Chris Rainey: Perhaps Fantasy Football's Hidden Gem

Greg MaiolaSenior Analyst IIAugust 16, 2012

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 09:   Chris Rainey #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tries to break tackle of  Kurt Coleman #42 of the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 9, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were dealt a blow when starting running back Rashard Mendenhall was injured late last season. But no worries, Isaac Redman was ready to step in and start.

Mendenhall's ACL was bad, but Redman has more than proven himself in the Steel City.

But apparently, when it rains it pours in Pittsburgh. Redman himself suffered some sort of injury, and his current status is unknown. And though the "raining" has stopped at the running back position, it's Chris Rainey who benefits from the absence of Mendenhall and Redman.

Rainey is a rookie who has flown completely under the radar. Players like Alex Smith and Victor Cruz were extremely overlooked last year but made major impacts in the NFL. Rainey has that type of potential for the Steelers.

The fifth-round draft pick out of Florida has made his mark in the black and yellow. In his first preseason action, Rainey took a little pass and turned it into a 57-yard touchdown. This earned praise from starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who described Rainey as "explosive."

And explosive is just what Rainey will be in 2012.

The General Manager describes Rainey as "...exceptionally quick and exceptionally fast." Todd Haley might even mold Rainey into the type of role Dexter McCluster had with him in Kansas City.

So what exactly does all of this mean for fantasy owners? After all, he has played only one preseason game in his short NFL career.

Well, Rainey is still a rookie and won't get a ton of carries. Instead, he will be used in a similar role as C.J. Spiller had in Buffalo when Fred Jackson was around.

Rainey will get some return responsibilities and will get a lot of screen passes. All the Steelers want to do is get Rainey alone in the open field to take advantage of his speed. So expect lots of short passes, slant routes and enough carries to keep a defense off balance.

All of the little touches make Rainey appealing in PPR leagues. The more he touches the ball, the more he will score. He may even be the ideal red-zone player or goal-line back on a healthy Pittsburgh team.

The beauty of this situation is that Rainey can be drafted very late, perhaps in the last round. His upside and potential are something to get excited about. But if he struggles, which is unknown at this point, he can be released from your team without his selection being seen as a mistake.

Rainey will get his touches and will simply make plays. His versatility and explosiveness will make him closer to a Darren Sproles than a McCluster. And if things don't work out, he was only a very late draft pick that won't screw your team over.