Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Sleepers That Aren't Getting Enough Hype
Picking fantasy football sleepers, or players taken later in the draft that have the potential to be much more valuable than generally thought, is always a tricky thing to do.
If you were sure they would be sleepers they would get taken higher thus defeating the point of a sleeper.
That being said, every year there are guys going in the late rounds that get overhyped as being the next coming of Arian Foster or Jimmy Graham.
Those guys tend to start creeping up draft boards until they're no longer as much of a sleeper as initially thought, and wasting a higher pick on a guy you thought would break out increases the cost if he should fail
This year's overhyping has already been in full swing, pushing quarterback Robert Griffin III, receiver Titus Young, running back Rashad Jennings and others higher and higher up the draft board.
Those guys could still be sleepers, but their value as a sleeper has gone down due to their hype.
These next five guys, on the other hand, haven't generated quite as much interest yet. They all offer at least some upside from where they're being taken in drafts and could end up being top ten in their respective positions.
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Kevin Smith is a guy you probably won't have to take any earlier than the end of the eighth round of your fantasy football draft.
That's pretty great value for a starting running back with no competition on a prolific offense like the Detroit Lions.
Smith is hardly the only talented HB on the Lions but Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure are both battling injuries problems, and in Leshoure's case a suspension.
That means that at the very least Smith gets the first two weeks to himself as the starter, and likely more if he can stay healthy. Staying healthy is they key, as he has battled injury problems in his career.
Last season Smith only registered fantasy points in seven games, breaking double-digits three times and posting a fourth game of nine points.
If he can become a bit more consistent he should entrench himself as the starter.
The Lions are a pass-first team, so Smith's carries won't be high volume and that does diminish his value a bit.
Still, Smith can catch out of the backfield and even a team with a star-studded tandem of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can't call a pass play on every down.
With little competition and a decent track record, Smith is a guy to target late in drafts.
It's not often you can get an unquestioned starter that late, even if he's only unquestioned for a few weeks.
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Fantasy football players love to look for players that fit the mold of last season's breakout stars.
Since last year saw rookie receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones rise to greatness many drafters were looking for the next big rookie receiver.
That led many to draw comparisons between Justin Blackmon, the fifth overall pick of the 2012 NFL entry draft, to Green and Jones.
That wasn't fair to Blackmon, as he isn't quite the athlete those two guys are. He also inherited a terrible QB situation in Jacksonville with Blaine Gabbert as the starter.
But make no mistake, Blackmon is a great talent and should quickly develop into a top receiver. That process will be sped up exponentially if the strong preseason version of Blaine Gabbert translates into a strong regular-season version.
Gabbert and Blackmon have looked good together thus far and Blackmon should have little competition for targets.
This seems like a case where the hate of Gabbert due to last season's dreadful performance is mixing with concerns over Blackmon's offseason arrest to create a picture where Blackmon has little upside this season.
That's simply not true as Gabbert has the potential to be a decent starting quarterback, which is all Blackmon should need this year to be a legit second receiver in fantasy football.
That's pretty good value for a guy usually still on the board when the tenth round begins.
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Mike Williams had a great rookie campaign in 2010 and looked like a great fantasy football receiver in the making.
And then the 2011 season happened, shattering all of that hope and sinking Williams into the late-round depths of fantasy drafts.
On the surface Williams situation this offseason seems to have gone from bad to worse, as Tampa Bay has been preaching an increased emphasis on running the ball as opposed to throwing it.
They also signed Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson to replace Williams as the number one receiver.
But both of those transitions should help William's value.
Running the ball more should make life easier for Tampa QB Josh Freeman, a promising young player who looked even worse than Williams did last season.
If Freeman can play better, and utilize play-action passes to help free up his receivers, Williams should see his fantasy numbers go up a good bit.
The addition of VJax should also help Williams get open, as Jackson will draw double-teams and force defenses to pay more attention to the deep ball.
That should leave Williams open underneath a lot more, and if Jackson is doubled in the red zone, those TD-producing targets should fall to Williams.
Mike Williams was once a rising star in fantasy football, and this season should be the year he returns to his rising ways instead of falling even further.
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Kendall Wright is another rookie receiver who could make a name for himself this year thanks to a golden opportunity.
The only other big-time talent at receiver on the Titans is Kenny Britt, and he won't be playing much this season thanks to legal and health issues.
That should mean Wright can easily secure a starting job, and he certainly has the talent to take advantage of it.
Wright is fast and good at making people miss, two things quarterbacks love.
Jake Locker is taking over as QB for the Titans this season, which helps Wright as Locker has a ton of arm strength and shouldn't have a problem hitting Wright on the deep ball.
Being a deep play threat is a great quality for receivers in fantasy football as it helps inflate their numbers if they aren't targeted a lot.
But a lack of competition should mean that Wright can combine big plays with a good deal of targets.
There's a chance that Wright is a streaky player this season, putting up huge fantasy weeks when the big plays are there and disappearing otherwise.
But if he can get consistent targets there's no reason he shouldn't be a starting-caliber receiver for fantasy football.
Pretty good considering he has a great chance of going undrafted in most leagues.
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Donald Brown, much like Kevin Smith, is a starting running back available late in drafts.
The difference is, as of now, Brown has almost zero competition and it should stay that way all season.
Fantasy football experts will preach about how this season offers few sure things at running back thanks to many teams adopting a two-HB system, meaning you never know who's going to get more carries in a given week.
Donald Brown doesn't have that problem, as the former first-round pick should be well atop the Colts depth chart.
He also has a great opportunity to prove he wasn't a waste of the first-round pick the Colts burned on him a few years back.
He'll be playing with a rookie quarterback, albeit one that's better than anything he worked with last season, so he should see plenty of rushing attempts and checkdown passes as the Colts try to keep Andrew Luck healthy.
Quantity over quality might work in Brown's favor, as he has the speed and ability to make plays. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to do that if he touches the ball 20-plus times a game.
A talented running back who should get the ball a lot and has no competition carries or targets?
Sounds like a great value in the 8-10th rounds, which is where Brown is typically going.