This time of year every fantasy football fanatic basically has two lists: top players and sleepers. But what about those guys in between? Every year several of these "tweeners" end up in the top ten at their position despite dropping outside the top 25 drafted. Now these are not the late-round stunners like Steve Slaton or Le'Ron McClain, who came out of nowhere to produce very good fantasy numbers in 2008. Do you remember where Michael Turner went in your draft last year? How about DeAngelo Williams, Matt Forte, and Thomas Jones? I pulled out my fantasy magazine from last year and looked at the experts cumulative top 25 running back rankings; Turner was ranked 17 and none of the others even made the list! Every one of them was listed at the top of their respective team's depth chart for the entire preseason, so we all knew they were going to play, yet they still dropped to anywhere from the 4th-7th rounds in most leagues! These mid-round gems are the key to dominating your league. Top ten caliber runners will be there for the taking in the middle rounds, and here are some places to look for them:
Willie Parker looks to rebound in 2009
Ryan Grant, GB - Grant has been a second-half wonder in both of his NFL seasons. His inconsistency is scary but his potential in a powerful offense very high. He struggled through the first half of last season due to a pre-season holdout followed immediately by a hamstring injury that prevented him from displaying the same big-play ability he had in 2007. With the cat out of the bag on Aaron Rodgers, defenses will be looking for the pass much more in the red zone which should allow Grant to improve on his 5 TDs from a year ago. His ADP has him going around the 40th pick. If you could get a 1,200 yard 8-10 TD back in the fourth round you'd love it, wouldn't you?
Julius Jones, Sea - Jones has been one of the most frustrating fantasy backs since his solid rookie season in Dallas. His career path is eerily similar to that of Warrick Dunn's, having some success before switching teams and now playing under Head Coach and Offensive coordinator Jim Mora and Greg Knapp. Dunn proceeded to have his most prolific seasons in his three years in that system. Now that Mora and Knapp are bringing their offense to Seattle, Jones could see a career renaissance akin to Dunn's. Also, his 4.4 yards per carry last season was a career high. His ADP is over 100, so take a chance on Jones as a backup and see where he takes you.
LenDale White, Ten - From what we've seen of White so far his off-season weight-loss has not hurt his ability at the goal-line. Although he will probably lose even more touches to speed-demon Chris Johnson, Tennessee will remain a running offense and White will continue to punch the ball into the end zone. He should still end up with around 650-700 yards sharing time with Johnson and double-digits TDs are almost guaranteed. His biggest upside would have to include an injury to Johnson, but he will be solid either way. With an ADP of 87, LenDale has very little risk but could provide results as big as he used to be.