Mikel Leshoure is one of the more difficult fantasy players to figure out in 2012.
If he’s able to come back with an edge, push starter Kevin Smith for touches and produce when he gets them, Leshoure’s statistics will far exceed his draft position.
Should Leshoure not be able to accomplish that—and that isn’t a big stretch considering the circumstances—he’s just going to be another waiver wire body.
Let’s take a look at our season projections for Leshoure, where you should take him in your fantasy football draft and more.
What Round Should I Take Mikel Leshoure?
Leshoure is the definition of a high-risk, unknown-reward RB in 2012. Because of this, he’s falling all the way to an average draft position of 137.02, according to FFToolbox.com.
In a standard 10-person league, that means you are likely to be able to draft Leshoure somewhere in the 13th or 14th round. He’s a perfect pick that late if you believe he’s going to eventually win the starting job from Kevin Smith or at least take a significant chunk of carries.
Now, the second-year RB is going to be away from the team for two weeks due to suspension, but Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press found he’s not going to be relaxing during that time period.
"I've just got to continue to do what I do like I am playing," Leshoure said. "I can't go take days off and just chill. I'm going to have a job to do when I get back, so I want to make it as easy as possible by continuing training and be ready."
That’s great news for fantasy owners, who want this young man to beat Smith for his job as soon as he can return to the gridiron.
Regardless if Leshoure starts or comes off the bench, he’s likely going to split carries with Smith for most of the season and possibly even Jahvid Best—if the concussion-prone RB comes off the PUP list and doesn’t hit the IR.
Assuming that Leshoure eventually wins the starting gig and Best is unable to come back, it’s likely that he’s going to earn about 180 carries, gain 800 yards and rush for nine touchdowns.
He’s less valuable in a PPR league, as Leshoure will likely only catch around 15 balls for 100 yards and possibly a single TD.
Regardless, those stats are ridiculous for a guy being picked in the last three rounds of a standard fantasy draft.
The Lions bye takes place during Week 5, which limits Leshoure’s value a bit in the early season.
He’s only going to play in two contests upon his return from suspension before Detroit takes a hiatus.
Avoid Leshoure for a backup if you have DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden or Doug Martin as one of your starters. Those players all have byes on the same week as the Lions RB.
Players to Take Before Mikel Leshoure
Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams and Kevin Smith are players that have similar ADP and should come off the board a bit before Leshoure.
If you are looking for a late-round backup, it’s wise you go with one of those players—who should have similar production per game—without the baggage of a suspension.
Players to Take After Mikel Leshoure
If you have your eye on Leshoure but he ends up getting snagged before you can select him, there should still a few solid RBs left on the board.
Players like Felix Jones, Kendall Hunter and Evan Royster should be considered after Leshoure goes, but don’t bother taking any of those guys before the Lions RB.
Leshoure is a massive risk, but he could be a breakout stud in 2012.
With Kevin Smith at risk to revert to his former unproductive self, Leshoure might be the only serviceable RB on the roster come Week 3.
He could capitalize with major production or he could be a giant bust. We’re leaning towards the latter, so take a chance on this young Detroit back.