For those fantasy footballers who are brave enough to take the dive, deep leagues provide a unique challenge—especially when the playoffs roll around.
It takes a special kind of dedication (or is it insanity?) to put in the effort, research and analysis to be successful in deep leagues. It is one thing to play in a typical standard league and take an Adrian Peterson—it is another beast to play in a deep league and rely on a guy like James Starks.
Alas, dedicated owners also know how to smartly research all available options. Below, the middle man is removed, and three players who can be either classified as deep sleepers in regular leagues or great starts in deep leagues are detailed.
Regardless of classification and league type, get them in lineups.
Note: All fantasy scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues. Points-against info courtesy of ESPN.
Rod Streater, WR, Oakland Raiders (7.1 percent)
Matchup: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Formerly known as a fantasy wasteland thanks to a quarterback scuffle between Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, the Oakland Raiders continue to have under-the-radar options at wide receiver given the matchup.
This was on full display last week when Rod Streater brought in seven receptions for 130 yards and a score—netting him a cool 19 points.
While only his third foray into double-digit points this year, Streater has now been targeted at least eight times in three of his past four games. Much of this is due to an injury to fellow receiver Denarius Moore, whose status is once again in question per Scott Bair of CSNCalifornia.com:
#Raiders injury report: out: DMC, Stewart: Doubtful: Walker, Branch, Questionable: D. Moore.— Scott Bair (@BairCSN) December 13, 2013
Regardless of Moore's final status, there is something to be said for the chemistry established between Streater and McGloin. Defenses will also shift the attention to Moore if he is back in the lineup, which will free up Streater.
Asher Mathews of TFDS Sports brings up a great point about Streater's consistency this season:
WR Rod Streater needs only 213 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He would be the first 1K receiver for #Raiders since Randy Moss in 2005— Asher Mathews (@AsherMathews) December 11, 2013
It helps that Week 15 for Oakland features a matchup with Kansas City, which allows an average of 22.2 points to wide receivers. Streater scored four points in Week 6 against the Chiefs, but he now has a better situation and is at home.
Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (1.2 percent)
Matchup: at Oakland Raiders
We flip to the other side of this AFC West showdown to find one of the best possible sleeper plays at any position.
While a backup to the explosive Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis has come on in recent weeks. He received a career-high 11 carries in Week 14, which he turned into 30 yards and a score for 10 points.
He has now scored nine or more points in consecutive weeks, as the coaching staff is beginning to trust the Arkansas product.
Which is exactly what is happening per head coach Andy Reid, via Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star: "I just think it’s a matter of reps under his belt and production. It’s getting used to the NFL, protections in particular. I think everybody’s got quite a bit of trust in him to go out there and do a good job."
That's great news, but be sure to combine it with other factors. Davis saw carries because the contest with Washington was a blowout. Week 15 should be, too. Kansas City bullied Oakland in Week 6 to the tune of 24-7.
Add in that the coaching staff will want to keep Charles fresh for the playoffs, and it equates to quality touches (which always equal production at running back) for Davis right when fantasy owners need him in deep leagues.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (8.4 percent)
Matchup: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Any player not touting the last name Peterson in Minnesota has been a tough fantasy sell this year, which is especially the case for members of the passing attack.
Who is the best deep sleeper?
But things have slowly turned around in this regard from a fantasy standpoint with veteran Matt Cassel under center. The main beneficiary of this positive trend is rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who has seen his points total jump in each of the past three weeks (five, eight and 20).
As noted, last week's total was 20 against Baltimore, which made him a top-five scorer at the position.
He has slowly turned into the go-to option for the passing attack and has averaged more than six targets per game in his last five. He is also a major factor in the return game, as ESPN illustrates:
Cordarrelle Patterson's 33.3 yds per kick return this season (36 returns) is on pace to be the highest avg in NFL history (min. 25 returns).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 10, 2013
As far as rookie sleepers go, Patterson is it. Dan Hanzus of NFL.com puts it best:
I think Keenan Allen will be a star in this league for a decade, but Cordarrelle Patterson will be the best WR of '13 class. Needs a QB.— Dan Hanzus (@DanHanzus) December 13, 2013
Best of all? He now gets a shot at an Eagles defense that ranks worst in the NFL against the position and allows an average of 28.2 points to wide receivers per game. There is no excuse for him to not be in a lineup in every league.