The 2013 NFL regular season is a mere three weeks away, and fantasy football owners have begun to clamor. With drafts already underway, everyone is eager to try their hand at winning the ultimate form of fan bragging rights.
The question is, which under-the-radar running backs should you draft?
Running back has become the premier position for fantasy football owners. With the ability to run and catch the football, the possibilities are grand with the right lead back.
Unfortunately, the stars come off the board early, and many owners are left wondering where to look next.
Fortunately, there are promising options late in drafts if you look hard enough. From players who specialize as pass-catchers to those who are used primarily in red-zone situations, there are low-profile players waiting to become fantasy football stars.
Here's who you should be targeting.
Average Draft Position (ADP) provided via ESPN.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Experience: Running Back
2012 Season Statistics
When it comes to drafting rookies, I'll be the first to tell you that it's a strategy you should avoid. Even the most heralded first-year players have legitimate bust potential, and in a draft class like this year's that is criticized for the absence of elite playmakers, running back may not be a position you're targeting.
Just don't be too afraid to select Giovani Bernard if he's still on the board and you need a third running back.
Bernard is a 5'9", 208-pound running back who was selected No. 37 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is more than capable of handling the ball on a consistent basis, but Bernard was selected early for a reason.
Not only is he a more explosive runner than Green-Ellis, but he caught 47 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns in 2012 with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Bernard's ability to catch the football will help him get on the field early and often, serving as a valuable player in point-per-reception leagues. Paired with explosiveness in the open field, Bernard has every tool necessary to break out as this season's rookie phenom at running back.
With an average draft position of 101.2, it's safe to say he'll be available once you have your established stars in place.
Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
Experience: 2nd Season
2012 Season Statistics
98 carries, 475 yards, 24 receptions, 163 yards
The St. Louis Rams are prepared to enter their first season without Steven Jackson since drafting the workhorse in 2004. Sam Bradford may have an improved wide receiver corps with the addition of West Virginia stars Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but the Rams still need to run the football.
That makes Daryl Richardson a player worth monitoring.
During the 2012 regular season, Richardson ran the ball 98 times for 475 yards, evening out to an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Richardson also caught 24 passes for 163 yards, giving him a grand total of 5.2 yards per touch.
Not bad for a seventh-round draft pick.
Richardson hasn't yet proven that he can do it on every down, but with an average draft position of 110.6, there's not much risk here. He's the perfect third running back, as his low-risk placement comes with high reward.
The Rams are going to air it out, and as strong as Austin and Bailey project to be, the short-to-intermediate game will still include screen passes and the use of a capable running back. That makes Richardson a candidate for double-digit points on a weekly basis.
If you're playing in a point-per-reception league, you should be even more inclined to watch the former Abilene Christian star.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
Experience: 3rd Season
2012 Season Statistics
110 carries, 437 yards, 4 touchdowns, 17 receptions, 140 yards
When you're competing for a starting job with Chris Ivory, you have a very good chance of seeing the field. That's the case for New York Jets running back Bilal Powell, who is primed and ready for a breakout season.
With an average draft position of 153.7, that makes him your 2013 sleeper.
Powell isn't a household name, but he's a skilled running back who shifts well between the tackles and shined when given notable playing time. In the six games that he received at least 10 carries, he amassed four touchdowns on an average of 4.2 yards per rush.
Impressive marks on a Jets team that picked up just 12 rushing touchdowns all season.
Ivory is more than capable of serving as New York's power back, but Powell is the type of late draft choice that could pay dividends in the end. He promises to be a quality player for a Jets offense that should be significantly better with Santonio Holmes in good health and both Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley developing.
We can only hope that the Jets won't be throwing the ball when they're close to the goal line.
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