Fantasy Football: 10 Sleepers Guaranteed to Explode in 2012
To truly win your NFL fantasy football draft, you need to know the fantasy football sleepers. Everyone knows LeSean McCoy or Calvin Johnson, but not everyone is quite as aware of Doug Martin or Brandon Marshall (who don't quite qualify).
Fantasy football is all about finding the undervalued player. A steal late in combination with solid picks early makes a team.
So which players should you be looking to add late in the draft? These guys, who could all break out with big years in 2012.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
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As a rookie, Torrey Smith gained 841 yards. The 2011 second-round pick relied almost entirely on his speed last year, but he should combine that with some actual receiver skills in 2012.
Smith has blazing speed, and he is also quite quick. He has the ability to be a vertical and underneath threat, picking up both catches and yards.
In all likelihood, Smith will soon develop into Joe Flacco's go-to wideout, as Anquan Boldin is nothing extra by the loosest of standards.
Smith should look to not only continue to play at a high level but will likely take his play to an entirely different place. There is huge upside here.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Maurice Jones-Drew's absence is key here. Rashad Jennings is a talented second back, and as long as MJD is out, he will be Jacksonville's starter.
With Blaine Gabbert coming off a rough rookie campaign, the Jaguars will likely rely on the run game. Jennings won't be sharing carries, either.
If and when MJD comes back, Jennings' value clearly goes down some, but Jacksonville likely won't throw the star running back to the wolves right away. It will ease in Jones-Drew, while continuing to give Jennings carries.
As long as Jones-Drew is out, Jennings will put up yards, touchdowns and fantasy points. It may not change too much afterward either.
Jon Baldwin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
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Jon Baldwin has been extremely impressive in the preseason. Baldwin went in the first round because of his extreme upside, and he's starting to meet it.
The former Pitt star will start opposite Dwayne Bowe and could make tons of huge plays. Baldwin likely won't be a WR1 in 2012, but he could be a solid second option for your team.
Would I rely on Baldwin? No. But I would take him as an upside pick who could end up starting later in the year. Baldwin could pick up quite a few touchdowns.
The early signs are good here. Kansas City's offense has looked good, and Baldwin has looked great. There's some definite upside in this relative fantasy unknown.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
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C.J. Spiller was actually quite effective replacing Fred Jackson in 2012, as he picked up 561 yards on 107 carries. Spiller also offers great PPR value.
The former top-10 pick won't receive the bulk of Buffalo's carries, but he will touch the ball fairly often. Spiller's versatility ensures that.
Though he struggled earlier in his career, Spiller is now coming into his own. He has great big-play potential and is always a threat to score.
Should Jackson go down with an injury again, Spiller's value will erupt. Even if that doesn't happen, though, he is a nice player to own.
Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona Cardinals
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Ryan Williams was touted as a potential fantasy sleeper in 2011 prior to tearing his patellar tendon. Now, in 2012, it seems like many have forgotten about him.
Given Arizona's quarterback situation, it seems likely the team will try to pound the rock. At this point, Williams, not Beanie Wells, will receive the bulk of the team's carries.
Williams is a better runner than Wells, and he offers more value as a receiver, too. Should Wells go down with yet another injury, Williams will have virtually no competition.
The simple fact is that Williams is a starting running back with early-round ability. He's risky, but he could be a productive fantasy starter as the year goes on.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans
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Now that Jake Locker is starting, he can show off his insane talent. The former No. 8 overall pick possesses a rocket arm and great mobility.
Playing with Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Jared Cook and Nate Washington, Locker has some weapons. Kenny Britt could even return at some point.
Locker will make big plays throwing deep, and he will also pick up some always-valued rushing yards. He has a ton of potential.
There will be mistakes and bad games, but there will also be some big games. No one should enter the season with Locker as his or her starter, but he's great to have around should he play up to his ability.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
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It's hard to call Antonio Brown a sleeper given his 1,108 receiving yards in 2011, but it seems many have forgotten him. Brown has legitimate No. 1 wideout potential in a fantasy league.
With both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman hurt, Pittsburgh will likely pass more than ever. Unlike Mike Wallace, Brown is geared up on the offense and ready to go.
There's no reason the Steelers won't rely on Brown to create for them. He's a definite playmaker, and he also hauls in a decent number of catches for PPR leagues.
Brown will, at worse, reproduce his 2011 production, but he should far exceed it. There's no reason he won't, really.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Carolina Panthers
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A talented wideout, Brandon LaFell has taken time to develop, but he's beginning to reach his upside. Catching passes from Cam Newton doesn't hurt, of course.
LaFell is a physical target in the red zone, but he also has enough speed and athleticism to separate. There is some big-play ability.
Carolina will likely continue to pass the ball with frequency, so LaFell should see plenty of looks. Only Steve Smith is ahead of LaFell on the depth chart.
The former third-round pick could potentially put up 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. That is much more valuable than the former third-round pick's average draft position.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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In 2010, Josh Freeman was excellent. 2011 was a different story, but the former first-round pick retains his excellent arm strength and physical ability.
Now, Freeman has some weapons to work with too. Vincent Jackson is a bona fide star, and Mike Williams is a great No. 2. Doug Martin is also an upgrade at running back, and the offensive line has improved.
The Buccaneers have some talent on offense, and Freeman should be able to use it. There is the potential for some huge numbers here, given Freeman's own ability.
It isn't a great idea to enter the year with Freeman as your starting quarterback, but if you miss out on a stud, he's a good pickup as a backup. He could end up being your starter.
Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans
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People have been touting Jared Cook's ability for years now, but he's finally going to reach his potential in 2012. Jake Locker's presence will help, of course.
Cook has always been a talented receiver, but his lack of blocking ability has held him back in the past. If Tennessee moves to more of a spread, that won't be much of a factor.
The 6'5", 250-pounder dominated late in 2011, and he's hoping to keep building off his hot streak. Cook is one of Tennessee's more talented offensive players.
Young quarterbacks tend to rely on tight ends, and Cook is a good one to have. He isn't a Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but he is usually available late and could offer great value.