Fantasy football owners trying to find a sleeper should look no further than Cleveland Browns rookie running back Terrance West.
After the organization signed Ben Tate to a two-year deal in the offseason, it makes sense for some to overlook a third-round pick from an FCS school. In current ESPN fantasy drafts, the Towson product is being selected with the 136.9 pick on average, ranking just No. 52 among running backs.
With more established backups on better offensive teams, this should not be too surprising.
However, West has a chance to turn some heads early in his professional career. The running back is coming off an incredible year for Towson, setting FCS records with 2,509 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. These numbers are impressive regardless of competition.
Of course, the talent is there for him to translate this success to the next level. West impressed viewers as soon as he stepped on the field at training camp, as Bart Hubboch of the New York Post explains:
While everyone has been watching to see if Johnny Manziel can win the starting job at quarterback, West has stolen the show among Cleveland rookies.
Head coach Mike Pettine admitted the strong early performance has made the running back battle a legitimate contest, via Tom Reed of Cleveland.com:
I was a little shocked with Terrance today. I had to double check my roster card to make sure I was looking at the right number. He did some nice things in the one-on-one period. That's always a bonus, when you have a guy that's not just one dimensional.
I think Ben is probably going to be a little bit ahead of him just naturally in the (pass) protection part of it, but Terrance isn't far behind.
West was not overly impressive in the squad's first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, totaling just 22 yards on 10 carries. However, Josh Norris of Rotoworld still saw a lot to like:
No matter what happens for the rest of the preseason, it is extremely unlikely the rookie becomes a featured running back who gets 20-25 carries per game. However, he has put himself in the running to be a big part of this offense.
Tate is going to need a lot of help this year after spending his entire career to this point as a backup. In four years in the NFL, he has never played a full season and has only totaled 421 rushing attempts. Some players reach this mark in just over a year.
It is unlikely he will all of a sudden become a 300-carry runner in 2014.
As a result, West is going to have a major role as someone who can spell the starter throughout the game. His hands will also be extremely valuable as a player who can represent a quality option in the passing game.
If all goes well, the rookie should be able to average 10-15 touches per game in some form. With his pure talent, this is enough to make a major impact. In the likely circumstance the oft-injured Tate gets hurt again, West can be even better.
In the later stages of a fantasy football draft, competitors start drafting backup running backs to handcuff their starters in the case of injury, like Christine Michael or Knile Davis. While West could be a good safety net for those drafting Tate, he represents plenty of upside for anyone drafting in the 10th round or beyond.
With his value at the current state, any smart fantasy owner should take a chance on the talented rookie.
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