Week 7 NFL Fantasy Sleepers
The definition of what a Fantasy Football Sleeper is, really depends on the type of owner you are, and the type of fantasy league you’re in. For the extent of this article series, I’m going to be suggesting players that you may not be considering for Week 7.
An old face in a new place headlined Week 6’s overall fantasy scoring leaderboard. Despite not leading all fantasy players in scoring, newly acquired Cardinals’ RB Adrian Peterson finished Week 6 ranked third in overall fantasy production with 25.4 points in his first game in the desert. Even with his household name recognition, Peterson was only started in 25.7 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues last week. Thus, he was considered a sleeper. However, entering Week 7, the veteran rusher is being employed in 73.9 percent of fantasy leagues. He is eliminated from sleeper consideration for the time being.
Most-Productive Players from Week 6
Sleepers Week 6: Full-Disclosure
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 6 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 7, 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 Aaron Rodgers, Jameis Winston and Golden Tate all succumbing to injuries last week, be sure to check out Andrew Erickson’s Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 7 to assist you with filling the vacant holes on your fantasy rosters. You can read that here.
Week 7 Byes: Lions, Texans
Here are my Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week Seven.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 9.5
The Green Bay Packers suffered a crippling loss last week against the Vikings. Not only did they lose the game, but they also lost the elite Aaron Rodgers, who is considered by many the best quarterback in the NFL right now. After being drilled into the turf by Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr, Rodgers was carted into the locker room. He was later diagnosed with a broken collarbone, ending his season.
In comes Brett Hundley, Rodgers’ backup since 2015. In limited action, Hundley has been underwhelming at best. He’s only accumulated a 174-1-4 QB stat line in six career games. However, the 24-year-old has never started a game. In fact, he’s only played in spot duty. With over three quarters of playing time last week following the Rodgers injury in which he threw for 157 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions while completing only 54.5 percent of his passes, plus, a full week to prepare as the QB1 for Sunday’s home matchup with the Saints, Hundley is worthy of sleeper consideration for Week 7.
Why? Well, he has, perhaps, one of the most reliable arsenals of weapons in the league to date. With players that include Ty Montgomery, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, Hundley is in line for a productive outing in his first career start. Facing a Saints defense ranked 12th in fantasy production allowed to QBs, Hundley has back-end QB1 upside for Week 7.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 9.1
Although Blake Bortles has struggled thus far in 2017, albeit was at a minimum, he’s played well at times. Currently sitting as fantasy’s QB21 with 75.3 points, Bortles is entering a plus Week 7 encounter with the AFC South division-rival Colts, a team that’s he’s had success against in the past. In six career games, Bortles has thrown for 1,425 yards, nine TDs and only three interceptions while completing 57.6 percent of his passes. While adding 159 yards and two TDs as a rusher to pair with his passing numbers, Bortles has averaged 22.5 FPPG versus the Colts.
Perhaps, Bortles’ aforementioned struggles this year shouldn’t lie solely on his shoulders. He’s surrounded by a depleted wide receiver corps that is without Allen Robinson, who is out for the year with a torn ACL as well as preseason rookie standout Dede Westbrook, who is aiming for a Week 9 return from a core muscle surgery. With Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns the team’s top two targets, they lead the team in that category with 40 and 30 respectively, Bortles should only be started in favorable matchups. He has just that on Sunday. Facing a Colts defense surrendering the fourth most fantasy production to the QB position yielding 19.7 FPPG, Bortles is an upside QB2 for Week 7. If a one-legged Marcus Mariota could produce 14.2 fantasy points against this same Indianapolis defense — he accomplished that feat last Monday night — Borltes should surpass that mark by a handful of points at least.
Running Back Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 37.3
Since the Cincinnati Bengals fired former offensive coordinator Ken Zampese following Week 2’s loss to the Texans and promoted quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to the vacant role, Joe Mixon has progressively received a greater amount of touches as the season grew older. Now, entering Week 7, he is the RB1 in Cincinnati while Giovani Bernard is viewed the RB2/ primary receiver out of the backfield and Jeremy Hill is being sprinkled in to spell the rookie. Through five games, Mixon lead’s all Bengals RBs with 78 touches followed by Hill’s 33 and Bernard’s 30. Although Mixon is dominating in touches, Bernard is leading the backfield in fantasy production. He is the RB33 with 37.5 points while Mixon is the RB42 with 32.5. Sitting as the RB75 with 11.4 points, however, Hill is a fantasy afterthought.
Although Mixon’s upcoming matchup at Pittsburgh appears terrible on paper — the Steelers’ defense has given up the seventh least total net yards in 2017 — it’s not. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. While the strength of their unit is containing pass — they are the No. 2 ranked defense in net passing yardage allowed — their Achilles heel is stopping the run — they surrender the 24th most net rushing yards in the NFL yielding 118.5 YPG.
Facing a Pittsburgh defense that surrenders the seventh most fantasy points to RBs allowing 20.6 FPPG, Mixon appears primed to break-out. Coming off a Week 5 meeting with the Bills in which he accumulated 51 yards rushing and his first career touchdown on 15 carries — he was fantasy’s RB13 with 11.1 points — Mixon is in line for his second consecutive double-digit fantasy point outing on Sunday. He is a bold RB2/ Flex option, with RB1 upside, for Week 7.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 23.1
It finally appears to be Derrick Henry time in Tennessee. No, Demarco Murray hasn’t gone anywhere, nor is he dealing with a significant injury. However, the Titans are beginning to feature Henry more in the offense, which translates to a true-two headed monster backfield. While this is outstanding news for Henry’s fantasy value, Murray’s will surely take a hit. But, it doesn’t mean that both rushers can’t be productive. Through the first six games of the year, Murray is the RB20 with 49.9 points while Henry is the RB26 with 46.2.
Looking ahead into Sunday’s meeting with the Browns, Henry is entering the matchup as the hot hand. Not only did he out-touch Murray in last Monday night’s win over the Colts 20-to-16, but he also out-gained him 145-to-87 while both RBs added a rushing TD to their totals. Henry finished Week 6 as the RB5 with 20.5 points while Murray concluded the week as the RB10 with 14.7.
Although the Browns remain winless, their defense hasn’t been completely terrible. In fact, they have the 15th ranked unit in total net yards allowed while surrendering the 28th most points (157). The latter statistic is obviously their handicap. Since this isn’t the greatest matchup in the world for Henry — Cleveland’s defense gives up the ninth least fantasy points to RBs surrendering 15.3 FPPG — his fantasy owners may be skittish inserting him into their lineups this week. However, don’t be. The Titans have the sixth most productive rushing attack in the NFL, plus, one of the league’s most physical and feared offensive lines. With Marcus Mariota playing through his hamstring injury, expect Tennesse to continue employing their powerful rushing attack to ease the pressure off their ailing QB. Henry is an upside Flex option for Week 7.
Wide Receiver Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 12.5
The Los Angeles Rams are one of the more surprising teams in the NFL thus far in 2017. In fact, they lead the NFC West with a 4-2 record. During the Jeff Fisher era, the Rams’ offense was amongst the league’s bottom feeders. However, with Sean McVay roaming the sidelines, they are ranked fourth in total net yards and are the league leaders in points scored with 179.
Entering Sunday’s encounter with NFC West division rival Cardinals in London, Cooper Kupp appears in line for a productive day. Why? The Patrick Peterson effect. The shut-down corner has done just that in 2017, and for the majority of his career if you’re counting. Already shutting down Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Pierre Garcon and T.Y. Hilton this season — the aforementioned WRs totaled a 13-128-1 stat line against Peterson — the Rams’ presumed WR1, Sammy Watkins, who has been sub-par at best in 2017, is on track for yet another underwhelming performance, which bodes well for Kupp’s Week 7 outlook.
Aside from Peterson, though, Arizona’s defense has been remarkably welcoming for opposing WRs. Surrendering the third most fantasy points to the position giving up a staggering 26.8 FPPG, Kupp is a confident Flex option for Week 7. In the two games in which the rookie wideout has scored a TD, he finished as the WR9 with 13.6 points in Week 1 and the WR12 with 12 points in Week 4. I’m expecting similar results on Sunday, especially if the Cardinals’ defense, who are ranked 26th against fantasy RBs, contain Todd Gurley. In that situation, Jared Goff would be forced to pass more often than he would if Gurley was productive on the ground, which will likely translate to a greater-opportunity-share for Kupp.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 58.9
I have already gushed over the Browns defense earlier when I was stating the reasons why to employ Derrick Henry in your fantasy lineups this week. And while I mentioned that Marcus Mariota will play through his hamstring injury, likely resulting in the Titans featuring the run in Sunday’s matchup in Cleveland, the modern-day NFL is a passing league, and that phase of the game will not be forgotten.
Mariota is practicing in full this week, which likely means his mobility be tremendously better than it was on Monday night. Some of Mariota’s strengths are his versatility and ability to extend the play while his wideouts find an opening, which is why I like Rishard Matthews in Week 7. Sitting as fantasy’s WR27 with 41 points, Matthews is Tennessee’s most productive WR, and it’s not close. Eric Decker, the team’s current WR2, is fantasy’s WR65 with 22.6 points. While Matthews’ numbers aren’t earth-shattering, he’s clearly Mariota’s top pass-catching option. He leads the club with 42 targets, hauling in 24 of them for 353 yards and a TD.
Although the Browns’ defense surrenders the 16th most fantasy points to WRs giving up 19.9 FPPG, they are also yielding the sixth most TDs to the position, which bodes well for Matthews’ outlook for Sunday’s matchup. Coming off of a 2016 meeting between these two clubs in which he produced a 3-70-1 stat line, Matthews is in the WR3 mix, with touchdown upside, in Week 7.
Tight End Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 36.1
Although Hunter Henry got off to a rocky and inconsistent start to the season — he totaled zero fantasy points in every other game through the first four — he is beginning to come to form. In fact, since that fourth week of the season in which he scored his first touchdown of the year against the Eagles, he’s been fantasy’s TE7 with 26.8 points in a three-game time-span. However, despite his recent success, he is only being started in 36.1 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. As a result, if Henry strings together a fourth consecutive successful contest — he’s scored a touchdown in two of his past three games — his start-percentage will almost certainly rise, likely disqualifying him from sleeper consideration moving forward.
Entering a favorable matchup with the AFC West division-rival Broncos on Sunday, Henry is indeed poised for his fourth straight productive fantasy outing. Facing a Denver defense that has given up a 30-333-3 stat line to opposing TEs in 2017 — they surrender the sixth-most fantasy points to the position at a 10.3 FPPG rate — Henry, who is fourth on his team in targets with 25, has sure-fire TE1 upside in Week 7.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 52.1
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a pleasant surprise thus far in his limited 2017 action with the Jets. Playing in only four of New York’s last six games — he opened the year on a two-game suspension for a 2016 DUI charge — the troubled tight end has caught 23-of-29 targets for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Moreover, his 29 targets are good for third on the team behind Robby Anderson’s 41 and Jermaine Kearse’s 32. Currently, Seferian-Jenkins is fantasy’s TE10 — tied with Vernon Davis — with 25.2 fantasy points since his Week 3 debut.
While Seferian-Jenkins’ upcoming matchup with the Dolphins isn’t the greatest — Miami’s defense is ranked 14th in fantasy production allowed to TEs surrendering 7.9 FPPG through five games — it’s not the worst either. However, it seems like Jets QB Josh McCown and Seferian-Jenkins have a budding rapport — eerily similar to the one the veteran signal caller built with Gary Barnidge during their tenure with the Browns for 13 games together in 2015 and 2016. Not only do I expect McCown to continue leaning on his big-bodied tight end, but I believe Seferian-Jenkins could ultimately lead the team in receiving if he remains healthy for the duration of the year. I’m confidently starting Seferain-Jenkins, who holds TE1 upside, in Week 7.
Two Sleepers In Case You’re Desperate
ESPN Start-Percentage: 28.3
Is it me or is Nelson Agholor emerging as an every-week low-end fantasy option, rather than a week-to-week matchup play, which is how he is likely presently viewed by the majority of experts? Not only does he lead all Eagles WRs with 56.1 fantasy points — he is the WR11 with that mark while Alshon Jeffery, the team’s presumed WR1, is currently ranked as the WR22 with 45.7 points — but he put up those points on 18 fewer targets. While Zach Ertz leads all Philadephia pass-catchers in targets (53) — he leads all Eagles pass-catchers in fantasy production as well with 62.5 points — Jeffery is second on the club with 48 followed by Agholor’s 30.
In a primetime NFC East divisional rivalry encounter with the Redskins on Monday night, Agholor will face one of his toughest foes to date. Although their only six weeks removed from their last meeting in the 2017 season opener in which Agholor dropped an 8-86-1 stat line, Washington’s passing defense has improved. While they are the fourth-best unit in defending opposing WRs surrendering a mere 14.5 FPPG, it shouldn’t deter you from inserting Agholor in your fantasy lineups. He is in the Flex conversation for Week 7 on the verge of breaking out.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 2.9
For my second desperation option, I’m going to dig really deep. Moreover, I’m going to stick to a trend first showcased above in Agholor’s blurb. Similar to Agholor, Bennie Fowler is six-weeks removed from his last matchup with his upcoming opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, who also happens to be a division rival from the AFC West. Back in the previously mentioned Week 1 matchup, Fowler caught three targets for 21 yards and two TDs, and that was with a healthy Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the lineup.
However, this time around, Denver’s top two WRs are banged up. While Thomas is on track to play through his calf injury — he returned to practice Thursday — Sanders is already ruled out with a sprained ankle and could miss more time depending on his recovery. Obviously, Sanders’ absence gives Fowler’s fantasy value a tremendous boost. Fowler is a dart throw touchdown or bust Flex option in deeper league formats for Week 7. Only start him in a dire situation.
A player like Fowler is labeled a tournament-buster in DFS formats, especially with the opportunity he has in Week 7. For more extensive DFS knowledge, check out Mike Hauff’s Draft Kings Primer for Week 7. You can read that here.
Thank you for reading about my sleepers for Week 7. I hope you enjoyed it! Want more? Mike Hauff and I debate fantasy football news, notes and yes, sleepers, on our show, the Faceoff, a Gridiron Experts podcast. Check it out. Oh, and before I forget, we will answer your questions on our show! All you have to do is Tweet us with your question @FFfaceoff.
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.