These aren’t your ordinary sleepers. These are the guys you will have to dig through the back pages of rankings lists to find; the names that would never jump out at you unless you've done the research and memorized the depth charts.
Did anyone know who Miles Austin and Jamaal Charles were at the beginning of last year? Probably not. Today, both have become low-level fantasy football number ones at their respective positions.
Ninety percent of NFL hopefuls won’t work out like those two did, but every year we get a couple guys that seemingly come out of nowhere to carry fantasy teams to championships.
Sleepers like Miles Austin and Jamaal Charles are considered deep because they all have at least one obstacle keeping them from playing time, and, in many cases, even two. That can be said about a lot of guys, for sure, but for the deep sleepers that we’ll be talking about in this article, the obstacles are the old, brittle, or inexperienced, making the road to fantasy football relevance much clearer than at first it appears to be.
Here are 12 fantasy football running backs to stash on your roster that could, with a bit of luck, end up being fantasy monsters down the stretch.
Kareem Huggins, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The most recent back to garner attention from the fantasy community, Kareem Huggins will enter his second season with two kick returns as the only stats to his professional credit.
But after some strong preseason play and the release of overpaid backup Derrick Ward, Huggins is suddenly in line for some change-of-pace work with the possibility of a full-blown starting gig. Of couse, his chances depend on whether or not the oft-injured starter, Cadillac Williams can stay healthy.
2009 was the Caddy’s first full season in his five years as a pro. He only played 10 games in the two previous seasons combined, making Huggins one (quite likely) awkward fall away from being the lone back for a Tampa Bay team; a team that cannot rely solely on their young quarterback Josh Freeman to shoulder the offensive load. He needs to be owned in deep formats.
Anthony Dixon, RB, San Francisco 49ers
What a beast this guy has been! Dixon has been impressive for the 49ers this preseason, blasting through defenses for 300 yards and four touchdowns over four games, wrapping up the “highly coveted” preseason rushing title.
The 235-pound bruiser averaged 5.4 yards per carry his senior season at Mississippi State on the way to 1,391 yards and 12 scores. He failed to go over 100 yards only three times and had a monster 252-yard game against Kentucky. He can also carry a heavy carries load (20.5 carries a game in preseason, 23 per game senior year), something newly signed Brian Westbrook can’t do.
All this, along with the sudden loss of incumbent backup Glen Coffee to a higher calling, makes Dixon the primary handcuff for starter Frank Gore and a guy who should be on your watch list.
Jeremiah Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
The undrafted second-year man out of Oregon is coming off a wasted rookie year that he spent on injured reserve with a separated shoulder that he sustained early last preseason.
This time though, he will be the one benefiting from a rookie going down, as Ben Tate’s placement on injured reserve opened the door for him to lock in the number three spot on the Texans’ depth chart, behind ADP rocket Arian Foster and feature back bust Steve Slaton, who proved last season he isn’t the 2008 stud we thought he was.
Encouragingly, Johnson sprinted through the open doorway, beating out Chris Henry for that third-string gig.
It was not to be, because Johnson suffered a dislocated toe in Thursday’s preseason game, which will set him back a bit. Nevertheless, he will be reclaim the number three spot when he gets back and is only an injury (or fumble) away from at least a timeshare in Houston’s explosive offense.
Lane Rizzardini has been playing fantasy sports for over 10 years. His earliest memory was drafting Fred Lane in 2003, only to find out Fred’s wife had shot him in the offseason. You can find more of Lane’s writing over at BrunoBoys.net.