You thought Philip Rivers was bullet-proof didn't you? There was no way he would let you down in 2011, right? Chris Johnson had some contract issues during the preseason, but you just knew that he would get his deal done and be one of the steals of your draft or auction since others were passing on him. At one point, we all believed that Peyton Manning would be coming back and that Reggie Wayne was going to be a solid wide receiver once again, but what we didn't know is that Manning had played his last game as a Colt and that Wayne was about to be a total non-factor in 2011.
It stung, I know. I got burned by Wayne on one team and Chris Johnson on two others. Let's not make those same mistakes again this year. Instead, let's try and find a few "value" players who are headed for big season in 2012.
The Falcons plan to incorporate more 3-WR sets and allow Matt Ryan to throw the ball resulted in disappointment and a lack of chemistry on offense for much of the season. That is the perception with most fantasy owners, but I won't go so far as to say that it is reality.
Ryan had 20 TDs and 4 INTs over his last nine games and his yardage skyrocketed over that time frame as well. We all knew that Roddy White was legit, but what Julio Jones did with limited touches as a rookie is what has us most excited. With two great wide receivers on the outside and with versatile running back Jacquizz Rodgers expected to get more snaps this year, there is is no reason to believe that Ryan can't crack the the top five quarterbacks this year.
Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs were both disappointing last year and some of that had to do with their lack of consistent running and tackle breaking. However, the biggest issue with the Giants running game last year had more to do with a beat-up offensive line that just couldn't open holes. Jacobs was bound to fall off as he was getting older and lacked burst to the line of scrimmage, but Bradshaw is still young and has enough burst and talent to bounce back in 2012.
With Jacobs gone, Bradshaw figures to get more of the red zone carries as the Giants are less likely to lean on rookie runner David Wilson for that. The Giants offensive line is healthy again and defenses will be much more focused on stopping the passing game first and the running game second. Bradshaw has everything working in his favor to start 2012.
There is really no reason for fantasy owners to covet Brown so you should be able to target him in a reasonable round or at a reasonable price in an auction. The Colts offense should be better this year with Andrew Luck under center and Brown has the type of top-end speed that should lend itself to big plays.
One of the biggest reasons we like Brown to surprise in 2012 is that he has very little behind him at the running back position in terms of talent. Brown is clearly the best runner the Colts have and with new head coach Chuck Pagano looking to run the ball more effectively, Brown will see his touches go way up.
Jackson has done it before in San Diego with Rivers, but can he do it again in Tampa Bay with a new quarterback? Shake that Magic 8 Ball and our guess is that you'll find that is says "very likely".
Jackson did most of his fantasy damage in just four, big games and he is leaving San Diego where he had one of the better quarterbacks in the league in Rivers. So why is he a good value? Well, this one is a bit of a hunch, quite frankly. Jackson still has plenty of game and we're gambling on the fact that Josh Freeman will be much better this year than he was last. Sure, 2010 may have been a bit of an outlier for Freeman, but he's also better than we saw in 2011. If Freeman plays better, Jackson will benefit.
It is hard to get too excited about a wide receiver on the Patriots considering the fact that he'll have to battle Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for targets, but Lloyd should succeed where others have failed.
Anyone who watched Lloyd with the Rams last year saw a guy who was able to get open quite often. Lloyd's problem was that the quarterback's either couldn't throw to him accurately or they didn't have time to get rid of the ball thanks to their offensive line. In New England, Tom Brady will certainly find Lloyd if he's open and we wouldn't be surprised if Lloyd was finally able to give the Patriots a legitimately big play wide receiver that has been missing since Randy Moss' best days.
The truth of the matter is that Cook should already be one of the rising stars out of the tight end group and the fact that he isn't has as much to do with their offense as anything. Cook features an outlandish wingspan and blazing speed for a tight end and should be one of the focal points of the passing game.
Cook took over over the final three games of the year and if Jake Locker ends up getting the start in Tennessee, that might boost Cook's output even more since many young quarterbacks tend to rely on their tight ends over their first year or two under center. Cook certainly isn't a "sleeper", but he can also be had for a very fair price in both auctions and drafts.