Think back to your 2011 fantasy football draft.
Was Darren Sproles even drafted and if he was, when? Not until the very late rounds.
Throughout the first half of your fantasy drafts is when you pick the stud players that can carry your team. However, the players that you draft in the middle to late rounds are the ones that can put your team in your league's fantasy football championship.
With the 2012 fantasy football season starting shortly, here are five running backs that you must target in the middle to late rounds of your draft.
After being recently signed by the Green Bay Packers, Cedric Benson will have great fantasy value as a late-round draft pick.
Benson should win the starting running back job over James Starks, considering he has three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Though the Packers offense is pass-heavy and revolves around Aaron Rodgers, Benson will still see about 15 touches a game. Just a few years ago, former Packers running back Ryan Grant was one of the top fantasy backs in the league.
Look to get Benson in the later rounds as a running back to have on your bench.
No one knows who is going to start at running back for the Washington Redskins this season, which is great for Evan Royster.
Whether Tim Hightower is listed as the starter on the depth chart or Roy Helu is the most versatile, there has not been much hype surrounding Royster.
Despite not getting as much attention as Hightower or Helu, it was Royster who got the start at running back in the Redskins' first preseason game.
With Hightower still not healthy from an ACL injury and Helu being more of a third-down running back, Royster could be getting his number called a good amount. Royster’s one-cut running style fits well with Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.
With no signs of Maurice Jones-Drew ending his holdout anytime soon, it appears that Rashad Jennings is going to be the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting running back this season.
Jennings is no MJD, but being the starting running back for the Jaguars means you are going to get a significant amount of touches.
Are you really going to trust Blaine Gabbert’s arm over anything else?
Even if MJD ends his holdout, Jennings is still going to see plenty of touches. MJD is going to be rusty and out of shape, similar to how Chris Johnson was in 2011 after his protracted contract holdout.
With a new head coach in Jacksonville and MJD not being there, look for Jennings to still be very involved with the Jaguars offense.
I have been saying it all offseason and I will say it again. Ryan Mathews is not a top-10 fantasy running back and will let your team down.
Mathews has always been unproductive or hurt throughout his career and sure enough he got injured in his first preseason game last week.
Being the backup running back up to Mathews means that Ronnie Brown is going to see his fair share of reps. Mathews could be out up to six weeks, which means that Brown will be the San Diego Chargers' starting running back for the season opener.
It is not like Brown is a random running back being thrown into the starting spot. When he was with the Miami Dolphins, Brown was considered a legit fantasy running back.
Expect Brown to perform well while he is the starter for the Chargers, as this will be his tryout to show the rest of the NFL that he still has what it takes to be a starting running back for another team.
Before the Indianapolis Colts' preseason started, not many fantasy owners had Donald Brown high on their draft boards.
However, after the first play of the game when Brown took a screen pass for a 68-yard touchdown, it looked like Brown had the potential to break out this season.
In the past, Brown has always been a backup running back on a Colts team that was built around Peyton Manning. He also has struggled to stay healthy and has missed eight games throughout his three-year career.
If Brown can stay healthy, then 2012 will be his breakout season.
With a rookie quarterback, the Colts are going to be relying on the run game often. Not only will Brown play a major role in the run game, but as we saw from his 68-yard touchdown off a screen pass, he also has great value for PPR leagues.
Andrew Luck is going to be seeing a lot of pressure in his rookie season, so expect him to throw to Brown as his check-down receiver often.