The term “sleeper” can have totally different meanings to each and every person. Generally, it indicates an under-the-radar player that, due to favorable match-ups or circumstances, has a good chance at putting up quality numbers for the week.
Sometimes it might be someone who is in a committee that has a brief opportunity to shine, or a relatively unknown player buried on a team’s depth chart.
For Week 4, we’ll look at some sleepers that fall in both categories- guys you’ve been looking for an excuse to start and also some deeper sleeper types that could be of some help for those hurt by the introduction of those pesky bye weeks. If that’s you, don’t forget to consult our weekly waiver wire picks for further assistance.
Josh Freeman (QB)- Let’s face it- Freeman hasn’t been very good this year. He ranks 31st in fantasy points so far. But if you’re a Ben Roethlisberger owner who is desperate, you might want to see if you can nab Freeman off of waivers. The Bucs host a Washington defense that ranks next-to-last in the league, surrendering 337.3 yards per game and an NFL-high 10 passing touchdowns.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB)- Along with Roethlisberger and MattRyan, Fitzpatrick sits atop the NFL passing TD leader board with eight scores in the season’s first three games. This is also a huge statement game for the Bills this week, as they host the AFC East bullies, the New England Patriots. The Pats’ defense is improved but they’re still vulnerable to the pass (24th in 2012) and Fitzpatrick has a solid history when facing them- going for over 300 yards and two scores in each of their two match-ups last season.
Cedric Benson (RB)- We all saw the pounding Aaron Rodgers took on Monday, and how the Packers protected him by making Benson the focus of their offense in the second half. Perhaps the biggest development in that game was when the Pack called Benson’s number on a first-and-goal situation and he cashed it in. For Week Four, Benson and the Packers face the worst defense in the NFL, a Saints squad that is giving up over 215 yards per game on the ground and a league-high six scores. Benson is a well known name, but if he’s been buried on your bench, this is the week to squeeze him into your lineup.
Ben Tate (RB)- Tate has quietly been an underrated fantasy producer in the season’s first three weeks. He’s averaging over 10 touches a game and has actually been a more productive receiver out of the backfield than Arian Foster. Tate’s 27.1 fantasy points currently ranks him 24th in the league, meaning he arguably could be an every week RB2. For Week Four, the 3-0 Texans host a Tennessee Titans squad that has struggled against the run. The Titans are 29th in that category, giving up 150.3 yards rushing and 1.33 touchdowns per game. If the Texans, as expected, get off to a big lead, there will be plenty of touches for Tate to make an impact.
Ramses Barden (WR)- Hakeem Nicks (knee) looks like he’ll be missing another game, and Ramses Barden will again start in his place. Barden looked amazing in that role last Thursday, as he and Eli Manning carved up a weak Carolina secondary to the tune of nine catches (on 10 targets) and 138 yards. No doubt the Eagles will be better prepared to defend Barden, but he will be a starting receiver for an excellent fantasy offense and that gives him solid value as a flex-play. Don’t discount the fact that the 6′ 6″ Barden could command looks on goal-line fades and jump-ball passes.
Denarius Moore (WR)- Now that he’s healthy, Moore has become a big part of the Raiders passing attack, commanding 18 targets over the past two weeks.That role could only expand as the Raiders will be without DarriusHeyward-Bey (concussion) for the foreseeable future. For Week Four, Moore gets a favorable matchup against a Denver Broncos defense that has already ceded eight passing touchdowns in three games. The Raiders might not win this game, but Carson Palmer and company should continue to put up nice fantasy numbers.
James Jones (WR)- Hate to pick on the Saints, but it seems like everyone else is. We fully expect the Packers to use their Monday Night Football “loss” as a rallying point and start blowing teams away. That should be easy to accomplish this week against a hapless New Orleans defense, so the approach is to start all Packers. Jones is averaging a half dozen targets per game and should be given consideration as a flex or WR3 play in deeper leagues. Randall Cobb has seen his playing time fade, but he could garner consideration in deep leagues as a receiving weapon out of the backfield and is always a threat to run back a kick.
Dustin Keller (TE)- Keller (hamstring) hasn’t played since Week One, but he’s been practicing and is expected to be back this week. Keller has actually led the Jets in receptions the past two seasons and he’s been sorely missed by a New York offense that thrived when he played in the opener, but has stalled in his absence. The Jets have a tough matchup Sunday, hosting a dominant 49ers defense that has struggled in only one area: they’ve given up a touchdown to a tight end in every game, including two to Kyle Rudolph last week. If Keller can’t go, super-sleeper Jeff Cumberland will get the start.
Sunday Edit: Keller won’t play in this game. As stated, if you’re super desperate for a warm body at tight end or really deep flex-play, Jeff Cumberland warrants some consideration.
Senior Writer Gridiron Experts. 2012 FantasyPros Most Accurate Fantasy Expert. Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. 26-year fantasy football veteran. Featured on NFL.com, Fantasypros, Football Diehards annual magazine, local AM sports radio, podcasts everywhere and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School.