Bush, Choice could be valuable behind injury-prone starters

Fantasy prognosticators and owners alike spend much of the offseason compiling a list of potential sleepers that could turn into draft values. But sometimes the best sleepers aren't uncovered until the season begins and when injuries occur, especially at the running back position. Over the last two seasons, runners like Jamaal Charles, Jerome Harrison and Pierre Thomas have gone from unknowns to fantasy heroes. Those backs were allowed a chance to start only after one or more players ahead of them on the depth chart were lost to ailments. While predicting injuries is impossible, there are those runners with either a history of durability issues or getting up there in terms of age and carries. If those runners continue their health trends, the players behind them could turn from coal and into fantasy gold. Here's 10 running backs that are worth a late-round look on draft day.

Donald Brown, Colts: Brown failed to meet the expectations of fantasy owners last season, as Joseph Addai avoided injuries and once again found success as the top back on the Colts depth chart. The veteran has had his share of ailments at the NFL level, however, so Brown could see an increase in carries in 2010. In an offense that's geared for backs to find success, Brown should be considered a viable low middle-round pick with upside.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: If you're a fan of the Giants or have ever owned Brandon Jacobs in a fantasy league, you know how prone he is to injuries. Enter Bradshaw, who is coming off a career season with 21 catches, 985 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns. He's certainly earned a more prominent role in the offense, regardless of Jacobs' health, and is more than just a potential handcuff. Bradshaw is a viable middle-round selection.

Michael Bush, Raiders:Darren McFadden remains the favorite to start for coach Tom Cable, but he's been injury prone during his two NFL seasons and is no lock to be active for a full 16 games. As a result, it wouldn't be a shock to see Bush makes some noise out of the backfield. He's shown that he can put up good numbers when allowed a chance to start, so Bush is well worth a late-round look as a handcuff or deep fantasy sleeper.

Tashard Choice, Cowboys:Felix Jones will likely take over the top spot on the Cowboys depth chart, leaving Marion Barber to serve in more of a "closer's" role out of the backfield. Jones has dealt with his share of injuries at the NFL level, however, so Choice could wind up in a prominent role if that trend continues. He proved that he can be a fantasy starter back in 2008, so Tashard is a nice late-round "choice."

Kareem Huggins, Buccaneers: The release of Derrick Ward makes Huggins an interesting option in fantasy football. He's second on the depth chart behind Cadillac Williams, who hasn't exactly been durable during his NFL career. In fact, he's missed major time in multiple seasons due to knee injuries. If the Cadillac ends up blowing a tire once again, Huggins is going to become very fantasy relevant this season.

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars:Maurice Jones-Drew has proven to be a very durable player, but it's worth noting that he did slow down a bit down the stretch in what was his first season as a featured back. In the unfortunate event of an injury in 2010, Jennings would be the favorite to take over the top spot on the Jaguars depth chart. Deji Karim is also in the mix, but Jennings is the best bet for work behind Jones-Drew.

Willis McGahee, Ravens: Much like Jones-Drew, Ray Rice hasn't shown signs of being a brittle running back. But at 5-foot-8, the Rutgers product could be more vulnerable to potential injuries. If that scenario came to fruition, McGahee would step in and become a featured back for coach John Harbaugh. The fact that he'll see goal-line work adds to McGahee's overall value, but he's a great handcuff for Rice as well.

Javon Ringer, Titans:Chris Johnson is going to see the lion's share of the workload out of the Titans backfield this season. But with LenDale White out of the mix, Ringer is now his top handcuff option. He's a talented back who would become a viable No. 2 fantasy runner should Johnson's heavy workload end up in injury. If you land C.J. in a larger league, be sure to grab Ringer late.

Bernard Scott, Bengals: Cedric Benson is a solid breakout candidate this season, but he hasn't exactly been durable at the NFL level. He's never played a full 16-game campaign and even missed three games in 2009 with a hip ailment. If Benson does require time in the trainer's room, Scott would step in to a more prominent role with little competition. The second-year back is a nice handcuff for Benson owners in drafts.

Ricky Williams, Dolphins: There might not be a better example of how sleepers can spawn from injuries than Williams. He was an absolute fantasy superstar in the absence of Ronnie Brown last season, rushing for a total of 1,121 yards with 13 total touchdowns. Brown is coming off an injured foot and has missed a good portion of two of the last three seasons due to different ailments, so Williams is a viable middle rounder.

Other notables:Darren Sproles, Chargers; Mike Bell, Eagles; Brian Westbrook, 49ers; Toby Gerhart, Vikings; Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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