Ranking the 10 Best Sleepers Heading into Fantasy Football's 3rd Week
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Sometimes in fantasy football, more is required than just the players you picked up in your sensational draft. Identifying the top sleepers that can help contribute to your team can be the difference between winning or losing by five points.
Finding those sleepers is easier said than done, though, and oftentimes it’s the guys that we’d never have thought to start that end up being the surprises of the week.
What follows are 10 players who aren’t shoe-in starters that I expect to put up starter-type production. Some are more obvious than others, but the fact remains that they’re not being played in nearly enough leagues.
Whether it be a favorable matchup, new opportunities presenting themselves or a past track record overcoming a slow start, I expect each name on this list to play a big role in the fantasy football world this week, some even huge roles.
As always, though, it’s your team, so don’t feel obligated to start anyone solely because they’re on the list. If you feel you have better options, than by all means, play them. If you don’t, however, opting to roll with one of these sleepers could pay big dividends.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 sleepers going into Week 3.
All stats courtesy of yahoosports.com.
Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
Quick, who has scored the third most fantasy points overall this season? If you said Philip Rivers, you would be correct. Regardless of what his past track record might suggest, how he’s only owned in 59 percent of leagues is beyond me. After all, he's only a few years removed from being a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback and picking apart defenses like in the video above.
Obviously it’s tough to put his game against the Philadelphia Eagles into the proper context because they not only have a lackluster defense, but because the pace at which they play allowed him to get the ball far more than he would on average.
His game against the Houston Texans, however, a game in which he scored 32 fantasy points, is one that is far more revealing. The Texans came into the season boasting what many thought was a top-five overall defense. For one half of football, Rivers shredded them. Sure, he didn’t do anything in the second half, but who cares? This is fantasy, not real football, and his work was already done.
In terms of difficulty, Rivers’ matchup this week falls somewhere between the Texans and the Eagles. The Tennessee Titans boast the 15th ranked passing defense in the league, or in other words, about as average as they come. While another 30-point game might be a stretch, the 20 to 22 range seems perfectly doable.
He’s a low-end QB1 for me this week.
Andy Dalton, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
This is a matchup that should have fantasy owners salivating, yet he’s only being started in 11 percent of fantasy leagues this week.
The Green Bay Packers rank near the bottom of passing defenses, giving up the fourth most fantasy points to quarterbacks so far this season. With Andy Dalton boasting A.J. Green in his receiving corps, it’s just about as close to a sure thing as you’ll ever find. Check out the video above to see just how dynamic a combination they really are.
The Packers will put up points in bunches. When that happens, expect the Cincinnati Bengals’ running game to become non-existent, forcing Dalton to throw more than he has all season.
I expect at least 300 yards passing and two touchdowns in this game for Dalton, numbers that would make him a decent low-end QB1 and a great QB2 in two quarterback leagues. He’s a top-10 quarterback play for me this week.
Joique Bell, Running Back, Detroit Lions
In terms of matchups, Bell has as about delectable an opponent as he’ll ever find. The Washington Redskins defense has been exposed as, well, nothing. They’ve given up the third most fantasy points to running backs this season, so it should come as no surprise that I expect Bell to crack the 10-point barrier.
Although Bush did not practice, he said Thursday that he expects to play this week, via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Even if he does, he will be limited and Bell will be the one picking up the slack.
When you factor in his abilities as a receiver out of the backfield and the fact that he’s received the goal-line touches early on this season, the 10-point benchmark might actually be a bit low for Bell. He’s a strong flex play for me this week, and if need be, he can function as your RB2. Check out his highlights above if you need a bit more persuasion.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Running Back, Atlanta Falcons
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While Rodgers has been non-existent so far in fantasy—amassing just four points in two weeks—the uptick in opportunity should amount to an uptick in productivity. Although he will most likely share some of the workload with Jason Snelling, there should be more than enough work to go around.
The matchup against the Miami Dolphins is an intriguing one as they rank 13th in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs this season. Fantasy owners shouldn’t worry, though, because Rodgers’ abilities as a receiver should help pad his stats if the rushing yards aren’t there.
While I’m not expecting anything crazy out of Rodgers, he’s a decent low-end flex play if your team is short on running backs. He should be good for seven to eight points based on increased opportunities alone.
Knowshon Moreno, Running Back, Denver Broncos
Before Ryan Clady was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, via Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports, I liked Knowshon Moreno as a decent flex play against the Oakland Raiders. Now I love him as a strong RB2 this week.
With Montee Ball having shown his ineptitude as a blocker on passing downs, Moreno should see the field more than at any point this season. Just like it was with Rodgers, more opportunities for Moreno will undoubtedly mean more points for the owners that start him.
While the Raiders have proven to be surprisingly staunch against the run this season, clocking in as the second best defense so far in this category, Moreno’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield should easily overcome the Raiders’ run defense. Peyton Manning will no doubt target him multiple times throughout the course of the game.
Moreno is coming off of a dominant fantasy performance against the New York Giants last week, piling up 22.70 points in the victory. While the two touchdowns he collected aren’t likely to happen again, 15 points seems like a safe benchmark given his abilities and his current favorable situation.
I like him as a top-15 back this week, easily good enough to function as your RB2, especially if he produces magic like he did in his Georgia days in the video above.
Eric Decker, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
Eric Decker has been surprisingly quiet so far this season, amassing only 11 points to this point. I expect him to at least double that number by the end of his game against the Raiders.
Decker caught nine balls last week for 87 yards against the Giants and was targeted 13 times by Manning. While the yards per catch aren’t anything special, the fact that Manning is looking for him constantly is good news for his owners.
With Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker attracting so much attention from opposing defenses, Decker should find himself in a plethora of favorable matchups. The fact that he put up 167 yards and a touchdown last season against the Raiders doesn’t hurt either.
Anyone who drafted Decker to be their WR2 this season should feel confident about their selection in this game. Expect Decker to announce his arrival to the fantasy party in a big way this week, adding to the highlights from the video above.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
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Kenbrell Thompkins probably had the highest expectations going into a fantasy season than any other undrafted rookie. So far, he hasn’t lived up to the hype. I believe that changes this week.
With Rob Gronkowski expected to sit out of the New England Patriots’ Week 3 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, via Ryan Wilson of cbssports.com, this could be the last big chance for Thompkins to prove to Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick that he can be a big part of the offense.
With Danny Amendola also set to miss out on the action, Thompkins and Julian Edelman will represent the majority of Tom Brady’s receiving options. The beauty of Tom Brady, though, is that he has a habit of making marginal players great. That bodes well for Thompkins.
Although he faces a staunch Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary this week, he will receive a lot of looks from Brady. If he’s able to convert a few of those passes into big gains, a decent fantasy performance is in store. For teams low on receivers, Thompkins is a serviceable flex play this week.
I expect him to find the end zone for the first time this season and to top the 10-point benchmark this week. If you have him on your team, don’t give up on him just yet. You’ll be rewarded with a strong performance from the rookie.
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Michael Floyd is on this list for one reason, and one reason alone: He’s playing Drew Brees and the prolific New Orleans Saints offense. While the Saints haven’t scored at the pace we expect from them yet, Brees is just too good of a quarterback to expect anything less each week.
Should this be the case, Carson Palmer will need to resort to matching Brees throw for throw in a high scoring, gun-slinging affair. We know Larry Fitzgerald will get his because, well, he’s Larry Fitzgerald. There will be plenty of offense to go around for Floyd too, though.
I expect Palmer to throw the ball at least 35 times this week, maybe even into the 40s. That means Floyd should receive a good amount of targets. With the Saints secondary being nothing to write home about, Floyd should be able to find numerous opportunities to make plays.
I see Floyd as a strong flex play with the potential to be a top-20 receiver this week. The yards should be there in bunches, and if he’s able to find the end zone, a mammoth fantasy score could be in store. If you have him, start him, especially if he's making plays like the ones seen above.
Brandon Pettigrew, Tight End, Detroit Lions
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If you’re like me, tight end wasn’t a top priority in your fantasy draft. Even if it wasn’t, Brandon Pettigrew probably didn’t find a spot on your team because, quite frankly, he hasn’t deserved it. His paltry fantasy output of 1.8 points so far this season is borderline awful. Why is he on this list then?
The Washington Redskins defense is awful.
It’s no secret that Matthew Stafford loves throwing the ball. It’s also no secret that Pettigrew plays on the same team as the most prolific receiver in the league. Those are pluses in my book. The extra attention that Calvin Johnson receives will leave Pettigrew with ample opportunity to succeed.
The Redskins have allowed the 9th most points to tight ends so far this season, and I don’t see that number improving. They simply can’t defend the middle of the field, the area in which Pettigrew most frequently finds himself.
Pettigrew must do a better job of fighting for the football in order to warrant this spot on the list, an issue which head coach Jim Schwartz alluded to early this week, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press:
Tight ends, there’s always going to be contact and (on) a lot of those balls there was contact. Guys are jostling for position, they’re getting hands on the ball. But our guy’s got to be stronger than their guy when it comes to that.
Pettigrew obviously knows that as well and I expect that he doubles his efforts because of those comments. He was on the field for 55 of the 58 plays the Detroit Lions ran last week, so playing time will not be an issue in this one. I have Pettigrew as a low-end TE1 this week. The Redskins defense really is that bad.
Minnesota Vikings Defense
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Trent Richardson traded to the Indianapolis Colts: check. Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback: check. The Cleveland Browns have given up the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing defenses this season: check.
Honestly, what’s not to love in this matchup? Even with the Seattle Seahawks playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, I see Minnesota being the highest scoring defense this week. This is simply a case of everything that could go right for them, did.
For some strange reason that I cannot explain, they’re currently only owned in 57 percent of leagues this week. Ludicrous. If you’re in one of those leagues, pick them up, put them in your starting lineup and watch as the points pile up.
There’s simply no scenario in which I see this defense not scoring in the upper double-digits.