5 Fantasy Football Stud Running Backs Who Will Slide on Draft Day

1 of 6

5 Fantasy Football Stud Running Backs Who Will Slide on Draft Day

Fantasy
The Star-Ledger

It’s that time of year again. Fantasy football drafts are on the horizon and you’re ready to dominate your league from day one. This year, everyone’s focused on the depth at the quarterback position. Young studs like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick have taken the league by storm. And for the first time in a while, we see a class of 10-12 rock-solid quarterbacks.

But what about the running backs?

Your No. 1 focus in fantasy drafts this year should be securing the running back position. Your backs will be the core of your team, and you’ll rely heavily on their consistency to pull you through the season. But after the first batch of eight or nine studs gets taken, you’ll see a relatively steep drop-off. Where do you go from there?

To the naked eye, the running back pickings might be slim in the early-middle rounds of your draft. But the key is finding the hidden gems. Like every year, there are guys listed well outside the top 15 on your draft sheet who end up finishing much higher than expected. Example: did anyone expect Alfred Morris to finish in the top five among fantasy backs last season?

So sit back and wait for a fantasy quarterback to fall into your lap. There are plenty of good ones. But carefully build your team around a couple of great running backs and you’ll be set. Even when you think the best backs have already been taken, there are likely a few who will slide lower than they should.

Here are five potential studs who will slide down the draft board.

2 of 6

5. Montee Ball

Ball
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ball is a tough and talented back playing in an incredibly high-powered offense. While he's currently competing with Ronnie Hillman for carries, he's expected to win the starting job and should see plenty of work in the Denver Broncos' backfield. With defenses keying in on Peyton Manning and the deadly passing attack, they might look to run the ball more than we think. Ball has a very high ceiling for this year, but he's typically being ranked in the 18-22 range as a fantasy running back.

If he emerges as the featured back for the Broncos as we expect, he could easily be a 1,000-yard rusher with no shortage of red-zone opportunities. In a best-case scenario, Ball would finish top 10 in fantasy points for running backs. Consider him an early-middle round steal if he falls to you, and expect great production in his rookie campaign.

3 of 6

4. Darren Sproles

Sproles
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Sproles is a jack-of-all-trades with enormous value in PPR leagues. He didn't have his best year in 2012, but keep in mind he missed three games and suffered from the absence of Sean Payton. He should see an increased role in the New Orleans Saints' offense this year with a chance to put up numbers similar to those of the 2011 season.

Sproles has been a model of consistency as far as receiving goes. He's totaled at least 75 receptions and seven touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. And though he doesn't factor very heavily into the Saints' running game, you can still expect 1,000+ all-purpose yards, 75 receptions and 8-10 total touchdowns. Not to mention he's a punt-return threat.

He might not fit the mold of a typical fantasy stud running back, but Sproles is more than capable of being one. He could surprise fantasy owners and finish top 12 among running backs in total points, and it wouldn't be his first time doing it.

4 of 6

3. Lamar Miller

Miller
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If you're looking for reasons as to why the Miami Dolphins didn't do more to re-sign Reggie Bush, look no further than Lamar Miller. The Dolphins love their talented young running back, who is now the favorite to grab the starting job. Miller will be entering his second season in the league with a great chance to establish himself as the back of the future. He's yet to prove himself in the NFL, but he certainly has all the tools to do so.

From a fantasy perspective, it's tough to say how high you should reach for Miller. There's always a looming threat of Daniel Thomas eating into his carries, and the Dolphins' offense is a work in progress. But Miller's upside is huge. If all goes according to plan in Miami, he should see well over 200 carries. 1,000 yards rushing is entirely realistic, but how often he finds the end zone is up in the air. If the Dolphins' offense hits its stride, Miller instantly becomes a potential top-15 fantasy back.

5 of 6

2. Chris Ivory

Ivory
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

No matter who's playing quarterback for the New York Jets, they'll need to rely upon a strong running game to establish an offensive rhythm this year. That's where Ivory comes in. He finally finds himself on a team that will desperately utilize his skills, and he fits into the Jets' offense perfectly. Assuming Ivory can shake a lingering hamstring injury, he's slated for a breakout year in New York. He should be everything that Shonn Greene was to the Jets, and more.

Unlike Greene, Ivory has the speed and lateral quickness to make him a big play threat. The Jets should have no choice but to make him the workhorse this year. While Bilal Powell has impressed coaches in the midst of Ivory's training camp absence, Ivory should have no problem dominating the backfield as long as he's healthy.

Ivory is a fantasy sleeper who's value hinges on how many times he can find the end zone. If the Jets can manage to find any sort of rhythm on offense, his value will skyrocket. Despite low expectations for the Jets as a team this year, Ivory's still a stud with big potential.

6 of 6

1. David Wilson

Wilson
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson is a popular breakout candidate among fantasy experts, and with good reason. Ahmad Bradshaw is finally gone and Wilson has the starting job on a good offense. The existence of Andre Brown in the New York Giants' backfield is cause for some concern, but it doesn't take away from Wilson's abilities. He has the speed and explosiveness to excel in the Giants' backfield this season, and he'll get plenty of carries.

His name doesn't jump off the page on fantasy draft boards, but all signs point to Wilson having a very productive year. As long as he keeps the fumbling to a minimum and stays out of Tom Coughlin's doghouse, I see him finishing in the upper echelon of fantasy running backs.

1 of 6

5 Fantasy Football Stud Running Backs Who Will Slide on Draft Day

Fantasy
The Star-Ledger

It’s that time of year again. Fantasy football drafts are on the horizon and you’re ready to dominate your league from day one. This year, everyone’s focused on the depth at the quarterback position. Young studs like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick have taken the league by storm. And for the first time in a while, we see a class of 10-12 rock-solid quarterbacks.

But what about the running backs?

Your No. 1 focus in fantasy drafts this year should be securing the running back position. Your backs will be the core of your team, and you’ll rely heavily on their consistency to pull you through the season. But after the first batch of eight or nine studs gets taken, you’ll see a relatively steep drop-off. Where do you go from there?

To the naked eye, the running back pickings might be slim in the early-middle rounds of your draft. But the key is finding the hidden gems. Like every year, there are guys listed well outside the top 15 on your draft sheet who end up finishing much higher than expected. Example: did anyone expect Alfred Morris to finish in the top five among fantasy backs last season?

So sit back and wait for a fantasy quarterback to fall into your lap. There are plenty of good ones. But carefully build your team around a couple of great running backs and you’ll be set. Even when you think the best backs have already been taken, there are likely a few who will slide lower than they should.

Here are five potential studs who will slide down the draft board.

2 of 6

5. Montee Ball

Ball
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ball is a tough and talented back playing in an incredibly high-powered offense. While he's currently competing with Ronnie Hillman for carries, he's expected to win the starting job and should see plenty of work in the Denver Broncos' backfield. With defenses keying in on Peyton Manning and the deadly passing attack, they might look to run the ball more than we think. Ball has a very high ceiling for this year, but he's typically being ranked in the 18-22 range as a fantasy running back.

If he emerges as the featured back for the Broncos as we expect, he could easily be a 1,000-yard rusher with no shortage of red-zone opportunities. In a best-case scenario, Ball would finish top 10 in fantasy points for running backs. Consider him an early-middle round steal if he falls to you, and expect great production in his rookie campaign.

3 of 6

4. Darren Sproles

Sproles
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Sproles is a jack-of-all-trades with enormous value in PPR leagues. He didn't have his best year in 2012, but keep in mind he missed three games and suffered from the absence of Sean Payton. He should see an increased role in the New Orleans Saints' offense this year with a chance to put up numbers similar to those of the 2011 season.

Sproles has been a model of consistency as far as receiving goes. He's totaled at least 75 receptions and seven touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. And though he doesn't factor very heavily into the Saints' running game, you can still expect 1,000+ all-purpose yards, 75 receptions and 8-10 total touchdowns. Not to mention he's a punt-return threat.

He might not fit the mold of a typical fantasy stud running back, but Sproles is more than capable of being one. He could surprise fantasy owners and finish top 12 among running backs in total points, and it wouldn't be his first time doing it.

4 of 6

3. Lamar Miller

Miller
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If you're looking for reasons as to why the Miami Dolphins didn't do more to re-sign Reggie Bush, look no further than Lamar Miller. The Dolphins love their talented young running back, who is now the favorite to grab the starting job. Miller will be entering his second season in the league with a great chance to establish himself as the back of the future. He's yet to prove himself in the NFL, but he certainly has all the tools to do so.

From a fantasy perspective, it's tough to say how high you should reach for Miller. There's always a looming threat of Daniel Thomas eating into his carries, and the Dolphins' offense is a work in progress. But Miller's upside is huge. If all goes according to plan in Miami, he should see well over 200 carries. 1,000 yards rushing is entirely realistic, but how often he finds the end zone is up in the air. If the Dolphins' offense hits its stride, Miller instantly becomes a potential top-15 fantasy back.

5 of 6

2. Chris Ivory

Ivory
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

No matter who's playing quarterback for the New York Jets, they'll need to rely upon a strong running game to establish an offensive rhythm this year. That's where Ivory comes in. He finally finds himself on a team that will desperately utilize his skills, and he fits into the Jets' offense perfectly. Assuming Ivory can shake a lingering hamstring injury, he's slated for a breakout year in New York. He should be everything that Shonn Greene was to the Jets, and more.

Unlike Greene, Ivory has the speed and lateral quickness to make him a big play threat. The Jets should have no choice but to make him the workhorse this year. While Bilal Powell has impressed coaches in the midst of Ivory's training camp absence, Ivory should have no problem dominating the backfield as long as he's healthy.

Ivory is a fantasy sleeper who's value hinges on how many times he can find the end zone. If the Jets can manage to find any sort of rhythm on offense, his value will skyrocket. Despite low expectations for the Jets as a team this year, Ivory's still a stud with big potential.

6 of 6

1. David Wilson

Wilson
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson is a popular breakout candidate among fantasy experts, and with good reason. Ahmad Bradshaw is finally gone and Wilson has the starting job on a good offense. The existence of Andre Brown in the New York Giants' backfield is cause for some concern, but it doesn't take away from Wilson's abilities. He has the speed and explosiveness to excel in the Giants' backfield this season, and he'll get plenty of carries.

His name doesn't jump off the page on fantasy draft boards, but all signs point to Wilson having a very productive year. As long as he keeps the fumbling to a minimum and stays out of Tom Coughlin's doghouse, I see him finishing in the upper echelon of fantasy running backs.


Around the Web