August 26, 02012
Editor’s Note: The National Football Post has partnered up with the outstanding team over at KFFL to bring you even more in-depth fantasy coverage for the 2012 season. Here, KFFL’s Cory Bonini previews some of his favorite sleepers and undervalued prospects for the coming year.
CLICK HERE to check out more great analysis from the guys at KFFL.
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.
Josh Freeman | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | ADP: 13th round
The Bucs upgraded the talent around Freeman, who is coming off a miserable season. You could make the argument that he is undervalued, but sleeper seems more fitting considering how late he has been drafted, on average, this year. The fourth-year passer now has Vincent Jackson as a bona fide downfield threat, which should take pressure off Mike Williams. Tight end Dallas Clark enters the fray, and when he is healthy, few tight ends are more dynamic pass-catchers.
With an upgraded arsenal, look for Freeman to bounce back in 2012.
Tampa Bay improved the offensive line exponentially by signing Carl Nicks to start at left guard. He was the prized free agent of this year's OL class and perhaps second only to Peyton Manning among all coveted free agents. Doug Martin, a rookie rusher, looks to take over for LeGarrette Blount as the Week 1 starter. Count on somewhat of a tandem, but Martin's versatile style will be a welcomed change from the one-dimensional power-puncher.
Freeman's new head coach, Greg Schiano, is a no-nonsense personality and should do wonders for this youthful squad. Quarterbacks coach Ron Turner and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan have found success with the position in previous stops, too.
Freeman himself has lost weight in effort to become more mobile. This should help him keep plays alive longer and create gravy points on the ground, especially near the stripe. He is a midrange or low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback that you can land when QB2 options of the last tier come off the board.
Carson Palmer | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 10th round
Palmer started to show signs of life late in 2011, topping 365 yards twice and completing 69.7 percent of his throws over the final three games. All of that may be for naught after a coaching change in the Bay Area, but Palmer has the luxury of learning with a full offseason of preparation following a season in which he didn't play until Week 7.
The Raiders brought in Greg Knapp for a second tour as offensive coordinator; he employs a West Coast system that isn't afraid to take shots downfield. Knapp most recently spent two seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Houston Texans, and he is well-known for his affinity for the zone-blocking scheme.
Darrius Heyward-Bey seems poised to break out in 2012, and second-year wideout Denarius Moore has the hallmarks of a special player in the making. Speedy deep threat Jacoby Ford should man the slot and has potential to be a dangerous weapon.
Oakland's O will benefit dramatically from the return of a healthy Darren McFadden, who is said to be 100 percent after a significant foot injury cost him the majority of the '11 season.
Palmer knows what this season means to his NFL career. He has been working harder than ever studying film and trying to master the West Coast offense before the season starts. Detractors point to Palmer's lack of mobility as a reason why he will fail in this scheme, but Matt Schaub is no more athletic than the soon-to-be 33-year-old and former Trojan.
Draft Palmer as a midrange backup and look to him as a matchup play early in the season. As the year progresses, he may force you into making tough decisions as to whom you should start.
Matt Flynn | Seattle Seahawks | ADP: 18th round
Flynn has the talent and knowledge of Darrell Bevell's offense to succeed. That being said, don't count on him lighting the fantasy world ablaze in 2012. He should be a very good backup, however. You can draft him in the final round or two as a flier pick and have nothing to lose.
The Seahawks run a West Coast offense that is very similar to what Green Bay utilizes. Seattle has a strong running game and potentially dangerous weapons in the passing game. Golden Tate will need to step up, just as Sidney Rice must remain healthy. Veterans Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens were added this offseason; Doug Baldwin (knee) was a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Tight ends Kellen Winslow and Zach Miller offer quality checkdown outlets, too.
Seattle's offensive line comes with a world of upside, although continuity will be their driving force behind a successful season. Seattle may have to pass more if Marshawn Lynch is suspended for a DUI arrest.
Flynn isn't as good as his six-touchdown game of last season, nor is he as bad as some people are making him out to be by calling that a fluky appearance. Count on rocky starts and moments of brilliance. Finding the latter may be matchup-driven, which isn't all bad. Their schedule is beyond favorable for the position, and it also offers matchups that could lead to Seattle's O being asked to pass a lot.
Flynn may be your man as a late-round backup to a stud passer if your league's scoring structure doesn't penalize heavily for turnovers. He could be a weekly spot-start question mark by midseason if you pair him with a midrange signal-caller.
John Skelton | Arizona Cardinals | ADP: N/A
Expect a lot of yardage and nearly as many turnovers if Skelton wins the starting job from Kevin Kolb. He is a very deep sleeper and should only be drafted in cavernous leagues, but remember this name for your early-season waiver wire queue if Kolb struggles out of the gate.
Skelton has a bigger arm than Kolb and seems to have more chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals are undergoing some changes on defense that could result in the need for more passing. Additionally first-round wideout Michael Floyd wasn't drafted just to stand around. He should eventually see meaningful playing time, which would lead to plenty of single coverage as opposing secondaries try to defend Fitz.
Skelton may not be draftable just yet, but you will want to keep an eye on this competition throughout the offseason. Should he outright take the job before Week 1, consider the lanky passer as a low-end QB2 behind a proven stud.
That would allow you to take a flier earlier on a skilled position player of your choice, since you may not be relying on your backup more than one time all year, barring injury. Let's face it, if you lose an A-Rod or Drew Brees for a lengthy period of time, chances are your season is in big trouble regardless of your backup situation.
Philip Rivers | San Diego Chargers | ADP: 5th round
The loss of Vincent Jackson coupled with a down season in 2011 have owners overlooking Rivers this summer.
Rivers tossed an uncharacteristically high 20 interceptions last year. What should be noted is that only three of them came after Week 11 once the Chargers' offensive line started to gel and regain some health. Also, the receiving corps wasn't a chess game full of medically afflicted pawns.
The Bolts lost Vincent Jackson but gained a similar deep threat in Robert Meachem. The once (or twice) fantasy-relevant Eddie Royal has been drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff this offseason, and Antonio Gates is as healthy has he has been in years. The injury to Ryan Mathews (clavicle) could mean more passing, too.
Rivers is still a strong No. 1 fantasy quarterback and deserves to be drafted like one. Experienced fantasy owners tend to follow this by evaluating draft trends, but novice owners appear to be consumed by the 20 interceptions thrown from a year ago and the loss of V-Jax. Don't find yourself in that latter category.
Targeting Rivers should provide you with the opportunity to load up on early running backs and receivers while holding off a few rounds to land a high-end quarterback.
Matt Ryan | Atlanta Falcons | ADP: 7th round
Remember how boring Mike Mularkey's offense in Atlanta was the past several seasons? It showed signs of life last year, but Dirk Koetter was brought in this offseason to spice things up a bit. The high-flying duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones should open up things for underneath receivers, primarily the ageless Tony Gonzalez in the middle.
Ryan will throw a lot this year, even with an improved defense. The division around him has become better, which promotes the idea of more aerial play. Ryan has entered the prime of his career and quietly put together a fantastic fantasy season that in any other year would have been glorified. He has to become a little more efficient to creep into the conversation of the league's elite, however.
Draft him as a No. 1 fantasy passer if you choose to wait on the position. He is coming off the board as a value, which allows you to build a super strong team around him if you don't have to draft a quarterback too early. After the best of the best are selected, this year's quarterback class offers a lot of similar players, production-wise.
Matt Schaub | Houston Texans | ADP: 11th round
If all the reports about his foot rehab being far ahead of schedule are to be believed, Schaub will be a steal this year. He has thrown for at least 4,300 yards and 24 touchdowns in each of his healthy seasons with the Texans. That is not to mention how well he was playing last year before the injury.
The Texans have strong weapons in the passing game and a tremendous rushing attack that prevents defenses from loading up on stopping either facet of the offense. Schaub has full command of the offense, as well as chemistry with his targets - all of whom should be fully healthy by Week 1.
Schaub is a sly choice if you want to wait on the position why your leaguemates are busy gobbling up the early-round passers and leaving you with a bountiful stable of productive skill position players on your roster.
Jay Cutler | Chicago Bears | ADP: 10th round
The addition of Brandon Marshall is what may draw many owners to Cutler, but my interest has been piqued with the hiring of positional coach Jeremy Bates and promotion of Mike Tice to OC.
Bates and Cutler will be reunited, while Tice's in-the-trenches approach will go a long way toward improving the O-line and offensive direction - both items that were largely lost on Mike Martz.
Cutler has two new toys in Marshall, with whom he is quite familiar, and rookie Alshon Jeffery, whose imposing frame could allow him to dominate one-on-one coverage as a rookie. The running game is no longer in flux with Matt Forte receiving a new contract.
Green Bay and Detroit know how to whip the rock from coast to coast, so Chicago may be playing from behind or in a shootout with these divisional foes. The Bears have one of the most quarterback-friendly schedules in the league this year, as well.
Cutler may look a lot more like his prolific 2008 season in Denver than his three anemic efforts in the Windy City. While late-season weather is always a concern, he now has the weapons to help carry this offense into a position for late-season success.
DeMarco Murray | Dallas Cowboys | ADP: 10th overall
As a rookie in 2011, Murray made a mark with a limited workload. His first extensive action resulted in a 253-yard effort, and he churned out a 5.5 yards-per-carry average on the year before a fractured ankle ended his season in Week 14.
Felix Jones has proven to be nothing better than a spell back and should be used in that role this year. Murray's size (6-foot, 227 pounds) is more conducive to that of a featured back, while his pass-blocking skills improved considerably as the year went along. He is also a capable receiver out of the backfield.
One thing to remember with Murray is that he will have monstrous games and could easily follow them up with duds. This largely is a product of his style of running and Dallas' offensive approach. It is no secret that Jason Garrett loves to throw the ball, but the offense may have to rely more on the run if Dez Bryant misses any time because of a potential looming suspension.
His season-long durability should be a moderate concern for owners looking to draft Murray, but he is healthy thus far in training camp. Try to draft Murray as a high-upside No. 2 back that carries some risk, so factor that in when you are rounding out your running backs corps. He is going as a low-end No. 1, however.
Isaac Redman | Pittsburgh Steelers | ADP: 3rd round
Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is recovering from a devastating, late-season anterior cruciate ligament tear that is likely to cost him time this year. He probably will not be close to 100 percent until the waning weeks of the season. Redman, a powerful yet nimble third-year back, should take the reins of the offense. He is dealing with a minor groin injury but should be fine for the regular season.
This system will open up a little more under Todd Haley, so don't expect as much running as you are accustomed to seeing from Pittsburgh. However, Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury could mean more running than planned.Even still, more passing attempts should clearly provide ample running lanes by this improved offensive line. Redman has averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 162 career attempts. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he can be a load to take down.
While Redman's best value will be found in standard-scoring setups as a third back, he is surprisingly capable as a receiver. That was hardly an enthusiastic endorsement, we know. The point is, he remains an acceptable RB2, even in point-per-reception leagues.
Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman | Denver Broncos | ADP: 4th round, 8th round
We combine the two for one main reason - the same one they are both included to begin with: Peyton Manning. Should Manning return as Peyton Manning and not transform into Elvis Grbac, both of Denver's backs should be extremely useful for fantasy purposes.
McGahee still has enough gas left in the tank to produce solid numbers for fantasy owners.
McGahee could see more running room by way of fewer stacked boxes and become a goal line behemoth. He enjoyed a bit of a renaissance last year with far less to work with at quarterback.
Hillman is a dynamic rookie from San Diego State University with very good hands and an open-field slashing ability to pick up yardage in chunks. He should be a third-down spell for McGahee, as long as his blocking doesn't regress. The rookie is working his way back from a slight hamstring strain, so temper your early-season expectations.
McGahee is a quality third back that should play well above his draft placement, while Hillman could be a sneaky pickup as a fifth back for owners in PPR leagues. The bottom line is that Manning makes everyone around him better, especially the guys lined up behind him.
Donald Brown | Indianapolis Colts | ADP: 6th round
The Colts' defense may be Brown's biggest enemy in 2012. This team figures to be challenged on that side of the ball, which could put the offense in too many must-pass situations. Brown is just an OK receiver out of the backfield.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians enters the mix and brings his notoriously boring offense in tow. He does, however, produce fantasy-worthy rushers on a regular basis from this mundane system.
Andrew Luck may be the key to Brown's success. As long as the rook is competent under center, the former Connecticut standout will be better than expected by the masses. He started to come to life last season and will be given every opportunity to show he has what it takes to carry the offense.
Even though the offensive line is lackluster, and we're being kind there, Brown is a promising No. 3 back in all scoring systems.
Taiwan Jones | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 18th round
While we love Darren McFadden this year, the fact is he has a tough time remaining healthy. Jones will battle with Mike Goodson, but we feel the former's skill set is better suited for Oakland's new one-cut-and-go blocking philosophy.
Jones reminds of a poor man's Chris Johnson - he has blazing speed but lacks the bulk at 6-foot, 195 pounds. Let's just say McFadden stays healthy, he will be spelled a fair amount to keep him healthy down the stretch. Jones is a player that can do big things will a little workload.
Draft him as a No. 5 or an RB6 in very deep leagues. He will move up the draft board once he locks up the No. 2 gig.
Isaiah Pead | St. Louis Rams | ADP: 14th round
St. Louis spent a second-round choice on the shifty Cincinnati product. He should jump in as Steven Jackson's primary backup from the onset of camp and offers a nice change-of-pace option to the backfield.
Pead's primary value is found in point-per-reception leagues or as a handcuff to the oft-injured S-Jax. Add him as a fourth back in PPR and a fifth in regular scoring leagues.
Jacquizz Rodgers | Atlanta Falcons | ADP: 16th round
This one is based more on a gut feeling than anything. Michael Turner has carried the ball a lot as a Falcon, and he may be on the verge of breaking down at 30 years old. The diminutive Rodgers would probably split the load with Jason Snelling, but the former Beaver has potential in this newly opened up offensive attack even without a Turner injury.
Nevertheless, he is a marginal fourth and ideal fifth back, more appropriately in point-per-reception affairs.
Bernard Pierce | Baltimore Ravens | ADP: 18th round
Ray Rice has a metric boatload of touches in the past few seasons, and his frame isn't necessarily cut out to handle a humongous workload. Pierce is a more powerfully built rookie rusher from Temple whose style is dramatically different than that of Rice.
Pierce is mainly a handcuff pick, but speculative drafters could use a very late, if not final round, flier on him in deep leagues. The rook may surprise should he gain significant playing time.
Darren McFadden | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 11th overall
DMC never returned after playing in seven games last year due to a Lisfranc foot injury. It did not require surgery, and he is said to be 100 percent healthy at this point.
ICONMcFadden won't be the only one smiling if the Oakland running back can stay healthy for 16 games this season.
The even better news is that new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp brings the zone-blocking system back to the Bay Area, and McFadden will excel. A full offseason should do wonders for quarterback Carson Palmer's handling of the offense, which also means defenders cannot focus so much on McFadden.
He is a versatile weapon and should be a top-five point producer if he can remain on the field. His 11th overall average draft position is a product of people forgetting how good he was last year before the injury and their fear of yet another ailment. Draft him in the first round once the surefire backs are off the board. Timid owners that cannot forget the past rarely win championships!
Beanie Wells | Arizona Cardinals | ADP: 4th round
Everyone seems to be worried about Wells coming off yet another knee surgery, which was actually very minor, and the return of Ryan Williams from his own knee injury. Truth be told, Williams won't produce quality fantasy numbers until late in the season, if at all, just based on the nature of how extensive his rehabilitation process has been. A torn patella tendon recovery makes an ACL rehab look like a walk in the park, more often than not.
Arizona should be more competent at quarterback this year, regardless of which quarterback starts. They bolstered their passing game and should find running lanes to become more apparent. Their schedule is rather friendly to the running back position, as well.
Wells can be had as an RB3 with a strong chance of producing high-end No. 2 statistics.
Daniel Thomas | Miami Dolphins | ADP: 10th round
Thomas' rookie season didn't quite go as he had hoped it would, but that isn't a reason to be down on him. Miami will return to a more conventional offensive approach in 2012; the coaching staff should know by now that even though Reggie Bush had a career year last season, he is by no means a lock to repeat or even hold up for more than a handful of games.
Thomas should see considerable touches and plenty of chances to succeed. While we have tempered expectations for him, he can still be a useful back that is too often overlooked in fantasy circles. Look to land him as a fourth back. His best worth comes in standard-scoring structures.
Eric Decker | Denver Broncos | ADP: 9th round
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
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
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
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.
ICONIs LaFell finally ready to emerge as a legitimate fantasy starter?
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 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
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
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
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.
Brandon Lloyd | New England Patriots | ADP: 7th round
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
The quicker Andrew Luck picks up the offense, the quicker Reggie Wayne will be producing solid numbers.
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.
Mike Williams | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | ADP: 10th round
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
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.
Jermaine Gresham | Cincinnati Bengals | ADP: 9th round
Staying on the field has been a problem for Gresham dating back to his collegiate years. When he is on the field, few players at his position are more talented. The Bengals' offense has stymied his ability to get downfield to a degree, as did his recovery from a knee reconstruction before his rookie season.
Gresham enters Year 3 and is coming off a year in which he improved in every notable statistical category. Andy Dalton doesn't have a lot of weapons, and Jay Gruden's West Coast offense is looking to put more emphasis on the tight end position. He is recovering from a mild knee sprain and should be fine for the regular season.
The youngster is still figuring out the nuances of the position and spent extra time this offseason studying the NFL's best tight ends. We don't expect Gresham to post league-leading numbers among tight ends, but there is little reason to believe he won't make a significant leap as long as he can play a full season.
Draft Gresham as a midrange tight end after the elite names come off the board.
Fred Davis | Washington Redskins | ADP: 8th round
Davis is an athletic beast with fluid movement in the open field and soft hands to haul in most anything thrown his way. However, he has been troubled off the field and faces a certain suspension if he makes another gaffe in his personal life. The team is confident that he will not repeat past mistakes and signed him to a one-year franchise tender.
In 12 games last year, the USC product snagged 59 passes for 796 yards and scored three times. The Redskins will feature him at tight end, making him the primary safety outlet for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Davis is a big play waiting to happen and will be a focal point of the offense - one that lacks a lot of weapons. Some risk exists in drafting Davis, but you can make that argument about a lot of players. Draft him as a midrange No. 1 tight end.
Greg Olsen | Carolina Panthers | ADP: 14th round
Olsen's first year with the Panthers was rather pedestrian, as he notched 45 receptions for 540 yards and scored five times. The shortened offseason set him back, but he has a full summer to build more chemistry with Cam Newton and master the playbook.
The Bears may wind up regretting their decision to part with Greg Olsen.
Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is a former tight ends coach, and Carolina's lack of weapons suggests we could see more from Olsen in his second season with the team.
All things considered, he probably will amount to just an occasional spot starter. There is serious potential for more, though. Draft Olsen if you are in a league that starts two tight ends or requires you to roster a pair of them. Owners in shallow formats can keep an eye on him early in the season in case he puts it together.
Coby Fleener | Indianapolis Colts | ADP: 13th round
Fleener has become a popular sleeper candidate, and rightfully so. The only thing really working against him is the historical value of how little rookie tight ends have contributed for fantasy purposes. In a positive sense, he has been reunited with Andrew Luck, his collegiate quarterback.
The Colts have a dearth of talent at the skill positions. Rookie quarterbacks generally rely heavily on the tight end position, and given the duo's familiarity with each other, Fleener could be targeted more than any rookie tight end in recent memory.
The tight end pool is so deep this year that drafting Fleener as a No. 1 is a bit ambitious. Consider him an ideal second tight end if you're looking for late-round upside.
Heath Miller | Pittsburgh Steelers | ADP: 18th round
Todd Haley's offenses haven't been known for their usage of tight ends, but few of his past players at the position have been as versatile as Miller. Ben Roethlisberger loves to rely on him as a checkdown option, and an expanded passing game could open up more room over the middle for the veteran. Big Ben's shoulder injury may lead to more short-range passing, too.
Miller is two seasons removed from a 76-789-6 line, a year in which Big Ben posted arguably his best statistical effort to date. The running game looks to be OK with Isaac Redman, but if he struggles they will have to resort to more passing.
Miller is a low-end No. 1 in deep leagues (14 teams or larger) and should be on your short list for backup tight ends.
Kellen Winslow | Seattle Seahawks | ADP: 14th round
Seattle's receiving corps is suspect and trying to find their way. The Seahawks' addition of Winslow could be a good thing for his fantasy value, especially if Matt Flynn starts at quarterback.
One source says Winslow may be nothing better than a rotational player at this stage of his career, which is possible, but he still knows how to get open and has reasonable hands. He will have to share some work with Zach Miller (concussion), whose first season in Seattle was anything but impressive.
Winslow should be viewed as a high-end backup for leagues in which teams roster two tight ends. He is coming off a 75-catch season and didn't simply lose it overnight. His reception total won't be nearly as high, but he should prove to be worthy of the occasional flex play. Perhaps playing in a new city will re-energize him.
Denver Broncos defensive team/special teams | ADP: 18th round
The secondary has improved with the additions of strong safety Mike Adams, starting cornerback Tracy Porter and reserve nickel corner Drayton Florence. D.J. Williams is facing a suspension, but Wesley Woodyard is a more-than-competent replacement at weakside linebacker.
Von Miller and the Broncos are looking to get back to the playoffs.
Denver has one of the most ferocious pass rushes in the league, led by defensive end Elvis Dumervil (suspended one game) and outside 'backer Von Miller. Dumervil could face a suspension, which would knock this defense down a notch, so stay abreast of his situation.
One of the most intriguing intangible aspects working for this defense is the addition of Peyton Manning (neck). Strong play could give the D more time to rest, especially late in games, if No. 18 is able to carry the offense on his shoulders.
The AFC West is a wide-open division that doesn't exactly have a wealth of offensive talent this year. The most stable quarterback in the group - Philip Rivers - is coming off a 20-interception season.
Draft the Broncos' D as a low-end No. 1 if you're looking for a team with upside and little risk.
San Diego Chargers defensive team/special teams | ADP: N/A
Outside linebackers Jarret Johnson and rookie Melvin Ingram bring necessary athleticism to the defense; an improved pass rush will help this secondary perform at a higher level.
John Pagano takes over for Greg Manusky at defensive coordinator, and his aggressive style should do wonders for a defense that has struggled to find the quarterback in recent years.
Rookie safety Brandon Taylor is in the mix with veteran Atari Bigby on the strong side, while fellow rook Kendall Reyes will vie for the starting right defensive end job. San Diego is very deep up front and has considerable talent from top to bottom on this side of the ball.
Draft them in the second to last round as a No. 1 unit once the more stable teams come off the board.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive team/special teams: ADP: 15th round
The strong became stronger this offseason through the draft and free agency. An always feisty group, Philly's D added veteran DeMeco Ryans to play middle linebacker, nickelback Brandon Boykin, first-round defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Brandon Graham (knee) could return to give them even more pass rush.
The much-maligned Wide 9 defensive line scheme came into its own as the 2011 season progressed, which gives hope for an explosive pass-rushing front four. This defense is extremely deep across the board and has a rather friendly schedule for fantasy purposes. We would be remiss if DeSean Jackson's name wasn't thrown out there as being one of the most dangerous return specialists in the game, although the Eagles appear poised to go with the explosive Damaris Johnson. Either way, his performance is just gravy on top of a hefty helping of D.
The Eagles aren't necessarily undervalued as much as they are capable of being the No. 1 overall fantasy unit by the end of the season. They come off the board as a midrange defense, which lends to this categorization. You can justify drafting them as the top group this year, if they are your preference.
New England Patriots defensive team/special teams: ADP: 16th round
The Patriots finished as the No. 7 fantasy defense last year in standard scoring and should be even better this year after a flurry of offseason improvements. This group gets to play three turnover-prone AFC East squads twice apiece.
New England drafted defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the first round. They added quality bodies in reserve linebacker Bobby Carpenter, a potential starter at free safety (Steve Gregory) and veteran end Trevor Scott. Last year's second-rounder Ras-I Dowling (hip) comes back from injury to bolster their cornerback depth.
The Pats are coming off the board, on average, as the 11th defense in drafts. That is simply perception overtaking reality. Draft them with confidence as a high-end No. 1 group.