by Jared Smola
Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings
Ponder's rookie-year numbers don't jump off the page: a 54.3% completion rate, 1,853 passing yards, 13 TDs, 13 INTs. He finished 28th among QBs in fantasy points; 33rd in points per game. But numbers can lie. Ponder flashed plenty of arm and mobility throughout the 2011 campaign. And he showed that he's not afraid to make those stick throws that are required at the NFL level. There's definitely untapped potential here. Ponder had plenty working against him last year. He was a rookie who missed out on valuable practice reps because of the lockout. He was playing behind an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks (5th-most in the league). And he didn't have much to work with outside of WR Percy Harvin. On top of all that, Ponder dealt with injuries to his hand, knee, and hip. Durability remains an issue -- he had numerous arm issues while at Florida State. But the rest of Ponder's situation looks much-improved heading into 2012. A full offseason in OC Bill Musgrave's offense has done wonders. "The game's really slowed down for me," Ponder said back in June. He'll also have a more talented supporting cast to work with this year. 4th-overall pick Matt Kalil will instantly upgrade the LT spot. He's an NFL-ready pass-protector who didn't allow a single sack at USC last year. Ponder also has a new toy to work with in WR Jerome Simpson, a legit deep threat who will stretch defenses vertically. Plus, Ponder seems to have developed an excellent rapport with TE Kyle Rudolph this offseason. A 2nd-round pick back in 2011, Rudolph has all the makings of a stud pass-catching TE. This passing game could be sneaky-good this season. And Minnesota will need it to be with RB Adrian Peterson returning from that torn ACL. Ponder should chuck it more this year than he did last. And he should be more efficient and more explosive. Throw in his rushing ability -- he ran for 219 yards in 11 games last year -- and he has the potential to emerge as a high-end QB2 -- or even half of a QB-by-committee. You can snag him with one of your last few picks. Ponder's 12-team ADP currently sits in the 21st round.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
Bet ya never thought you'd see this guy on a Sleepers list again! Smith burst onto the scene in his 2008 rookie campaign, racking up 1,262 total yards and 8 TDs. In the 3 seasons since, he's appeared in just 26 games, averaged 3.8 yards per carry, and scored just 12 times. Knee, shoulder, and thumb injuries have kept him off the field and limited his effectiveness. It was the same old story last year. Smith started the season on the couch. He wasn't re-signed by the Lions until November, when Jahvid Best's season took a turn for the worst. But Smith was at least doing sit-ups or something on that couch, because he went off for 201 total yards and 3 TDs against the Panthers just a couple weeks later. He followed that up with a couple decent games that saw him average 5.4 yards per carry and 7.4 yards per catch. Then the old injury bug bit again. This time it was a sprained ankle. Smith missed Week 14 and was completely ineffective in his final 3 contests, mustering only 3.3 yards per carry. Durability has and will continue to be a major concern here. But believe it or not, Smith is actually the healthiest member of Detroit's backfield right now. And that's why he finds himself in this article. Best's status is as clear as mud. He still hasn't been cleared for contact after last year's concussions, and there's no timetable for his return. Mikel Leshoure's rehab from last summer's torn Achilles seemed to be going well until camp opened. Then he pulled a hamstring -- a common occurrence for a guy returning from a serious injury. Leshoure can't be counted on to stay healthy this season. And he's suspended for the first 2 games anyways. That has Smith as the favorite to enter Week 1 as Detroit's lead back. How long his body will hold up is anyone's guess. But that lead role will give him RB2 upside. Smith may only see 10-12 carries per game, but he'd figure to tack on a handful of catches. He's averaging 2.7 per game for his career, including 22 in 7 games last season. And scoring opportunities will be plentiful on Detroit's high-octane attack.
David Wilson, RB, Giants
Things change fast in the NFL. Especially at the RB position. Ahmad Bradshaw has been rock-solid for the Giants over the past 3 years, compiling 2,690 rushing yards and 24 TDs on a 4.4 yards-per-carry average. And how do the G-Men thank him for his contributions? By going out and drafting his eventual replacement in the 1st-round. Wilson has been lighting it up since being selected 32nd overall back in April. Players, coaches, and media members are heaping on the praise. OC Kevin Gilbride called Wilson the most explosive player he's ever coached. QB Eli Manning agrees, calling Wilson the "fastest RB we've ever had." And the New York Daily News says, "It’s been impossible not to notice Wilson’s flash throughout camp." The V-Tech product clocked a 4.40 40-time at his Pro Day. But it's his acceleration and change-of-direction that makes him so dangerous in the open field. Wilson broke out in 2011, racking up 1,709 yards and 9 scores on his way to ACC Player of the Year honors. While the Giants are sticking by Bradshaw as their lead back, Wilson has the type of talent that could make them reconsider. Bradshaw could benefit from a lighter workload anyways. He's missed 10 games in 5 seasons with a variety of foot issues, and has had surgery on both feet and both ankles over the past couple years. This guy is 26 going on 46. Any hint of a decline could be all Wilson needs to make this a full-blown committee. And from there, there's no telling what kind of damage the rookie could do. With an ADP in the 9th-round, Wilson is one of our favorite high-upside bench stashes at the RB position.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons
The Falcons have been pretty clear about their plans on offense this season. They want to throw more. They want to limit Michael Turner's carries. And they want to get Rodgers more involved. “We drafted him to be a change-of-pace back and we found out very quickly that he’s a guy that is more than a change-of-pace back," HC Mike Smith said of Rodgers. "Even though he’s short, he’s not little. He’s a guy we feel like we can integrate more into our offense." Like a lot of rookies last year, Rodgers struggled adjusting to the NFL game after a lockout-shortened offseason. He managed just 3.6 yards per carry on 57 totes. But he flashed his playmaking ability with an average of 9 yards per catch. The passing game is where Rodgers figures to make his biggest impact in 2012. New OC Dirk Koetter is expected to utilize the screen game much more than Atlanta has in previous years. Rodgers would be the primary back on those plays. We've already heard insiders compare his 2012 role to that of Darren Sproles with the Saints last year and Warrick Dunn in his 6 years with the Falcons. We're not expecting quite as much from Rodgers, but it does seem like he's looking at a significant role in the passing game -- plus a handful of carries per game to help keep Turner fresh. Rodgers finished with 78 touches in 2011 and shouldn't have trouble doubling that total this season. And that's assuming Michael Turner's decline doesn't steepen. In that case, this could turn into a full-blown committee. HC Mike Smith recently said that he thinks Rodgers is capable of being a 3-down back. Draft him as a bye-week fill-in type with the potential for much more.
Mike Goodson, RB, Raiders
Goodson's season hit a speed bump with a scary head injury this past Wednesday. But it looks like he dodged a bullet. A CT scan came back negative, and Goodson actually rejoined the team later that night. The injury shouldn't impact his outlook. And it may serve to lower his ADP even further from the dirt-cheap level it's sitting at right now. Goodson is currently coming off the board in the 12th round -- way too late for one of the most intriguing handcuffs in the league. You probably know all about Darren McFadden's injury history. But here's a refresher: the guy has never played a full 16-game season, missing a total of 19 games in 4 years. Injuries can be random and tough to predict, but some guys are just more brittle than others. McFadden seems to be one of those guys. And if he goes down again in 2012, Goodson will be the primary beneficiary. He seemed to be locked-in as the team's #2 RB before last week's injury. And as long as he isn't sidelined too deep into August, he should wrap up the job. He'd likely be looking at 15+ touches per game in McFadden's absence. And Goodson has already proved that he can shoulder a load. In 2 starts with the Panthers back in 2010, he racked up 220 yards on 55 totes, plus another 44 yards on 8 catches. This is a slippery back with a sturdy 6'0, 210-pound frame. Goodson could provide RB2 production if (when?) McFadden goes down. And he could even be looking at 8-12 touches per game otherwise. Raiders OC Greg Knapp wants to pound the ball on the ground this season, which could mean a significant role for Goodson. This guy offers a heckuva lot more upside than most 12th-rounders.
Greg Little, WR, Browns
Yep -- we're going there. To a Cleveland passing game that ranked 24th in yards and 27th in TDs last year. Of course, they should be more explosive -- if not just flat-out better -- with 1st-round rookie Brandon Weeden at the helm this season. The Oklahoma State product has NFL arm strength and touch. Something that can't be said for 2011 starter Colt McCoy. Despite the Browns' passing-game struggles last year, Little still tallied 61 catches and 709 yards. Both marks ranked inside the top-40 among WRs. But Little's measly 2 TDs left him 54th at the position in fantasy points. Still, it was an encouraging rookie campaign considering what he had working against him. Besides an inept QB, Little had a lockout-shortened offseason after missing his entire 2010 season at North Carolina because of NCAA rules violations. It's safe to say that rust was a factor last year -- at least early on. Little was better over the 2nd half of the season, recording his only 2 scores and his only 100-yard outing. He was 36th among receivers in fantasy points from Week 10 on. He could easily finish that high in 2012. Little had a productive offseason, dropping 11 pounds and improving his speed, acceleration, and route-running. The final hurdle might be his hands, and we won't know if those are better until the season starts. But Little is unlikely to drop another 14 balls this season. That fact alone could help him build on last year's 61 receptions. He'll remain the clear-cut top option in the passing game after ranking 17th among WRs with 120 targets last season. Little should finish right around there again in 2012. And with more efficiency -- both from Little himself and his QB -- this guy could emerge as a weekly WR3.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers
Seemingly everyone who's watched the Panthers this offseason comes away believing LaFell is primed for a breakout campaign. Players, coaches, media -- they're all on board. We haven't been as excited about LaFell based on what we've seen, but we also haven't seen him since last year's season-finale. Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah notes big-time improvement over the past few months. "The young receiver was more fluid as a route-runner than he's been in the past and he was attacking the ball in the air," Jeremiah observed at Panthers camp. LaFell did up his production at the tail-end of 2011 -- just not enough to really catch our attention. Taking over the #2 WR spot for the final 6 games, he compiled 15 catches, 268 yards, and a score. He'll obviously need to improve beyond that to cash in on this "sleeper" tag, but that's definitely a possibility as he enters his 3rd year in the league. The former 3rd-round pick showed plenty of big-play ability last season, averaging a juicy 17 yards per catch and taking 13 of his 36 grabs for 20+ yards. His 64.3% catch rate and 2 charged drops were both big improvements from 2010 and show a maturing WR. LaFell opened training camp as the heavy favorite for the #2 job and now seems locked-in after a couple weeks of strong play. If this passing game takes another step forward under QB Cam Newton, LaFell could make good on all those breakout predictions.
Kendall Wright, WR, Titans
No player has made a bigger move up our rankings over the past few months. Wright's ascent started when he ripped up OTAs and minicamp. That dominant play has continued in training camp. "He's gonna be a star in this league," OC Chris Palmer said. In between minicamp and training camp, WR Kenny Britt underwent his 3rd knee surgery of the offseason and was arrested for the 8th time since entering the league. He's a major question mark at this point -- both because of his health and an impending suspension. Any games Britt misses will find Wright in the starting lineup. And that'll give him oodles of upside. Wright's speed alone should help him make an immediate impact. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and plays even faster than that. It makes him a perfect fit in Tennessee's aggressive, new-look offense. OC Chris Palmer wants to spread the field and attack vertically -- 2 things Wright will help with right from the get-go. Adding to the rookie's intrigue is the fact that multiple 1st-year receivers have fared well in Palmer's scheme. Terry Glenn caught 90 balls in his rookie year under Palmer, and Andre Johnson went for 976 yards in his first season. Wright could be the next talented receiver to enjoy immediate success in the scheme. He can still be had in the 11th-round of drafts -- a cheap price to pay for a guy who could provide WR2 production while Britt is out.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Chiefs
The most memorable moment of Baldwin’s rookie campaign was his training camp fight with RB Thomas Jones. The result was a broken thumb – and the beginning of a lost season. Appearing in just 11 games, Baldwin saw sporadic action, snagging 21 balls for 254 yards and 1 TD. Fast forward a year, and Baldwin seems like a completely different player. The Chiefs’ 26th overall pick has acted as the #1 WR in the absence of Dwayne Bowe, who continues to miss practice time as he seeks a new deal. By all accounts, Baldwin done his best D-Bowe impression in camp, looking the part of a go-to receiver while displaying the maturity he was lacking as a rookie. With his imposing size (6’4, 230 pounds), there’s some serious red zone potential here. And even when Bowe returns, Baldwin shouldn't struggle beating out Steve Breaston for the other starting spot. The Chiefs' desire to establish the run has the potential to cap the youngster's upside. But in perhaps Bowe’s final season in Kansas City, it wouldn’t shock us to see them embrace a changing of the guard. Besides, GM Scott Pioli didn’t draft Baldwin with a top-30 pick to act as a decoy. Don’t snooze on the prime time talent – and the WR3 upside – of this big league sophomore.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers
This is the 2nd year in a row that Sanders has appeared on our Sleepers list. 2011 didn't work out so well. Foot and knee problems hobbled him in the offseason and during the year. He was passed in the pecking order by Antonio Brown; appeared in only 11 games; and finished with just 22 catches for 288 yards and 2 TDs. But 2012 is shaping up to be a whole lot better. First, Sanders is healthy. He underwent another knee surgery this offseason but declared himself 100% healthy in June. He's been a full-go in camp. Sanders also appears to be a nice fit in new OC Todd Haley's offense, which utilizes quick-hitting passes that allow receivers to make plays after the catch. Sanders is slippery in the open field, averaging a studly 7.0 yards-after-the-catch last season. That topped both Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace. Of course, the biggest reason Sanders garners sleeper status is Wallace's ongoing holdout. There's reportedly been little progress between the two sides in recent weeks. If Wallace were to sit out regular season games, Sanders would move into the starting lineup in an explosive passing game. He's been practicing in Wallace's "X" spot in camp. Now, we still don't expect the holdout to run into the season. But Wallace's unfamiliarity with Haley's offense would still figure to mean more action for Sanders. Besides, we know this Steelers passing game can support 3 WRs. The team's #3 receiver has averaged 36 catches, 519 yards, and 4 TDs per season over the last 5 years. Expect at least that much from Sanders if he stays healthy. And his upside beyond that makes him well worth a shot at his current 13th-round ADP.
Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings
An extra spot or two at the end of your bench would make drafting Simpson a bit easier. The former Bengal is slated to miss the first 3 games of the season following a violation of the NFL’s drug policy. Still, it’s been hard to slow the hype train this offseason following a 2011 that saw him post career highs in catches (50), yards (725), and TDs (4). Never short on speed, Simpson’s flashed playmaking ability throughout the summer. He’s earned praise from OC Bill Musgrave, who’s admitted there will be a chance for QB Christian Ponder and Simpson to make “a ton of plays.” It’s scary to think what kind of impact he can make opposite an even more electrifying talent in Percy Harvin – and a rapidly emerging TE further distracting defenses in Kyle Rudolph. There’s that Peterson guy too – and he’s remarkably positioned himself to be ready for Week 1. Beyond Harvin, no Viking WR notched 40+ catches or 500+ yards a season ago. But improved play out of a promising Ponder, paired with Simpson’s upgraded talent, promises to ensure that trend isn’t repeated. Just 26 years old, Simpson’s prime years are upcoming.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
The cream always rises to the crop. And that's what we're thinking will eventually happen with Cobb. This guy is already the 3rd-best WR on the Packers' roster -- behind only Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. He's even been called the best receiver in camp by the local media. "He’s made more big plays and been used in a greater variety of ways than any of their other receivers," beat writer Pete Dougherty wrote a few weeks ago. Cobb flashed that elite ability on a few occasions last year. In his NFL debut, he caught a 32-yard TD and took a kickoff 108 yards to the house. He recorded a 61-yard reception just a few weeks later. While his playing time was limited among Green Bay's crowded WR corps, Cobb posted a sterling 15.0 yards-per-catch average. More impressive was his 7.7 yards-after-the-catch average -- 4th-best among all WRs. This guy is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. And the Packers are looking for more ways to get him the rock this season. “He is a versatile player. And it’s important to always try to create schemes where you’re giving people the opportunity to make plays," HC Mike McCarthy said. We're expecting Cobb to supplant Donald Driver as the team's primary slot receiver this season. That spot produced 521 snaps and 54 targets last season. That type of action could produce WR3 numbers for Cobb -- considering his talent and supporting cast. And if the 2nd-year receiver starts to eat into James Jones' looks, his ceiling could go even higher. He's an ideal bench stash that can be had in the 10th-round of 12-team drafts.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
We won’t be too disappointed if we fail to land a top TE on draft day. And Rudolph is a huge reason why. Standing 6’6 at nearly 260 pounds, all this Notre Dame product has done this offseason is establish himself as perhaps QB Christian Ponder’s go-to target. Dubbed the “MVP” of camp by multiple team observers, Rudolph has displayed a superhuman catch radius, while showing improved speed. The reason why? He finally believes he’s over an injury suffered in 2010 where he brutally tore hamstring muscles off the bone. “It didn't really start coming back until late last season,” Rudolph said. “There were a few times, late, when I was able to run past a linebacker. Then, to have that time off in the winter to train and continue to work on that? Now I feel I'm all the way back.” With injury concerns behind him, there’s very little not to love about this 2011 2nd-rounder. He’s already developed a noticeable rapport with Ponder. And with Percy Harvin representing the Vikings' only other threatening pass catcher (at least until Jerome Simpson returns from his 3-game suspension), targets won’t be hard to come by. Rudolph's ability to block effectively will keep him on the field for all 3 downs. Free-agent John Carlson, fragile and frail, doesn’t present much of a threat to his upside, especially in OC Bill Musgrave’s 2-TE offense. Rudolph will get his looks, and we fully expect him to capitalize. He could easily vault into the top-10 at his position this season.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Giants
There’s no denying Marty B has a little Chad Johnson in him. Beat writers have pointed out several bizarre, sometimes off-topic subjects he’s tackled during his brief stay with the G-Men. For example, how he hates pretty much everyone, not just the Cowboys – and how he’s “kind of a mean person.” He’s also given himself a new nickname – “The Black Unicorn” – because of his size/speed combo. Cut right from the 85 cloth… right? Maybe so, but if this guy can just get his head screwed on tight, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to witness him tap his fading potential. No, we don’t have gaudy numbers to flaunt. Matter of fact, Bennett’s numbers look the part of a blocking TE, with just 85 grabs, 846 yards, and 4 TDs across 4 seasons. Stuck behind Jason Witten for his entire stay in Big D, he was really never more than a flier TE2 in fantasy. Now with the Giants, and in position to start with Travis Beckum set to miss significant time with an ACL tear, Bennett will be in his best position to succeed. Just 25 years old, Bennett’s maturity issues might not be a lost cause. His weight is back in check after ballooning up to 290 pounds earlier in the summer. And it sounds like he understands what a make-or-break season 2012 really is. “Ask any of the guys in the camp,” Bennett said. “I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'm faster than I've ever been. I could run all day.” In an intriguing spot alongside the likes of Eli Manning and a tantalizing Nicks-Cruz tandem, we’re not ready to throw in the towel yet on this controversial talent. Currently the 22nd TE off the board in drafts, consider us buyers.
Deep Sleepers (for consideration with your last few picks in leagues of 12+ teams)
Marcel Reece, RB, Raiders
This might be the first FB to ever appear on a Draft Sharks Sleepers list. Of course, Reece is a FB in name only. Well, maybe in size too. The dude goes 6'1 and 255 pounds. But he's an uber-athlete. He ran a jaw-dropping 4.42 40-yard dash prior to the 2009 draft. And he plays that fast in pads. Reece is sitting on a 5.0 career yards-per-carry average. He's been even better as a receiver. His career per-catch average checks in at 12.2. He has 9 grabs of 20+ yards over the past 2 seasons. 4 of those have gone for 40+, including a 73-yarder back in 2010. This guy is an explosive weapon out of the backfield. And he should continue to play a significant role in Oakland's passing attack. Reece caught 25 balls for 333 yards and 3 scores in 2010, and then posted a 27-301-2 line this past year. Look for a similar output this season. "Where he really excels is in the passing game and the different mismatches that he can create," new HC Dennis Allen said. On top of that, we're thinking Reece will see a bigger ball-carrying role. Gone is big-bodied Michael Bush, who popped in 15 TDs over the past 2 seasons. A chunk of those goal line carries may go Reece's way in 2012. That'd simply be added value on top of the receiving numbers. Reece has finished 50th and 53rd, respectively, in PPR scoring over the past 2 seasons. Consider that his floor in 2012 -- with the potential to vault into the top-40. He's worth stashing on the bench in deeper PPR formats.
Chris Rainey, RB, Steelers
The Steelers have never had a player quite like this. A guy who can take a simple screen, make a few darting moves, and turn on the jets for a 57-yard TD. We're expecting to see more plays like that from Rainey throughout the season. His 5'8, 180-pound frame will prevent him from ever playing a lead role at the NFL level. But he's certainly capable of serving as an explosive jack-of-all -trades. That's what Rainey was at the University of Florida, where he averaged 6.2 yards per carry, 11.5 yards per catch, and scored 21 combined rushing/receiving/return TDs. Rainey figures to play a similar role with the Steelers. “It might be third down, it might be by package, you might see him as a receiver or as a running back, but you’ll see him do a little bit of everything,” new OC Todd Haley said. Haley has a history with backs like Rainey. He was with the Chiefs when they drafted scat-back Dexter McCluster back in 2010. That year, he finished with 21 catches for 209 yards in just 11 games. That projects to 31 catches and 304 yards over a full season. We think Rainey is a more talented player and could fare even better than that in 2012. He already worked in with the 1st-team offense in that first preseason game, hauling in an 8-yard pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger. Look for him to serve as a dynamic change-of-pace option behind starter Isaac Redman. And with 4.3 speed, Rainey is capable of turning just a few touches into a monster fantasy performance.
Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers
We like stocking up on guys with difference-making talent. That's what Brown has. The Chargers got themselves a steal when they nabbed this guy in the 3rd-round of the 2011 draft. Brown has mediocre size (5'11, 197 pounds) and didn't blow anyone away in pre-draft workouts. But the dude can ball when the pads go on. He plays big and he plays fast. Brown's playing time was limited during his rookie campaign, but he flashed when given the chance. He started 4 straight games in the middle of the season and tallied 256 yards and a score on 13 grabs. That stretch included 3 grabs of 30+ yards. On the year, Brown finished with a juicy 17.3 yards per catch average. The guy is a playmaker on a vertical passing attack, giving him big-time upside. The problem at this point is playing time. Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd are slated to start out wide for the Bolts, with Eddie Royal manning the slot. That leaves Brown 4th on the depth chart and without a consistent role. But San Diego's WR corps is fluid right now after the loss of Vincent Jackson. Brown could conceivably take over for any of the 3 guys ahead of him. The soon-to-be 31-year-old Floyd seems most vulnerable. “Vincent (Brown) has grown up, and we all know he’s got ability,” HC Norv Turner said after Brown went for 81 yards and a score in the preseason opener. "He’s had a great offseason, he’s in the middle of having an outstanding training camp, and he obviously is a playmaker so he’s a guy that’s going to figure real strongly in what we do.” Brown has the kind of talent that could force San Diego to get him onto the field. And if that happens, he could emerge as a WR3 with upside. Those are the type of guys you wanna stack your bench with.
Nick Toon, WR, Saints
This son of former Jets WR Al Toon probably isn’t included on any your opponents’ cheatsheets. Nick, while more talented than your average rookie 4th rounder, enters the league with a frustrating medical record. He missed the Senior Bowl because of a chronic foot injury. And even though he was able to post a 40-time as low as 4.48 at his Pro Day, his health concerns have persisted. Since making headway over the past month – drawing comparisons from OC Pete Carmichael to teammate Marques Colston – the 23-year-old’s suffered at least one setback with his foot. The injury kept him out of each of New Orleans' first 2 preseason games. So while we’re fully aware he’s not on the fast track to Rookie of the Year honors, this is a guy we loved heading into the draft. And we’re not ready to write off his season just yet. His size and skill set remind us a lot of Anquan Boldin: he won’t blow by many DBs, but he has the sticky hands and field smarts to garner the trust of his QB. Now with Robert Meachem in San Diego, there’s a vacancy for the Saints #3 WR spot. The list of candidates is uninspiring. Devery Henderson’s labored through a poor training camp, and has never been more than a situational deep threat. And Adrian Arrington – a 2008 seventh round draft pick – owns just 9 career catches and just underwent knee surgery. In other words, it might not take long for Toon to showcase his talents, even given his injury. And if – perhaps when – that opportunity comes, he’ll be hard-pressed to find a better situation than with the Brees-led Saints. Fantasy owners taking a late round lotto ticket on him will be hoping it’s like father like son: Al Toon racked up 46 grabs for 662 yards and 3 scores as a rookie in 1985.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Lions
Here's a guy who would be getting a lot more pub right now had he not gone down with a torn ACL midway through his senior season. Despite missing his final 4 games, Broyles still holds the NCAA record for most career receptions (349). He also set Oklahoma records for single season receptions (131), receiving yards in a game (217), and career receiving yards (4,586). Broyles goes just 5'10 and 192 pounds but draws high marks for his route-running, hands, and short-area quickness. He's a prototypical slot receiver. And that knee injury is in the rear-view mirror. Broyles returned to practice in late-July and is expected to be ready for the season-opener. While a slow start should be expected, Broyles is capable of pushing WR Nate Burleson for inside duties. "We think the world of Ryan and he fits with our offense," GM Martin Mayhew said of Broyles shortly after the draft. Obviously, any pass-catcher with a significant role in this Lions attack carries upside. Titus Young operated as the #3 for most of last season and finished with 607 yards and 6 TDs. Broyles isn't as explosive as Young but enters the league as a more polished receiver. He could be similarly productive if he can pass Burleson in the pecking order.
Kellen Davis, TE, Bears
Davis is flying under the radar again after being a hot name back in the spring. That's when the Bears were talking up his increased role in the offense. "The TE needs to be a big part of what we do," HC Lovie Smith said. "We plan on doing that. I think if you want to feature Kellen Davis you can do that." Davis himself predicted 40-60 catches this season. It's an attainable goal. New OC Mike Tice -- a former TE -- has always liked getting his big guys the ball in the passing game. Speaking of big, that's exactly what Davis is. He checks in at 6'7 and 267 pounds. As you might expect, he's a weapon inside the red zone. Davis scored 5 times this past season. And that was despite catching only 18 balls on 34 targets. Both numbers should go way up in 2012 -- maybe even double. If Davis can catch 40 balls and score another 5 or 6 times, that'd put him in the TE2 discussion. The hype machine has cooled on Davis lately, and that has his ADP outside the first 15 rounds. He's a fine fantasy backup if you grab a stud TE early in your draft.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts
It's not surprising that Coby Fleener is getting more fantasy love than Allen. Fleener is the 34th overall pick. The 2011 All-American. The guy who caught 34 balls for 667 yards and 10 TDs from Andrew Luck last year. Then there's Allen. He came off the board 30 picks after Fleener this past April. Allen finished 2011 with 598 yards and 8 scores. He's never caught a meaningful pass from Luck. But Allen has turned in an impressive training camp. More impressive than Fleener, actually, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The Colts are expected to use 2 TEs in their base offense this season to get both rookies on the field. Fleener is set to play as a traditional in-line TE, while Allen moves all over the formation. He's the Aaron Hernandez to Fleener's Rob Gronkowski. We'd still bet on Fleener having the better 2012 season, but not by as wide of a margin as their ADPs would suggest. Fleener is currently coming off the board in the 12th-round of fantasy drafts. That's fine. But Allen isn't even registering on our ADP page, which goes 15 rounds deep. My Fantasy League has his 12-team ADP at 27.04. He's completely off the common man's fantasy radar. But Allen is better than that. He's a squatty 6'3 and 255 pounds with ho-hum 4.8 speed, but Allen is a physical receiver who runs crisp routes and possesses reliable hands. That's the type of skill-set that helps guys make immediate impacts. Allen has the potential to emerge as a viable bye-week fill-in type. And he can be had with one of your final few picks.