NFL Fantasy Football: 5 Sleepers at Running Back in 2013

Bryan ShafferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2013

NFL Fantasy Football: 5 Sleepers at Running Back in 2013

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    The scarcity of running backs might be the most frustrating part of fantasy football. Once your star running back goes down, you look to the waiver wire, only to find next to nothing available.

    In fact, after about the top 15 or so, the decline is tremendous. So in leagues where you start two running backs and a flex, it's not unlikely that you are going to have one, or even two, bad running backs getting regular starts in your lineup. Not to mention the bye week fill-ins.

    If you want to stock up on other positions and take some chances on some nice sleepers, read on.

Joique Bell, Detroit Lions

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    Detroit running backs aren't exactly a hot commodity, at least not since Jahvid Best played his last game.

    Bell might not be the one to change that, but he is an interesting player. He's not the traditional running back who gets 20 carries a game and racks up yards; he's more of a Darren Sproles type in that he is more of a pass-catching threat than a pure-running threat.

    In 2012, Bell gained 485 of his 899 yards through the air. In the process, he caught 52 balls. Those kind of receptions from a running back can be nice, especially in PPR formats.

    There is reason to think that Bell might get more carries in the run game, too. Second-year running back Mikel Leshoure failed to impress in his first year of action in the NFL. Leshoure was limited to just 3.7 yards per carry, while Bell averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Leshoure will still get goal line carries, as he scored nine touchdowns in 2012, but Bell might get a larger body of work.

    Bell is unlikely to be an excellent running back option, but he is certainly someone who will slip into the very late rounds in most leagues. To have a guy like him as injury insurance or as a buy week fill-in is a nice luxury.

Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals

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    Putting an Arizona Cardinals running back on a fantasy football list almost seems too obvious. Of course people are going to sleep on Cardinals backs! None of them have been any good.

    Last season, the Cardinals ranked dead last in rush yards per game. They collectively gained an average of 3.4 yards per carry, an unthinkably low number.

    Former second-round pick Ryan Williams was not any better. In fact he only averaged 2.8 yards per carry. But he was just coming off a knee injury from 2011, and the offensive line play was atrocious.

    Next season, it seems that Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling will both be gone, and that will open up the door for Williams to get more carries in the Cardinals' backfield. While Arizona is unlikely to have an elite running game in 2013, any running back who gets carries is worth a draft pick, especially a late one.

Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams

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    Daryl Richardson became an interesting fantasy commodity early in 2012 when talk of Steven Jackson's decline was running rampant. After a Week 6 game against the Miami Dolphins, when Richardson got 11 carries to Jackson's 12, there was speculation that Richardson might soon usurp Jackson as the Rams' No. 1 running back.

    That did not happen, as Jackson came strong into the second half of last season. But despite Richardson's not winning the job last season, there is room for optimism for the 22-year-old running back.

    The Rams seem ready to part ways with Jackson, who is likely to either be with another team next year or retire. This will leave the door open for Richardson to come in and claim the job for himself.

    In 2012, his rookie season, Richardson averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He was also a factor in the passing game, catching 24 of Sam Bradford's passes for 163 yards. Although he did not manage to reach the end zone, that shouldn't be as much of an issue next season with a fuller workload. 

Bilal Powell, New York Jets

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    Because of their disappointing 2012 campaign, the Jets will essentially be forced to make some major changes next season.

    One of their many areas of concern is their run game. Once known as a "ground-and-pound" team, the 2012 Jets ranked just 12th in the NFL in total rushing yards. More troubling was their dismal 3.8 rushing yards per attempt, which placed them 23rd in the league.

    Underwhelming starting running back Shonn Greene is a free agent. Based on his performance over the past couple seasons, the club would be smart to let him walk.

    Regardless of his status for next season, Bilal Powell should be high on people's radars entering 2013.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons

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    The explosive Atlanta offense lacked a stable running game in 2012 for the first time in a while. The ever-dependable Michael Turner showed his age last season, with a precipitous drop from 4.5 yards per carry in 2011 to 3.6 in 2012. At age 31, the trend is unlikely to reverse, and with that, the door opens for Rodgers.

    Rodgers had a respectable sophomore season. He gained 3.9 yards per carry, but the more interesting stat is his 53 receptions for 402 yards. A duel threat out of the backfield and likely to get more carries. That sounds reason enough to draft him. Especially if you can steal him in the later rounds.