2010 Fantasy Football: Top 10 Running Back Sleepers
After taking a look at the quarterback position for potential sleepers in 2010 fantasy football we're now moving on to the top 10 running backs who are either on a new team or on the rise.
Every year brings a few new opportunities, so here's a look at the backs you should be targeting from the mid-rounds and beyond that could end up proving to be major steals.
Some of the guys on this list are already slated to be the starter in 2010, but could still face some competition for carries due to strong back-ups. Every player on this list has the potential to be available in round three in beyond, and should be ranked high on your value/sleeper board.
Note: List in no particular order
Bernard Scott (Cincinnati Bengals)
As it stands, Scott is behind the carry-machine Cedric Benson, but based on last year's results, there's a decent chance he faces a few games as the team's lead back.
However, even if Benson stays completely healthy, the team is expected to split up the load a bit more, especially since Benson is more of a bruiser, and Scott can help change the pace of the ground game.
He's no lock for 100+ carries, but he has great potential as a hand-cuff, and is still the top back-up in Cincy, giving him decent value on a supposedly run-first squad.
Projected Stats: 102 att, 522 yds, 5 TD, 31 rec, 258 yds, 2 TD
Toby Gerhart (Minnesota Vikings)
He's a white guy with a knee brace, and he runs over people, rather than around them.
Must be the second-coming of Mike Alstoltt, right?
You can tear Gerhart down all you want, but outside of Ryan Mathews you'd be extremely hard-pressed to find a better rookie back in the 2010 class.
He's the perfect package of vision, power, strength, and speed. He's no burner, but he's no fullback, either.
And the best part is, he gets to step right into Chester Taylor's old role, while learning from arguably the league's best back in Adrian Peterson.
With an immediate role on third downs and some goal-line packages, Gerhart could be a fairly big fantasy player right off the bat.
Projected Stats: 124 att, 537 yds, 8 TD, 24 rec, 216 yds, 2 TD
Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)
Mathews has already been declared the starter in San Diego, and will take care of all the early-down duties, as well as most of the goal-line carries.
He's already primed for 250+ carries, as well, and with Darren Sproles as his main competition, there just isn't enough to scare you away from this kid.
Obviously he's a rookie playing behind a line that helped make LaDainian Tomlinson look like an old man, but Mathews has great skills, solid speed, and good elusiveness.
He may not be a first or second-round pick just yet, but grabbing him in the third as all the top running backs get plucked off the board may be warranted.
If you can nab him in the fourth, you'll be getting the steal of the draft.
Projected Stats: 287 att, 1,228 yds, 10 TD, 36 rec, 344 yds, 2 TD
Lendale White (Seattle Seahawks)
No one can be completely sure how Seattle's backfield will shape out by the time the first week of the 2010 season rolls around, but a reunion between White and head coach Pete Carroll has the writing likely on the wall.
White got leap-frogged by a faster and more explosive option in Chris Johnson in Tennessee, but clearly displayed the talent to produce at a high level early in his career.
If Carroll can help keep White in check and get into tip-top shape, he could easily get back on the fantasy radar.
Fantasy owners still need to worry about Julius Jones, Justin Forsett, and Leon Washington, but as of now, White is listed as the starter.
Projected Stats: 247 att, 1088 yds, 12 TD, 22 rec, 214 yds, 1 TD
Jonathan Dwyer (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Pittsburgh lucked out when Dwyer fell into their laps in the sixth round. Dwyer is a first-round talent with good speed and versatility, although his stock was hampered by some minor medical concerns.
Dwyer may have to fight with Mewelde Moore for the back-up role behind Rashard Mendenhall, but in the end, the bigger, stronger Dwyer will get the bulk of the mop-up carries.
If Mendenhall were to ever go down, Dwyer could quickly become the Tom Brady of the running back position.
Projected Stats: 92 att, 388 yds, 5 TD, 29 rec, 237 yds, 2 TD
Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions)
Kevin Smith is still struggling to get back from a lisfranc injury, a type of foot injury that could have him playing short of his capabilities, even if he were to be handed back the starting job.
Best should make an impact right away, and brings great speed and versatility, as he should also be able to help as a receiver out of the backfield.
Projected Stats: 237 att, 1,199 yds, 7 TD, 44 rec, 358 yds, 3 TD
Chris Wells (Arizona Cardinals)
Going into the 2010 season, it still looks like Chris Wells and Tim Hightower will be sharing the ball, but Wells was Arizona's first-rounder last year, and should slowly steal the starting job away.
Wells has the better combination of size and speed, and has the potential to be the perfect back for the Cardinals.
Hightower should still be active in the passing game and will split goal-line duties, but look for Wells to get a better grip on the starting gig.
Projected Stats: 220 att, 987 yds, 8 TD, 20 rec, 144 yds, 1 TD
Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)
Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs signed Thomas Jones this off-season, but don't let that fool you. What Jamaal Charles did during the stretch run of the 2009 season was still more than enough to have him keep the starting job.
Charles piled on 1,100 yards on just 190 carries last season, and proved to be a fairly productive receiving option out of the backfield.
Jones should cut into his short-yardage and goal-line work, but look for Charles to get the lead carries, and still make a major impact with his speed and big-play ability.
Projected Stats: 266 att, 1,397 yds, 9 TD, 52 rec, 433 yds, 2 TD
Shonn Greene (New York Jets)
Thomas Jones is gone, which means what we saw in the 2010 NFL Playoffs will continue on: seeing Shonn Greene dominate the carries in New York's backfield.
Sure, the addition of LaDainian Tomlinson means means Greene won't be asked to do it all by himself, but the starting job is his on a run-first team.
That means big things for the second-year back.
Rookie Joe McKnight could also play into the equation, but shouldn't have a role that would rival Leon Washington's old role.
This all adds up to Greene getting close to 300 carries, and living up to the hype he's getting leading into the 2010 fantasy football season.
Projected Stats: 312 att, 1,404 yds, 11 TD, 27 rec, 218 yds, 0 TD
Montario Hardesty (Cleveland Browns)
Outside of Bernard Scott, Montario Hardesty is easily the biggest question mark of all the sleepers on this list.
However, there is buzz in Cleveland that the coaching staff is already enamored with him, as he's being regarded as a potential "feature back" in his first season.
He is going up against Jerome Harrison, who put up gaudy numbers through the final five weeks, but has the draft status and physical ability to rival anyone else.
He's arguably the best fit on Cleveland's roster to tote the ball 20+ times per game, but will still share the ball with Harrison a bit (at the very least) to begin the season.
James Davis and Chris Jennings could also factor into the mix, while Peyton Hillis could vie for short-yardage and/or goal-line duties.
Projected Stats: 189 att, 844 yds, 6 TD, 24 rec, 198 yds, 2 TD