The elusive fantasy sleeper. Every year, fantasy football players search for those illustrious late-round steals that could, in a perfect world, help them win their leagues. They're few and far between, but when they hit, it's glorious.
NY Jets running back Israel Abanikanda has the potential to be that late-round steal for you this year. This isn't to suggest that he will win you your league. There are no guarantees in football or fantasy football.
But when you're looking for low-risk, high-upside swings to take in the latter rounds of your fantasy football drafts this year, look no further than the Jets' 2023 fifth-round pick.
Abanikanda has a real opportunity to earn a sizable role in a running-back-friendly offense this season. He will be given every chance to push for playing time early in his career.
NY Jets RB Israel Abanikanda is a late-round fantasy sleeper to keep an eye on
The Athletic's Zack Rosenblatt recently reported that the Jets "believe in Abanikanda’s ability to contribute right away." That bodes well for a young running back who will be fighting for snaps in a wide-open competition.
Breece Hall is still working his way back from a torn ACL, and while the Jets are optimistic he will be ready for Week 1, there's no guarantee he receives a full workload early in the season. That could open up an opportunity for Abanikanda and others to make an impact.
Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight are Abanikanda's primary competition for snaps. Carter is coming off a very disappointing 2022 season that saw his yards per carry drop to a dismal 3.5.
Knight flashed early in his Jets career but tapered off soon after. The difference between Hall and the other running backs on the record was staggering.
The Jets averaged a whopping 5.59 yards per carry with Hall on the field, a figure that would have ranked first in the NFL. Their average without Hall? 3.85 yards per carry — the worst figure in the league.
Part of this is due to offensive line injuries and turnover, but it became very apparent that Hall was a significant step above the other running backs on the Jets roster. That means the opportunity will be there for Abanikanda to earn reps over Carter and Knight.
The other factor to consider is the offense he will be playing in. New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has regularly deployed a running-back-by-committee backfield throughout his NFL career.
In Green Bay, Hackett split reps between Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. In Denver, it was Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, with veteran Latavius Murray replacing Williams following his injury.
Hall might be better than any of those players, but the Jets are still going to limit his workload. The RB2 role in the Jets' offense is going to see plenty of snaps, even if Hall is healthy.
That's what makes Abanikanda so appealing. Not only is he a potential handcuff for Hall, but he could also become an important part of the Jets' offense alongside his fellow running back.
Draft Abanikanda if you believe in his talent. The battle for snaps behind Hall is wide open, and given Carter and Knight's struggles last year, the Jets are optimistic that Abanikanda could be the guy the team replies on as their primary backup running back.
Fantasy Pros currently lists Abanikanda's ADP at 233. He's rostered in only 1% of ESPN leagues. This is the kind of pick you want to make in the final rounds of your fantasy drafts.
Believe in his talent. Draft Israel Abanikanda before someone else beats you to the punch.