Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 2
It was such an exciting opening week in the National Football League, wasn’t it? There were so many twists and turns and surprises and letdowns, especially in the fantasy football circuit. Amongst the top overall fantasy football scoring leaders for Week 1, there were six players who would qualify as a fantasy football sleeper. In fact, the unlikeliest player finished at the top in the form of Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only started in 0.9 percent of ESPN leagues, Fitzpatrick was the No. 1 overall fantasy player in all the land. Finishing Week 1 with 42.3 points — he torched the Saints for 417 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-28 passing — it was the best game of his career and it’s not close. The Saints were mentioned by many as Super Bowl contenders for Pete’s sake.
And let’s not forget Steelers RB James Conner, the feel-good story of the week, who I mentioned in my Week 1 Fantasy Football Sleepers intro. After overcoming so much off the field with his health, Conner drew the Week 1 start in lieu of Le’Veon Bell, who remains a holdout. Compiling 135 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries — he also caught 5-of-6 targets for 57 yards — Conner lit up the Browns for 29.2 fantasy points in standard scoring formats. He finished as the fifth overall fantasy player of the week.
Most-Productive Players from Week 1
|RK||ESPN Start %||Player||Position||Pos. RK||Points|
Sleepers Week 1: Full-Disclosure
|Player||Position||STD RK||Points||PPR RK||PPR Points|
It’s not hard to see that my Week 1 sleepers didn’t pan out too well outside of Jared Goff, Randall Cobb and Isaiah Crowell, and that’s if you even want to give me Goff and Crowell. And hey, guess what? I’m sick over it. I’ve lost sleep over it. I keep a bottle of Pepto Bismol at my desk for days like this. But historically, I start slow. It usually takes me a good 2-to-4 weeks to catch stride because it takes that long to figure out the players, the teams, the tendencies, and the usage. However, I’m impatient and don’t want to wait that long to get going. It’s time to right the ship in Week 2.
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 1 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 2, 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 Marcus Mariota, Greg Olsen, and Delanie Walker all succumbing to injuries last week, some more catastrophic than the others, be sure to check out Andrew Erickson’s Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 2 to help you fill the vacant holes on your fantasy rosters. You can read that here.
Week 2 QB Fantasy Sleepers
10. Tyrod Taylor
ESPN Start-Percentage: 17.8
Tyrod Taylor was one of my guys entering 2018 — I wrote about in him my 32 Fantasy Football Sleepers (One Per Team) in 2018 Primer in August. While I understand the fact that the Browns drafted Baker Mayfield with the top pick in April’s draft, Taylor is a proven NFL starter. Albeit he is extremely overlooked, Taylor had a productive outing in the season opener against the Steelers. While he struggled to complete passes — he only completed 37.5 percent of his attempts (15-of-40 attempts) — Taylor still managed to throw for 197 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, adding another 77 yards and a touchdown on eight rushing attempts. Finishing the game with 23.6 fantasy points, he was the QB6 in Week 1. And if you’re worried about his dangerously low completion rate, I’d pump the brakes for a moment. Not only does Taylor hold a 61.6 percent completion percentage and a 90 percent passer rating in his career, but he also had to contend with Sunday’s inclement weather — it was heavily downpouring in Cleveland. Unless Hue Jackson somehow broke him in their offseason together, Taylor will be fine moving forward.
Entering his upcoming matchup against the Saints, I’m salivating at Taylor’s opportunity. And I get it, the Saints defense was expected to take another step forward, making them legit Super Bowl contenders in 2018, but after getting lit up by career journeyman backup Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, I can’t resist touting Taylor as my top Week 2 quarterback sleeper. Fitzpatrick played the best game of his career on Sunday against the Saints. Completing 21-of-28 passes for 417 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions, adding another 36 yards and a score on the ground, Fitzpatrick was the No. 1 overall fantasy player in Week 1 (42.3 points). While I don’t think Taylor will come close to putting up that many points this week, I do believe he will be productive enough to finish as a fringe QB1. The Browns have so much pop and sizzle on offense for the Saints to contain. Moreover, Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams won a Super Bowl while was the Saints DC many moons ago, which shouldn’t be overlooked. He knows Sean Peyton’s tendencies, which could ultimately create turnovers and extra scoring opportunities for the Browns. In a game that could turn into a high-scoring affair — I believe the Browns could keep-up with the Saints now that Todd Haley calling the plays — Taylor could be in line for his second-straight 20-plus point outing.
9. Matt Ryan
ESPN Start-Percentage: 17.3
If you follow my work, it is no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Matt Ryan or Steve Sarkisian. I’ve been saying for two years now that Ryan’s MVP 2016 campaign was an anomaly because of the fact that in the seasons leading up to his monster year, he only finished as a QB1 four times — five total in his 10-year career. And in the years in which he didn’t finish as a QB1, he was very much a mid-to-back-end QB2, which is exactly how I view him in 2018. Ryan was my QB19 in the 2018 preseason draft rankings at Gridiron Experts. After opening the year with a clunker against the Eagles — Ryan completed 21-of-43 passes for 251 yards and a pick, finishing Week 1 as the QB24 with 8.9 fantasy points — I believe Ryan is poised to bounce back in a Week 2 home encounter with the Panthers.
Listen, I get what you’re thinking, Ryan was terrible last week and the Panthers shut down the Cowboys. Pump the brakes and read in between the lines. The Cowboys were only shut down because Ezekiel Elliott didn’t receive nearly enough touches to get going, dink and dunk Dak Prescott underperformed and Michael Gallup was doing his best Dez Bryant impression with multiple drops. I think Dallas’ struggles were more about the Cowboys than the Panthers defense. Moreover, while he has had a tough time getting going against the Eagles in their last few meetings including the postseason, he’s played extremely well versus the NFC South Divison rival-Panthers.
In their last four regular-season meetings dating back to 2016, Ryan has scored at least 21.3 fantasy points per game. He threw for a 1,416-9-2 QB stat line in that time span. While I don’t trust the Panthers’ secondary, who’s been amongst the league’s worst in recent memory, it is the Falcons’ defense that I want to talk about right here. Since losing Keanu Neal and Deion Jones to season-ending knee and foot injuries respectively in Week 1, Atlanta’s defense is down their two best players. As a result, they are vulnerable. If Cam Newton is able to exploit their defense and put up points, which I expect to happen, the Falcons could be playing catchup or even keep up, which could work out even better. Throwing for at least 306 yards in four of their past five meetings, Ryan holds back-end QB1 upside for Week 2.
Week 2 RB Fantasy Sleepers
8. Rex Burkhead
ESPN Start-Percentage: 33.5
I love my guy Rex Burkhead in a tough matchup against the Jaguars’ stingy defense this week. However, since the Giants exploited them in Week 1, the Jaguars defense does not always deliver as advertised. In his first career NFL start, Saquon Barkley received 18 carries for 108 yards and a TD. He also added another 22 yards on 2-of-6 targets. And if there is a phase of the Jacksonville defense that could be exploited, it is on the ground more times than not. While the Jaguars defense only surrendered the 28th most fantasy points to opposing QBs and the 25th most to opposing WRs last season, they allowed the 10th most points to the running back position.
While the Jaguars and Patriots played each other twice last season, Burkhead was not involved. He was inactive for their first meeting in the regular season and then only received one touch for five yards in their postseason encounter. In the AFC Championship game, it was Dion Lewis who played the role of the featured back. Lewis carried the ball nine times for 34 yards while adding another 32 yards on 7-of-8 targets. However, in their upcoming matchup in Week 2, things have changed in the New England backfield. Not only has Dion Lewis departed from the Patriots to the Titans in free agency this offseason, but the Patriots are riddled by injuries as well. While Sony Michel remains up in the air for Week 2 with a lingering knee injury — he was inactive last week — the Patriots also lost Jeremy Hill for the year to a torn ACL in the season opener, leaving Burkhead and James White as the only two healthy RBs on the depth chart. And while Michel could ultimately receive an active designation, I would expect him to be used sparingly, especially if he’s not at full health and is only there for an emergency situation, which is a plausible take.
While Burkhead was disappointing in Week 1 — he finished with 7.9 fantasy points — the opportunity was there. Although he only accumulated 64 yards rushing, he carried the ball 18 times. And while he only drew three targets, catching one of them for five yards, I expect that number to increase on Sunday afternoon. After all, what better way to neutralize the Jaguars pass rush than utilizing the running back out of the backfield in passing routes and on screen-plays? The Week 1 team-leader in touches — Burkhead out-touched James White 19-to-9 — I love Burkhead’s opportunity to bounce back in Week 2 and produce as a mid-to-back-end caliber RB2.
Monitor Rex Burkhead’s injury status and cue-up James White Rex Burkhead drew a DNP (Did Not Participate) designation for Wednesday’s practice on the Week 2 injury report due to a concussion likely suffered in Week 1. As a result, heavily monitor Burkhead’s playing status for Sunday’s matchup versus Jacksonville. He is in the league’s concussion protocol and is questionable for Week 2. If Burkhead clears the protocol and is active, I’d expect him to garner a full workload. I don’t think the Patriots would play him if he wasn’t fully ready to go. However, if he is inactive, I’d consider starting James White in his place.
First off, you could likely add White from the waiver wire if you get lucky. He is only owned in 71.6 percent of leagues at ESPN. And if you’re already a White owner, then he would trend to the must-start tier. With Burkhead out, White is the only healthy RB on the Patriots roster aside of Kenjon Barner, who was signed this week. And even if Sony Michel is inactive — reports suggest that despite the fact that he was limited at Wednesday’s practice with his lingering knee injury, he is “preparing as if he will play” this week — you have to wonder how much of a workload he will handle. Facing the Patriots in last season’s AFC Championship game, White totaled 26 yards and a TD on six touches (3-of-5 targets). He’s an upside Flex option if Burkhead is indeed out.
7. Chris Thompson
ESPN Start-Percentage: 32.7
Chris Thompson could be the most dangerous weapon on the Redskins’ offense — I believe that if it wasn’t for his annual injury concerns, he’s be perennially mentioned as a top fantasy PPR running back. However, following Adrian Peterson’s solid outing in the season opener against the Cardinals in which he received 26 carries for 96 yards and a TD while adding another 70 yards on 2-of-3 targets, Thompson’s big-time performance is being a tad overlooked amidst the fantasy football landscape. Rushing for 65 yards on five carries — he also caught 6-of-7 targets for 63 yards and a TD — Thompson finished Week 1 as the RB5 in PPR scoring formats with 24.9 points (RB8 in standard with 18.8). While Peterson is clearly the workhorse on the ground, Thompson’s role is in the passing game, which fully exploits his skillset.
Entering Week 2, Thompson has a dream matchup facing a Colts defense that allowed Joe Mixon to compile 95 yards and TD on 17 rushes on the ground and another 54 yards on 5-of-7 targets as a receiver. He finished Week 1 with 25.9 fantasy points in PPR. It was his breakout game. Therefore, how can you not love Thompson’s opportunity that lies ahead? After giving up the 19th most fantasy points per game in 2017, it doesn’t look like the Colts improved. In fact, after one game, it appears like they may be regressing. They gave up the 11th most fantasy points to opposing RBs in Week 1 (21.8), which bodes well for Thompson’s Week 2 fantasy outlook.
In a game that could find the Redskins playing from behind if Andrew Luck and the Colts can jump off to an early lead, I believe game-script could ultimately favor Thompson over Peterson. In the aforementioned scenario, Peterson could be phased out if Washington has to abandon the run and pass more. And an increase in passing opportunities translates into an increase in touches for Thompson. He is the Redskins primary receiver out of the backfield. While Thompson is the better play in PPR scoring formats, he could also accumulate a respectable output of points in standard leagues. Thompson is one of my more confident starts of the week.
Week 2 WR Fantasy Sleepers
6. Cooper Kupp
ESPN Start-Percentage: 33.3
Since there are so many weapons in Jared Goff’s arsenal, it is difficult to project the one who will emerge on a week-to-week basis. However, that is not the case this week. I like Cooper Kupp versus the Cardinals. While the Cardinals got embarrassed by the Redskins in Week 1, most of the damage was done by Chris Thompson, Adrian Peterson and Jordan Reed. And although Washington’s wide receivers were nonexistent, I believe game-script dictated a heavier ground presence, which could be why Redskins wideouts were shut down in the stat column. I don’t think that will be the case in Week 2. While the great Patrick Peterson will be locked on Brandin Cooks, Kupp should run wild in the slot. And although it is no secret that Brandin Cooks is the pop and sizzle wide receiver on the Rams, Kupp is Jared Goff’s top weapon not named Todd Gurley.
While in his rookie season, Kupp caught 62-of-94 targets for 869 yards and five touchdowns, I expect a tremendous leap in year two. Not only does Kupp have Goff’s trust, but it is evident that he has the emerging quarterback’s trust in the red zone. In 2017 Kupp ranked eighth amongst NFL wideouts with 23 red zone targets and finished third in the league with 13 red zone receptions. Moreover, not only does Kupp already have three red area targets in 2018 — he only caught one of them — but his lone reception, which was an end zone target, went for a touchdown. If this trend continues, and I fully expect it to, Kupp is primed for a breakout year. Facing a Cardinals defense that surrendered a 9-119-1 stat line to Kupp in his only two carer appearances against them last season, Kupp is one of by more confident PPR Flex plays for Week 2.
Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don’t hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.
September 15, 2018 at Saturday, September,15
Good article. *shore up