Forecasting the Biggest Sleepers of Fantasy Football 2012

Chet Gresham@Chet_GFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2012

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Randall Cobb, Green Bay PackersJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There are no sleepers after someone calls them a sleeper.

That is a scientific fact, Jack! But there are people who are being drafted later than they should. At some point every player on this list might become overvalued, but at least right now, I think they are undervalued—a.k.a sleeper-itis.

So let's take a look at some guys I'll be grabbing in the later rounds.


Randall Cobb

There is little doubt that Cobb is going to be a legitimate playmaker in this league. His ability isn't questioned, but the number of looks he'll get this year in the Packers' offense is.

Last season he didn't see the field or the ball all that often. He finished with 31 targets compared to James Jones' 54 and Donald Driver's 56. To be a consistent fantasy threat, a receiver usually needs to get triple-digit targets, but of course, it's a little easier to put up numbers when Aaron Rodgers is throwing to you. Jordy Nelson finished as the second best wide receiver in fantasy last year with just 95 targets. If Cobb can cobble together 4-5 targets a game, he will be fantasy relevant in that offense.

The good news for him is that he's been a standout in training camp based on all accounts. He should take over Donald Driver's position this year and with Jermichael Finley playing inconsistently and Greg Jennings having a concussion problem, there may be an opening for Cobb to really flourish.

Cobb is currently going in drafts between the 10th and 14th rounds.


Peyton Hillis

The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs plan to run the ball, and then run the ball some more and then, well, you get the picture. Yes, Jamaal Charles is the stud in that backfield. He can turn any play into a long touchdown, but after a season-ending injury last year, they aren't going to ride him through the season.

Hillis is built like a Mack truck and can fit more passengers on his back. He will be used in short yardage—which will include the goal line—and to keep Charles fresh. The Chiefs could run the ball 500 times this season, which would leave plenty of chances for Hillis.

Hillis is currently going in drafts between the sixth and eighth rounds.


Evan Royster

Royster isn't exactly going to blow the doors off and, well, Mike Shanahan could decide to start his dog sitter at running back, but right now he is the Redskins' No. 1 running back. And that is good news for him, because any running back benefits from playing with a good running quarterback.

With the threat of Robert Griffin III running the ball, it will keep defenses more honest when attacking the conventional running back, who is most likely, maybe, Evan Royster.

I like Roy Helu more as a runner, but so far the coaching staff has been adamant that Royster is their best between-the-tackles running back. Add that to the fact that Helu has Achilles tendinitis and Tim Hightower is still not fully recovered from ACL surgery, and what you have left is the back that rhymes with oyster.

Royster is currently going in drafts between the 12th and 20th rounds.


Austin Collie/Reggie Wayne

If you saw Andrew Luck's first preseason game, you have already realized he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football. Or, maybe, you just realized that he does have some ability. And that is good news for the Colts' wide receivers, because they will have plenty of chances to catch passes as they try to make up deficits created by their poor defense.

Last season, Pierre Garcon had 134 targets and Reggie Wayne had 132, while Austin Collie had 96. That's quite a few targets, but they were, of course, coming from sub-par quarterbacks. This season we should see similar target numbers, but with Collie replacing Garcon.

No doubt, Luck will have growing pains, but they are going to let him throw his way out of them, just like Peyton Manning did his rookie season. Look for Collie and Wayne to be the beneficiaries.

Wayne is currently going in drafts between the sixth and eighth rounds.

Collie is currently going in drafts between the 12th and 18th rounds.


Greg Olsen

Last season Greg Olsen had 89 targets and Jeremy Shockey had 62. Only eight tight ends topped 100 targets last year and five of them finished in the top six for fantasy tight ends. Targets are key for tight ends in fantasy because they just don't get as many as wide receivers.

With Jeremy Shockey gone, Olsen won't get 151 targets, but he surely will top the 100 mark this season with Gary Barnidge serving as a backup and blocker, more than a pass catcher.

Olsen has had Mike Martz and Shockey blocking him from targets for too long now!

Olsen is currently going in drafts between the 11th and 14th rounds.


Kendall Hunter

I know as a fantasy football scribe, I often forget that Frank Gore even plays for the San Francisco 49ers anymore, and that's just bad. Bad fantasy football scribe! I can forgive myself somewhat, after watching him decline toward the end of last season, but he is still the starter, and that won't change soon.

So why put Kendall Hunter on this list? Well, because I believe, even with Gore playing, Hunter is still worthwhile. First off, coach Harbaugh has been praising him up and down for his work this training camp. Secondly, Hunter actually had a productive rookie season last year. He touched the ball 128 times for a quiet—but productive—668 yards.

In the second half, Hunter had 19 receiving targets to 13 for Gore. The total touches were close in the second half as well, with 147 for Gore and 84 for Hunter. And that goes along with a sub-four-yards-a-carry average for Gore.

Those numbers should be even closer this season, and if Hunter outperforms him, which he could, then Hunter could start seeing the majority of the looks. It's no given, of course, but Hunter is 23 years old and Gore is 29, with a lot of wear-and-tear on those knees. I'm going to draft the guy moving up, rather than the guy moving down.

Hunter is currently going in drafts between the 14th and 18th rounds.


Nate Washington

Last year Washington had one of the quietest seasons of any receiver who ever finished as the 14th best fantasy receiver. Of course, his 120 targets were in large part due to Kenny Britt's injury, but the Titans are set to pass the ball a lot more this year under new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer.

With Kenny Britt hurting and most likely going to be suspended, Washington should once again see extra looks. He's the veteran presence in that offense and will continue to be a quiet producer.

Washington is currently going in drafts between the 10th and 12th rounds.



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