regular season, Achane could well have time to develop a formidable grip on the primary backup job while also likely slotting in as a dynamic third-down back and occasional wild card option on early downs in McDaniel’s creative schemes.

Jaylen Warren, Steelers

Warren isn’t necessarily going to fly under the radar in deeper leagues, but the second-year pro could certainly be a valuable later-round selection in essentially any format after a surprisingly effective rookie 2022 campaign.

Warren eventually usurped the more experienced Anthony McFarland and Benny Snell for the No. 2 job behind Najee Harris a year ago, averaging 4.9 yards per carry on his 77 rushes while adding a 28-214 line as a receiver across 16 games.

Warren notably received 18 red-zone touches — including seven from the 10-yard line and closer — and he played a solid 330 snaps from scrimmage overall. He didn’t lose a fumble and was charged with just one drop on 33 targets as well, and he showed some burst by taking three of his rush attempts for more than 20 yards.

Harris has already logged 579 carries and an additional 115 touches on receptions over his first two seasons, and with Warren having proven his worth as a complementary option as a rookie, he could certainly be used to spell his teammate more often in 2023.

Tyjae Spears, Titans

Derrick Henry logged another 349 carries last season — the second most of his career — while also recording another 33 touches via his career-high reception total. It all added up to a career-high amount of contact.

Henry played at least 16 games for the fourth time in the last six seasons, but he’ll turn 30 just before the end of the 2023 campaign. While the bruising back was as effective as ever in 2022, there will eventually be, as with any other back, a point of diminishing returns for Henry.

A savvy veteran coach like Mike Vrabel will try to stave that off as long as possible. The sprucing up of the passing game via the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins is one such way to take some pressure off Henry.

A more direct one would be the robust deployment of Spears, who ran for nearly 1,600 yards and scored 19 rushing TDs as a senior at Tulane in 2022. Spears isn’t especially fast and weighs about 45 pounds less than Henry, but the Titans thought enough of his potential to make him a third-round pick.

Concerns about Henry once again shouldering a massive workload are likely to keep Spears’ ADP modest in all but the deepest of formats.

However, given the upside he demonstrated in college (6.8 yards per carry) and his ability to also contribute as a receiver, banking on Henry seeing at least a bit of a reduced workload to Spears’ benefit isn’t a bad way to invest a later-round pick, either as a handcuff or one-off.

Tyler Allgeier, Falcons

Falcons first-round pick Bijan Robinson is naturally all the rage in drafts, and the eighth overall pick is certainly expected to helm Atlanta’s backfield right from the start of his career.

However, Allgeier is far from your average No. 2 back, considering he ran for over 1,000 yards at 4.9 yards per carry as a fifth-round rookie last season and also contributed 16 receptions — four for 20+ yards — for 139 yards and another score.

Allgeier is also much younger than many backups around the league and was an accomplished college player himself, racking up 2,731 rushing yards (6.4 yards per carry) and 42 receptions during his final two seasons at BYU.

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Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith opted to run the ball at the second-highest clip in the league (55.3%) a year ago, and that was with a veteran quarterback in Marcus Mariota starting the first 13 games.

That figure could actually go up with the inexperienced Desmond Ridder opening the 2023 campaign under center for the Falcons.

Consequently, there should be plenty of opportunity for both Robinson and Allgeier, even with the aging Cordarrelle Patterson also in the mix to an extent.

Allgeier certainly shouldn’t require very hefty draft capital, given popular perception regarding Robinson’s expected usage, and all the cited factors certainly make the former a somewhat sneaky value consideration.

Deon Jackson, Colts

The Colts backfield is unsurprisingly the subject of plenty of consternation for fantasy enthusiasts at the moment. It’s anyone’s guess if Jonathan Taylor will ever play another down for Indianapolis, and what’s certain is he’ll miss at least the first four games of the season due to his recent placement on the PUP list.

Zack Moss, who ran for 334 yards at 4.8 yards per carry over the final four games of last season, is a tough runner who has very little mileage on his wheels and is serviceable as a receiver. However, he approaches Week 1 still trying to recover from the broken arm he suffered in late July.

Even if Moss is able to make it back for the opener, he’ll likely be playing some catch-up on his conditioning after missing all of preseason. Enter Jackson, who’s going into his third season in Indy after recording 30 receptions last season across a modest 242 snaps from scrimmage.

Jackson has only averaged 3.3 yards per carry across his first 81 NFL totes, but his 6’0″, 218-pound frame makes him well-suited for red-zone work — an area of the field where he saw 12 touches last season despite his modest role.

If the Colts add one of several veteran backs still on the market, then Jackson’s outlook will certainly dim.

However, for the moment, he’s a solid — albeit unspectacular — option to help take pressure off rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, and one that could conceivably serve as the team’s top back for at least Week 1.

Other Sleeper RBs To Consider in Fantasy Football

Zach Charbonnet, Seahawks

Kenneth Walker is reportedly on track to take on a normal workload in Week 1 after dealing with a recent groin injury, but Charbonnet is likely to enjoy a solid role even if his backfield mate remains healthy all season.

The rookie second-round pick amassed 2,496 rushing yards (6.3 yards per carry) and another 518 receiving yards on 61 catches over his final 22 games at UCLA, and he should have a firm grip on the change-of-pace/third-down role at minimum to start his career.

Rico Dowdle, Cowboys

New No. 1 back Tony Pollard has yet to crack 200 carries in a season coming into 2023, while diminutive rookie Deuce Vaughn is likely to have his workload from scrimmage carefully managed.

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That renders Dowdle, who beat out Malik Davis this preseason for the No. 2 role, as a potentially rewarding late-round value in deep formats. Pollard is undoubtedly projected for a boost in his previous volume, yet Dowdle could see his own solid allotment of touches and reap the same benefits of playing on an offense with a fearsome aerial attack defenses will have to respect.

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