Running back is the position that many times wins or loses fantasy football leagues. Getting value at the position is always a top goal for owners during the draft. If you can get depth at the RB position, you can always work the trade market and get other pieces later in the year. I tend to fill up my bench with RBs and try to get at least a sleeper or two if possible.
Last week, we looked at some overrated running backs headed into fantasy football drafts after looking at overrated and underrated QBs. Here’s four RBs that I think could emerge as great picks where they’re going in most drafts. These backs are not going in the top ten but easily could finish in the top 10 if things go their way this season.
James Starks – Green Bay Packers
Starks is ranked way down the list in many preseason rankings. ON ESPN he’s all the way down at 38. Starks was a bit of a disappointment last year as he ended up mired in a time-share with Ryan Grant and had only one TD before messing up his ankle in November.
He’ll get the opportunity though to step up this year. He’s in a great offense that will obviously put up points although most of them have come in recent years via the pass behind Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have (at this point) let Ryan Grant go and Alex Green is coming off an ACL injury leaving Starks as the main guy in the backfield. Fullback John Kuhn is still around to steal a few TDs, but Starks should be on the field most of the time.
He should be able to get some running room as defenses load up to stop Rodgers and also has been involved in the passing game in years past. Last year in limited time he caught 29 passes for 216 yards. He should be able to catch 50 passes if he’s healthy and find the end zone with more regularity than last season.
Starks has breakout potential and can be had late in drafts. Don’t go crazy and draft him over more sure things, but as RB depth Starks could be a top 15 back or a very valuable trade piece if you stack up your RBs.
Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills
Everyone seems to forget how good Jackson was before breaking his leg last year. I understand the major concern with him is his age at 31 years old. Last year though, he showed no signs of aging finishing third in rushing yards per game with 93.4. He looked to be a top-five fantasy back before going down injured.
After he went down, C.J. Spiller stepped in and played well. There will most likely be some kind of time-share which could actually be a great thing for Jackson as it keeps him fresh and helps him stay healthy all season. Jackson and Spiller could easily be this year’s version of multiple backs both worth owning especially if the Bills revamped defense can keep them in the game so that they don’t have to get pass happy like they did at times last season.
Jackson is available outside the top 10 RBs and could easily end the year in the top 8. If you can get him around the 15th back off the board noone will ooooo and aaahhhh over your pick, but you may just end up with one of the best backs week in and week out to build your team around.
Roy Helu Jr. – Washington Redskins
Mike Shanahan can never be trusted. That’s why you can get Helu around the 20th RB off the board in some drafts. Tim Hightower is the starter but he’s on his way back from a serious injury and hasn’t shown he can be a feature-back for a season.
Helu has three big games last year when he received 20+ carries. He showed his abilities as a playmaker both receiving and rushing last year and finished with three TDs and over 1,000 all-purpose yards. If he gets the opportunity, he could be the breakout player in this ‘Skins offense as he and RG3 set a nice foundation for them for the coming years.
Helu could be the steal of the draft. Take a shot on him if you can get him late, preferably with two solid backs on your roster already. If he has a big game or two, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade and get some good value before Shanahan moves on to the next back-of-the-week.
Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions
Best was great when healthy last year. He averaged 112.8 yards from scrimmage in six games last year. The problem with Best has always been his struggles to stay healthy. He has inherited the “if he’s healthy” addendum to his name from Matthew Stafford. With the new NFL sensitivity to concussions there’s a possibility that Best won’t be able to get on the field much. He’s on the PUP list now and is being evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
Do all you can to not count on Best, but if you can add him as a extra back he could come up solid gold for you. If possible handcuff him in later rounds with Kevin Smith or Mikel Leshoure since they’ll be the ones getting the time in the solid Lions offense if Best is unable to stay or get on the field.
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