Five undervalued running backs in fantasy football

With running back committees becoming more and more popular in the National Football League, it’s tough for fantasy football players to draft running backs with confidence. Here are five undervalued running backs that you can likely grab in the middle to late rounds in your fantasy draft.

5. Peyton Hillis. After signing with the Chiefs this offseason, the Madden 2012 cover athlete could return to form and have a big year. Jamaal Charles is returning from an ACL injury he suffered in 2011, which could affect him early in the 2012 season. Back in 2010, the Chiefs split carries between Charles and Thomas Jones and led the league in rushing. The Chiefs could be trying to duplicate that success with Hillis playing Jones’s role. Jones carried the ball 245 times in 2010, and Hillis could see a similar total in 2012.

4. Michael Bush. Even though he sits behind Matt Forte on the depth chart, Bush should still see plenty of carries with the Bears. On Friday, offensive coordinator Mike Tice said he wants both Forte and Bush to rush for over 1,000 yards this season. Whether that happens or not, Bush should have plenty of opportunities and could even be used around the goal-line to score touchdowns.

3. Kevin Smith. With Jahvid Best likely starting the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list and Mikel LeShoure set to serve a two-game suspension to start the season, Lions RB Smith has an opportunity to solidify himself atop the depth chart in one of the top offenses in the league. Yes, he plays in a pass-first offense, but with defenses concentrating on stopping quarterback (QB) Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, Smith could find running room. The concern is once Best and LeShoure return to the lineup, Smith will likely be involved in a committee and could be forgotten altogether if he doesn’t impress early.

2. Cedric Benson. Signed by the Green Bay Packers earlier this month, the 29-year-old Benson has already impressed in his first preseason game. Like the Lions, the Packers are a pass-first offense. But with defenses scared of last year’s MVP QB Aaron Rodgers carving them up, Benson could find open running lanes often and could score double-digit touchdowns in one of the league’s top offenses. All other running backs on the roster have injury concerns, so Benson has a huge opportunity to prove he can be a workhorse for this team.

The question is if Benson has enough left in the tank with already more than 1,500 carries in his NFL career.

1. Rashad Jennings. If Jaguars superstar running back Maurice Jones-Drew continues his holdout into the season or is traded by the team, Jennings will likely be the starter in Jacksonville. Jennings has already impressed as a feature back in preseason, and even if Jones-Drew returns, Jennings has likely earned himself more playing time with the team. Jones-Drew is coming off a season in which he carried the ball 343 times for 1,606 yards, a number that could mean overuse. Though Jones-Drew has reportedly been working out on his own, he might not be in football shape. Jennings should benefit from all of this and could be in for a big year.