Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny
After returning from injury in Week 13 last season, Penny was fantasy's top-scoring back over the final six games; he ended the year leading all backs in rush yards over expectation. While the downgrade at QB from Russell Wilson — and a shaky Seattle offensive line doesn’t help — Penny looks like a true star capable of rising above his situation.
The Seahawks drafted Ken Walker III, but coach Pete Carroll historically prefers veterans to draft capital, and Chris Carson retired. Penny racked up 39 touchdowns over his last two years in college, and while he’s clearly an injury risk, that very same risk has created a rare opportunity in which one of the league’s very best running backs isn’t even being drafted in the top-25 at the position.
Penny’s ADP has continued to climb recently with no timetable for Walker’s return from surgery, so he won't be a sleeper for every long.
New England Patriots: Rhamondre Stevenson
Stevenson may be more than a “sleeper” after being hyped so much during the summer, but he’s an extremely intriguing fantasy pick taking over New England’s passing down role with 60+ vacated RB targets after James White retired and Brandon Bolden left.
While questions remain regarding the Patriots’ play calling this season, and teammate Damien Harris rushed for 15 touchdowns last season, Stevenson looks like a special player capable of emerging as one of the league’s very best running backs as soon as this year.
Arizona Cardinals: Eno Benjamin
Benjamin has received praise throughout the summer and has emerged as the favorite to back up James Conner, who has a long injury history. Benjamin is a capable receiver with a 300-carry season on his college resume who’s flashed before. He’d quickly become a must fantasy start if he were to take over an RB role in Arizona that provided the second-most goal-line carries in the league last season.
Chicago Bears: Khalil Herbert
Herbert flashed as a rookie and is almost certainly a much better rusher than David Montgomery, who’s seen time on special teams this summer under Chicago’s new coaching staff. Despite going many rounds later in fantasy drafts, don’t be surprised if the impressive Herbert out-carries Montgomery this season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Isiah Pacheco
Pacheco has received a ton of training camp hype, but he’s no Darwin Thompson and should be taken seriously on a Chiefs offense that could lead the NFL in scoring yet has an opening for an alpha back.
Ronald Jones somehow survived the Chiefs' roster cuts, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire has proven to be decidedly average (earning the moniker "MEH"). Meanwhile, Andy Reid has heaped praise on Pacheco, who tied for the fastest 40-time at the combine and played under historically bad circumstances in college.
Pacheco has been arguably the biggest fantasy riser this summer — for a good reason.