Everybody can’t have two top-15 fantasy running backs. The way the position looks as a whole going into the 2012 season, not having two top-15 fantasy running backs means you have major questions to answer on a weekly basis.
As a result, someone is going to leave his or her draft with a running back (or two) that is an unattractive start in the first week of the NFL season. The following running backs were drafted in the mid-to-late rounds of most drafts (if at all) and may be sufficient alternatives to the guys that are just…not exciting fantasy prospects right now.
6. Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Dwyer is giving the Steelers’ coaching staff a decision to make on who to start in Pittsburgh’s season-opener at Denver. He’s expected to at least split carries with Isaac Redman in Rashard Mendenhall’s presumed absence.
Dwyer also made a case to catch some passes out of the backfield during the preseason. He came up with three receptions for 48 yards in the Steelers’ third preseason contest.
5. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Brown looks like the Colts’ Week 1 starting tailback. With a largely unproven array of backfield options in Indianapolis, the former first-round pick will get a chance to take some pressure off of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Chicago Bears don’t represent the most favorable of matchups, but Brown should get more touches than a lot of timeshare ball-carriers.
4. Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers
With Ryan Mathews’ Week 1 status in question, Ronnie Brown is in line to get plenty of carries for the Chargers. San Diego plays Monday night against the Raiders, who allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in 2011.
Brown also has 184 career regular-season catches on his resume, so he should be able to provide relief for Philip Rivers in the passing game as well.
3. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
Right now, Smith is just about all the Lions have at running back. Jahvid Best is on the physically unable to perform list. Mikel Leshoure is serving a suspension.
The Lions (perhaps out of necessity) didn’t run the ball a lot last season, and I don’t expect them to force-feed Smith against the Rams. If you had a Megatron, you’d throw a lot, too. St. Louis allowed the second-most yards per game on the ground in 2011, but should be much improved in that capacity this season.
Nonetheless, Smith should have the opportunity to help your fantasy team in Week 1.
2. Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars
While Maurice Jones-Drew held out throughout the preseason, Jennings was seen as the No. 1 RB for the Jaguars in the meantime. Even if Jones-Drew returns to the team before the team’s season opener at Minnesota, it would be hard to imagine the Jaguars throwing him straight into the fire.
Jennings should get a healthy number of carries regardless of whether or not Jones-Drew is suited up on Sunday.
1. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings
On the other side of the ball in the Vikings-Jaguars game, the same logic applies. Adrian Peterson has beaten the odds of a torn ACL in December to be considered as a possible backfield option for the Vikings in the first month of the 2012 season.
But he has not been let loose in practice. Because of that, it’s difficult to see Peterson being the featured back for Minnesota in Week 1. Gerhart will be able to handle the responsibilities of a No. 1 rusher if Peterson misses time, or works his way back slowly.