I find sleeper candidates to be most easily discovered at the wide receiver position, largely due to the depth of the player pool. Unfortunately, too many factors can play into making a successful wideout, so it may also be the most turbulent of the major skill positions.
One year later
Expect a true breakout effort
Last year, I touted the Denver Broncos' Eric Decker as a sleeper, and he was on his way to a great season until Tim Tebow's ineptitude as a passer relegated Decker to the fantasy waiver wire. Tebow is out of the picture, and Peyton Manning is in the saddle. Even if Manning isn't quite his former self, he still is a significant upgrade from Tebow.
Decker should be high on fantasy owners' radars. Demaryius Thomas may be Manning's big-play threat, but Decker has some downfield ability of his own. In best-case scenario, the former Minnesota standout checks in as a No. 2 fantasy receiver. I am hopeful he will produce a stat line the neighborhood of 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Draft him as a low-end No. 3 or strong fourth receiver.
Preparation should take them far
Cleveland Browns wideout Greg Little should be in a good position to play a significant role in 2012 fantasy football success stories. The Browns have few weapons in the passing game, and Little is a physical monster. A full offseason of learning the Browns' system should do wonders for his game. Regardless of which quarterback Cleveland has under center, Little is in a good position to shine after having more time to learn this complex offense. All things considered, his rookie season was remarkably productive. Consider him a low-end No. 3 fantasy receiver that you may be able to land as a fourth. He will have more value in point-per-reception leagues.
Jonathan Baldwin was a 2011 first-round choice by the Kansas City Chiefs. Much like Little, he should enjoy considerable success in 2012 after a full offseason of work in his team's system. Baldwin is a big play waiting to happen and should benefit from a healthy return by Matt Cassel. The second-year receiver has plenty of upside, although the offensive approach may hold him back to a degree. Count on him as a weekly flex play option with the potential for regular fantasy playing time. He is worthy of a draft choice in the waning middle rounds to early portions of the late rounds, but Baldwin could be a hot commodity that you might need to reach for.
I will continue to point out sleepers, and busts, to take into account for the upcoming season over the next few months. Stay tuned to find more options to help you gain the ultimate edge in fantasy football!
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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