Fantasy Football Breakout Potential: 3 Sophomore Running Backs to Watch

Eric StashinSenior Writer IAugust 8, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 30:  Delone Carter #34 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 30, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Colts lost 27-10.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We all know about DeMarco Murray, Roy Helu and Daniel Thomas.  Mark Ingram and Stevan Ridley have already shown that they need to be on our radars. 

What about the other sophomore running backs around the league?  Who may surprise us and emerge as viable fantasy options in 2012?  Let’s take a look.


Delone Carter, Indianapolis Colts

Colts running backs have long disappointed fantasy owners.  Donald Brown and Joseph Addai were names we wanted to believe in, thinking that they could step up and help take the pressure off Peyton Manning and the passing attack, but it never came to fruition.

As we enter 2012, however, things are going to be different.  The Colts are clearly rebuilding, with rookie Andrew Luck running the show.  Can they really be expected to throw the ball as often as they once did?  You wouldn’t think so, as they are going to want to protect Luck and keep defenses honest.

Carter was relatively unimpressive in his rookie season, running the ball 101 times for 377 yards and two TDs (he also had five receptions for 18 yards).  He battled for playing time behind Brown and Addai, which limited his opportunities.  This season Addai has been jettisoned, and Brown (who had career-best numbers last season with 645 yards and five TDs) is no guarantee to put it all together.

Yes, they did bring in Mewelde Moore, and yes, according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN (click here for the article), “Veteran Mewelde Moore is listed as the No. 2 running back behind Donald Brown, with rookie Vick Ballard third and Delone Carter fourth.” 

It’s not exactly what we wanted to see, but you would expect Carter to get an opportunity for a rebuilding franchise.  He has upside and potential opportunity—and as a late round flier, that’s all we can really ask for.


Evan Royster, Washington Redskins

We all know this story already, as initial depth charts have Royster listed ahead of fellow sophomore Roy Helu.  While none of us want to believe that—or that Tim Hightower is going to be the team’s top back, for that matter—it is important to realize that Royster should not be ignored.

A big back, listed at 6’1” and 216 lbs., Royster posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at Penn State.  Over his four-year career, he rushed for 29 TDs and even caught 25 passes in his senior season.  At the very least, that has red zone vulture written all over it.  Considering how unpredictable Mike Shanahan is with his running backs?  Anything is possible.

You wouldn’t have thought that Royster would be a major factor as training camp began, but at this point it is impossible to ignore him.  He clearly has the ability, and now he is being given the opportunity. 

Shanahan has a knack for developing running backs no one expected, and Royster could simply be the latest.


Taiwan Jones, Oakland Raiders

We all know that Darren McFadden is going to be the top back in Oakland, but we also all know that he is almost a lock to miss a handful of games (at the least).  With Michael Bush now in Chicago, that leaves little on the depth chart to back him up. 

Mike Goodson played in just four games in 2011, and over his three-year career, he has just 125 rushes for 501 yards (and is already banged up as well).  He has proven that he can handle receiving duties (40 receptions in 2010), but is that going to be enough to get him on the field when healthy?

Jones didn’t get many opportunities in his rookie year, but if McFadden goes down, it is possible that he gets the chance to step in.  That opportunity makes him worth the late-round flier in deeper formats.

What are your thoughts on these three backs?  Do you think any will emerge?

Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: