Sleepers & Values: RBs
The running back position is always the most coveted on draft day, so owners are wise to grab at least two in the first four rounds. But the job isn't done there. As the draft wears on, it's important to build depth at the oft-injured position, and that means finding value in the middle and late rounds. Here are 18 running backs who may provide good-to-excellent value relative to their current ADPs:
Darren Sproles, Saints (PPR)
Regular readers know that I love me some Sproles in PPR leagues. I wrote a long piece explaining why Sproles is worth an early 2nd round pick in that format. His ADP in PPR seems to be in the late 2nd/early 3rd, and he would be a steal at that point in the draft for owners lucky enough to have a stud RB like Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles already on the roster.
LeVeon Bell, Steelers
Pending the results of his MRI (foot), Bell seems to have the clearest path to a big workload. He’s not a burner, but has shown good patience and can turn the corner. He’s pretty solid in the passing game as well, and he's ahead of the curve in terms of pass protection. OC Todd Haley said that Bell is a three-down back, so he should have every chance to become the next bell cow in Pittsburgh. He's going in the late 4th round, which looks to be good value for a RB2/RB3.
Chris Ivory, Jets
Like Michael Turner, LaMont Jordan and Chester Taylor before him, the 25-year-old Ivory is one of those RBs that the fantasy community has been hoping would get an opportunity to start, and now he'll get his chance. He was limited to 27 games in four college seasons due to injury, and was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He has averaged 5.1 YPC in his career, though he has struggled with injuries in the NFL as well. In his rookie season, due to injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, Ivory got a few starts and had some success. In 13 career games where he has received at least 10 touches, he's averaged 78 total yards, 0.38 TD and an impressive 5.2 YPC. That production equates to #16 RB-type numbers. New Orleans has not thrown the ball his way very often -- he has just three catches in his career -- but he did score on a 76-yard swing pass in preseason of his rookie year so he has some pass-catching ability. Mike Goodson is pretty good in the passing game, so we're expecting Ivory to be a two-down back in New York, which will limit his upside. If he continues to make big plays running the ball, the team may try to get him involved in the passing game as well. Consider him a low-end RB2 until we know who is going to be the third-down back in 2013. Due to his injury history and the Jets' offense, he's often available in the 5th round. We can't promise he'll stay healthy, but Shonn Greene was the #15 fantasy RB in 2012, and Ivory is the better player. (Update: Bilal Powell has played better in the preseason, but our money is on Ivory, who has recently returned to practice after missing time with a hamstring injury.)