by Russ Bliss (3/15/11)

The roundtable topic for last week was:

"RB Sleeper 2011 (Non-Top 25 RB based on most recent ADP reports) who you project to finish among the top 15 this year.  (Preferably non-Top 30)"

In addition to myself, there were 6 other fantasy football analysts who took on this question. They were:

Rick Perkins, FantasyFootballTrader
RC Rizza, JunkyardJake
Ryan Lester, Lester's Legends
James Piatt, FanaticFantasyFootball
Jeff Pasquino, DynastyGuys
Derek Lofland, FantasyFootballManiax

In my fantasy football blogs section I put up my choice of Beanie Wells and why I was taking him. And like in prior week's I will be going over these other analysts' answers to the same question and giving an opinion on them. Last week we looked at the dynasty and re-draft prospects of two young QB's: Sam Bradford vs. Josh Freeman. The week before we all chimed in with who we thought will be the top 2011 bounceback fantasy player candidate. Here is the RB choice and an excerpt from what each member of the panel had to say on their 2011 fantasy football sleeper RB's:

Rick Perkins: Brandon Jacobs, NY Giants (current ADP: 37th RB selected)

"...Whenever I'm mining mid-round nuggets at RB, there's a handful of factors I'm looking for.  Chief among them is offensive line strength and system longevity.  For Jacobs, that's a big fat CHECK.  The Giants have had one of the top seven run-blocking O-lines in the league now for several years; at this point you could set your watch to Tom Coughlin maintaining a disciplined rush:pass ratio (47:53 last year)..."

I strongly considered Jacobs myself as he is beast of a RB and as Rick points out: he's in a great system. Jacobs seems to spend in and out of Coughlin's doghouse, but if he stays out of it long enough, he can be a lot more like the RB who rushed for over 1,000 yards in both 2007 and 2008. For his 6 NFL seasons, Jacobs has scored nearly an average of 9 TD's each season. Overall, Jacobs was a great choice here.

RC Rizza: Chris "Beanie" Wells, Arizona Cardinals (current ADP: 36th RB selected)

"'s unfair to gauge Wells' potential based on his lack of production this past year. The post-Kurt Warner Arizona Cardinals offense struggled as a unit all season long, going from 251 passing yards per game, to a paltry 182 passing yards per game. Overall, the Cardinals fell to #27 in total offense after finishing 2009 as the 11th ranked offense in the NFL. This is not to say that the Cardinals offense will fare much better in 2011, but it's difficult to see how it can get too much worse. There is little doubt that a healthy Chris Wells is a much more dynamic playmaker than his counterpart Tim Hightower...Wells is a rare breed among 235 lb running backs with good agility and 4.4 speed. Arguably, even if the Cardinals passing game problems persist into 2011, it should mean more carries for Chris Wells..."

RC chose the same guy I took myself. We both agree that the 2010 season is easily discounted given the injuries and circumstances surrounding him throughout the season. As RC pointed out later, Wells is being selected in round 8 and given his upside, he could turn out to be a real steal.

Ryan Lester: Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (current ADP: 33rd RB selected)

"... The truth is, I don't think I have one...(but) one running back that I think will easily top last year's production is Marshawn Lynch. He seemed to get better as the season wore on, and the touchdown he scored against the Saints showed a burst we haven't seen from him in years. It seems like he's been in the league forever, but he'll be just 25 when (if) the season there is plenty of tread on the tires...I don't think he has a chance of being a top 15 running back, but Marshawn Lynch could be a solid RB2 next year."

I'm a little surprised Ryan didn't think any of the RB's outside of the top 25 have a chance to be top 15. It's my opinion that we have unprecedented depth at the position like we've never had before and identifying those sleeper RB's with the best chances to be big surprises and score as a top RB is paramount to winning in fantasy football. Lynch is an intriguing choice as 2011 will be a contract year for him. He also has little serious competition in Seattle with neither Justin Forsett nor Leon Washington able to handle more than a complimentary load. With a full year under Lynch's belt maybe the late season surge we saw from him in 2010 is something he can build on.

James Piatt: LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (current ADP: 20th RB selected)

"... I think LeGarrette Blount has a lot of positive things going in his favor as he heads into his second year with the Buccaneers. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason the Bucs came close to making the 2010 playoffs was, they found a running back that other teams had to respect. Opposing defenses couldn't focus on pressuring QB Josh Freeman and shutting down the Tampa Bay wide receivers. The passing game is good enough to keep opposing defenses from loading the box to stop the run..."

Piatt started off saying there were a lot of good choices and that his top 2 were Shonn Greene and Blount. But both are top 20 RB's in ADP and selecting either of them for this discussion isn't really talking about a real sleeper. Maybe if the discussion which RB ranked between 15-20 has the best chance to become a top 8 fantasy RB in 2011 Blount would be a great choice. But he's not being selected outside the top 25 RB's.

Jeff Pasquino: Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (current ADP: 28th RB selected)

"...Jackson returns to Buffalo as the top rusher from last year for the Bills, getting 222 carries and 927 yards on the ground (4.2 yards per carry) - three times as many carries as CJ Spiller (74-283, 3.8 yards per carry). Jackson also had more targets, receptions and touchdowns than Spiller last year, holding off the rookie in every category. Jackson just turned 30 years old in February but Spiller has not shown enough to be expected to take away significant touches from Jackson this coming season..."

Now this is more like it for picking a sleeper RB. I like this pick as Jackson just gets no respect for what he's managed to do the last 2 seasons for a usually pitiful Buffalo offense. And while Jackson is 30 years old, he doesn't have nearly the mileage on his legs as most 30 year old RB's. Jackson has 647 career rushing attempts. He's an excellent receiver out of the backfield and while each of the last 2 seasons the Bills have tried to give the lead job to other RB's, it's been Jackson who has proven to be the best.

Derek Lofland: Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins (current ADP: 25th RB selected)

"...Torain received good news when the Redskins released Portis and his $8.3 million salary. That should make the backfield less crowded and open up even more carries in 2011 for Torain...Torain has good size at 6'0" and 213 lbs. He is a one-cut runner that is perfect for the zone-blocking scheme utilized by Shanahan. When he was healthy in 2010, he put up big numbers. Shanahan has been known for having running backs that produce great fantasy seasons in the past, and Torain is likely going to be put in an excellent position to succeed as the featured back..."

Derek is right on with how Shanahan has been able to have great fantasy producing RB's during his tenure in Denver. I was a big fan of Torain, until his continued problem with injuries made me not trust him. If he can stay healthy, there's an excellent chance Torain produces big numbers. His ADP is a little higher than I like for this specific topic, but not everyone is going to dig deep for those sleepers. I know when I initially looked at the ADP's, I immediately had to cross out several names I was considering as I wanted to stay within the spirit of the article and take a RB whose average draft position was out of the top 30.

Next week we're doing another topic like the Freeman vs. Bradford, only this time it will be at WR, and the two we'll be comparing are Tampa Bay's Mike Williams and Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin.

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