Fantasy Football Picks 2012: Sleeper Wide Receivers to Grab Late in Drafts
Of the three most important positions in fantasy football, wide receiver is the one you can afford to wait on.
As torn ACLs continue to litter the headlines, it's becoming clear that running backs are less stable, making them more of an early priority. You only start one quarterback, meaning you can afford to wait to acquire one in your draft, but as the NFL evolves into more of a passing game, it will be hard for you to win your league without a top-tier gunslinger.
Of these three, which position do you tend to grab last?
That leaves wide receivers.
Because of that transformation to a high-flying passing game, the depth of wideouts and tight ends—even more than quarterbacks—is at an all-time high. Sure, it would be nice to have Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones in your lineup, but you can get production from the bottom of your draft.
Even if your sleepers don't pan out, there are always pass-catchers waiting on the waiver wire that turn out to be fantasy gold. No matter how you approach the position, you can win by waiting.
With that being said, let's take a look at some sleepers to target as the rounds start to wind down in your draft.
Note: Average draft positions come from fantasyfootballcalculator.com. You can find them here.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Average Draft Position: 117.1)
After a rookie campaign saw Williams pull in 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, everyone was ready to tout him as the next star.
But 2011 was a huge disappointment for Williams, or so people think.
The talented wide receiver still managed to pull in 65 catches, but his yards (771) and touchdowns (three) suffered mightily, making his season look like a complete waste.
In reality, Williams was still just as heavily involved in the offense (124 targets in 2011 compared to 128 in 2010), he just endured a lot more attention from opposing defenses.
Enter Vincent Jackson. The star wide receiver will surely take targets away from Williams, but with it he'll also take those pesky defenders.
Expect Williams' touchdowns and yards per catch numbers to skyrocket as the No. 2 option for Josh Freeman, who has some pressure on him to improve this season. That will make the former Syracuse stud more than worth a 10th-round pick in 12-team leagues.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 157.0)
As an undrafted rookie that no one except for the Seahawks organization had faith in, Baldwin was one of the Cinderella stories of the 2011 fantasy season.
He saw 85 targets from an inconsistent Tarvaris Jackson, yet still hauled in 51 for 788 yards and four touchdowns.
The Seahawks once again have some uncertainty at the quarterback position and wide receiver spots around Baldwin, but the Stanford product is a mainstay in the lineup no matter what happens with the depth chart.
If Sidney Rice, Terrell Owens and Golden Tate emerge and play up to their skill sets, Baldwin becomes an underneath monster, racking up reception after reception as he puts on his best "mini-Wes Welker" costume.
Should the Seahawks' receivers continue their inconsistency, Baldwin has shown he has the chops to produce as the go-to guy. Combine that with what should be better quarterback play, and it's going to be gravy for owners who take him at the end of their drafts.
Jon Baldwin, Kansas Chiefs (ADP: 125.3)
And before you ask, no, free agent defensive lineman Ervin Baldwin is not also one of my sleepers. Nice try, though.
During his rookie season, Jon Baldwin didn't get a ton of opportunities to prove himself (just 52 targets) as he had to play behind Steve Breaston and then he also had to survive the injury of Matt Cassel, which forced noodle-armed Tyler Palko into the starting lineup.
But in 2012 things should only get better for the 2010 first-round pick, who has talent to make you jump off even the comfiest of couches.
He's still third on the depth chart behind Breaston and Dwyane Bowe, but Bowe's contract dispute could force him to miss plenty of time, making Baldwin Kansas City's new No. 1.
Even if Bowe does return, Baldwin's scary combination of size (6'4", 230 pounds) and athleticism will make it impossible for Kansas City to keep him off the field.
Shoddy quarterback play could hurt him, but the risk is small and the potential reward is very high.
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