Fantasy Football Late-Round Sleepers: Running Back Edition

Eric StashinSenior Writer IAugust 20, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Mark Herzlich #58 of the New York Giants tackles Shane Vereen #29 of the New England Patriots  on September 1, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

With fantasy owners generally focusing on running backs early and often on draft day, finding a late-round target is a little bit tougher than other positions.  With that in mind, here are a few players who are certainly worth the risk in the later rounds:

Shane Vereen – New England Patriots
Current ADP = 182.26
Everyone has been assuming that the Stevan Ridley would be the man in the Patriots backfield now that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is in Cincinnati.  However, this is Bill Belichick and company, so can we really predict exactly what they are going to do?

Ridley carried the ball only 15 times in 2011, but he was given ample opportunities to shine in the team’s first preseason game.  He rushed the ball 11 times for 64 yards (5.8 yards/carry) while adding two receptions for 17 yards.

After that performance, Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe (click here for the article) reported, “Shane Vereen saw a dramatic uptick in overall reps and also those with the first team and seemed to capitalize on the opportunity with some nice runs. Stevan Ridley took a back seat to Vereen, likely because of Ridley’s fumble on Tuesday.”

Obviously the Patroits are going to be a passing team, so any running back would hold some risk to begin with.  Throw in a potential time-share, and chances are you aren’t going to be able to depend on either Vereen or Ridley on a weekly basis.  That said, how often do you have an opportunity to get a player who may enter the year as a team’s lead back this late in your draft?  He has more than enough upside to draft at this stage of the game.

Rashard MendenhallPittsburgh Steelers
Current ADP = 183.54
If healthy, we all know you wouldn’t have an opportunity to nab Mendenhall at this point of your draft.  However, thanks to his ACL surgery, Mendenhall could miss at least the first quarter of the season.  With that in mind it makes sense that fantasy owners are banishing him to the last few rounds.

However, if he returns healthy do we not think that he is going to play a significant role in Pittsburgh?  Do we really think Isaac Redman can handle the load and relegate him to a minor role?

It’s possible, but with the potential production from Mendenhall if you are in a deeper league with numerous bench spots, why not take the gamble in the later rounds?  There’s really no harm and, if he fails to come back, what have you really lost?  With that in mind, he’s worth stashing if you can get him at a significant discount.

Delone Carter – Indianapolis Colts
Current ADP = 207.19
This is a new Colts offense, meaning maybe they can generate a running game that makes fantasy owners take notice.  While Donald Brown will get the first opportunity, 2011 was the first time he showed any type of potential (average 4.8 yards/carry after being under 4.0 his first two seasons).  What happens if Brown struggles?  Enter Delone Carter.

Is Carter the best “handcuff” available?  No, especially since he appears to be buried on the depth chart at this point.  However, he does have a chance to step into a starting role without an injury necessitating an increase in playing time if he can get things into gear.  That alone makes him worth rolling the dice on.

Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: