2012 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Wide receiver

by Cory J. Bonini on August 27, 2012 @ 13:58:19 PDT

 

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Each year fantasy football owners gain a leg up on their competition by finding sleepers in their drafts. KFFL.com has identified these candidates for the 2012 season and analyzed why you want them on your team.

Other players fall into the undervalued category: Their fantasy stock isn't as high as it should be, and you often can land them on the cheap to help bolster your lineup. Generally, undervalued players are veterans that are coming off a down year or returning from injury and have slipped below the radar of most fantasy owners. KFFL will help you take advantage of their oversights on your quest to building a championship roster!

Note: All Average Draft Position (ADP) figures are based on standard-scoring, 12-team leagues.

Sleepers

Eric Decker | Denver Broncos | ADP: 9th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
657578693657040190158

Decker has been working closely with Peyton Manning all offseason to build a rapport. We pegged the Minnesota product as a sleeper last year, and he came through until Tim Tebow became entrenched as the full-time starter. Competency at quarterback vaults Decker back into the discussion as a viable sleeper candidate.

He is a big-play threat and has the ability to create yardage after the catch. Decker showed a nose for the end zone, logging a touchdown reception once every 5.5 catches in 2011. He enters the all-important third season in the NFL, one in which wide receivers tend to break out.

At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, Decker has the size and strength to become a dangerous red zone weapon for Manning. With Demaryius Thomas opposite him, defenses will have to pick their poison when deciding where to roll extra coverage.

Decker may be a little inconsistent in 2012, but he very well could become Manning's go-to target and post fantastic fantasy numbers. Draft him as a third wide receiver, but we have a hard time arguing if you are brazen enough to land him as your second. Cover your bases with quality depth if you opt to be aggressive when selecting Decker.

Greg Little | Cleveland Browns | ADP: 10th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
172717632602030150103

Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns
Big things come in Little packages

For as much as we feel Colt McCoy may have been given a raw deal with the selection of Brandon Weeden, the quarterback position in Cleveland is no worse because of the move. It really may be an upgrade and could rally the troops. Weeden will be 29 years old as a rookie and has the maturity as well as intelligence to pick things up quickly.

Weeden has the arm strength to cut through the swirling Cleveland winds, and his size should allow him to take a pounding. On paper, the Browns' rushing attack should be much improved with Trent Richardson carrying the load, so defenses will have to play more honestly.

Little caught 61 balls for 709 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Those numbers are remarkable for more reasons than Cleveland having little at quarterback. Little was the focus of the passing game ... as a rookie ... without an offseason ... after having not played football in more than a year. Getting the picture yet?

A full offseason to better grasp the system and adapt his style of play to the West Coast offense should do wonders for Little's fantasy prospects. He is a low-end No. 3 receiver in deep leagues but should be drafted as a fourth wideout that you can use as a flex play most weeks.

Robert Meachem | San Diego Chargers | ADP: 9th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
152530545502040160103

Vincent Jackson out, Robert Meachem in. The two players may be a little different in stature and fantasy relevance to this point, but Meachem's new role will be V-Jax's old one.

Meachem will be asked to fill the role of deep threat in this offense, and Philip Rivers looks downfield as much as any quarterback in the league. Norv Turner's vertical passing game thrives off the deep ball, so Meachem should get plenty of work in this area.

The former New Orleans Saint has endured problems with drops throughout his career, and Rivers loves to spread the ball around, so temper your expectations for a huge season. However, he should be given every opportunity to showcase his skills in this high-flying offense.

Draft Meachem as a weak third or awesome No. 4 fantasy receiver. His best value, much like Jackson, can be found in leagues that do not reward for receptions.

Brandon LaFell | Carolina Panthers | ADP: 18th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
283835450424030150125

Steve Smith isn't getting any younger, and he is no stranger to the injury bug. LaFell showed flashes in 2011 with his ability to stretch the defense. Cam Newton's ability to manipulate defenses by forcing indecisiveness allowed LaFell to break free with regularity last season.

Entering his third year, at 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, the 25-year-old LaFell will be asked to step up. He has the promise to become the team's No. 1 receiver beyond this season, and the team needs to see what he is capable of with more involvement. LaFell needs to become tougher over the middle and more consistent on a weekly basis.

Carolina has a lot of running back weapons and will remain committed to the ground attack, so expecting a massive breakout for LaFell is unwarranted. He should step up his receptions from 36 of a year ago and find the end zone more than the three times he did in 2011. Expect LaFell to be worthy of a roster spot all year and enter your weekly lineup decisions as a flex player or bye week replacement.

Jonathan Baldwin | Kansas City Chiefs | ADP: 14th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
5155520502040130103

Dwayne Bowe missed much of the offseason with a contract dispute, which paved the way for Baldwin to get the majority of No. 1 reps with Matt Cassel in Brian Daboll's new offense. The system fits well with Baldwin's physical style of play, as he will be asked to run several routes (such as underneath crosses and vertical splits) that accentuate his skill set.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is a mountain to tackle in the open field and has made a name for himself by routinely hauling in acrobatic catches. This offense will be centered on the ground game, but there is only so much progression a team can make with a possession receiver such as Bowe. A downfield threat with red zone presence is tough to come by, making Baldwin's combination of talents tough to ignore.

Baldwin comes with risk, as he has character flaws and plays in an offense not necessarily conducive to producing huge stats, but his upside has to be addressed on draft day. Roll the dice late in your draft and take him as a low-end fourth or perfect fifth receiver in all scoring formats.

Brian Quick | St. Louis Rams | ADP: 14th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
263636251224030150125

The rookie receiver is finding his way through the offseason, so this may not amount to much. Quick has imposing size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), a large wingspan (34 1/4-inch arms) and insane body control. The Rams are still fleshing out their receiving corps, so no spot appears to be safe. Quick comes from Appalachian State and is quite raw. Ray Sherman has been one of the best receivers coaches in the last 20 years and has worked with some of the best. What Quick soaks up this offseason will probably define the course of his rookie campaign.

This recommendation is strictly for those looking to nab a final-round flier pick in deep leagues. The Rams sport Danny Amendola (elbow), Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas (leg), Steve E. Smith (knee) and rookie Chris Givens. It is doubtful that all of those bodies will make it out of camp, so pay close attention over the preseason to see where Quick finally fits in.

Randy Moss | San Francisco 49ers | ADP: 13th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi

All reports out of Niners camp point to Moss' rejuvenation and rededication to the game. Even at 35 years old, he could be a fantasy asset in the right situation.

Our biggest fear is whether Alex Smith has the arm to take advantage of Moss' speed as a downfield threat. If Smith cannot, Moss really doesn't have a lot of fantasy value. Keep a close eye on this situation throughout the offseason and into preseason play.

Don't rely on the veteran wideout to be anything more than roster filler with potential for a few big games, given the right matchup, although he shouldn't be outright neglected based on missing a year or what he was in the 2010 season. Moss excels when he is motivated, and he appears to be all in with this situation.

Never discount elite players when it comes to beating the odds. Moss may do everything correctly to put himself in position to succeed, but extenuating circumstances (Smith) could hold him back.

Spend a late-round choice on him in all formats and adjust accordingly if Smith develops chemistry with Moss during the offseason.

Undervalued

Brandon Lloyd | New England Patriots | ADP: 7th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
91910725702030150103

Lloyd's ADP suggests he may not be undervalued so much, and we write this as more of a reminder for the novice owner.

Reunited and it feels so good ... Lloyd and OC Josh McDaniels are a tandem once again. Fantasy owners can forget what happened last year, even though Lloyd toughed it out in a miserable situation (two of them, really).

The veteran wideout produced career numbers in 2010 in Denver with McDaniels calling the plays, and now he has the best quarterback of his career chucking the ball his way. There are a lot of mouths to feed in New England, but we fully expect a regression by tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez this year.

Make no mistake, this passing game runs through Wes Welker. That doesn't mean Lloyd cannot be a nice complementary player as a deep threat for Tom Brady. The weekly reception figures probably won't be exciting, but Lloyd can pick up yardage in lots and shouldn't be a foreigner to the end zone.

Draft him as a third fantasy receiver; his value is at its peak in non-PPR arrangements.

Reggie Wayne | Indianapolis Colts | ADP: 8th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
697979894835030150136

Andrew Luck has to throw to someone, right? Wayne's numbers suffered in a big way last year as the Colts played one quarterback after another in effort to "replace" Peyton Manning. Stability at the position, even if it comes from a rookie, will be welcomed.

Wayne doesn't necessarily have the gitty-up he once did, but he remains a viable possession receiver and is savvy near the stripe. Count on an abundance of receptions that may not go for much yardage.

Owners in point-per-reception leagues should consider Wayne a passable No. 2 or a quality third choice.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Wayne still has enough left in the tank to contribute

Mike Williams | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | ADP: 10th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
405055170124030150125

The presence of Vincent Jackson will open up a lot of one-on-one looks for Williams, who is more than capable of exploiting No. 2 cornerbacks. Last year, everything went wrong for the Bucs, but 2012 is a new year and brings all sorts of optimism.

Josh Freeman should be better. The offensive line has the potential to be the best in the league. The running game figures to see improvement. The divisional opponents can be passed on, and the overall schedule is promising.

Williams should be selected as a strong third receiver with the potential to be even better in the best-case scenario. The offense will maintain a commitment to the run, but this team is built to pass the rock with success. Consider him as early as the seventh round if you are fearful of losing out on him.

Darrius Heyward-Bey | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 9th round

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Run Att Run Yds Rush TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
203022337313040260114

Heyward-Bey enjoyed his best pro season in 2011 (64-975-4). A great deal of his production came after Carson Palmer took over at quarterback. While the team has changed coaches and installed a new offense (West Coast system), this quarterback-wide receiver duo has the entire offseason to work on honing their chemistry.

DHB is a speedster and has worked extremely hard to improve his hands after several years of problems with dropped passes. The Raiders have up-and-coming talent around him to alleviate some of the pressure of being a No. 1 receiver, and, perhaps, enjoying success last year also helped lessen the stress of being such a high draft choice.

We expect Heyward-Bey will improve slightly on last year's totals; even a mild improvement isn't such a bad thing considering where he has been in his young career. Choose him as a low-end third or ideal fourth receiver in all scoring setups.

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Fantasy football sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

 

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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