With fantasy football 2012 upon us, the excitement for the start of the NFL regular season is only matched by the sheer love of the fantasy sport across the world.
Before you draft this year, make sure you get your fill of the best sleepers at every position to ensure you select the best team in your league.
I know you want that cheesy trophy!
All of the following players will be available much later than they should be, and passing on them will cause you distress.
Do yourself a favor; take these players and call me in the morning when you realize you picked solid gold!
After not playing in 2011, future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning has started the next chapter of his career with the Denver Broncos.
While there are still questions about his effectiveness, the fact that his average draft position is 54.80 means you could feasibly wait until the fifth round to take your team’s starting QB. As long as you select your backup soon after, though.
Manning has all the potential to be a top-five QB when the season is over, so grabbing an elite quarterback 50 picks into the draft can only be characterized as a steal.
If Manning fails, though, your team’s backup plan better be prepared to step in (aim for a guy like Jay Cutler in the eighth round if you're taking Peyton as your starter.)
Running Back Sleeper: Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
While there will always be questions about how many carries a running back in New England will get each game, the Patriots will lean heavily on Stevan Ridley to start the season to observe how he responds.
Add in the injury to fellow back Shane Vereen last week and the majority of the workload will be Ridley’s. If he responds well and looks great during his time on the field, there is little doubt that Bill Belichick will ride the hot hand for as long as he can.
The average draft position of Ridley is 80.58, making the Patriots starting running back a huge steal on fantasy selection day. Don’t be the fool that passes on Ridley in the seventh-or-eighth round.
Wide Receiver Sleeper: Titus Young, Detroit Lions
With everyone in the media and on the Detroit Lions coaching staff agreeing that the No. 2 receiver spot was Titus Young’s to lose, everyone is expecting huge numbers from the relative unknown.
As a fantasy owner, your goal is to find the player that no one is talking about, yet breaks out for a huge season; that will be Young in 2012. Add in an average draft position of 101.33, and Young is the ultimate sleeper.
With fantasy juggernaut Calvin Johnson taking most of the double coverage, the Lions will lean heavily on the young star to take much of the pressure off the team’s No. 1 receiver and capitalize when he is wide open.
Matt Stafford will look to Young as his second option, and fantasy owners should look to Young in the latter rounds.
Tight End Sleeper: Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans
While the fantasy world is showing Jared Cook no respect by leaving him alone at an average draft position of 128.66, you—as a fantasy soothsayer—need to realize his potential and snag Cook as your backup tight end.
You will likely be able to select the Tennessee Titans ace-in-the-hole in the waning rounds of your fantasy draft, so people won’t even know that you have hit them with a great sleeper pick.
After racking up 759 receiving yards and three touchdowns, Cook looks to use his relationship with young QB Jake Locker to increase his receptions and thus making all of his numbers climb.
Cook could be the breakout tight end of 2012, so don’t risk missing out on all that fantasy goodness.
Check back for more on the National Football League as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s NFL page to get your fill of all things football.
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