17. Ryan Williams – Cardinals – ADP: 126
Williams is one of the league’s most injury-prone players over the last two years, but he’ll get another shot at lead-back duties if Rashard Mendenhall stumbles. Of course, the leash here will be short with rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington also in the mix.
18. Ronnie Hillman – Broncos – ADP: 114
Hillman is undersized (5’10/190) and figures to settle in as a change-of-pace back, but he would get a long look as Denver’s lead back if Montee Ball were to miss time. Knowshon Moreno would certainly be involved, but he’s a below average producer.
19. Jacquizz Rodgers – Falcons – ADP: 125
Despite leading the Falcons’ backfield in snaps last season, Rodgers wasn’t much of a fantasy asset because of his struggles between the tackles. If Steven Jackson goes down with an injury, Rodgers will enjoy a sizable boost in snaps, but he’d share the workload with bruiser Jason Snelling. Rodgers’ low ceiling keeps up from a higher ranking.
20. Mikel Leshoure – Lions – ADP: 102
Leshoure is a guy who seems more attractive as a handcuff than he actually is. He’s going to see plenty of work behind Reggie Bush this season, but his role doesn’t figure to increase if Bush goes down with an injury. Instead, Joique Bell—seemingly a better all-around back than Leshoure—would pick up a large chunk of Bush’s snaps, including all passing-down work.
21. Danny Woodhead – Chargers – ADP: 109
Like Vereen, Woodhead will be drafted before a lot of names already listed (and rightfully so), but the issue is that his role won’t be much different in the event of a Ryan Mathews’ injury. Woodhead has never been a workhorse back and coach Mike McCoy is not going to ask him to run between the tackles 15 times-per-week. Instead, Ronnie Brown will take on a chunk of Mathews’ snaps.
22. Mike James – Buccaneers – ADP: N/A
James was only a sixth-round pick in April’s draft, but the Buccaneers are badly in need of a competent No. 2 option behind workhorse Doug Martin. It appears James has secured the gig, but it’s likely he’d share duties with Brian Leonard and Michael Smith in the event of a Martin injury. Still, those investing a top-five overall pick in Martin should be considering James in the later rounds, especially in deeper leagues.
23. Pierre Thomas – Saints – ADP: 131
I probably should’ve just grouped Woodhead, Vereen, and now Thomas together. The long-time Saints utility man remains a solid contributor as a runner and pass catcher, but he requires several injuries in order to land a 15-plus touch role. If Mark Ingram or Darren Sproles miss time, Thomas’ snaps will increase, but Travaris Cadet will play a sizable role. The ceiling here is too low to warrant much fantasy intrigue.
24. Mike Goodson – Jets – ADP: 175
Goodson is dealing with some legal issues, but he’s currently slotted in as Chris Ivory’s primary backup. Goodson will handle a lot of the passing down work regardless, but he’d lead a committee with Bilal Powell in the event of an Ivory injury. The Jets’ poor offense limits his fantasy intrigue.
25. Montario Hardesty – Browns – ADP: N/A
The Browns loaded up with replacement-level running back depth this offseason, but Hardesty remains locked in as Trent Richardson’s primary backup. Should the sophomore workhorse go down with an injury, Hardesty would take on a bulk of the snaps. One of Chris Ogbonnaya, Dion Lewis, and Brandon Jackson would take on a situational role.
26. Isaac Redman – Steelers – ADP: N/A
The Steelers drafted Le’Veon Bell in the second round of April’s draft. If the rookie struggles or misses time, it’s Redman that would be the favorite for lead back duties. LaRod Stephens-Howling would certainly help out on passing downs and, assuming he keeps his roster spot, Jonathan Dwyer would be in the mix. The ceiling here is low.
27. Knile Davis – Chiefs – ADP: N/A
Davis is a very polarizing player, with many draft pundits scratching their heads following his selection in the third-round of April’s draft. Regardless, the lead back in an Andy Reid-offense tends to land on the fantasy radar. Should Jamaal Charles miss time, Davis figures to lead a committee that would also include Shaun Draughn and potentially Cyrus Gray.
28. Daniel Thomas – Dolphins – ADP: 168
Thomas has been extremely underwhelming since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. It appears, however, that he has a firm grasp on the No. 2 job behind sophomore Lamar Miller in Miami. Should Miller stumble or miss time, Thomas would take over. Rookie Mike Gillislee and potentially Jonas Gray or Marcus Thigpen, would be heavy-involved, however, and Thomas’ leash would be short.
29. Justin Forsett – Jaguars – ADP: N/A
A source inside the Jaguars’ organization informed me that Justin Forsett is the clear handcuff to Maurice Jones-Drew. There’s a lot of chatter/hype surrounding Denard Robinson, but his role—at least in 2013—will be as a part-time situational receiver/back. Forsett has always been underrated, but the Jaguars’ offense isn’t going to score a lot of points.
30. Evan Royster – Redskins – ADP: N/A
Royster is considered to be on the roster bubble, but the run-first Redskins seemingly do not have enough roster depth to warrant cutting him loose. Roy Helu and Chris Thompson are in the mix, but if the season began minus Alfred Morris today, Royster would be the favorite to start.
31. Joseph Randle – Cowboys – ADP: 146
The Cowboys utilize one of the league’s pass-heaviest offenses and the running back situation behind DeMarco Murray is very volatile. Randle, a fifth-round pick in April’s draft, is the favorite for No. 2 duties, but he’s dealing with a thumb injury. Should he get back to full health, and Murray were to miss time, Randle would need to fend off Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner for snaps.
32. Latavius Murray – Raiders – ADP: N/A
You could make a case that Rashad Jennings is currently No. 2 on the Raiders depth chart, but let’s be honest, he’s not very good. If Darren McFadden misses time, Murray and Jennings would share the workload, but Murray, a sixth-round pick in April’s draft, offers slightly more intrigue.