(1.) Demaryius Thomas WR Denver
Thomas is entering his third season for the Denver Broncos. He has battled injuries for parts of his first two seasons and has missed a total of 11 games. Last season Thomas had just 32 catches for 551 yards, but as the year went on he started to show signs of why the Broncos took him with the 22nd overall selection in the 2010 draft. He had two 100-yard games late in the season and in the AFC Wild Card game against the Steelers Thomas caught 4 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, including the game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of overtime. Thomas also has a new quarterback in Peyton Manning, who we all know is a definite upgrade from Tim Tebow. Manning is coming off of several knee surgeries but has reportedly been doing much better and throwing the ball well. I like Thomas as a top 20 fantasy WR this year.
(2.) Robert Meachem WR San Diego
Meachem signed a 4-year deal with the Chargers about a month ago on March 13. In five years with the Saints, Meachem has shown signs of becoming a star but his playing time has been very inconsistent. Drew Brees also loves to spread the ball around and it was very difficult to predict when Meachem would have a good fantasy week. His best season came in 2009 when he caught 45 balls for 722 yards and 9 scores. Meachem should be able to improve on that now that he is with San Diego, who recently lost star receiver Vincent Jackson to the Buccaneers in free agency. The playing time and targets should improve and Meachem still has a star quarterback in Philip Rivers. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to expect 1,000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns from Meachem in 2012.
(3.) Jake Locker QB Tennessee
Locker got limited action last year as a rookie as Matt Hasselbeck held him off in camp for the starting job. But when Locker got his shot, he produced. In five games of action he had a passer rating of 99.4, showing off his versatility and rocket arm in the process. His most impressive game came against New Orleans in week 13 as Locker completed 13 of 29 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown as well as 6 carries for 36 yards and another score. With his best receiver Kenny Britt coming back from an MCL and ACL tear paired with the emergence of tight end Jared Cook, he should be in for a big year. I expect Locker to win the starting job this year and show everyone why the Titans made him the 8th overall pick in the draft a year ago. I think Locker has the potential to be a average #2 QB in 12 team leagues with lots of upside.
(4.) Shane Vereen RB New England
One of the most frustrating things in fantasy football the past couple years has been trying to figure out the New England Patriots backfield. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead on the team a year ago, I was confused as to why the Patriots drafted both Vereen in the second round and Stevan Ridley in the third round. But now that Green-Ellis, who was the leading rusher a year ago, has left in free agency it is time for Vereen and Ridley to step up. Ridley got more playing time a year ago because Vereen could not stay healthy, but I expect Vereen to emerge as the player to own in the Patriots backfield this season. Both should contribute, but I like Vereen to get most of the work because of his explosiveness and superior receiving skills, a necessity in an offense that loves to throw the ball.
(5.) Matt Flynn QB Seattle
I was very interested to see where Flynn would end up this offseason. As a St. Louis Rams fan, Seattle was probably the last place that I wanted to see him go. Yes, Flynn has only played in 34 games and has just two starts, but he has showed that he deserves to be given a shot to start in the NFL in the limited action he has gotten. Flynn has a career passer rating of 92.8 and in his only start last year he threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns. It will obviously be difficult to continue to have games like that, but I believe Flynn will be a solid #2 fantasy quarterback in 12 team leagues. He plays in a relatively weak division, has a solid running game, and even a decent group of receivers that include Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, Golden Tate, and Zach Miller.