2012 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 5 Unheralded Rookies Who Will Produce
You know about Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Justin Blackmon and the rest of the highly drafted 2012 rookies. But, contrary to popular belief, they aren't the only young guns who could help you hoist The Shiva this upcoming season.
All around the league, unheralded, late-round rookies have emerged as viable fantasy candidates. Most of them have yet to top the depth chart at their respective positions, but their stock is on the upswing. And amid the well-documented violence of the current NFL, the one injury standing between them and fantasy glory sounds negligible.
Here are five anonymous rookies who could be valuable late-round fliers in 2012.
WR Keshawn Martin: HOU
Drafted: R4, 121
Unlike most rookie receivers (especially those primed for immediate playing time), Martin is already inured to his role as second/third banana. The speedy fourth-rounder from Michigan State shared the spotlight with B.J. Cunningham in East Lansing and now gets to play alongside one of the world's best in Andre Johnson.
The plaudits Martin has received from Texans camp have been unanimously rolling in since early June. Texans writer Nick Scurfield reports that Martin has "separated from the pack" in training camp, signaling his emergence over Lestar Jean and third-rounder DeVier Posey in the battle for reps in the slot.
Starting in the slot with Matt Schaub under center—especially when only two brittle veterans (Johnson and Kevin Walter) stand between him and No. 1 receiver duties—could make Martin a valuable flier, especially in PPR leagues.
QB Nick Foles: PHI
Drafted: R3, 88
With two injuries in two preseason contests, Michael Vick's season appears to be cursed right from the onset.
Foles won't start Week 1, but his surprising emergence this preseason has seen him supplant Mike Kafka for backup duties in Philadelphia. That means Foles is one inexorable Michael Vick injury away from being handed the keys to the offense. And not just any offense––one of the most explosive, creative, fantasy-quarterback-friendly offenses in the league.
There are already five rookie QBs in line to start this season. Should Vick go down, Foles won't be just the most unlikely addition to that class...he'll also be a good bet to outproduce that class.
RB Isaiah Pead: STL
Drafted: R2, 50
Pead's 2012 fantasy momentum has faded a bit during his preseason struggles, but he still remains one of the most intriguing late-round ball-carriers in the league.
After lighting up training camp, Pead emerged as not just Steven Jackson's handcuff, but also a legitimate option on third downs. He's still probably in line for eight to 10 touches a game, but he's only one Steven Jackson injury away from assuming full-time running back duties.
Jackson's been a bit more durable as of late than he was earlier in his career, but he remains a perennial injury risk. This time, however, his job might not be as secure when he returns to the lineup.
WR Josh Gordon: CLE
Drafted: Supplemental Draft (Round 2)
Every year, fantasy pundits hype a Browns receiver with trite rhetoricals like Somebody has to catch the passes in Cleveland, right? Every year, however, no Cleveland receiver is worth owning by season's end.
But 2012 could be different.
Josh Gordon is gravid with athletic potential; he's just yet to put it all together. Both Gordon and the Browns offense are likely to stumble out of the gate (seeing as they're relying on three rookies at skill positions), but by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around, Gordon could be rounding into a comfort zone.
Much like Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2011, Gordon could be a great sign-and-stash candidate for the 2012 season.
After all...somebody has to catch the passes in Cleveland, right?
RB Robert Turbin: SEA
Drafted: R4, 106
Before last season's explosive output, Marshawn Lynch had only 1,187 yards over the course of two seasons.
Translation: He's anything but a sure thing to produce.
Russell Wilson has (deservedly) stolen most of the approbation allotted to rookies in the Seattle backfield, but Turbin has been equally impressive this offseason. He's got a stranglehold on the No. 2 job for Seattle and could be poised for early season touches, as Pete Carroll tries to keep his workhorse back fresh.
Like most of the others on this list, Turbin needs an injury to drastically increase his value, but it's hard to keep talented young legs off the field. He'll find a way to contribute at some point this season.
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