Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 4
Now that we are three weeks into the 2018 fantasy football campaign, we are truly absorbing the fact that the NFL is indeed a passing league. While the running back position appeared to be on the upswing in the past few seasons, it is the quarterback and wide receiver positions that are dominating the overall fantasy football scoring leaderboard in 2018.
While we saw 10 QBs, two RBs, two WRs and one TE round off the top 15 most productive fantasy football players for Week 2, the quarterback’s presence grew even larger in the week that was.
In Week 3, there were a whopping 11 quarterbacks finishing as top 15 fantasy producers — regardless of position — followed by four wide receivers and two running backs. Now I know that you’re thinking that those numbers add up to 17, but there were two ties in fantasy points scored as shown on the chart below.
Most-Productive Players from Week 3
While the top 15 overall fantasy football scoring leaderboard was dominated by some of the most notable names in the business last week, there were quite a few sleepers in the mix as well. Calvin Ridley (17.7), Josh Allen (0.6), Ryan Tannehill (26.2), Adrian Peterson (24.0), Robert Woods (23.7), Jordy Nelson (23.3), Jimmy Garoppolo (IR) and Mike Williams (20.1) were all started in fewer than 50 percent of fantasy leagues at ESPN last week and finished amongst the top 15 most productive players for Week 3. For the purpose of this article, any player with less than a 50 percent start-percentage at ESPN Fantasy will meet the criteria of eligibility despite their household namesake — see Jordy Nelson.
Sleepers Week 3: Full-Disclosure
|Player||Pos||STD Rank||STD Points||PPR Rank||PPR Points|
Full-Disclosure by the Numbers
As showcased in the chart above, I had an extremely erratic week with my sleeper picks in Week 3. While half of my picks were misses, the other half were quite productive from a sleeper-standpoint.
- Both of my QBs — Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff — accumulated at least 22.3 points and finished inside the top 11 at their position with Goff in the QB6 spot.
- I had two WRs finish in the top 11 at their position in standard scoring formats with at least 13.6 points. While Will Fuller finished Week 3 as the WR8 and Geronimo Allison the WR11 in standard scoring formats, they finished as the WR9 and WR25 respectively in PPR.
- At RB, although Matt Breida and Corey Clement finished the week with at least 10.5 points in PPR, only the former had double-digit points in standard formats. None of my RBs finished better than the RB17 in any format despite their aforementioned double-digit scoring outputs.
- TE was my worst position in Week 3 with zero hits.
- Of my desperation plays — Latavius Murray and Geronimo Allison — Allison had a standout week.
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 3 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 4, some fantasy owners may be forced to shop the waiver wire due to a handful of notable injuries around the league. With players that include Jimmy Garoppolo, Evan Engram, and A.J. Green all succumbing to injuries last week, some more significant than the others, be sure to check out Andrew Erickson’s Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 4 to help you fill the vacant holes on your fantasy football team’s rosters. You can read that here.
Week 4 QB Fantasy Sleepers
10. Eli Manning
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.0
If there was ever a matchup in which you want to start Eli Manning, it is in his upcoming one against the Saints. While he is off to yet another pedestrian start in 2018, only completing 81-of-110 of his passes for 800 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception — he is the QB24 with 40.6 games in three games — Manning has played better in his last two outings. Since Week 2, Manning is the QB17 with 33.4 points following a seven-point clunker in the season opener.
However, my biggest takeaway from Eli Manning this year has been his ball security. Normally a high-turnover liability, Manning has only turned the football over two times this season (one pick in Week 1 and a lost fumble in Week 2). And while Manning has ample weapons even with the loss of Evan Engram (MCL), who is out for the foreseeable future with an MCL injury, the signal caller’s biggest asset is in the form of new right tackle Chad Wheeler, who drew the start in Week 3 in the wake of Ereck Flowers’ highly-anticipated and year too late benching.
With Wheeler in and Flowers out, Manning had his best game of the young season last week, completing 25-of-29 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers. Finishing Week 3 as the QB13 with 19.8 fantasy points and an 86.2 percent completion percentage, it’s funny what the benching on of inept offensive lineman can do for a quarterback and an offense right Ben McAdoo?
In his upcoming home matchup against the Saints, Manning should once again flirt with the fringe QB1 tier in terms of projected Week 4 fantasy finishes. Not only are the Saints allowing the most fantasy points to QBs at a 32.3 FPPG rate, but Manning has played extremely well against them in recent memory. In fact, in their past four meetings, Manning has accumulated at least 18.0 FPPG against the Saints, including a pair of 28.7 point outings in 2011 and 2012 as well as a 41.5 point game in 2015. His worst game in which he put up 18 points occurred in their last meeting in 2016.
While historical stats only mean so much, it is worth noting that Manning has played well against Sean Payton coached teams if you’re into that sort of thing. In a game in which the Giants could very well be chasing points, Manning could be started in most fantasy formats with 12 teams or more and is a must-start in leagues in which you can start multiple QBs.
9. Ryan Tannehill
ESPN Start-Percentage: 11.6
I couldn’t be happier to put MY guy Ryan Tannehill from MY undefeated Miami Dolphins football team in my sleepers column. And yes, I am a Cowboys fan, but in this business, you fall in love with a 1b and even 1c in some cases. This year, my offseason darlings were the Dolphins — it was the Jaguars last year for my new readers and listeners. If you follow my work at Gridiron Experts or at the FFFaceoff, you’d know that I picked the Dolphins to not only be a surprise playoff team, but I also said they are the one team that can challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. And yes, you guessed it, people laughed their asses off at me.
However, look at those Dolphins now. I get that it’s only a few games, but they are playing tremendous football and the accolades are well-deserved. So where does my infatuation with the Dolphins come from? Not only do they have a young and underrated defense, but the last time Ryan Tannehill was on the field pre-knee injury, he was leading the team to postseason contention. And although their playoff hopes were derailed following the Tannehill injury, the signal caller was playing outstanding football.
In fact, in his last 11 starts dating back to the aforementioned 2016 season, Tannehill is 10-1. The Dolphins are coming for you New England. And here is a spoiler alert, I am picking the Dolphins to beat the Patriots in the Gridiron Experts staff Pick’em pool. Keeping score? I am in second right now! So for you sports-book connoisseurs, check out this link for the winning edge.
From a fantasy football perspective, Tannehill is currently sitting as the QB13 with 56.9 fantasy points on 54-of-74 passing for 687 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. And while the NFL is a passing league, Tannehill is getting by on efficiency. He is completing a cool 73 percent of his passes and has yet to attempt more than 28 throws in a game. You can attribute his stellar play on his 95.8 percent protection rate, which is good for second in the league amongst quarterbacks.
Entering his upcoming matchup against the Patriots, Tannehill should maintain his good fortunes. Not only do the Patriots surrender the 10th most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs at a 20.4 FPPG pace, but in his past two meetings, Tannehill has accumulated at least 27.2 FPPG on 739 yards, four TDs and a pair of interceptions. With the emergence of Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant to go along with the boom or bust play of Kenny Stills at wide receiver, not to mention it is a Danny Amendola revenge game, I expect Tannehill to finish as a fringe QB1 for Week 4. Facing a Patriots defense that alotted 639 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in their past two games combined against Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles, I’m starting Tannehill confidently if I have Cam Newton or Alex Smith on a bye.
Week 4 RB Fantasy Sleepers
8. Kerryon Johnson
ESPN Start-Percentage: 20.9
Although Kerryon Johnson, and the Lions for the matter, got off to a sluggish start, business began to pick up a week ago against the Patriots. Doubling his Week 2 carries with 16 and rushing for 101 yards while adding another nine yards on two receptions, Johnson became the first Lions running back to rush for at least 100 yards since 2013 en route to an RB21 finish in Week 3 with 11 points in standard scoring formats.
And while LeGarrette Blount mimicked Johnson’s Week 3 touches with 18 (16 carries and two receptions), the veteran rusher was not nearly as efficient as the rookie, totaling 45 fewer yards on an equal amount of opportunities. With Theo Riddick only garnering three receptions and zero carries — he appears to be trending in the wrong direction in terms of opportunity-share — Johnson could have shown enough upside to garner the lion’s share — pun intended — of the running back touches in Week 4.
While the Cowboys normally present a tough matchup for opposing running backs, that is not the case when Sean Lee is out of the lineup. Suffering a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to the Seahawks, Lee is expected to “miss some time,” which certainly includes Sunday’s game against the Lions. With Lee out, Johnson could have the game of his young career.
Following Lee’s injury last week, Seahawks RB Chris Carson played extremely well. In fact, he finished the Week 3 matchup with 124 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries behind a defunct Seattle offensive line. If Carson could have that much success, Johnson is primed to thrive behind a more competent front five. Facing a wounded Cowboys defense allowing the 19th most fantasy points to RBs at a 16.4 FPPG rate, Johnson, who is ranked sixth amongst RBs with 5.4 true YPC, is in the back-end RB2 conversation for Week 4. At worst, he should be locked and loaded as an upside Flex play, depending on your running back depth.
7. Austin Ekeler
ESPN Start-Percentage: 16.7
While Austin Ekeler is overshadowed by the great Melvin Gordon in the Chargers backfield, he’s handled enough touches to remain fantasy-relevant. In fact, he’s garnered at least 10 touches in two of the first three games of the season. Looking into the numbers even further, when Ekeler received double-digit touches in the first two games of the year, he’s collected at least 98 yards. Totaling 295 yards and a TD on 31 touches (11 receptions) — he’s caught at least three passes in of the first three games of the season — Ekeler is the RB16 with 33.5 points in standard scoring formats and the RB15 with 44.5 points in PPR.
One of the more overlooked running backs in fantasy football, I expect Ekeler to have great success on Sunday against the 49ers. Not only is the 49ers defense surrendering the 18th most fantasy points to RBs at a 16.4 FPPG pace, but they are especially forgiving to PPR backs similar to Ekeler. Although the 49ers have yet to allow a receiving TD to an opposing RB, they rank fourth in receptions (26) and eighth in yards allowed (183), which bodes well for Ekeler’s fantasy outlook.
In a game that could get out of hand early in the Chargers’ favor, Melvin Gordon may ultimately cede a few extra touches to Ekeler as the team may elect to rest the starter in the second half should this one get out of hand. The top-ranked RB in yards per touch (9.5) and true yards per carry (7.6), Ekeler should receive strong Flex consideration, whose value will peak in PPR scoring formats, in Week 4.
Week 4 WR Fantasy Sleepers
6. Tyler Boyd
ESPN Start-Percentage: 26.7
While Tyler Boyd has had an erratic career so far, he’really turned it on in 2018. In fact, after a slow start in the season opener in which he put up a meager 3-26-0 stat line, Boyd has broken out in his past two games. Hauling in 12-of-16 targets for 223 yards and two TDs — he’s played on a least 78.6 percent of the team’s snaps while running at least 37 routes in back-to-back games — Boyd is fantasy football’s WR2 with 34.8 points since Week 2 and is emerging as Andy Dalton’s top pass-catching option behind A.J. Green.
Entering his upcoming matchup against a banged-up Falcons defense, I believe Boyd will maintain his success. Not only will the Falcons be without Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, who were both placed on the injured reserve list earlier in the year, but they also lost Ricardo Allen for the rest of the way with a torn Achilles suffered in Week 3’s loss to the Saints. Without two of their best starters in the secondary, it will be difficult to contain the Bengals’ passing attack. And assuming the Falcons will key on holding A.J. Green in check, it is safe to say Boyd is primed for his third consecutive productive outing.
Facing a Falcons defense that has surrendered at least four receptions for 64 yards or a touchdown to five different receivers already in 2018 including two who had at least seven catches for 146 yards — Atlanta’s defense is giving up the 11th most fantasy points to opposing wideouts at a 26.4 FPPG pace — Boyd is a back-end WR2 for Week 4.
Ranked 11th in yards per target (11.9) and 12th in fantasy points per target (2.50), it wouldn’t surprise me if Boyd once again returned WR1 value, especially since Green is hobbled with a pelvis injury. And although he told the press that “he feels great,” you never know with lower-body injuries. Boyd could be Dalton’s top receiving option if Green takes one critical hit.