Fantasy Sleeper Running Backs by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator & Doug Bowles
The NFL Draft has come and gone, and in it’s wake, along with a wild free agency, are dramatically changes to depth charts. Many new faces to the NFL will be obvious 2015 fantasy draft picks in September, such as Oakland’s WR Amari Cooper, San Diego’s RB Melvin Gordon and Chicago WR Kevin White. I have often said however, that almost anyone can intelligently draft the first 4-5 rounds of a fantasy. The real work is keenly navigating through the later rounds and picking up fantasy sleepers that other owners haven’t paid attention to, or don’t even know about.
Last year about this time, I wrote an article entitled “Shuffle Up and Draft” and strongly urged owners to seriously consider the 2014 wide receiver class as legitimate fantasy weapons. If you took my advice, you probably did very well last year.
Because of the success of the rookies in 2014, this year’s rookie wide receiver class won’t fly under anyone’s radar, so one has to dig deeper into rosters to find potential “Sleepers for 2015″.
In 2014, the general consensus was that the league had “devalued’ the running back position, so fantasy owners were forced to as well. Owners of DeMarco Murray or LeVeon Bell however, were glad that they didn’t, and a push is back to get quality backs early.
Here are some running back names that you should consider after the top 10 are gone.
Indianapolis RB Frank Gore- I love this landing spot for Gore! He is one of the toughest players in the NFL, so he’s always going to suit up. He now plays on one of the best offenses and he will get tons of opportunities in the red zone. Utter- Fantasy currently has him as the #15 RB for 2015, and that may be too low.
Dallas RB Joseph Randle- I would not have been surprised if the Cowboys had drafted a running back in the first round of this years draft, but at the same time, wasn’t surprised that they didn’t draft one at all. I have been a firm believer that they consider RB Randle perfectly capable of handling the starting position in Dallas, especially with the league’s best O-Line. FYI- Don’t even consider RB McFadden as the starter. This guy is insurance only.
New England RB LeGarrett Blount- In current mock drafts, names like Ellington, Yeldon, Spiller (seriously?) and Gurley are going before Blount. HC Belichick has always gotten huge production out of Blount, and with RBs Vereen and Ridley gone, it’s Blount’s job to lose, and I don’t think he will, barring an unfortunate injury. Blount is Utter-Fantasy’s 16th ranked RB going into 2015., ( not #24, as in current mock drafts)
Detroit RB Ameer Abdullah- The rookie RB rushed for 67 yards on 7 carries in the Lions’ Week 1 preseason opener. With Joique Bell still in recovery mode from offseason knee and Achilles’ issues, Abdullah ran with the starters and broke off an impressive 45-yard run between the tackles, showing off his agility and cutting ability. It’s a crowded backfield with Bell to return, and with Theo Riddick getting some reps, but Abdullah’s talent is unquestionable
San Diego RB Danny Woodhead- 2nd on the Chargers depth chart, Woodhead is expected to remain “a vital weapon” for the Chargers “on third down and in the passing game.” In his 1sy preseason game and 1st game back since last September when he injured his right ankle, Woodhead scored on an 8-yard run. Woodhead caught 76 balls in 2013, finishing as a top-13 PPR back
Houston RB Alfred Blue- With the newest injury to RB Arian Foster, the Texans find themselves without a starting RB, so RB Blue is once again on fantasy owner’s radar. It’s a familar role for Blue, who has stepped in more than a couple times due to Foster’s injury history. In the 1st preseason game vs SF, Blue was very impressive with Alfred Blue rushed 9 times for 59 yards with his longest run going for 32 yards. Houston may add another RB, but until we know differently, it’s Blue’s job to lose
Carolina Rookie Cameron Artis-Payne– 4th Round selection- Many owners became new believers in RB Jonathon Stewart last year, when he surprised most by ending the season as the 22nd ranked RB. I am NOT one of those new believers. Stewart is always going to be an ankle injury away from sitting the bench, which he has had and done, many times before. Artis-Payne is a very physical runner with great vision, and will get split carries even if Stewart stays healthy.
Arizona Rookie RB Chris Johnson- This paragraph was dedicated to the rookie RB David Johnson, but HC Bruce Arians has been so frustrated with his injured RBs ( Ellington and David Johnson) that he signed RB Chris Johnson. Chris hasn’t done much the last couple yars, but in 2014 he did have a 4.27 a yard rushing average. RB David Johnson is a better candidate for goal line work than starter RB Ellington. Ellington is also coming off the foot injury that sidelined him in 2014 for the final 5 games. Coach Bruce Arians “left open the possibility” that Chris Johnson could emerge as the Cardinals’ “featured tailback.”
Jacksonville RB Denard Robinson- The Jaguars selected Rookie RB TJ Yeldon in the 2nd round of this year’s draft and most project him as the starter. However, having a wife who is an Alabama Alum, I have watched every game of the Crimson Tide, and I can’t say that Yeldon has ever impressed me much. I believe that he will be more a “Trent Richrdson” and less of an “Eddie Lacy”. Robinson on the other hand, starts every year down on the depth chart, and fights his way into the starting line-up. Don’t write Denard off this season!
Other less potential candidates: NYJ Stevan Ridley- KC Knile Davis- NYG Shane Vereen