Every season there are players that shock the world and become impact fantasy performers. These players are the ones that fantasy owners gathered around the water cooler talk about, wondering why they didn't see this coming in August. I am going to take a look at each of the four big offensive positions (running back, quarterback, receiving and tight end) and identify players that have the upside and opportunity to be these shooting stars in 2012. This second article will break down the future stars in the making.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
6'3 and 216 pounds ADP is 16.02
Here is a case where the public should see this player coming but with an ADP of 16.02 it does not appear that people are taking notice. Jeffery is a big target at 6'3 and 217 pounds and has had by all accounts a spectacular training camp. He is a gifted route-runner, is an explosive jumper and has the entire Bears organization buzzing with his efforts to date.
At this time Jeffery is in competition with incumbent Earl Bennett for playing time but after the dazzling training camp that Jeffery has enjoyed, it is certainly his job to lose with a few more weeks to go until the beginning of the season. Jeffery appears to have that package of skills that leads to dominating fantasy success and if he can continue his practice success with on field production, we may be witnessing the beginning of a star receiver in Chicago. Target him around the 12th round to make sure you land this player as he has the potential to have a wonderful rookie season.
Lestar Jean, Houston Texans
6'3 and 215 pounds ADP is undrafted
This undrafted player from Florida Atlantic is turning heads in Houston, appears to be locked in as the 3rd receiver in the offense, is taking the place of injured starter Andre Johnson in practice and yet is not being drafted in most fantasy leagues. This is an exact example of a player you pick up in the final quarter of your fantasy draft and tuck him away on your roster due to his upside and possible fantasy production if things break his way.
The Texans coaching staff loves his size, effort and professionalism and he brings effort to every single play. What he needs to have happen now is on the field, consistent success to justify what everyone is seeing in practice but with Andre Johnson aging and Kevin Walter just an adequate number two receiver, there is a real chance for Jean to find lightning in a bottle and emerge as not just a decent fantasy option but a good one as the year wears on.
Do not waste your late picks on average receivers like Earl Bennett, Jason Avant, Kevin Walter and Devery Henderson types of players. They have limited upside and will not really help your fantasy team reached the success you are looking for. Look for players with upside that can elevate and greatly exceed their draft positions. Jean is certainly one of those types of players.
Roberto Wallace, Miami Dolphins
6'4 and 225 pounds Current ADP is undrafted
The Miami Dolphins recently released the talented but troubled receiver Chad Johnson after his domestic violence issue occurred and now the Dolphins are right back where they were to start this season, with a very limited receiving core. Brian Hartline has some skills but it has never translated to consistent, on-field success. He has just five touchdowns over three seasons on 109 receptions and there are no guarantees he can slot in as a starting receiver and make an impact in the NFL. Davone Bess is a very talented receiver but only in his role, which is a good slot receiver who can move the chains. He is quick and difficult to slow down on routes fewer than 10 yards but he is not a legitimate starting receiver unless he is lining up as a third.
Right now, the favorite to emerge as a starting receiver is Legedu Naanee, a sixth-year NFL veteran from San Diego State who played with the Carolina Panthers. He has great size at 6'3 and 230 pounds but he has only 107 receptions and 4 touchdowns over his five seasons. Those are not statistics that inspire confidence and it isn't like the Panthers were loaded at the receiver position during his time there.
That leaves a possible opening for one of the Dolphins younger receivers to jump into. The Dolphins have two interesting prospects at the receiving position. The first one is 6'4 Roberto Wallace, who was an undrafted receiver out of San Diego State. He was very raw entering the NFL but has improved significantly and currently is slotted in as a starting receiver opposite of Naanee. Wallace has good speed for his size, his route running has improved and he does have great size and hands. He had a great start to this preseason, catching 4 passes for 71 yards but needs to improve his consistency and separation from defenders to become a legitimate fantasy player going forward. While his speed seems OK, he seems to lack a burst to separate causing his coaches to call him Ankle Weights on the TV Show Hard Knocks. Still he is in a great situation to come out of nowhere to lead the Dolphins in receiving this year as neither Hartline and Naanee appear to be NFL starting caliber and Bess is locked into his role.
If he can improve his consistency and develop on-field chemistry with rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, Wallace will have an opportunity to lead the Dolphins in receiving in 2012. Pick him up in the last round of your fantasy draft and see how the Dolphins passing game looks through the first couple of games.
Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals
6'2 and 211 pounds ADP 18.03
The Bengals have a very nice looking young passing offense in development. They have a talented second-year quarterback in Andy Dalton, an explosive, possibly elite second-year receiver in A.J. Green and a gifted young tight end in Jermaine Gresham. What the team does have though is a hole at the second starting receiver position and they drafted Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers in the 3rd round to possibly fill it as a rookie this season. Some around the Bengals organization have compared Sanu, his size and his abilities to T. J. Houshmandzadeh who emerged as a threat despite being a seventh-round draft pick. It took him a few years to perfect his craft but Sanu is going to be counted on to do more out of the gate.
Sanu is a perfect complement to the explosive Green as Sanu loves to make his living coming across the middle of the field while Green is a fast, stretch the field player. Sanu is fearless coming across the middle of the field and has wonderful hands. He is very adept at shielding defenders from the ball thanks to his solid size. The Bengals really do not have a veteran presence capable of taking this job away so with a good camp and hard work Sanu should emerge as the starter as a rookie.
What is nice about Sanu is he will see mostly single coverage as teams roll towards containing Green deep and handling Gresham underneath. Sanu could wind up seeing 6-8 passes per game thrown his way and become a very good story as a rookie depending on his work ethic and ability to pick up the offense.
David Gettis, Carolina Panthers
6'3 and 217 pounds ADP undrafted
One of the only good things to come out of the Carolina Panthers disastrous 2010 NFL season was the play of rookie 6th round draft pick WR David Gettis from Baylor University. With horrible quarterbacking even impacting the play of star receiver Steve Smith, Gettis still finished with 500+ receiving yards and led the team with 3 receiving touchdowns. With Cam Newton coming in last year, there was a decent amount of hype for Gettis and his ability to make big plays but he suffered an ACL-tear and missed the entire 2011 season.
He will be in competition with Brandon LaFell, a former 3rd round pick from LSU who also has had some nice moments in the last two seasons. Both of these players are similar, tall, fast players that can make big plays happen on the field. Perhaps the most likely scenario this season will have both LaFell and Gettis starting out wide with veteran star receiver Steve Smith going inside to create havoc from the slot, a position is he very skilled in. The Panthers are going to stretch the field with Cam Newton under center and Gettis has a real knack for making big plays down the field.
I wouldn't worry about drafting Gettis just yet unless he gets into preseason games and lights it up. He still is not practicing and may take some time to reach his potential. However he is a player that once he gets on the field may find some excellent chemistry with Newton deep down the field and put up some surprising stats this year and beyond. He is a talented player if he is 100% back to health.
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