Last year, in Week 5, Victor Cruz put up a 161 yard game, establishing himself as a must-own player after being undrafted in just about every league. So far in 2012, no player has had such a grand coming-out party as Cruz had in 2011, but after Cruz caught 3 more TD passes Sunday afternoon, we were reminded that there are new stars born in this league every week. On the flipside, for some, glory quickly fades as hyped up players fail to meet expectations, causing their eager owners headaches.
It is too early to call them ‘sleepers’ or ‘busts’ yet, but here are some surprising players who have been undervalued and a few some notable names who have been way overvalued in 2012:
Stevan Ridley – Led by perennial stud QB Tom Brady, the Patriots’ offense is on pace to break a team record for first downs and yardage they set last year. It doesn’t seem like news, but it is most interesting that the team is getting the job done rushing the ball. Yes, despite Brady’s penchant for throwing the ball on a vast majority of downs, the improved Pats run game is being led by Ridley, who has already eclipsed his totals in all categories from last year. He had an average draft position outside the top 60, but Ridley is ready for the spotlight.
Eli Manning – Somehow, after winning his second Super Bowl, Eli still lives in the shadow of big brother Peyton. This year, his Giants offense looks strong – he has already thrown for more than 1500 yards, second behind only Drew Brees, and the G-Men favor the pass in the Red Zone, averaging a cool 2 TD passes per game. Until anything changes, Eli is making his case as a pretty strong #1 going forward.
Percy Harvin – Things are good in Minnesota for Harvin. The Vikings’ WR had a big Week 5, and it shouldn’t have been a big surprise. His team is 4-1 and he is enjoying a resurgent season catching passes, running the ball, and racking up return yards, which boosts his value significantly in some scoring formats. He is getting plenty of attention when the Vikings get near the goal line, which owners should love.
Reggie Wayne – There is a curious situation developing in Indianapolis. The Colts are not deep in receivers, and rookie Andrew Luck doesn’t really have a solid second WR option behind an old veteran who is past his heyday. Every defense knows Wayne’s name, but he is still managing to shine on the field in a way he hasn’t for quite a while. At the height of Peyton Manning’s career in Indy, Wayne wouldn’t be considered under-the-radar at all, but his success this season is still surprising and downright impressive.
Alfred Morris – RG3 has been the darling of the fantasy world as a breakout rookie star in Washington, but his teammate Morris has been punishing defenses and racking up points on the ground. The 6th round draft pick out of unglamorous Florida-Atlantic University has produced numbers right on par with the highly touted star RB of this year’s draft class, Trent Richardson, a pleasant surprise for the owners who snatched him up. Again, he was not totally off the radar like Cruz, but Morris is the closest apparition to a true sleeper so far this year.
Cam Newton – Superman’s Carolina Panthers have struggled to win games in 2012, and the rising star QB is largely responsible. His offensive production isn’t bad per se, but it’s a departure from what we saw in his rookie season last year. He has thrown just 4 TD passes, and only gained 209 yards on the ground – relatively low numbers for a guy often pegged to be a human highlight reel. Right now, he is only worth the effort in 2 QB formats and deeper leagues.
Chris Johnson – CJ2K’s owners sound like a broken record with his frustrating performances to date. The former rushing champ isn’t doing anything right. Plus, Tennessee’s run blocking gives him no help, and the team falling behind early in games has meant a focus on the air game trying to play catch up, limiting his touches. Johnson is far and away the biggest disappointment among prominent players who haven’t lost time to injury like Hakeem Nicks or Aaron Hernandez.
LeSean McCoy – Before the season, many experts pegged the Eagles’ dynamic starter as a top 5 RB, but he has struggled to find the endzone, managing just 1 rushing TD so far. The Eagles have been a fantasy nightmare this year, with fumble problems, limited scoring, and plenty of inconsistency. McCoy has a couple of 100 yard games, but until the team dials it up and he starts scoring consistently, consider him a bust given the lofty expectations.
Antonio Gates – With the exception of Malcom Floyd, Chargers QB Philip Rivers hasn’t really clicked with any of his receivers this year, leading to his team ranking 19th overall in pass offense through Week 5. The big TE Gates has only totaled 143 yards in his first 4 games, and has failed to score any touchdowns. With limited depth in the tight end position across the league, Gates’ owners have to be disappointed with one of the elite options failing to deliver.
Andre Johnson – The Houston Texans have jumped out to a 5-0 start, but they have been beating sub-500 teams and their star WR isn’t even leading the team in targets. Things don’t seem quite aligned for Johnson, and he has been a non-factor in some games so far this season. Increased attention from opposing CBs and some dropped passes have brought his value down. He is still a touchdown threat, but owners are still waiting for the player they saw last year return.