Will Mario Manningham break out in 2012?
Finding a good sleeper pick every year is tough; it’s hit-or-miss most of the time. But with this list of 2012 fantasy sleepers for the NFC West, you should come away with at least one of these players ready to make a big impact for your team.
Fantasy sleepers are the pride of all NFL fantasy football leagues. Every year, they give owners the right to say, “See? I told you so!”
Who will be those picks this season? Let’s find out.
Regardless of which quarterback wins the competition, Zach Miller is a good sleeper pick.
As a former fantasy stud with the Oakland Raiders, you may find it curious to see him as a sleeper, but he was abysmal in 2011.
That will not be the case this season.
Both Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson love utilizing their tight ends and Miller will be the prime target. Not because he’s the only guy—quite the opposite, actually.
Seattle brought in Kellen Winslow this offseason to spice up the receiving corps, and as a tight end he’s as spicy as they get.
He will create enough problems to allow Miller more opportunities, especially in the red zone.
Fantasy Outlook: 48 receptions, 650 yards, 7 touchdowns
Coming off a rookie season lost to injury, Ryan Williams returns to an offense looking for firepower.
He will provide what they need, and then some.
Williams is a potential do-it-all running back with just enough speed to score from anywhere on the field and the moves to ensure he does so.
He will share the backfield with Beanie Wells, who rushed for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns last year and was the division’s best fantasy sleeper in 2011.
Williams is the prototypical modern-day running back of the NFL, and Arizona will use him in a variety of different ways. He can spread the field with runs to the edge and he’s strong enough to run up the gut, but he will perhaps be most effective as a pass-catcher.
Using him on screen plays and flares out of the backfield, with a receiving corps full of above-average blockers, will net the Cardinals a lot of yardage and points.
Fantasy Outlook: 170 carries, 690 yards, 4 touchdowns; 35 receptions, 475 yards, 5 touchdowns
As a rookie third-round pick, Austin Pettis made a minimal impact with the St. Louis Rams' struggling passing attack.
In 12 games, he hauled in just 27 receptions for 256 yards without a touchdown.
Pettis will begin the season serving the final two games of a four-game suspension stemming from a positive drug test (PED) late last year.
But 2012 brings new hope and a new wide receivers coach, and once he's back, look out.
Ray Sherman was out of football last year, but before that he spent time in Dallas, Tennessee and Green Bay. He helped develop Miles Austin and Donald Driver into what they are today, and he will help Pettis get there as well.
The hiring of Sherman as the receivers coach went under the radar because of all the bounty talk with new (and suspended) defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, but league wide it may be the best positional coach hire of the offseason.
The Rams receivers are in dire need of assistance, and Sherman is their guy. Pettis will benefit from his knowledge, and he will be one of the breakout players in the entire NFL this season.
Fantasy Outlook: 65 receptions, 892 yards, 5 touchdowns
With a Super Bowl-saving catch under his belt, Mario Manningham took his free-agent talents to San Francisco Bay.
He is set for a breakout year in 2012 despite the 49ers leading the NFL in running back additions this offseason and despite his quarterback being Alex Smith.
Smith enjoyed by far the best season of his so far draft bust-like career, and though it will be difficult to replicate that performance with the division around him stocking up on defense, he has plenty of weapons at his disposal.
Manningham is the best of the bunch.
He skated through his four-year New York Giants career in the shadows of Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Jacobs (his current teammate in SF), and in that time he provided Manning with a steady target—one Manning trusted with Super Bowl XLVI on the line.
Fantasy Outlook: 67 receptions, 961 yards, 6 touchdowns