NFL Fantasy Football: Josh Freeman and 4 Sleepers to Target in 2012

Sam McGawContributor IIJuly 5, 2012

NFL Fantasy Football: Josh Freeman and 4 Sleepers to Target in 2012

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    As we hit the lull of summer, there are only so many things to look forward to. Luckily for all of us, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light happens to be the start of the NFL season.

    Football is just around the corner, and many fans are starting to prepare for their fantasy football drafts.

    Typically, every fantasy football team owner knows the big-name players they must draft with their top picks.  

    However, the most underrated characteristic any owner could have is the ability to spot a lesser-known player who is poised for success.

    Otherwise known as "sleepers,"  these late-round draft steals could be essential to your fantasy football team's success.

    With that being said, here are four sleeper picks that can lead your fantasy football team to the league championship.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Last season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman had a year he would love to forget.

    After passing for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2010, Freeman went into the 2011 season with a lot of promise.

    However, Freeman struggled in 2011, throwing for only 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

    So why is Freeman worth a pick in later rounds?

    For one, the Buccaneers have made a plethora of offseason changes, starting with the hiring of head coach Greg Schiano.

    Schiano quickly got to work as he made some key acquisitions during free agency.

    To help protect Freeman, the Buccaneers signed former New Orleans Saints guard Carl Nicks. This signing helps give Freeman the protection he needs to make smart choices in the passing game.

    In addition to Nicks, the Buccaneers also gathered some more weapons to surround Freeman with.

    Some of these weapons include tight end Dallas Clark, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and rookie running back Doug Martin. All three of these players will have a significant impact on the Buccaneers passing game.

    If Freeman can utilize the talent that surrounds him, he has the potential to become a top-12 fantasy quarterback.

    As of right now, however, Freeman is flying under the radar.

    Coming off of a dismal 2011 campaign, Freeman will be overlooked in most leagues. Expect him to be available in the later rounds of most fantasy football drafts.

Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions

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    When playing in a PPR league, it is always key to have a running back that catches the ball out of the backfield effectively. More receptions equal more points. Therefore, look no further than Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best.

    After suffering from a concussion in Week 6, Best was unable to finish the 2011 season.

    Although he hasn't played many games, Best has shown how much of a threat he can be when healthy.

    In his six games played last season, Best rushed for 390 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching 27 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown.

    If Best can avoid injury, he will be very dangerous in this pass-happy Lions offense.

    Even though the Lions have two other running backs in Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith, Best should stand out the most because of his ability to take off for a long gain at any given moment.

    Due to his versatility, Best is worthy of a pick anywhere between the middle and later rounds. This is especially true for PPR leagues that allow flex-players.

Eddie Royal, WR, San Diego Chargers

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    After a stellar rookie performance in 2008, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal has struggled to be relevant in most fantasy football leagues.

    Now that his tenure in Denver is over, Royal is looking for a fresh start in the Chargers offense.

    With players such as Vincent Brown, Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish and Micheal Spurlock, the Chargers receiving corps is more than packed. However, Royal has the potential to stand out and become a solid slot receiver.

    Not to mention, he has Philip Rivers throwing to him. That's a huge upgrade from Tim Tebow.

    Royal has a unique set of skills that can help him become an effective safety valve for Rivers. Plus, if given the chance, Royal can gather some fantasy points in the return game.

    According to Tom Sheridan of the North County Times, Chargers head coach Norv Turner believes Royal can be something special:

    He's a real smooth receiver. He reminds me of Charlie Joiner, and reminds me of Henry Ellard, guys that I've been around. He's very deceptive. And sometimes he doesn't look like he's going that fast, and he's hauling.

    While Royal hasn't posted big numbers in recent seasons, expect the Chargers to utilize his athleticism in many different packages.

    Royal isn't a No. 1 receiver, but he has tremendous upside as a potential sleeper in all leagues.

Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans

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    Heading into his fourth NFL season, Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook has a lot to prove.

    Selected in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft, it can be said Cook has yet to play up to high expectations.

    However, many fans saw what he was capable of at the end of last season.

    In his final three games, Cook recorded 21 receptions for 335 yards and one touchdown. This gave him huge momentum as he headed into the offseason.

    Luckily for Cook this year, he has the luxury of having a full offseason to learn second-year offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's playbook.

    If he can grasp the playbook and stay healthy, Cook can become an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses.

    However, Cook's role will be more well-known once a starting quarterback has been named.

    With that being said, no matter who wins the quarterback battle in Tennessee, Cook will be targeted often as the Titans attempt to become more of a pass-first team.

    Cook has the potential to be a fantasy football stud this season.

    Once the top-tier tight ends are off the board in your fantasy football draft, look no further than Jared Cook. He won't disappoint.