There will be many more 2012 Fantasy Football Rankings and features in the late spring and summer, including tons of 2012 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts and Player Rankings. I'll also have an extensive 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Preseason Stock Report.
2012 Fantasy Football - Early Sleepers (June 5):
This is a list of 2012 fantasy football early sleepers - underrated players found in the early and middle rounds who will exceed expectations.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons. Bye: 7.
There's a buy-low opportunity here for Matt Ryan. Everyone expected Ryan to have a huge 2011 campaign. He certainly wasn't bad, throwing for 4,177 yards and 29 touchdowns, but most thought he'd post greater numbers. Plus, many won't be able to block out the image of Ryan failing to put up any points against the Giants in the playoffs.
Ryan should have his best season yet. The Falcons spent two Day 2 selections on offensive linemen, while Julio Jones will be more effective as an NFL sophomore.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills. Bye: 8.
It's easy to forget that Ryan Fitzpatrick was a fantasy stud prior to suffering a severe rib injury in the middle of the 2011 season. He should function as a QB1 option again early in 2012 - and perhaps he'll be able to stay healthy all year because of the offensive line additions Buffalo made in April.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants. Bye: 11.
Brandon Jacobs is gone and Ahmad Bradshaw has yet to prove that he can handle the load all by himself, so it's no surprise that the Giants spent a first-round pick on a running back. This, however, could give us an opportunity to buy Bradshaw low. Barring injury, there's no way that David Wilson will take too many carries away from Bradshaw. Also keep in mind that Jacobs is no longer there to steal goal-line carries away from Bradshaw.
James Starks, RB, Packers. Bye: 10.
I thought the Packers would bring in some competition for James Starks via the 2012 NFL Draft. They didn't, so that might mean that they're confident in his ability to shoulder the workload. Ryan Grant is gone, so Starks has the potential for a pretty big 2012 campaign - if he can stay healthy, that is.
Ben Tate, RB, Texans. Bye: 8.
Ben Tate is a more talented runner than Arian Foster, so Gary Kubiak won't be able to keep him on the bench for too long. Expect Tate's touches to rise this year. He's definitely worth a mid-round flier, given his immense upside. He can post RB1 numbers if Foster get shurt.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons. Bye: 7.
Julio Jones had a very solid rookie campaign, catching 54 balls for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. Believe it or not, but I'd rather have him over Roddy White in non-PPR leagues. Jones is so much more talented, and if his final six games are any indication (31 catches, 525 yards, 6 touchdowns), he's poised for a breakout second season. If those numbers hold up for 16 games, that would give him an 83-1,400-16 line. Pretty sick.
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys. Bye: 5.
Dez Bryant developed a habit of looking great in the first half of games and then wilting away after intermission. He's apparently working to change that. Bryant reportedly is having a great offseason - his first full one since joining the Cowboys via the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. With Laurent Robinson gone, Bryant could be poised to have a breakout year.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos. Bye: 7.
Demaryius Thomas was an absolute stud to close out the season. In his final seven games, he caught 35 passes for 715 yards and four touchdowns. Extend that to a full season, and you get 80 receptions, 1,634 yards and nine scores. Thomas will flirt with WR1 status if Peyton Manning is as healthy as John Elway hopes he is. Even if he's not, Thomas will be a strong WR2.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. Bye: 4.
Mike Wallace is holding out, so Antonio Brown could be the top Steeler fantasy producer this year. He scored only two touchdowns in 2011, but I feel like that was an anomaly. Ben Roethlisberger, who will have more protection from the offensive linemen drafted early in the 2012 NFL Draft, will have more time to locate Brown, especially in the end zone.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers. Bye: 7.
Malcom Floyd ascends to San Diego's No. 1 receiver in the wake of Vincent Jackson's signing with the Buccaneers. Floyd has proven that he can post big numbers as Rivers' top downfield target, so he could be in for a huge 2012 campaign.
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders. Bye: 5.
Denarius Moore is a very talented deep threat. He was impressive as a rookie last year, catching 33 balls for 618 yards and six touchdowns. His numbers could soar, given that he has an entire offseason with Carson Palmer.
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens. Bye: 8.
Torrey Smith played really well at times as a rookie last year, racking up 50 receptions, 841 yards and seven touchdowns despite doing absolutely nothing in the first two weeks of the season. Smith is talented enough to become Baltimore's No. 1 receiver. It helps he has the best quarterback in the NFL throwing the ball to him. OK, maybe not.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers. Bye: 7.
Antonio Gates is reportedly healthy now. We'll see how long that lasts, but it's reason enough to consider him a buy-low candidate. With everyone clamoring for Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, Gates has suddenly become a forgotten man. Philip Rivers will rely on him more than ever with Vincent Jackson gone.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers. Bye: 10.
Jermichael Finley was widely considered a top-three tight end going into last season, but disappointed, catching only 55 balls for 767 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he was coming off a knee injury, so he should be better in 2012. He's a nice buy-low candidate if you can't get one of the elite tight ends.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions. Bye: 5.
You have to love Brandon Pettigrew this year if you're a believer in the Madden Curse. Once Calvin Johnson goes down with an injury or is abducted by aliens, Matthew Stafford will look toward Pettigrew more often.