As we near the peak of fantasy football draft season this week, everyone owner is looking for sleepers who can be drafted late and possibly result in a big time payout. Getting sleepers at the right price can make your fantasy year a success, but identifying them can be tricky. One thing to always look for when sleeper searching is opportunity, and one running back who could be on the verge of a huge opportunity is Texans RB Jonathan Grimes.
In almost every draft this season, you can find an ultimate lottery ticket going in the first round when some owner takes Arian Foster as a top running back. If the Foster pick hits and he returns to form, the owner gets an elite running back at an awesome value, but like the lottery, there is also a good chance Foster doesn’t pan out.
So what happens if Foster flops?
That’s where Jonathan Grimes’ big opportunity comes in. If Foster struggles or is injured again, Grimes could step right into the spotlight, and this preseason he has looked ready to seize that chance. In parts of three games this preseason, Grimes has taken 24 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown while adding four catches for 49 more yards. He has split the time in the backfield with Alfred Blue, but he seems to be lined up for the majority of work if Foster is out of the picture.
Coming into camp, Grimes was fighting for the possibility of securing the third-spot on the Texans depth chart, but a strong camp and the release of Andre Brown opened the door for the third-year back out of William & Mary to step into the primary backup role. Originally, Grimes was drafted by the Jaguars before moving to Houston last year and rounding out the depth chart behind Foster and now-Cleveland Brown Ben Tate. Grimes did get a little bit of work behind the fragile duo last season totaling 149 total yards and a touchdown in two games for the struggling Houston offense.
The big question for Grimes value this season is “What can we expect from Arian Foster?” If Foster plays and is the workhorse back, Grimes may only get a few touches per game and just take up roster space at the end of your bench. However, Foster has played exactly zero preseason snaps and hasn’t played a live-action snap since October 20 of last year. For three years from 2010-2013, Foster carried an huge portion of the offensive for the Texans and his body appears to be worn down from that workload. Could he return? I think there’s a chance, but there’s also a strong chance that he doesn’t which makes him an extremely risky first round gamble.
Whoever is the Texans running back will have serious upside with a solid offensive line and a good offensive system from new Head Coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien doesn’t have a prototypical franchise QB on the roster, though, so expect his offense to be very focused on getting the ball into the hands of his running back both on the ground and in the passing game.
The opportunity to be the focus of the offense could make Grimes a top-ten running back option for some weeks this season when he is in the right matchup and Foster is indeed sidelined. Grimes is a boom or bust pick, but I would much rather take Grimes toward the end of the draft and gamble with that pick that at some point this season Foster will again break down than to roll the dice early on Foster staying healthy. If you do decide to take Foster early, you have to make getting Grimes one of your top late-round priorities to cover yourself just in case.