It’s easy to predict that running backs like Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Chris Johnson are going to produce monster fantasy football numbers.
However, fantasy leagues are often won because of talent found late in the draft.
These are the undervalued players or the fantasy football sleepers as we like to call them.
With that in mind, let's take a look at two running backs that will be undervalued on draft day, but have the ability to become an asset on your fantasy team.
Willis McGahee, RB, Denver Broncos
McGahee is no longer the 1,000-yard rusher he was during his 2004-2007 seasons, however he has improvised his style of play enough to maintain relevance in the fantasy draft year after year. With Ray Rice carrying the load for the Baltimore Ravens, McGahee was no longer grinding out upward of 300 carries a year. Instead, he was taking advantage of red zone touches on a regular basis.
Despite getting only 432 touches, McGahee did score 27 touchdowns from 2008-2010. Once the Ravens decided to release him immediately after the lockout, the Denver Broncos soon convinced him to call Mile High his new stomping grounds.
Broncos Head Coach John Fox has always had a run first mentality and is no stranger to running back tandems—see Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo William s. Denver’s commitment to running the football should only increase McGahee’s stock. Don’t be surprised if the eight-year veteran shows some resurgence in total rushing yards.
While the Broncos have a solid option in Knowshon Moreno, he isn’t your typical bruiser who can get yards inside the tackle. These two players should work well together in 2011.
Moreno has had trouble staying healthy, which could play into McGahee’s favor throughout the season. Continue to monitor the position battle during the preseason and make sure to use a late round draft pick on McGahee, especially in touchdown heavy leagues.
Marion Barber, RB, Chicago Bears
The Dallas Cowboys weren’t very good in 2010 and no player struggled more than Barber. He looked out of shape, sluggish and checked out. Clearly, it was time to end his tenure in the Lone Star State. The veteran never got going and totaled just 374 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.
These are not the numbers fantasy football owners expected of Barber when they drafted him as their RB3 last year.
It was evident at the end of last season that Barber’s days were numbered in Dallas. Luckily, when the Cowboys issued his release he quickly signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears.
The bruising runner has taken a lot of hits during his career and last year showed he can no longer be a lead back. However, the move to the Chicago could have resurrected Barber’s fantasy football career.
He won’t get you 1,000 rushing yards, but Barber has a chance to thrive behind Matt Forte as a goal line back. Chester Taylor had a crack at that role last year but—despite a big contract—couldn’t solidify. Taylor is still with the Bears, but after watching him get stuffed at the goal line numerous times last year the job is Barber’s to lose.
Obviously Barber will need consistent touches to really see what he can do and if you are in a touchdown-heavy league it’s worth gambling on Barber late in your fantasy football draft.
After all, he’s scored seven or more touchdowns in four of six NFL seasons and has found pay-dirt at least 10 times in a season twice.
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