As NFL training camps begin around the league this week, so will fantasy football drafts around the country. With a new fantasy football season comes new analysis of the players, and hope of finding those very few sleeper picks that will send your team to a league championship come December. Here are a few of those potential sleeper picks for the 2012-13 NFL season.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England Patriots:
Yes, I know Brandon Lloyd doesn’t necessarily deserve to be on a “sleeper” list with some of his impressive seasons as of late, but let me explain. In most pre-season mock drafts Lloyd is predicted to be the 20th-30th wide receiver selected. This selection range is surely too high for the fantasy numbers that he will put up in New England. Lloyd will be reunited with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels from his days in Denver, and oh yea he’ll be the deep threat for this guy named Tom Brady, who I hear isn’t half bad. Look for Lloyd to have a huge season with the Patriots, finishing in the top 5-10 ranking for fantasy wide receivers.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Josh Freeman may have been the biggest bust of the 2011 fantasy season, but he has a lot of upside heading into the 2012 campaign. His lack of success can be attributed to the Bucs lack of a consistent running game, stating back to the up and down season of starting RB LeGarrette Blount. Freeman will have another year of experience under his belt now, and a more powerful running attack which should give him some more time in the pocket to succeed this year.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers:
Crabtree finished the 2011 fantasy campaign strong, having over 85 yards receiving in 4 of his last 7 games. He has battled health issues in the past, but now seems to be fully recovered and surrounded by new receivers (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins) that will draw more attention from opposing defenses. Watch for the Texas Tech grad to have a breakout fantasy season in 2012, one that many fantasy owners have been waiting for since he entered the league a few years back.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs:
Hillis was another member of the “bust” list for the 2011 fantasy season, but he is still a young running back with something to prove in 2012. A change of scenery may be the best thing to happen to Hillis, as he could see increased time in the RB position with an injured Jamaal Charles on the bench. Hillis only eclipsed the 100-yard mark once in the 2011 season, but with the Chiefs having a slightly superior passing game to Cleveland, Hillis’s efforts should be a little less predictable this season.
DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos:
There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is not Tim Tebow. Peyton Manning will surely add to the Broncos offense, especially where they need it in the passing game. Thomas is clearly the number one receiver on this Broncos squad after showing how dangerous he can really be at times last year and in the post-season. Thomas will most likely get the majority of the looks from Manning in the end-zone, and he can be a major deep-threat as well. Including the two playoff games, Thomas averaged 106 yards receiving in his last 7 games of the 2011 campaign. Look for DeMaryius to have a breakout fantasy year in 2012.
Kellen Davis, TE, Chicago Bears:
With new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, the Bears will look to utilize the TE position more this upcoming season. Tice’s offenses with the Minnesota Vikings prominently featured the position in the passing game (Jermaine Wiggins averaged 70 receptions and 636 yards per season in 2004-05). Davis had five touchdowns on just 18 receptions in 2011, and with a new and improved role expected for him in the upcoming season, expect Davis to be a top TE for 2012.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Bucs brought in Doug Martin to share the rushing load with Blount, as he never fully adapted to the every-down role in the backfield. Blount had less than 25 yards rushing in 4 of his last 5 games of 2011, showing that he fatigued down the stretch. By sharing the load, Blount’s performance should improve over the course of the 2012 season, as he will have a solid chance of surpassing the 1,000 yard mark this year. The addition of WR Vincent Jackson should also spread the field so Blount will have a little more room to move. If Josh Freeman can have a solid bounce-back season, than Blount will be able to keep fantasy owners happy.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers:
Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem will likely go before Brown in fantasy drafts, but he looked solid in his four starts last November. I expect Brown to make a nice jump in his second season, especially with Vincent Jackson gone. As we all know, Philip Rivers loves to spread the ball around, and Brown provides a nice deep ball threat, as four of his 19 catches as a rookie went for 25 yards or more.
Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders:
While it may seem surprising at first sight, Palmer ranked seventh in yards per game and third in yards per attempt among QBs last season. It may seem like he’s been in the league for a while, but at 32 the former Bengal should still have a few good years left in him. If you prorate Palmer’s stats over 16 games, he would have had as many fantasy points as Ben Roethlisberger last season. This all coming while Palmer was traded to a new organization and had to adjust to a whole new playbook on the fly, pretty impressive if you ask me.
Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings:
Ponder has some solid raw skills, but the main question with the Vikings is how the team will jell with him at the QB position. Let’s assume that they do in fact find an identity on the offensive end that isn’t “Give the ball to Adrian Peterson and get out of the way.” If so, Ponder could be a handy fantasy backup, as evidenced by an eight-game stretch in Weeks 7-14 last season, during which he totaled 1,658 yards and 13 TDs passing.
Randy Moss, WR, San Francisco 49ers:
This could be a stretch, but who knows how good Randy moss can still be? I would not be surprised to see Randy surprise a few, as he seems to run off pure dedication, or lack there of, when on the football field. While Moss bounced around from team to team in 2010, he may have found a suitable position in San Fran, considering the 49ers have a fair amount of options for opposing defenses to be concerned with. While this may be unrealistic, Randy Moss could be the piece your team needs to put you over the top at the wide-receiver position.