Fantasy Football 2013: Running Backs Who Will Surprise in Week 1

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 30:  Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Panthers defeated the Saints 44-38.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Most fantasy football owners reach for players who they hope can make a big impact, but Darren Sproles is one of the running backs who will make an impact.

Running backs are tough to predict. Teams may need their tailbacks more than usual if quarterbacks are having bad games, or running backs can be taken out of the mix by a great defense.

The players on this list will surprise for a variety of reasons. They are owned in nearly every league, but that's based on need for depth at the position.

Sproles and other players on this list will have big performances in Week 1 to help fantasy teams. 


Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

A lot of people have given up on Darren McFadden. Injuries have kept him from having a great career, as he has never played in more than 13 games in a season. He has, however, shown the ability to make an impact in recent years.

He had three 100-yard games last year, but the Raiders often had to abandon the running game. Oakland fell behind early in most of its contests, so McFadden averaged only 18 carries per game.

The Raiders open the season at Indianapolis. The Colts ranked 29th in the league in run defense last season. They allowed 137.5 rushing yards per game, which bodes well for McFadden. Indianapolis also allowed 14 rushing touchdowns a season ago, and only 10 teams let in more scores on the ground.

Terrelle Pryor will start at quarterback, and his mobility should open up the defense for McFadden. If the Raiders can get Pryor to settle into a rhythm, the running back could put up big numbers.  

McFadden has big-play ability, but many owners have stopped putting him in the lineup because of his inconsistent performances. The Colts are a great matchup for the 26-year-old, and he will put up a lot of fantasy points if his team can hang around.


Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints

The Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints are likely to put up a lot of points on Sunday, and Darren Sproles could play a big role.

For starters, the Falcons ranked 21st against the run last season. Sproles isn't going to get 20 carries, but he can break off a long run against this defense.

The 30-year-old will also make an impact in the passing game. He averaged 5.7 receptions per game last season, with a total of 667 receiving yards.

Sproles picks up yards in bunches. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 8.9 yards per catch, so he adds explosiveness to the offense. He had eight total touchdowns in 2012, which is good for a player in his role.

Fantasy owners like Sproles because he can have big games out of nowhere. This figures to be one as the Saints will need to mix things up in order to keep up with the Falcons. 


Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

Rookie running backs are tough to predict, and one on Aaron Rodgers' team doesn't figure to get much action. The San Francisco 49ers don't allow opposing running backs to rack up a lot of yards, so this seems like a bad debut for Eddie Lacy.

However, the rookie could have an impact on this game.

Green Bay is going to have to throw the football in order to stay with San Francisco, so unless the Packers are winning entering the fourth quarter, Lacy may not get a ton of carries. He may, however, be able to get a touchdown or two.

The Packers haven't had a running back who can pound the ball near the goal line in recent seasons. That role had been reserved for John Kuhn, but Lacy gives Green Bay a runner who can pick up those tough yards. The 49ers will be expecting Rodgers to throw the football near the end zone, so Lacy could catch them off guard, especially in the shotgun.

Lacy will fill a hole that has plagued the Packers in recent seasons, and he will surprise fans in his debut.


*All stats are courtesy of