Rookie sleepers – Running Backs: Go and get A.J. Dillon

Alex Michael (@DynastyGuruNFL) brings you the first of a series looking at some of the best rookie sleepers at each position that can help you dominate your fantasy leagues for years to come.

This series of articles is looking away from the big names that everyone is talking about inthe run up to your draft and will hopefully give you some food for thought going into Round three and onward of any Dynasty drafts, or maybe as a sleeper in any deep (really deep in some cases) redraft leagues.

The series will look into five players at each position who could be candidates for your selection, these are five prospects who we hope will have an impact in the 2020 season.

To start off, let’s run through the running back category. This will exclude likely candidates (as with all the other positions) who we can expect to see be drafted in rounds 1-2 of a Dynasty league, or up to round 10 in a redraft league.

1. A.J. Dillon

If A.J. Dillon falls this far in your draft, make sure you grab him. Even though the Packers were tainted with the lowest Draft grade in April, Dillon certainly is a diamond in the rough. The Packers have made it clear that they’re going to stick to the running game this year by not acquiring any new WRs in the draft and only topping up the position with an injury-
plagued Devin Funchess on Free Agency. This begs the question as to whether Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams or in fact Dillon will double up as a receiver this season. The Boston College back has shown some capability doubling up as a pass-catcher when needed and averaged 15 yds from 13 receptions in 2019, his Junior year, which is encouraging for those in PPR leagues. Whilst the capability is there, all things point toward Dillon being a 3rd down/ goal-line back. Dillon weighs in and around the 250lbs mark, we can expect A.J. to charge through defenses and become an asset in the fantasy world, so much so, that reports out of Green Bay suggest that he may also be ahead of Jamaal Williams.

2. Joshua Kelley

This may be the most under-the-radar player in this category and someone who is likely to be available after the second round of your rookie draft (if you’re in a dynasty league). Kelley is going to be operating in a backfield committee with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, with Ekeler taking the majority share of the trio. However, the UCLA product is a very determined runner and matched up with his intelligence, this puts him into a great
position to mould more of a featured role toward the end of this season given that he takes that come his way in the earlier stages of the season. When given time and space, the 112th pick of the 2020 draft is electric and could have a lot of upside in a team, even with Ekeler on a long-term contract. One precaution to bear in mind is that Justin Jackson is going into
his 3rd year on this team, and now with Melvin Gordon out of the picture, he may have first dibs on some of the reps, given his strong knowledge of the offense (but not guaranteed, given the change of QB, it could be anyone’s game).

3. Antonio Gibson

Here is another really great player that may be available in the deeper rounds. The RB out of the University of Memphis is a tough-runner and handy in the passing game, so-much-so that he was initially drafted as a WR, but may operate as both, should he get a chance to take the field. Picked in the 3rd round of the draft we can hope that he will get some game
time however probably in a role similar to Chris Thompson, during his spell in Washington. However, the Redskins stocked up on running backs over the course of the summer with J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber, Bryce Love is now off the PUP list and he will also have to compete with both Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, so snaps may not be guaranteed each week. Luckily for Gibson, Rivera does like his style of player. For immediate impact on this roster though, it is unlikely that Gibson will be the guy you’re looking for (when comparing with A.J. Dillon for example) to be productive throughout the season, but would be better as a late round pick/ stash player in Dynasty setups and maybe a pass in any redraft leagues with a smaller bench.

4. DeeJay Dallas

DeeJay Dallas is someone you should look out for if he is available in the later rounds, another player who can play across the offense, which has also included stints at WR, RB, QB, KR, PR and defense whilst at high school, he will definitely be a useful player to have on your roster. Typically, Seattle are heavy on the running-game, and with Rashad Penny likely to be included on the PUP list it paves the way for DeeJay Dallas to have some time on the field in 1-2 running back situations, and on special teams at a minimum (as they may look to save Lockett). With the introduction of Carlos Hyde, this will likely have a big impact on the usage of Dallas this season, with both Carson and Hyde in-line to take the fair share of
snaps, it may be likely that Dallas only finds himself with a role on special teams this season. This is not to say that his role will be limited to just that in subsequent years, but it will be a waiting game if you go with Dallas.

5. Anthony McFarland Jr.

There is no question about the running ability of anyone on this list, but McFarland Jr. is a guy who when given an inch of ground, will take a mile. The Maryland product may not have the most outstanding stats in college, but he split carries in 2019 and showed that he can have an impact on the run and as a pass-catcher when needed. McFarland Jr. has a really
low-centre of gravity and great leg strength to match his strong build. It might be a bit of a stretch, but we could be looking an RB1 in the next couple of years. With James Conner’s injury concerns and his contract up at the end of the season, this could pave the way to seeing McFarland becoming a key playmaker for the Steelers both this season and over the
coming years. Jaylen Samuels didn’t take the opportunities that came last year, so he is likely to move down the depth chart, along with Benny Snell Jr. whose position is yet to be clarified. Whilst there are more highly-ranked prospects in the draft this year, McFarland Jr. may have the edge over a large quantity of them with his landing spot.

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