Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Veterans with One More Year of Greatness in Them
At this point in the offseason, every player young and old looks to have promise and potential.
Certain players may prove this belief to be true, but most will disappoint and never live up to the hype that is being generated.
It is just a plain and simple fact that most athletes—especially veterans—look great in shorts and helmets. But as most fantasy football owners already know, what is being advertised as one last great season usually falls into something that is far more miserable.
Fantasy football owners still hope and pray to find one or two steals in their fantasy drafts, hoping that the veteran they have their eyes on is being overlooked and undervalued by the rest of the fantasy league.
Even the most talented of veteran players need the opportunity to perform and be successful. Veterans need to prove to their coaching staff and teammates they have gas left in the tank.
So let’s take a look at five veterans who will be given the opportunity to succeed in 2012.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
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After five 1,000-yard receiving seasons and seven top-25 fantasy finishes at his position, it is a bit ridiculous that Anquan Boldin is still getting very little love from fantasy owners.
But the perception surrounding Boldin is that every time the veteran is less than impressive with his fantasy numbers, he is no longer a practical fantasy candidate.
For 2012, this assertion seems to be the farthest from the truth. With the development of Torrey Smith beside him, the lack of expectation could work toward Boldin’s advantage.
As Baltimore’s top wide receiver last season, Boldin only caught 57 passes for 887 yards and three touchdowns. These statistics proved to many fantasy owners that the 31-year-old Boldin will never be the player he once was.
The 10-year veteran has only had one season before 2011 in which his statistics were less than impressive for fantasy owners. 2011 was the top season for Boldin in averaging yards per catch. His 15.6 yard per catch average proved Boldin is still able to stretch the field when the ball is thrown in his direction.
With the development and emergence of Smith next to him, Boldin will be relegated to the second wide receiver role again. This will allow Smith to draw coverage away from Boldin, and allow Boldin to thrive once again in a similar role to the one he had for many seasons in Arizona.
The stage should be set for Boldin to have another great season in 2012.
Benjamin Watson, TE, Cleveland Browns
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It is never a popular idea to choose a fantasy player from the Cleveland Browns offense. Most fantasy owners have not seen a reliable fantasy target in Cleveland since the days of Bernie Kosar.
If one veteran player on the Browns offense could surprise people in 2012 it is Benjamin Watson.
After a 2011 season in which Watson caught 37 passes for 410 yards and two touchdowns (and also suffered multiple concussions), Watson is getting no respect when it comes to fantasy football.
There is obviously some risk when drafting Watson as a fantasy tight end. Watson's three concussions last season destroyed the nine-year pro's 2011 season. He has red flags concerning his health and availability for 2012.
With that noted, the Browns' offense is in desperate need for the 31-year-old tight end to step up. Rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden is going to need both a veteran safety valve and a receiver who can consistently catch the football.
Watson showed in 2010 that he still has the ability to do both of these things. If he can stay healthy, than Watson is primed for a big season in 2012. Fantasy owners should take note of Watson’s health as he could offer great late-round value for an up-to-date fantasy football owner.
In addition, Watson may have a little extra momentum to finish 2012 in style. With his injury concerns, and with younger tight ends Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron developing behind him, Watson may realize 2012 might be his last chance to be a regular contributor within the NFL.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England Patriots
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Brandon Lloyd should have a major bromance with Josh McDaniels. Before McDaniels came into his life, Lloyd was an underachieving journeyman for his NFL career.
In his one season as a starter under McDaniels in Denver, Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lloyd then followed McDaniels to St. Louis last season and had the second-best year of his career with 51 receptions for 966 yards and five touchdowns.
Lloyd and McDaniels are together once again now in New England. Add to that equation the talent of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, and Lloyd looks poised for another great fantasy football season.
The Patriot way dictates Lloyd will have to work hard to garner respect with the New England offense. That will only help his on-field production increase.
Lloyd may never see the stat line of 77 receptions for 1448 yards and 11 touchdowns again, but there is no reason that 60-plus catches for 1,000-plus yards and five-plus touchdowns cannot be expected of Lloyd this season.
At 31 years old, Lloyd’s opportunity to continue to produce is shrinking rapidly.
Much like Chad Ochocinco before him, Lloyd will have one shot at proving he is worth his opportunity in New England.
2012 will prove to be Lloyd’s last opportunity to significantly produce within the NFL.
Randy Moss, WR, San Francisco 49ers
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I keep hearing the argument Randy Moss is too old and too out of NFL shape to be the player he once was.
I ask these people, why does he have to be that player anymore?
Randy Moss can have a spectacular season in 2012 with being a shell of his former self.
The 49ers have assured themselves of this by bringing in fellow wide receivers Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins to add to an already-dynamic core that includes Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
Even if Moss does not to have the explosiveness he once had, the defense will still be trying to cover a 6’4’’, 210 pound Moss in addition to all of the other targets on the field.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh told SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Rich Gannon, Randy Moss was the 49ers best wide receiver.
Gannon said Harbaugh told him: “This offseason he’s been incredible. He’s our best receiver right now.”
At 35-years-old, Moss’ window of opportunity is very small. There is no reason though, that Moss cannot put together one last memorable season and help this 2012 49ers team achieve.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
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To say Antonio Gates underperformed in 2011 might be too kind. Gates ended 2011 with the fewest touchdowns he has recorded since his rookie season.
Injuries have become a bigger concern for Gates, especially with his 10 seasons now in the NFL He has missed three games in 2011 and six games in 2010 as he continues to battle a foot injury.
At 32 years old, with injuries to deal with and with the Chargers' newly-drafted young promising tight end Ladarius Green coming along, Gates’ NFL career may be ending as quickly as he burst onto the scene.
That does signal that Gates cannot be an impact player for the Chargers in 2012.
“Gates looks great — he's back. Physically, he's back to where we want him to be. I think, like anybody, going through this offseason program helps you get better. (It's) the combination of conditioning, the combination of getting better in the areas you can improve, and being out there with your teammates.”
Fantasy owners tend to forget Gates finished 2010 as the third-ranked tight end even though he only played in 10 games that season.
The big question surrounding Gates is how healthy can he stay for an entire NFL season? If health is of no concern for Gates in 2012 we could be looking at similar numbers to the ones he had in 2009.
Projecting a healthy Gates to have 80 receptions for 1,000 plus yards and eight touchdowns is no stretch of the imagination.
Even though Green just might be the Chargers’ tight end of the future, the 32-year-old Gates should show that he still has the ability and health to contribute in 2012.