Leading up to the 2012 fantasy football season, there have been A LOT of changes. From the NFL Draft to the Free Agency market, many teams have a very new look. It’s not every season that we have a QB like Peyton Manning leave the team he built for the last 14 years and move on to a new and unpredictable future. As the season continues to get closer and as off season workouts and training camps begin, I’ll take a deeper dive into some of these changes to decide which teams have the best shot at the post season and ultimately the Super Bowl. In the meantime, let’s discuss some potential fantasy football sleepers that have become more apparent with recent changes to their teams.
Robert Griffin III: So maybe he isn’t that much of a sleeper. After all, he did win the Heisman Trophy! Having said that, it’s pretty rare that a rookie QB could be a dominant force on your fantasy squad. But if there’s any chance RG3 could have a Cam Newton type season, I’d certainly like to have him on my team. With some pretty strong talent around him and a good coach, the sky’s the limit. I expect both the Redskins and RG3 to have a solid season and try to contend in the NFC East.
Pierre Garcon: After some performances he put up in the past, Garcon would not typically be considered a sleeper. But after a season without Manning and a recent team change, anything could happen. Garcon has a chance to be the number one option at WR for the Skins and he will have a dominant QB throwing him the ball. I expect Pierre Garcon of two years ago to reemerge and lead the Redskins in 2012. Look for a much stronger year from this offense led by RG3 and supported by Garcon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, and even Anthony Armstrong.
Mario Manningham/Randy Moss: The 49ers were a strong Defensive team in 2011, but under Coach Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith turned into a legitimate QB and I expect there to be some serious fantasy value coming out of San Fran in 2012. Manningham was a great signing and should put up solid numbers overall. With the combination of these two, plus Vernon Davis and others like the rookie AJ Jenkins, the 49ers should have a good offensive year. Moss is a year older (35) but also fresher than ever. Depending on how they want to use him, Moss could be a very nice redzone target and an excellent source of bonus fantasy points off your bench.
Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker: These guys certainly didn’t go un-owned for too long last season, but expect even more productive years in 2012. With Peyton Manning under center, pretty much any WR becomes a possible fantasy starter. I like Thomas’ upside more than Decker, but look to gain a lot of value out of either target (maybe #2 WR value) a few rounds later in the draft.
Emmanuel Sanders/Antonio Brown: The Steelers offense has increasingly become a pass first offense under Big Ben Roethelisberger, and 2012 should be no different. After an interesting off season for Mike Wallace, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they moved him early in the season. Wallace is a Top 10 WR in the NFL and there are a lot of teams that would love to sign him. Both Sanders and Brown have a ton of upside with Wallace on the field, but their value will skyrocket if he does get traded at any point.
Brandon LaFell/David Gettis: Last season Cam Newton came to play, and with that came the reemergence of Steve Smith. Expect more production out of Smith, but also more Defenses focusing on him as well. With a talented QB like Newton, he’ll certainly find someone who wants to catch the ball. Both TE’s stepped up last season, but expect some upside for their additional WRs in 2012.
Michael Floyd: The QB question in Arizona is a big one. They failed to sign Peyton Manning, and the Kevin Kolb experiment might be a failed one. That said, with Larry Fitzgerald drawing all the attention on one side of the field, there’s a lot of opportunity for a talented receiver like Floyd (even as a rookie) to really step up and put up some nice numbers.
Nate Burleson/Titus Young: The Detroit Lions are on the up and up and so is QB Matthew Stafford. Calvin Johnson will certainly hog the ball and the TDs, but also all the defensive attention. With that comes tons of accurate passes from Stafford to Burleson and Young. If they are willing to open up their arms and accept these passes, they could be a nice choice for a WR spot on your roster.
Mohamed Sanu/Marvin Jones/Jordan Shipley: Who are these guys? That’s a fair and good question. Up till this point, there has been little reason to know them, but that’s about to change. In Cincinnati, QB Andy Dalton is surprising everyone, and he can’t only pass to AJ Green. That’s where these guys come in. With acrobat Jerome Simpson off the roster, there’s a wide open spot for at least one of these guys to step in nicely. Both Sanu and Jones are rookies, but then again so was Green last season. Take your pick and hope for the best (or watch a bit in the preseason).
Golden Tate: Remember when he used to be a good receiver? I think he’s still got a lot of talent and just needs the right opportunity. And that opportunity is now. In walks Matt Flynn and up goes Tate’s fantasy value. Choose him at the right moment, because we’ve all seen these guys bomb, but he’s got tremendous upside and is being set up for success. Tate is certainly a flyer, but I think he might be worth the shot.
A couple other guys to keep your eye on leading up to the 2012 fantasy football season include Riley Cooper, WR for the Eagles, Steve Breaston with the Chiefs, and Josh Cribbs with the Browns. As the season gets closer I’ll assess more players like this and give some true rankings of my favorite sleeper picks. In the meantime, keep doing your homework and keep checking back for more updates!
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