Fantasy Football Sleepers 2012: 5 Unknowns Poised for Big Week 1 Performances

Steven GerwelContributor IIISeptember 8, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 24:  Damian Williams #17 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field on December 24, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With the NFL season finally underway, we are set for Week 1 action starting on Sunday, September 9, and continuing with two prime time games on Monday night. 

The long wait for football is over, but perhaps you're experiencing a taste of bitterness this weekend thanks to your underwhelming fantasy football draft. 

Maybe your draft board didn't help you as much as you thought and you're in need of a few hidden gems to not only get you through Week 1, but through the season as well. 

It's still too early to identify the true sleepers, so it's just a guessing game at this point. But here are five overlooked players who could be in for a big week. 


WR Damian Williams (Tennessee Titans)

Last season, wide receiver Kenny Britt came on strong for the Tennessee Titans and was looking like an absolute steal for fantasy owners after posting 271 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games. 

Britt went down in the third game of the season and was lost for the season, which forced the other receivers to step up. 

Britt will be suspended for the first game of the 2012 season due to a DUI (according to, so a backup receiver will once again be asked to step up. 

Nate Washington is the obvious candidate to fill the role, but don't overlook Damian Williams. 

The 24-year-old Williams is in his third year and is just now entering the prime of his career. 

He finished the 2011 season with 592 yards and five touchdowns, and he'll be looking to build on those numbers in 2012. 

A Week 1 matchup against New England, who has a dreadful pass defense, could provide Williams with a chance to shine. 


TE Coby Fleener (Indianapolis Colts)

Andrew Luck will be playing the very first game of his career this weekend, which means the Indianapolis Colts will be looking to ease him into the playbook. 

The game plan likely won't demand Luck to frequently go downfield, at least in the beginning, so don't be surprised if Luck utilizes his tight end and Stanford teammate Coby Fleener. 

Luck and Fleener are familiar with each other, and the fact they're going against the Chicago Bears only increases their chance of success. 

Chicago finished with the fifth-worst pass defense last season (254.1 yards per game).


RB Leon Washington (Seattle Seahawks)

Last season, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had a surprisingly successful season with 1,204 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

Lynch is expected to be a key part of the Seattle offense this season, but he's experiencing back spasms and may be pulled from the lineup in the opening game against the Arizona Cardinals (according to ESPN).

If Lynch is on the bench, the Seahawks will likely rely on Leon Washington to take the bulk of the carries. 

With rookie quarterback Russell Wilson under center, Seattle will need to run the ball all day long in order to keep the pressure off Wilson. 

With that being the case, Washington could post solid numbers in the debut. 


RB Jonathan Dwyer (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Jonathan Dwyer had a promising preseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers, rushing for 147 yards on just 28 carries. 

The second-year running back carried the ball just nine times during the 2011 regular season, but he'll see an increased workload in 2012. 

With Rashard Mendenhall still out with an injury, the common perception was that Dwyer and Isaac Redman would split the carries.

However, now that Redman is struggling with a hip injury (according to ESPN), we could see a situation where Dwyer is the featured back. 

If Dwyer gets a considerable number of carries as expected, he should be productive for your fantasy team. 


TE Joel Dreessen (Denver Broncos)

Many people feel that Jacob Tamme is a sleeper tight end for the Denver Broncos due to his history with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, but Joel Dreessen is an overall more talented tight end. 

While it took an injury to Dallas Clark and Manning's quarterback skills to make Tamme relevant, Dreessen was able to remain productive in Houston behind Owen Daniels and with a lesser quarterback in Matt Shaub. 

With Manning under center, Dreessen could be in for a big year.