With August right around the corner, you can officially begin to get excited for football, and of course the fantasy aspect of it! Below is a list complied of 2012 fantasy football sleepers, busts, and breakout players. The list is based off standard fantasy leagues. Non-PPR, 10-12 teams, and 15 man rosters. Fear no man, and take no prisoners. Good luck this season ladies and gentleman.
New England Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd – The reuniting of Brandon Lloyd and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the first plus in this situation. This is his third time catching balls for a McDaniels run offense. Honestly, wouldn’t surprise me if Brandon knew the Patriots playbook already. Lloyd has been so impressive in OTA’s, that the Boston Globe reports that Patriots quarterbacks have been looking for him all week because he’s been exactly where he needs to be on every play. Then of course, you have Tom Brady throwing you the ball. No, Lloyd won’t be a great PPR receiver per say, but this man will find the end zone and is a deep threat. Currently going 7th round or later in recent mocks, and he’s a great 3rd option for your team. Lloyd has the ability to get you decent yardage and touchdown receptions despite the team being loaded with receiving threats. He might just slip past some folks, so monitor him in your drafts, and see if he slips farther down than he should. Lloyd might turn out to be the surprise in this offense this year. History suggests Rob Gronkowski will not repeat last year’s performance. Wes Welker might be gone after this year. Ochocinco is gone, finally. Think about it. Low risk/high reward situation with Lloyd.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Isaac Redman – Isaac Redman has a great opportunity to prove that his late uprising last year was no fluke. Rashard Mendenhall is recovering from a torn ACL, and most likely going to be put on the PUP list. This gives Isaac the first dibs on the backfield in Steel City. Isaac averaged 4.4 yards per carry last year. The addition of offensive coach, Todd Haley adds even more value to Redman, especially in PPR leagues. Coach Haley likes to use his backs in exotic packages and use them as receivers. Redman won’t break any 80 yarders on pure speed, but he’s a hard-nose runner with great cut-back ability, and I believe he’s being undervalued going into this year’s fantasy drafts. I also can’t help but think after drafting Redman around the 7th or 8th round, you can do some handcuffing. Rashard’s average draft position is currently in the 11th round, and might even go undrafted in your league. Yes, he will be out for the first 2 months, but the rewards could be great for someone that takes the handcuff gamble and this turns into a 2-headed monster heading into the final stretch of the regular season. Another Small risk, high reward situation.
Tennessee Titans TE Jared Cook – 2011 saw an emergence of tight ends that were putting up better numbers than receivers. It’s a new age in football, and tight ends are no longer just there to clog up the passing lanes or protect the quarterback. Jared Cook fits the character of one of these tight ends. He’s tall, he’s fast, and he’s massive. If you are like me, and you don’t want to waste a 1st or 2nd round pick chasing Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski around, wait for a guy like Cook. Tennessee is excited for this guy this season. It’s his 4th year and if he stays on track, he should emerge as a top 10 tight end this season. He started very slow last year, but finished the season very strong, going for two 100 yard games in his final three. His 2011 numbers were 49 receptions, 759 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns. I expect those receptions to rise, and so should his touchdown total. Jared’s current ADP is 12.1 and at that price, he is an absolute steal.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles – Coming off a painful torn ACL injury, Jamaal Charles has claimed that defenses will be the ones feeling his pain this season. He has publicly said he is ahead of schedule and will be on the field come Week 1. That’s great to hear from Jamaal, he was a top 5 back when he was at his best. Unfortunately, I don’t see him coming back that strong, not right away at least. Also, Kansas City has brought in bruising running back Peyton Hillis from the Cleveland Browns. I can’t help but think Peyton will steal a good chunk of rushing attempts from Jamaal as well as most of the goal-line duties. This means less carries, and less touchdowns, for a guy coming off a major ACL injury. I’m not saying Peyton Hillis is the guy you should be targeting per say, but I don’t think Jamaal can be trusted as a top pick at the RB position. Just too high of a risk, and too little of a reward when you know Peyton will be there to take away some of those carries and touchdowns. To be honest, I’m shying away from all KC backs this season.
Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco – Sometimes you repeat yourself when writing about fantasy football, just part of the business I guess. Joe Flacco always seems to end up on the bottom of guys I want to draft year in and year out. I know there are some Baltimore folks out there that swear this man is a winner, but I’m not buying it. Average Joe is nothing more than a decent back-up QB on your fantasy team. He will have a few decent games because Torrey Smith will haul in a 30 yard floater by Joe and smoke the secondary. The Ravens have Ray Rice, and they have a feisty defense that keeps games low scoring and manageable for Joe Flacco to win. That’s all he is and always will be. He will put up mediocre numbers on a weekly basis, with the occasional nice stat line from time to time. Please don’t draft this man as you’re starter, and tread lightly on drafting him too early as you’re back-up. You might just be doing your buddies a favor, and nobody wants to be that guy. Unless of course, you are a Joe Flacco lover……
Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – I have a rule in fantasy football, and I will oblige by it no matter who that player is. The rule is, AVOID all players that are in contract dilemmas or coming into a season after just being rewarded a big contract. Matt Forte falls into both of these categories. Either he’s going to very unhappy with lighter pockets, or his pockets will be stuffed and he will take a “break” like he’s a Windy City Union Laborer when he finally gets on the field. We have seen it before. Chris Johnson of the Titans was a perfect example of this rule, and I’m sure plenty of you were cursing him out the past 2 years. Matt Forte’s numbers will regress this season. The addition of Michael Bush, and the fact that Forte won’t be used as much as a wide receiver this season is enough for me to stay far away from this man. I owned him last season, and he gave me great production until he went down with an injury. However, he can’t score from within the 10-yard line, hence the reason the Bears got Michael Bush. Mike Martz is gone, so not every play will turn into a screen play to Forte, and the Bears have a nice 3-man rotation with Forte, Bush, and the young Kahlil Bell. Life in the Windy City will go on regardless if Matt signs the big-money contract that he wants. Either way, I want nothing to do with this man on my fantasy roster.
Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler – It has been 10 years since the Chicago Bears had a receiver reach 1,000 yards. Marty Booker to be exact, I know disgusting right? Well, Jay Cutler finally has some targets. An offensive line, who knows? The almighty Gabe Carimi is supposedly healthy now and will help the Bears’ dreaded offensive line, or at least that’s what the front office is praying. Mike Martz is gone (exit 5-7 step drop backs). Mike Tice is in (enter 3-5 step drop backs). Jeremy Bates is reunited again with Jay, who says Bates is one of his favorite coaches. Brandon Marshall is here. The Bears drafted Alshon Jeffery to fill the deep threat that the Bears have been missing, since….well forever. Earl Bennett has grown and proven to be reliable. Devin Hester is somewhere in the mix while Johnny Knox might not play a down this year. Still. Chicago finally has some damn targets for Jay Cutler, so a breakout season is in the works here, I believe. This is going to be one of Jay Cutler’s most productive years in recent history. We all know about the connection of him and Marshall back in the Denver days. Two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and NOBODY in the NFL had more receptions besides the great Wes Welker. Robert Griffin III currently has a higher ADP (8.06) over Jay Cutler’s (9.06). Ben Roethlisberger is also being drafted ahead of Jay. Sorry, but there is no way I would ever draft RGIII over Jay that early. No thank you. Big Ben possibly, but Jay still should turn out statistically better than both of those guys.
Cincinnati Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – I was thinking of putting BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the “sleeper” category, but I don’t think that is the proper term for him this season. In New England, BGE was part of a 3 and sometimes 4 man rotation in the backfield. He had 181 rushing attempts last season, and rushed for 667 yards. With Cedric Benson gone, this man will see close to 300 carries this season. Throw in his average of 3.6 yards per carry, and you are looking at a 1,000 yard rusher, with double digit touchdowns in 2012. Oh, and the man does not fumble. Sure, he will have to face the Ravens and the Steelers twice, so he might not blow up the stat sheet every week, but BGE is being undervalued. You can call this a “breakout” season for BGE, who is being drafted on average, by the 5th Round.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones – Julio Jones had a very impressive rookie season catching 54 balls for 959 yards along with 8 touchdowns. Roddy White is a pro bowl receiver who has been the number one option in Atlanta for a long time. However, Roddy will have a smaller role, in a new offense ran by Dirk Koetter. He has actually accepted this and publicly said, “I know that sounds crazy, but we’ve got other guys out there that can play,” Julio Jones is going to be a big part of the offense this year.” This is coming from a 3-time pro bowler who has been first and second in receptions in the NFL the past 2 years. Julio’s current ADP is 3.08, and with good reason. Grab him while you can, this should be a fantastic sophomore season for Julio Jones, and I’m targeting him in each one of my drafts.
That will wrap up this edition of fantasy football sleepers, busts, and breakout players. Keep a look out as the season gets closer, I will give more in-depth knowledge and reasoning behind my selections. I’m also very active on forum boards and on twitter, so feel free to drop by and ask me any fantasy-related questions that you may have. I hope you enjoyed the read, and again, good luck this season!
Follow Michael on twitter: @windycityiggy