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Fantasy Football Draft Hidden Gems: The Running Backs

Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

With the NFL Fantasy Football Draft coming up throughout this next month and 1/2 depending on when your league's draft is it's an ideal time to start taking a look at the less obvious fantasy football gems in this year's draft. Over the next few weeks we'll be taking a look at some of the lesser-known later round pickups that could end up making or breaking your season.

We'll start with the easiest group: the running backs. This year there happen to be a few mid-tier running backs that may just be able to pick up better than average points without you giving up a first or early second round draft pick for them. After the jump we'll take a look at a few of the three groups of possible fantasy gems you should keep your eye on for value picks:

Easy favorites of the bunch:

Reggie Bush-MIA- As any fantasy football fan from 2011-2012 season will tell you Reggie Bush may have been one of the best late season pickups of the season last year. Yahoo Sports currently projects him to be the 20thbest running back due to his timeshare with Daniel Thomas and a new coach (who no one is sure how he will be used). While this may scare some managers away please don't forget that his QB will be either the infamousDavid Garrard or a rookie QB. They will lean heavily on the running game with a schedule that features the oh so soft defenses of Arizona, Seattle, Tennessee, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and New England. Don't forget, if they're down Bush will likely be the second best receiving option on the team with Brandon Marshall gone. Bush may not lead the league in rushing as he promised this offseason, but he'll easily be the best value pick for someone bold enough to pick him up in rounds 2-3 this year.

DeMarco Murray-DAL-Aka the man who got me into the playoff during an injury-riddled middle of last fantasy season. I know this projected #12 RB ended the season on IR, but if he's even half of the man he was last season he merits a late second to third round pick. If he looks strong in the pre-season his stock may rise even more.

Middle of the pack:

Michael Turner- ATL- I know all of you are probably scratching your heads at this one. But anyone who's watched Turner throughout his career will tell you the guy's getting some serious tread on his tires. It's just like he hit a wall last year. With two 100 yard games in his last 9 games last season he is just not worth being picked up in the first two rounds (Especially seeing as one of those games was in week 17 against a terrible Tampa Bay team). Not to mention he averaged less than 4 yards per cary for nine of his sixteen games last year. Again, he's not a BAD RB...just not worth the likely second or third round pick you will give up to get him. If there's nothing else of even close value available, snach him up. Just don't expect "the real Michael Turner". This guy just shares his name.

Marshawn Lynch-SEA- Mr. Consistency. It won't be pretty. It won't be a 200 yrd rushing game with three TDs, but more times than not he'll get you 10 points. Whether it be ugly with 40 yards rushing with a TD or 100 yards rushing with no paydirt he'll find a way. In fantasy you can't ask for much more than that from a RB ranked out of the top 10 RBs (#11). Great play for bye weeks, injuries to other starters, or if you just don't like your other RBs matchup that week. You won't get better value in the late second/third round. Let the other guys take the risks.

Ahmad Bradshaw-NYG-With Brandon Jacobs getting himself exiled to a backup timeshare hell in San Fran there's no one else in New York to carry the ball whatsoever. It all falls on Bradshaw who has an extreme amount of upside this coming season. On a team that moves the ball through the air very well. Big back that runs well between the tackles. He could easily double his nine rushing TD number from last year with Jacobs gone-who scored 8. If Bradshaw stays to his sure-handed ways (1 fumble last year) he will easily average 20+ carries per game. That alone will put him over 1100 yards at last year's average per carry. He could be a great mid-round pickup with an upside of top #10 RBs, all for a round 3-5 pick.

Buyers Beware:

Doug Martin-TB-while the rookie has looked pretty amazing in camp so far and will likely end up as the starting RB in the Tampa backfield this is like being the smartest kid in the slow class. Anyone who watched a Tampa Bay game last year (that wasn't blacked out) could see that LeGarrette Blount's had two three problems last year.

1. Holding on to the ball

2. Having no hole or running lanes on 2nd/3rd and short due to his offensive line getting manhandled; and

3. Not getting enough carries consistently throughout the season. Blount received over 20 carries only three times all season for various reasons (his lack of effort, his team's defense forcing Tampa out of their gameplan, bad gameplanning, etc). He averaged over 4.5 yards per carry in those games. Do you really think Martin's going to receive more carries than 15-20 with Blount in a likely timeshare? Me neither. Pick him later only when the risk is worth the reward, like after you draft your third WR. If he does blow up and Tampa becomes a run first team with an emphasis on running the ball outside of the tackles all of a sudden his stock skyrockets. Keep an eye on him in them in pre-season.

Trent Richardson-CLE-you know SOMEONE'S going to draft him. He's too good of a college player not to make it out of the first round. Someone will see his Yahoo Sports #7 RB ranking and forget he plays for the vertically passing- inept Cleveland Browns. They'll also likely forget that he'll have a very hungry MantarioHardesty chomping to vulture any carries he can from the former Alabama star. But the final most important thing that they'll forget is that the Brown have a horrendous schedule against run stopping defenses this year inCincinnati twice, Buffalo, Baltimore twice, NY Giants, Pittsburg twice, and Denver. Anyone willing to take that pick in the first or early second will need prayer...and tissues. If he's available in the second or third...grab him. Only grab him where value will meet the price. Let the other guys take the risks. You go for consistency.

Ryan Mathews-SD-I'm not sure how many seasons this kid has to lay a goose egg before people stop drafting him in the first two rounds! While he no longer has Tolbert in the backfield to vulture carries and TDs away from him the fact that Ronnie Brown or Jackie Battle are even mentioned in the same conversation as Ryan Mathews should tell you all you need to know. Yahoo Sports can rank him at the #4 RB spot all they like, he'll never be worth a first or even early second round pick this year, especially with his injury history.

A Paradox-

BenJarvus Green-Ellis-Cinn-How will this guy look on a team not quarterbacked by a guy with the last name Brady? I'm not so sure he's that much of a difference from his backup Bernard Scott. He could end up being a great late round selection just as easily as he could be second string by week 6. Who knows?

Obvious guys-be sure not to forget about them-

Jamaal Charles-KC- Please don't fall asleep on this man. I know he was injured in 2011 but if he's near his 2011 or 2010 form he'll easily be worth the 2nd round pick you'll give up for this Yahoo Sports #13 ranked RB. He'll easily surpass that if he stays healthy this year, even on the Chiefs.

Darren Sproles-NO-as if I had to tell you. Now, if any of you are even moderately nervous about this upcoming season due to the Saints losing their head coach and offensive mastermind (and a few defensive players) due to the bounty program, just remember...that means at worst they'll be down more. More throwing, more Sproles opportunities, more points. He may be in a timeshare and Yahoo Sports may have him ranked at #18 of all RBs but don't you listen to them come draft day they told you to draft Peyton Hillis in the first round last year lol.