Fantasy Football Sleepers 2012: Late-Round Picks Who Will Impress
The NFL preseason is in full swing, meaning fantasy football drafts are just around the corner. While owners are paying attention to the top players in the draft, there's plenty of value in the later rounds.
In fantasy football, successful drafting is all about finding value. If you can get Aaron Rodgers in the first round, you take him, but if he's gone, you don't just settle for Eli Manning. The key to a successful season is finding those sleepers late in the draft.
Some players in the list are more well-known than others, but they are all undervalued at their current rankings.
Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns
Greg Little quietly put together a successful season with 61 catches and 709 yards, but only two touchdowns. Little isn't necessarily a huge unknown, but he should be not overlooked this fantasy season. An improved Cleveland Browns offense should help Little have a much better fantasy season.
Brandon Weeden looks capable of being a decent NFL starter, with Little emerging as one of his favorite targets early on. Last season, Colt McCoy was underwhelming and fairly inconsistent, which impacted Little's performance.
In addition to the improvement at quarterback, the Browns should be able to better run the football. Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson both look like they could add some quality this season in addition to first-round draft pick Trent Richardson.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a terrible season last year, Josh Freeman should be pretty low in the quarterback rankings. However, a rejuvenated and 20-pounds-lighter Freeman should be much better and more like the 2010 version of himself.
In addition to being more trim, Freeman will also have the benefit of a revamped Buccaneers offense. The team added Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Dallas Clark this offseason to give Freeman protection and more weapons.
Freeman isn't a top-tier quarterback and won't be this season, but he has a shot to reach the second tier. With the top quarterbacks off the board, Freeman can be had later and with high value.
Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Tony Moeaki missed all of last year after getting hurt in the preseason. The forgotten man was coming off of a strong rookie season in 2010, in which Moeaki caught 47 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns. Expectations for Moeaki were very high entering last season.
With no apparent issues with his knee, Moeaki is ready to have the breakout year he was supposed to have last season. With Dwayne Bowe still out with a contract issue, Moeaki has been a bigger focus of the offense. That could continue even when Bowe returns.
Moeaki is definitely a guy to keep your eyes on as the preseason continues. He came away from the first game without a catch, but he could see more time
Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Christian Ponder is the unquestioned starter for the Minnesota Vikings. With the Vikings coming off a 2-14 campaign, Ponder will likely be overlooked dramatically in fantasy football drafts. While Ponder's numbers weren't great last season, he improved throughout the year.
In 11 games, Ponder threw for 1853 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Ponder will enjoy having Adrian Peterson healthy in the backfield and newcomer Jerome Simpson to throw the ball to.
The Vikings defense is still pretty subpar, which means that they will likely be trailing in a lot of games. Therefore, Ponder will likely have the football in his hands plenty, accumulating yards left and right. Ponder has the potential to be an average fantasy quarterback at a low price.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
While Williams' stock has dropped because of Jonathan Stewart's new deal, Williams is still the starter. However, both will get plenty of carries, as they have for the past few seasons. Williams' draft ranking is still fairly high, but it's not nearly as high as the value he brings.
Last season, Williams rushed for 836 yards on 155 carries and scored seven touchdowns. He also caught 16 passes for 135 yards. Williams was extremely successful for the number of touches he got.
Williams will be solid again next year behind a fairly good offensive line. Cam Newton's ability to throw the football will also help to open up running lanes.