These are the back-up running backs that you should be looking to have on your roster as you build your roster: (note: Darren Sproles isn’t considered for this list because already known as a valuable fantasy option)
–Arian Foster is still on the mend and that could mean that Ben Tate is the top back week 1, making him an instant fantasy starter. Though he might not hold on to the position for long, he is definitely a guy to hold on to. Ideally the Texans would like to see Tate get between 125-150 carries even with a healthy Foster. If for some reason this Foster injury is a bit more serious, Tate would be one of the most valuable fantasy backs in the league.
-Vereen showed some flashes last year, but really looks to boost his numbers now that Danny Woodhead is gone. Vereen will be the 3rd down back now behind Ridley and should easily top 40 catches this season. In addition he’s a good bet for over 100 carries, and will put up some fantasy points each week even if he’s not the starting running back.
-Bernard is in a time share with Green-Ellis, but expect Bernard to build up his carries as the season wears on. He should also add quite a bit through the air as well. So although Bernard might not be a fantasy starting running back week 1, he’s got a pretty good chance at being one come playoff time.
–Ray Rice isn’t going anywhere, but the Ravens offense might be. With a lack of top targets the Ravens may look to run the ball more, which should add more targets to Pierce’s total. Also, the Ravens will likely up Rice‘s pass targets, which could further up Pierce’s rushes as they don’t want to overwork their top running back.
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-Jackson is firmly behind C.J. Spiller, but still could have a lot of value given how much the Bills figure to run the football this year. Even with a healthy Spiller, Jackson could be looking at 10 carries a game. He also figures to get a couple catches a game as well. Jackson is a proven back, which makes him a great starting option if Spiller were to miss any time.
-Pead has lost the starting job in St. Louis, but don’t be surprised if he gets another chance when he comes back from his one game suspension. Pead has good speed and a lot of potential, if Richardson doesn’t prove himself early on, Pead will be given another shot. If he can take over the starting role you can land a cheap starting back, on what should be a high powered offense.
-Despite the passing attack they had last year the Broncos weren’t afraid to run the football and finished top 10 in the league in rushing attempts. Though Montee Ball figures to get the majority of carries this should be more of a committee approach, especially early on. Hillman is a guy with a lot of upside and could see between 150-200 carries this year even without a major injury to Ball. If Hillman proves himself, it wouldn’t be unheard of for the Broncos to keep running with the hot hand.
-Rookie Le’Veon Bell is the featured back, and LaRod Stephens Howling may take some of the third down work, but Dwyer is still a guy to grab. Bell has dealt with a minor knee injury and is waiting to hear back from his MRI on his foot injury he suffered in the 2nd preseason game. If Bell misses anytime, Dwyer will probably get the starting nod. He’s not a dynamic running back, but he could get a fair amount of work early in the season. That could lessen if Bell is healthy and as he gets going throughout the year, but Dwyer is worth having as an insurance policy.
-The Giants aren’t afraid to use two running backs, and Brown figures to be the third down back this year. While it will likely start as a time share and Brown will always get a couple carries, it is likely that Wilson increases his role as the season wears on. If Wilson goes down though, Brown is a capable replacement and would be a good number 2 back on a fantasy roster.
-Taylor is a bit of a sleeper at this point, but when you consider that all he has ahead of him right now is an injured Ryan Williams and a Rashard Mendenhall who is coming off an injury filled year, there is a lot to like. Williams at this point can’t be counted on this season (or going forward). Mendenhall should get the starting nod for the Cardinals, given that he knows Bruce Arians, but he might not keep that job. Mendenhall has dealt with a variety of injuries as well as discipline issues in his career, if he doesn’t bring his ‘A’ game, don’t be surprised if he gets replaced. Taylor has some nice future promise and could be a good guy to stash at the bottom of your roster to start the year.