Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Late-Round RBs Who Can Help Win Your League
Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice. Those are the there big boys when it comes to RBs. The rest of the first round looks to be filled with QBs and one or two WRs and TEs. Unless you're drafting top three, you're not getting a top-tier back.
Fear not! There are five RBs going in later rounds that waiting for could still mean winning your league, while also allowing you to double-down on the other positions in earlier rounds.
These aren't exactly "sleepers," a word that's lost all of its aura as fantasy football has become more prevalent with mainstream audiences. These are just players who could have big years and will give you enough points from the RB position to win it all.
Isaiah Pead hasn't even played a down of regular season NFL football yet, but he's already been compared to Chris Johnson, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. Yes, that's some pretty heady company to be part of so early.
Pead has gotten less attention than other rookie RBs like Trent Richardson, Doug Martin or David Wilson, but Pead may be the one with the best stats at the end of the season. In four years at Cinicinnati, Pead averaged six yards a carry and eight yards a catch, both traits that teams like in their RBs in today's game.
What's more is that Steven Jackson is old. Not ancient, but RB old. The perennial 1,000-yard rusher just turned 29 and may be nearing the end of what has been one of the more productive runs in fantasy RB history.
Pead may start as a change of pace back for Jackson, but don't be surprised if, by the end of the season, Pead sees a large share of work.
Taking Pead may be an extremely large gamble, but it could pay off in a big way. Jackson has only managed a full season once in the last five years.
Pead is likely available in the 13th round.
Taking a RB in a Bill Belichick-coached, Tom Brady-led offense is probably a fool's errand, but it can pay off. In the offseason, the "Law Firm,: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, signed with Cincinnati, leaving the door open for another RB to step through.
Early thoughts were that Stevan Ridley would be the one stepping through and becoming the lead back, but it's more likely that Shane Vereen gets the opportunity to shine first. Remember, Vereen was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, a full round ahead of Ridley.
Vereen doesn't really have the numbers to back up being the No. 1 in New England (he only ran for 57 yards and one touchdown in 2011), but he may get the role out of necessity. Ridley recently injured his knee in camp and while the season is still a few weeks away, it's a situation that bears watching.
Ridley also had one fumble last year to zero for Vereen, and we all know how much Belichick hates turnovers. Granted, it's not a large sample size, but one is still worse than none.
Vereen's availability ranges from the 12th to 15th rounds.
In a better year (read: last year), Maurice Jones-Drew is the RB to own in Jacksonville. That may not be the case this year. He's holding out, trying to get paid like his AFC South brethren Chris Johnson did the year before him. Needless to say, Johnson didn't exactly showcase his abilities very well afterwards last year.
Enter Rashad Jennings. The second-year back is one of those players who, before the Jones-Drew holdout, was being eyed as one of the key handcuffs in this year's draft. Now that Jones-Drew has decided not to play, Jennings is set to be the star of an otherwise lackluster Jacksonville offense.
His rushing average increased slightly between his first and second years (5.2 to 5.5), so there's that. He did miss all of 2011 with a knee injury, but early indications from training camp are that he's fully recovered and running with speed.
This is a guy who could flourish in the absence of Jones-Drew, a wrecking ball of a runner who may not be up to snuff when it comes to conditioning thanks to his holdout. Head coach Mike Mularkey has even said that Jones-Drew will be eased back into the offense, something that could take a while.
And really, does Mularkey really expect to win by having Blaine Gabbert throw the ball the whole time?
Some rankings have Jennings available in the 12th, while others have him much later.
Michael "The Burner" Turner is burning up time. He just turned 30, is about to hit the RB wall and has a lot more mileage on him than you'd like to see in a starter. Still, he is the starter and is set to be part of what will likely be a very uptempo offense.
Because the offense is going uptempo, Turner might not be the best man for the job. Enter Jacquizz Rodgers.
The second-year player will likely see more playing time to spell Turner and will likely catch more passes out of the backfield. He caught four more passes than Turner last year (21 vs. 17), which isn't a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but it could be a sign of things to come.
Turner's average has held steady at 4.5 YPC, which seems amazing, but you've got to wonder if this is the year that age and workload catch up to him. Rodgers did average 4.9 YPC at Oregon State and tallied 49 TDs in three years' playing time.
Rodgers should be available in the 12th round.
Donald Brown is entering his third season as a Colt and this could be the one that really matters.
A quick look at his stats show that just about every number has increased in his three years in the league. In 2011, he finished with 645 yards, five touchdowns and a 4.8 yards per carry.
Joseph Addai was released and Delone Carter is backing him up, meaning this is a perfect year for Brown to breakout.
Oh. And Andrew Luck.
The highly touted Stanford product was drafted to replace Peyton Manning, which means new coach Chuck Pagano will likely lean heavily on Brown to help out Luck. Granted, Luck has looked pretty solid throughout the preseason, but you have to expect that the Colts will run the ball this year.
Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians knows a thing or two about running the ball. From 2007 to 2011, Arians was the OC for Pittsburgh, which relied heavily on running the ball. Expect a similar mindset to prevail in Indy, as running Brown will keep defenders honest and give Luck a chance to survive being a rookie.
Brown will likely be available in the seventh round.