The 2012 fantasy football is full of former early-round busts. Yet many of these busts are poised for big comebacks. Here are just a few former fantasy boom to bust sleepers that have the potential to bring you back major value in your fantasy football season.
Everyone loves a good comeback right? The NFL is full of comeback players and these comeback players generally turn into fantasy football sleepers in the preseason. For one reason or another, these are players that are coming off of highly disappointing seasons. Tarnished as frauds, these players didn’t just lose their talent overnight. You need to look hard at their situation last season and evaluate all circumstances surrounding the poor production. That time spent analyzing last year’s busts could bring you the highest rewards this season.
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts – I can’t find anyone as bullish on Wayne as I am and I love it that way. Wayne was once the number-one rated receiver going into drafts. Unfortunately for those who kept him, his production drastically dropped off in recent years. Of course last year he was missing Peyton Manning and counting on Curtis Painter to help put up those numbers. This year he is playing with Andrew Luck and that is a mega upgrade over last season. I absolutely love the Luck-Wayne combo. The Colts defense is still a major issue and their running game is suspect. They are going to need to throw every week to stay in games. I expect major numbers from Luck and that can only mean great things for his number one receiver. Wayne’s ADP according to ESPN.com today is 103.2! That means you can have the number one target on a throwing team in the 9th or 10th round! He is a steal and I would not be surprised if he ended the season among the top 10 wide receivers in fantasy football.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles – Philadelphia Eagles fans like me know that DeSean Jackson can be a very frustrating player. After tearing through defenses in 2010 and giving NFL and fantasy fans some of the most memorable plays in NFL history, Jackson was an all out bust in 2011. Jackson has since revealed that he played it safe in 2011 while negotiating a contract. Jackson is now fully healthy and paid! I predict a huge bounce back for a guy who flew off draft boards the last few years. He is getting picked around the late fifth, early sixth round right now which makes him a phenomenal pick for your WR 3 and gives you great options at the position. He is an absolute must pick if he is still around for your sixth pick!
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs – From waiver wire darling to fantasy bust, Peyton Hillis is back for another season! Fortunately for you things are different as Hillis is reunited with his old coach on a new team with a running offense. Hillis has looked like more than just a Jamaal Charles-handcuff this preseason, rushing for 52 yards on nine carries and a score. Hillis is taking over Thomas Jones’ role and Jones was given plenty of production over the last couple of seasons in Kansas City. Even better, Hillis’ new offensive coordinator is Brian Daboll who called plays on the sixth-most rushing attempted team of the season last year in Miami. At an ADP of 112, Hillis is a freaking steal at that spot of the draft! Hillis’ talent just didn’t go away in one season. Hillis will be back and he could be a phenomenal asset had for a bargain basement price in your fantasy draft.
Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders – I just recently had a heated exchange on Twitter with another fantasy player over the prospects of Palmer having a great season. After laying out my statistical evidence, the truth came out and this Palmer naysayer was just an old anti-USC fan. Palmer was a top-10 QB in passing attempts last season when he played and he was number one in pass plays over 25 yards. Anyone remember that Oakland-Detroit game? Palmer only got better as the season progressed and now has a full offseason under his belt in Oakland and will be playing with some of the most dynamic offensive weapons in football. I have taken him very late in two drafts, passing up on “sexy” sleeper options like Robert Griffin III and Ryan Fitzpatrick. This former early round pick has an ADP of 134.3 which means you can take your starters and several backups before you even need to worry about targeting him. For a guy that has the potential to wind up as a top-five (Yes I said top-five) fantasy QB this season, that is pretty damned good!
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I’ll be honest, I am not nearly as bullish on Williams as I am most of this list. I also don’t even know if he necessarily meets the criteria to be here because nobody was taking Williams in the first-round last season, although he was taken in the second or third rounds. I don’t think Josh Freeman is that bad and that makes all of the difference in the world. Additionally, the team has added Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark. Instead of defenses keying in on Williams as the number-one offensive threat, teams will be scheming for Jackson, Clark, and the running backs. That should give Williams some fantastic opportunities in the red zone. With an ADP of 139.5, he is an absolute must grab at that spot in your draft.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers – I play in one league where Gates was not only a first-round pick for several years, he was a keeper! Not anymore. Everyone is talking about Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski while Gates is just quietly coming back to form this preseason in San Diego. Gates is thinner, healthier, and with Vincent Brown out, one of the few options left for Philip Rivers this season. Gates has already scored in the preseason and I think he does plenty more in the regular season. For me, I’d rather wait and grab Gates later than waste a first round pick on Graham or Gronk. At an ADP of 47.1 he is a bargain as compared to recent years. He probably shouldn’t be on this list because his ADP is still relatively high, but it is much lower than in recent years. Owen Daniels at 130.1 is another tight end sleeper to look out for if you miss out on Gates.