Fantasy Football 2012: 10 Players You Should Target Higher Than People Expect

Daniel Stack@@stacdemonContributor IIFebruary 14, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: 10 Players You Should Target Higher Than People Expect

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    Preparation for fantasy football drafts is not all about what early round studs you’re primed to select. A lot of detail and focus also goes into who you should draft in the middle/late portions of drafts. That’s where the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders.

    Every savvy fantasy owner is always looking for an edge. We are all familiar with the Ray Rice’s, Drew Brees’ and the Calvin Johnson’s of the world, but it’s the much-less hyped, mid-tier players that can win you fantasy glory.

    In this sideshow, I will list 10 players who you should value a lot higher than some people expect them to be drafted come next August/September.

Michael Bush: Oakland Raiders

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    Much of Bush’s value will be tied to where he plays next year.

    There is a good chance that the Raiders will place the franchise tag on Bush. But regardless of whether he stays with the Raiders or takes his talents elsewhere, Bush will see the field with regularity. If Bush stays with Oakland and even if Darren McFadden is back to full health, expect the Raiders to evenly distribute the carries.

    Bush is simply too good to keep off the field. Last year, Bush ran for 977 yards on 256 attempts and scored eight total touchdowns. It would be better for fantasy owners if Bush went somewhere else and could gain more carries, but even if he stays in Oakland, Bush will be a vital contributor to the Raiders.

Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons

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    It’s time for Matt Ryan to take his game to the next level.

    By all accounts, Ryan had a more-than-respectable season in 2011, throwing for 4,376 yards and 29 touchdowns.

    Now entering his fifth season in the league and complete with an elite receiving duo in Roddy White and Julio Jones, not to mention Tony Gonzalez, Ryan should ascend up the quarterback ranks. Ryan could be a top six quarterback next year when all is said and done.

C.J. Spiller: Buffalo Bills

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    Whether Fred Jackson comes back roaring and raring to go, Spiller is still bound to make an impact in Buffalo next year. It’s also not a stretch to see Spiller supplanting Jackson as the Bills' lead back.

    Spiller showed off his tremendous versatility late in the year when he filled in for the injured Jackson. Spiller ended the season rushing for 346 yards and scoring three touchdowns in his last six games.

    Some may devalue Spiller’s role with Bills with Jackson still around, but shrewd fantasy owners should be aware that Spiller will be hard to ignore.

Dez Bryant: Dallas Cowboys

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    Bryant has all the physical tools to excel in the NFL, and as he enters his third season expect him to post a breakout season.

    Bryant will go into next year’s drafts as a number two receiver, but he has so much upside and talent that it’s not out of the realm he finishes as a top-10 option.

    Improving on 928 receiving yards and nine touchdowns will not be easy, but Bryant is primed and ready for 2012.

Mikel Leshoure: Detroit Lions

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    With Lions’ incumbent running back Jahvid Best suffering from countless concussion issues; it opens the door for Leshoure to make an impact in 2012.

    Leshoure had to sit out the 2011 season with an Achilles injury but he should be all ready to go by training camp. Remember, the Lions used a second-round draft pick in 2011 on Leshoure and they’ll want to see what he is made of.

    Playing in the Lions’ high-powered offense attack, Leshoure should easily fit in and could make for an excellent second running back in fantasy leagues.

Mike Williams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    I know, I know. I get it. Williams was awful last year.

    However, with a new coaching staff and Williams entering that magical third year for wide receivers, anticipate Williams coming back with a good rebound season.

    His numbers this year will likely be closer to those he posted in his rookie campaign to those of last year. Williams should make for a good second wide receiver, not a third as he’ll likely to be projected as.

    Just call it a hunch, but Williams has the skills and know-how to bounce back.

Isaac Redman: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    With the news coming out that Rashard Mendenhall may start the 2012 season on the PUP list, Redman is all of a sudden a hot commodity.

    Redman has shown he can step up when called on and if this news holds true, then Redman could go as high as a number two running back in drafts next summer.

    Now this is contingent on if the Steelers don’t make any major moves in acquiring running backs either through free agency or in the draft. Regardless, Redman’s stock is on the rise and at best he’ll have a shot to be the Steelers' primary running back next season.

Antonio Brown: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Brown is yet another third-year wide receiver who is ready to break out.

    Brown flourished toward the end of the season and could legitimately challenge Mike Wallace as Ben Roethlisberger’s number one target.

    Brown ended the season with 1,178 receiving yards, but with only two touchdowns. Expect the TDs to increase with Brown evolving into the complete package.

Vernon Davis: San Francisco 49ers

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    Davis had quite the coming out party in this year’s playoffs.

    Davis capped off a good season (1,084 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns) by having a marvelous postseason run. In two playoff games, Davis had 292 receiving yards and four touchdowns (including the game-winning touchdown against the Saints that put the 49ers into the NFC championship).

    Clearly, Davis is Alex Smith’s number one target and with them gelling late in the season, there should be some carryover going into 2012.

    Outside of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, Davis might be the next best tight end to covet next year.

Daniel Thomas: Miami Dolphins

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    Maybe it’s just a gut feeling, but I don’t foresee Reggie Bush holding up for a full year as the Dolphins’ number one running back in 2012. This could make Daniel Thomas an excellent sleeper for next season.

    The Dolphins drafted Thomas in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft and eventually they’d like to see a return on their investment. There is a good chance that Thomas can make good on his promise next year if Bush either struggles or gets hurt.


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