Fantasy Football Sleepers: Week One
It’s difficult to peg traditional “sleepers” on the opening week of the NFL season. You have no current stats to go off of and have to rely on last year’s trends and tendencies. However, there are plenty of injuries that might open the door for an unheralded player or two to post some very good numbers. Let’s take a look at some players that might be on your bench, or even waiver-wire, that have the opportunity to be considered as starters this week.
Sam Bradford (QB)-
The hiring of new head coach Jeff Fisher
will only help stabilize Bradford and get him back on track. Bradford looked improved during the preseason and the Rams have improved their receiving corps as well. For Week one, St. Louis travels to Detroit to take on a potent Lions offense. Many expect this to be a high-scoring shoot-out type of game, opening the door for Bradford to put up some very nice fantasy stats. Hopefully nobody is relying on Bradford as the QB1 this season, but if you need to squeeze him into your line-up, then this is the week to do it.
Other QBs worth considering: Joe Flacco (BAL), Jay Cutler (CHI), Matt Schaub (HOU), Jake Locker (TEN)
Kevin Smith (RB)-
A lot of us just avoided the confusing Detroit backfield, rather than spend an early pick on the perceived starter only to see him on the bench two weeks later. That’s understandable, but if you did throw out a tenth round pick on Smith, get him in your lineup. Jahvid Best
is on the PUP list and Mikel LeShoure
is suspended for the Lions’ first two contests. That leaves only Smith and Keiland Williams
able to suit up to take on a pathetic St. Louis run defense. Smith is healthy and should see the majority of playing time in a game the Lions should easily win. That translates into a ton of touches, especially in the second half.
DeAngelo Williams (RB)-
Anyone playing fantasy football for a few years now is familiar with the kind of game-breaking skills that Williams is capable of producing. His 1500 yard, 20 touchdown season in 2008 is still legendary in fantasy circles. With teammate Jonathan Stewart
expected to miss this game, Williams could be in line for a significant amount of work as the Panthers travel to Tampa to take on what was a terrible Bucs’ run defense. With Cam Newton
expected to curtail his rushing attempts and Mike Tolbert
‘s role undefined, Williams has a chance at being a top ten running back this week and should be comfortably started as a high-end RB2.
Stevan Ridley (RB)-
As the probable starter for the Patriots, Ridley already has significant fantasy value. He’s a bigger and more dynamic player than BenJarvus Green-Ellis
and we all saw the kind of numbers “The Law Firm” put up in this offense over the last two seasons. Making Ridley an even more intriguing start this week is that teammate Shane Vereen
is expected to be sidelined, giving Ridley the vast majority of work. Another positive factor is that the once formidable Titans’ defensive line is riddled with injuries, making those valuable short yardage carries a little easier to convert. Feel comfortable sliding Ridley into your lineup as an RB2 or flex play this week.
Ryan Williams (RB)-
The second-year player looked impressive in the preseason, running with power and speed and appearing fully recovered from the patellar injury that cost him his rookie campaign. While the Cardinals are expected to split carries between Williams and incumbent starter Beanie Wells
, on Friday Wells unexpectedly showed up on the injury report as questionable with a hamstring issue. Wells has also been recovering from offseason knee surgery, and hamstring injuries tend to be the kind that linger and can severely limit a running backs ability to make cuts. Williams has a decent chance at seeing a significant amount of work against a tough Seahawks defense. He might be worthy of consideration in a flex spot in extremely deep fantasy leagues.
Other Running Backs worth considering: Ronnie Brown (SD), Robert Turbin (SEA), Ben Tate (HOU), Michael Bush (CHI)
Nate Washington (WR)-
We admit it, we just have a huge crush on this guy, but the numbers don’t lie. He’s a good receiver. With Kenny Britt
suspended, Washington will step-up as Tennessee’s top target this week against a high-scoring Patriots team. Should New England get off to a huge lead, the Titans will be in catch-up mode in the second half and that leads to lots of passing. Also keep in mind the chemistry that new starter Jake Locker
and Washington showed last season. In the three games that these two saw significant playing time together, Washington averaged seven grabs, over 100 yards per contest, and caught all four of Locker’s touchdown strikes. Start Nate Washington with confidence this week.
Randy Moss (WR)-
He’s been out of football for over a year, but from all indications, Moss can still fly down the field. The 49ers aren’t your typical air-it-out offense, but Moss adds a deep threat element that San Francisco has been lacking. Moss and the Niners travel to Green Bay to take on a leaky Packers secondary. In 14 career games against Green Bay, Moss has managed to “moon” the endzone 13 times. For week one, Moss is worthy of consideration as a WR3 or flex play.
Justin Blackmon (WR)- While the Jags spent big free agency money on Laurent Robinson to shore up an abysmal receiving corps, it’s become clear during the preseason that Justin Blackmon will be Jacksonville’s top target this year. While Robinson struggled with routes and learning the playbook, Blackmon looked like a natural and adept at using his size to his advantage. With Blaine Gabbert looking significantly improved, Blackmon has a chance to be considered as a match-up play in fantasy football. Since the Jaguars are opening the season against a Minnesota Vikings secondary that surrendered an NFL-high 34 touchdown passes, this is a week you might want to put the rookie in as a flex or WR3.
Other wide receivers worth considering: Malcolm Floyd (SD), Keshawn Martin (HOU), Danny Amendola (STL), Emmanuel Sanders (PIT), Brandon LaFell (CAR),
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.