Fantasy Football Doppelgangers: Comparing 2011 Breakout Stars to 2012 Sleepers
The term "doppelganger" is used to describe a look-a-like; a facsimile of a person. In the unpredictable climate of fantasy football’s preseason, astute owners must use this term to identify sleeper opportunities.
Success in fantasy drafts can come from drawing a comparison between a previous season’s high value selections to underrated or overlooked players this year. These five breakout examples from 2011 and their 2012 doppelgangers have a great chance of delivering that draft success.
Darren Sproles & Jacquizz Rodgers
2011 Breakout: Darren Sproles, RB, NO
2011 Average Draft Position: 51st RB selected, 2011 Season Rank, Standard Scoring: 8th RB
(ADP results from www.myfantasyleague.com)
2012 Doppelganger: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, ATL
2012 ADP: 48th RB selected
Whereas Sproles was a newly-added free agent in 2011, Rodgers is entering his second year after being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Rodgers will, however, be like a new addition to the Falcons’ offense as he steps into a more prominent role. Moreover, the Falcons have promised through the offseason to implement even more passes from Matt Ryan into the offensive scheme.
Sproles thrived on using agility and pass-catching skills to elevate himself to the #1 option in a high-octane offense and Rodgers, the “Mighty Mouse” clone, has a chance to do the same. Draft him as your last bench running back and stash him – he has a legitimate chance to post 1,000 total yards and add fifty catches to make him the league's new PPR stud.
Victor Cruz & Randall Cobb
2011 Breakout: Victor Cruz, WR, NYG
2011 ADP: Undrafted, 2011 Season Rank: 4th WR
2012 Doppelganger: Randall Cobb, WR, GB
2012 ADP: 49th WR selected
Cruz burst onto the fantasy football scene in 2011 by capitalizing on injuries in front of him, developing a rapport with an elite quarterback, and becoming a consistent playmaker after showing flashes in his early career.
Randall Cobb enters 2011 a good ways down the depth chart catching balls from MVP Aaron Rodgers, but remember: the second-year slot receiver bust down his rookie door by posting two touchdowns (one on a kickoff return) in his first NFL game against the Saints.
Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley have both shown a proclivity to be injured and Donald Driver enters the twilight of his career in 2012. Cobb will be a very late pick or free agent, just as Cruz was in 2011, and may reward owners’ patience with a huge breakout in the latter half of 2012.
Marshawn Lynch & Peyton Hillis
2011 Breakout: Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA
2011 ADP: 29th RB selected, 2011 Season Rank: 6th RB
2012 Doppelganger: Peyton Hillis, RB, KC
2012 ADP: 35th RB selected
Marshawn Lynch’s 2011 season resembled the rebirth example set by runners like Thomas Jones and Priest Holmes in the past decade: a change of scenery helped him return to fantasy football prominence. Traded to Seattle in 2010 based entirely on Pete Carroll’s “man crush”, Lynch entered 2011 as the lead member of a committee and the clear short-yardage back.
Like Lynch, Hillis joins the Chiefs’ backfield with a clear role despite the return of playmaker Jamaal Charles. Though many owners may be scared off by the potential of Charles, keep in mind his workload was never that of a lead back and Hillis will undoubtedly get every goal line look.
Hillis also comes to Kansas City as part of a coach-player relationship: Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll coached Peyton Hillis to his outstanding 2010 season in which Hillis finished as a top-5 running back. He won’t cost you a roster spot as a starter but Hillis could easily score ten or more times and could be given the full reins should Charles not return to 100%.
Jordy Nelson & Robert Meachem
2011 Breakout: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB
2011 ADP: 44th WR selected, 2011 Season Rank: 2nd WR
2012 Doppelganger: Robert Meachem, WR, SD
2012 ADP: 33rd WR selected
Let’s be clear: Robert Meachem probably won’t score 15 touchdowns this year like Nelson managed to do in 2011. He could, however, ascend into a similar role in the Chargers’ passing offense. Jordy Nelson took hold of the #2 WR reins in Green Bay and does not look like he will be letting go any time soon. He was the big-play threat in what was arguably the best passing offense in NFL history last year.
While Philip Rivers may not be Rodgers—and Norv Turner probably won’t put the team in position for Rivers to throw 45 touchdowns—Meachem has the physical tools and pedigree to replace Vincent Jackson as the most explosive member of the San Diego offense. And don’t worry too much about all the weapons around Meachem; just look what Nelson did and realize the most talented guys will get the ball with an All-Pro QB at the helm. Meachem will cost less than a seventh round pick and could deliver tremendous numbers in his first year with the Super Chargers.
Reggie Bush & Felix Jones
2011 Breakout: Reggie Bush, RB, MIA
2011 ADP: 31st RB selected, 2011 Season Rank: 12th RB
2012 Doppelganger: Felix Jones, RB, DAL
2012 ADP: 49th RB selected
Reggie Bush broke out in the second half of 2011, putting up 578 total yards in the final four game of the year. He capitalized on an unproven and injury-prone runner in front of him as the year came to a close, vaulting into the feature-back role at the most important time of the fantasy football calendar.
Felix Jones, however disappointing he has been early in his career, has a chance to pounce on a late-season opportunity in a similar situation. DeMarco Murray is garnering a massive amount of preseason hype but only has a few games under his belt and a shaky injury history— professionally and in college. Jones has been given up on, much like Reggie Bush's fall from grace after flashing as a rookie.
Now Felix will only cost a late round pick and will serve as a deep backup in your running back ranks. If he gets the starting role at any point, he'll be worth the minimal investment immediately. No need to worry about the failed conditioning test Monday; Jones is a wait-and-see flyer in a position for second half production.