Sleeper Starts: Who Will Surprise Us On Sunday?
Believe it or not, we are nearing the midpoint of the fantasy football regular season. With that being said, hopefully everyone reading this article is still going strong in their respective leagues. If you’re not having such a strong start, just remember it couldn’t be as bad as this guy is having it. To help your team continue to dominate, we have asked a few of our featured pros to share with us some positional players who could surprise us this Sunday.
Q1: Give us a RB outside of our top 25 consensus that is most likely to step up as a RB1-caliber player this week and tell us why.
Bilal Powell (NYJ vs. NE): “I’m partial to Bilal Powell going against the Patriots. New England’s run defense is ranked 24th, giving up 118.8 rushing yards per game, and without Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo (and possibly Tommy Kelly), their front seven is vulnerable. Powell had 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches in the first meeting between the Jets and Patriots. With Mike Goodson out of the Jets’ running back rotation, that could mean a few more touches this week for Powell and, if the results are there, maybe a few more on top of that, so I give him a chance to have a productive week.”
“The door is open for Bilal Powell to get his fantasy production back on track after two lackluster performances in a row. With Mike Goodson lost for the remainder of the season, Powell and Chris Ivory will see increased touches. The Jets face a New England defense that have given up over 600 yards against the run, 4th worse in the NFL.”
“Lots falling into place for Bilal Powell this week. Mike Goodson’s season-ending knee injury season takes away a potential snap stealer from the Jets backfield. New York hosts a Patriots defense this week that just lost their top linebacker (Jerod Mayo), might not have their top defensive back (Aqib Talib) after already losing NT stud Vince Wolfork. Back in Week 2, Powell compiled a credible fantasy day against the Pats with a touchdown and 70 yards on 15 touches including two receptions.”
Stevan Ridley (NE at NYJ): “Stevan Ridley scored twice last week and there’s a chance that he could find the endzone again in New York. The Jets run defense is one of the best in the league so posting a huge yardage total will be tough. However if Rob Gronkowski does indeed play, the offense should be able to move the ball and put points on the board. I expect Ridley to garner an even larger role in the backfield this week.”
Chris Johnson (TEN vs. SF): “At first glance, this does not look like a good matchup for Johnson; the 49ers have a reputation for being a tough run defense. That has not played out early in the season. The 49ers rank just 25th against fantasy running backs. I think Johnson is a solid RB2 this week and there is sleeper potential for him to be a RB1. The Titans are going to need to run the ball to be competitive in this game and the 49er’s struggles against fantasy running backs could allow the Titans to finally establish their struggling running game.”
Q2: What WR outside of our top 25 consensus has the best shot of putting up WR1 numbers this week?
Greg Jennings (MIN at NYG): “Greg Jennings has never shown elite NFL talent but does know how to separate and catch the football. Josh Freeman will be making his Vikings debut and it’s very likely that he leans on his number one receiver. We see this often with young quarterbacks or players adjusting to a new team. I expect Jennings to be targeted more this week and the offense can’t get much worse with Freeman at the helm.”
“It’s a total roll of the dice, but Greg Jennings in Minnesota is interesting, if only to see if there is any kind of chemistry with new QB Josh Freeman. Freeman was a mess in Tampa Bay this season, but was really pretty good for about the first 11 games last season and he’s capable of throwing the ball down the field. Jennings hasn’t given much reason to be optimistic, but some of that may fall on Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, so consider this a vote for the new guy in Minnesota who isn’t Ponder or Cassel.”
“It may just seem this way, but whenever there is a major shakeup on a team’s roster, a monster performance seems to be turned in by someone that hasn’t previously performed up to par. Minnesota’s QB situation has been a roller coaster ride, and when Matt Cassel got the nod as the starting quarterback in week 4, Greg Jennings had three catches for almost 100 yards with a pair of touchdowns. This time Josh Freeman will take the reins against a below average Giants defense. With the entire nation’s eyes on the Monday Night Football matchup, Freeman will be in the spotlight and Jennings should be heavily involved in the offense.”
Rueben Randle (MIN vs. NYG): “The Giants do not have much to play for this year with a winless record through six games. They need to use the last 10 games to develop young players and Randle is probably the most important of those young players. Hakeem Nicks is a free agent at the end of the season and the Giants need to decide if Randle is their future or if they need to give Nicks a huge payday. The Vikings rank 25th against fantasy receivers and I expect Randle to see a lot of opportunities on Monday Night. It could lead to a WR1 showing against a weak Vikings secondary.”
“In this context, the clear answer is Rueben Randle. The only reason he’s outside the top-25 now after two strong weeks is because Randle remains the Giants third WR behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Odds suggest that based on hierarchy, those two will get theirs, thus keeping the third guy’s upside in check. The odds haven’t worked out so well the last two games. Now Randle and company face a Vikings pass defense allowing the fourth most points to fantasy wide receivers.”
Q3: What TE outside of our top 15 consensus has the best shot of putting up TE1 numbers this week?
Scott Chandler (BUF at MIA): “Scott Chandler and the Bills take on Miami this week. The Dolphins have given up the second most fantasy points against tight ends this season. Although he hasn’t received many targets this season, with Lewis starting once again as QB, that could change. Lewis and Chandler managed to connect for a touchdown last week and that could very well continue as Miami has given up 10 red zone targets to tight ends this season.”
Brent Celek (PHI vs. DAL): “While Brent Celek’s snap count is trending down, the matchup against Dallas in Week 7 certainly offers upside. The Cowboys have allowed at least 57 receiving yards each week to the TE position along with four touchdowns in six games. Celek is coming off a game with one reception for 10 yards and half the targets as rookie TE Zach Ertz. Still, in the context of taking a flyer, this is one worth taking.”
“Brent Celek is a boom/bust player, because it is difficult to know how many snaps he will see in a given week. Chip Kelly said his reduced playing time in Tampa Bay was due to the heat, not that the team was going with Zach Ertz going forward. It’s tough to know when coaches are being honest and when they are lying, but the Cowboys allow the fifth most points to tight ends and this game figures to be a high scoring affair. It could put Celek in position to have a monster game this weekend if Kelly puts him on the field enough to make an impact.”
Tim Wright (TB at ATL): “The sudden emergence of Tim Wright in the Buccaneers’ passing game is one that intrigues me. He’s a big target and when teams change quarterbacks, sometimes it’s guys who have been working with the second team that start to emerge when the new quarterback takes over. Familiarity and all that. Atlanta’s pass defense isn’t great, which could be enough reason to like Wright, and QB Mike Glennon showed some proficiency against Philadelphia last week, so it doesn’t hurt that his quarterback might be getting more comfortable in the gig.”
Jared Cook (STL at CAR): “Jared Cook can be extremely frustrating in fantasy football. But he does have the best chance of exploding this week and being a TE1. His targets have decreased recently even though he led the team in receiving last week. Cook is always capable of a huge play, you just never know when it will occur.”
That will do it for this week’s Featured Pros article. A big thanks to this week’s featured pros for sharing their thoughts with us. If you’d like to read more of the experts’ advice, please be sure to check out their sites and follow them on Twitter. Best of luck this week!