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CFB Fantasy: Running Back Keeper Outlook

While most fall college fantasy drafts focus on this season, several leagues already have an eye on 2011 and beyond.

Which running backs should you target in keeper leagues? While most fall college fantasy drafts will focus on one season (2010), several leagues already have an eye on 2011 and beyond. Juggling winning now and building for the future is always tricky for owners. Alabama’s Mark Ingram and Wisconsin’s John Clay are excellent fantasy picks for this year, but will either stick around for 2011? If either player decides to bolt to the NFL a year early, keeper league owners are left scrambling without one of their top rushers. Owners in keeper leagues will have to use some patience too, as some players who are selected for 2011, may not have much starting fantasy value this year.

Elite Junior Keepers

John Clay, Wisconsin – With one of the nation’s best offensive lines leading the way, Clay should be a lock for 1,500 yards and at least 15 scores. Assuming he has another monster season, the NFL could be his next stop.

Lance Dunbar, North Texas – Was Dunbar’s 2009 campaign a sign of things to come or just a mirage? We’re guessing Dunbar is legit and one to target as a top 10-15 back for the next two years.

Montel Harris, Boston College – Harris embraced the workhorse role last season, rushing for 1,457 yards and 14 scores on 308 carries. With four line starters returning, Harris is a top-25 option in 2010, but could see his numbers dip in 2011 with the departure of three key linemen.

Mark Ingram, Alabama – The defending Heisman Trophy winner should be a lock for 1,000 yards this season, but sophomore Trent Richardson will figure even more into the mix for carries. Don’t be surprised if this is Ingram’s final season in Tuscaloosa, so be sure to grab Richardson if you own the defending Heisman Trophy winner in a keeper league.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State – As long as Rodgers sticks around in Corvallis, he’s a lock for at least 1,000 rushing yards and 10 scores.

Jordan Todman, Connecticut – No Andre Dixon this year means an even bigger workload for Todman. The junior could approach 270 carries this year, rushing for 1,400-1,600 yards and 15-18 scores.

Robert Turbin, Utah State – Turbin’s status for the 2010 is up in the air following a torn ACL in offseason workouts. If Turbin misses this season, he will be a top-25 fantasy running back in 2011.

Shane Vereen, California – When Jahvid Best was lost for the final four games of last season, Vereen averaged 141.5 rushing yards per contest. California running backs have been fantasy gold over the last 10 seasons and Vereen is expected to continue that trend.

The next group

Victor Anderson, Louisville
Keola Antolin, Arizona
Bryce Beall, Houston
Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss
Jeff Demps, Florida
Robert Elliott, Mississippi State
Stephfon Green, Penn State
D.J. Harper, Boise State
Brynn Harvey, UCF
Derek Lawson, Arkansas State
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
Alfred Morris, Florida Atlantic
Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati
Tauren Poole, Tennessee
Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky
Rodney Stewart, Colorado
Morgan Williams, Toledo

Wait and see

JJ Di Luigi, BYU
Raymond Carter, Colorado State
Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech
Darren Evans, Virginia Tech
Broderick Green, Arkansas
Donte Harden, Ohio
Jamie Harper, Clemson
Daniel Herron, Ohio State
Jasmin Hopkins, Northern Illinois
Roddy Jones, Georgia Tech
Bryan Kariya, BYU
Caleb King, Georgia
D.D. Kyles, MTSU
Joe Martinek, Rutgers
Princeton McCarty, Idaho
De’Vion Moore, Missouri
Embry Peeples, Georgia Tech
Michael Shaw, Michigan
Jermaine Thomas, Florida State
Albert Williams, Tulane
Aaron Winchester, Western Michigan

Sophomore Options


Mike Ball, Nevada – With Vai Taua entering final season, Ball should become Nevada’s starting running back in 2011.

Rex Burkhead, Nebraska – Look for Burkhead to split carries with Roy Helu this season, but could be a top-20 fantasy running back in 2011 with more carries available.

Larry Caper, Michigan State – Could share time with Edwin Baker this season, but Caper has the makings of the next 1,000-yard back in East Lansing.

Washaun Ealey, Georgia – Ealey sparked the Georgia rushing attack in the second half of last season and will be running behind one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Even if Caleb King sees 100-140 carries as a backup, we like Ealey to get to 1,000 yards this season.

Andre Ellington, Clemson – One of the trends with backs on this elite sophomore list is shared carries, largely due to each player’s role still being defined. Even though this sophomore will likely split carries with Jamie Harper this season, we think Ellington is the best pick for long-term success in this backfield.

LaMichael James, Oregon – Owners of James in keeper formats were certainly holding their breath throughout his off the field saga this spring. Although James will miss the season opener due to a suspension this season, he should still maintain his status as one of the Pac-10’s best fantasy backs.

Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh – Even with three new offensive line starters this season, expect Lewis to have another monster year. The sophomore may not reach 325 carries again, but 1,400 yards and 12 scores looks like a lock.

Christine Michael, Texas A&M – Like Washaun Ealey, Andre Ellington and Larry Caper, Michael could be the victim of a committee approach this year. However, with Jerrod Johnson out of eligibility at the end of this season, Michael could figure even more prominently into the Aggie offense in 2011.

Toben Opurum, Kansas – Opurum was passed on the depth chart by Angus Quigley in spring practice, but we like this sophomore’s long-term potential. Opurum rushed for 554 yards and nine scores on 133 carries last season and if he can wrestle the No. 1 spot away this year, should be a safe pick for 1,000 yards.

Bernard Pierce, Temple – Pierce was one of college football’s breakout players last season. After starting with 13 carries in the first two contests, Pierce worked his way to the top spot in the Temple backfield and finished the year with 1,361 rushing yards and 16 scores. Although Pierce should once again rush for 1,000 yards, he battled injuries throughout the second half of last season and needs to stay healthy to become a top five fantasy back.

Chris Polk, Washington – Polk played in two games in 2008, before redshirting with a season-ending shoulder injury. In his first full workload last year, Polk rushed for 1,113 yards and five scores and caught 25 passes for 171 yards. If Polk can find the endzone a few more times in 2010, look for his fantasy value to inch closer to the RB2 status.

Trent Richardson, Alabama – Richardson should be one of this season’s top keeper options. Mark Ingram may not stick around for his senior season, giving Richardson the starting nod in 2011.

Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech – If Williams has another statistical campaign like the one he put together last season, this redshirt sophomore will likely bolt to the NFL – as a first or second round pick. If you draft Williams in your keeper league, be sure to add David Wilson or Darren Evans as insurance for 2011.

David Wilson, Virginia Tech – If Ryan Williams declares for the NFL Draft following this season, Wilson and Darren Evans will be the top contenders for the starting running back spot at Virginia Tech.

The next group

Alvester Alexander, Wyoming
Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Jermie Calhoun, Oklahoma
Jewel Hampton, Iowa
Sam McGuffie, Rice
Tre’ Newton, Texas
Warren Norman, Vanderbilt
Adam Robinson, Iowa
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State
Charles Sims, Houston
Shawn Southward, Troy
Eric Stephens, Texas Tech
Matthew Tucker, TCU
Martin Ward, Marshall
Brandon Wegher, Iowa
Ed Wesley, TCU
Darius Willis, Indiana
Ronnie Wingo, Arkansas

Wait and see

Edwin Baker, Michigan State
Tyrone Duplessis, Louisiana Tech
Arby Fields, Northwestern
Lyle Fitte, Louisiana Tech
Mike James, Miami
Jarvis Giles, South Carolina
Jeffvon Gill, Buffalo
Mike Gillislee, Florida
Michael Harris, Fresno State
Harrison Jeffers, Texas Tech
Desmond Johnson, Southern Miss
Kendial Lawrence, Missouri
Torrey Mack, Virginia
Cameron Marshall, Arizona State
Al-Terek McBurse, Purdue
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn
Travis Miller, Oklahoma State
David Oku, Tennessee
Desmond Scott, Duke
Sausan Shakerin, Utah
Alex Singleton, Tulsa
Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech
Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt
Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
Chris Thompson, Florida State
Eric Williams, Ball State

Redshirt Freshmen

Best chance to start in 2010

Michael Ford, LSU – Stevan Ridley may begin the season as LSU’s starter, but we like Ford to finish as the team’s leading rusher.

Kendrick Hardy, Southern Miss – The Golden Eagles will miss Damion Fletcher, who rushed for at least 1,000 yards in all four seasons on campus. Hardy is locked into a tight battle to start, but he was rated among the top 25 running backs coming out of high school by most recruiting services.

File away for the future

Jamaal Berry, Ohio State
Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Lamar Miller, Miami
Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan
Chris Whaley, Texas

True Freshmen

Top ones to target

Dillon Baxter, USC – Allen Bradford looks like USC’s workhorse, but Baxter earned playing time after a stellar spring.

Mack Brown, Florida – Must navigate crowded backfield for playing time, but certainly no shortage of talent.

Brennan Clay, Oklahoma – May not play much this year, but could be starter for an explosive Oklahoma attack in 2011.

Deontae Cooper, Washington – Chris Polk is Washington’s clear No. 1 back, but Cooper enrolled early for spring practice and is already making quite an impression.

Michael Dyer, Auburn – Even with Mario Fannin and Onterio McCalebb returning, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Dyer end up as Auburn’s leading rusher by season’s end.

Storm Johnson, Miami – Get ready Hurricane fans. There’s a new Storm approaching the backfield in Coral Gables.

Malcolm Jones, UCLA – The Bruins ranked near the bottom of the Pac-10 in rushing offense and Jones will be given every opportunity to start right away in 2010.

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – The Gamecocks haven’t found the answer in the running game under Steve Spurrier. Is Lattimore finally the go-to back needed to establish some balance on offense?

Silas Redd, Penn State – With Evan Royster moving on after this season, Redd and Stephfon Green will contend to be the top back for the Nittany Lions in 2010.

DeMarcus Robinson, Kansas State – Has clear path to be the backup to Daniel Thomas this season and the starter in 2011.

Lache Seastrunk, Oregon – Even with LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner ahead on depth chart, Ducks will find ways to get him the ball this year.

Others to watch

Giovanni Bernard, North Carolina
Jordon James, UCLA
D.J. Morgan, USC
Rajion Neal, Tennessee
Kevin Parks, Virginia
Joshua Quezada, BYU
Jerrell Rhodes, Memphis
Roderick Smith, Ohio State
Casey Turner, Rutgers

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