Fantasy Sleeper: Cardinals RB Ryan Williams

Fantasy KnuckleheadsContributor IJuly 10, 2012

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - AUGUST 04:  Runningback Ryan Williams #34 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field following the team training camp at Northern Arizona University on August 4, 2011 in Flagstaff, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cardinals might be known for their passing game with Larry Fitzgerald, but it's the team’s running game that has held them back from being a complete offense recently.

Beanie Wells has looked stud-like at times during his pro career, having racked up his first 1000-yard season in 2011, but his inconsistencies and inability to stay healthy have been a concern for both fantasy owners and the team's coaching staff. Wells' injury history gives another Cardinals running back an ideal opportunity to make some noise in 2012 and to also become one of this year's popular fantasy sleepers heading into training camp.

The guy I'm talking about is second-year RB Ryan Williams.

I had Williams listed as a sleeper option last year. But once again, Wells went back to being the team's workhorse after Williams was placed on injured reserve after suffering a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee following the team's preseason game against the Packers.

But Williams could, again, make a name for himself in the Cardinals backfield, giving him back some of that lost fantasy value he had in 2011.

The Cardinals expect Williams to play a “major role” this season. Williams is a better pass-catcher than Wells and offers more versatility in the backfield, something Wells has been lacking in his entire career as a pro. Williams' initial duties figure to be as a change-of-pace option and a guy to use on passing downs, but he could have a much bigger role as the season wears on. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has challenged Wells to “bust his tail” in the next few weeks because other backs have looked good in offseason practices. So if Williams shows up to training camp back to 100 percent, Wells, who is currently recovering from knee surgery, could find himself in a timeshare as soon as Week 1 or by midseason.


Fantasy Outlook:

As a stand-alone option, Williams might be worth a look as you start getting into the deeper rounds of your redraft leagues. Since Wells is starting to show some frailty in his knees, Williams might very well be a diamond in the rough if Wells' knee problems rear their ugly head during the 2012 season. At the very least, you didn't use a high pick on him if he winds up staying behind Wells for the season. Depending on how many running backs you can have on your roster, that right there could make him a fairly decent handcuff if you wind up nabbing Wells earlier.