Along with selecting a top running back or two for your fantasy team, in the later rounds it’s also good to pick up a few sleepers. They may surprise you by their talent or their increased amount of play if their fellow starting running back goes down and they up starting for a few games.
Here’s some 2013 sleeper running backs.
Bernard Pierce (Baltimore Ravens) – With Little Ray Rice as the Ravens starter, look for Pierce to pick up some snaps now that wide receiver Anquan Boldin is gone and tight end Dennis Pitta is injured. Last season as a backup to a healthy Rice, rookie Pierce had 108 carries for 532 yards. He got bigger in the offseason and his role should expand this season.
Fred Jackson (Buffalo Bills) – In 2012, Jackson was on the road as the team’s starter but he got hit with the injury bug and C.J. Spiller took over, having a breakout season that ended with his first Pro Bowl. He will continue as a starter but look for him and Jackson to be a duo, with Jackson likely focusing on the short carries but providing a lot of fantasy value as he historically has done.
Bryce Brown (Philadelphia Eagles) – After pinch hitting for an injured LeSean McCoy in two games last season, rookie Brown ran for 347 yards with four touchdowns. McCoy is usually good to miss at least one game a year (three straight seasons) from an injury, which should give Brown a short stint as a starter. With Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense as well as the team’s quarterback quandry, there should be lots of running opportunities for the Brown/McCoy tandem.
Danny Woodhead (San Diego Chargers) – Overshadowed by Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, Woodhead was not going to be a major target by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady but now he has a new chance with Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers and a Mike McCoy offense. Woodhead will sit behind starting running back Ryan Mathews, who has had his share of absences during the seasons, which could provide opportunities for the diminutive player as well as him picking up part of the workload.
Shane Vereen (New England Patriots) – And now that Woodhead is gone, look for Vereen to get more opportunities. In last season’s playoff win over the Houston Texans, he had 124 combined yards with three touchdowns from 12 touches. The talent is there; the team just needs to use him.
Andre Brown (New York Giants) -The Ahmad Bradshaw has ended and now it’s running back David Wilson’s show. Behind him is Brown, whose 2012 numbers were better. He had eight touchdowns over 10 games–twice as many as Wilson; greater yards per carry with a 5.3 average versus Wilson’s 5.0 average and his 385 rushing yards as compared to Wilson’s 358. How much Brown is used may depend on Giants head coach Tom Coughlin but he has something to offer even if it’s just short yardage and red zone play.
Lamar Miller (Miami Dolphins) – Entering his sophomore year, Miller didn’t play a lot last season with his 51 carries for 250 yards and one touchdown. Reggie Bush has been shipped off to Detroit and now Miller will rise on Miami’s depth chart. Daniel Thomas is still expected to grab a lot of carries, but look for Miller to do more work, notably toward the goal line.
Chris Ivory (New York Jets) – Ivory spent three seasons with the New Orleans Saints and amassed 1,307 yards with eight touchdowns from 256 carries (5.1 yards per carry). But the team decided to focus on Mark Ingram and sent Ivory to the New York Jets. There’s no reason Ivory shouldn’t thrive here but he’ll have to deal with Bilal Powell as his competition and his continued battle with the injury bug (see current hammy problem).
Lamichael James (San Francisco 49ers) – Tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Boldin are grabbing the headlines as Michael Crabtree’s replacement but James could be a sleeper running back weapon. Frank Gore just turned 30 and Kendall Hunter is recovering from an injury. Enter James to see more playing time; he has also recently been practicing returning punts and kickoffs.
Alex Green (Green Bay Packers) – After suffering a torn ACL in 2011’s Week 7, Green returned to action in 2012’s Week 5 but he wasn’t playing at 100 percent and now believes he came back too soon. He still finished the season as Green Bay’s top rusher with 464 yards while only averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
He enters 2013 knowing that his competition is two rookie running backs, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, but this has motivated him and should he rise to the occasion, he could put up some good numbers. It’s hard to bet against a Packers’ player.