By: John Heffelfinger
We are providing you with some of our top deep sleeper plays to plug in for tournament games or help you pay up for some of the top tier players for Week 1 and craft the perfect lineup.
Teddy Bridgewater – In Week 1 Bridgewater is going against the 49ers who have had a great defense for about the last 7-8 years, but I think a regression is in store here. They took a big hit now with the losses of Chris Borland, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver and Ray MacDonald all on defense, they are due for regression. Take that with Navarro Bowman who will likely be rusty to start the year, and you are looking at basically a whole new LB core minus Ahmad Brooks, and Aldon Smith, new corners, and a new interior defensive lineman. Now the 49ers did only allow 220.7 yards through the air a game which was 5th best in the NFL, and only allowed 100.8 yards on the ground which was 7th best in the league. I really believe that AP being back though will open up the passing game for the Vikings who averaged just 203 yards per game in the air. I think this is the breakout year for Bridgewater, and for a low price, I could easily see 2 TD’s and 225+ yards against a whole new 49ers defense that will likely struggle early on this year.
Derek Carr –The Raiders are going against a good overall Cincinnati defense in Week 1, but one that allowed 3888 yards through the air last year (243 yards per game which was 20th in the NFL), and got to the quarterback just 20 times last year which was dead last in the NFL. Granted, they allowed 18.58 points per game to WR’s which was 30th in the NFL which shows me that they didn’t give up many TD’s. Now Oakland didn’t pass all that well with just 205 yards per game which was 26th in the NFL, but that was with James Jones as their #1 receiver and McFadden as the starting running back for a while. For Week 1 this year, Carr has a great weapon in Amari Cooper who is going to be a stud with his route running skills, and his overall athletic ability at the WR position, and a great second option in Michael Crabtree who is a great possession receiver and has had a 1,000+ yard season to his name. They also have Mychal Rivera who I think played very well for them last year and should only add to the trouble the Bengals will have. Overall I think the weapons are there for Carr who took strides at the end of last year, and is going against a Cincinnati defense that won’t put much pressure on him if they are anything like last year.
Joseph Randle – Randle is of my favorite sleepers for Week 1, and assuming he beats out McFadden (I think he will), I will be rolling him out in all formats. Now I do think McFadden will be involved in the offense, but he has not proven that he can stay healthy, and he really hasn’t been all that good when he actually played. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football and will be playing against the Giants who allowed 2162 yards on the ground last year (135.1 per game which was 30th in the NFL), and now might be without their best defender in Jason Pierre-Paul who had the firework incident this summer. Now Randle and McFadden are not Demarco Murray, but the Cowboys made a defined effort to run the ball more in 2014 with 508 rushing attempts (3rd most in the NFL), 4.6 yards per carry (3rd in the NFL), and rushed for 2354 yards which was 2nd in the NFL. The addition of La’El Collins will only help and honestly it probably doesn’t matter who is running behind that line with the holes that will be open. I haven’t found a line for the over under yet, but last year the two teams combined for 52 points in the first game, and 59 in the second game. I imagine that this year will be similar to last year as neither defense looks to have improved all too much. Even with a shared workload, Randle should be able to take advantage of a good line and a bad Giants run defense to get a lot of fantasy points for a low price.
Bishop Sankey –Reports say that he should be the starter going into Week 1 (losing some carries to David Cobb), and with Marcus Mariota at the QB position, he should have some more room to run. Last year, Sankey had 152 carries for 569 yards which was only 3.7 yards per carry which needs to improve this year. That being said, he has a lot of potential, and even though Justin Hunter might be suspended, they now have Dorial Green-Beckham and Nate Washington who are decent receivers, and Delanie Walker who had a great season for a TE last year. One thing that I have noticed is that young QB’s often rely on dump offs to the RB or short route for WR’s to get them comfortable which should also play into Sankey’s hands. He is going against the Buccaneers who allowed 113.7 yards per game (19th in the NFL), and allowed 15 rushing TD’s which was tied for 24th in the NFL. They also allowed 20.16 fantasy points to RB’s which was the 10th most in the NFL last year. I don’t see a much improved defense and while guys like Levante David and Gerald McCoy are nice, there isn’t too much else there to get me excited. Assuming Sankey gets the start, I expect him to post some good numbers, and if he can get in the end zone, it will just be gravy.
Charles Johnson – Like Randle, I absolutely love Charles Johnson Week 1 against the 49ers and he is one of favorite sleepers. He is priced very low and was the Vikings #1 Wide Receiver basically once he started to play, and while Mike Wallace will certainly be getting balls thrown his way, Johnson is at worst the 1B guy going into the year. Now he only played 49% of the snaps which is concerning, but he was target 13.4% of the time which was the highest of any Vikings WR aka their #1 Wide Receiver. If I had to guess right now, he will be guarded by either Tramaine Brock or Chris Cook, neither of whom get me all too excited about stopping him.. The 49ers did only allow 220.7 yards through the air last year, but that was with Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver who both had good seasons last year and both are better than any CB they have right now. They also allowed 21.40 points to WR’s which was 20th in the NFL and will most likely be much worse this year. Now it’s only day two of training camp, but he is making some great catches and Norv Turner has called him the best WR on the team so far. I really like the Bridgewater-Johnson combo and it will allow people to spend big on other WR’s and RB’s which is what I love to do.
Kevin White – In Week 1, the Bears play the Packers which is a nightmare matchup for them as Aaron Rodgers will be going against the worst pass defense from a year ago. Green Bay actually had the 10th best passing defense last year allowing 226 yards per game which came as a surprise to me. That being said, I expect the Packers to be winning the whole game which will mean the Bears will be throwing the ball the whole 2nd half which should create plenty of opportunities for Mr. White. The other good thing is that the Packers allowed 23.81 points per game to WR’s which was the 9th most in the NFL. With an offense that features Alshon Jeffrey, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and Jay Cutler, I expect White to fit in nicely. Assuming he’s healthy for Week 1, I expect White to take advantage of the scoreboard, and a Packers team that allowed a lot points to WR this year.
Maxx Williams – In Week 1, they will be going against the Broncos who had a good pass defense overall at 225 yards per game which was 9th best, but according to fantasydata.com, they allowed 9.21 points to Tight Ends last year which was the 7th most in the NFL. Also, like Kevin White, I expect the Broncos to be winning this game which is going to make Flacco throw the ball a lot, which should lead to more Maxx Williams targets. We will see how they will incorporate him, but with Owen Daniels playing 76% of the snaps last year as the #1 TE, I think things look optimistic Week 1 for Maxx. With a lot of new faces in that offense, I expect early on to see a lot of Justin Forsett, and Flacco to target the TE’s which he has proven to do in his career. I think this is the cheapest that you will be able to get Williams all year and will be taking advantage of the scoreboard as well.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – Another young guy that pops up on the list, but I like many people really like Sefarian-Jenkins this year, even with the rookie Jameis Winston at QB this year. We saw in college how much Winston loved to throw the ball to TE Nick O’Leary, and Seferian-Jenkins is much more polished than O’Leary in my opinion. Now last year he had to deal with a lot of injuries but when he played 51% of the snaps which was more than Brandon Myers played. In Week 1 they will be playing against the Tennessee Titans who have Jurell Casey on defense and not much else. Their pass defense allowed 3773 yards (236 yards per game), and according to fantasydata.com the Titans gave up 9.12 points to TE’s per week which was 8th worst in all of football. I think that this is a prime matchup for Sefarian-Jenkins as the Titans defense will most likely be pretty poor again this year, and with a good QB, I think he can put up some huge fantasy stats.
Graham Gano – You can’t really be a sleeper for a kicker since they are pretty evenly priced, but Gano is one of the cheapest kickers for Week 1 and I expect him to have a pretty good game. Now I normally like kickers who are on great offenses, but the Panthers don’t score a ton of touchdowns, but have a good enough offense to move the ball against the Jaguars who were one of the worst in the NFL last year and allowed 9.12 points per week to kickers. Gano was 29-35 last year and was perfect from on XP’s which is solid for a kicker. Now the weather will be the most important factor here because there is rain pretty often in Florida so people will have to look right before game time to check it out. Kicker is a great spot to save money any week, and going against the Jaguars gives any kicker a nice boost any week.
Indianapolis Colts – Much like Kickers, there aren’t really sleeper defenses because their prices are so close to each other. However, I like to play matchups for defense, and I really like their matchup against the Bills in Week 1. Buffalo had the 26th ranked offense last year at 318.5 yards per game while averaging 21.4 points per games. This year it looks like Matt Cassel or EJ Manuel will lead the team against the Colts and honestly I don’t have much confidence in either of them. The Colts had the 12th fewest passing yards against them last year at 229.3 yards per game which is great news and the Bills will likely be losing and having to pass on them. If it is Manuel starting, he has been wildly inconsistent and could easily see the Colts taking advantage of that for a couple of INT’s and maybe a touchdown as well. They are one of the cheapest defenses in Week 1, and this is another great spot to save money and spend big elsewhere. Check out our writeup on the Indianapolis Colts here in our Fantasy Football Team Showcase.
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