Ok, fess up. Who thought that Jordy
Smith or Antonio
Brown would have the seasons they had in 2011? These once no-name
players stepped out of the shadow of bigger-name teammates and arguably
became the best fantasy receiving options on their respective teams.
Securing these kinds of players with late-round selections or off
the waiver wire makes us feel a bit smarter and much better prepared
than our league competitors. Knowing first where to look for players
with opportunities to breakout is half the battle; keeping your
fingers crossed comprises the other half.
Here are a handful of players in situations that could lead to
breakout seasons in 2012.
Decker, DEN: The Denver receiving corps is a relatively young
bunch with tons of potential. Decker got off to a solid start
last season with Kyle Orton under center, scoring multiple touchdowns
in two of the teamís first four contests. Then the Tim Tebow debacle
commenced, effectively rendering Decker a fantasy hit-or-miss
candidate every week. Now enter Peyton Manning, and while I believe
Manning will fall short of some peopleís expectations, he will
certainly maintain a level of effectiveness that makes his receivers
solid fantasy options.
There are some who look at Demaryius Thomas as the one who will
benefit the most from Manningís arrival. Thomas is the big-play
guy, no doubt; he averaged more than 17 yards per reception last
season. But Decker, I believe, will be counted on to run the shorter,
higher percentage underneath routes, compared to Thomas running
the deeper routes. Donít forget that Decker caught eight
touchdowns last season. Heís essentially assured of reaching
that figure again, and he should also come close to doubling his
44 receptions as well. Decker enters the season as a low-end WR2
with potential to become more than that.
Washington, TEN: Simply put, Washington is the most reliable
receiver on the Tennessee roster, both on and off the field. Kenny
Britt is solid on the field (when healthy) but a knucklehead
off it, Kendall
Wright is a rookie who signed a few days into training camp,
and tight end Jared Cook is inconsistent. Washington stepped in
for Britt after his injury in 2011 and proceeded to pick up where
Britt left off. Washington had a few monster games, including
a nine-catch, 115-yard, two-touchdown performance on the road
in Atlanta. He developed a nice chemistry with Matt Hasselbeck,
and while the old quarterback may find it difficult to keep the
starting spot all season, Washington should still be the leader
of the Titansí receiving options.
The Titans are probably eager to see what they have in Jake Locker,
even though last year Hasselbeck had his best season since 2007.
And the one good thing about young quarterbacks is that they usually
lock on to and bombard the most reliable receiver on the squad.
I see Washington as that guy once again in 2012. One has to be
cautious of a wide receiver having his breakout season at 28 years
of age, but I think the situation in Tennessee shapes up fine
for the speedster, and he should make some noise this year as
a reliable low-end WR2.
Amendola, STL: I included Amendola on this
list last year, but he hurt himself in the opening game and
missed the rest of the season. The Rams last year were led offensively
by coordinator Josh McDaniel and his pass-happy offense. Head
coach Jeff Fisher now mans the sidelinesóa coach with a philosophy
thatís geared more toward a ball control, power running game.
That sounds good, but when you have a young Sam Bradford, St.
Louis will not be averse to throwing the football.
Amendola will never be confused with a deep threat. But he is
a solid underneath route runner who should do very well in PPR
leagues. The other receiving options in St. Louis are shaky, led
Smith, who continues his comeback after a knee injury several
years ago. Itís the usual hyperbole to call Amendola a poor manís
Welker, but honestly, itís not too big a stretch. His yards-per-catch
probably wonít reach double digits like Welker's, but I believe
his role in the passing game will be just as important to the
Rams as Welker's is to the Patriots.
Floyd is no spring chicken, but the departure
of Jackson will do wonders for his production in 2012.
Floyd, SD: Vincent
Jackson is now in Tampa Bay and Antonio Gates is one year
older with a history of foot problems. Throw in the addition of
an inconsistent Robert
Meachem and a young Vincent
Brown, and the passing game in San Diego sets up nicely for
Floyd to have the same kind of late-career renaissance that Brandon
Lloyd enjoyed several years ago.
I think Philip Rivers rebounds this year and improves on a season
in which he tossed 20 INTs, and Floyd should be the beneficiary
of that improved play at quarterback. Many people may forget that
Floyd played only 12 games last year but had four games of 100
or more receiving yards, in addition to two other games in which
he went for 95 and 96 receiving yards respectively. By my count,
thatís at least 95 yards in half the games he played. Thatís
a nice foundation on which to build a late-career, breakout season
Moore, OAK: Denarius Moore was the picture of inconsistency
last year. He had three games in which he went for 100 or more
receiving yards, but he also had three games with one reception
and two others with zero. A full offseason with quarterback Carson
Palmer, along with the trade of Louis
Murphy, puts Moore on the fast track toward surprising a few
A side note: Can we please do away with the narrative that Oakland
likes to throw the ball deep downfield? Of course they do. And
so do 95 percent of all the other teams in the NFL. People say
that as though Oakland is the only team with interest in that
strategy. But I digress. Moore should ascend to the No. 1 wide
receiver spot on Oaklandís roster, ahead of underachiever
Darrius Heyward-Bey. Palmer has never been a quarterback who throws
much to the tight end, so Moore should see targets early and often
Baldwin, SEA: Doug Baldwin came out of nowhere last season
as an undrafted free agent to become Seattle’s leading receiver.
He will battle Sidney
Rice as the team’s No. 1 option, assuming, of course,
that Rice remains healthy. Baldwin isn't the biggest receiver,
but he showed last year that he can be relied on when needed the
most. He’s best known for his eight-catch, 136-yard, one-touchdown
game early in the year at the Giants, and while fantasy owners
would be delusional to expect that kind of performance on a regular
basis, it speaks to some degree of his potential. The one major
caveat playing out in Seattle is the question of who will be the
quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson? Matt Flynn? Take your pick. Either
way, Baldwin has the potential to show that his productive year
in 2011 was a subtle sign of things to come.