Quick…what do Ryan Torain and Preston Parker have in common? That is, besides the distinct possibility that both are working at a local bowling alley these days. The answer: Both players came out of nowhere to put up big fantasy numbers heading into week 5 last season. Neither performance was expected but it’s possible those 2 players tilted fantasy matchups for anyone with the foresight (or luck) to insert them into their starting lineups.
For this edition of Featured Pros, we’re looking to give you an edge in spotting week 5’s sleepers ahead of Sunday’s games. Tough task, of course, since these players are by their very definition under the radar. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up some top experts to give us their picks.
Check out the summary of each expert’s sleeper predictions below and read on for their explanation behind each pick.
|Expert||Site||RB Sleeper||WR Sleeper||TE Sleeper|
|Chris Wesseling||Rotoworld||J. Forsett (HOU)||R. Randle (NYG)||J. Tamme (DEN)|
|Bryan Fontaine||Pro Football Focus||K. Hunter (SF)||R. Meachem (SD)||A. Fasano (MIA)|
|Jody Smith||Gridiron Experts||B. Jacobs (SF)||D. Henderson (NO)||M. Lewis (JAC)|
|Paul Greco||FP911||R. Mendenhall (PIT)||L. Hankerson (WAS)||G. Olsen (CAR)|
|Russ Bliss||FF Starters||J. Forsett (HOU)||R. Meachem (SD)||H. Miller (PIT)|
Q & A: Week 5 Sleepers
Q1: Last week, Jackie Battle & Brandon Bolden stepped up out of nowhere to put up big fantasy numbers. What under the radar RB has the best shot to surprise this week?
“If you want completely off the radar, be on the lookout for Justin Forsett of the Houston Texans. Ben Tate has a toe injury and while he is tentatively expected to be able to play Monday night, he may not. In that case Forsett becomes the backup to Arian Foster in a matchup against a Jets run defense that ranks 31st in rushing yards allowed and has allowed a league high 7 rushing TD’s thru 4 games. We know the Texans like to spell Foster some each game and if Tate doesn’t play, Forsett could really surprise in week 5, especially if the game becomes a blowout.” – Russ Bliss (Fantasy Football Starters)
“If you want to go under the radar, Justin Forsett is flying far beneath it. Out of all the backs that could come out of nowhere, he may have the best shot in a potential blowout with the Jets. If Ben Tate’s toe keeps him out of the lineup, Forsett will see plenty of garbage-time carries. The Texans have already begun increasing his practice reps this week.” – Chris Wesseling (Rotoworld)
“Hunter is a great option this week. He has had a good start to the season with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 attempts (4.6 YPC) and now faces a reeling Buffalo rush defense. The Bills allowed the Patriots to run the ball 40 times for 247 yards (6.2 YPC) last week. The 49ers have averaged 27 rushing attempts per game through the first four weeks and the Bills have allowed 28 rushing attempts to their opponents in that same time period. If San Francisco has a big lead early, Hunter is line for a heavy workload in the second half and that makes a good flex option.” – Bryan Fontaine (Pro Football Focus)
Jacobs has always been a good short yardage runner and that’s an area of the field that the 49ers have routinely struggled in. Indications are that Jacobs is a go for this week, as he practiced fully on Thursday. If Jacobs plays, there’s an excellent opportunity for him to make an impact against a Bills defense that has surrendered a league-high 6 TDs to RBs so far in 2012. Should Jacobs fail to make his debut, Kendall Hunter will continue to spell Frank Gore and could be worth a look as well. – Jody Smith (Gridiron Experts)
“Earlier this week the Pittsburgh Steelers said that we can expect Rashard Mendenhall to finally be back in action. That being said, according to Fantasypros.com, the Experts have him as the 28th best RB for WK5. If he gets 12-15 carries he could finish as a Top 15 RB this week. I urge fantasy owners not to sleep on him. The Steelers are currently ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing so it really can’t get much worse. Look for the Steelers to try and establish the run early against the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Mendenhall, should receive plenty of action.” – Paul Greco (FP911)
Q2: At least one WR outside of our top 40 consensus rankings has finished as a top 10 receiver each week this season. What WR has the best chance of pulling off this sleeper routine in Week 5?
“I’d say Robert Meachem of the San Diego Chargers is in the best position to pull off the feat this week. He’s been an incredible disappointment so far in 2012 but he knows the DBs in New Orleans as well as anybody after playing there until coming to SD this past off-season. Combine that with the fact that he is a starting WR in a game that could easily turn into a shootout, and I think Meachem stands a chance of finally having that big game everyone has been expecting, but given up on seeing.” – Russ Bliss (Fantasy Football Starters)
“Meachem will get off the schneid against his former team this week. Most of his stat metrics have been awful this year highlighted by his catch rate (67% last year, 40% so far). His advanced stats tell a different story and he is not far off from his 2011 success. His targets per game (3.8), yards per reception (15.3), and average depth of target (16.1) are identical to last year. Playing time is not an issue as he has averaged 44 snaps per game as a starter. Meachem is bound to get on track this week in what could be a shootout.” – Bryan Fontaine (Pro Football Focus)
“I don’t want to default to the 41st guy on the list (Greg Little), so let’s try an intriguing name further down the list: Reuben Randle. He was called out by Cris Collinsworth this week for work ethic concerns, and it seems to have raised his dander. Randle has a lot to prove and a ready-made stage to do so with Hakeem Nicks & Ramses Braden ruled out versus a CLE secondary allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing WRs. Randle should play more than half the offensive snaps as the No. 3 WR.” – Chris Wesseling (Rotoworld)
“Lance Moore is looking unlikely to play this week, so somebody in the short-handed New Orleans WR corps is going to have to step up. Devery Henderson is more of a deep threat, but he is the most likely candidate to see an increased role this week. We all know how the Saints offense plays, especially at home. The Chargers are likely to focus most of their defensive attention on Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, so that could put Henderson in a nice position to make an impact against lesser coverage.” – Jody Smith (Gridiron Experts)
“My initial response to this is none. After looking at the rankings, to me, there really isn’t a WR worthy enough this week to accomplish this task. I’ll go on record and say that this will be the first week NO WR outside the top 40 makes it into the top 10. But…Not to be a “Debbie Downer” I’ll go with Redskins’ WR, Leonard Hankerson, as my choice. Over his last three games, Hankerson has seen an increase in targets as well as receptions. Mike Nolan, the Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator, will have several tricks up his sleeve to slow down the running game of QB RGIII, which should open up passing lanes for Hankerson.” – Paul Greco (FP911)
Q3: If you had to pick a surprise TE that is poised to put up TE1 numbers this week, who would it be and why?
“I loathed him as a top-10 fantasy TE entering the season because it became conventional wisdom through nothing but conjecture that he would play the Dallas Clark role while Joel Dreessen was left behind. Tamme has been targeted more consistently than Dreessen, though, and should benefit more in a potential shootout vs. a Patriots defense allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing TEs. They really struggled to cover the middle of the field down the seam against Scott Chandler and the Bills.” – Chris Wesseling (Rotoworld)
“This one is tough because the consensus top-10 TEs are solid this week. I will go with Anthony Fasano who is ranked outside the TE1 range by the consensus but could see top-10 numbers in a good matchup with Cincinnati. Fasano is quietly averaging 5.3 targets per game and is playing nearly every offensive snap for the Dolphins. Four of his 21 targets have come in the red zone and he already has 1 red zone TD on the season. It is also unlikely that Brian Hartline and Davone Bess combine for 29 targets for 2 weeks in a row. If you have Jason Witten or Brandon Pettigrew on bye week, Fasano makes for a decent plug and play off the waiver wire.” Bryan Fontaine (Pro Football Focus)
“With the exception of Maurice Jones-Drew, it’s difficult to consider starting any Jacksonville Jaguars. Marcedes Lewis isn’t getting a ton of targets, but he is spending a lot of his time running pass routes. Laurent Robinson is out this week, so Lewis might see a few more looks against a Chicago Bears team that is giving up 10.3 fantasy points per game to tight ends, which is 27th in the league.” – Jody Smith (Gridiron Experts)
“I don’t think Carolina Panthers TE, Greg Olsen, gets enough love in fantasy football. Yes he only has one touchdown, but he’s topped double-digit fantasy points in each of his last two weeks. If you’ve watched the last two Panthers games, every time QB Cam Newton got into trouble, he looked Olsen’s way. There is nothing sexy about Olsen, he’s just a TE that gets the job done each week. He’ll be a solid play in WK5, and will finish as one of your top 10 TE when it’s all said and done.” – Paul Greco (FP911)
“I’ll take Heath Miller of the Pittsburgh Steelers despite it not being a great matchup on paper for him this week against Philadelphia. It just looks like Ben Roethlisberger is looking to Miller a lot, especially in the red zone. A lot of his 20 targets on the season have come inside opponent’s 20 yard line. Miller might not put up big yardage numbers, but 40 yards and a TD is usually still good enough to finish in the top 10 for the position most weeks.” – Russ Bliss (Fantasy Football Starters)
Thanks to this week’s Featured Pros for sharing their insight with us. If you’d like to read more of the experts’ advice, please be sure to check out their respective sites. Best of luck to everyone this weekend!