Fantasy Football 2011 | Top 5 Breakout Running Backs
There are fantasy sleepers, and then there are flat-out breakout candidates. We normally put out our sleeper list early, and after further evidence presents itself, dive into a more concrete statement on a few guys that should flat-out rock your socks off in the coming year.
We already got our Breakout Quarterbacks out of the way, so it only feels right to take a sideways step to the running backs, and figure out which guys are primed for a big season.
Remember, none of these guys have left their mark as elite options yet, but could very well do so in 2011:
1. Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions)
I know I’m not alone or completely original here, but Best continues to be the guy I mention first when I talk about potential breakout candidates at the running back position. He’s not the biggest guy in the world and he has rookie back Mikel Leshoure coming in to help with goal-line work, but he’s a fire-cracker with major fantasy potential written all over him. If it weren’t for a nasty toe injury that killed the entire second half of his rookie season, we may already be talking about him as a top-10 pick.
2. Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)
I still think Mathews is fairly fragile and we’ll have to worry about Mike Tolbert for most of 2011, but there’s also no denying his natural talent. He’s an inside runner with nice shiftiness and solid potential in the receiving game, so there’s a lot to like. The Chargers would love to see him kick the injuries to the curb and take over as the feature back, too. That kind of backing says a lot, and has me slowly rising Mathews up my rankings.
3. LeGarrette Blount (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Blount came out of nowhere to be an absolute beast for Tampa Bay, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in about half of a season. Some will argue that he’s already broken out, but I still think he has much more to show the fantasy world. And in that same breath, I think his lack of versatility has him being severely under-valued in many drafts. He’s a bruiser who can run the ball down the defense’s throat. You can’t fake that. As long as the Buccaneers don’t bottom out after major progress in 2010, Blount should be a force to be reckoned with.
4. Shonn Greene (New York Jets)
If not now, then when? The Jets are clearly ready to give Greene the keys ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson (for real this time), and all of that hype and potential people have been talking about the past two years could finally be realized. If Greene doesn’t put it all together, he could be looking at possibly losing the starting gig to Joe McKnight or Bilal Powell in the near future. With the extra motivation, look for him to have his best season to date.
5. Chris “Beanie” Wells (Arizona Cardinals)
I remain slightly skeptical of Wells based on his injury history, but with head coach Ken Wisenhunt publicly backing him as the full-fledged starter, I’m drafting him earlier and earlier in fantasy mock drafts. There’s no doubt this guy has the talent to be a great starter. Impressive rookie Ryan Williams should throw a few people off the scent early, but my suggestion is to get Wells at a spot you like, and then just be sure to add Williams as a handcuff later in the draft.
6. Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
Oh, snap, we gave you a sixth guy that could tear it up in 2011. Please forgive us. The fact is, Moreno has flashed the ability to be a top-notch NFL back in his first two seasons, but he’s been missing consistency. Injuries and a pass-happy Josh McDaniels offense certainly didn’t help, either. With a run-first John Fox system in place, Moreno could really take off in 2011 if he can stay healthy.