Week 3 Sleepers and Reaches: Players That May Surprise in Fantasy Football

Nathan WaddellCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2010

Mike Tolbert
Mike TolbertEzra Shaw/Getty Images

When I was younger, every Spring and every Fall, my mom made us kids go through our closets and pack away the clothes that we weren't going to use for the upcoming seasons.  It was always exciting to open up boxes and unpack clothes that you hadn't seen in a while, and that were at one time your favorite pair of jeans or your favorite shirt.

Other times, you would find that you had grown out of the clothes that you were unpacking, and then you would get to put it in the yard sale pile and plan on going shopping for some replacements.  

That's what we're going to do today.  We're going to look at some guys that might be on your rosters that you haven't used yet, and other guys that might be available on your waiver wire in the event that you need need some help.

While I have you here, please note that these are reaches and sleepers.  Guys that you shouldn't necessarily start over your studs (although, that definition changes weekly), but might be a great one-week rental if you have a weak spot on your roster. Or they might be guys that you currently roster that have particularly good matchups this week.

So get your boxes ready, we're about to unpack.


Alex Smith (SF)—Smith played very well on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.  The sixth-year signal caller threw for 275 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions while completing 72 percent of his passes.  Smith looked very composed on Monday night and may have turned a long-awaited corner in his career.  

There is no guarantee that Smith continues to play well, but on Sunday he faces the 25th ranked passing defense of the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Chiefs are giving up 253 passing yards per game and have a weaker-than-average linebacking corps, which should allow TE Vernon Davis plenty of room to operate.

Sam Bradford (STL)—Bradford enters Week 3 with all of two NFL games under his belt, but has looked better than over one-third of the league's starting QBs.  Bradford is poised in the pocket and doesn't get overwhelmed by the speed of the game on the pro level.

Bradford faces off against a Washington Redskins defense that is ranked next-to-last in passing yards against, giving up 373 passing yards per game, along with giving up two touchdowns per game.  The Rams defense is still a work in progress, so expect plenty of passing from Bradford to keep the Rams in the game.

Bruce Gradkowski (OAK)—New starting QB Gradkowski replaced QB Jason Campbell midway through Sunday's game, and promptly threw for 162 yards and one touchdown.  

Gradkowski rumbles with the Arizona Cardinals defense on Sunday, which has given up an average of 232 passing yards per game, and an average of two touchdowns per game.

Running Backs

Mike Tolbert (SD)—Although it has been reported that RB Ryan Mathews will be sitting out on Sunday with a high ankle sprain when the San Diego Charges pay a visit to the Seattle Seahawks, Charger head coach Norv Turner has yet to confirm the speculation. Should Tolbert start, he is a great play this week, even against a Seahawks defense that is only giving up an average of 57 rushing yards per game.

Charger QB Phillip Rivers is the best QB that the Seahawks have faced, and the defense must respect Rivers' accuracy and ability to get the ball down field, providing Tolbert with ample running room for his big body.  In relief of Mathews last week, Tolbert totaled 82 yards and two touchdowns.

On a side note, if you play in point-per-reception leagues, RB Darren Sproles is a decent flex play this week as well, as the Seahawks defense is giving up 58 receiving yards per game to running backs.

Clinton Portis (WAS)—Portis is probably a guy you drafted in the middle rounds of your draft as a backup to the studs you drafted in the first three rounds, with the intention of using him to plug holes in your roster on bye weeks.  This is one of those weeks where you'll want to use him if you can.

Portis faces off against a Rams defense that is third-from-worst in the league in rushing yards allowed, giving up 142 yards per game.  Portis hasn't displayed any juice in the first two weeks, and has looked like a player approaching the end of his career.  But against this Rams defense, he should at least be able to fall forward often enough to put up decent numbers. 

Donald Brown (IND)—Brown posted a clean sheet in Week 1.  And that's not a good thing.  After not seeing the ball Week 1, Brown was involved in Week 2 with 69 yards and a touchdown.  

Brown is clearly the backup to RB Joseph Addai, but Addai missed practice on Wednesday with a knee injury, and only saw light work during Thursday's practice.  If Addai is at all limited on Sunday, Brown should again be in for a nice game.

Wide Receiver

Mark Clayton (STL)—With the amount of information that is available, it's inconceivable that Clayton is only owned in 70 percent of leagues, and started in only 50 percent of the leagues in which he is owned. In case you missed it, Clayton is the ninth-best WR through two weeks, and even in Week 2 when he posted only two catches after being covered by one of the best cornerbacks in the league, those two catches were for touchdowns. 

For the same reasons as were discussed above with QB Sam Bradford, Clayton is a solid start against a weak Redskins secondary giving up tons of yards and two touchdowns per contest.  Until Clayton proves otherwise, you would be wise to start him, unless you have three other top 10 WRs on your roster.

Austin Collie (IND)—All Collie has done over the first two weeks of the season is catch 15 balls for 188 yards and two scores.  That's all.  Yet he's still only being started in 72 percent of leagues in which he is owned.  In other words, Collie is out-scoring every other wide receiver not named Miles Austin.  Collie has done all of this while converting a mind-boggling 97 percent of his pass targets.

So if Collie is the second-best fantasy wide receiver over two weeks, how is he sleeper? Because owners aren't viewing him as a starting wide receiver, never mind as the second-best fantasy wide receiver.  If you own him, Collie is a must start this week going against a Denver defense that is allowing two touchdowns a game to receivers. 

Dez Bryant (DAL)—Bryant enters Week 3 with 10 receptions for 108 yards, and figures to be heavily involved in a Cowboys passing attack that will see plenty of action on Sunday against a Houston Texan defense that ranks as the league's worst defense.

The Texans are giving up 429 passing yards per game, along with two touchdowns. Cowboys WR Miles Austin should see plenty of action against the weak secondary, but Bryant should be involved similarly to Week 1 when he caught eight balls on 10 targets.

Tight End

Unless you're playing in a deep 14- or 16-team league, you shouldn't need a sleeper or reach TE yet. But on the off-chance that you do, here are a few names to consider.

Aaron Hernandez (NE)—With the loss of RB Kevin Faulk, someone has to step up in the passing game, and Hernandez might be the guy.  But don't expect a lot of red zone looks.  At least not yet.

Dustin Keller (NYJ)—Keller exploded last week with seven catches, 115 yards, and a touchdown. Unless the Jets decide to keep opening up the passing offense, Keller will be inconsistent.  

Best of luck this weekend.  May your domination continue, or your comeback begin.

For other fantasy-related banter and insight, you can follow Nathan on Twitter at @nathanwaddell.