RotoExperts: Running Back Sleepers

Welcome to our latest installment of Sleeping with the Staff, where we offer you the sleeper predictions of 14 Fantasy Football staffers. Since the definition of “sleeper” will be somewhat different depending on whom you ask, we thought you’d find it beneficial to see as many different opinions as possible. What you end up with is a diverse list of possibilities, although, as you will see, a couple of running backs emerge as popular choices.

Bobby McMann – Joique Bell – The signing of Reggie Bush hurts his immediate appeal, but he could very well earn touches in the Lions offense after impressing last year. The undrafted RB out of Wayne State racked up 52 catches for 485 yards along with 414 yards on the ground. Mikel LeShoure has not showed any explosiveness and both he and Bush have had well-documented health issues. Bell should be drafted late as a handcuff, but could return RB3/Flex value.

Pat Mayo – Andre Brown – There’s plenty of love for David Wilson, and after what he did to end the season, I get it. But don’t forget this was Brown’s gig before an untimely injury sent him packing for the year. He may not out-produce Wilson, but for the going rate, it’s well worth a pick to take that chance.

Ian Riley – Andre Brown – If there is one thing Giants coach Tom Coughlin doesn’t tolerate well, its stupidity. Giants second-year man David Wilson offered plenty of it last season before flashing his ability late last year. As a natural pessimist I see more coming this year, and anticipate a healthy Brown racking together some very solid games. He protects the ball, is great around the goal line and is far superior in pass protection.  He will start the season as a flex option and looks good to provide much more as the season progresses.

Shane Vereen will undoubtedly play a larger role in the Patriots offense this season. Photo Credit: MustangMarkF

Shane Vereen will undoubtedly play a larger role in the Patriots offense this season. Photo Credit: MustangMarkF

Jennifer Millman – Danny Woodhead – Ryan Mathews’ injury issues are well documented, so it’s more than probable Danny Woodhead ends up starting at least a few games this season. Even if Mathews magically stays healthy this season, Woodhead will get his share of touches. He was No. 24 among Fantasy RBs in PPR leagues last season in a crowded New England backfield with healthy RBs, and given the additional opportunity presented by an injury-prone Mathews, he could crack the Top 20. And he can be drafted as a RB4 or even RB5 in most leagues.

Adam Zdroik – Reggie Bush – Giovani Bernard is becoming a hot option, so I’ll go elsewhere. Bush is going to get a ton of touches in both receiving and rushing. Even with LeShoure in the backfield, I expect Bush to top last season’s eight TDs and he’s been relatively healthy the last two seasons.

Dr. Roto – Chris Ivory – Give this guy 20 carries a game and a healthy 16-game season and he will give you 1000 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns.

Jayson Braddock – Andre Brown – I’ve liked Brown since he came out of NC State. He’s had to fight for every opportunity that he’s received in the NFL. I don’t see him rolling over for David Wilson and letting him just run with the bulk of the carries. Brown scored eight touchdowns on only 385 carries last season and didn’t fumble once. He’s built to be an every down back and Wilson is a compliment piece.

Adam Ronis – Danny Woodhead – Woodhead was a RB2 in many PPR formats last season. He rushed for 301 yards on 76 carries with four TDs, and caught 40 passes for 446 yards with three TDs. Woodhead also had a good season in 2010 with 97 carries for 547 yards with five TDs and 34 catches for 379 yards with a TD. The Chargers have indicated Woodhead will be the third-down back and Ryan Mathews’ durability is a big question mark. With a new head coach in Mike McCoy who has no ties to Mathews, Woodhead could play more snaps than many think. Woodhead will go cheaply in drafts and since no one believes he can be a lead back, he will be passed on. Woodhead has already proven he can be valuable in a limited role.

George Kurtz – Ryan Mathews – I really don’t have any evidence to support this, just a feeling he finally lives up to his potential this season, maybe.

Sarah Bojarski – Shane Vereen – In PPR leagues, Vereen is going to be an asset to your team. He’s been lining up as a receiver for the Patriots, and for a team that needs all the help it can get at that position, look for Vereen to fill in.

Scott Engel – Latavius Murray – Darren McFadden is a house of cards with a helmet. Rashad Jennings has an injury history, too. Murray is already drawing comparisons to McFadden in pure running style.

Tom McFeeley – Danny Woodhead – Yes, we know everyone who leaves the Patriots become Fantasy dust, but he provides really solid numbers for PPR leagues. Last season he caught 40 passes for 446 yards. He rushed for less than 400 yards, but did score seven times. Those points add up and he’s a stash pick in your draft but he’ll play his way into flex relevance.

Jake Ciely – Montee Ball – Am I allowed to give a sleeper with a caveat? I guess that’s what I’m doing. I’ve been in love with Ball since the Broncos drafted him (actually, since his 2010 season at Wisconsin). Ball is a great all-around back, solid pass-catcher, good blocker and a TD-making machine. As long as John Fox (caveat time) doesn’t mess around with his playing time significantly, Ball will be a lock as a RB2.

Evan Tarracciano – Maurice Jones-Drew – After missing all of training camp last year holding out for a better contract, Jones-Drew broke his foot in Week 7 and missed the rest of the year. Many are wondering if Jacksonville will lean as heavily on him as they have in the past, and I think that the answer is yes. He’s currently being drafted behind other running backs like Frank Gore and Steven Ridley, which puzzles me given his past success. I’d look for a bounce-back by MJD this season, and you can acquire his services on the cheap.

Next up in the Sleeping with the Staff Series: Wide Receiver Busts

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