It is hard to call someone a sleeper when they have been poised to breakout for the past few seasons, but that is exactly the case with new San Diego Chargers receiver Robert Meachem.
After being selected in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Saints, Meachem has been a bit of a disappointment. In his first two years in the NFL, he played in just 14 games and caught just 12 passes.
Since then his production has improved and over the last three seasons, he has averaged 43 receptions for 660 yards and caught a total of 20 touchdowns passes. Solid numbers, but certainly not spectacular and not good enough for fantasy stardom.
On the surface, it appears Meachem has not produced as expected. However, digging a little deeper into his numbers reveals why; he has never been a featured receiver in the Saints high-powered offense. The fact is, Meachem has been held back by a lack of opportunities.
From 2009-2011, Meachem, who signed a free agent contract with the Chargers this offseason, was targeted only 191 times, an average of 63 times a season. Vincent Jackson, the player Meachem is tasked with replacing in San Diego, received 115 just last season.
When targeted, Meachem has been highly effective. In the last three seasons he has caught 67 percent of the passes thrown his way, while also averaging an impressive 10.3 yards per target and scoring a touchdown every 9.55 targets.
Compare that to Jackson, who last season caught just 52 percent of his targets, averaged 9.67 yards per target and caught a touchdown every 13.4 targets and you can see why San Diego passed on re-signing him in favor of Meachem.
Simply put, on a per target basis Meachem has been a better receiver.
Jackson did have better overall numbers with 60 catches for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns compared to the 40 catches for 620 yards and six touchdowns by Meahcem; due mostly to the sheer number of targets.
If we take Meachem's yards per target average and touchdown percentage and project that with 121 targets Jackson received and his numbers look like this: 81 receptions, 1,246 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Those numbers are much better than what Jackson produced with the Chargers in 2011. They are also the stats of a Top 10 fantasy receiver. Meaning if Meachem can simply get the targets in San Diego that he did in New Orleans, he will finally have the breakout season we have all been waiting for in 2012.