For a complete list of sleepers and keepers, visit our draft kit.
As we head towards draft day we've decided to break down the positions into four handy categories: Breakouts, Sleepers, Keepers and Use Caution. Along we've these handy categories we've decided to explain what they mean.
Breakouts: Guys who are stepping into a starting role and are primed for a breakout season. These are players that are well known and will not last too long on draft day.
Sleepers: Similar to the above, but of the lesser known variety and much higher risk. They may or may not be late round picks in your draft.
Keepers: Lots of upside, but you may have to wait a year or two for a serious fantasy impact.
Use Caution: These fellas are certain to be drafted, however we have concerns that they may struggle to meet lofty expectations.
Here we go with the running backs, a position where freshmen can make an immediate impact. Some of these players listed below have already made an impact, while others will be looking to announce their presence with authority.
David Wilson, Virginia Tech - Each year we seem to have a few signature picks. Guys that we use to beat you over the head on a consistent basis. In past we've flown the flag for Michael Crabtree, Case Keenum, Mark Ingram and Chris Markey (oops) long before they were household names. And we are doing it again with Wilson. The Hokies have a ridiculously favorable schedule, a veteran offensive line and are known to produce top fantasy running backs. Wilson has all the tools to lead the nation in rushing this fall. And he does backflips.
Trent Richardson, Alabama - After two years of spot duty, it is now Richardson's job to carry the load. Many have said he's more talented than Mark Ingram (not this guy). We'll see. We're not sure he's anywhere near the workhorse who can carry a few linebackers with him, however with the offensive line talent returning in Tuscaloosa, he doesn't need to be this guy.
Ray Graham, Pitt - He's completely emerged from the Dion Lewis shadow, and now Graham is ready to show exactly what he can do with regular carries. However it's the regular carries thing that causes some concern. You see, coach Todd Graham hardly ran the ball last year while at Tulsa. Alex Singleton led all backs with 86 carries.
We figure Graham (Todd) will adjust the scheme quite a bit to best utilize one of the nation's best-kept secrets at running back. Because the thought of Graham scooting through large holes created when the wide receivers are zigzagging around the gridiron leads to thoughts of a top-ten fantasy season.
Silas Redd, Penn State - He'll have to share some with the speedy Stephfon Green, but Redd should over as the Nittany Lions workhorse back. Penn State is flying under the radar a bit, as the hullabaloo surrounding Nebraska, Russel Wilson and Ohio State has stolen much of the spotlight. The Lions may only return six on each side of the ball, but there is plenty of talent present.
Redd waited patiently while the Evan Royster era came to an end, and he'll be ready to carry the load. The schedule is very favorable until the season's final three contests, a gauntlet including a home tilt with Nebraska and trips to Columbus and Madison.
Lamar Miller, Miami - Running back attrition at the U has left Miller as the last one standing, however it's likely he would have been the key guy anyway. He's a threat to take it the distance with every touch, and in new coach Al Golden, he'll be running it for a coach committed to the ground attack.
This Cane offense will be balanced...provided the quarterback play is up to par. This is a big if, but with sound quarterbacking we could see Miller truly explode.
Shawn Southward, Troy - He just needs more carries. Over the last two campaigns Southward has averaged 113 carries, gained about 615 yards and scored around ten touchdowns. If a 5.5 YPC and 21 total scores over the last two seasons aren't enough to get Southward more touches, then he may just have to go all Keyshawn and demand the damn ball.
Isaiah Crowell, Georgia - Every other running back within 20 miles of Athens is no longer eligible/part of the program, so the job falls to this talented freshman. Guess what? It would've been his anyway. Crowell is a stud.
Malcolm Brown, Texas - And yet another Texas freshman back is expected to step right up and seize control. We've been waiting for a #1 guy since Jamal Charles, and it appears Brown is more than capable...of course we thought the same thing about Chris Whaley, and he's now playing defensive end.
Lache Seastrunk, Oregon - This pick is recommended more with 2012 in mind. LaMichael James will be playing on Sundays next fall, and Kenjon Barner will need a partner in the backfield. Enter Seastrunk, who will provide a nice sneak peek this season.
Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State - This under-the-radar recruit looked like a future star during the first half of 2010, and though he hit the freshman wall, there's reason to believe that Bell is a future workhorse in East Lansing. He'll serve as the #2 back behind Edwin Baker (see below) this season, and he'll be the #1 guy when Baker moves on to Sundays in 2012.
Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky - We were one of the few that were very high on Rainey last summer, and he more than delivered. The shift to a West Coast offense fit him perfectly. The problem is it's going to be nearly impossible to meet last year's rushing totals. Rainey rushed an average of 28.3 times per game last fall. He'll be hard-pressed to match that total without breaking down.
Edwin Baker, Michigan State - Look, I love Baker, and considering I'm a Spartan alum, it pains me to put him on this list. He was one of our top five incoming freshman running backs in 2009 and had a excellent year in 2010. And I screamed from the rooftops that Baker was underrated last fall when people were falling in love with Le'Veon Bell. His inclusion on this list has nothing to do with his talent and everything to do with question marks along the offensive line, a brutal road schedule and four mouths to feed. We all know about Bell and Larry Caper. But redshirt freshman Nick Hill has been wowing coaches since he arrived last summer and he'll need to see the field this fall as well. Bottom line...I just don't see The Rock getting the same amount of carries as last year. And I hope he proves me wrong.