You know a draft is in the late stages when it enters the "what the hell" portion. It's usually around Round 15 when an exasperated drafter slaps his palm on the table (for effect), looks around and announces, "What the hell, I'll take ________." Secretly he's hoping for the affirmation that accompanies at least one fellow drafter firing off the ever-popular "man, that was a GREAT pick." However more often than naught the "what the hell" proclamation is met with at least one "I gotta piss" announcement and two "grab me a beer on your way back" orders. And while the "what the hell" drafter may have his ego bruised in the short-term, it really doesn't matter because, deep down, he knows he'll have the last laugh when his new contributor is thriving in his RB2 spot.
And the best part of this type of pick? You're not throwing away a top selection. If the player stinks there's no guarantee your team will follow suit. And with this "you CAN'T lose baby!" mindset, we present a handful of low risk-high reward running backs. While each could certainly leave fantasy owners wanting much, much more, we (ok...I) feel the players below are great bets to emerge as some of the draft's better values.
Rainey jumped off the page while I was researching the Sun Belt back in February. Everything, and I mean everything is pointing to a big junior campaign. Despite seeing two senior backs eat up 91 carries, Rainey still gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored seven times on only 157 touches from scrimmage. Now he's the clear #1 back. Not only does WKU offer that "New Coach Enthusiasm" but the new guy is Willie Taggart, former Stanford coach running backs coach who fed Toby Gerhart the football like this kid's mom feeds him fries:
And to top it all off, Bobby Rainey gets to again run against Sun Belt defenses with a line that returns four starters paving the way. This Georgia native combines excellent speed with a bowling ball frame, and he's going to bust out in a big way. Two of his biggest outings of the 2009 season came in the final three games, and he'll pick right up where left off a season ago. Granted he may struggle out of the gate with trips to Lincoln and Lexington, but from mid-September on it'll be smooth sailing.
Every year I fall in love with one player, and this year it's Bobby Rainey. Draft him!
You know when Bugs Bunny steps out of a rapidly descending plane just before impact? Well this former Louisville back did the same thing. He saw Steve Kragthorpe manning the controls, knew an inferno was imminent, and he stepped off the aircraft just before impact, and headed over to Georgia Tech. The fact that Allen gained 720 yards from scrimmage and scored seven times last season means that Allen will not be an unknown commodity on draft day. However this senior is moving from A-back to B-back, a position previously held by Jonathan Dwyer, and one tailor-made for Mr. Allen. And while including him on this list may be a stretch, there's a real possibility that Allen may slide a little bit.
Yes there are plenty of backs vying for carries, and most of these candidates will see carries at some point this season. And yes, Josh Nesbitt will drive those that own GT running backs crazy. But this is an offense that, uh, likes to run the ball. And Allen is the best that they've got.
And then there was Rodney Stewart. Following the departures of Demetrius Sumler and once highly-touted Darrell Scott, the Colorado running back gig clearly rests in the hands of Rodney Stewart, and I'm finally willing to admit that I was wrong. You see for the last two years the Colorado running back battle has been the source of internal strife at the company kegerator. As one who has fallen prey to style over substance numerous times over the years, I argued (sometimes sober) until I was blue in the face that Darrell Scott would seize control of the backfield. And following two pedestrian seasons where his most noteworthy performance was a 12-carry, 85-yard effort in a LOSS to Toledo, Scott has decided to leave Boulder. And then there was Rodney Stewart.
The Buffaloes ran the football more effectively than seven teams last year...that's in the country. So clearly we're not talking about Rodney Stewart going all Chris Brown on the Big 12.
But the Buffs do face some defense-challenged squads this season, and Rodney Stewart will have plenty of opportunities to get his.
The mad hurdler took a pounding in the Big Ten, and now the talented speedster heads to Rice, where the defenses will bring a lot less trauma. And McGuffie's spring gave every indication that he'll emerge as a top threat in the Owl backfield, and it won't just be as a runner. McGuffie will see the ball in every way fashionable, especially as a receiver, and only the opener with Texas is a game where McGuffie will partake with no chance of busting out.
The Rice offense was a top-ten unit in 2008, everybody left, and the team plummeted, I mean really plummeted, to 111th last season. So I'm going to split the difference, look for some Nick Fanuzzi growth, and assume we'll be looking at a pretty decent unit this season. So whether McGuffie is a catalyst to this offensive improvement, or he simply is along for the ride, look for this redshirt sophomore to become an impact fantasy performer.
Tanner hurt his knee in early September against Memphis, an injury that led to a redshirt. Now he returns to lead the MTSU ground game, and if a healthy Tanner has shown anything, it's that he can score a whole lot of touchdowns without a whole lot of carries. In three years he's toted the pigskin on 270 occasions and scored 20 touchdowns, which averages out to a celebration every 13.5 touches.
Now let's imagine that D.D. Kyles steals a whole bunch of carries and Tanner struggles to re-emerge as the every-down tailback. At the very least he becomes an expected goal line vulture. However, and this is important: Tanner spent the spring running a little track. And while I know the 4 X 100 doesn't include large men laying hits on a runner's knee, but there's no way Tanner would be out sprinting if he weren't all the way back.
The Blue Raiders return Dwight Dasher and an experienced offensive line from the nation's 27th ranked offense, and only a visit to Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 16th could be deemed a must-sit.
Anderson missed spring ball while recovering from shoulder surgery, and this is yet another reason that he'll be undervalued on draft day. New coach Charlie Strong brings one of those "new attitudes" that always accompanies a coaching change, but this one seems legit. New coordinator Mike Sanford knows that he has a legitimate talent in Anderson, one that posted about 1150 yards from scrimmage and nine scores when healthy as a freshman back in 2008, and with the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback spot we see the new staff leaning on their best back.
Sure Bilal Powell will get his, but there are very few backfields left where a starter sees nearly all the snaps. Anderson may not emerge as a must-start each week, but he'll certainly pay off for those that invest a late-round selection in this Louisville sophomore.
Look for these Little Risk/High Reward pieces to continue as I look for values at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end in the coming month.
I'm in college football, ahem, college fantasy football mode. It is summer after all...