Hitting on late-round running backs is a huge advantage in fantasy football leagues. Look no further than Baltimore Ravens backup running back Gus Edwards, a popular late-round pick for most of the offseason that is paying off handsomely now that J.K. Dobbins is out of the 2021 NFL season due to injury.
Backup running backs on run-heavy teams are worthy lottery tickets, as are rookie running backs. Each of the first seven running backs picked in the 2020 draft managed at least one top-10 finish at the position in 2020. Another seven played at least 100 offensive snaps.
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The 2021 class looks less promising. The top five running backs drafted are all expected to see significant playing time, but each will be off the board by the end of Round 8. The other running backs drafted in fantasy might not even win backup jobs: Only eight running backs were drafted in the first five rounds compared to 16 the year before.
A better option for 2021 fantasy football will be to lean on veterans. Here are five sleeper running backs who are typically available in Round 10 or later and could be league-winners.
Williams signed as an unrestricted free agent and will pair with D’Andre Swift in the Lions' backfield. The two should combine for all of the halfback snaps for Detroit as long as both remain healthy.
There's a chance Williams plays just as much as Swift, and he could even win the starting job. Lions general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell weren’t with the team when Swift was drafted, while Williams was the first unrestricted free-agent signing by the new regime. The Lions' second-year runner has dealt with a groin injury all of training camp, which has given Williams plenty of time to win over the coaching staff. He should be a Week 1 starter but could also maintain the role long-term.