Fantasy Football Sleepers: Late-Round Running Back Steals
You want some deep sleepers at the running back position for your fantasy football draft?
Well, my friends, you've come to the right place.
Before we start, I only considered those backs that were being taken in the 10th round or later in 10-team leagues. So keep that in mind.
From rookies who never saw the field in 2011 to an incumbent starter who is being selected remarkably low, I've identified five backs you must target as your draft winds to a close. They might not blow up, but if they do, you'll regret not having them.
And if any backs blow up at the end of the draft, these guys will. To the projections!
(Note: All average draft positions are from ESPN snake-draft results.)
Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
2011 Stats: N/A
Why He's a Steal: Thus begins our run of second-year players who were total fantasy flops in 2011.
Of course, Mikel Leshoure lost the entire season to injury, so we still don't know what he is capable of. But his value comes from one simple question: Who else is going to carry the rock in Detroit?
Kevin Smith? He's missed 19 games to injury the past two years.
Jahvid Best? He might not even play this year.
Yes, you have to wait until Week 3 to utilize Leshoure due to his suspension. But I have a feeling he will be starting before long, and on this explosive Lions offense, that makes him a very promising sleeper candidate.
Especially since you can get him at the very end of your draft most likely.
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
2011 Stats: N/A
Why He's a Steal: Because Beanie Wells is injury-prone and Williams has looked much better in the preseason, and also because I fully expect Williams will win the starting gig and be one of the surprises of this fantasy season.
Williams came out of Virginia Tech a year ago with the reputation as an explosive runner, and he's shown why in the preseason. But you don't have to take my word for it, as NFL writer Adam Caplan has been impressed with Williams thus far:
See that subtle cut by Ryan Williams there on that 12-yard run. He's so far ahead of Beanie Wells.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) August 24, 2012
He's a deep sleeper, but he could be the steal of this draft. Take a late-round flier on Williams and be glad you did.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
2011 Stats: 731 total yards, five touchdowns
Why He's a Steal: I know, I know—the numbers are hardly sexy. But believe it or not, Donald Brown actually has some upside in 2012.
On a miserable Indy offense last year, everyone's numbers suffered. But with Andrew Luck actually posing a threat to teams in the passing game, there might be room to run for Brown this season. And Brown will see the majority of the touches in the Indy backfield this year, even with rookie Vick Ballard sure to see some work.
In the preseason, he finished with just 40 rushing yards and a touchdown, but he did have two receptions for 72 yards and another score. He still has some nice burst (his 4.8 yards per carry last year ain't shabby), and you aren't giving up much to get him.
Could he end up being a regular fixture in your flex spot? It's totally possible. Is he a steal this late in your draft? In 2012, I believe he will be.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Why He's a Steal: Because he's a Fred Jackson injury away from being an RB1, that's why.
And honestly, even if Jackson stays healthy, C.J. Spiller is going to be a major part of this Buffalo offense. In the last five games alone last season, he had 563 total yards and four touchdowns. There is no way Buffalo won't utilize him in a big way this year.
Stash him on your team in the 10th round and wait. He may be flex-worthy from Week 1. But by the end of 2012, he may be one of the better fantasy options around.
Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
2011 Stats: 567 yards, three touchdowns
Why He's a Steal: I can't believe that the guy who will get the most touches while Rashard Mendenhall is out of action is available in the 10th round. And yet, there he is.
In two games as the starter last year after Mendenhall went down to injury, Isaac Redman rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown. I know his ankle sprain might have you slightly concerned, but he'll be good to go for Week 1.
And you'll be getting a starting running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the 10th round. Just think about that for a second and tell me how he isn't a steal...
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets have an ADP of one.