Fantasy Football's 10 Best Sleepers Heading into Week 7
Fantasy football sleepers are the ultimate cavalry when your wonderfully drafted team is struck with the injury bug, hit with untimely bye weeks or not so wonderfully drafted after all.
Players have been dropping like flies this season, and backups whom some of you had never heard of before this season have all of a sudden started making guest appearances in your lineups.
Well, get ready to extend a few more invites to some more unheralded performers, because as we all know, we need them right now. Don’t worry, though, just because they’re not household names doesn’t mean they can’t play like they are.
In fact, I’m certain that the majority of the guys on this list will emerge from this week with more notoriety.
Obviously nothing is set in stone, and not everyone will meet your lofty expectations. The more you read, though, the more you’ll see that there is plenty to like.
So, as usual, if you like what you see, my seal of approval has been handed out to each guy here. If not, though, no worries—I won’t be offended, so go with your gut feeling. It is your team after all.
Enough chitchat—you’re here for sleepers, and it’s about time we get to them. Here are my top 10 sleepers for Week 7.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, Quarterback
Those who have been smart enough to start Jay Cutler the last few weeks have come away very happy. For those of you who still haven’t learned your lesson, I have one question for you:
What more do you have to see?
He has just one game this season where he’s scored less than 20 points. He has a fantastic matchup this week against the Washington Redskins, and as we’ve seen this season, he has plenty of good options. You would think he’s as natural to start as anyone else, right?
Surprisingly, he’s currently starting in fewer than 30 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, even though he’s actually been the sixth-best quarterback in fantasy this season.
I know a stigma surrounds Cutler. Some people believe his failings in the real game translate to failure in fantasy, and I understand that his petulant attitude can rubs people the wrong way.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you buy into that hogwash, you’re either blind or shouldn’t be playing fantasy football. He is a great NFL quarterback, he’s been even better in fantasy this season, and if his attitude is still the kryptonite that’s keeping you away, he’s working on that too, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com: "I think everyone changes over a period of time, Cutler said during The Jay Cutler Show on ESPN 1000. People change for the better, some for the worst. It just depends."
A guy who's putting up his numbers shouldn’t be anywhere near this list yet here he is. If you have him stashed away on your bench, you’re sitting on a gold mine. Either start him or trade him; the value being wasted isn’t doing anyone any good.
Just to be clear, he’s playing the Redskins this week. They’re currently giving up the ninth-most point in fantasy. He’s going to be a top-10 guy this week, and if he cracks the top five, well, I wouldn’t be surprised. Don’t be one of the 70 percent of owners cursing themselves for leaving him on their bench.
Just start him already.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, Quarterback
Now that we’re done ranting, it’s time to turn our attention to an actual sleeper this week: Ryan Tannehill.
I’m not going to lie: I’m not expecting anything too big out of him this week. This is for the owners who either have Drew Brees on a bye, are so desperate they've been starting Terrelle Pryor—who’s also on a bye—or drafted so unequivocally bad a top-15 quarterback is simply out of the question.
If any of that applies to you, there is a silver lining. I expect Tannehill to have a decent week and finish right around the middle of the pack, or as I like to call it, in the Alex Smith zone.
The Buffalo Bills don’t present the most dangerous of matchups, as they’ve allowed the 11th-most points to quarterbacks this season. Tannehill also has some nice options on the outside in Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, and Charles Clay is a great security blanket down the middle of the field.
He has the tools to put up numbers, and I think he'll use them just enough this week to warrant a desperation start. He’s not going to win you your week—let me make that clear—but he won’t lay a dud and lose it for you either.
He’s getting at least 15 this week, and if all goes well, he might even crack 20.
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys, Running Back
In fantasy football, I abide by a few truths. One of them is that there is always value in starting running backs, regardless of how or why they got the job.
With Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News reporting that both DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar will be out this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Joseph Randle is now the unquestioned featured back.
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys understand that having extraordinary weapons in the passing game like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten isn't always enough. The offense can fall apart if the running game isn’t keeping defenses honest.
That’s where Randle comes in.
Although he didn’t do much in terms of yardage, he found the end zone last week and put up a respectable 9.2 points after Murray went down. With more opportunities coming his way this week, he has a lot of potential just waiting for you to tap.
If you need a running back this week, check the waiver wire; he’s currently available in more than 50 percent of leagues. I have him as a strong flex play this week.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, Running Back
You can basically take the first paragraph of the last slide and insert it here. The same principles apply.
Actually, you can almost use the entire slide, to be honest. Like Randle, Brandon Jacobs was thrust into the starting role last week due to injuries decimating the New York Giants’ backfield. And also like Randle, Jacobs impressed with his touches.
The Giants are in a bad place right now, and a lot of that stems from some serious head issues with Eli Manning. He needs Jacobs to pick up the slack again, and I think he will answer the call. After all, it’s not like he’s playing a dominant defense or anything.
The Minnesota Vikings rate as the worst defense in fantasy football against the run this year, giving up the most points of any team. Jacobs had my curiosity amid all of the Giants’ injuries, but his 23-plus-point performance last week got my full attention.
According to ESPN, he’s currently owned in just 16 percent of leagues. He’s available, and if you need help, go for it. He’s a strong flex play this week.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams, Running Back
Unlike Randle and Jacobs, Zac Stacy did not earn his starting job out of necessity. He’s just better than the guys backing him up.
Just to be clear, he’s not a lot better than them, but he's still better nevertheless. He had the brunt of the work last week against the Houston Texans, playing 38 of 47 snaps. He’s the guy on passing and running downs.
The Carolina Panthers don’t represent the best matchup this week, as they’ve allowed the 11th-fewest points to running backs this season. At the same time, however, Stacy has found a way to put up 7.8 and 9.0 points in his two starts this season, and that was without finding the end zone.
Sam Bradford has been on a touchdown binge the last two weeks, but let's face it: The probability of him keeping that up isn’t high. Stacy will find the end zone sooner or later, and I’m betting on the former.
I have him as a low-end RB2 this week and a good flex play. If he finally gets that elusive touchdown, though, a big week could be in store.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, Wide Receiver
I’m not usually a big fan of boom-or-bust players, which is what T.Y. Hilton has been this season. At the same time, however, he’s playing the Denver Broncos this week, and that’s been fantasy gold for receivers so far this season.
The Broncos are putting up video game numbers this year, and that was before Jim Irsay decided to foolishly poke the bear that is Peyton Manning with these silly comments. I’m not sure what the over/under is for this game, and quite frankly, I don’t need to see it.
Take the over.
There’s going to be a lot of points to go around for both teams in this game, and despite Knowshon Moreno exploding for three touchdowns last week and the Indianapolis Colts insisting they’re sticking to their power-running game, those points are coming through the air.
It’s going to be a passing duel, and Manning and Andrew Luck are locked and loaded. All they need are their targets.
I might be getting ahead of myself here, but I’m going to eliminate the bust part of Hilton’s label. This is a dream matchup for him, and I expect him to get behind the Denver secondary quite a few times.
I feel the strongest about this prediction and have him as a high-end WR2 this week. If you have him, you’re starting him. I don’t care who else you have on your team; they don’t have a matchup this enticing.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers, Wide Receiver
If you haven’t heard of Keenan Allen yet, you’re late to the party. And apparently a lot of you like to be fashionably late, as he’s owned in just 26 percent of leagues.
The rookie wide receiver out of Cal has emerged as Philip Rivers’ favorite target the last few weeks, and based on what we’ve seen, it’s easy to see why. He runs great routes, has great hands and moves like a gazelle.
He’s no fluke.
Rivers targeted him 12 times last week, and Allen reeled in nine of those passes. He has crossed the 100-yard benchmark in each of the last two games, and he’s also managed to find the end zone in both contests as well.
The revival of Rivers has been well-documented this year, and against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I don’t see his production skipping a beat. He’s back to flinging it around the field, and Allen will be the main guy on the receiving end.
Don’t just pick him up—put him in your starting lineup. He’s the real deal and will post big numbers. If you’re smart and act quickly, you’ll be watching those numbers pop up on your phone with a nice, big smile on your face.
Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers, Wide Receiver
Before we get carried away, lets' not forget that he was an undrafted free agent who hasn’t seen the field much for a reason. He’s talented enough for the NFL, but he’s not what you’d call a supremely gifted player.
Still, opportunity often yields results, and Boykin will get a lot of opportunity. And come on, it’s Aaron freaking Rodgers throwing the ball. More times than not, that ball is going right to Boykin's hands. He’s had a case of the drops before, but he won’t drop them all, right?
The most important thing is that Rodgers trusts him, as he stated earlier this week, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:
Jarrett’s one of the smartest guys we’ve got on the football team, and he’s very sharp. He understands his role and is ready to play every week. He went four weeks without really playing at all -- one or two plays a game here and there for the most part because those three didn’t really come off the field. He was thrust in there. I missed him on a couple I should have hit him and then was able to get him on a little quick one-stepper on the back side. He made a great run after the catch, and hopefully that play is going to give him some confidence going into this week coming up.
But Jarrett is the kind of teammate you love playing with and love practicing with because he sells out every day in practice. He is a true professional, and I think he’s the kind of guy that when he gets more opportunities, you’re going to see a lot of production. I’m excited for him and his opportunity.
That was a mouthful, but if you managed to get through it all, it’s clear that Rodgers has confidence in Boykin and will direct the ball his way.
He’s not my favorite option on this list, but he’s a viable plug-in guy if you need help. He’s a low-end flex play for me this week.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts, Tight End
Coby Fleener has been as average as they come this year, so if you’re wary of him, I understand. But if you’ve made it this far, you surely came across the slide on Hilton.
I’ll save you the recap and just repeat this important bit: There’s going to be a lot of points to go around when Indy plays Denver.
Fleener will always be a threat to find the end zone, and for the Colts to keep up with Denver’s high-octane offense, Luck will have to use his tight end. With Reggie Wayne and Hilton drawing a lot of the Denver coverage, Fleener should find himself open.
If there’s one thing about tight ends in fantasy, they’re unreliable. Often, you just have to go with your gut and find a way to justify that feeling. That’s what this is.
If you need some help, all I can say is that this is a great matchup. If Fleener is ever going to produce, it will be this week.
San Diego Chargers Defense
The San Diego Chargers haven’t been all that great of a defense so far this season, but when the Jaguars extend such a tasty offer, it would be rude to refuse.
The Jags gave the Broncos a bit of a scare last week, but that was the exception, not the rule. The Jaguars have given up the third-most points to opposing defenses this season, and although they’ve found a shiny new toy in Justin Blackmon, they’re still overmatched in this contest.
While Chad Henne has been an upgrade at quarterback over Blaine Gabbert, he’s been a career backup for a reason. The Chargers put up a Herculean effort last week against the Colts, and if they can hold a Luck-led offense to just nine points, I don't like what’s in store for Henne.
Based on their performance last week and their opponent this week, I have the Chargers as a top-10 defensive unit in Week 7.