Fantasy Football Sleepers 2012: 5 Must-Draft Players to Help Win Your League
In 2011, Jordy Nelson showed that one late pick can change the course of an entire fantasy football team.
Nelson, who never had more than 600 yards or two touchdowns in his previous three seasons, exploded for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns on his way to becoming a top-three wide receiver.
One pick in the later rounds can make all the difference in winning your league. Here are five players to keep an eye on as your fantasy draft approaches.
QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two years ago, Josh Freeman had a breakout year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In only his second year in the league, he passed for 25 touchdowns while throwing only six picks on his way to becoming a top-10 fantasy QB.
Last season was a disaster for Freeman and his fantasy owners. He was being drafted among the top 10 quarterbacks, but his 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions pushed his ranking down to around No. 20 and into fantasy irrelevance.
This season, the Bucs added a huge weapon in Vincent Jackson. Jackson is a serious big-play threat and had 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns last year with San Diego. Freeman should have great success with his new target and is poised for another season like he had in 2010.
RB Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
Michael Bush was signed to be the Chicago Bears' backup running back for the 2012 season, but as we get closer to training camp and the regular season, it seems he may play a much more vital role in the Bears offense.
Nobody knows when or if the Matt Forte holdout situation will resolve itself, but obviously Bush is the man in Chicago if Forte doesn't show. Even if Forte figures out a contract resolution before the season, he will likely miss training camp. Therefore, he won't be anywhere near ready for the full grind of a season and he will be putting himself at risk of injury.
Bush is coming off his best year in the NFL, amassing nearly 1,000 yards rushing with Oakland in 2011. Pick him up late in your draft and closely monitor the Forte situation. At the very least, he will provide a handful of touchdowns as the team's goal-line back.
RB C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller got a chance to showcase his talents in the final six games of the 2011 season with Fred Jackson injured. He ran 86 times for 446 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 187 yards receiving.
Fred Jackson is on the wrong side of 30, and though he hasn't had a large workload to date, his days as the Bills' starter are numbered. At just 24 years old, Spiller possesses great speed, and he showed last season that he could carry the workload of a starter.
Jackson will start the year as the No. 1 back, but Spiller will get his share of carries and make a run at the starting job by midseason.
WR Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers
No matter what weapons he has, Philip Rivers is guaranteed to put up huge numbers.
He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in each of the last four seasons. With Vincent Jackson now in Tampa Bay, which receiver will step up as Rivers' new favorite target?
New addition Robert Meachem may be No. 1 on the depth chart come September, but Malcom Floyd will have the better year.
Over his final six games last season, Floyd caught 29 passes for 562 yards and four touchdowns. He also showed that he is one of the top big-play receivers in the league, averaging 19.9 yards per catch over the full year.
Expect the Rivers-Floyd connection to continue into 2012.
WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Demaryius Thomas was Tim Tebow's go-to target in 2011, and the duo had a knack for huge plays. The most memorable example of this was the 80-yard overtime winner against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.
Including the Broncos' two playoff games, Thomas' numbers over his last seven games are staggering. In that span, he had 35 catches for 745 yards.
It's also important to remember that this was with Tim Tebow at the helm, and that this was only Thomas' second year as a pro.
Peyton Manning will provide an immense upgrade at the quarterback position, and has a history of making the receivers around him better. Thomas should benefit from Manning as well as his experiences from last year, and become a solid fantasy wideout in 2012.