With the 2012 NFL draft now in the rearview mirror, football's focus turns squarely to the upcoming season. That means that it's time for fantasy football fanatics everywhere to begin doing research in preparation for fantasy drafts that will be kicking off before you know it.
Often times, the key to winning the championship in your league can lie in determining which mid to late-round picks have the best chance to significantly outperform their draft slot. Here's an early look at some of the top fantasy "sleeper" prospects for 2012.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The fourth-year pro slogged his was through a miserable 2011 season, turning the ball over a whopping 27 times and finishing 17th among fantasy quarterbacks for the year as the Buccaneers lurched their way through a miserable 4-12 2011 campaign.
However, the team took steps to improve the offense with the addition of wide receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency and running back Doug Martin in the draft. New head coach Greg Schiano's smashmouth offense may cap Freeman's upside somewhat, but the former Kansas State star should rebound enough this season to give him value as a low-end QB1 or platoon option at the position.
Mike Goodson, RB, Oakland Raiders
With running back Michael Bush now in Chicago, the Oakland Raiders needed to procure a new backup for starting tailback Darren McFadden. Therefore, the Raiders acquired three-year veteran Goodson in a trade with the Carolina Panthers in March.
The 6'0", 212-pound running back has shown flashes of talent when given the opportunity in the past, including gaining over 100 total yards with a touchdown in three consecutive starts in 2010.
McFadden has missed significant time in all four of his NFL seasons, including missing nine games a year ago with a foot injury.
Given McFadden's extensive injury history, Goodson is at the very least a necessary handcuff for McFadden owners who could possess significant fantasy value in the not unlikely event that McFadden were to miss time again this year.
The departure of top wideout Vincent Jackson in free agency left the San Diego Chargers with a hole at the wide receiver position. The Bolts are hoping to fill that void with the addition of Robert Meachem, who caught 40 passes for 620 yards and six touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints in 2011.
Meachem has yet to top 45 receptions and 750 yards in a season, and the sixth-year pro has never cracked the top 25 fantasy options at his position in a season. However, the 6'2", 210-pounder will likely see more targets in San Diego than he ever did in a crowded Saints receiving corps. It's not unreasonable at all to believe that Robert Meachem could be in for a career year in his first season in sunny San Diego.