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A lot of us have been talking about how deep the wide receiver position is this year — guilty as charged (see my previous article ‘Color Yourself Badd-Go Running Back Early and Often'). Thus, the debate over what is the best draft strategy, especially with the early picks, Rounds 2-4 continues. Well, I have some thoughts … and a few running backs just waiting for you.
You see, I have never been very comfortable taking a quarterback in Round 1, even the elite ones. And the possibility of a tight end in Round 1 or 2 is terrifying. Really? Draft a quarterback in Round 1 and a tight end in Round 2? Maybe, sure. Reality is setting in — that could work. After the “Big 3” running backs are gone, and Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson are off the board, what is one to do? Do you go Tom Brady or Drew Brees? Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew — with the suspected holdout, or at least missing the preseason? What about Larry Fitzgerald or that other wide receiver Johnson, Andre? What to do after the first round?
Well, I’m here to help. I have compiled some running back names deserved of serious consideration as early as Round 2, and could be a steal any round thereafter. I won’t call them sleepers. We have all heard of them. We know what each is capable of, but for whatever the reasons, they are certainly underrated and underappreciated these days. Also, most importantly, they are being drafted well below their value, slipping under the radar.
With all this talky-talk about how you must draft an elite quarterback early, or die, and how if Calvin Johnson is there with a Top 10, jump on him or jump off a cliff, you’re not thinking straight. Time for some clarity, or as George Costanza’s dad would say, “Serenity now!”. Here are a few running backs I would be more than comfortable with in Round 2 and could be available as late as Rounds 3-5. I even prefer them to a few top dog wide receivers, especially since that position is so deep. Here are my Top 3 under-the-radar running backs:
Sure, he’s high risk, but also high reward. And although I like to minimize risk in fantasy, with the many questions marks of this year’s draft, you’d be taking a risk with nearly any player [after those mentioned above] and no player is beyond injury, no one. Just ask Tom Brady circa 2008, or Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles 2011. I think at least one risky move is easily warranted. Go big or go home, right? Sometimes, yes. McFadden, before his injury, was on pace to easily be a Top 5 running back last season. Early reports indicate McFadden looks great. Plus, without Michael Bush, and a more prepared Carson Palmer (with an actual preseason), I am all about ‘Walking My Way’ to Run DMC. Don’t Be Illin’.
See above [Darren McFadden] and apply the same logic. Oh, I know about Peyton Hillis. Yes, he will vulture a few touchdowns, but let me remind you of a one, Thomas Jones. No, not the guy that sings, ‘It’s not Unusual’ … (insert funny dance by Carlton Banks — You know, from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). It is the Thomas Jones that scored six touchdowns and broke 1,000 total yards in the same year Charles scored eight touchdowns and had 1,935 total yards. I just don’t see Hillis doing what Jones did in 2010. Point being, Charles can share the rock, and still be very productive. With all the naysayers on Charles, I love when a player has something to prove. I think he does in 2012.
Do you remember when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for just under 4,000 yards and ran for another 215? I do — it was just last season. He also threw 24 touchdowns. No reason to think he should do any worse. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson is back too (more than 1,000 yards with seven touchdowns last season). The two of them are certainly good enough to keep defenses honest. Speaking of defense, this offseason the Bills improved an already up-and-coming defense adding Mario Williams, which, in turn, should help keep the offense on the field — all leading to good stats for Jackson. Yes, I know about C.J. Spiller, but [see Jamaal Charles above] sharing the rock a bit may just help keep Jackson rested enough to excel. Similar to Charles, Jackson was headed for Top 5 numbers last season before his injury.
Another name at least worth honorable mention that does not even seem to be in the conversation of worthy early-round running backs is Isaac Redman. But the thing is, he is being drafted by Round 5 in most drafts, and usually no later than Round 6 or 7. So, you could miss him after the fourth round. No starting running backs for the Pittsburgh Steelers should go later than Round 4. I don’t care who he is. Redman will be the lone back and get the goal line, too. I am also tempted to put Donald Brown in the same honorable mention category — a lone running back who will get the goal-line carries and could be off-the-board by Round 4 if a brave, but intelligent, individual pulls the trigger.
So, try not to share our little secret, but you can have no fear of nabbing that elite quarterback in Round 1, or even one of the two stud tight ends everyone is talking about. Go ahead, and leave the light on. These guys will be waiting for you.
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