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With the NFL season shortly approaching, now is the time for fantasy football owners to start preparing for their drafts.

We’re not even into the month of June, but getting a leg up on the season will go a long way.  Understanding where rookies stand is a key component of dynasty and redraft leagues.

Earlier, I discussed the top rookie sleepers to watch for at the quarterback position, and today I’ll be delving into the first-year running backs.

(Players aren’t listed in any specific order; college attended in parentheses)

Bishop Sankey, Titans (Washington): This year’s draft showed that NFL teams are continuing to put less emphasis on the run game.  Sankey, who was the first RB off the board, was taken No. 54 overall by the Titans, which was the longest any draft had gone without having a RB selected.  It’s no secret the Titans have lacked a proper run game the past few seasons, and this was an excellent pick for them.  Chris Johnson is finally gone, and the plodding Shonn Greene will be be the only thing standing in the way of Sankey becoming the starter in Nashville.  While I don’t expect an Eddie Lacy-like rookie performance, with the addition of some more offensive line help in the next couple of seasons, Sankey has the ability to become a legit RB1/2 for fantasy purposes.  He’s definitely worth drafting in all formats.

Terrance West, Browns (Towson): The Browns had a number of picks stockpiled in this year’s draft and they used them wisely, addressing a number of team weaknesses.  Although they landed former Texan Ben Tate in the offseason, the RB spot was still a need for them.  Tate is a very talented back, nearly rushing for 1,000 yards in 2011, but injuries have plagued him throughout his brief career.  He was even forced to miss his entire rookie campaign after having ankle surgery during the preseason.  He’ll get a chance to play nearly every down in Cleveland, but with just a two-year deal in tow (and team-friendly one in that), new Browns OC Kyle Shanahan will not be afraid to showcase their newest ball carrier — third-round pick Terrance West.  In just three seasons at Towson, West rushed for 83 TD, and is poised to be one of “breakout backs” from this year’s draft.  He’s probably a tad bit raw, especially given the lighter FCS opponents he faced in college, but the Browns have no reason not to give him looks, even if it is in a somewhat limited fashion this year.  He’s more of a dynasty grab, but if Tate gets hurt, like he has so often before, West immediately becomes relevant in redraft leagues as well.

Other RB sleepers to keep an eye on: Isaiah CrowellBrowns (Alabama St.), Storm JohnsonJaguars (UCF), Dri ArcherSteelers (Kent St.), Ka’Deem CareyBears (Arizona), Tre MasonRams (Auburn), Devonta FreemanFalcons (Florida St.), Andre WilliamsGiants (Boston College), Marion GriceChargers (Arizona St.), Jeremy HillBengals (LSU)

 

SethDaSportsMan on Twitter at, you guessed it, @SethDaSportsMan, for quality fantasy sports advice and the deepest veneration of all things Nicolas Cage