While many publications are destined to unleash such sleepers as Demaryius Thomas and Jared Cook this season in order to play it safe, we’re focusing on the more obscure names or players people are simply not talking enough about. After all, you guys are the best of the best in terms of dynasty coaches and you want something different.
While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, we figure there’s more value in looking more closely at the deeper prospects. We invite you to keep an open mind and consider adding a few of these players we focus on this Summer – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.
Early Doucet, WR ARI
Age: 26 (10/28/85)
Early Doucet will be entering his fifth year as a pro after being drafted out of LSU in 2008. There’s little question that both the Arizona Cardinals, as well as Doucet’s fantasy owners, expected greater production than he has provided thus far in his short career. Given recent changes to the receiving corps in Arizona, 2012 may just be his make or break season.
Are there reasons to be optimistic about his prospects?
Following the departure of Anquan Boldin in 2010, Doucet was a popular sleeper candidate as the expectation was that he would be the prime benefactor to Q’s absence from the offense. To say what followed was a disappointment for all involved is an understatement as he could only muster a line of 26/291/1. From 2008-2011, Doucet played in 26 games amassing a total line of only 57/595/2.
Returning from an injury that limited his production in 2010, many questions remained as to Doucet’s ability to stick on the roster in 2011, let alone return as a starter. To his credit, Doucet not only played all 16 games in 2011, but nearly surpassed all previous years of production by notching a line of 54/689/5. Also notable in 2011 was his highest yards per catch average (YPCA) of 12.8, with 64.8% of those receptions resulting in a first down. He converted on 55.7% of his targets in 2011, a lower percentage likely due to erratic quarterback play.
Starting across from perennial all-pro Larry Fitzgerald should yield constant single coverage and open space to work. Doucet was able to hold off fellow receivers Andre Roberts and Stephen Williams for that honor in most situations and his numbers rose accordingly. Fantasy production-wise in 2011, Doucet was at (or near) WR41 in PPR leagues and WR38 in non-PPR formats.
So, what can we expect in 2012?
Before the draft, rumors were spreading that Doucet was on the trade block, fueling expectations that Arizona was eyeing a big named receiver in the draft. True to those rumors, the Cardinals selected receiver Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame with their first selection in the first round, immediately casting doubt on all Cardinal receivers not named Fitzgerald. But as of this writing, Early Doucet remains a Cardinal. Floyd is almost certain to start as a rookie as the WR2 in Arizona, relegating the trio of Doucet, Roberts and Williams to vie for three receiver set duties.
The size of both Fitzgerald and Floyd will cause significant matchup concerns for opposing defenses. This should allow for production from a tough receiver who can work the middle of the field and occasionally in the seams – Doucet is just this type of player. At 6′ and 212 pounds, he is a slightly smaller version of Anquan Boldin with excellent toughness and sneaky quickness. As long as Arizona’s quarterback play can retain a level of consistency, we believe there can be enough balls to go around to provide for an even greater performance in 2012.
Doucet’s upside will most certainly be limited and he likely won’t surpass 75 receptions. However, due to the other pieces in play within the offense, it’s very possible for a greater conversion rate not only from his targets, but also in touchdown production. Many offenses can turn productive third receivers into productive fantasy players. Third receivers like Mario Manningham and Jordy Nelson are good examples of what can be achieved when the situation and environment is right.
For the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, we believe Early Doucet is a realistic sleeper candidate.
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