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 2 was a solid week in this space, with Zack Moss, Hunter Henry and the Tampa Bay defense all exceeding expectations. Let’s see what we find for Week 3.
TE Taysom Hill, at Green Bay (14%)
Nothing starts a fantasy fight quicker than a discussion over Hill’s fantasy eligibility — one of my leagues is about 23 messages into the filibuster this week. I’ll skip that discussion, but I don’t mind deploying Hill as a season-long fill-in or even a DFS punt this week, after watching him do a little bit of everything against the Panthers (nine carries for 75 yards, two targets, one pass attempt). Hill offers some goal-line equity with Jamaal Williams and Alvin Kamara not available, and the Packers are handing out 4.5 yards per carry and 166 yards per game. Versatility for the win.
Everyone is on notice in Chicago these days, as the Bears are on a dreadful 1-15 skid dating back to last season. And obviously no one expects that run to end at Kansas City, where the Chiefs 13-point favorites. But Johnson’s progress needs to be appreciated; he’s already moved to the RB2 space on the depth chart, and he leads the backfield in targets, with nine. There should be plenty of hurry-up work available as the Bears play from a deficit Sunday, and there’s no time to kiss the ring of any veterans in this huddle — Chicago needs to utilize its best players, period. Johnson has an excellent chance to become Chicago’s feature back before the leaves fall off the trees, and I won’t be surprised if he takes a step forward Sunday.
WR Tank Dell, at Jacksonville (24%)
The Nico Collins breakout year is finally here, and it’s spectacular. But let’s also make room for Dell, who absorbed 10 targets last week and posted a useful 7-72-1 result. The Texans have cluster injuries on the offensive line, but that sort of problem is easier to hide through the passing game. And Houston hasn’t been shy letting rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud air it out, either — Stroud was so busy last week, he propped up three different wideouts (including Robert Woods) for fantasy value. The Texans are 8.5-point underdogs at Jacksonville, so Stroud is probably looking at another 40 or more pass attempts. Dell’s getting used all over the formation and is finding space on shorter and intermediate routes, quickly earning Circle of Trust privileges.
WR Adam Thielen, at Seattle (43%)
Sometimes boring efficiency is a fantasy boost, especially in a PPR or half-PPR world. That sort of thing has pushed Zach Ertz into the Top 10 at tight end this year, and maybe it will temporarily save Thielen, too. Thielen wasn’t a factor on opening day at Atlanta, but he was involved plenty against the Saints, posting a 7-54-1 line on nine targets. Meanwhile, rookie receiver Jonathan Mingo did little with eight opportunities (3-26-0), and no one else in the downfield target tree drew more than three chances. Thielen is the obvious first-read for a new offense and a rookie quarterback, and that probably means a lot of underneath work at Seattle. The touchdown isn’t a great bet to repeat, but Thielen’s volume makes him an easy WR3 punch this week.
RB Tyjae Spears, at Cleveland (20%)
I’m including Spears here strictly as a stash play; I don’t see him doing much against the nasty, Jim Schwartz-schemed Cleveland defense. But Spears is already carving out opportunity in the Tennessee backfield, collecting 14 touches (and almost seven yards a carry) in two weeks, and he’s making a lot of those gains on his own (he’s Top 10 in broken tackles per carry, albeit on a tiny sample). No one wishes an injury on Derrick Henry, but we need to be proactive and opportunistic with the options on our bench. Spears is just one news item away from being a fantasy windfall.
Seahawks DST vs. Carolina (38%)
You don’t have to be a great real-life defense to show up in the streaming file. Consider the Seahawks, who are below-average in several defensive stats. They’re in a good spot here as 6.5-point favorites against rookie quarterback Bryce Young, who is below league average in every primary passing and efficiency metric. The Panthers are also on a short week, and challenged by one of the last significant home-field advantages remaining in the NFL.