2012 fantasy football profiles and projections (RBs 46-60)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports

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Royster found himself relegated to the practice squad in 2011, but injuries would open room for the back to join the team in late November. During the last two weeks of the season, the Penn State product totaled 245 rushing yards for an average of 6.2 yards per carry. With Tim Hightower coming along slowly after ACL surgery, Royster has overtaken Roy Helu as the lead back thus far in training camp. If he can continue to impress coaches and has a strong showing in the preseason, Royster could be the starter behind RG3 in Week 1. Still, fantasy owners should proceed with caution given Mike Shanahan's tendency to crowd the backfield. Consider Royster a No. 3 back in drafts with upside should he avoid a timeshare situation.

Blount was unable to make good on the fantasy potential he showed as a rookie, rushing for an unimpressive 781 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. He also hauled in just 15 passes in his 14 games, which showed a one-dimensional skill set that isn't going to earn him a featured role in the future. In fact, he's now likely to serve as a short-yardage and potential goal-line back with rookie Doug Martin in the mix. One thing is for sure: Blount is likely to be utilized in a backfield committee that will limit both his touches and draft value this season. In fact, he's someone to avoid, unless you feel the need to draft a potential handcuff for Martin.

Injury and the emergence of DeMarco Murray saw Jones notch only one touchdown in 2011, a career low for the Arkansas back. The time missed was enough for Murray to win the lead-back role, leaving Jones second on the depth chart heading into 2012. Jones was unable to meet the expectations of being the answer at running back for the Cowboys, a disappointment both for the team and fantasy owners. The fifth year back is a must-handcuff for Murray owners, who himself is coming off an ankle injury. Jones carries value as a late round selection, but his potential is limited as long as Murray is healthy.

If we learned one thing from the 2011 NFL season, it's that you can't trust a running back who plays under Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. That's the reason Helu is ranked as a flex option instead of a surefire starter. He showed flashes of brilliance at times in his rookie campaign, most notably during a three-week stretch where he averaged 111 rushing yards and found the end zone twice. If he can hold off Tim Hightower and Evan Royster for the top spot on the depth chart, the versatile and talented Helu could have flex starter value. Just keep in mind that the unpredictable Shanahan could make a quick change at the position at any given time.

Brown followed up a 2010 season which saw him post 976 total yards and five scores with Dolphins by amassing only 136 yards in his 2011 campaign with the Eagles. Signed by the Chargers in the offseason, Brown was expected to be nothing more than a change- of -pace back in relief of Ryan Mathews. As fate would have it, Mathews broke his clavicle during preseason action, leaving Brown with the potential to start Week 1 of the regular season. Though the initial diagnosis is only 4- to -6 weeks, the team is likely to ease the Fresno State product back into action. That could mean a bigger role for Brown, who could earn more touches should he perform well in Mathews absence.

A fourth-year veteran out of Abilene Christian, Scott is coming off a 2011 season that saw him post career bests in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns. Unfortunately, those totals weren't good enough to finish among the top 50 running backs based on fantasy points. While Scott could see an even bigger role in the offense this year (a potential committee is possible) he's still just the second option in the backfield behind newly acquired starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That makes Scott worth a look in the late rounds, but he's not someone you're going to lean on in a prominent role in 2012.

A potential sleeper heading into his rookie season, Thomas showed flashes of potential at times but was mostly an afterthought behind the suddenly durable Reggie Bush. The knocks on the former Kansas State standout were a lack of power and durability, both of which led him to a lesser role in the backfield and a spot on fantasy waiver wires in countless leagues. Looking to 2012, Thomas will benefit from his first pro season and is worth a late-round pick even if he does remain behind Bush on the depth chart as expected. Should Bush revert to his more injury-prone days, Thomas could become a decent draft bargain.

A preseason sleeper heading into the 2011 campaign, Starks posted mediocre numbers while in a backfield committee with Ryan Grant. He also missed time with ankle and knee problems, so there are some durability issues to consider heading into this season. In fact, Starks hasn't been healthy for a full season since his junior year at college. So while he looks like the top back in Green Bay, don't expect him to break out. It also doesn't help that the team ran the ball a mere 39 percent of its offensive plays. That's what happens when your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers. Even if he does earn the top spot, it's hard to trust Starks as more than a No. 3 or 4 fantasy back.

A first-round pick in many fantasy drafts last season, Mendenhall failed to live up to heightened expectations following a breakout 2010 campaign. In fact, his numbers were down almost in all statistical categories. What's worse, Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in the regular-season finale and is now in danger of missing the start of this season. With the lack of success most runners have experienced in their first year back from a reconstructive knee procedure, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Mendenhall would make a significant fantasy impact. He'll be worth a late-round look in drafts, but Isaac Redman is now the Steelers running back to target.

Hardesty saw little action in 2011, playing in only nine games due to various injuries. Peyton Hillis might be gone, but the team selected Trent Richardson in the 2012 NFL Draft, leaving Hardesty to once again play a backup role this season. However, with Richardson's recent knee issues, the Tennessee product could potentially start Week 1, and becomes a must-handcuff for fantasy owners. The back could provide decent value in the later-rounds, but he is only worth drafting as an insurance policy.

The speedy back from Eastern Washington is the favorite to back up incumbent Darren McFadden this season despite the presence of Mike Goodson. With McFadden's injury history, fantasy owners would be wise to select Jones as the handcuff. Jones has shown the potential to be a special player, but his value will be limited to that of a change- of -pace back.

Hunter, a second-year running back out of Oklahoma State, showed flashes of potential in his first NFL season. He's also passed Anthony Dixon on the 49ers' depth chart, making him the runner to own as a fantasy handcuff behind starter Frank Gore. While he's clearly more valuable in dynasty formats heading into 2012, Hunter could have some seasonal appeal in the event that Gore suffers some sort of physical ailment. Remember, he's never been overly durable and is now coming off his busiest season from a carries standpoint since 2006. Regardless, Hunter will be drafted in the late rounds of most fantasy leagues with 10-plus teams.

The No. 106 overall selection in April's rookie draft, Turbin earned 2011 WAC Offensive Player of the Years honors in his final collegiate season. Now a member of the Seahawks, the Utah State product will battle for the right to back up incumbent starter Marshawn Lynch in 2012. If Turbin does earn that role, he'll be well worth a late-round look in deeper leagues, especially for as a handcuff for fantasy owners who land Lynch. Otherwise, Turbin's stock will be much more prominent in dynasty formats. He's someone to keep on your radar in training camp.

The 67th overall selection in April's draft, Hillman could step right in and make a contribution for the Broncos. He isn't going to pass Willis McGahee as the No. 1 back, but there is a good chance he'll finish ahead of Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball on the team's depth chart. A good pass-catching back, the San Diego State product will definitely have moe value in dynasty leagues than in re-draft formats. But if he does back up McGahee, who is up there in age, Hillman will be worth a late-round look. He's clearly a player to keep tabs on in training camp.

The Falcons were impressed with Rodgers explosiveness and ability in open space, and plan to utilize the dynamic back more in 2012. With a renewed focus on the passing game and plans to keep Michael Turner healthy for the long-haul, Rodgers should see an uptick in production this year. With his primary impact expected to come in passing situations, his value is limited to that of a reserve selection in fantasy drafts. The Oregon State product is a must-handcuff for owners who select Turner, and carries good potential should the injury bug strike and see Rodgers assume lead-back duties.

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