I caught some heat from a few readers last week that my sleeper picks weren’t “sleepy” enough. So, this week I’ve dug a bit deeper and tried to identify some guys that may be on the waiver wire or on the ends of benches in standard-sized 10- and 12-team leagues. No further introduction is required here. It’s a simple process with sleepers. Let’s get to it.
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Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill vs. Falcons: I firmly believe this game is going to be a shootout. The Falcons are severely banged up on defense. LE Kroy Biermann tore his Achilles’ last week, WLB Sean Weatherspoon hurt his foot and is on short-term injured reserve, and LCB Asante Samuel has played just seven snaps this season as he battles a thigh injury. Atlanta has allowed the fifth-most passing yards (709) in the league through two weeks and has surrendered five touchdowns. Tannehill has been limited in practice this week with a right shoulder injury, but he’s going to be all systems go. He hurt the shoulder in last week’s game but didn’t miss a snap. Tannehill is a must-start in all two-quarterback leagues. You could also justify starting him in 14-team leagues.
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer vs. Saints: New Orleans has been pretty decent against the pass through two weeks, but they played Josh Freeman last week. The Saints have owned Freeman the last couple times they’ve squared off. Palmer’s had the Arizona offense moving in his two starts to open the season. Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) is going to play. You can take that to the bank. The Saints just lost No. 3 corner Patrick Robinson (torn patellar tendon) to injured reserve. They also don’t have many pass rushers. I like Palmer as a high-end QB2 this week.
Jets QB Geno Smith vs. Bills: Now, this one is a legitimate sleeper. Smith checks in at the No. 30 spot in Rotoworld’s Week 3 rankings among quarterbacks, just ahead of Brian Hoyer (31) and Chad Henne (32). I just have a gut feel with Smith this week. The Bills are banged up in the secondary. The only reason they shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers last week is because the Carolina offensive line can’t block anyone. The Bills’ pass rushers feasted. The Jets have an underrated offensive line. They’ve allowed nine sacks, but a handful of those have been the result of Smith holding onto the ball too long. I don’t advise starting Smith in any standard-sized league. However, if you’re in an ultra-deep league, and I mean really deep, Smith might surprise. Like I said, I just have a gut feel with this pick.
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Giants RB David Wilson vs. Panthers: Many owners are going to sit Wilson this week. With the way fantasy football works, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson eats this week. The Giants know they can’t win with Brandon Jacobs and Da’Rel Scott playing significant snaps. Wilson has boat loads among boat loads of talent. Sure, he fumbles, but so does every other back in the league. The Giants need to get his confidence up. I can easily see Wilson getting 15-plus touches against the Panthers. Carolina has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs through two weeks. They’re getting killed in the passing game, having surrendered 18 catches to running backs. They have a stout defensive line and one of the best middle linebackers in the game, but the secondary is shredded. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Wilson breaks off a long run or two. I’d start him all day.
Rams RB Isaiah Pead vs. Cowboys: Daryl Richardson is battling a nagging foot injury; he was in a walking boot Wednesday. Richardson is fully expected to play. He hasn’t been overly impressive as the Rams’ clear-cut lead back. This is the week I could see Pead getting into the action and possibly closing the gap between him and Richardson. Now, I don’t envision Pead getting more than 10-12 touches. (That may even be a bit generous.) However, in my opinion, he’s a better play than guys like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Daniel Thomas, and Isaac Redman as a low-end flex option.
Cardinals RB Andre Ellington vs. Saints: Rashard Mendenhall didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday due a toe injury. Ellington played 21 snaps in last week’s win over the Lions and turned six touches into 62 yards and a touchdown. Coach Bruce Arians threw some praise his way following the performance, saying he sees Ellington as a back “who can carry the load.” If Mendenhall misses the game, Ellington will see plenty of action in what could end up being a high-scoring affair. Even if Mendenhall suits up, Ellington is still going to get his opportunities. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. I have Ellington in the same boat as the aforementioned Isaiah Pead this week. He’s a low-end flex option in deeper leagues with some upside.
Lions WR Ryan Broyles vs. Redskins: Patrick Edwards sprained his ankle last week and hasn’t practiced this week. Broyles has been inactive for the first two games of the season, but the expectation is that will end against Washington. He could see a lot of looks in the slot. Redskins slot corner Josh Wilson has struggled in coverage, allowing eight catches for 89 yards. The Washington defense as a whole has been torched by opposing quarterbacks. It’s almost 2012 Saints bad. Broyles has a shot to show he’s healthy and take control of the slot receiver job in Detroit with a good showing. He’s on the WR5 radar.
Giants WR Rueben Randle vs. Panthers: The Panthers’ secondary has been decimated by injury. Josh Thomas is battling a concussion, D.J. Moore is out with a knee injury, Josh Norman has a thigh issue, and Quintin Mikell will be sidelined with an ankle sprain. The Giants could feast through the air this week. Randle exploded for 101 yards on five catches in Week 1 before coming back to Earth against the Broncos last week. Expect him to reel in a handful of passes Sunday. I’d start Randle over guys like Cecil Shorts, Golden Tate, and Alshon Jeffery this week. He’s on the WR3 radar.
Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson vs. Falcons: Atlanta slot corner Robert McClain has been roasted early this season. He’s allowed eight catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Gibson showed a good rapport with Ryan Tannehill in Week 1, reeling in seven passes. As I mentioned earlier, I expect this game to be a bit of a shootout. Gibson mans the slot for the Dolphins, and I could easily see him hauling in a handful of passes and finding the end zone. He’s a WR4/5 this week.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert vs. Packers: Eifert and fellow rookie Giovani Bernard were the stars on offense for the Bengals in Monday night’s win over the Steelers. Eifert is playing over 65 percent of the snaps with Cincinnati running a lot of “12” personnel – one back and two tight ends. The Packers have struggled to cover tight ends, allowing three touchdowns through two games. If the choice came down to starting Eifert or teammate Jermaine Gresham, I’d pick Eifert every time. Eifert is a legitimate TE2 play with some upside this week.
Patriots TE Zach Sudfeld vs. Bucs: Sudfeld put up a goose egg in the season opener against the Bills, and then missed Week 2 with a hamstring injury. He’s practicing in full this week and could have a big role against the Bucs, especially if Rob Gronkowski (back) ends up sitting out another week. Even if Gronkowski plays, he’d likely be limited. The Patriots are desperate for pass catchers. Tampa Bay has been the worst team in the league when it comes to stopping opposing tight ends after two weeks. Sudfeld is deep down our Week 3 tight end rankings, but don’t be surprised if he finishes the week as a top-15 or top-20 tight end. He’s on the TE2 radar.
Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Lions: Third-round rookie Reed has been steadily gaining the trust of the Redskins’ coaching staff. He’s starting to eat into Fred Davis’ playing time with Davis missing a couple of assignments. Reed is a natural pass catcher as a poor man’s Aaron Hernandez. The Lions have held opposing tight ends in check through two games, but Robert Griffin III doesn’t have a plethora of receivers. He likes to throw to his tight end and slot receiver. Reed could be a solid play in deeper PPR formats as a back-end TE2.