Fantasy Football Week 6 Sleepers at Every Position
Fantasy Football can be a tricky game sometimes.
As many fantasy owners are finding out the hard way, players who seemed like great ideas on draft day have turned out to be major disappointments.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson helms one of the NFL's most run-heavy offenses. Tennessee Titans tailbacks Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are mired in a carry-share that has effectively rendered them both unstartable. Larry Fitzgerald is spending what may be the last season of his Hall of Fame career banged up and playing for the league's worst offense.
Throw in injuries, and there is no shortage of fantasy owners searching desperately for under-the-radar starters who can keep their season from going completely off the rails.
That's where this article comes in—by offering up some fantasy sleepers who have a solid chance at performing well statistically in Week 6.
Before we move on to the Week 6 recommendations, let's take a look back at how Week 5's sleepers fared.
Hopefully a few woke up.
For the record, sleepers count as a "win" if they finish inside weekly starter territory in a 12-team point-per-reception fantasy league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one defense and the always-popular "flex" play—a fairly standard setup.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (10 carries, 53 yards, 8 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD): The Jaguars came up short in their big AFC showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, but Yeldon rewarded fantasy owners with an RB1 stat line. WIN
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (129 passing yards, 10 rushing yards, 1 INT): There are turkeys, and then there's the 700-pound gobbler that Mariota and the Titans unleashed in a loss to the Bills. What a mess. LOSS
Alex Smith, QB, Washington Redskins (275 passing yards, 7 rushing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT): Smith and the Redskins were flattened by the Saints on Monday night, and all the veteran QB managed was one score on the ground. LOSS
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (21 carries, 110 yards, 4 catches, 75 yards, 2 TD): All Conner did last week was pile up 185 total yards and two scores and finish first in fantasy points among all RBs. Oh yeah. WIN
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers (7 carries, 40 yards, 2 catches, 19 yards): This recommendation made sense right up until the Packers spotted the Lions 24 points to kick off their meeting in Motown. After that? Not so much. LOSS
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins (4 catches, 55 yards): This was actually Crowder's best stat line of the season. That doesn't make me feel better—a WR45 finish for the week wasn't what I had in mind. LOSS
Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders (4 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD): The Raiders got smoked by the Chargers, but Nelson was on the receiving end of Derek Carr's lone touchdown pass. The veteran is on a nice little run of late. WIN
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD): For the third straight week, Sanu either caught a touchdown pass or went over 100 yards. Like Nelson, he's on a hot streak fantasy-wise. WIN
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Arizona Cardinals (GOOSE-EGG OF DOOM): The moral of this story is that trusting any player for the Redbirds whose name isn't David Johnson is begging to be disappointed. Not one rotten, stinking catch. LOSS
Tennessee Titans Defense/Special Teams (223 yards allowed, 13 points allowed, 1 sack, 1 INT): This call made a ton of sense, but the entire Titans team came out flat against the Bills. There just weren't enough big plays for a top-12 finish. LOSS
WEEK 5: 4-6 (.400)
SEASON: 19-31 (.380)
I really liked the Week 5 calls. Felt like I had a real chance to hit on six or seven. Just goes to show what I know.
I've decided to blame the Titans for the whole thing—too much accountability is bad for the complexion.
Sleeper of the Week
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at ATL)
The 2018 season didn't get off to the best of starts for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Serving a three-game personal-conduct suspension related to accusations of groping a female Uber driver in the 2016 offseason, the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft watched as Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bucs to two straight wins to start the year.
"Fitzmagic" was the talk of the NFL, and Winston was effectively out of a job.
However, Fitzpatrick turned from star to stinker in a blowout loss to the Chicago Bears two weeks ago, leading Dirk Koetter to make a switch under center. When the Buccaneers return from their bye week Sunday in Atlanta, it will be Winston who starts at quarterback.
And that's all it takes for the 24-year-old to soar to the top of the streaming options at quarterback in Week 6.
The Atlanta defense is an injury-ravaged mess five games into the season. In each of the last four weeks, the Falcons have allowed three passing touchdowns. They've also given up an average of 316.3 passing yards per game over that span.
Is that bad? It sounds bad.
For the season, the Falcons rank fifth in fantasy points per game given up to the quarterback position. This contest reeks of a good old-fashioned NFC South shootout. Points galore. Defense optional.
A stat line of 330 yards and three scores should do.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. PIT)
In other words, he's a decent backup. A signal-caller fantasy owners roll out when their starter is taking the week off—just as Drew Brees of the Saints and Matthew Stafford of the Lions are in Week 6.
However, there are plenty of other quarterbacks Dalton should start ahead of this week.
Without much fanfare, Dalton is having a very nice season, completing over 65 percent of his passes for 1,445 yards, 12 touchdowns and a passer rating just under 95. Per the Associated Press (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), under-the-radar is just how offensive coordinator Bill Lazor likes it.
"I'd rather people not talk about us," Lazor said. "We were doing just fine. Nobody talked about us all offseason, all training camp. We're fine. We'll just be quiet and just do our thing."
There's going to be plenty of talk around the Bengals heading into this weekend's big showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the conversation fantasy owners should be having centers less on the game itself and more on a Steelers pass defense that's 29th in the NFL and has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
If the Bengals are going to get a 400-pound black-and-gold monkey off their back Sunday, it's going to take a big day from the Red Rifle.
The kind that can win a week for your fantasy squad.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (vs. LAC)
This isn't Baker Mayfield's first appearance in this column, although the rookie No. 1 overall pick came up short of the top 12 in his sleeper debut.
But it's time to have confidence in Mayfield again, just as Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley does, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
"There hasn't been one time when I haven't had confidence in him," Haley said. "In the preseason, and in practice, it hasn't always been perfect, and I was as interested as anybody if the size limitations would be an issue with the bigger defenders, but it hasn't been, and there hasn't been one time that I haven't had confidence that he had a chance to make a play."
To be fair, Mayfield has been far from perfect. In three games (two starts), Mayfield is completing less than 60 percent of his passes. He has as many interceptions (three) as touchdown passes. And the receiving corps at Mayfield's disposal isn't exactly imposing.
But Mayfield is also averaging over 300 passing yards per start and faces a Los Angeles Chargers defense Sunday that's 19th in pass defense and 10th in fantasy points allowed to the quarterback position in 2018.
Given how well the L.A. offense is playing this year (No, not that one. The Chargers. The team everyone forgets is even in L.A.), it's going to take a lot more than 12 points for the Browns to have a chance at getting their third win of the season.
That means Mayfield taking to the air.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts (at NYJ)
Earlier this week, Field Yates of ESPN highlighted Indianapolis Colts tailback Nyheim Hines as one of the top pickups at running back in Week 6.
"It's nearly impossible to find quality running backs at this juncture of the season, so don't bypass your chance to snag Hines," Yates wrote. "Amidst a crowded Indy backfield, my belief is that Hines has separated himself from the pack. While Marlon Mack's health has limited him of late, Hines has emerged as by far the team's best pass-catching back who can play a lot of snaps when the team is pressed to go up-tempo. A porous defense and offensive line has led Indy to throw the ball an astonishing 121 times in its past two games. Hines has possible top-25-back upside in PPR scoring."
Yates was far from alone in this assessment, and it appears people listened—Hines' ownership percentage is up to over 60 percent at Yahoo.
However, it's time to go one farther than just rostering Hines. He needs to be in starting lineups this week.
Fresh off a career-high 15 carries in last week's loss to the Patriots, Hines and the Colts head to New York to face the Jets. Gang Green isn't a great matchup for running backs, but it isn't a bad one either at 14th in fantasy points given up to running backs.
Hines didn't exactly tear it up on the ground last week (three yards per carry), but he's both the team's healthiest running back and easily the best pass-catcher out of the backfield.
That latter skill—and 16 catches over the last two games—makes Hines a viable RB2 start this week in PPR formats.
Alfred Morris, RB, San Francisco 49ers (at GB)
This far into the season, fantasy sleepers at running back are sometimes more about opportunity than matchup. Sure, it's great to combine the two, but sometimes the old saying about "any port in a storm" holds true.
That's the case with Alfred Morris of the San Francisco 49ers this week.
The Green Bay Packers have been decent against the run in 2018—the team ranks 15th in the league in run defense, surrendering 105 yards per game on average. The Pack have also been relatively stingy to the position from a fantasy perspective, giving up the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.
Neither of those numbers establishes a ton of confidence in Morris' prospects for when the 49ers travel to Titletown to face the Packers Monday night.
But after Matt Breida was forced from last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals with a sprained ankle, Morris became an every-down player for San Francisco. He finished the game with 18 carries for 61 yards and three receptions for 30 yards.
The per-carry average is nothing to jump up and down about, but 90 total yards is 90 total yards.
Breida has avoided the dreaded high-ankle sprain, but head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated that he's unlikely to be able to play in Week 6.
That sets Morris up for 20 touches or so—and at least a puncher's chance at a good stat line.
Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans (vs. BUF)
Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee got off to a slow start in his first NFL season, missing the first three games of the year.
He's been making up for lost time of late, though.
Two weeks ago in his NFL debut, Coutee caught 11 passes for 109 yards against the Indianapolis Colts. That big game was chalked up by many as a product of Will Fuller's absence. Then last week, with Fuller in the lineup, Coutee racked up six catches for 51 yards and a score, adding a carry for two yards.
That's 10 touches per game over a two-game stretch—admittedly not a huge sample size, but also harder to dismiss as a fluke.
Per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, star wideout DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans insists that Hopkins is the real deal.
"Keke is balling," Hopkins said. "I knew from the first day he came in here he played with confidence, he walked around the building like he's been here before. You wouldn't know he’s a rookie if you talked to him. He's mastering this offense. He's further ahead than I was in my first year in this offense. But that's how great he wants to be."
Coutee is nursing a sore hamstring, but he played with the injury last week and is expected to be able to again in Week 6.
Assuming he does, fantasy's 11th-ranked receiver over the last two weeks deserves a shot to make it three in a row.
Chester Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts (at NYJ)
It's been an up-and-down couple of weeks for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers.
At first glance, Rogers appears to have been fairly solid playing in relief of T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis. Over the last two games, the third-year veteran has reeled in 16 passes for 151 yards—including eight catches for 66 yards in last week's loss to the New England Patriots.
But Rogers also had some costly drops last week—including a would-be touchdown that went right through his hands. Per Dave Richard of CBS Sports, the Colts might even be inclined to sit Rogers for having butterfingers if they had a choice in the matter.
"Maybe in a different situation the Colts would bench Rogers for his untimely drops last week," Richard said, "but Indy is thin at receiver and Rogers is essentially locked into the slot role. That's a great place to be as the Jets have given up at least eight receptions to each of the last three primary slot receivers they've faced. That should set Rogers with a floor of 70 yards. Do the math and he's a good third receiver in non-PPR and a No. 2 option in PPR."
Hilton has already been ruled out for Week 6 thanks to his balky hamstring, which should lock Rogers into another heavy target share Sunday against a Jets team giving up the fifth-most PPR fantasy points per game to wide receivers in 2018.
Here's hoping he has better luck hanging on to the rock this time out.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (vs. TB)
Generally speaking, I try to avoid listing players in this column in back-to-back weeks. It's happened just once this year—with Green Bay Packers tailback Aaron Jones.
However, sometimes a sleeper call stands out so much that recommending a player in two straight weeks can't be avoided.
That's the case with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in Week 6 for a couple of reasons.
The first is Sanu himself. The 29-year-old has been on quite the rip of late. In a Week 3 loss to the Saints, Sanu reeled in four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. The following week against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was six grabs for 111 yards.
Those performances landed Sanu here a week ago.
Then Sanu justified that recommendation with four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown—his third straight performance with at least four catches and 100 yards or a score. Over that three-week span, Sanu ranks 15th in PPR fantasy points among receivers.
And yet, he's owned in fewer than half of the fantasy leagues hosted at Yahoo, because nothing makes sense any more.
The second reason is this Sunday's matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To say that the Bucs have struggled defending the pass is an understatement. Tampa is allowing a staggering 358 passing yards per game—dead last in the NFL. Only the New Orleans Saints have given up more fantasy points to the wide receiver position this season.
Even with Sanu relegated to third-fiddle status by the emergence of rookie Calvin Ridley, the vet has remained a productive fantasy asset, and he has a fantastic matchup with a non-existent pass defense this week.
What's not to like?
CJ Uzomah, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. PIT)
Back when Tyler Eifert was lost for the season to a broken leg, Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah told Mark Inabinett of AL.com that he thought he and Tyler Kroft were capable of stepping up to fill in the void at the position in the Queen City.
"Obviously, it's Ty, he's a Pro Bowl tight end and a freaking stud," Uzomah said. "He's our guy, our rock, our leader and will continue to be our leader. But we are way more prepared because we're older and how we've been dividing the snaps throughout the season. I think we're looking forward to doing our best to fill his shoes and asserting ourselves in this offense."
Now, with Kroft wheeling himself around the Cincy locker room on a scooter with his flipper in a walking boot, Uzomah is the last man standing at the position for the Bengals at tight end. The unquestioned starter.
And that puts him squarely on the streaming radar for Week 6.
One of the biggest games of this week is in Cincinnati—an AFC North slugfest between two teams that dislike one another intensely in the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. And while there are many things the Steelers do well, defending tight ends isn't one of them—no team in the AFC allows more PPR fantasy points to the position.
This is it, folks! The week I get off the skids and hit on a tight end recommendation! I can feel it!
Or maybe that's the Taco Bell I had for dinner last night.
Green Bay Packers Defense/Special Teams
It's a good week to have a big-name fantasy defense like the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. Those teams have highly favorable fantasy matchups with the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, respectively.
However, there's another NFC North team with a fantastic matchup that's likely sitting on most waiver wires—one that readers of this column may already have used with great success this season.
Two weeks ago, the Packers faced the Buffalo Bills at home and pitched a 22-0 shutout. That week, the Packers were the highest-scoring team defense in fantasy football by a wide margin thanks to seven sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
For the second time in three weeks, the Packers and their fourth-ranked defense (in terms of yards allowed) will play host to a reeling team. This time, it's the San Francisco 49ers—fresh off a 10-point home loss to the previously winless Arizona Cardinals in which the Niners turned the ball over five times.
The Cardinals ranked third among all team defenses last week thanks to that performance, in case you were wondering.
It wasn't an aberration, either. Through five weeks this year, only the aforementioned Bills and Dolphins have given up more fantasy points to team defenses.
At the position where matchups are king, the Niners are among the best in the NFL.
And the Packers are a must-start in Week 6.