Fantasy Football 2012 Sleepers: 5 Wideouts Sure to Deliver Breakout Seasons
With the new season just around the corner, fantasy football drafts are rapidly taking place.
While owners drool at the chance to draft Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson, there is great value with sleeper wide receivers in the middle-to-late rounds.
Depending on need and league type, there isn't much drop-off between the second and third tiers of wide receivers. There are a bunch of young and not-so-young wide receivers who will have breakout seasons and warrant at least late-round consideration.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Greg Little was solid last year as a rookie, catching 61 passes for 709 yards for the Cleveland Browns. Despite his success catching the ball, Little only found the end zone twice.
With an improved Browns' offense, Little should have similar to improved numbers in receptions and yards while definitely scoring more than two touchdowns.
Last season, Little saw less-than-stable quarterback play with Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and rookie running back Trent Richardson add young talent and potential to the offense. But being rookies, it may take the Browns' offense a while to get going.
Little could be a great option to stash on the bench and wait for the Browns' offense to improve.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Unlike most players on this list, Sidney Rice isn't a young player looking to break out. After two seasons filled with injuries, Rice is looking to re-establish himself as a top wide receiver. Rice adds incredible value if he can stay healthy.
Last season, his first in Seattle, Rice caught 32 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns. Adding both Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn during the offseason, the Seahawks proved they are serious about improving their passing game. As Seattle's most talented receiver, Rice will be a big part of that.
Despite only playing in nine games last season, Rice was targeted 57 times, good for fourth on the team. He finished with the team's second-highest number of receiving yards.
With a better quarterback situation than last season's Tarvaris Jackson-Charlie Whitehurst fiasco, the Seahawks will be much improved in the passing attack.
Rice will be a big factor.
Titus Young, Detroit Lions
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
As part of the Detroit Lions' potent attack, Titus Young will get his opportunities this season. As a rookie, Young caught 48 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns. He finished fourth on the team in receptions, targets and yards.
Young came on late, scoring all six of his touchdowns in the team's final nine games, including four in the last four weeks. With a better understanding of the offense, Young should get even more opportunities this season.
Of the top-five targeted players (Young, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler), Young offers something unique. He is extremely quick, young and is smaller than the rest. His targets will likely increase as the 31-year-old Nate Burleson's decrease.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
When the Tennessee Titans drafted Kendall Wright, they were expecting him to complement Kenny Britt and Nate Washington. But with Britt's playing status up in the air with injuries and off-the-field issues, Wright suddenly becomes a bigger part of the Titans' offense.
At Baylor last season, Wright caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. He won't put up star-studded numbers in 2012, but he will be an effective receiver for the Titans. Throughout the preseason, Wright has proved he can play at the highest level, catching eight passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Jake Locker has been named the starter for the Titans and adds stability to the offense. If Chris Johnson can return to form, the offense as a whole will be better.. As a rookie, Wright may take a while to get going, but he has high upside, especially in keeper leagues.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Brandon LaFell is another player with high upside. In his third year, LaFell was the second-leading receiver for the Panthers, after Pro Bowler Steve Smith, with 36 receptions for 613 yards and three touchdowns.
LaFell was the Panthers' sixth-most targeted player. Legedu Naanee and Jeremy Shockey finished with more targets than LaFell, but they are not on the team this year. Those targets will be spread around and LaFell will surely benefit.
Cam Newton, who ran for 14 touchdowns last season, only threw for 21 scores. To better protect himself, it is likely that Newton won't run the ball as much this season, and that should increase the red-zone targets for LaFell.