Over the past few years there have been very few Cleveland Brown wide receivers that have made much of an impact fantasy wise. Yet, that should all change during the 2012 NFL season because Greg Little is big-time sleeper with the potential to produce in a big way for fantasy football owners.
There are always a few things that go into identifying a fantasy football sleeper; one important trait is obviously talent, the second is opportunity. Little has both of these things, which is the main reason why he has such a great chance to make a big jump in terms of production in 2012.
As a rookie, Little was apart of a woeful Browns offense that ranked 30th in points scored, 29th in yards gained and 24th in passing yards. However, even though the Browns offense was easily one of the worst in the NFL, Little still put up respectable numbers in his rookie campaign, hauling in 61 receptions for 709 yards and adding two touchdowns.
It was not a great season by any stretch of the imagination but rookie wide receivers rarely produce crazy numbers in their rookie seasons, even high-profile players like Calvin Johnson, Hakeem Nicks and Greg Jennings did not eclipse 1,000 yards in their first NFL seasons, so we can hardly criticize Little for not doing so.
On the other hand, Little does share something with Johnson, Nicks and Jennings, he has the talent to be a no.1 receiver in the NFL and gets targeted as such. Even as a rookie Little was clearly the top option in the Browns passing attack as he was targeted 120 times last season. It’s true that the former North Carolina product only caught 50 percent of his targets but this is a projection and there is little reason to believe his numbers will not improve in 2012.
Even if Little doesn’t make a dramatic jump in 2012, even if the increase in his overall productivity is just slight, he will be still be a relevant fantasy option. Last season Little produced 145.4 fantasy points in point per reception formats, ranking him 48th among wide receivers. That means that he was about a 4th-5th wide receiver and a decent depth option a year ago, so with just a little improvement he can become a reliable flex option every week.
However the great thing about Little is his upside. Right now according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, Little’s average draft position in Fantasy PPR leagues is in the 11th round, a tremendous value for a player that will be at worst a solid flex option and at best a WR2.
In addition to the natural progression that can be expected from a player like Little between year one and year two, the Browns have also added some talent around Little in quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Josh Gordon that should also make things easier for the receiver to get open as defenses will have other playmakers to focus on.
With all the factors considered, if Little’s targets increase from 120 to the 140-150 range, his catch percentage increases by 5-10 percent and his yards per target increases from 5.9 to a very attainable 8.0 or above and Little would be inline for an 80-catch plus season with over 1,100 yards receiving. Now I am not saying he will reach all those numbers but it is not much of a stretch.
Even if the only thing that increased was his targets, based off last season’s numbers, Little would still produce over 70 catches and nearly 900 yards receiving, which are solid numbers for a WR3 anyway so at worst he will be a decent option every week simply because he is a high-volume player.
So if you are playing in a point per reception league this season and are looking for some great value at the wide receiver position, look no farther than Little, who has all the components for a breakout season in 2012.