Fantasy football running backs aren’t very deep this season which why it’s important to try and find some high ceiling sleeper picks. Recently I was talking fantasy football sleeper running backs with Jim Butz, co-founder and owner of suicidefantasyfootball.com, and these are some of the players we came up with.
Here is a list of the top 5 fantasy football running back sleepers this season:
1. Ryan Williams – Arizona Cardinals
Notes: Unfortunately Williams missed all of his rookie season due to injury. But he’s back this season and has a strong chance of taking over the starting role with the Cardinals. He’s looked solid this preseason, rushing for 25 yards and a touchdown in 5 attempts against the Oakland Raiders. He’s being drafted on average in the 14th round which I find to be a steal.
Jim’s take: “Love Williams. Beanie Wells is almost as injury prone as Ryan Mathews, but Williams is a much better player now than Ronnie Brown. I expect Williams to be the full time back in Arizona before the season ends and be a viable option at the RB position in fantasy football many weeks this year.”
2. David Wilson – New York Giants
Notes: I think around 15 carries a game will be a reasonable amount for the Giants starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw. It seems that’s the usual amount of touches they give their lead back. That being said, someone will have to pick up the rest of the load and Wilson will be that guy. He’s looked solid this preseason and will be a primarily a yardage player. Going on average in the 13th round I think it would be ideal to target this guy.
Jim’s take: “The Giants always give at least 2, if not 3 backs some touches every game. Wilson is the fastest back the Giants have ever had playing and we all know Bradshaw is going to get banged up. If you draft Bradshaw I think Wilson is a probable handcuff. If you’re just looking for a late round flier, he could give you huge returns.”
3. Rashad Jennings – Jacksonville Jaguars
Notes: At this point in the Maurice Jones-Drew contract holdout, Jennings is a solid sleeper. He’s an exceptional back who has posted in his career 123 attempts for 661 yards, 5 touchdowns, 5.4 yards a carry and some pretty good receiving numbers too. He’s also had some solid starts as well. As long as Jones-Drew continues to hold out, Jennings is a definite sleeper. Even when and if Jones-Drew comes back, it wouldn’t hurt to take a risk on Jennings.
Jim’s take: “With Jones-Drew holding out, you know Jennings moves up in the rankings every day. Hold-outs get hurt year after year so I definitely have Jennings on my radar. With Jones-Drew asking for a trade, that could open the door for Jennings as the full time back with the Jaguars.”
4. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts
Notes: This will be the year Brown breaks out. His value has been on the rise since joining the NFL in ’09 and he’s shown the potential. The Colts have an improved their offense this offseason which should help them jump from least scrimmage plays last season, with 951, and give Brown more time with the ball. Brown is certainly worth a 10th or later round pick.
Jim’s take: “Brown is the clear starter in Indianapolis and I don’t think Delone Carter or Vick Ballard give him much of a run this year. I look for a breakout year from Brown, showing the talent and game-breaking ability he displayed at UConn.”
5. Shane Vereen – New England Patriots
Notes: I’m not really partial to taking Patriots running backs because of the running back by committee approach but with Vereen going undrafted in most leagues I find him to be a favorable pick. Although he only had 15 carries last season he’s shown potential this preseason, rushing 11 times for 64 yards against the New Orleans Saints. Bill Belichick is willing to give the carries to anyone who shows they’re capable and Vereen is capable.
Jim’s take: “Although I don’t believe any back in New England will duplicate what BenJarvus Green-Ellis did last year, someone has to get the rock there. I am not a big Danny Woodhead fan and I don’t think Stevan Ridley is the guy either. I look for a decent year out of Vereen, as your 3rd or 4th back.”
Honorable Mention – Evan Royster – Washington Redskins
Notes: As for the same reason as Patriots running backs, Redskins backs aren’t very high on my list, as well as Carolina Panthers backs. However, Royster has incredible potential. In his two starts last season he was phenomenal, combined for 39 attempts for 245 yards. If he gets the ball this year I’d expected great things. I just wish he wasn’t stuck in the Redskins backfield.
Jim’s take: “I can’t stand the way Mike Shanahan does it in Washington, but he always uses two or 3 guys throughout the year. For some reason he doesn’t like Roy Helu and I am definitely not a fan of Tim Hightower. I think Royster will wind up getting 65% of the carries in Washington by midseason.”
Other Fantasy Football Articles by this Author:
Top 10 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks for 2012
Top 10 Fantasy Football Running Backs for 2012
Top 11-20 Fantasy Football Running Backs for 2012
Fantasy Football Tips: Draft Consistent Starters
Jake has played fantasy football for years and has won numerous leagues. Follow him on twitter,@JGilfix, for his latest sports news, fan perspective articles, or just to talk sports or fantasy sports.
Don’t forget to follow Jim on twitter, @SFFinsider, as well.