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2011 Undervalued Sleepers – Running Backs

With most of the fantasy leagues for 2011 yet to draft, I thought it would be a good time to breakout our 2011 sleepers as we are now in the middle of August. Usually I would have our undervalued player articles up before this month but because of the lockout situation, and drastic player movement, I decided to wait until things cooled down.

Below I have selected those running backs that I feel are undervalued sleepers coming into the 2011 fantasy football season, and I’ve included their up to date ADP values as taken from Mock Draft Central and Fantasy Football Calculator, for both PPR and standard redraft leagues. This way you can get an idea of where each runner is falling in recent mock drafts, and in understanding this you can start to set your game plan up for those options below, you want to target, and where you believe you can get them.

2011 Sleeper / Undervalued Players – QB | RB | WR | TE | DL | LB | DB |

Felix Jones –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 43.79 43.5
Standard Redraft ADP Value 44.18 49.2

With the release of Marion Barber and the possible release of Tashard Choice, it is clear to see that the Cowboys are going to give Felix Jones a feature back role this season. This this week, Owner Jerry Jones that the Cowboys are tied to the success of Jones, to determine if the team is going to be a success.

Basically, what fantasy owners can get from that is Jones was selected as a first-round pick to be a game breaker starting tailback but injuries and the presence of Barber, have held him back. While Jones is landing somewhere in the fifth to sixth rounds according to the ADP trends above (basically a flex play), he should perform as a No.2 type scorer this season.

Health will always be a concern, but you can’t tell me that top ten running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew don’t have their health risks as well. The Cowboys are set for a big bounce back year on offense, and Jones should post breakout numbers.

Mark Ingram –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 66.12 53.6
Standard Redraft ADP Value 65.10 50.0

Don’t by into those annalists that tell you the Saints will use a RBBC as they normally do this season. Sure, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles will get a few touches, but the Saints are grooming Mark Ingram to be a feature back. Since early in camp, Ingram has been running with the first team, and his touchdown in the first week of the preseason is just another reason to believe.

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Look to Ingram as a must have selection as late as the fifth round, and a worthy option to consider in the fourth round as a late No.2 or early flex play selection.

Marshawn Lynch –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 70.4 62.14
Standard Redraft ADP Value 68.2 66.28

The Seahawks are going to have their problems in the passing game this season, but I still believe Marshawn Lynch is going to have one of his best stat lines in his career. Maybe he will start out a little slow as the Seahawks get adjusted to all the new players on offense, but you should have a shot at land Lynch as your No.4 tail back which means he would make for a great depth option.

Beanie Wells –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 83.97 77.5
Standard Redraft ADP Value 82.03 75.1

While many have rookie Ryan Williams as the running back to draft in Arizona, I’m not ready to give up on Beanie Wells at this point. I feel Wells suffered more from hard luck, then his ineffective play in 2010. With Kevin Kolb under center, and Wells in better physical shape than ever, look for the veteran to get every opportunity to keep the starting job this season.

Reggie Bush –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 116.11 82.9
Standard Redraft ADP Value 120.10 95.2

I don’t blame you if you’ve given up on Reggie Bush as a fantasy relevant option after so many down years with the Saints, but the guy is going to be active in the Dolphins offense. One sign that Bush will see an increase in touches on the offense is that Miami is using other players to work out as the teams punt returners, leaving Bush to focus on being a starting tailback.

While Bush should give you respectable numbers in the first, half of the season, look to rookie Daniel Thomas to be the main runner as we head into November, as I don’t believe Bush will hold up.

Mike Tolbert –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 83.12 78.5
Standard Redraft ADP Value 92.59 82.4

It’s time to bail on Ryan Mathews as an option to pin your hopes on as a starter let alone a No.2 fantasy back, as he’s been selected in mock drafts this summer. Mathews has a ways to go in his development, and the lockout didn’t do anything to help him. Instead look to Mike Tolbert as the option to go after at a cheaper price, and he will probably end up with more touchdowns than Mathews as was the case in last year.

Update – Chargers beat writer Kevin Acee seems to feel that Mathews will see more work in this RBBC, but I would still look to Tolbert as the better option to own if Mathews continues to be drafted as a selection in the first five rounds. One week of production from Mathews in camp is nice, but he still has to show consistency and that he can hold up on the field. I have much respect for Acee as a reporter for this team, and I’m not saying Mathews won’t have the better numbers, but Tolbert has good value.

Delone Carter –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 205.91 139.4
Standard Redraft ADP Value 207.70 NA

Before Joseph Addai re-signed with the Colts, I was all in on drafting Delone Carter as early as a flex play option this summer. Now that Carter is the backup, he’s a nice late round stash as Addai is injury prone and should find his way out of the lineup at some point. I believe Carter is actually the better running back and should post great numbers when Addai is gone from the team. Don’t look to Donald Brown as an option as the team is ready to cut ties with him after this season.

Daniel Thomas –

MDC FFC (12 tm)
PPR League ADP Value 82.38 63.9
Standard Redraft ADP Value 80.19 63.6

While Reggie Bush should be the star in the Dolphins offense to begin the season, it should be Daniel Thomas that laughs last, as Bush’s knee will never allow him to play a full sixteen games. Thomas is a talent tail back and having Bush on the team should actually allow him to sit back and develop for the first month or two, before he takes over from injury.

Honorable Mention

Rashad Jennings – If you’ve been following this blog over the summer, you know I’m very concerned about Maurice Jones-Drew’s ability to hold up this season. Rashad Jennings proved he could be a useful player at times in 2010, and would get the first opportunity to start, if and when Jones-Drew misses time.

James Starks – I’m not a big fan of James Starks, but I’m not a complete fool as well. While I like rookie Alex Green as a better fit in this offense, for the future, Starks is clearly the No.2 tail back in Green Bay. If anything should happen to Ryan Grant, Starks would be a flex play starter.

Michael Bush – I love Darren McFadden’s game, but the guy is basically the new Fred Taylor, as he seems to be a little fragile in his time with the Raiders. While I’m not in love with Oakland’s loss of talent on the offensive line, Michael Bush should see some time as the starter this year, and would be a useful option if McFadden is gone.

Ryan Williams – Many fantasy experts seem to be pumping up Cardinals’ rookie Ryan Williams to beat out Beanie Wells as the starter at some point. While Williams has respectable skills, as you read above I like Wells as the better tail back to own. That said, if Wells should find an injury, or for some reason, I’m dead wrong, and he can’t get it done, Williams would be the next in line to start and would probably hold onto the job.

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