We can’t come close to predicting 2012 situations. What we can do is digest what we saw in 2011 in terms of raw talent. And as I’ve preached in this space relentlessly, talent is what we need to bank on in the long run. It will eventually rise to the top.
With that theory in mind, here are 10 players that displayed elite talent in 2011. No matter what happens in the draft or free agency, they’ll likely be on a lot of my 2012 “target” lists:
1. Denarius Moore, WR, OAK — As a rookie, Moore showed the ability to get deep and make spectacular catches at an elite level. He has a quarterback willing to chuck it up and pray in Carson Palmer.
2. Jared Cook, TE, TEN — The breakout didn’t happen in 2011, but Cook finally got involved in the offense over the final month. He’s a mix of Antonio Gates and Jermichael Finley.
3. C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF — There aren’t many backs in the league that can line up effectively as a pure wideout. Spiller can, and he can make anyone miss in space.
4. Jake Locker, QB, TEN — Quarterbacks that have elite running ability and a strong arm equal fantasy beasts. Think Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers etc.
5. Roy Helu, RB, WAS — Once Helu nailed down the starting gig, he proved to be a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s one-cut scheme. Really impressive breaking through arm tackles and exploding through holes.
6. Julio Jones, WR, ATL — Jones is a better receiver right now than Roddy White. Yeah, I said it. A physical monster with elite speed, Jones can’t be stopped.
7. Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC — Bowe can’t be defended by one corner. Too big, too strong, too fast. Always jumps out off the game tape.
8. LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI — Holy cow. The cuts this guy makes are reminiscent of Barry Sanders and he solved the Eagles’ annual goal-line woes this year.