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Deep sleeper RBs

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Bernard Scott - CIN 5 votes

Sigmund Bloom - Cedric Benson looked like he was running in wet cement against all but the weakest NFL run defenses last year. The Bengals are also running a west coast offense this year that is better-suited to a more versatile running back's skills. Bernard Scott has consistently been the Bengal back with the most burst, and he is a good pass-catcher. The Bengals don't seem to believe Scott can handle a larger load, but they'll have to give him a shot this year at some point by default, and he has the talent to capitalize on the opportunity - you should capitalize on that by drafting him late.

David Dodds - Cedric Benson could be facing a suspension when the season resumes. And even if he doesn't get suspended, the team could tire of his low yards per carry. Benson managed just 3.5 ypc while his backup (Scott) put up 4.9 ypc in limited work. It's time for the Bengals to increase Scott's workload and see how he responds.

Will Grant - There's a changing of the guard feeling in Cincinnati and Cedric Benson's days could be numbered. His big comeback has slowed to a crawl as of late and although he's the veteran back, the question in Cinci is: 'For How Long'. Soctt has been patiently biding his time, waiting for a chance to take over the starting role. This is the year he will get his chance.

Ryan Hester - Running back can be a difficult position to predict -- especially when it comes to sleepers. The mix of skill and opportunity, again, is what makes fantasy stars. There are many backup running backs just an injury away from becoming one of those stars. Scott may be the best back on his team. He's simply yet to prove he can handle a full workload.

Matt Waldman - Do you ever wonder if the motivation for resigning Cedric Benson had to do with the idea that they'd have to pay more money to upgrade in free agency with the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw, Deangelo Williams, or Joseph Addai? This kind of thinking leads me down a conspiratorial path where I begin to think Mike Brown wants to keep Benson on the team so they don't have to watch Bernard Scott or even Cedric Peerman skyrocket in value and demand a new contract at the current rate of a good starting-caliber back if they perform. Crazy, I know. But at this point in the draft, I can afford to think this way. Scott is more explosive and more versatile than Benson. If Benson gets hurt, we'll see that quickly much to the dismay of Mike Brown's rusted change purse.

Shane Vereen - NE 5 votes

Jene Bramel - This is the kind of gamble I like to take with my RB5. Strong offense that isn't afraid to run the ball and is willing to play the hot hand. Vereen has lost valuable camp reps to a hamstring injury and a huge early preseason performance has made Stevan Ridley a camp darling. But I think Vereen was the better talent and I'm not ready to write his 2011 season off. If he can make up the ground he lost, he's a flex RB or better in the making. This is the right price to take that risk.

David Dodds - Make no mistake about it. The Patriots moved up in the NFL draft to grab their guy, Shane Vereen. He is the best RB on the Patriot roster and will be starting games for them by season's end. Grab him now while his value is at his lowest.

Steve Holloway - Vereen was selected in the third round this year by the Patriots, who may have as many as four RBs active on game days in 2011. The primary reason that you can select Vereen so late (RB 53 and 157 overall) is that the Patriots are recognized as a team that specifically plans for RBBC. Therefore none of their RBs are drafted highly. Yet a year ago the undrafted BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 229 carries for 1,008 yards and 13 TDs. The remaining New England RBs totaled only 174 carries for 820 yards and 6 TDs. Green-Ellis had a nice season a year ago, but only averages 4.2 ypc for his career and he was an undrafted free agent. The Patriots drafted Vereen in the second round and added Ridley a round later. Vereen should have more capability to give the Patriots offense big play potential in the running game. He should provide value as a RBBC member, but how much more if he can supplant Green-Ellis.

Dave Larkin - It is understandable having reservations about trusting a rookie running back in a crowded New England backfield, but Shane Vereen has the talent to shine through and be a contributor. Vereen is a great cutback runner and possesses the kind of speed and elusiveness you like to see in backs. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a workmanlike runner, but is not the athlete that Vereen is. While predicting what Bill Belichick will do is like trying to predict the winning numbers in the lottery, talent tends to trump all else and Vereen has an abundance of it.

Chris Smith - Let's face it. The Patriots backfield is about as muddy as you can see in the NFL. The undrafted overachievers from last season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead were a nice story but the Patriots drafted a pair of running backs early in the Draft for a reason. Vereen has a great mix of skills and will get every opportunity to be a go-to running back as a rookie.

Bilal Powell - NYJ 3 votes

Sigmund Bloom - The Jets might want Shonn Greene to be that bell-cow back, but nothing he showed us in the last two years indicates that he can be. Greene wasn't able to overtake veterans on the downside of their careers, he got dinged up in limited action, and he didn't disembowel defenses in the way a young back behind the Jets line should. Joe McKnight had a big week 17, but he isn't the rugged inside runner that Powell is. The Jets clearly saw something in Powell to take him in the 4th round with Greene and McKnight already on the roster, and we might get to see that later this season. He's a perfect player to stash away so you can reap the rewards later this year.

Ryan Hester - Powell was a player that made Jets head coach Rex Ryan high five with everyone in the team's war room upon his selection. Even though camp reports on him have been mixed, if Shonn Greene struggles again this year or gets hurt, Powell could overtake the majority of the carries from Greene and an aging LaDanian Tomlinson.

Matt Waldman - Unless Shonn Greene displays a dedication and consistency that he lacked last year and prior to his senior year at Iowa, I think his potential limits him to one-year wonder stats, at best. Joe McNight might have come light years from last year, but he's not a complete back. Ladainian Tomlinson is going to be effective in doses, but odds are against him that he'll be able to carry the load as well as he did last year. This leaves rookie Bilal Powell. I believe the Jets GM and head coach think Powell has first-day talent. Powell might not show much in camp, but I believe by midseason he could cut into Greene's time if the third-year runner slips up.

Stevan Ridley - NE 3 votes

Bob Magaw - The Patriots RB situation appears to have a fantasy projection confounding cloaking device equalling that of the Rams WR vortex event horizon. With all the uncertainty shrouding the New England run game, Ridley could prove the best value, being the cheapest, and with a puncher's chance of fighting his way to a prominent role. He has an interesting skill set, and is a more powerful runner than more highly touted fellow rookie RB, second rounder Shane Vereen (Ridley went in the third), with outstanding contact balance that might be among the best in the class of 2011, after sole first rounder Mark Ingram. In the first preseason game he also displayed unexpectedly good hands and natural pass catching ability out of the backfield, which could give him attractive versatility relative to BJGE/"Law Firm". Two stated strengths and possible uses, as a goal line weapon and end game closer, could form a kind of positive feedback loop for his scoring opportunities (i.e. - more TDs scored = more likely to be ahead).

Jeff Pasquino - New England is reinventing their offense once again, this time by adding two rookie running backs in the 2011 NFL Draft. Shane Vereen was selected first, but now he has injury issues and he is losing significant playing time to Stevan Ridley. Ridley jumped on his chance and scored three touchdowns in his first preseason game, giving him high visibility to those who saw his performance. Fortunately for fantasy owners who did not draft yet, the game was not on national TV and Ridley may still be a sleeper lurking out there. Grab the guy who will make everyone forget about BenJarvus Green-Ellis by Week 5 this year.

Jason Wood - The Patriots have a ton of RBs on the training camp roster, and the battle for playing time is still nebulous. Presumably BenJarvus Green-Ellis will get the first crack at the lead job -- a role he had in 2010, and Danny Woodhead did nothing in 2010 to lose his role as the 3rd down and receiving back. Yet the Patriots drafted not one, but two rookie runners. Bill Belichick will play the best players at every position, and prior history has little to do with the current depth chart. While Ridley may be nothing more than a practice squad guy, it's hard not to hear the reports out of training camp and get excited. Even more telling, Ridley put on a clinic in the first preseason game -- 111 yards from scrimmage, 7 receptions and 3 touchdowns. He's the kind of high risk/high reward pick you should be targeting at the end of your draft.

Javon Ringer - TEN 3 votes

Jeff Pasquino - Tennessee loves to give the ball to Chris Johnson, but right now he and the Titans are light years apart on a contract extension. Ringer has taken advantage of the opportunity in training camp, looking fantastic early in August and has grabbed a hold on the RB2 role for Tennessee. Even if Johnson returns in time for Week 1, Ringer will get plenty of touches early in September and there is always a high injury risk for a running back returning too quickly to action after a holdout. If the Johnson owner does not grab Ringer as a handcuff by Round 11, jump on him when you can.

Jeff Tefertiller - Holdout Chris Johnson is rumored to want a contract in excess of $10 million per year, leaving just Ringer and rookie Jamie Harper to battle for carries in his absence. With the injury history of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Titans will look to the young veteran over the rookie just for the sake of protection and knowledge of the offense. He could slip into the Top 20 fantasy backs if the holdout lasts much into the season.

Jason Wood - Every week that Chris Johnson prolongs his holdout is another reason to bump Javon Ringer up your draft sheet. Ringer, a 5'9", 200-pound dynamo, enters his third season in Tennessee as the clear handcuff to Johnson -- which could mean great things if given the opportunity. We haven't seen a lot from Ringer in his first two seasons -- but his 59 carries for 287 yards (4.9 per carry) and 2 TDs hint at the potential if he got a full-time workload. Ringer has been praised by the coaches for his focus, and attention to detail, and could step into a system that's built around a punishing ground game. If your league is deep enough to draft clear cut RB backups, Ringer should be on the short list.

Darren Sproles - NO 2 votes

Jeff Haseley - The Saints signed Sproles to effectively replace Reggie Bush. Not only do I think he can do the job, I think he will do it better than Bush. He is an absolute steal as the 49th RB off the board. His ADP will likely increase as it gets closer to the start of the season. If you want him, expect to draft him a bit higher than you think he'll go.

Mark Wimer - Sproles inherits Reggie Bush's role on the Saints for 2011. Bush averaged 59 receptions a year in this offense (and his average was adversely impacted by the 20 games that Bush missed during his five year stint down in New Orleans - Sproles has missed one game over the past four years). If Sproles gets 60 receptions and stays true to his career 9.6 yards per catch average, we're looking at ~570+ receiving yards. Bush averaged around 100 carries a year - Sproles would put up around 460+ yards on average with that workload. That's 1,000+ combined yards per season in potential, folks. And I'm being conservative by using Bush's averages over the past five years, considering the 20 games he missed...

Ricky Williams - BAL 2 votes

Jeff Tefertiller - Williams will look to fill the void left by Willis McGahee signing in Denver during free agency. The former Dolphin is aging but is still running hard and will get plenty of short-yardage opportunities. The Ravens will need to run the ball often with the depleted wide receiver corps. Williams is a ball carrier to draft in the last round who has fantasy upside.

Matt Waldman - Ray Rice is the man in Baltimore, but there's a big opportunity for Williams to be the change of pace, short-yardage situational back up for the Ravens. I think Williams was the better back in Miami for the past two years. If Rice gets hurt I doubt Williams be the feature back with Jalen Parmele on the roster. However, Williams could provide flex-play production.

Donald Brown - IND 1 vote

Dave Larkin - The former first round pick hasn't been what the Colts hoped for and with the re-signing of Joseph Addai his time in Indianapolis could be ending soon. However, Brown has flashed some of his talent, most notably in a Week 15 game last season against Jacksonville. Brown has a leg up on rookie Delone Carter in the complex Colts offense, and could seize the starting role if Joseph Addai is pedestrian at any stage.

Tashard Choice - DAL 1 vote

Dave Larkin - The future of Tashard Choice in Dallas took another turn when the Cowboys invested a third round pick in DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys now have a three-headed monster in the backfield, with Choice considered the third back by many. Count me as one of the few out there who doesn't believe that Felix Jones can play all 16 games. Choice is not flashy as a runner, but he is a hard-nosed type that gets the job done.

Justin Forsett - SEA 1 vote

Will Grant - When Marshawn Lynch was signed by Seattle last year, he made a big enough impact to push Forsett to the side. However, Forsett was always a guy that we kept our eyes on felt like he could be a solid 3rd down, change of pace type of back. With Lynch still entrenched as the #1 guy, Forsett is a forgotten man in many fantasy drafts. Keep an eye out for him later in the draft, especially in PPR leagues.

Toby Gerhart - MIN 1 vote

David Dodds - He backs up Adrian Peterson so he will likely only become relevant should AP get hurt and miss time. But in a shortened off-season, I suspect we see more star RBs go down with pulled hamstrings than usual. At this low of an ADP, grabbing a player like Gerhart could win your league should Peterson miss significant time due to injury.

Jerome Harrison - DET 1 vote

Steve Holloway - Harrison was recently signed by the Lions following the season ending injury to rookie Mikel LeShoure. Rumors had been strong that the Lions felt they needed a power back to complement Jahvid Best. Best played well as a rookie but was limited to only 172 rushing attempts of his team's 349. Harrrison could play himself into being the principal back-up for Best. Harrison has had success in his NFL career, but has had only limited opportunities. From 2007 through 2008 for the Browns, he averaged 6.8 ypc, but on only 57 carries. Then in 2009, he had 194 carries for a career high of 862 yards and also caught 34 passes. Achieving numbers similar to his 2009 season from an RB with a current ADP of RB 57 and 180 overall would benefit any fantasy roster.

Kregg Lumpkin - TB 1 vote

Mark Wimer - Lumpkin has been impressing as Cadillac Williams' replacement in the change-of-pace role down in Tampa Bay. He posted 6/24/0 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving at Kansas City in the first preseason game, and has reportedly made a lot of good plays in training camp. He looks like a man on a mission in his second season with the Buccaneers. He's worth a late-round flyer for sure.

Jason Snelling - ATL 1 vote

Jeff Haseley - I think we will see more from Jason Snelling this year. The Falcons re-signed him for a reason - to spell Michael Turner and be his insurance if he gets hurt. Turner is not a PPR darling, but Snelling definitely is. He quietly caught 44 passes last year in a complimentary role. With Jerious Norwood now with the Rams, Snelling should continue to see work as the team's secondary rushing option.

Jordan Todman - SD 1 vote

Jeff Haseley - I am throwing this name out there, because he could be the next Darren Sproles for the Chargers. They often utilize a change of pace back in their offense with quickness and shiftiness that Sproles excelled at. Todman has some of the same similarities and could play a bigger role than some realize.

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