Fantasy football undervalued players: Running backs

by Cory J. Bonini and Bryce McRae on September 7, 2010 @ 16:18:00 PDT's analysis of fantasy football undervalued players for the 2010 season will be updated weekly throughout the offseason. We have separated our sleepers and undervalued players this year, so be sure not to confuse the two.

Sleepers are also undervalued players in some cases, but the latter usually comes in the way of a proven player that isn't being shown the appropriate amount of love in drafts. No one likes doing the dirty work, so let do it for you! Be sure to check for weekly updates.

Note: All average draft position (ADP) figures are based on 12-team, non-PPR leagues unless specified otherwise.

Running backs

Pierre Thomas | New Orleans Saints | ADP: 3rd round

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas
This PT is ready to cruise

Thomas has shown flashes of being a dominant force for fantasy teams in the past two seasons, but he is coming off a down year after a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee held him back for a few weeks. With running back Mike Bell (Eagles) no longer a Saint, Thomas shouldn't see much competition for touches on clear running downs. Reggie Bush remains a backfield mate, and another back (Chris Ivory) could scarf some red zone looks, but Thomas' outlook is bright.

A capable receiver, Thomas will see time on third downs when Bush needs a breather. Given how the Saints spread the ball around, there is always concern for inconsistency from PT Cruiser. New Orleans emphasized the run last year and won the Super Bowl partly as a result, so you can be sure they have that in mind. A wrist injury suffered early in camp is not expected to be serious.

Fantasy value: An early-to-mid third-round placement makes Thomas undervalued. Running with him as your second back in non-point-per-reception leagues is acceptable, but he should be heavily targeted in PPR formats. He has enough of a following to be noticed on draft day, as you can tell by his ADP, so don't count on your league mates forgetting his name.

Thomas Jones | Kansas City Chiefs | ADP: 9th round

Jones finds himself on a new team in '10 despite a career year in '09. The 31-year-old vet rumbled for career highs with 1,402 yards and 14 scores. His 4.2 yards per carry was higher than his career average of 4.0.

In Kansas City, Jones won't have as strong an offensive line as with the New York Jets, but he might not be losing as many carries to Jamaal Charles as many think. Sure, Charles is slated to take a lot of the carries, but can his 5-foot-11, 199-pound frame hold up? He hasn't been tested in a full season.

Jones is a more powerful, between-the-tackles runner than Charles. He should be ber around the goal line and give KC a nice change of pace to the speedier Charles.

Fantasy value: Jones could easily approach double-digit scores for the third straight year. If you draft Charles, Jones must be handcuffed to him. Even if you don't have Charles, take a shot on Jones as early as the late seventh. He's a No. 4 back that can perform as a decent No. 3. Point-per-reception owners shouldn't reach too high, though.

LaDainian Tomlinson | New York Jets | ADP: 10th round

Yup, him again. We are not calling Tomlinson a sleeper this year, but he is undervalued. After two years of poor play, fantasy owners have bailed head first off the bandwagon, and rightfully so. That doesn't mean you should not want to own LT at the right price.

Tomlinson will be in a timeshare with second-year back Shonn Greene. Some games LT will glean around 20 touches, some games only a handful. He may be maddeningly inconsistent and frustrating for fantasy owners. Doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, we know, but you can do far worse in your flex spot in point-per-reception leagues.

Greene isn't much of a receiver. Tomlinson is a fantastic blocker and has spent extra time working with quarterback Mark Sanchez to get on the same page. Even though New York added wideout Santonio Holmes in an effort to open up the passing game, he'll still miss the first four games and will need time to get his football legs back.

Fantasy value: We feel LT, who has a nose for paydirt, could touch the ball in excess of 200 times this year. His value, as mentioned above, is far greater in PPR leagues. He is a fourth back or a flex option if you are rewarded for receptions. You don't want him as anything better than a fifth back in standard non-PPR leagues; he is an RB4 in very deep formats. Take a chance on him in the late middle rounds in PPR and around his ADP in less advanced scoring leagues for value. 

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Also See:
Sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Busts: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Undervalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Overvalued players: 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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