Through four weeks of NFL action, one fact of fantasy football remains true—sleepers can make or break a week for fantasy owners.
Owners able to predict which sleeper will break out often end up winning, while owners making the wrong decision often wind up in the loss column after receiving little help from their chosen sleeper.
Look at Minnesota's Jerome Simpson. The supposed No. 3 receiver behind Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, Simpson once again exploded last week as the highest-targeted option and caught seven passes for 124 yards.
An ability to predict that kind of output separates the best owners from the rest. With that in mind, here are three under-the-radar options in Week 5 to start with solid, albeit unexpected, production on the way.
Brian Hoyer, QB, Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills
There is no longer a quarterback controversy in Cleveland now that backup Brian Hoyer has led the Browns to consecutive victories with Brandon Weeden sidelined.
A bit of a deep sleeper, Hoyer has been sound in his production despite the lack of apparent talent around him.
Hoyer threw for 321 yards and three scores two weeks ago before his 269 yards and two touchdowns last week. With an elite weapon like tight end Jordan Cameron to throw to, Hoyer is a smart play given the right matchup.
This week represents the right matchup for Hoyer against Buffalo, a team that allows 277 yards through the air per game. Though Buffalo did intercept Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco five times in Week 5, the Bills are banged up on defense and hit the road on a short week.
While not a starter each week, Hoyer is a smart play in Week 5. His stock continues to rise and Buffalo is becoming increasingly thin on defense, not to mention the injuries to running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers
Shocker alert—Oakland running back Darren McFadden is injured.
According to Jerry McDonald of the Contra Costa Times, the Raiders are unsure when McFadden will return after he sustained a hamstring injury in the first quarter of their Week 4 matchup with the Washington Redskins.
To make matters worse for Oakland, Marcel Reece suffered a knee injury and will miss time as well, per McDonald.
In the world of fake football, this opens up things for backup Rashad Jennings. Last week with both McFadden and Reece out of the picture, Jennings touched the ball 23 times and racked up 116 total yards. And that was with an ineffective Matt Flynn at the helm.
Twenty or more touches equate to a quality fantasy output for the majority of running backs, and Jennings clearly fits into that role. Even better for Jennings, San Diego allows over 120 rushing yards per game, and there's a decent chance Terrelle Pryor suits up for this matchup after he passed concussion tests in Week 4 but sat out for precautionary reasons.
It may not last longer than a few weeks, but Jennings is now a fantasy starter.
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
At this point it does not matter who is under center for Tennessee—Nate Washington is once again the go-to receiver in the offense.
In Week 4, Washington caught a four-yard touchdown from Jake Locker, but the quarterback later left the game with a hip injury, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Despite the concern for Locker, his absence was no big deal for Washington, who turned around and hauled in a 77-yard touchdown from backup Ryan Fitzpatrick later in the game.
Through four games, Washington has 332 yards and two scores. As the focal point of the attack, Washington may encounter a difficult time against a stout Kansas City secondary, but at this point he's a No. 1 receiver, making him a quality second or third fantasy option.
Even though he's done most of his damage with Locker under center, Fitzpatrick is a serviceable backup with nine years of NFL experience under his belt. He's won his share of games, and he won't be too much of a drop-off to negatively affect a playmaker like Washington.
Washington is winning games for the Titans (3-1) through his consistent play, and he'll win fantasy matchups as well at this pace. Don't miss out.
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