Fantasy Football Sleepers: 10 Best Performances That Came Out of Nowhere
It is getting to the point in the season when a clutch waiver wire add could spark your team to the playoffs and beyond in your fantasy league. A number of players have come out of nowhere to light up the league in any given week.
Some have staying power (remember Ryan Grant from 2007???), while others are merely one-week wonders who will return to the realm of the unknown. Here are the 10 biggest out-of-nowhere performances, as well as an outlook on who is a legitimate add and who should be ignored.
Torrey Smith is the poster boy for out-of-nowhere performances in 2011. Fantasy points before Week 3: zero. Points since: one.
In Week 3, Smith was magical: the rookie from Maryland hauled in five passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. For good measure, Smith added a 10-yard run to bring his Week 3 total to 34 points, which tied him with Wes Welker as the fantasy leader.
Outlook: Smith was likely a one-week wonder. Even if Lee Evans’ ankle injury keeps him out past the bye (unlikely), Smith is the fourth option in a wildly inconsistent Ravens passing game that ranks 19th in the NFL.
If not for Torrey Smith, the Week 3 story would have been about Victor Cruz—his 23 points were third-best for receivers. The New York Giants’ wideout hauled in three catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Outlook: The second-year man out of UMASS had more staying power in Week 4 than Smith, with six catches for 98 yards. However, the return of Mario Manningham probably means a return to the waiver wire for Cruz. For those in deeper leagues, Cruz might be worth stashing on the bench for a week or two to see how the touches are divvied up with Manningham, and to see if Manningham can stay healthy.
The fifth-round rookie broke out with five catches, 171 total yards and a touchdown in the Oakland Raiders' shootout loss to the Buffalo Bills. His 22 points ranked fourth in a big week for wide receivers.
Outlook: Believe it or not, Moore’s 12 receptions on the season make him the Oakland Raiders’ top receiver. He has had a touchdown in both weeks since the breakout game and is a viable option in most leagues, especially with the byes coming into play.
Chandler exploded onto the scene with 18 points in Week 1, which led all tight ends. The 6’7” target did it all with five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
Outlook: Chandler has had six catches since his big game, but he has remained relevant with a touchdown in Weeks 2 and 3. Chandler was shutout in Week 4. A touchdown-or-bust tight end does not have a spot on my roster.
The second-year wide receiver lit up the Cincinnati Bengals’ third-ranked secondary for 21 points in Week 2. With five catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, Decker played a huge part in the Broncos’ lone win of the season.
Outlook: Decker has been a smart play since, especially in PPR leagues. He recorded seven catches for 48 yards in Week 3, followed by five for 56 and two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers. When Eddie Royal makes his return, he is going to have a tough time getting his second receiver spot back, as Decker has become a go-to receiver for Kyle Orton. I have been kicking myself for not listening to my boy (a die-hard Broncos' fan with the inside scoop) and picking up the breakout receiver of 2011 before it was too late.
Early Doucet went for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals' Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers. As the recipient of all the attention given to Larry Fitzgerald, Doucet was definitely worth an add.
Outlook: Doucet has been mediocre at best since. Games of 20, 50 and 42 yards have kept him from being shut out. In the deepest of PPR leagues, he may be worth a bench spot during the bye weeks.
To start the season, Chad Henne silenced the critics for a week. The embattled Miami Dolphins’ quarterback accounted for 475 total yards and three touchdowns. His 33 points were second to Tom Brady, and it looked like the Miami Dolphins might be on to something.
Outlook: Henne's three games since have totaled the 33 points of his Week 1 performance. Henne should only be considered as a bye-week replacement in deep leagues. Even then, I would explore all other options unless my quarterback’s bye coincided with a Henne game against a very weak pass defense, such as his Week 11 date with the Buffalo Bills.
James Casey had five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. The tight end’s 19 points were only bested by the monster performances of Jermichael Finley and Rob Gronkowski.
Outlook: Call Casey the Week 3 version of Scott Chandler. He has done next to nothing before or after his breakout game. With the injury to Andre Johnson, Casey might be worth a look to see how the targets are spread around, but no more than that.
Tarvaris Jackson finally played like the quarterback the Minnesota Vikings thought they drafted in the second round way back in 2006. Jackson had the first 300-yard game of his career to go with three touchdowns.
Outlook: Even in his best game, Jackson was questionable as he also threw two interceptions. Again, Jackson could be a suitable bye week replacement in deep leagues, but that’s it.
After posting goose eggs in Weeks 1 and 2, Ridley turned some heads in Week 3 by posting 42 yards on six carries. New England made a return to the ground game in Week 4, and Ridley was the primary beneficiary. The rookie back accounted for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Outlook: Bill Belichick likes to keep fantasy owners guessing as much as he does the media. Still, my guess is Ridley gets the majority of the carries from here on out. And if you are in a PPR league, Pats’ backs always have an impact there. Pick him up, if for no other reason than to see where he goes from here. I did.
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