Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 3: Young Running Backs Ready to Break Out

Josh Sadlock@@JoshSadlockCorrespondent IIISeptember 23, 2011

Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 3: Young Running Backs Ready to Break Out

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    Chances are in Week 3, you are looking to shake up your fantasy lineup. If you've been struggling, you are desperate to right your sinking ship. Maybe you haven't struggled. You should still consider updating your lineup.

    The running back situation has been sorted out for most NFL teams. This season has seen several young rushers grab control of the lion's share of the carries for their offense.

    As it becomes clear that these young running backs give their team the best chance to move the ball on the ground, they will become more viable fantasy options. If you have them on your roster, now is as good a time as any to follow their coaches and put your faith in them.

    So, which young running backs have impressed their coaches and are ready to impress fantasy football owners?

Daniel Thomas, Miami

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    It is becoming clear in Miami that Reggie Bush cannot carry the load. Daniel Thomas has emerged.

    The rookie from Kansas State was activated last week and rewarded the Dolphin with 107 yards. Thomas is not going anywhere, especially as Reggie Bush continues to struggle.

    If you were lucky enough to grab Thomas, he is close to becoming a must start. The Dolphins have run the ball well in recent seasons with Ronnie Brown. With quarterback Chad Henne struggling to find consistency, the Dolphins will lean on Thomas.

    This week, Thomas faces a Cleveland Browns defense that was gouged by the Bengals Cedric Benson in Week 1. Like Benson, Daniel Thomas has a unique blend of speed and power. Look for him to approach the 121 yards Benson racked up on the Browns in Week 1.

James Starks, Green Bay

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    James Starks emerged as a threat for the Packers during their playoff run. He rushed for over 300 yards in their four game drive to the Super Bowl.

    Starks stepped in for Ryan Grant. With Grant returning from injury in 2011, Starks was expected to return to the sideline. Two games in, it is evident that Grant has lost a step.

    It will be Starks forcing Grant to watch from the sideline. The Packers will always rely on the pass more than the run. Starks becomes valuable because he will be a threat in the red zone. The Packers had typically used their fullback, John Kuhn, near the goal line.

    James Starks is just as capable as Kuhn at punching it in. He might not be a threat to go for 100 yards every week, but he will score more than a few touchdowns.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City

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    Jamaal Charles is out for the season. Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones will have to carry the load in Kansas City.

    The Chiefs have looked terrible this season. That being said, they will continue to run the ball. Their offense is based on it.

    Charles's speed allowed him to emerge as one of the NFL's best running backs. McCluster is just as fast. What remains to be seen is whether or not he can handle the punishment of being an every-down NFL back.

    McCluster's impact was felt in the passing game last year. The loss of Charles and the decline of Thomas Jones will force the Chiefs to give him a chance to carry the ball.

    McCluster is available in 68 percent of all ESPN fantasy football leagues. If you are looking for a breakout running back, take a chance on McCluster before the rest of your league catches on.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans

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    The Heisman Trophy winner has not done much yet to reward fantasy football owners. His breakout is coming.

    Head coach Sean Payton and the Saints have put their faith in Mark Ingram. He will be their number one running back going forth.

    Ingram is not going to give you 25 carries a game consistently, but he will be a bigger part of the Saints offense. As Ingram adjusts to the speed of the NFL, his production will increase.

    The Saints play the Texans this week. Last week the Texans allowed another rookie, Daniel Thomas, to have a huge game.

    Ingram is a solid second or third fantasy running back this week and will continue to be so for the rest of the season.