Signs of a Sleeper Running Back

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Running backs were the most consistently predictable season-to-season because they were the focal point of the offense. But recent years have seen changes in the backfield where there are more specialists and more committees in play. That has increasingly led to lesser workloads, lower fantasy points and more often than not failure to meet the one criterion that is your best tool to find a sleeper – expectations.

What you, I, the “wisdom of the crowd” and especially the guys who just buy a magazine and show up to a draft rely on the most is the previous season’s production for each player. In all manner of human activity, people are most likely to do what they just did.  We intensely watched the NFL last year – why wouldn’t your baseline be what you just saw? Fantasy owners usually tend to pick much the exact same players that were successful for them the previous season. When you win a league championship, you suddenly have a roster full of “your guys”.

And so we create expectations for every player, perhaps express it in projected statistics. But the same NFL never plays in two seasons. Teams change, players change. We attempt to factor in changes when we decide what any given player is most likely to do. But each year there are always players and especially running backs who become sleepers. They greatly exceed expectations and with that become difference making values in your draft. The question becomes this:

“Why are our expectations too low on these backs who become sleepers?”

The answer is both simple and complicated.

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