2012 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Running back

by Cory J. Bonini on August 27, 2012 @ 13:50:40 PDT

 

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Each year fantasy football owners gain a leg up on their competition by finding sleepers in their drafts. KFFL.com has identified these candidates for the 2012 season and analyzed why you want them on your team.

Other players fall into the undervalued category: Their fantasy stock isn't as high as it should be, and you often can land them on the cheap to help bolster your lineup. Generally, undervalued players are veterans that are coming off a down year or returning from injury and have slipped below the radar of most fantasy owners. KFFL will help you take advantage of their oversights on your quest to building a championship roster!

Note: All Average Draft Position (ADP) figures are based on standard-scoring, 12-team leagues.

Sleepers

DeMarco Murray | Dallas Cowboys | ADP: 11th overall

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
21725796811184638442703120248

As a rookie in 2011, Murray made a mark with a limited workload. His first extensive action resulted in a 253-yard effort, and he churned out a 5.5 yards-per-carry average on the year before a fractured ankle ended his season in Week 14.

Felix Jones has proven to be nothing better than a spell back and should be used in that role this year. Murray's size (6-foot, 227 pounds) is more conducive to that of a featured back, while his pass-blocking skills improved considerably as the year went along. He is also a capable receiver out of the backfield.

One thing to remember with Murray is that he will have monstrous games and could easily follow them up with duds. This largely is a product of his style of running and Dallas' offensive approach. It is no secret that Jason Garrett loves to throw the ball, but the offense may have to rely more on the run if Dez Bryant misses any time because of a potential looming suspension.

His season-long durability should be a moderate concern for owners looking to draft Murray, but he is healthy thus far in training camp. Try to draft Murray as a high-upside No. 2 back that carries some risk, so factor that in when you are rounding out your running backs corps. He is going as a low-end No. 1, however.

Isaac Redman | Pittsburgh Steelers | ADP: 4th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
80120345495579151312190259

Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Forget Mendenhall in 2012

Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is recovering from a devastating, late-season anterior cruciate ligament tear that is likely to cost him time this year. He probably will not be close to 100 percent until the waning weeks of the season. Redman, a powerful yet nimble third-year back, should take the reins of the offense. He is dealing with a minor groin injury but should be fine for the regular season.

This system will open up a little more under Todd Haley, so don't expect as much running as you are accustomed to seeing from Pittsburgh. However, Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury could mean more running than planned.Even still, more passing attempts should clearly provide ample running lanes by this improved offensive line. Redman has averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 162 career attempts. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he can be a load to take down.

While Redman's best value will be found in standard-scoring setups as a third back, he is surprisingly capable as a receiver. That was hardly an enthusiastic endorsement, we know. The point is, he remains an acceptable RB2, even in point-per-reception leagues.

Willis McGahee | Denver Broncos | ADP: 4th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
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Ronnie Hillman | Denver Broncos | ADP: 10th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
99139461611241319831220125

We combine the two for one main reason - the same one they are both included to begin with: Peyton Manning. Should Manning return as Peyton Manning and not transform into Elvis Grbac, both of Denver's backs should be extremely useful for fantasy purposes.

McGahee could see more running room by way of fewer stacked boxes and become a goal line behemoth. He enjoyed a bit of a renaissance last year with far less to work with at quarterback.

Hillman is a dynamic rookie from San Diego State University with very good hands and an open-field slashing ability to pick up yardage in chunks. He should be a third-down spell for McGahee, as long as his blocking doesn't regress. The rookie is working his way back from a slight hamstring strain, so temper your early-season expectations.

McGahee is a quality third back that should play well above his draft placement, while Hillman could be a sneaky pickup as a fifth back for owners in PPR leagues. The bottom line is that Manning makes everyone around him better, especially the guys lined up behind him.

Donald Brown | Indianapolis Colts | ADP: 6th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
32721382880271346860103

The Colts' defense may be Brown's biggest enemy in 2012. This team figures to be challenged on that side of the ball, which could put the offense in too many must-pass situations. Brown is just an OK receiver out of the backfield.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians enters the mix and brings his notoriously boring offense in tow. He does, however, produce fantasy-worthy rushers on a regular basis from this mundane system.

Andrew Luck may be the key to Brown's success. As long as the rook is competent under center, the former Connecticut standout will be better than expected by the masses. He started to come to life last season and will be given every opportunity to show he has what it takes to carry the offense.

Even though the offensive line is lackluster, and we're being kind there, Brown is a promising No. 3 back in all scoring systems.

Taiwan Jones | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 18th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi

While we love Darren McFadden this year, the fact is he has a tough time remaining healthy. Jones will battle with Mike Goodson, but we feel the former's skill set is better suited for Oakland's new one-cut-and-go blocking philosophy.

Jones reminds of a poor man's Chris Johnson - he has blazing speed but lacks the bulk at 6-foot, 195 pounds. Let's just say McFadden stays healthy, he will be spelled a fair amount to keep him healthy down the stretch. Jones is a player that can do big things will a little workload.

Draft him as a No. 5 or an RB6 in very deep leagues. He will move up the draft board once he locks up the No. 2 gig.

Isaiah Pead | St. Louis Rams | ADP: 14th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
41812063560130361892270203

St. Louis spent a second-round choice on the shifty Cincinnati product. Pead finds himself in a battle for playing time with fellow rookie Daryl Richardson. He should jump in as Steven Jackson's primary backup from the onset of camp and offers a nice change-of-pace option to the backfield.

Pead's primary value is found in point-per-reception leagues or as a handcuff to the oft-injured S-Jax. Add him as a fourth back in PPR and a fifth in regular scoring leagues.

Jacquizz Rodgers | Atlanta Falcons | ADP: 16th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
59992253751319251522000215

This one is based more on a gut feeling than anything. Michael Turner has carried the ball a lot as a Falcon, and he may be on the verge of breaking down at 30 years old. The diminutive Rodgers would probably split the load with Jason Snelling, but the former Beaver has potential in this newly opened up offensive attack even without a Turner injury.

Nevertheless, he is a marginal fourth and ideal fifth back, more appropriately in point-per-reception affairs.

Bernard Pierce | Baltimore Ravens | ADP: 18th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
971374876374661244890147

Ray Rice has a metric boatload of touches in the past few seasons, and his frame isn't necessarily cut out to handle a humongous workload. Pierce is a more powerfully built rookie rusher from Temple whose style is dramatically different than that of Rice.

Pierce is mainly a handcuff pick, but speculative drafters could use a very late, if not final round, flier on him in deep leagues. The rook may surprise should he gain significant playing time.

Undervalued

Darren McFadden | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 11th overall

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
218258104411945733392673160259

DMC never returned after playing in seven games last year due to a Lisfranc foot injury. It did not require surgery, and he is said to be 100 percent healthy at this point.

The even better news is that new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp brings the zone-blocking system back to the Bay Area, and McFadden will excel. A full offseason should do wonders for quarterback Carson Palmer's handling of the offense, which also means defenders cannot focus so much on McFadden.

He is a versatile weapon and should be a top-five point producer if he can remain on the field. His 11th overall average draft position is a product of people forgetting how good he was last year before the injury and their fear of yet another ailment. Draft him in the first round once the surefire backs are off the board. Timid owners that cannot forget the past rarely win championships!

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
DMC will turn heads in 2012

Beanie Wells | Arizona Cardinals | ADP: 4th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
020-75750103000102

Everyone seems to be worried about Wells coming off yet another knee surgery, which was actually very minor, and the return of Ryan Williams from his own knee injury. Truth be told, Williams won't produce quality fantasy numbers until late in the season, if at all, just based on the nature of how extensive his rehabilitation process has been. A torn patella tendon recovery makes an ACL rehab look like a walk in the park, more often than not.

Arizona should be more competent at quarterback this year, regardless of which quarterback starts. They bolstered their passing game and should find running lanes to become more apparent. Their schedule is rather friendly to the running back position, as well.

Wells can be had as an RB3 with a strong chance of producing high-end No. 2 statistics.

Daniel Thomas | Miami Dolphins | ADP: 10th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
751153054551381454950114

Thomas' rookie season didn't quite go as he had hoped it would, but that isn't a reason to be down on him. Miami will return to a more conventional offensive approach in 2012; the coaching staff should know by now that even though Reggie Bush had a career year last season, he is by no means a lock to repeat or even hold up for more than a handful of games.

Thomas should see considerable touches and plenty of chances to succeed. While we have tempered expectations for him, he can still be a useful back that is too often overlooked in fantasy circles. Look to land him as a fourth back. His best worth comes in standard-scoring structures.

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Fantasy football sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

 

About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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