Two Fantasy Football Sleepers Primed to Breakout
Two fantasy football sleepers jumped out to me while reviewing the 2012 RB Rankings for PPR leagues. Ryan Williams and Shane Vereen enter their second year poised to make their mark after injury shortened rookie campaigns. Both players could be potential bargains for fantasy owners who do not have short memories.
Both Williams and Vereen were drafted in the 2nd round of 2011’s NFL Draft, and were accomplished collegiate running backs. Due to their disappointing rookie seasons, both players have lost a little of their initial luster – which will help them to fly under the radar heading into this year’s draft. Remember – scooping up a contributor at the RB position in the later portions of your draft is often the difference between success and failure in deep, competitive leagues.
Ryan Williams made a strong impression during the beginning of training camp in 2011. He was rumored to be pushing Beanie Wells for the starting job when disaster struck and he was lost for the entire season. Since that time Williams has been working hard to come back and has endeared himself to the coaching staff with his inspiring work ethic.
Beanie Wells went on to post a strong 2011 but lost the end of his season to injury as well. Both backs will enter training camp needing to prove that they are healthy. Wells did enough last season to begin the season as the starter in Arizona but he’s a far cry from having the job locked down. Arizona is searching for an offensive identity – and an explosive, homerun hitting running back could be exactly what they need to exploit the defenses that float multiple men in the direction of Larry Fitzgerald.
Shane Vereen got banged up in training camp and got lost in the depth chart. The Patriots allowed their rookie running backs to challenge starter, Ben Jarvis Green Ellis, during the season. Steven Ridley got the initial nod and played well – but struggled to hold onto the football. Vereen got a shot at the end of the season and flashed a level of explosion that New England has not had since the days of Curtis Martin. Both of the rookie runners were put on the shelf for New England’s playoff run.
Fast forward to 2012 – Vereen and Ridley will be counted on to hold down the top two spots on the depth chart. Ben Jarvis Green Ellis and Kevin Faulk are gone, which should mean ample touches for both players and a chance to earn a starting job.
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
2012 Projection: 549.12 Rush Yards, 2.00 Rush TDs, 41.60 Recs, 307.84 Rec Yards, 3.00 Rec TDs
Average Draft Position in July: 9th Round
- 1,655 rushing yards and 21 TDs during the 2009 season Virginia Tech – breaking the ACC rushing TD record
- Averaging an impressive 5.6 yards per carry in 2009
- Able to be a bell-cow runner despite having a smaller frame
- Physical runner but doesn’t take unnecessary shots
- Good vision, patience and burst through the hole makes him effective near the goal line
- Good hands; Can contribute in the passing game where Beanie Wells does little
YouTube Highlight Reel: http://youtu.be/zV7LLBitLKM
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
2012 Projection: 576.21 Rush Yards, 3.00 Rush TDs, 37.60 Recs, 293.28 Rec Yards, 2.00 Rec TDs
Average Draft Position in July: 12th Round
- Great balance, and change of direction ability – tough to tackle, shifty with good vision
- Difficult to tackle one-on-one due to superior acceleration and lateral quickness
- Rushed for 2,000+ yards & 25 rushing TDs over his last two seasons at Cal
- Piled up 47 receptions and 5 receiving TDs during his last two seasons at Cal; Is a weapon in the passing game
- Will generate the most impact in a spread offense that can utilize his physical gifts
YouTube Highlight Reel: http://youtu.be/bcU37Id3zPs