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Fantasy Football: 5 running backs on the rise

By Tim Heaney

Training camp noise hurts fantasy football players more often than it helps, but some news legitimately predicts the future. Players just started wearing pads, and rumblings are typically mere speculation based on whispers, so take these with caution.

Of course, signs of a big year can be gleaned frequently for running backs based on how the team looks early in training camp and the preseason. If their recent buzz continues through August, these five will zoom up fantasy football draft rankings.

RB Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Miller Time ... finally?

Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins

Sure, there's Knowshon Moreno's knee injury, but there's also the talk of Miller being the LeSean McCoy in Miami's new offense, helmed by former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. Though the South Beach system won't be a total Chip Kelly clone, its basis already was bringing excitement to the Dolphins. Carrying behind what should be an improved front five, with hints of a philosophy that installed one of the best running attacks of 2013, Miller should capture that long-awaited breakthrough. He's comfortably a low-end RB2 that soon may become expensive. Warning: The price point was the big problem with him last year.

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers

This listing is by default, but eventually, he probably would've earned it anyway. Injuries to Kendall Hunter (torn ACL, done for season) and LaMichael James (elbow, might be ready for Week 1, likely change-of-pace duty) confirm the rookie from Ohio State as the top handcuff for the aging Frank Gore. At 6-foot, 236 pounds, Hyde possesses a fine football physique and resides in an excellent environment for ground work, even in partial duty. Already one of the more coveted middle- and late-round speculations, he's inching toward cemented RB3 demand. He's not going to be an every-week play as long as Gore is healthy. If the vet is not, of course, Hyde can run wild in ways of which Jekyll never dreamed.

Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

Cincy is finally realizing, or at least it's being made known to the public, that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is expendable now that Hill is in town. At 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, the Louisiana State grad profiles similarly to Law Firm, a known goal line vulture who's becoming more tepid by the year. Hue Jackson's run-first plan probably has room for the electric Giovani Bernard to share with both bruisers, but the Bengals are better off getting something for BJGE and sliding Hill into a role befitting weekly fantasy flex consideration. He'd have a limited ceiling in PPRs a la Green-Ellis, though.

Terrance West, Cleveland Browns

Listing Ben Tate on both our sleeper and high-risk list may seem contradictory, but it shows the upside of any running back in this offense and, in Tate's case, warns of his injury risk. Turns out the 5-foot-9, 225-pound West, the pride of Towson, doesn't appear too far behind a healthy Tate on the depth chart. West isn't blazing fast but boasts the vision and decisiveness to succeed in Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking structure. By the time your draft comes around, West should be a popular RB4.

Bryce Brown, Buffalo Bills

There's trade talk surrounding Fred Jackson and now even C.J. Spiller. If one departs, that'd be fine news for Brown, who has averaged 4.6 yards per carry in his career of backup and part-time duty. A sustained opportunity has eluded him, but if Buffalo can get EJ Manuel and its line together while freeing up work for the 23-year-old toter, Brown may be ready to explode in his third year. This speculation will require some patience, but few RB5s match the potential payoff.


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