Fantasy Football 2012: Underrated Stars Who Will Carry You to a Title
Fantasy football, like any real sport, is all about bargain shopping. You have to get the superstars early who will get you the big yards, points or consistency, but there are only so many of those players to go around.
After they are gone, it is all about finding players you can trust who will perform at a level far beyond where they are drafted.
Everyone feels like they know who is going to have a breakout year, or who the biggest sleepers are, but you have to make sure not too oversaturate yourself with information for fear of losing your mind. A lack of information can be your best friend.
So instead of hunting the Internet for all the information you can find, just remember to keep these names in mind when you are drafting.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year at this time, everyone was drinking the Josh Freeman Kool-Aid. What wasn't to like? A second-year quarterback on a young, up-and-coming team who throws for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions looked like a superstar in the making.
Everything fell apart for Freeman and the Buccaneers in 2011, as they finished 4-12 and he had 16 touchdowns compared to 22 interceptions.
Bad year aside, there are reasons to be optimistic about Freeman this year. For starters, Freeman's completion percentage last year was the best of his career (62.8). He is just 24 years old entering his fourth season in the league.
Even more important than that is the fact that the Buccaneers have added Vincent Jackson, one of the top receivers in the NFL, to their roster. He is going to open things up for the offense and Freeman.
While I don't know if he will get back to exactly his 2010 form, Freeman certainly has plenty of upside to offer as a late-round option.
Cedric Benson, RB, Green Bay Packers
While the Packers appear to be waiting on officially naming their starting running back, Paul Imig of Fox Sports Wisconsin reported that Benson was likely to get the job.
Who Will Have The Best Fantasy Season In 2012?
Despite being a late addition to the roster, Benson is still a solid fantasy running back. He may not be a No. 1 option that you want to put all your faith in, but he has enough left in the tank to be a difference maker.
Last year with the Bengals, Benson had 1,067 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. He doesn't add much in the passing game, so all his value is tied into getting handed the ball, which can be tricky in a pass-happy Packers offense.
Still, when you have a potential 1,000-yard runner in the middle rounds of a draft, you have to take a chance on him. With teams gearing up to stop the pass, it should be easier for Benson to find big holes to run through.
Mario Manningham, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Even though most of the attention this offseason was paid to the other receiver the 49ers brought in, Manningham is much more likely to produce consistently in 2012.
I would never tell you to trust Alex Smith as a fantasy quarterback, but the one big hole this offense had last year was a lack of explosiveness and big plays at the wide receiver position. They built a team around possession receivers like Michael Crabtree and the now-departed Josh Morgan.
What they needed was a big receiver who could stretch the field and create matchup problems in the red zone.
Manningham plays much bigger than his 6'0", 185-pound frame would suggest. He has a great vertical leap and underrated hands. He will not get as many chances to catch passes in this offense like he did in New York, but he is more likely to convert on the opportunities he is given.
I would expect a solid, albeit unspectacular, season with 800 yards and a handful of touchdown catches.
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