Fantasy Football Sleepers 2012: Greg Olsen and 5 Other Late-Round Steals
Every fantasy player’s dream is to go upside-heavy at the end of his or her draft en route to finding two or three gems that take their team from steady to the No.1 point-producing lineup week after week.
Perhaps that is why they call them sleepers, because most of the time, they only work out in your dreams.
There is a difference between breakout players (players expected to have big years because of their developmental curve) and sleepers, who fall through the cracks and should not be on anyone’s radar until the eighth or ninth round.
It is these later rounds that any fantasy champion will tell you are the most crucial. Not only are you building depth, but you are insuring the many risks you took in the earlier rounds.
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has been on many breakout and sleeper lists before, and every time, he has failed to meet either category’s expectations. When Jay Cutler arrived in Chicago with no real receiving talent, many thought Olsen would put up incredible numbers with the strong-armed quarterback.
He did not, mainly because he had trouble being the primary guy in the receiving corps. Now, with Steve Smith proving to have a solid rapport with fantasy star Cam Newton, he does not have to be the main guy.
And that is what makes a great sleeper, a talented player with a great opportunity and only a small amount of pressure to succeed.
Building a great team is all about risk, risk management and doing your homework on bubble guys like Olsen who could go either up or down.
Olsen is a risk given his history of being useless for fantasy purposes, but here are five other sleepers who, like Olsen, are in the right place at the right time.
Data from fantasyfootballcalculator.com/adp was used for the body of this analysis
Wilson is soaring up draft boards now, mainly because owners have become aware of Ahmad Bradshaw’s lingering foot issues. These issues will cause the starter to eventually miss one or two games. When he does, he will likely be out of a job.
This, coupled with a fantastic showing in preseason from the rookie running back have him going around the seventh round in 12-team drafts. That's right around the same place as new Jaguars starter Rashad Jennings and Detroit’s Kevin Smith.
If you have to choose between the three of these players, and if you care about your team winning games, pick Wilson. Unless you want a running back with a questionable ankle every week that you are constantly keeping tabs on, do not pick Kevin Smith. I repeat, do not pick Kevin Smith.
Smith is a high maintenance running back, much in the same way Bradshaw looks to be for this upcoming season. This is no knock on Bradshaw, who without a doubt is one of the toughest runners in the league and will probably score more than Wilson.
But Wilson has the distinct advantage of being much less injury-prone than Bradshaw, who simply is not an easy back to trust as your No. 2.
Select Wilson in your drafts and happily reap the rewards of one of the most athletic running backs to come to the NFL in recent memory.
Similar to Wilson, Rodgers will benefit from being the primary backup to a starter with a high chance of incurring an injury in the 2012-2013 season.
Though Michael Turner has been durable throughout his tenure as a Falcon, he is soon to be on the wrong side of 30, which many pundits point to as an indicator of a declining running back.
Rodgers was a dynamic player at Oregon State, and now fills a Darren Sproles-type role for what looks to be one of the best offenses in the NFC.
Sproles was a fantasy gold mine a year ago, as he was not drafted anywhere near the top-tier of running backs due to concerns about his size, a lack of goal line touches and a crowded backfield.
Sproles is a one-of-a-kind running back playing with a better quarterback, but in this copy-cat league the Falcons may have figured out a way to find a Sproles of their own.
Bank on Rodgers making an impact as a receiver. Though not as reliable as a running back who gets 15 carries a game, he's effective for fantasy purposes in today’s pass-happy NFL.
The second-year player out of Kentucky has a year under his belt learning Mike McCarthy’s offense and should be ready to go for 2012-2013.
With elite after-the-catch ability, Cobb and quarterback Aaron Rodgers could become the next dynamic duo out of Green Bay. First it was Greg Jennings who rose to stardom, then Jordy Nelson. Now it is Cobb’s turn to take the reigns.
Every Packers receiver is a good investment, as all will get their fair share of touches and touchdowns once Jermichael Finley fizzles out and starts his string of poor production.
Not to wish any harm on Finley, but he is a player with high upside that has had difficulty reaching that upside. His best season in four years as a pro was last year's 767 yard, eight TD effort.
That is by no means a bad year, but Finley is not the best value in the Packer offense, even with Jennings and Nelson both going in the second or third rounds.
Cobb is going after the 10th round, meaning he is on few people’s radars as they come into the draft. If anything, he’ll get touches in the return game, though he fumbled more than his head coach would like while assuming those duties a year ago.
Expect Cobb to turn in a few big games and a few duds, before finally catching on late in the season and turning in some consistent 100-yard and TD-type efforts
Sticking with the theme of backup running backs and their fragile superiors on the depth chart, look no farther than Oakland’s running back situation. With a legitimate quarterback in place to finally keep defenses honest, Oakland should have a good running game in the early weeks.
Darren McFadden may even lead the league in rushing through the first few weeks of the season. If he does, look out McFadden owners.
Raiders teams of the past had a tendency to ride McFadden into the ground, as the ultra-talented back carried them to victories in the opening weeks of the year.
But this takes its toll on McFadden, as it would on any back.
McFadden went down a year ago at the Week 6 mark, suffering an ankle injury that kept him out of the remaining 10 weeks of the season.
At the time, he was leading the NFL with 614 rushing yards. A questionable tag followed him the rest of the year as McFadden owners were teased by injury reports and never could let go of the man that was carrying their team.
If you owned Michael Bush, who ended the year 977 yards and 7 TD, then you lucked out by nabbing yourself a quality sleeper.
The Raiders should try to protect their biggest asset this year, and that means spelling him on more occasions throughout the game. McFadden has a very upright running style, which causes problems.
His backups, Goodson and Taiwan Jones, should get plenty of opportunities while he rests.
Though Jones is the more electric of the two backs, Goodson is more dependable,and more so the every-down back that NFL offenses need to be successful. He should produce well if given the opportunity.
Nate Washington and Kendall Wright
Most owners will not consider Washington a sleeper because he is in that Nate Burleson, Jabar Gaffney realm of boring but effective wide receivers who are often hard to put in the starting lineup.
These kinds of players are especially difficult to gauge when good players are on the waiver wire and it's not particularly clear who you should drop. Washington and Burleson are often roster casualties in these scenarios.
But let this be the year Washington gets the respect he deserves.
The product of little-known Tiffin University put up a whopping 1,023 yards and 7 TD a year ago as the No. 1 receiver in Tennessee once Kenny Britt went down.
Now with Jake Locker at the helm for the Titans, it is difficult to estimate who will be his favorite target.
Washington’s skill set down the field and the emergence of Kendall Wright means one of these relatively inexpensive wide receivers will be great value for someone on draft day.
Though Washington will not put up the same numbers he did a year ago, expect him and Kendall Wright to have productive fantasy seasons given their late draft status.
Wright, the team’s first-round pick out of Baylor, has impressed the Titans' coaching staff and will be starting Week 1 while Kenny Britt is out due to a suspension.
The title-track of this sleeper's outlook, Olsen should be in for big things in 2012-2013. Last year's biggest draft-day payoffs came at the tight end position in the form of Rob Gronkwoski and Jimmy Graham. Expect the same this season from Olsen.
Slated to go somewhere around round 10, Olsen could produce like a fourth or fifth-rounder.
With this glowing endorsement from his head coach, the University of Miami graduate has high expectations going into this year.
Though Gronkowski or Graham-like numbers are unlikely (each had over 1,000 yards and 11 TDs a year ago), who knows what amazing things Cam Newton will do in his second year and what that will mean for Greg Olsen?
If you are unable to get one of the top two tight ends, Vernon Davis or Antonio Gates, wait it out for Olsen.
If this does not work, invest in Brandon LaFell or someone else in the Panthers offense, because the ceiling is very high in Carolina.