It doesn’t matter if you are drafting or auctioning. You need targets. In any given round or price point you need guys that will produce above their perceived value. You need guys who have more potential than their position in fantasy football rankings would suggest. I’ve given you undervalued receivers to target. Now here are a few running backs that fit the same bill. You like will spend for one of the bi names in the first or second round. But if you don’t go RB/RB, you might do well to make your number two back one of the guys on this list. Players listed by round I would target them in and current average draft position.
Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons – Third Round/Fourth
I haven’t been the biggest Turner supporter over the last few years. And I am always skeptical of running backs over the age of thirty. And yes, the Falcons have acknowledged that they will use Turner less in 2012. But at this point, his stock in fantasy drafts has dropped to the point where I have to say that we have gone too far. I’m the one who last year said that The Burner was no more, that Turner was slow and ineffective. But Turner is currently going as in the fourth round, as the 18th running back chosen. This is a guy who finished seventh among backs last year. He’s not going to drop that far in production. Turner is thirty, but he’s barely thirty. And unlike most thirty year old backs, Turner spent four years backing up LaDainian Tomlinson. That’s four years of wear and tear saved. When running backs go, they go fast. But my money says Turner has one more year of top-15 production.
The other factor that makes Turner unattractive is the presence of Jacquizz Rodgers. I liked what I saw from Rodgers last year and I think I will love him in 2012. I think he is one of the better sleepers at running back this year and if you have Turner, you double the value from Rodgers. He is now a big time fantasy sleeper and a handcuff. The Falcons want to pass more this year but they will still run plenty. And as long as you get both guys, you will likely be happy with the production.
Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos – Third Round/Seventh
I’m puzzled that more people haven’t started touting McGahee for 2012. It was pretty well established after a decade in Indy that running backs produce beyond their ability when Peyton Manning is under center. From Joseph Addai to Dominic Rhodes, we’ve seen marginal talents put up quality fantasy numbers over the years.
I think it’s also clear that McGahee is not a marginal talent. He’s hit 1,200 yards in a season for three franchises. (ok, 1,199 with Denver) McGahee is the most talented back Peyton Manning has worked with since Edgerrin James. Once that defense has to spread the field to cover all of Manning’s targets, the middle will open for McGahee. Moreover, McGahee has little competition for the role of feature back. The UGA fan in me dies a little inside when I say this but I’ve given up on Knowshon Moreno as a legit pro back. He can’t stay on the field. So who else is going to take carries from McGahee, Lance Ball?
Everyone loves Ryan Williams again. But last season Beanie Wells was a top-ten fantasy back. This year you can draft him in the seventh round. As a reformed Beanie-hater, I find this preposterous. I thought that there was no way the former Buckeye would stay healthy in the NFL but Wells has missed just four games in his three year career. Over that span, he’s averaged 4.2 ypc and been effective on the goal line. He scored ten times last year: even if he ends up splitting carries with Williams in 2012, the Arizona coaches will likely give Beanie the goal line touches. He probably not repeat his 2011 performance but I’d wager that he remains a solid number two back in fantasy football.
Shonn Greene – New York Jets – Fifth Round/Sixth
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Jets are going back to ground and pound. They’re going to run the ball a ton. So Greene should improve on the 1,000 yards he put up last year. He should improve on his 17th place finish among fantasy backs, especially considering Tomlinson is no longer in town. Somehow, he is lasting till the sixth round in drafts. Who do fantasy owners think is going to be doing the pounding on the aforementioned ground. Joe McKnight of 3.1 ypc? Sixth round pick Terrance Ganaway? If Tim Tebow takes over the starting job he will rush some, but a Tebow offense leads to more carries overall for his team. So Greene, who has been consistent and durable throughout his career, should prepare to receive more than the 250 carries he had last year. The only downside is that if Tebow takes over, the touchdowns could dry up.
CJ Spiller – Buffalo Bills – Seventh Round/Eighth
Spiller might be the best player to have on your fantasy bench in 2012. Look at the way the he closed out last season. With Fred Jackson out of the lineup, Spiller tore up defenses, finishing with a 5.2 ypc average. I’m not assuming that Jackson will be injured again this year. I do think that he will be worn as the season progresses and that Spiller will gradually assume a greater role on the offense. If that does happen, watch out, because Buffalo has the easiest second half schedule in the league. That’s why I’d love to stash Spiller on my bench fort half a season. If either of your starters go down, you have a guy that’s prepared to rip through some of the worst defenses in the league as your fantasy season draws close to the end.