Fantasy Football Edition: 3 Players That Will Make the Jump to Elite Status in 2012

August 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

by Kevin Harrington

The 2012 NFL season is FINALLY right around the corner and fantasy leagues across the nation anxiously wait to see who drafted the dominant team this year. If you are among the fantasy football participants who have not drafted your team yet, this article is for you. Below are some undervalued players that I believe will take your team to the next level this season.

I will start off with the player that I have been continuously hyping all offseason, and a player that I have on almost all of my fantasy teams this year. I will live or die by Darren McFadden in the fantasy world this year. He may very well be an injury risk like he has been every single year of his career, but has the highest upside of any running back this season now that he’s completely healthy. Run DMC consistently shows flashes of greatness year in and year out, and is a well-known commodity in the fantasy community due to his outstanding career at Arkansas, his top-10 draft selection in 2008, and his sole 1,000 yard season on the ground in 2010. After an unproductive and injury-riddled first two years in the league, McFadden rebounded to average a robust five-plus yards per carry the two following seasons. Yes, he was limited to only seven games last year with an ankle injury, but that leads me to my next point. The other top running backs that are going around the same position in fantasy drafts have significant question marks as well. Some even, such as Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, are recovering from serious injuries of their own. And if there ever was a time when an injury could have helped long term, it is McFadden’s. This is not a devastating ACL injury he is recovering from. His was a nagging ankle injury that was rested for the last 9 weeks of the season, and appears to be fully healed. On top of that, he has shown excellent burst throughout his limited preseason appearances and is one of the few backs to receive the unquestioned majority of his teams rushing attempts. More importantly, the hulking Michael Bush is off to Chicago to steal away Matt Forte’s goal-line touchdowns now. My bold prediction is that McFadden stays healthy all season and will finish as the top fantasy running back by year’s end. If you’re in a keeper league, I think that means he will be a top-3 pick in 2013 fantasy drafts as well.

Percy Harvin was one of the NFL’s most exciting players last season, yet continually gets drafted no earlier than the third round of fantasy drafts this year. I have one statement to make about the speedy Harvin before I go any further in my endorsement. If you simply combine Harvin’s 2011 receiving and rushing yards along with his total amount of touchdowns, you wind up with 1,312 yards and nine touchdowns. If this hasn’t sold you yet on your should-be third round pick already, this hopefully will…that total was accomplished in only 56% of the team’s offensive plays for the season. And if THAT hasn’t convinced your stubborn mind, Harvin received more touches than ANY other receiver in the NFL from the point that Christian Ponder took over as starter. Alright, one more point. Adrian Peterson is on the mend from a torn ACL, which could reasonably lead to even more plays where Harvin lines up in the backfield for rushing attempts or screen passes. Screen passes are amazing for points per reception leagues, and Harvin capitalizes on each opportunity, as he’s a threat to score all over the field. If you throw in another return touchdown this year like he had last year, that’s just an added bonus. In conclusion, most people fail to realize how often Harvin lined up at running back for the Vikings last year, as fantasy draft lobbies do not show a wide receiver’s rushing total. Take advantage of this information.

My final fantasy endorsement goes to an extremely obvious name, but again, a player that is a great value for the point where he is getting drafted in most leagues. Antonio Gates redefined the tight end position this decade, yet is being treated like he is an afterthought at the position this year. I’ve seen players such as Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley, and even backup tight end (although I’ll admit it’s more like tight end 1B in New England) Aaron Hernandez go before the proven, yet injury-plagued veteran. Despite rumors of a potential early retirement after the 2011 season, Gates has come back stronger and more importantly, completely healthy, for the 2012 season. And if you haven’t noticed, San Diego’s receiving corps has been severely depleted following the departure of red zone monster Vincent Jackson, as well as the injury to second-year receiver Vincent Brown. As great as Robert Meachem (a former Next Sports Star subject himself) may end up being for the Chargers this year and beyond, his size is not comparable to Jackson. Gates should see the bulk of the red zone targets that would go to Jackson, and despite seeing double coverage often, he should predominantly prevail in those instances. Also, while Meachem continues to get acclimated to receiving passes from Philip Rivers instead of Drew Brees, Rivers will look early and often to his dependable safety valve. Instead of choosing Gronk (no way to repeat last year’s performance) or Jimmy Graham (very well could repeat, but is he worth a 1st rounder?) with a top draft pick and crippling yourself at another position, go with the now healthy and undervalued Gates in the fourth or fifth round and receive similar upside…but a top flight running back, receiver, or quarterback to team him up with. I think it is conceivable to think that Gates may end up being the third-best fantasy tight end in 2012, but rostered on more championship teams than either Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham.

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