Today's pass-happy National Football League has trickled down to the world of fantasy football. Fantasy leagues that require three starting wideouts, quarterbacks throwing for 5,000 yards and leagues that award points for receptions have all conspired to rob running backs of their title as the unquestioned kings of the fantasy football castle.
These factors have led many fantasy owners to eschew the running back position early in fantasy drafts, choosing instead to grab an elite signal-caller, load up on wideouts or secure a top-flight tight end.
However, in 99 percent of fantasy football leagues you're still going to have to roll at least two running backs out there every week. That makes finding one (or more) backs in the middle of your draft that you can plug in on a weekly basis essential if you've got your heart set on rostering Calvin Johnson or Aaron Rodgers.
So, here's a trio of ballcarriers that should be available a bit later in drafts with a shot at cracking the top 25 (meaning RB2 numbers in a 12-team league), from a risk-reward home run shot to a much less risky minivan of an option.
Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
Through six games last year Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best seemed primed to break out alongside the rest of the Lions offense, averaging over 110 total yards a game and scoring three times. However, in that sixth game Best suffered a concussion, and just like that his 2011 season was over and his NFL career was in jeopardy.
That's really not overstating things. Best suffered one of the most horrific concussions in recent memory. That was before he ever got to the NFL. Given the league's emphasis on head injuries now and Best's history, any sort of perceived head injury could end his 2012 season, making Best quite possibly the riskiest fantasy bet of any starting running back in the NFL.
That said, Best ranked sixth among running backs in fantasy points per game last year, and if you feel he can stay healthy and aren't afraid to stake your fantasy season on him, Best's your lottery ticket at running back.
James Starks, Green Bay Packers
It's been one of the more under-the-radar stories among even fantasy football buffs this season, but the Green Bay Packers have to this point expressed next to no interest in bringing free agent Ryan Grant back.
For now that would seem to indicate that the team is confident making third-year pro James Starks the lead dog in the Packers backfield in 2012.
Starks didn't light up the stat sheet last year but did manage a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. Green Bay's 27th-ranked rushing attack from last year may not seem impressive at first glance, but Starks had almost 800 total yards in part-time duty a season ago, and given the Packers' prolific offense and his increased touches Starks could well crack the top 20 this season, especially in PPR leagues.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
Although 2011 starter Cedric Benson topped the 1,000 rushing yards mark for the third consecutive season a year ago, the Cincinnati Bengals saw fit to part with him, inking a free-agent deal with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who ran for just under 700 yards and 11 scores for the New England Patriots in 2011.
Make no mistake, the Bengals did little more with this deal than get younger at the running back spot. Like Benson, "Law Firm" rushed for less than four yards a carry in 2011, and just like Benson Green-Ellis is a move-the-chains plodder with limited fantasy upside.
Green-Ellis is what he is in fantasy as much as the NFL. Will he blow your doors off and make highlight reel moves? Nope. Will he see a career high in touches and quietly top 1,000 rushing yards in 2012? Yep.