#1 - Frank Gore
What Happened?-- The Forty-Niners got rid of mediocre running back Kevan Barlow and turned the ball over to second-year man Frank Gore...who went absolutely crazy with 1695 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. How many almost-1700 yard rushers do you see each year? Considering Gore was rarely drafted before the fifth round in fantasy drafts, this was arguably the sleeper of the year.
Should We Have Seen This Coming?-- Some of it. We should've expected that Gore would see some playing time. The only guy ahead of him was Kevan Barlow. Kevan Barlow!! I remember preparing for drafts thinking "Barlow isn't that good. He won't be good this year. He's one of the worst starting RBs out there". I was right, but I focused on the fact that Barlow stunk instead of focusing on the fact that Gore would probably replace him. Even if I'd known that Gore would be the starter I wouldn't have projected 1700 rushing yards, but a solid 1000 yard season should've been a real possibility to everybody. Sigh.
Who Aren't We Seeing This Year? -- I think it has to be Marion Barber in Dallas. He was supposedly splitting time with Julius Jones last season, but he was the starter in everything but name for the final quarter of the season. The Cowboys new coaching staff tried to trade Jones in the off-season which should be a big blinking neon sign to fantasy owners. A neon sign that says "Julius isn't our starter". He'll likely get some carries, but Barber is a lock to double the 135 carries he had last season, and he's likely to exceed even that. No, he's not going to put up the 1700 yard season that Gore had, but I think Barber will be the running back sleeper of 2007.