Fantasy Football 2011: Five Late-Round Running Backs You Need to Draft

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2011

Mike Tolbert proved he can carry quite a load and make some stats along the way. With Ryan Mathews out of shape and slacking off in general, Tolbert will see plenty of action in 2011.
Mike Tolbert proved he can carry quite a load and make some stats along the way. With Ryan Mathews out of shape and slacking off in general, Tolbert will see plenty of action in 2011.Harry How/Getty Images

Writing fantasy football stories may seem like a cool way to pass the time, but it comes with its share of dilemmas, too.

Like wondering just how much of your own personal strategies and value picks are safe to share in a public format without jeopardizing your own fantasy aspirations. You better believe league opponents are reading your content looking for an edge. If they aren’t, they should be.

However, you won’t find any hidden agendas here. No sugar coating for the legion of devoted chinstrap ninjas who are ready to take their fantasy opponents by the jugular.

The following sleeper running backs are my personal sleeper running backs. I’ll be snatching as many of them as I can in the later rounds of my respective drafts. Unless you try to take them first. Then things will get ugly …

Mike Tolbert, SD: Showing that he could carry the mantle all by himself last season when replacing Ryan Mathews in the starting lineup, Tolbert came out of no where to notch three different 100-plus yard games and scored 11 TDs to boot.

However, fantasy players seem to have forgotten about what Tolbert can do when given the rock on a regular basis. It seems Mathews forgot, too, slacking off during the offseason and entering camp out of shape and struggling to show he deserve RB1 consideration for the Chargers.

On Monday, coach Norv Turner admitted that he plans to utilize a two-back attack moving forward, meaning Tolbert will get regular carries and even more of the pie if Mathews continues to take a production nose dive. Plus, as I suggested here, the typical downhill runner will have a big season in the NFL in 2011.

Tolbert is currently going 94th overall in average draft position, putting him in the eighth round and definitely poses a major value at that slot. Don’t hesitate to jump on that bandwagon.

Willis McGahee, DEN; In a recent post, I shared a bold prediction ...Knowshon Moreno would not finish the season as the Broncos starter at tailback. If he does go down, who becomes the next force in a John Fox system that will emphasize the run? Why, that would be recent acquisition McGahee, who was locked up for four years and will be utilized even when Moreno is healthy.

McGahee is old, you say. He’s a downhill runner, you argue. Both points are well taken, and I agree with you. I think there is a chance that Denver brings in another back at some point this season. Until they do, however, McGahee is the safety valve. He’s produced seasons well over 1,000 yards three times in his career. He’s scored his share of TDs, including 12 in 2009.

I’ve stated previously that downhill runners will have an inflated 2011. Willis could be one of them.

Considering that ADP has McGahee going in the 12th round in most leagues, he’s a value worth taking a chance on.

Rashad Jennings, JAX; Many watched the unraveling of Maurice Jones-Drew last season with both intrigue and disappointment. However, Jennings took hold of his increased opportunity late in the season, running for 109 yards on just five carries against the Raiders in Week 12 and looking feature-back-esque in a 22-for-108 and a TD showing in the final game of the season.

Overall, Jennings averaged 5.5 yards per carry—a great number that indicates he could be something special. This season, Jones-Drew is already on shaky ground with his knee. There are reports that he is not yet 100 percent and may not be for a little while. He’s being treated with kid gloves.

Overall, management has seen more than enough to warrant an uptick in Jennings’ carries even if Jones-Drew is able to hobble through the 2011 season without missing a game. There is big-time upside here. Don’t miss out on it, especially in the 11th round as he has been going on average so far this preseason.

Bernard Scott, CIN; This isn’t the first time I’ve included Scott on a sleepers' list. Yes, I’ve been burned by his “potential” before. However, Scott’s ADP is so low, he falls out of the top 200 easily at He’s a guy you can get in the very late rounds of your draft who could see an expanded role in 2011.

Last year, the Bengals plodded behind a disappointing Cedric Benson to a tune of 3.5 yards per carry. Scott averaged 4.9 yards per rush over 61 carries. One would wonder why Scott was used so little.

Late last month, coach Marvin Lewis admitted he made a mistake, according to a report at Rotoworld. Benson was arrested yet again this past summer and has been a habitual injury concern.

Javon Ringer, TEN; Another repeat on my list of deeper sleeper RBs, Ringer is the primary backup to Chris Johnson. While some speculated that fourth-round pick Jamie Harper may leapfrog Ringer at some point, Ringer has been the one running with the first team so far this summer while Johnson holds out for more money.

The holdout itself makes one wonder if Ringer is in store for a bigger role, even if Johnson is back in time for Week 1 action. It isn’t as if Ringer is a slouch in a primary role. He averaged 4.7 yards per tote last year on 51 carries.

Like Scott, you won’t find Ringer on the ADP listing at That means you can get him on the really cheap and enjoy if he is given the opportunity to shine.

Don't miss my top 15 redraft QBs and top 15 redraft TEs and top 15 redraft WRs.

And my bold prediction that Knowshon Moreno will fall flat on his face.

And five post-lockout fantasy strategy changes you need to consider.

And we have a unique discussion on fantasy football consistency rankings for 2011: QB | RB | WR

And a different set of redraft rankings (created by a different writer): QB | RB | WR | TE

And some sleeper exposes: Ahmad Bradshaw, Percy Harvin

For all your hard-hitting fantasy football advice, go to our 2011 fantasy football draft kit.