Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Backup RB Sleepers

Dan AdamsCorrespondent IIIAugust 31, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Backup RB Sleepers

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    Ben Tate would be a top five fantasy football running back if starter Arian Foster got hurt, he's that good.

    Or rather, he's that good in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme that has turned Foster into a fantasy football star.

    Not counting the four games that Foster didn't play last year Tate broke double-digit fantasy points three times, a number that should only go up this season as the Texans look to lean even more on their running game to keep QB Matt Schaub from taking hits. 

    Tate was going to be the starter his rookie season before missing the whole year with an injury, which is how Foster got the job, and another year removed from that injury should see Tate playing better than ever.

    The Texans want to dominate the running game as much as possible, and with two guys that can dominate in their scheme, there's no reason that they shouldn't use both to keep each of them fresh and uninjured.

    Tate has earned more carries in this offense, and he showed last season he knows what to do with them. He comes with the added bonus of being a great guy for late in the season, as the Texans should easily lock up their division in time to sit Foster and other starters. 

    That would give Tate the late-season carries, which is just in time for the fantasy football playoffs.

    All in all, Tate should be a great fantasy football sleeper this season.

Michael Bush

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    Michael Bush proved last year that he could be a valuable fantasy football option when he filled in for an injured Darren McFadden, rushing for 977 yards and seven touchdowns while also grabbing a receiving touchdown.

    Now that he's in Chicago, it's less likely that he'll be called on to be the feature back as starter Matt Forte is incredibly talented and has been pretty durable aside from last season.

    But he could have a new role as the goal-line back, which translates to a lot of touchdowns. 

    Forte has a career high of eight rushing touchdowns, all the way back in his rookie season, and hasn't rushed for more than six in the three seasons since.

    Bush is a heavier guy who is more suited to taking the physical abuse that comes from rushing in the red zone, which should lead him to consistent touchdown production. 

    Touchdowns alone make him valuable, but Bush can also come in to give Forte a breather on plays outside the red zone. He's more than capable of being an every-down back for a series or two should the Bears want to keep Forte well-rested.

    As with any backup, Bush would have more value if Forte missed time, but even if Forte plays all 16 games, Bush should be a solid fantasy football sleeper.

Rashad Jennings

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    Technically, Rashad Jennings isn't a backup at this point, as he's listed as the Jaguars' No. 1 running back.

    That's temporary though, assuming Maurice Jones-Drew comes back from his holdout, because MJD is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and it would take an elite talent to put him on the bench.

    Jennings might not be elite, but he was a productive player before missing all of last season due to injury.

    In 2010, Jennings' second season in the NFL, he more than doubled his rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns from his rookie season playing in two less games. He produced 459 yards and four touchdowns on 84 carries, posting a 5.5 yards-per-carry average.  

    Thanks to MJD's holdout, Jennings should see even more work this year, even if and when MJD comes back. Holding out means MJD doesn't know the playbook as well as Rashad Jennings and gives MJD an increased risk of minor strain injuries.

    That should mean MJD will be worked back in slowly, which gives Jennings plenty of time to show he can be a featured back in the NFL.

    A 5.5 yards-per-carry average is very good, and even if Rashad Jennings posts a full yard worse per carry he'd still be pretty good. MJD posted 4.4 YPC the same season, albeit over many more attempts, and was one of the best running backs in fantasy football.

    Rashad Jennings will get plenty of chances to earn more carries, and if he does, he'll be a great fantasy sleeper. In the meantime he's going to get the majority of the carries, which just adds to his value exponentially. 

    Definitely a guy you want to pick up if you can get him cheap. 

Peyton Hillis

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    Peyton Hillis went from fantasy football stardom to complete bust in just one season.

    After rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010, Hillis completely fell apart, rushing for only 587 yards and three touchdowns in 2011.

    A lot of that drop off can probably be attributed to injuries, as Hillis sat out six games last season, as well as a contract dispute between Hillis and the Browns that was probably on his mind all season.

    That should be behind Hillis now, as he's on a one-year contract with the Chiefs and will need to play well to earn that big contract he wants, all while backing up Jamaal Charles.

    But the great thing for Hillis about backing up Jamaal Charles is that Charles doesn't need a lot of carries to be successful. In fact, especially this year as Charles recovers from a serious knee injury, it might be in the Chiefs's best interest to split the carries almost 50-50.

    Hillis and Charles should be a perfect combination, as Charles is small but ridiculously fast and elusive, where Hillis is a big, powerful runner. Both are also solid receiving options, so there's no reason to take either one out just for passing downs.

    Hillis will at the very least get goal-line work, but if this situation develops into less starter-backup and more two-headed monster, he could be capable of much more.

    That's enough to make him a great sleeper for fantasy football owners everywhere. 

C.J. Spiller

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    C.J. Spiller had all the makings of an early-round bust for the Buffalo Bills until the last few games of last season, where he absolutely exploded both for the Bills and fantasy football owners. 

    Fred Jackson, the starter for the Bills, went down with an injury and missed the last six games of 2011. Given his chance, Spiller went on to post fantasy football scores of six, 15, five, 28, 19, and 16 points.

    A true dual-threat to both run and catch, Spiller showed last season that if given touches, he can produce. That's going to be important to the Bills since they don't have a lot of offensive weapons. 

    Spiller is probably their third best option behind Jackson and receiver Steve Johnson. Since Spiller can catch, there's no reason he can't be on the field with both of those players. 

    If the Bills want their passing attack to improve, they're going to have to lean on Spiller a bit more this year. And as Jackson recovers from last season's injury, Spiller should be in line for an increase in carries as well.

    The Bills spent a high pick on Spiller, and they want him to work out if for no other reason than to validate that draft pick. They also need to figure out what they have in him as his contract nears its end.

    More touches for a guy who's proved he can be a good player should be good news from a fantasy football perspective.

    And that good news has come for C.J. Spiller this season, making him an excellent sleeper option, especially in PPR leagues.

Ben Tate

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    Ben Tate would be a top five fantasy football running back if starter Arian Foster got hurt, he's that good.

    Or rather, he's that good in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme that has turned Foster into a fantasy football star.

    Not counting the four games that Foster didn't play last year Tate broke double-digit fantasy points three times, a number that should only go up this season as the Texans look to lean even more on their running game to keep QB Matt Schaub from taking hits. 

    Tate was going to be the starter his rookie season before missing the whole year with an injury, which is how Foster got the job, and another year removed from that injury should see Tate playing better than ever.

    The Texans want to dominate the running game as much as possible, and with two guys that can dominate in their scheme, there's no reason that they shouldn't use both to keep each of them fresh and uninjured.

    Tate has earned more carries in this offense, and he showed last season he knows what to do with them. He comes with the added bonus of being a great guy for late in the season, as the Texans should easily lock up their division in time to sit Foster and other starters. 

    That would give Tate the late-season carries, which is just in time for the fantasy football playoffs.

    All in all, Tate should be a great fantasy football sleeper this season.