Fantasy Football's 10 Best Sleepers Heading into Week 6
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA
With Week 6 of the NFL season rapidly approaching, injuries, inconsistency and bye weeks have decimated lineups. That’s where these fantasy sleepers come in. These are the answers to the problems the fantasy gods have stricken you with.
Let me make this clear, predicting fantasy sleepers is an excruciating task. For all the research that goes into the selections, at the end of day they are nothing more than blind leaps of faith; regardless of how delectable a matchup might appear, there are never any guarantees.
Still, as you’ll soon see, each and every guy on this list has certain things going for him. Not everyone will agree with every player on the list, and that’s perfectly fine. As long as you find that one player you need, I’ve done my job and you’re welcome.
As always, these predictions are nothing more than guidelines, guidelines that you’re free to follow or turn down. This is your team, and if you don’t feel like you need the help, roll with your gut.
That being said, you’re here, so that means you probably have a few questions you need answered. So without further ado, here are the top-10 fantasy sleepers for the NFL’s Week 6.
P.S. This first one's a doozy.
QB Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
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That being said, Henne can—and probably will—have a big game on Sunday.
Do we expect the Broncos to come roaring out of the gate? Yes. Do we expect the Jaguars to have to try to throw themselves back into the game? That’s a yes as well.
It’s simple math: the more the Broncos score, the more Henne will have to throw. Believe it or not, the Jaguars actually have a pretty decent crop of receivers, and the Broncos haven’t shown the ability to stop quarterbacks on defense, as they are giving up the seventh most fantasy points to quarterbacks per game this season.
Whether Henne scores early or late, it doesn’t matter. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to air it out, and I expect his receivers to make some plays. I’m not saying to expect anything crazy out of Henne, but if you’re desperate, there are worse options.
If you have players on a bye this week (here’s looking at you Matt Ryan owners), Henne is a more than serviceable start. He’s high-end QB2 for me this week. The garbage time potential is just too good to pass up.
QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
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Has Joe Flacco done much this year? No, not yet. Should Baltimore Ravens fans be worried about this? Maybe they should, actually. But will his fantasy struggles continue against the Green Bay Packers? That, ladies and gentlemen, is a resounding no.
I don’t expect him to win this game, but quite frankly, who cares? This is fantasy football, and in terms of fantasy football, he has all the ingredients in stock to produce a big game.
While the Packers' defense had been getting better, missing Clay Matthews for the next few weeks is bound to hurt. You don’t lose your best defensive player and not skip a beat. Without Matthews to worry about, Flacco should have a little extra time to step up in the pocket and find his receivers down the field.
Is this a risky play? Definitely. Flacco has not produced like a star this year at all. But if you’re in a bind this week and absolutely need a quarterback, you’ll come away happy.
I think in his efforts to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Flacco throws, throws some more and then, just for the fun of it, throws it a little more. It’s going to be a shootout, folks, and I love shootouts when they’re fantasy related.
Green Bay has given up the ninth most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, and that’s right where I think Flacco ends up this week. He’s a borderline top-10 play for me, and if you need him, you have my blessing.
RB Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
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This is the riskiest pick on the list, by far.
Now that we got that out of the way, with Pierre Thomas coming off his most impressive game of the season, I see no reason why you would expect him to slow down. Whether it be he or Darren Sproles, Drew Brees has shown a propensity to get his running backs involved in the passing game.
While there is no guarantee that Thomas, and not Sproles, will be the beneficiary this week, the fact remains that the former was on the field for 48 snaps last week and got 26 touches. Clearly, Thomas has become a part of the New Orleans Saints’ game plan.
Despite only managing 36 yards on 19 carries last week, Thomas still put up over 20 points. That’s the beauty of the Saints’ attack, and it's why, despite Brees throwing the ball 35-plus times a game, the running unit can never be discredited. Whether it be on the ground or through the air, they will make an impact.
I wouldn’t look at the New England Patriots defensive numbers when making your case to start Thomas. Sure, they’ve given up the 12th fewest points on the ground, but we’ve already discussed how different of a role the Saints’ running backs play.
Thomas is a fairly safe flex play this week, if you need it. Plenty of points should be scored in this game, and I expect Thomas to be the one that puts some of them up.
RB Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
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I’m all in on Danny Woodhead this week, next week and maybe even for the rest of the season.
Look, I can’t say I’m surprised to see Ryan Matthews sidelined with another injury. The only guarantees in life are death, taxes and Matthews getting hurt, in that order.
What I can say, though, is that Woodhead is the big winner here. I’m not just saying start Woodhead this week; I’m saying expect a top-10 running back performance this week.
Blah, blah, blah, the Indianapolis Colts are the sixth strongest team in the league against the run. I encourage you to once again look at the last slide. The same principals that apply for Thomas apply for Woodhead as well. The key difference? Woodhead has nobody to share the ball with.
While he wasn’t able to muster much on the ground, Woodhead more than made up for his lack of rushing yards with nine catches for 58 yards, as well as running in a touchdown.
The Colts are certainly a good team, but the San Diego Chargers’ offense can be potent when it starts clicking. With Robert Mathis sure to be in Philip Rivers’ face all day, I expect dump-offs galore for Woodhead. And I expect him to bust a few big ones with those.
Woodhead is absolutely a top-10 play for me this week.
RB DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
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I swore to myself that I had turned my back on DeAngelo Williams for good. And I really thought I meant it this time.
But alas, here I am, and here Williams is, once again doing just enough to get back in my good graces.
Let me say this, and I can’t stress it enough: the Carolina Panthers need to run the football. Their passing game is broken right now. Cam Newton actually looks to have regressed in the last few weeks. Greg Olsen has been fine, but Steve Smith looks like a shell of his former self.
If they hope to have any chance of winning this game against the Minnesota Vikings, they’re going to have to pound the football with Williams. With Jonathan Stewart out for at least another couple weeks, Williams is the best options the Panthers have to spark their offense.
Although he has yet to score a touchdown this season, Williams has amassed a decent chunk of yardage. And with the Vikings boasting the third-worst fantasy defense against running backs, I expect Williams to continue to produce.
He’s a low-end RB2 for me this week, and a strong flex play if you have options. I think he will finally pick up his first touchdown of the season and put together a top-20 performance.
WR Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Wait, what? Vincent Jackson? In a fantasy sleepers column? Yes, that’s exactly what this is.
To this point in the season, Jackson has been a star only by name. He’s yet to find the end zone and has amassed only 292 yards in four games. In fact, he might be more asleep than the rest of the guys on this list.
But this is true no more. Not against what I like to call the "givers of fantasy points," the Philadelphia Eagles. Even with Mike Glennon at quarterback, things are looking up for Jackson. He was able to use the bye week to nurse his injured rib, and he undoubtedly used the time to acclimate himself with Glennon.
You most likely drafted Jackson to be either your No. 1 or 2 receiver, and so far, he hasn’t been that. You’re frustrated with him; I get it. We both know you’re not giving up on him, though, especially not this week with so much going for him. The Eagles have allowed the most points to wide receivers this year.
Slot Jackson in his normal No. 1 receiver slot this week and watch him produce as such. The matchup is just far too good to pass up. I expect him to not only pass the 100-yard benchmark this week, but to corral his first score as well.
WR Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
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In case you didn’t hear, Justin Blackmon came back from his four-game suspension last week, and he came back with a bang. He’s here, boys and girls, and he’s here to stay.
I know what the spread is for the Jaguars and the Broncos. This is arguably the most mismatched game in NFL history. That doesn’t mean Blackmon doesn’t have value, though. In fact, he’s oozing value in this one.
Right after death, taxes and Ryan Matthews getting hurt comes the next undeniable life truth: the Denver Broncos are going to score a lot of points. This means the Jaguars’ running game will be virtually non-existent (and in other news, the sky is blue).
With Henne taking the reins from the comically bad Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars’ receivers actually hold a fair amount of value. The Jaguars are going to go down by a lot of points, and Henne will valiantly try to throw them back in.
We saw what Blackmon did last week, and there’s no reason to think he can’t replicate that performance against the Broncos’ appalling pass defense, which is the third worst in the league.
That’s the beauty of fantasy football. As little impact as Blackmon’s production will ultimately do in the actual game, the fantasy implications are through the roof.
He’s a strong WR2 for me this week, and I expect top-15 numbers out of him.
WR Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens
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If you’re in a really deep league and are in desperate need of wide receiver help this week, Marlon Brown is your guy.
I’ve already stated in the Flacco slide that I expect this game to turn into a shootout. While the Packers’ secondary is improving, the fact remains that they’ve given up a lot of points to wide receivers this year—the sixth most in the league to be exact.
While Brown has been limited in practice this week, he’ll be good to go on Sunday. The Packers will no doubt focus on stopping Ray Rice and Torrey Smith, so Brown will be the guy that Flacco looks to in a pinch.
He has big-play potential every time he steps on the field, and with the Packers being so susceptible to the pass, I expect Brown to make them pay.
He’s a low-end flex play for me this week with the potential to have a bigger week than anyone could ever expect. As usual, if you’re in need and he’s available, pull the trigger.
TE Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
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Graham has shown a knack for finding the end zone, scoring three touchdowns in limited opportunities behind Daniels. With Daniels now out of the equation, those limited opportunities should drastically increase. Schaub needs a security blanket to snap out of his funk, and I believe Graham can be that guy.
The Texans have a lot of weapons that must be accounted for, and Graham will be the one that will have to help open things up. He’ll be targeted a lot, and he has the talent to make things happen.
I have him as a TE1 this week, and while he won’t put up the same crazy numbers as that other Graham guy, he should do more than enough to make his fantasy owners happy.
Carolina Panthers Defense
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I’m a firm believer in the weekly defense swap strategy. Drafting a defense early makes absolutely no sense to me, as each week you can easily find someone on the waiver wire that is a playing a team with serious issues.
This week that defense is the Panthers. The Vikings are a team in absolute flux. They have three quarterbacks on their team, and it’s quite possible that none of them are NFL-starter caliber. Matt Cassel will be getting the start this week, and while he looked decent in Week 4, this is not a good matchup for him.
The Carolina defense has proven to be surprisingly good this year, and I expect them to continue that trend. While stopping Adrian Peterson is an unenviable task, stopping Cassel is not. The potential for him finding a member of the Panthers’ secondary is high, and his immobility in the pocket should feed that.
The Panthers will force a few turnovers and pick up a few sacks and that will be enough to make them a top-10 unit this week. If you have a ticket to the defense carousel like me, this is as good a stop as any.