The hardest position for fantasy football owners to find a sleeper at year in and year out is running back. Fantasy football 2012 will be no different as there will be a shortage of workhorse backs across the league, and fantasy owners will be scrambling in the late rounds to identify the best running back sleepers that can contribute to their championship teams.
I have compiled this list of my favorite running back sleeper picks for the 2012 fantasy football draft, in many cases I will be targeting these players in the late rounds. For our complete listing of the top 100 RB’s in 2012 please click here
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Here are my top 5 RB sleepers for 2012 (ADP = Average Draft Position)
#1 – Donald Brown – RB – Indianpolis Colts (ADP 67.69)
Here are some of the names with an ADP in the 60′s. Ben Tate, Jahvid Best, Stevan Ridley, DeAngelo Williams. None of those names are terrific options this season, yet we find a starting RB in Donald Brown in the middle of that pack. Brown will be carrying the majority of the load this season after posting 4.8 yards per carry in 2011, and while he will lose some carries on 3rd down, he should certainly be looked at earlier than the late 6th round. As one of the few true #1′s that is currently going under the radar, pick up Brown in the 4th or 5th rounds as his value should be increased now that the Colts have a true QB under center that will keep defenses honest.
#2 – Toby Gerhart – RB – Minnesota Vikings (ADP 96.57)
At the end of 2011 Gerhart started 5 games for the Vikings in place of Adrian Peterson. He rushed for 401 yards with a TD, and caught 14 passes for 83 yards and a receiving TD. I expect those numbers to improve as Gerhart has looked stronger and quicker in camp this season, and with AP still working his way back from a torn ACL, Gerhart will be the starting running back to open the season for the Vikings. He is currently going in the 9th round in 10 team formats, and with the Vikes playing it safe with AP there is a chance that Gerhart will retain value throughout the season, even with Peterson back in the fold. Take a chance on Gerhart in the 7th or 8th round and you should have some nice sleeper value.
#3 - Tim Hightower – RB – Washington Redskins (ADP 123.47)
Tim Hightower continues to work his way back from an ACL injury suffered in 2011, and Roy Helu is the favorite pick of many fantasy football owners. I expect that if Hightower comes back at 100%, Shanahan will give him the starting RB job, especially with a rookie QB under center and Helu producing sporadically last season. With an ADP in the 12th round in 10 team formats, Hightower makes for an excellent sleeper pick as someone that could start contributing to your fantasy squad around the 5th or 6th week of the 2012 season. This is a low risk play with high rewards as the majority of names taken in the 12th round or later will all have some element of the unknown attached.
#4 – LeGarrette Blount – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 164.94)
It is no secret in Tampa that Doug Martin has the inside track to the starting RB job, and fantasy owners have started to take note as Martin currently has an ADP of 22.69, making him a high second round pick. Martin has been compared favorably to Ray Rice, who coach Schiano coached at Rutgers, which makes many owners feel that Martin will be the Ray Rice of 2012. Forgotten in the shuffle is Blount who was handed the workhorse role in 2011, where he failed to capitalize, and some might say failed miserably. Many pundits have portrayed Blount as a lazy slacker that doesn’t care to put in the time to become a top rusher in the NFL, but then Schiano puts out a quote like this. ”He is hustling his tail off. On the turnover we had the other day, he was the one who chased the guy down and had a strip opportunity, so we are seeing good things. He’s doing well.” As a bigger back, I could see Blount filling a Brandon Jacobs type role around the goal line and on short yardage carries. In many formats, Blount isn’t even being taken, so you can take a late round flier on him while not wasting a higher pick. And if Martin goes down to injury Blount’s numbers will go up exponentially, I recommend Blount in the 13th round as a decent sleeper option.
#5 – Robert Turbin – RB – Seattle Seahawks (ADP 205.40)
Marshawn Lynch was arrested and is currently facing DUI charges as we approach the 2012 football season. There is an outside chance that Lynch could face a suspension, especially if he is convicted in court, and rookie Robert Turbin figures to carry the load for the Seahawks if Lynch goes out. Coach Carroll has reportedly been impressed with Turbin and his running ability, and it looks like he will open the season as the no 2 RB behind Marshawn Lynch. I like Turbin as a late round handcuff option to Lynch if there is an injury or suspension, and think that he could be a decent starter in spots for your team this season.