With the passing game becoming more and more prevalent and teams going with more of the committee approach with their running backs, it has become increasingly difficult for fantasy owners to find consistent production at the running back position. In the second installment of my Pre-Season Sleeper series, I take a look at some underrated individual running backs and duos that could help you win your league this season.
• Bronson Hill, Eastern Michigan – Hill was one of the few bright spots for a team that finished 2-10 in 2013. Hill used his blend of size, speed and vision to run for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns on just 196 carries. He also has proven to be a weapon in the passing game catching 28 balls for 383 yards and two touchdowns over the last two seasons. New head coach Chris Creighton will be implementing a spread, pass first offense. But I fully expect the offense to revolve around Hill and for him to improve on last year’s numbers.
• Jhurrell Pressley, New Mexico – Pressley is the next man up after the graduation of leading rusher Casey Carrier and Crusoe Gongbay being suspended with some serious legal troubles. Pressley’s numbers from 2013 were interesting. He only carried the ball 29 times for 273 yards. He did run for six touchdowns which tied him for third on the team with Gongbay. Including an 80 yard touchdown run against Fresno State in which he displayed the potential to be a big play threat. With head coach Bob Davie’s triple option offense, there are plenty of opportunities for Pressley to put up big numbers and be a fantasy asset in 2014.
• Kenneth Dixon & Tevin King, Louisiana Tech – In 2012 this duo was a fantasy revelation in Sonny Dyke’s “Air Raid” offense combining for 1,563 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. Dixon accounted for a whopping 27 of those rushing touchdowns. In 2013 Dykes took a bigger job at Cal and Skip Holtz was hired. The offensive production dropped and injuries to both Dixon and King caused them to miss time. Dixon, the more talented back, still managed to rush for 917 yards and but only four touchdowns. King actually saw an uptick in rushing yards with 539 but only scored once. Fast forward to 2014 and the second year under Holtz. Dixon will be getting looks from NFL scouts and will want to improve his draft stock. If the Bulldogs can get any semblance of a passing attack going both Dixon and King, health permitting should flourish. *Deep Sleeper Alert* – Should either of these two miss time with an injury, Sophomore Blake Martin could step in and be productive. He played sparingly last season but showed promise, rushing for 267 yards on just 54 carries with two touchdowns and also caught 14 passes.
• Myles Willis, Boston College – How do you replace a running back who gave you 2,177 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns? Simply put you don’t. Andre Williams was a fantasy monster last season for owners and hopefully those same owners paid attention to the guy who came in to give Williams a breather. That guy is Myles Willis. Coach Steve Addazio realized Willis was too talented to redshirt or keep off the field so he used him in a myriad of ways that showcased his talents. He ran the ball in relief of Williams 60 times for 346 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 60 yards and one touchdown. Willis even returned kicks for a lofty 23.6 yards per return average, including a 98 yard kickoff return touchdown against New Mexico State. As noted by my good friend Rob Leath with Dynasty Scouts at DLF, Willis is a much better creator in space and explosive athlete than Williams was. He’s taken this offseason to put on more weight, with a goal of 205. With the added strength and workload, Willis is primed for a breakout season.
• Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State – College football has seen some great multi-purpose players the last few years that have given fantasy owners great production. Guys who can play wide receiver, running back and return kicks. Swiss army knives as I like to call them. Tavon Austin and Dri Archer come to mind. Tyreek Hill appears poised to be next in line. He stole the show during spring practice with his blazing speed as he was lined up all over the field for the offense. Hill, who also runs track for the Cowboys, ran the sixth-fastest 200-meter time in the world last year according to head coach Mike Gundy. In an interview with Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman, Gundy said he would like to get Hill 10-15 touches per game, via the pass or running the ball. If Hill can fall somewhere in between Tavon Austin and Dri Archer, that should make him a steal in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. Tyreek Hill Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc39FH39dMo
• Jawon Chisholm, Akron – The second running back from the MAC conference to make this list, Chisholm has quietly posted solid numbers the past three seasons. He’s rushed for 2,783 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in his three years at Akron. He’s also a solid contributor in the passing game catching 77 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns. But Chisholm has always left fantasy owners wanting more. The hope is that with quarterback Kyle Pohl gaining the experience he did last year as the full time starter, an improved passing game will open up more running lanes for Chisholm. If so he will be a nice pickup for owners in fantasy drafts looking for a solid RB2 or flex option.
• Alonzo Harris & Elijah McGuire, UL Lafayette – The best backfield in the state of Louisiana doesn’t play for LSU (Until Leonard Fournette takes an official snap). The Ragin’ Cajun’s Thunder & Lightning duo of Harris and McGuire were fantastic last season in leading UL Lafayette to a 9-4 record, including a New Orleans Bowl victory over Tulane. Harris ran for 942 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. While the true freshman McGuire showed his versatility and big play ability to the tune of 863 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns. If quarterback Terrance Broadway wasn’t such a great running threat (442 yards & 8 touchdowns last season), the duo would have put up bigger numbers. Look for McGuire to get more touches this season because of his big play ability and work in the passing game. He’ll likely be the better fantasy option and have the higher ADP during draft season. One thing is for sure, owners can’t go wrong with drafting either running back.
Others To Keep An Eye On
• Devin Chafin & Johnny Jefferson – Baylor
• Raheem Mostert & Akeem Hunt – Purdue
• Jordan Parker – Middle Tennessee
• Devontae Booker – Utah
Got a College Fantasy Football question? Or just want to talk football in general? Give me a shout on Twitter @HaitianKid79