Fantasy Football Week 2 Sleepers at Every Position
Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season went like everyone thought it would. Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs and Sam Bradford of the Minnesota Vikings threw six more touchdown passes than Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots...just as absolutely no one predicted.
The quarterback position was hardly the only one that spent the first week of the year in Bizarro World. Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Le'Veon Bell carried the ball all of 10 times. New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham didn't even play.
And Arizona Cardinals tailback David Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in many fantasy drafts this summer, dislocated his wrist against the Detroit Lions.
Moment of silence.
Flat games by high draft picks have left many fantasy squads trying to shake off a Week 1 loss. Injuries already have them doing so with holes in their starting lineups.
Take a breath, grasshopper. There's still a lot of season to go and plenty of under-the-radar fantasy options who can help you get things back on the right track.
Before we get to the Week 2 sleepers, let's take a look at last week's recommendations and how they fared. After all, before you start plugging guys into lineups, it might be a good idea to determine whether I have an earthly clue what I'm talking about.
If a player I recommended finishes inside weekly starter territory (the top 12 quarterbacks, tight ends and defenses, top 24 running backs and top 36 wide receivers), I'm calling that a "win." Seems a reasonable enough benchmark to me.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals (269 passing yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, QB20): Palmer looked every bit of 37 years old in Detroit. LOSS
Sam Bradford, QB, Minnesota Vikings (346 passing yards, 3 TD, QB3): Bradford looked as good Monday night as he ever has in the NFL, albeit against a terrible Saints defense. WIN
Brian Hoyer, QB, San Francisco 49ers (193 passing yards, 1 INT, 1 FL, QB28): So much for the idea that Hoyer would clean up in garbage time. LOSS
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets (7 carries, 22 yards, 5 catches, 17 yards, RB38): I honestly expected Powell to be a much bigger part of the Jets offense in the loss to the Bills. LOSS
Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (2 carries, 2 yards, 5 catches, 43 yards, RB34): It wasn't a disastrous day for Sproles, but he didn't hit double-digit PPR points. LOSS
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers (18 carries, 65 yards, 2 catches, 17 yards, TD, RB12): Stewart is still the grinder for the Panthers. If they get a lead, we could see more stat lines like this. WIN
John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals (4 catches, 32 yards, 1 carry, 10 yards, WR47): I blame Carson Palmer for this one. LOSS
Ted Ginn, WR, New Orleans Saints (4 catches, 53 yards, 1 carry, 5 yards, WR41): I don't regret this miss one bit. The matchup was right, but the Saints offense was out of sync against the Vikings. LOSS
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions (2 catches, 37 yards, TD, WR32): I thought Jones would do more, but he found the end zone and out-pointed Julio Jones in Week 1. WIN
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills (4 catches, 53 yards, TD, TE6): Sure, I wish I'd recommended Austin Hooper or Jesse James instead, but Clay had a nice game against the Jets. WIN
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants (4 catches, 44 yards, TE14): If Engram had one more catch, he'd have finished in the top 12. Or I could have stuck with my hunch on James. Oh well. LOSS
Los Angeles Rams D/ST (225 yards allowed, 9 points allowed, 1 FR, 4 sacks, 2 INT, 1 safety, 2 DTD, D/ST2): The Rams steamrolled the Colts. You're welcome. WIN
WEEK 1 TOTAL: 5 Wins (.417)
A couple of near-misses stopped me from having a great week, but in a "sleepers" column where I'm picking players who aren't obvious calls, hitting on over 40 percent isn't bad at all.
Sleeper of the Week
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks (vs. SFO)
The Seattle Seahawks have a bad taste in their collective mouth. They were shut out of the end zone in a Week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers—a game in which they were soundly thrashed at the point of attack.
Seattle will look to get things back on track in its home opener this week, and Step 1 in that plan will likely be getting a run game going that struggled mightily in Green Bay.
The team has received a modicum of good news in that regard. After tailback Thomas Rawls missed Week 1 with a sprained ankle, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll indicated to reporters that Rawls should be back on the field against the San Francisco 49ers.
"We do expect Thomas back," Carroll said. "He should be raring to go."
Assuming that wasn't wishful thinking, fantasy owners can start doing a little wishful thinking of their own regarding Rawls' prospects Sunday.
There's also the matter of the San Francisco run defense—or lack thereof. The 49ers looked better in Week 1 against Carolina than a year ago, but they still allowed 116 rushing yards to the Panthers in the first game of the season.
The Seattle O-line is getting less than no push up front, so the Seahawks need a back who can generate some push on his own. A physical back who can break tackles.
In other words, they need Rawls—and I expect he'll get as many touches as his bum ankle can handle.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams (vs. WAS)
After watching the Los Angeles Rams disembowel the Indianapolis Colts 46-9 Sunday, it's understandable if you wondered whether the score was a harbinger of the apocalypse. It's been years since the Rams beat a team that soundly.
As if the score wasn't odd enough, there was also the matter of quarterback Jared Goff. Goff did something we most assuredly did not see him do as a rookie.
He played well—really well. For the game, Goff topped 300 passing yards, didn't throw a pick and posted a passer rating of nearly 120.
Jared Goff did that.
Four different Rams receivers caught at least three passes for 50 yards in Goff's first career win, and Goff mentioned that as a big factor in his success.
"That's what every quarterback wants to do—just continue to distribute, get the ball out of my hands, don't take sacks, don't turn it over, distribute the football," Goff told the media. "If we do that, we should be pretty successful."
Granted, the Colts looked awful in Week 1. Fantasy owners who spent an early pick on Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton are either climbing into ovens or planning for their fantasy baseball drafts…next spring.
But in Week 2 the Rams play host to a Washington Redskins team that Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles just torched for over 300 passing yards and two scores.
One week into the 2017 season, David Johnson is hurt, Odell Beckham hasn't played yet and Jared Goff looks the part of a viable matchup play for fantasy owners who like to stream their quarterbacks.
Maybe it is the apocalypse.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals (at IND)
I'm fully aware Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was my Sleeper of the Week in Week 1. I'm equally aware that it didn't pan out, as Palmer threw just one touchdown pass against three interceptions in an ugly performance at Detroit.
Everyone's aware Palmer stank up the joint in Week 1—including Palmer.
"I just didn't do a good enough job," Palmer told reporters. "I put that solely on myself. I'm disappointed in myself. I just felt like had I made a handful of throws, we would have been in a different position."
Given that faceplant, what could possibly motivate me to advise rolling Palmer out again after he burned me just last week?
The sweet, sweet smell of desperation—that's what.
Don't get me wrong. Palmer's days as an effective NFL starter are just about through. I wrote as much here at Bleacher Report earlier this week.
But with star tailback David Johnson now sidelined through at least Thanksgiving with a dislocated wrist, the Redbirds offense (for better or worse) is now the Carson Palmer show.
Most weeks I'd be inclined to go with "worse." But this isn't most weeks.
No, this Sunday the Cardinals travel to face the corpse of the Indianapolis Colts (may they rest in pieces), a team that in Week 1 managed to look worse than the New York Jets.
The Colts just made Jared Goff look like Joe Montana, so it's not unreasonable to think they could make Carson Palmer look like Carson Palmer.
You know, back when he could play.
Javorius Allen, RB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. CLE)
The Baltimore Ravens' plans in the backfield keep changing—for all the wrong reasons.
The Ravens lost lead back Kenneth Dixon to a knee injury back in training camp. Now veteran scatback Danny Woodhead, who the Ravens signed in free agency to handle their passing-down work, will be sidelined indefinitely after pulling his hamstring in Baltimore's Week 1 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals.
That led the Ravens to turn to third-year pro Javorius "Buck" Allen. Not only was Allen a significant part of Baltimore's Week 1 game plan, but he also out-carried nominal starter Terrance West 21 to 19.
Allen didn't set the world on fire against the Bengals—his 71 yards on those 21 carries means a per-carry average of just 3.4 yards—but it's clear the coaching staff has a level of confidence in him. That could be a function of his play in training camp, where Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun called him Baltimore's most consistent performer at the running position.
At the very least, it looks like a Ravens team that has historically used the tailback quite a bit in the passing game is going to give most of that work to Allen.
It's a fantasy gravy train that may well have an expiration date (Woodhead should be back in a month or so), but that doesn't matter right now.
All that matters right now is a Week 2 matchup with a Cleveland Browns team that had the worst run defense in the AFC last year. No team in the conference allowed more fantasy points to running backs in 2016.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears (at TAM)
Calling Chicago Bears tailback Tarik Cohen a "sleeper" might be stretching the term. After turning 13 touches into 113 total yards with a touchdown in his NFL debut last week, Cohen was one of Week 2's hottest waiver-wire pickups.
However, given that his breakout debut came while Cohen was sitting on the wire in all but the deepest of dynasty fantasy football leagues, it's stretching the term—not breaking it.
As Adam L. Jahns reported for the Chicago Sun-Times, Cohen's big game drew attaboys from several of his veteran teammates, including tight end Zach Miller.
"Every time he gets the ball, something special could happen," Miller said. "And you've got to be on your toes because he can squirt out of there and take it the distance. The kid can just do so much. He's going to be a special player for a long time."
This is the point in the story where it's wise to advise a level of caution with Cohen. He's absolutely worth an add, but week-to-week usage can be spotty for scatbacks. You can't expect eight receptions a game.
Except in Cohen's case, maybe you can—or at least close.
The Bears are as talent-poor at wide receiver as any team in the NFL—especially since Cameron Meredith and Kevin White are both lost for the season. When it comes to short-range targets for quarterback Mike Glennon, the cupboard is bare.
That could mean a steady diet of touches for the diminutive Cohen, including this week in Tampa against a Buccaneers team that ranked ninth in PPR fantasy points allowed to running backs last season.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 2017 season got off to a wet and weird start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Compliments of Hurricane Irma, Tampa's season opener against the Miami Dolphins was postponed, so the Bucs won't make their debut until Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
When they do, it will be without tailback Doug Martin, who's serving the remainder of his substance abuse suspension.
That creates a pair of opportunities. One is for reserve tailback Jacquizz Rodgers.
The other is for fantasy owners.
It isn't the first time Rodgers has been called on to carry the mail in the Buccaneers backfield. Rodgers made five starts for Tampa last season.
They were productive starts, too. In four of those five games Rodgers either rushed for 100 yards or found the end zone—tallying double-digit PPR fantasy points in the process.
The 27-year-old told the team's website he’s ready and willing to carry the load until Martin returns.
"I'm ready," Rodgers said. "I prepared all offseason for this situation. I'm going to try and take full advantage of it."
Fantasy owners should be ready to take advantage as well.
It's not that the Bears are a favorable matchup for running backs. The team was 30th in PPR fantasy points allowed to the position in 2016. But under-the-radar 20-touch tailbacks don't grow on trees, and with Chicago linebacker Jerrell Freeman out, the middle of that Bears defense could be a bit softer in Week 2.
Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. TEN)
The good news for the Jacksonville Jaguars is the team blasted the Houston Texans on the road 29-7 in Week 1.
The bad news was that victory came at a high cost as No. 1 wide receiver Allen Robinson suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
To compensate for Robinson's loss, the Jaguars may turn to a player they once thought would be Robinson's partner in crime for years to come.
Back in 2015, Allen Hurns caught 64 passes for over 1,000 yards and 10 scores. The sky appeared to be the limit. But Hurns couldn't come close to duplicating those numbers last year, missing five games, managing just 477 receiving yards and falling from favor with the coaching staff.
After an injury-marred preseason, it appeared 2017 would feature more of the same. But Hurns insisted to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco that he was intent on turning things around.
"I feel like I've been at each and every practice that I could," Hurns said. "I haven't had soft tissue injuries as far as hamstrings and groin strains and things like that. So I feel good going into the season. My main thing is just staying consistent."
In Week 1 at least, Hurns was again a substantial part of the offense. His three catches for 42 yards aren’t going to give any fantasy owners the vapors, but Hurns led the team in both categories and was the most targeted receiver on the team.
In Week 2, Hurns and the Jaguars face a Tennessee Titans team that surrendered the most fantasy points in the league to opposing wide receivers in 2016. Despite making improvements in the secondary, the Titans gave up a combined stat line of 11/145/1 to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree of the Oakland Raiders in Week 1.
Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks (vs. SFO)
In case this second member of the Seattle Seahawks among the Week 2 sleepers doesn't tip you off, let me spell something out for you.
After a stinging defeat on the road in Green Bay in Week 1, the Seahawks should open the proverbial can of you-know-what on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
If the Seattle offense gets it together in Week 2, wide receiver Paul Richardson stands to benefit—potentially in a big way.
In last week's loss to the Pack, Doug Baldwin wasn't Seattle's most targeted wide receiver. It was Richardson, who shared the team lead of seven with tight end Jimmy Graham.
It's not hard to figure out why. There's no question Baldwin is both Seattle's best wide receiver and Russell Wilson's favorite target. The defensive attention vs. the pass is going to be paid to either Baldwin or Graham.
That means plenty of single coverage on Richardson, and Wilson's a savvy enough signal-caller to take advantage of that.
Now, Richardson didn't do a great job of converting those opportunities into catches last week with four grabs for 59 yards.
But that also isn't a terrible stat line for a third starter pulled off the fantasy scrap heap, and the 49ers had issues defending wide receivers in 2016 (10th in fantasy points allowed to the position).
I have a hunch Richardson scores in Week 2.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (vs. GBP)
Atlanta wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is "the other guy." That wide receiver for the Falcons who isn't Julio Jones.
However, as former coach P.J. Fleck told ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, teams that overlook Sanu when formulating a defensive game plan do so at their peril.
"First of all, Mohamed is a freak athlete," Fleck said. "I mean, he could play every position on the football field, first and foremost. He's just naturally gifted that way. But the one thing I appreciated about Mohamed was that his work ethic was tremendous. He was one of the hardest workers on our football team."
One thing's for sure: When it comes to the Green Bay Packers, Sanu brings his A-game.
In a wild Week 8 shootout at the Georgia Dome won by the Falcons last year, Sanu exploded for nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. In the NFC title game trashing of Green Bay, Sanu was also a significant factor, finding the end zone again and making five grabs for 52 yards.
That's an average stat line of 7/68/1, which breaks down to just under 20 fantasy points in leagues that award a point for receptions.
Sunday's shootout in the making is loaded with fantasy-relevant talent. Aaron Rodgers, Ty Montgomery, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams for the Packers. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones for the Falcons.
But with Jones sure to draw a boatload of defensive attention, don't sleep on Sanu as a Week 2 spot start.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills (at CAR)
After consulting the imaginary regulations regarding the rules for choosing sleepers for this piece, I've decided it's OK to list a guy two weeks in a row provided an argument can still be made for his snoozing status.
Charles Clay isn't a household name—yet.
If you followed my recommendation to start Clay in Week 1, you were rewarded nicely. The 28-year-old hauled in four of his team-leading nine targets for 53 yards and a touchdown, finishing right in the middle of the TE1 pack in PPR fantasy leagues.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters before the season he thought Clay would be a big part of the Buffalo offense in 2017.
"The tight end can be—if used the right way—a quarterback's best friend," McDermott said. "They know where to find him, he knows where to be in third-and-short situations. He can also get vertical. … I really like where Charles is in his development and getting himself ready for the season."
It stands to reason Clay will continue to be targeted consistently this week in Carolina against a Panthers team that gave up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2016. The Bills aren't loaded with pass-catching talent, and the team's "best" wideout (Jordan Matthews) just played his first game with the team after missing most of the preseason.
If Clay is on the waiver wire in your fantasy league, he shouldn't be. Unless you're one of the fortunate handful of teams that sports an elite every-week starter at the position, Clay shouldn't be on your bench either.
Julius Thomas, TE, Miami Dolphins (at LAC)
Julius Thomas was going to be featured in my Week 1 article, but Hurricane Irma had other plans.
It's a safe bet the weather won't present a similar issue Sunday afternoon when the Dolphins travel to face the Los Angeles Chargers in front of 26 people at the StubHub Center.
It's not a great fantasy matchup. The Chargers were smack dab in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to the position in 2016—18th, to be exact.
No, this recommendation is less about where Thomas will be playing and more about who Thomas will be playing for—head coach Adam Gase.
Thomas told Andy Cohen of the Dolphins website he relishes the opportunity to play for Gase again.
"What really made me want to come to Miami to play for him was just the relationship that we were able to establish in Denver," Thomas said. "He's a guy that I have a ton of respect for. I like the way that he approaches the game in an innovative way. He's not trying to do things in a way that's already been done. He's trying to do what hasn’t been done. He's a great football mind."
It's not hard to see why Thomas might feel that way. In both 2013 and 2014, with Gase as the offensive coordinator in Denver, Thomas had 12 touchdown catches for the Broncos. He hasn't sniffed those numbers since.
There's no guarantee Thomas will be the red-zone weapon in Miami he was in Denver. But the possibility is strong enough to make him a viable streaming option at the position in Week 1.
Oakland Raiders Defense/Special Teams (vs. NYJ)
A funny thing happened last week in Nashville.
In a 26-16 win over the Tennessee Titans, the Oakland Raiders played defense.
There weren't a lot of big plays—just a single sack and no interceptions or fumble recoveries. But the Raiders held Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota out of the end zone through the air and limited tailbacks DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to 69 combined rushing yards.
Per Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area, the performance drew praise from head coach Jack Del Rio.
"I thought they played well," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "We were better on third down. We were good in the red zone. They have a physical offensive line and some good backs, and we didn't want to let them get loose. It was a good effort. They do a lot of different motions and shifts and things you have to be ready for. It was good to see that preparation come through."
Given the lack of big plays, it's fair to question why I would recommend the Raiders as a matchup play on defense in Week 2. Those big plays form the backbone of fantasy production in most leagues.
There's a three-word answer for that question:
To call the Jets an offensively challenged football team is being incredibly kind. After one week, they rank 29th in the NFL offensively after racking up 214 total yards in a Week 1 loss at Buffalo. Josh McCown threw a pair of interceptions, and the team had a whopping 11 first downs.
Khalil Mack is going to get his first sack of the season. The Oakland secondary will get its first pick. Heck, Cordarrelle Patterson may take a kickoff to the house.
It's gonna be a good day in the Black Hole for the home team.