2013 Fantasy FootballFantasy Football

2013 Fantasy Football: Running Back Sleepers To Target On Draft Day

Note: This piece was originally written on July 14th and is one of many unique pieces that can be found in our 2013 fantasy football draft guide.

The definition of a sleeper has drastically changed over the years. Access to the Internet — and instant news feeds such as Twitter — have ultimately provided equal access to relevant cutting edge information to all fantasy football enthusiasts.

The following list of names will sound familiar to you, so you may not consider them a sleeper. However, these guys are a sure bet to outperform their ADPs, and you should target them on draft day.

All ADP data is found in parenthesis (ADP) and taken from FantasyPros.com. All commentary reflects a 12-team league.

Shane Vereen | Patriots (83) – The 2013 fantasy football season remains in the infancy stages for most of the casual/novice fantasy footballers, but some of the more eager players and analysts are noticing that Shane Vereen’s average draft position is creeping up at an alarming rate each-and-every day. The spike in the 24-year-old’s stock has a lot to do with the skills and versatility he possesses as an offensive weapon, but it’s more about the present opportunity. We know that Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead will no longer factor into the Patriots’ offense, and at the time of this writing neither will Brandon Lloyd, leaving the Pats potentially without players responsible for more than 400 of their offensive touches last season. The Patriots attempted to fill that void by adding Danny Amendola via free agency and Aaron Dobson via the draft, but there should still be plenty more touches to go around.

Most of Vereen’s work came out of the backfield in twenty-twelve — 73 rushing attempts lead to 308 yards and four scores — but early reports indicate that Vereen will see time both as a running back and a receiver, all but guaranteeing a spike in production as a pass catcher. Vereen hauled in just 15-of-19 targets for 254 yards and three touchdowns last year, with the bulk of his receiving yards coming on an 82-yard reception against the Jets in week 12. And while some may believe that one long reception could be fluky, it indicates that the former Golden Bear does in fact have what it takes to chew up those yards after the catch if given the opportunity. Vereen makes for a fantastic target in the middle rounds of your draft — especially those in leagues that reward points-per-reception — but I’d have no reservations selecting this potential breakout after round six in a standard 12-teamer either.

Bryce Brown | Eagles (99) – The entire Philadelphia Eagles offense could be in line for historical fantasy seasons with the addition of Head Coach Chip Kelly and his explosive hurry-up approach. Out of the backfield, there is no reason to believe that a healthy LeSean McCoy will not be the bell-cow, however, the potential pace of the newly installed offense could ask Bryce Brown to spell the former All-Pro more frequently this coming season.

Brown, the second-year man out of Kansas State, carried the ball 115 times for 564 yards and reached pay dirt on four occasions last season. He averaged 4.9 yards/carry and exploded for runs of 30 yards or more three times while causing defenders to miss 20 tackles over the course of the season. Brown added just 13 receptions on 18 targets for 56 yards, so he’ll have a bit more value in standard leagues, especially with how much Chip Kelly calls for the handoff. As long as he can hold onto the ball, Brown’s elusiveness parlayed with the team’s new playbook could be the recipe for breakout.

Bernard Pierce | Ravens (111) – The second-year ball carrier out of Temple seems to be developing into an excellent complement to the Ravens’ Ray Rice. His size and running style has drawn comparisons to the great Adrian Peterson, but lets not get too ahead of ourselves just yet. He did run for 734 yards on 147 carries in twenty-twelve, but found the endzone just once thanks to Rice. Pierce added just eight catches on 11 looks for 55 yards, but that role is typically reserved for the former Scarlet Knight as well, so I wouldn’t expect much more than that this year. Despite Rice’s receptions remaining fairly consistent over the last three seasons, his workload as a ball carrier has decreased over that same time frame (307, 291, 257). As Pierce continues to develop as a runner we may see him steal some more carries from the veteran again in 2013. I don’t handcuff my backs often, but if I owned Ray Rice I’d be trying to snag Pierce at least a round earlier than his ADP to ensure I got him.

Danny Woodhead | Chargers (155) – Danny Woodhead is one of the most undersized and underrated running backs in the National Football League. Last season in New England he touched the ball 121 times — 80 rushes for 312 yards and 41 receptions for 458 yards — accounting for seven scores.

As he transitions to San Diego, one would assume the 28-year-old will continue to have significant value catching passes out of the backfield — both planned and as a safety valve for Phillip Rivers when he checks down. Currently being selected in the 12th round of 12-teamers, Danny Woodhead could be a steal for owners in points-per-reception leagues, especially if Ryan Matthews fails to stay healthy.

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1 Comment

  1. AJ
    September 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I just finished drafting my 12 team non-PPR league and my out-of-character jumping on the Drew Brees train has left me scrambling at RB. I’m used to spending 2 or 3 of my first 4 picks on RB, so to be in this position is a new experience. We got to keep one player from last year, and all but 1 of the 12 owners kept a RB – leaving the pool even emptier than normal since Rodgers, Calvin, Brees and others usually go in the 1st round.

    Anyway… I have Trent Richardson as my keeper, but then it’s a mix of not-so-ideal RB2s. Monte Ball, Ben Tate, Shane Vereen and a sleeper pick of Knile Davis is what I’m working with. I have Isaiah Pead too, but I’ll likely drop him or Davis for a kicker. Trading is a possibility, but not a very good one. So what do you think? Start Vereen and hope for the best? Play Tate until Foster proves hes healthy? I’m out of my element! Help!