Fantasy football sleepers: RB - Week 1

by Tim Heaney on September 7, 2011 @ 18:57:31 PDT


In this article KFFL breaks down the fantasy football sleepers of the week. We will avoid marquee names because players of that caliber are rarely benched, regardless of their matchup. Instead, we will focus on the players that make your fantasy lineup decisions stressful each week. Read on to learn which midrange to low-end players you wouldn’t necessarily consider that you need to get into your lineup.

Fantasy football sleepers: Running backs

Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders
Bush won't stumble versus DEN

Fantasy value: High-end No. 3

  • Though the Raiders are in danger of taking a step back on offense, they'll still be relying on Bush as a frequent changeup back to lead slasher Darren McFadden. Bush hit paydirt eight times last year and will probably hold similar value this season.
  • Denver's run D should improve in 2011. They hired 4-3-oriented John Fox, they focused on D help in the draft, and they have several key players returning from injury, but they were still one of the weakest groups for ground resistance last season. Given the short camp, it wouldn't be surprising if things don't come together early on.
  • Though he totaled just 76 yards on 27 carries in his two meetings with Denver last season, Bush crossed the goal line three times against them. In '09, he rumbled for 133 yards and a score on 18 totes in Week 15.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders

Fantasy value: Flex or bench

  • McGahee was named the goal line back this preseason, and he'll essentially be in tandem work with Knowshon Moreno. In John Fox's offense, the run will be more prevalent than it was in Denver's 2010 plan.
  • The Raiders' defense allowed about one total touchdown per game to running backs last season and gave up 149.9 offensive yards per contest to the position. There's a chance they could improve as some of their younger talent grows, but they remain a solid matchup for early 2011.

Derrick Ward and Ben Tate, Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts

Fantasy value: Flex or bench

  • Arian Foster (hamstring) is day-to-day by some accounts and expects to play in others. Either way, Ward and Tate should be involved somehow in the opener, considering Houston probably will want to rest even an active Foster as much as possible.
  • Ward is running ahead of Tate on the depth chart. The former didn't have much preseason time but excelled in a changeup role behind Foster last season. Tate, meanwhile, averaged a whopping 7.4 yards per carry in the preseason, showing his burst has returned after missing all of 2010 with a broken ankle.
  • Though they won't have to work around keeping Peyton Manning (neck) off the field - he won't play in Week 1 - Houston will probably still look to take advantage of Indy's run D, which they also trampled in the opener last season. They might not even need to use Foster if they can get the upper hand on Indy's suddenly weakened O. Though Tate has more long-term upside in this battle, consider Ward the better play for this coming weekend.

Thomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills

Fantasy value: Flex or bench

  • Though freshman Marcell Dareus was drafted to bolster the D-line, the Bills still have a long ways to go before becoming respectable against the ground game. They gave up the most offensive yards per game (179.1) to opposing carriers last season.
  • Even with Todd Haley essentially taking over the offense, the Chiefs will still run the ball frequently. This might be doubly true for the first few weeks given the struggles Matt Cassel (rib) flashed at the helm in the preseason. Jones still has a place as a changeup power back, even in his declining state.

Jerome Harrison, Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fantasy value: Flex or bench

  • Harrison is the No. 2 carrier behind Jahvid Best (concussion), who had limited work in the final preseason game as he tried to get his head clear. He appears ready for Week 1, but it wouldn't be surprising if Best, who's developing an injury-prone reputation already, rests a bit more than expected.
  • Harrison has a better goal line build than Best as it is, and the Bucs weren't exactly brick walls against receiving backs, which also profiles Harrison. The recently signed Keiland Williams has similar abilities but probably isn't caught up enough in the system to make a big Week 1 dent.
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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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