Week 3 Sleepers: Trent Richardson and 5 Running Backs Guaranteed to Break out

Colin KennedyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

Week 3 Sleepers: Trent Richardson and 5 Running Backs Guaranteed to Break out

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    The running back position has been quite a mystery to this point in the young NFL season. With names like C.J. Spiller and Reggie Bush leading the league in rushing, first-round fantasy selections have proven somewhat insignificant in many ways. 

    Of course you have the studs like Arian Foster and Ray Rice producing typical first-round numbers. But you also have the duds such as Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson. 

    Either way you look at it, the RB position is an invaluable commodity in reality and fantasy worlds alike. In a continuously evolving quarterback-friendly league, the ground game often makes the difference between a win or a loss. 

    The important thing to take into consideration is a team's offensive tendencies and their opposing defense. So I think it is safe to say you won't find Michael Turner anywhere on this list. 

    Week 3 of the NFL season sometimes separates pretenders from contenders. With an inordinate amount of .500 teams entering this week's action, the difference between 2-1 and 1-2 looms large. 

    Here are a handful of running backs who must be in your starting lineup come Sunday.

Trent Richardson

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    After struggling to move the ball against Philadelphia's stingy defense in Week 1, Trent Richardson exploded last Sunday against the Bengals. 

    Making plays in both the running game and through the air, the former University of Alabama standout torched Cincinnati's defense for 145 total yards and two touchdowns (one receiving). 

    Now that Richardson has made his presence felt in the NFL—and on SportsCenter's Top 10—it is hard to believe that opposing defenses will allow Cleveland to pound the ball. 

    But after Brandon Weeden and the rest of the Browns' offense bounced back from a horrendous Week 1 performance this past Sunday, look for Trent Richardson to put up big numbers at home against Buffalo's 24th ranked rush defense. 

DeMarco Murray

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    DeMarco Murray has been largely disappointing for fantasy owners who selected him in the top-ten picks of their draft. 

    After rushing for 131 yards in Week 1 against the Giants, Murray got the rock only 12 times last Sunday. 

    The diverted Cowboy's game plan proved entirely ineffective in a loss to Seattle in Week 2, so I would expect Jason Garrett to get back to the basics this weekend. 

    A balanced attack helped Dallas edge the defending Super Bowl champs in the 2012 NFL season opener two weeks ago when Murray averaged nearly seven yards per carry. 

    So look for Tony Romo to hand the ball off early and often against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this coming Sunday. 

Michael Bush

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    Michael Bush just might be this week's biggest fantasy sleeper. Not because of all the drama surrounding Jay Cutler in Chicago, but because he will be the No.1 option in a tailback-centered offense. 

    The Bears did just about nothing well in their Week 2 loss to the Packers last Thursday night. But even with the four interceptions and unnecessary drama, the stats indicate Chicago was somewhat successful running the ball. 

    Now, Matt Forte is sidelined. And two weeks after rushing for two touchdowns against Indianapolis, Michael Bush will start this week against the Rams. 

    Because of all the controversy in Chicago, look for the Bears to pound the running game early against a Rams' defense that has surrendered the 12th-most points to opposing running backs. 

    Bush also figures to catch a handful of passes out of the backfield with Forte on the bench, and Cutler might be utilizing those check-downs frequently after his embarrassing Week 2 performance. 

C.J. Spiller

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    Ok, so maybe he isn't exactly a sleeper pick, but C.J. Spiller should continue to be a fantasy nightmare for his opposition in Week 3. 

    Matched up against a Browns' defense that ranks 18th in run defense, the surprise of the season just might one-up himself in Cleveland. 

    Of course it may be unrealistic to suggest Spiller will improve upon his jaw-dropping 10.1 yards per carry statistic which he accumulated through the first two weeks.

    But after rushing for 292 yards on just 29 carries so far, there is no way he isn't producing in Week 3. 

    The Browns will have to pick their poison against Buffalo who has scored 63 points in just two games. Don't be surprised if Spiller gets more involved in the passing game too after catching eight balls for 72 yards thus far. 

Darren Sproles

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    Washington did a good job of containing the explosive tailback in Week 1, but I'm expecting bigger things from Darren Sproles in Week 3. 

    Shockingly, the Saints' running back hasn't carried the ball a single time so far in 2012. With Pierre Thomas getting a bulk of the carries, New Orleans has used Sproles exclusively in the passing game on offense. 

    But that trend may end, and the Saints are hosting the NFL's 27th-ranked rush defense this coming Sunday.

    The versatile back out of Kansas State should get the ball often after catching 13 balls in Week 2, and Sproles is always a threat in the return game as well. 

Kansas City's Trio

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    Sunday's matchup between the Saints and Chiefs should be interesting as two teams with putrid run defenses go head-to-head. 

    Using a trio of backs, Kansas City has rushed for the fifth-most yards through two games on the young season. It remains unclear which, if any, running back will get the bulk of the carries entering Week 3, however, I expect someone to put up big numbers against the league's worst run defense. 

    Despite leading the team in rushing, Jamaal Charles has been a disappointment for fantasy owners across the board. And considering his 4.4 yards per carry rank last among the Chiefs' three backs, I'm not sure much will change this coming Sunday. 

    Shaun Draughn leads the way with 7.7 yards per carry for a backfield that claims three different 80+ yard rushers to this point. But for a team that's experienced success by using a running back-by-committee approach, none of Kansas City's options stand as a safe start in Week 3.