5 Fantasy Sleeper Picks Who Will Lead You to a Week 1 Win
Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season has begun, and with the year's first Sunday of NFL matchups also comes the first week of the quest for the championship in fantasy football leagues far and wide.
That means that it's time to put the finishing touches on Week 1 fantasy lineups, and for some owners, injuries or a draft-day snafu have left holes that must be plugged one way or another.
All is not lost for those teams, however, as while the following players may be glued to fantasy benches most weeks, the table has been set for them to post the sort of production in Week 1 that can save the proverbial day.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (at MIN)
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2012 must truly be the year of the Mayan Apocalypse, because I'm kicking off the fantasy football season by actually recommending Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert as a starter.
Granted, Gabbert was pretty awful as a rookie last year, posting a quarterback rating of well under 70 and ranking dead last among starting quarterbacks in yards per attempt.
However, the new "quick hit" offense of coordinator Bob Bratkowski appears to suit Gabbert well. The 22-year-old has developed an instant rapport with rookie wideout Justin Blackmon, and no team allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2011 than the Vikings.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers (at TB)
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Many fantasy owners avoided the Carolina Panthers' backfield altogether in drafts, as they were unsure whether Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams would receive enough touches to justify their respective price tags.
However, for one week at least, the picture appears pretty clear, and for fantasy owners of Williams, it's a pretty picture indeed.
An ankle injury has kept Stewart out of practice all week and will likely sideline him for Sunday's matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which means that the 29-year-old Williams is in line to receive the majority of the carries against a Tampa team that was fantasy football's friendliest matchup for opposing running backs last year.
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans (vs. NE)
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Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington had the finest season of his seven-year NFL career in 2011, topping 1,000 receiving yards for the first time and finishing as a top-20 fantasy option in leagues that award a point for receptions.
However, with top wideout Kenny Britt set to return and after the Titans drafted youngster Kendall Wright, many expected Washington to fade back into fantasy obscurity.
If that does come to pass, it isn't going to be in Week 1. With Britt serving a one-game suspension after an offseason DUI arrest, Washington should see plenty of targets against a New England Patriots team that gave up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts in 2011.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings (vs. JAX)
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The tight end position was deeper this year in fantasy football drafts than at any time in recent memory, with startable options ranging from first-round pick Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints to the always reliable Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons.
Some fantasy owners chose to bide their time, however, rolling the dice on upside plays later in drafts such as second-year pro Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings.
Those owners may well be rewarded for that patience as early as this Sunday, as Rudolph and the Vikings have a top-five fantasy matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars on tap.
Arizona Cardinals Defense/Special Teams (vs. SEA)
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First off, let me say that the Cardinals are a bad football team. Going to be a long year in the desert.
That said, the defense isn't necessarily the problem, and Arizona faces a Seattle squad that will be starting a rookie quarterback, may be starting a rookie running back and surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing defenses in 2011.
Add in the always-dangerous return game featuring Patrick Peterson and LaRod Stephens-Howling, and you have a very viable spot start in fantasy leagues this week.