Keep an eye on these RB sleepers deep in your fantasy draft

Running back is the most critical position for fantasy football owners if they want to have a winning season. The NFL is becoming a more pass-heavy league, but most fantasy leagues continue to weight running backs. They are also very difficult to project. The best way for owners to prepare for their season is to draft a good stock of running backs that they can get creative with throughout the year. Injuries will happen, and players will emerge from a little more under the radar. Here are four backs that should produce well beyond their fantasy draft position.

Williams enters his second season with a slight edge to receive the starting position in Green Bay in 2018. He stands to benefit from running back Aaron Jones missing the first two games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Williams also edges out his fellow backs in pass protection for QB Aaron Rodgers. Williams also has an edge in durability over Jones and Ty Montgomery.

Unfortunately, Williams has not shown enough promise to guarantee the feature role, resulting in a drop in draft position. Head coach Mike McCarthy has continued to emphasize that the Packers will have a rushing committee next season. Still, Williams makes the best case to own the backfield. He rushed for 556 yards and four touchdowns and had 262 receiving yards and two touchdown catches his rookie season. Owners can hold off until the middle rounds for Williams. If he takes off the first two games, he will be a fantasy steal.

The Seahawks found a gem when they selected Carson in the seventh round of last season’s draft. Carson looked to be the answer to the Seahawks’ running back problems until he suffered a severely broken leg in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts. He spent the rest of the season on the sideline after 49 carries for 208 yards and seven receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Now, Carson is back and looking to pick up where he left off. He enters camp facing some stiff competition from first-round pick Rashaad Penny for the starting role. However, the Seahawks coaching staff has high-praise for Carson and head coach Pete Carroll is going to go with the hottest hand. For now, it could Carson’s job to lose. He is a high-end RB2 heading into the NFL kick-off that owners can snatch into the double-digit rounds.

Editor’s update: Guice suffered a knee injury in his preseason debut. Initially reported as an MCL sprain, Washington has since announced that the injury is a torn ACL. This injury ends Guice’s rookie season before it begins. Samaje Perine is likely to get more of Washington’s rushing work, while Chris Thompson will be the primary pass catcher.

Guice is walking into the perfect opportunity during his rookie season. Washington rebuilt their offense after a mediocre 2017 season, with a new quarterback and hopes for a rejuvenated offensive line. The last piece they needed was a feature running back. Guice is a workhorse with a chip on his shoulder after falling to the second round for supposed “character issues.” Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley will compete for the starting role, but Guice should secure the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

There is a question of whether the 59th overall pick can catch the ball. He was not asked to be involved in the passing game at LSU with any regularity. However, head coach Jay Gruden has been impressed with Guice’s hands in spring workouts and he may see some targets from Alex Smith. Regardless, his catching skills are not a pressing issue. Washington has Chris Thompson who is an excellent pass-catching back and should keep his third-down back role. Guice has the potential to emerge as an RB1 by mid-season, especially if he gets 250 touches this season. Not bad for a running back that could fall to the fourth or fifth round in fantasy drafts.

Dixon fell off most fantasy radars after he missed the 2017 season with a meniscus tear. However, he is a running back many owners should give strong consideration to heading into 2018. The Ravens were very high on Dixon’s after his rookie season. In the final six weeks of the 2016 season, Dixon rushed for 281 yards and two touchdowns on 61 carries. He had 20 receptions for 114 yards and a TD as well.

Now that Dixon is healthy, he can re-establish himself in the Ravens’ offense. Alex Collins is expected to remain the starter, however, Dixon has a good chance to challenge for the backup role. He can easily surpass Javorius Allen for the job. He can also eat into Collins’ workload as the season wears on. Keep an eye on Dixon’s progress during minicamp. He could be a late-round fantasy steal if he can lock down or surpass the No. 2 spot in the Ravens’ backfield.

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