Sleeper is a nebulous term in fantasy football. One size never fits all with any column.
My goal with this piece is to help you consider fantasy players that might be overlooked or under-appreciated, be it as temporary fill-ins, possible depth grabs or maybe the impetus for a prop play or DFS slot. As always, your mileage may vary, and you know your league — and particular needs — better than an outsider ever could.
Week 1 was a mediocre first run for the sleeper column, but that’s going to happen in some weeks. We’re back at it for Week 2.
Table of Contents
QB Mac Jones vs. Miami (20% rostered)
TE Hunter Henry vs. Miami (46% rostered, 19% started)
If you drafted vanity players for the one-fill positions, Week 1 was not your week.
Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews didn’t play, Dallas Goedert posted a bagel and a slew of big-name quarterbacks finished well under expectation (Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, just to name a few). Week 1 is often a glorified preseason extension in the NFL; choppiness is to be expected.
Meanwhile, Jones looked comfortable in the new Bill O’Brien offense, throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns against the respected Eagles defense. Yes, game flow pushed Jones to 54 attempts, a number we won’t expect often. But it’s also possible New England could be chasing the game in Week 2 as well, as it looks to keep pace with Miami’s track team.
I’m a little surprised Henry still qualifies for this column, given his back class. He’s been inside the TE1 cutline (top 12 or better) in four different seasons, and he will be a priority for this team around the goal line. A 6-56-1 line in Week 1 paid the bills, and it’s encouraging to see Henry running 42 routes on 58 Jones dropbacks.
The Dolphins allowed a tight end to score last week and might get beat again in Foxboro on Sunday night.
I didn’t want to put the Patriots team photo in this column, but also be mindful of Kendrick Bourne, who’s only rostered in a third of Yahoo leagues. He was the team’s runaway route leader last week (en route to a 6-64-2 performance) and is New England’s most trusted wideout — not Juju Smith-Schuster.
RB Zack Moss at Houston (27% rostered)
Deon Jackson had a logical case last week, but he was awful in his start against Jacksonville, fumbling twice and managing just 28 yards on 18 touches. Enter Moss, who’s back at practice and ready to step into a meaty role. The seas have parted for Moss — Jonathan Taylor isn’t in the building, Evan Hull is hurt and Jackson is coming off the Week 1 washout. Moss is in line for double-digit touches against a beatable Houston defense, and figuring out running back usage is much of the battle as we fill out the bottom of our starting sheet.
WR Rashid Shaheed at Carolina (43% rostered)
It’s easy to lose sight of Shaheed in New Orleans, as he’s not the shiny new toy (that’s Chris Olave) or the fading star from yesteryear (hey, Michael Thomas). But Shaheed is a splash play waiting to happen — he averages 17.5 yards per catch for his career, and 14.4 yards per target — and the Saints are manufacturing touches for him, too (he picked up two runs for 11 yards last week, in addition to the 5-89-1 receiving line). The Panthers are without cover ace Jaycee Horn, so it’s a good time for the Saints to dial up some downfield shots. Many of them will be for Olave, the sophomore star, but Shaheed is also going to get his opportunities.
No one throws a parade for a wideout who averages just six yards a catch, but Austin secured all six of his targets last week, and he snagged three after Diontae Johnson left the game. Johnson is down several weeks with his hamstring injury, opening up more playing time for Austin.
I get that it’s hard to trust Pittsburgh’s passing game after Kenny Pickett laid an egg last week but give the San Francisco defense a lot of credit for that. The Steelers have a remarkable record of finding value in the draft, and maybe Austin, a fourth-round pick a year ago, is the latest hit. He collected 137 catches for 2,202 yards and 19 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Memphis.
Buccaneers DST vs. Chicago (32% rostered)
Offensive lines are often blamed for gaudy sack totals, but sacks usually tell us more about the quarterback than they do the o-line. And Justin Fields, bluntly put, has a sack problem. He was dropped 55 times last year, and the Packers got him for four sacks — and a pick-six — in last week’s blowout. The Buccaneers defense was solid in the upset win at Minnesota and now makes sense as a logical streaming option against a young quarterback still trying to figure things out.
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