Undervalued RBsRead the introduction to this series if you haven't yet.
|Donald Brown - IND ADP: 70 overall, RB 26||4 votes|
Chris Smith - Brown quietly had a very good season in 2011, playing on a terrible Colts team. With rookie sensation Andrew Luck now under center, the Colts will want to establish a credible rushing attack and Donald Brown appears to be headed for a surprisingly effective season. Many fantasy owners still see him as a bust but he is elevating in his fourth season and could be quite effective in 2012.
Matt Waldman - Great players have confidence that rarely wavers when they are on the field. However good-to-very-good players can have lapses of confidence that force them to second-guess more often when confronted with challenges on the field. I think Donald Brown has the talent to be good or very good in this league and midway through the 2011 season, he demonstrated the confidence to execute plays without hesitation. The fourth-year running back has the speed, acceleration, pass catching skills, and ball security (one fumble in his three-years in the NFL) to perform like a high-end RB2. I also like Brown's decision-making when he's playing with the confidence he had at the University of Connecticut and I'm seeing that kind of confidence manifesting on the field. The worst case scenario is that Brown is the lead back in a Colts committee, which already gives him an edge over backs like C.J. Spiller, Chris Wells, and Roy Helu, who are all getting drafted ahead of him in most leagues. The best case scenario is that he's the feature back and earns the vast majority of touches, which could make him a better value than a back like Michael Turner, who is the 42nd player off draft boards compared to Brown's standing as the 80th player off the board.
Jason Wood - Over the last five years, the 31st ranked fantasy RB has averaged 126 points in non-PPR leagues. There are a lot of ways for Brown to exceed that mark. New head coach Chuck Pagano anointed Brown the starter early in his regime, and said he felt Brown could be an every down back. Brown has done nothing in camp to dispel that notion, and none of the other backs on the roster have pushed Brown for playing time. I can easily see Brown with 1,100-1,200 total yards and 5-7 touchdowns, which would average out to 151 fantasy points at the mid-point. That would rank Brown more in the RB20-RB22 range --he's a steal right now.
|Marshawn Lynch - SEA ADP: 22 overall, RB 11||3 votes|
Steve Holloway - Marshawn Lynch was definitely the key for the Seahawks' offense in the second half of the season last year. In the team's last nine games, he had six games where he topped 100 yards and two more with 86 and 88 yards. He scored nine TDs in those nine games. He has dropped down the ADP lists because of his poor off-field judgment, but if he can escape suspension, he will reward owners who draft him around his current ADP. Even if he misses a couple of games, he should approach last year's 1,400 total yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs.
Matt Waldman - The only reasons Lynch is going off draft boards as the 31st back is the DUI charge and those with a bias about his new contract. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence of players underperforming after awarded a new contract. Lynch's maturity and wisdom off the field have affected his career, but the Seahawks running back earned his new contract and by all accounts has worked harder than ever in the offseason to maximize his quickness behind a young offensive line that is finally healthy and poised to make the next step forward. The DUI is the biggest concern, but it appears less likely that Lynch will even be disciplined until 2013 if he's convicted of the charge. If the case goes to trial early in the year and Lynch is found guilty, there are still some gray areas with the NFL disciplinary policy and the nature of the charges that keep the suspension at a minimum if the rules call for one at all. I'm taking the chance on Lynch before I would pull the trigger on Darren Sproles, Jamaal Charles, Ryan Matthews, Trent Richardson, or Steven Jackson despite the fact that those five backs are generally leaving the draft board before him.
|Doug Martin - TB ADP: 46 overall, RB 20||3 votes|
Bob Magaw - One of the consensus two RBs available in the 2012 draft with a three down skill set (an increasingly vanishing rare breed), unlike the far higher, top three overall selection Trent Richardson, Martin arrives on a team with more offensive firepower and surrounding talent. Compared by some scouts to Ray Rice, he was hand picked by Rice's former Rutgers HC Greg Schiano. The more favorable intersection of talent AND opportunity makes Martin more likely than higher profile starting rookie RB Richardson to out produce his current fantasy standing.
Jeff Pasquino - Whenever a rookie running back gets taken in the first round, you have to take notice. Martin was regarded as a Top 3 tailback entering the 2012 draft, and now he lands in an ideal spot to come in and hit the ground running. LeGarrette Blount will quickly be passed on the depth chart as Martin becomes the feature 3-down back. Martin represents solid value with Top 15 running back upside considering that he will be on the field so often even in his first year.
|Jacquizz Rodgers - ATL ADP: 125 overall, RB 44||3 votes|
Jeff Haseley - Michael Turner has not looked good in the preseason and is in danger of losing more touches to Rodgers in Dirk Koetter's new, more distributive offense. Rodgers has been featured in the Falcons offense in the preseason and I believe he can have a very Sproles-like impact this year. 40-50 receptions is not out of the question.
Ryan Hester - New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has made no bones about the fact that he wants to see Rodgers utilized more this season. Michael Turner has never been a receiving threat, and - as he showed in Jacksonville with Maurice Jones-Drew - Koetter likes his backs to be multi-talented. Rodgers should be a "lite" version of 2011 Darren Sproles, who had 87 carries and 86 receptions. That ratio may skew more toward the ground game for Rodgers, but that many touches would make him fantasy-relevant. If Turner had to miss time, his ceiling would rise even higher.
|Kevin Smith - DET ADP: 78 overall, RB 30||3 votes|
Jeff Haseley - Smith had a great 2011 season, when he was healthy. Jahvid Best may never see the field again and Mike Leshoure is trying to come back from a serious knee injury. My gut says Smith will be a big part of the Lions offense this year. He's a great value at his current ADP.
Ryan Hester - Smith is being drafted as if Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure will be on the active roster Week 1 and Leshoure won't be suspended two games to begin the season. While Detroit is clearly not a run-first team, Smith has displayed an ability to make plays in the receiving game as well. In the team's second preseason against Baltimore, Smith got "starter's treatment." He touched the ball a handful of times on the team's first drive and was removed from the game before the rest of Detroit's starters in favor of a team of backups. The Lions are very are that he's their best option at running back - and might be for an extended period of time.
|Ryan Williams - ARI ADP: 102 overall, RB 39||3 votes|
Aaron Rudnicki - The main question with Williams is clearly his health as he tries to fully recover from a devastating injury last year. His main competition for the starting job has his own injury issues to deal with, however, so if Williams can stay on the field he should be able to play a big role in the Cardinals offense this year. Indications in the preseason suggest the talented player is ready to go so if you trust modern medicine and his knee to hold up, take a shot on this player and it could pay off in a huge way.
Mark Wimer - If he comes back from last year's ruptured patella tendon with his explosiveness intact, Williams could push Chris Wells into a support role during 2012. The move of Williams up the depth chart appeared to be happening as of the opening of training camp - Williams was running with the first team while Wells was on PUP. Williams has moved up my draft board with a solid cameo in the second preseason game (5/25/1 rushing), though Wells is expected to test his knee in the third preseason contest. I think Williams is the guy who has the starting job come September. How often can you get a starting running back at 41st back off the draft board? Williams is a steal right now.
|Ahmad Bradshaw - NYG ADP: 38 overall, RB 19||2 votes|
Marc Levin - With Brandon Jacobs gone from New York, Bradshaw is primed to take over the feature back role and rush for double digit TDs. Assuming he stays healthy, which is a reasonable thing to worry about with Bradshaw, his floor would be in the 40 catch/1200 total yards/10 TD range. That is great value for a late 3rdround running back.
|Reggie Bush - MIA ADP: 50 overall, RB 21||2 votes|
Aaron Rudnicki - Bush was very impressive last year and finished just outside of the RB1 range even in non-PPR leagues. This year, the team around him certainly looks like it's going to struggle so he might have difficulty matching his rushing numbers from last year. However, the Dolphins have the league's worst group of receivers and it stands to reason that they will be playing from behind early and often. That all points to Bush being the focal point of their offensive attack and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get back to the days of 70 or 80 receptions if he can stay healthy.
|Peyton Hillis - KC ADP: 73 overall, RB 27||2 votes|
Ryan Hester - The last season Hillis was healthy - 2010 - he was among fantasy football's best running backs. His offensive coordinator was also run-heavy Brian Daboll. This year, both Hillis and Daboll are reuniting in Kansas City. Jamaal Charles is also there and looks healthy, but this backfield should have enough touches to feed two fantasy-starter-worthy RBs. The team has said that it wishes to rush the ball at least 500 times this year. If healthy all year, Hillis and Charles should be close to a 50-50 split on about 420-450 of those. That's plenty enough for a healthy Hillis to be an RB2. Don't forget about his pass-catching ability as well.
|Fred Jackson - BUF ADP: 31 overall, RB 15||2 votes|
Jason Wood - Fred Jackson was a top 3 fantasy RB last year in every scoring format before getting hurt -- he ranked as the #1 fantasy back in many leagues. The injury shouldn't be a concern; a broken fibula isn't chronic or recurring. Chan Gailey isn't going to reinvent the wheel, the Bills are only going to fulfill preseason expectations by running the ball early and often -- the passing game would be exposed if Ryan Fitzpatrick was asked to carry the day. Jackson is a great receiver, he's decisive at the point of attack, and we already know he can thrive in this system. What's not to like? Actually, what's not to love?
|Steven Jackson - STL ADP: 23 overall, RB 12||2 votes|
Jason Wood - In a year when everyone is complaining about the lack of proven, healthy workhorse running backs, people seem to be forgetting about Steven Jackson. He's being drafted 14th as though he's a player on decline. Yet, he's only 29 years old, and is coming off a season ranked 11th among fantasy RBs. Why would a guy coming off an 11th ranked season regress when his new head coach is a guy named Jeff Fisher? Fisher is notorious for running his starter into the ground. Jackson could easily see 300-330 carries this year -- Eddie George did (and he was never as explosive as Jackson). I love Jackson as an RB2 option in the 3rd or 4th round -- money in the bank.
|Stevan Ridley - NE ADP: 76 overall, RB 29||2 votes|
Chris Smith - Ridley is a big, talented running back and it appears he will emerge as the top running back in New England. He has a chance to be a top-12 running back depending on how well he does and what percentage of the work he earns. He is a still in the 7th round of fantasy drafts.
|Shane Vereen - NE ADP: 151 overall, RB 52||2 votes|
Mark Wimer - Shane Vereen didn't get a lot of work during 2011 due to lingering injuries, but he's seen a lot of work during preseason and looks set to claim a fair proportion of the work in New England. In particular, Vereen has looked good on screen plays. I think he's a good flex option with possible fantasy RB #2 upside - he's a wild value at 54th running back off the draft board.
|David Wilson - NYG ADP: 104 overall, RB 40||2 votes|
Matt Waldman - I've been preaching caution with David Wilson since I studied his game in great depth last winter. The rookie from Virginia Tech has tremendous physical skills. I haven't seen balance from a back of his size since I've watched Walter Payton play. Combine that with Wilson's burst, long speed, and lateral agility, and he's capable of thrilling teammates and fans when the ball is in his hand. However Wilson had not refined his running style to match the talent of top defensive players in the college or NFL game while he was at Virginia Tech. He was used to being the most physically talented player on the field and outrunning defenders to the edge or reversing the field to make big plays. Like Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles, Wilson opted for the home run attempt too often, which resulted in big losses and turnovers. His first preseason game was a perfect display of his bad habit. Wilson has told the media that he has learned a valuable lesson about taking what the offensive line gives him so he doesn't create negative plays in a constant effort to attempt the big play. It just might be the case of Wilson saying all the right things, but he has shown enough in the past two weeks that he is earning first-team reps. According to the media there is strong speculation that Wilson has rocketed up the depth chart and earned the No.2 spot. If that's the case, I think Wilson is too talented for the Giants to keep off the field and the rookies standing as the 98th player taken in fantasy drafts is about to look about 30-40 spots too low.
|LeGarrette Blount - TB ADP: 122 overall, RB 43||1 vote|
|Michael Bush - CHI ADP: 99 overall, RB 38||1 vote|
|Rashad Jennings - JAX ADP: 117 overall, RB 42||1 vote|
|Darren McFadden - OAK ADP: 9 overall, RB 5||1 vote|
|Willis McGahee - DEN ADP: 54 overall, RB 23||1 vote|
|Rashard Mendenhall - PIT ADP: 136 overall, RB 47||1 vote|
|Adrian Peterson - MIN ADP: 19 overall, RB 9||1 vote|
|Evan Royster - WAS ADP: 149 overall, RB 50||1 vote|
|Jonathan Stewart - CAR ADP: 69 overall, RB 25||1 vote|
|Daniel Thomas - MIA ADP: 144 overall, RB 48||1 vote|
|Michael Turner - ATL ADP: 36 overall, RB 17||1 vote|
|DeAngelo Williams - CAR ADP: 89 overall, RB 34||1 vote|