The word “sleeper” is a funny one. How long can a player really be a “sleeper” before he is simply considered good?
Keenan Allen and Terrance Williams were “sleepers” a few weeks ago, but now everyone knows about them and they are owned in the majority of leagues. That is why I define “sleeper” as a player who will perform well over expectations for a single week.
Could he be valuable long term? Sure. But if you have a rotating door at a certain position, you are only worried about the week at hand, and thus not too worried about the player’s potential value as the season progresses.
With bye weeks in full swing and injuries starting to build up, here are teams to target when looking for a one-week fill in for specific positions.
Quarterbacks vs. NFC East: All of the defenses in the NFC East rank in the bottom quarter of the NFL in terms of total yards allowed per game, routinely being gashed by the opponents quarterback. As a quartet, the East has allowed a mind boggling 41 passing touchdowns while QBs are completing 65-percent of their passes.
I don’t care who is opposing these defenses (Alex Smith and Mike Glennon produced very respectable numbers against them), if you’re hurting for a QB and a free agent is opposing a team in the NFC East, they are your best “sleeper” option.
Examples: Josh Freeman (Week 7), Terrelle Pryor (Week 9), and Smith (Week 14)
Running Backs vs. New England Patriots: The Patriots’ defense isn’t as bad as years past, but the injuries are going to take a toll at some point and I expect it to reflect in their run defense sooner rather than later. Jerod Mayo (pectoral) and Vince Wilfork (Achilles) are out for the rest of the season, leaving a massive vacancy in the heart of this defense.
Opponents of the Patriots also want to keep Tom Brady on the sideline, something that is most often accomplished by establishing a solid ground game and committing to it for four quarters.
Examples: Mike Tolbert (Week 11) and Chris Ogbonnaya (Week 14)
Wide Receivers vs. Cleveland Browns: Remember, this is for sleeper options. The Browns are a team I’m avoiding when it comes to elite receivers, Joe Haden is simply ruthless and out to doom your fantasy teams from that perspective, but that means less heralded players need to step up.
In fact, a team’s “top receiver” has been out-scored by a lower ranked receiving teammate in five of six weeks this season, a trend I expect to continue as long as Haden is on the field. Notable “sleeper” performances against the Browns include Brian Hartline (nine catches for 114 yards and a TD), Marlon Brown (4-45-1), and Kris Durham (8-83).
Examples: Donnie Avery (Week 8) and Mohamed Sanu (Week 11)
Tight Ends vs. Green Bay Packers: I touched on this a bit last week and I think a trend will begin to develop as a result of the Clay Mathews injury. The Packers’ pass defense is far from elite to begin with, but minus their long-haired linebacker, there is a sizable gap in the middle of the field.
In addition to the open space, Green Bay is very likely to struggle to generate a pass rush, allowing physical tight ends to find holes in the secondary and “post up”.
Examples: Kyle Rudolph (Weeks 9 and 12) and Zach Ertz (Week 10)
Defenses vs. Cleveland Browns: This is assuming that the other teams in your league stream against the rookie quarterbacks (New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders) and against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Would you believe that the Browns (currently being led by Brandon Weeden) have thrown more passes this season than the Denver Broncos (led by some Peyton Manning guy)?
They don’t have a consistent run game and are often trailing, thus forcing their weak pass game to play from behind. Cleveland quarterbacks have been sacked 24 times (second most in all of football) and there isn’t a single defense in the league I wouldn’t consider when facing this Browns offense.
Examples: Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 12) and Patriots (Week 14)
Fantasy questions about any sport? I’m always around @unSOPable23