Sporting Charts

10 NFL Players Who Could Breakout In 2012

A huge part of succeeding in fantasy football is anticipating the next big thing. Sometimes it simply comes down to weekly anticipation, and filling holes from week-to-week based off of injuries on your roster, as well as picking up hot players.

But before you get to the in-season moves, you study for months to properly gauge those fantasy sleepers that could breakout when the year strikes.

Last season the big breakout kings were Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Matthew Stafford, and Jimmy Graham, just to name a few.

Here's our take on 10 guys who have a great chance at busting out in a big way in 2012 (rookies excluded):

Note: Players that qualify for this list either were on the verge of breaking out last year, or have not broken out at all yet in their careers.

Matt Flynn, QB, Seattle Seahawks

No longer Aaron Rodgers' clipboard holder, Flynn could be on the verge of stardom in Seattle. If he gets a healthy Sidney Rice and Zach Miller in 2012, he'll have the weapons and the familiar offense to show that those glimpses of greatness in Green Bay were foreshadowing, and not flukes.

Remember that 480-yard and six-touchdown game against the Lions last year in week 17? Well, you probably can't hope for that consistently (or ever again), but at the worst it shows his untapped potential. Flynn has shown he has the football IQ, tools, and pocket presence to take the next step. Working in a offense in Seattle similar to what he was accustomed to in Green Bay, he has a realistic chance at exploding in 2012.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Make it three straight years that Kolb has been a sleeper or breakout candidate. I know he's a 50/50 shot, but sometimes you have to take a risk on draft day. The nice part, at least, is you'll be able to get him late.

His 2011 numbers are uninspiring (9 touchdowns to 8 picks), but he deserves a mulligan for several reasons. First, he had a lot of pressure coming his way in two ways - one because of a huge contract, and the other because of a leaky offensive line. Don't believe me? Kolb got sacked an insane 30 times in just nine starts in 2011. That's an average of nearly three sacks per game!

Average it out the rest of the year, and Kolb would have hit the grass a whopping 53.33 times. No wonder the guy succumbed to foot and head injuries and missed seven games.

Still, with everything seemingly against him, Kolb is still a talented passer that flashed nice fantasy potential early in the year. Oh, and he has a guy named Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. Add in impressive rookie wide receiver Michael Floyd and a solid rushing attack, and I like Kolb's chances to finally take off in 2012 (provided he can stay healthy).

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Murray already kind of broke out in 2011, his rookie season. But I get the feeling we haven't seen anything yet.

Prior to going down with a broken ankle, Murray racked up over 800 rushing yards and two touchdowns in just 13 games (eight starts). And if you go off of just his starts, he actually still boasts over 800 rushing yards. Average that out over a full season, and you're looking at an incredible 1,600 rushing yards.

If Murray can stay healthy and keep up anything close to that pace, he'll undoubtedly be a fantasy gem in 2012. And if you're worried about backup Felix Jones cutting into his production, don't be. Jones has played more than 14 games just once in his career and is a constant injury concern.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins

There's definitely reason to be skeptical of Helu. He hasn't necessarily proven he's an elite talent at the NFL level, and he plays in a traditional RBBC (Running back by committee) system under Mike Shanahan. At least, that's what most will be thinking.

The fact is, Helu flashed some really nice potential as a rookie in 2011, as he put up over 1,000 total yards, despite only have 39 total touches going into week nine.

The great part is, once week nine hit, he ripped off 14 catches and amassed 146 total yards, before piling on three straight 100+ yard games between weeks 12-14. The 20+ carries between weeks 12-15 were encouraging, as well.

If his talent and production to end the year wasn't enticing enough, consider his lack of legit competition entering the new season. Tim Hightower isn't coming back, and unproven Evan Royster is the only other back officially on the roster. With rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III taking over under center, look for Helu to have a solid rushing load and a big role as a receiver out of the back-field.

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Here's another Cowboy that could bust out in a huge way. We all know the Cowboys' offense is potent, but we also know that Bryant hasn't come anywhere near his true potential.

Bryant was on the verge of busting out last year, but ended with just 928 receiving yards, while racking up nine touchdowns. The beautiful part was he actually played a lot of 2011 hurt, and even missed a contest.

With big-play threat Laurent Robinson gone to Jacksonville, Tony Romo will have to look Bryant's way even more in 2012, which should lead to even better stats.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

The yardage was there for Brown in Pittsburgh in 2011. In 2012, the receptions and touchdowns will show up, too.

Brown posted an impressive 16.1 yards per catch last year, and topped 1,100 yards on just 69 receptions. With Hines Ward retired, he has a great chance to go after 80+ receptions, and should be much more active in the red-zone.

With his play-making ability and increased role next year, Brown carries major breakout potential.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

Some will say Tim Tebow held Demaryius Thomas from realizing his true potential last year. Perhaps that's true. But one thing is for certain: Peyton Manning definitely won't be the reason Thomas doesn't blow up in 2012.

If Thomas could rattle off 551 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games with a quarterback who completed under 50% of his passes, just imagine what he might be able to do with a future Hall of Famer tossing him passes. Thomas has great size and speed, and looks to really take off in a completely different offense in 2012.

Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings

It's debatable whether or not he's a true number one receiver (which he pretty much is in Minnesota), but what's not up for argument is his elite talent and explosive play-making.

The big questions are whether or not Christian Ponder will hold him back, and if Harvin can finally stay healthy and get more consistent. In 2012, I think he can.

Ponder may struggle with turnovers and pocket presence, but he isn't afraid to look down the field and go after his top guy. Harvin has upped his receptions and yardage in three straight seasons, so it's only natural to assume he keeps ascending going into next season.

Robert Meachem, WR, San Diego Chargers

With Marques Colston leading the charge for years and the Saints spreading the rock around like green beans at Thanksgiving, Meachem was a talent that went untapped. In San Diego, that is about to change.

Meachem has good size and big-time speed, and should fit comfortably into the number spot with the Chargers, where he'll have Philip Rivers slinging him deep balls.

With Colston out for the first three weeks in 2011, Meachem held a spot in the starting lineup and registered 14 receptions, 131 yards, and three scores. Average that out over the final 13 weeks, and Meachem could have been looking at about 74 receptions, 698 yards, and 16 touchdowns.

All of those stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, however, as Meachem would have been likely to keep up the torrid pace of one touchdown per game. His big-play ability also wouldn't have had him averaging under 10 yards per catch on the year.

Regardless, Meachem walks into San Diego as the top option and takes over Vincent Jackson's old role, which could easily translate into huge fantasy numbers.

Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans

Like Kevin Kolb, this is Cook's third year of sleeper/breakout status, and it's about time he finally lives up to his potential. Like Jimmy Graham before him, I think Cook has the size, talent, and potential role to do exactly that.

It took him forever to get going, but in both 2010 and 2011, Cook flashed his amazing potential down the stretch. But it was last year where he really showed everyone that he could be on the verge of becoming a special tight end.

Cook ended the year with 759 yards off of just 49 receptions, while bringing in four touchdowns. But the impressive part was that over half of his receptions and yardage came in his final five games. And keep in mind, all of his production came in just 14 games.

If Cook can finally put it all together in 2012, he could have his first true breakout season.

Do you think we missed a player in our list? Let us know in the comments below!