When you think running backs in the NFL, big names like Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice come to mind.
However, when managing a fantasy football team, you have to know almost every possible running back in the league that will get touches, because in an instant any running back can come out of nowhere to make a significant impact in fantasy circles. Just think back to last year when guys like DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles and C.J. Spiller all heavily outplayed their draft value.
In this slideshow, I will go over 10 running backs who have a chance to make a name for themselves even if they’re not high on many people’s draft boards.
Excluded from this slideshow will be any rookies expected to get significant, instant playing time (think Trent Richardson and Doug Martin) and guys replacing injured stars (think Isaac Redman).
There's some uncertainty with Mikel Leshoure as we head toward the beginning of camp.
First is the fact that Leshoure is coming off an Achilles injury that had him sidelined for the whole 2011 season. Plus, Leshoure has been arrested twice for marijuana possession, so he may be facing some disciplinary sanctions.
But make no mistake—Leshoure has the talent and know-how to make an impact in this league. It’s only a matter of time before he unseats Jahvid Best (who may never be the same with his concussion issues) and becomes the primary rusher in Detroit.
Ryan Williams is another running back on the mend after he missed all of last year with a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee.
However, reports say that he's running and cutting in practice and should be ready for the start of the season. Although incumbent starter Beanie Wells had a productive 2011 campaign, he has never been one to embody consistency and stay healthy.
Williams has a chance for a lot of carries and is an excellent late-round flier.
Eventually, Michael Turner, who is 30, is bound to break down after carrying much of the load for the Falcons for the last couple of years.
If he does, that will open the door for the electrifying Jacquizz Rodgers to showcase his talent. Even if Turner is relatively healthy, the Falcons will want a change-of-pace back to keep him fresh. Hence, Rodgers will undoubtedly get a lot more carries in 2012.
What also makes Rodgers so valuable is his penchant for catching passes out of the backfield. With the Falcons such a pass-happy offense, Rodgers' ability to catch passes will give the Falcons a more potent offense.
If you are a Turner owner, it's a must you nab Rodgers as a handcuff.
With Daniel Thomas being drafted by the Dolphins in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, Miami will want to know what it has in him.
Although Thomas’ rookie season was plagued by injuries, inconsistency and the fact that Reggie Bush had a breakout season, Thomas did show flashes of brilliance last year (rushing for 202 yards and hauling in a receiving touchdown in Weeks 2 and 3).
Bush has never been a beacon of reliability in his career, and thus Thomas has a real chance to overtake Bush as the Dolphins’ No. 1 running back option.
Drafted in the third round in April’s draft, Ronnie Hillman will have every chance to carve out a role for himself in the Broncos’ crowded backfield.
With Willis McGahee entering the twilight of his career and Knowshon Moreno either perpetually hurt or underperforming, Hillman will have every opportunity to grab a bulk of the carries in the Mile High City.
Hillman has a lot of upside and is worth a gamble late in drafts.
While Stevan Ridley will be the more popular choice for carries in the Patriots backfield, do remember that the Patriots also think very highly of Shane Vereen, as he was a second-round draft pick in 2011.
Vereen is the perfect change-of-pace back in the Pats offense, and while he has to fend off Ridley and new acquisition Joseph Addai for touches, he could still be in line for a much-increased role in 2012.
Although David Wilson was selected in the first round in April’s draft, the consensus is he will take a backseat to Ahmad Bradshaw.
While that may be true, do consider Bradshaw’s ability to stay healthy, and there's a good chance that Wilson will be thrust into a more prominent role in the Giants offense this year.
Wilson is a very versatile back who can rush the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. If you draft Bradshaw, it's a must that you handcuff Wilson to him.
We all know about the sordid injury history attached to Darren McFadden’s name, and because of that, Taiwan Jones has a good chance to carve out a niche for himself in the Raiders offense.
In limited time last year, Jones was very impressive, and with Michael Bush no longer a part of the team, Jones will ascend up the depth chart, making him a great later-round draft choice.
The Rams used a second-round draft pick on Isaiah Pead this past April, which signified that they are a little worried about the wear and tear that Steven Jackson has experienced over the years.
Jackson will no doubt still be the primary running back in St. Louis, but Pead was drafted to lessen the load for Jackson. He has a great motor and an exceptional burst out of the backfield.
Pead won’t rot on the bench, and as such, he will make for a great late-round flier.
When given the chance last year, Hunter filled in admirably for Gore. Hunter could have a chance for an expanded role this season when you take into account Gore and Jacobs’ penchant for getting hurt.
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