It’s been three weeks. Time to take a long hard look at your team and the “sleepers” you chose on draft day. If they haven’t woken up yet, chances are that they aren’t going to wake up anytime soon.
On the waiver this week, there are several running backs to take a chance on, but here are a few I think could have some real long-term value. Let these be your new sleepers.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you want a shot at another starting running back, Blount is my pick this week. He’s big, he’s young, and he’s got burst. Those are three things that the Bucs’ current starter, Cadillac Williams no longer has. Blount is my favorite player on this list.
Blount started the season with the Titans running behind Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer, and there was talk of them keeping him on the team for the regular season. But when it came time to cut down the roster, he didn’t make it and, instead, ended up in Tampa Bay. We can only hope whatever he picked up from the Titans running attack came with him.
We know he came with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. You may have heard of him already because he kind of decked a guy in the face back in college at Oregon. So he gets a B- in discipline, but that checkered past could motivate him to prove that he can handle a starting role in the NFL and that those who overlooked him on draft day made a mistake.
The Bucs are saying all the things a fantasy owner wants to hear. Coach Raheem Morris has said that the team planned on using him more in Week 3 and that Blount has earned the short-yardage and goal-line back role on the Bucs. The team wants to work more running backs into the mix besides Cadillac. That all adds up to more carries for Blount and more chances to earn a larger role.
Kareem Huggins got all the preseason hype, and there was enough confidence in him as a runner for the Bucs to let Derrick Ward go this preseason. But a hamstring injury has kept Huggy sidelined all season. He’s also a smaller runner, not immediately seen as someone who could carry a full load for a team like the Bucs, a team that must run the ball with power in order to keep more explosive, experienced offenses off the field.
I am not one to immediately write a guy off for being a small running back, but just given the current state of the run game in Tampa, I’d rather bet on Blount than Huggy going forward. Blount is healthy and ready to contribute. Plus, he’s got one nice showing against the Steelers defense under his belt going into a bye week.
Earnest Graham can take carries here and there, and Cadillac won’t fade into the night. But the Bucs want to get younger at every position with a young quarterback and two rookie receivers. They’ll get young at running back, too, and right now, Blount is their best option.
Stash him on your bench now, and hope for the best when the Bucs come back from their bye Week 5 to take on the Bengals.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
I mentioned him earlier this season on the waiver wire, and he makes this list today after having a historical performance, 100+ yards against the Ravens.
We heard about the Browns offensive line this offseason, but Jerome Harrison wasn’t able to take advantage of their skills during the early part of this season. Without him in the mix, Hillis proved he could.
He’s run well during his time and in Denver, and his skills as a rusher and pass-catcher have come to be appreciate in Cleveland as well.
No one can say for sure, but Hillis might have just earned himself the job as the No. 1 back in Cleveland for the rest of the season. That may not be a huge value, but a starter is a starter in this league.
Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins
Shanahan’s prized, “prodigal son” prospect has returned to him, and he’s actually getting playing time.
In Denver, Torain showed promise in several games before a knee injury landed him on IR and then off the roster post-Shanahan. Lost in the shuffle of the 2005 All-Star backfield Shanahan brought together in Washington, Torain was cut alongside Willie Parker before the regular season, but now he’s back.
Rumor has it that the Redskins have more confidence in Torain carrying the full load than Keiland Williams, who was backing up Clinton Portis since the Redskins cut Larry Johnson. And the Redskins last-minute sign-and-play of Torain in Week 3 seems to suggest that the rumor is true.
Keep in mind that Shanahan is Shanahan, so this backfield won’t be reliable each week. But for now, it looks like Torain is the guy you want. He’ll be in demand on the waiver wire.
For the record, I haven’t given up on Keiland Williams either. So if you miss out on Torain this week and want to play the Shanny sweepstakes, Williams ain’t a bad bet either. He was, after all, important enough to stay on the roster when Torain got cut to start the year.
One thing I know for sure: Anyone could be the next big rushing star when Shanahan’s running things.
Other backs who could have an impact later this year:
Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson’s backup should be more than that this season. The Bengals want to work him in more as a larger part of the offense and a speedy complement to Benson’s pounding style. Benson hasn’t been the dominating back he was last season, but don’t expect Scott to take the job over full-time unless Benson is injured.
Javon Ringer, RB, Tennesee Titans: The Titans have admitted that they need to get Ringer more involved in the offense so that Chris Johnson can remain healthy, happy and dominating all season long and for many years to come. It remains to be seen how many carries he’ll get, but in the right matchup, Ringer could be a flex play. For now, he’s simply a handcuff to Johnson and a long-term investment for the rest of the season.
Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens: He’s no spring chicken, but McGahee’s been getting touches even while Ray Rice was healthy. No that Rice has banged up his knee, McGahee could have an expanded role, especially short-term but possibly long-term as the Ravens try to keep Rice healthy for the playoffs and maximize the stable of running backs they have on the roster, also including LeRon McClain.
If you’re hard up for a running back who could become a “smelling of rich mahogany” big deal by year’s end, these backs are my current picks. Stash ’em now. Thank me later.