Fantasy Football Sleepers: Week 3
Week 2 was very kind to my PPR Sleeper picks, which included big performances from David Johnson, Crockett Gillmore, Charles Clay (who found the endzone) and of course Colts Donte Moncrief, the number #1 on my board.
Injuries continue to be a major storyline of the 2015 season, providing opportunities to speculate on the next man up for several NFL teams. With data from multiple games now at our disposal, we are starting to see patterns emerging on player usage and defensive susceptibilities, giving us even better insights into sleeper targets.
Once again, if your league utilizes a points-per-reception scoring format or you’re playing on one of the major DFS sites (DraftKings awards a full point per reception, while FanDuel scores a half point per catch), players that accumulate catches without the fanfare of big yardage totals and frequent trips to the endzone might be overlooked by your competition.
Below are ten PPR sleepers (four WR, four RB, and two TE) that can offer your team sneaky fantasy value in the third week of the season.
10. Cecil Shorts
Wide Receiver, Houston
The most-targeted Texans’ receiver in Week 2 was? No, not DeAndre Hopkins. It was Shorts, who secured six of the 12 balls thrown his way for 34 yards. Despite that gross inefficiency, anyone getting double-digit targets is worth monitoring for PPR purposes.
While Houston probably doesn’t want Ryan Mallett throwing the ball 58 times again this week, the hodgepodge of non-Arian Foster running backs on the Texans roster is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry this season. As a result, the Texans actually lead the NFL in pass attempts (14 ahead of second place New England), meaning volume should continue to be on the side of Hopkins and his fellow receivers. Shorts will continue to battle Nate Washington for looks as Houston’s second option in the passing game, but whereas Washington seemed to be the preferred choice for Brian Hoyer, Mallet appears to look more toward Shorts. Against a Tampa Bay defense that has given up the ninth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in 2015, Shorts makes for an interesting play in Week 3.
NOTE: DeAndre Hopkins suffered a concussion in Week 2 and as of Friday had yet to pass a baseline neurological exam. He returned to practice ahead of the weekend and it listed as probable, but if Hopkins is forced to sit out, Shorts becomes an even more attractive PPR option and Washington would be on the radar, as well.
9. Gary Barnidge
Tight End, Cleveland
It might be early in the season, but it’s already looking like the Raiders might be a team to target if you are steaming tight ends or looking for value at the position. After conceding nine catches, 104 yards, and two touchdowns to Tyler Eifert in Week 1, the Oakland defense gave up five receptions, 88 yards, and two more scores to Crockett Gillmore last Sunday. The Raiders travel cross country for a 1:00 game in Cleveland this week, potentially setting the stage for Barnidge to continue the trend of fantasy goodness for tight ends. This pick isn’t for the faint of heart, as Barnidge is a veteran that has accumulated just 48 career receptions since entering the league as a fifth-round draft pick in 2008. But he was targeted five times in Week 1, including two receptions for 22 yards on quarterback Josh McCown’s only drive of the game. McCown has been announced as the Browns’ starter this week and the general ineptitude of Cleveland’s receivers (outside of some big plays by Travis Benjamin) should have the veteran QB looking for his tight end again on Sunday.
Other Great Gridiron Experts Articles This Week:
- FanDuel Lineup Advice: 10 Value Plays Week Three
- Gridiron Experts Week 3 DraftKings Gauntlet
- Analyzing Fantasy Targets: Weeks 1-2
- Fantasy Perspective Week 3: Stats, Advice and Trends to Watch
- Start’Em Sit’Em: Week 3
8. Chris Polk
Running Back, Houston
I already touched on how much Houston is throwing the ball this year without Arian Foster in the backfield, and that volume has spilled over to the remaining running backs, as well. Polk and Jonathan Grimes have each seen nine targets over the first two games, tied for 15th in the league at the position. But Grimes suffered a knee injury in Week 2 and is questionable for this week’s contest against Tampa Bay. Even if Grimes plays, he’ll likely be at less than 100%, potentially setting up Polk for a few extra targets in the passing game. Polk could be the lead back on the ground, as well, as he out-carried Alfred Blue 14-8 last week. Foster is reportedly getting closer to a return, but until he does, Polk carries some PPR sleeper value on shear volume alone. As with Cecil Shorts, if DeAndre Hopkins misses this week’s game, there will be a lot of extra targets to go around to the remaining Texans pass-catchers, including Polk.
7. Ty Montgomery
Wide Receiver, Green Bay
The rookie had a nice Week 2, filling in for Davante Adams who was in and out of the game with an ankle injury. Montgomery caught all four of his targets for 37 yards and likely earned some additional offensive snaps moving forward. He’s still the number-four receiver, which normally wouldn’t warrant much fantasy consideration. But on one of the premiere offenses in the NFL, Montgomery is an interesting sleeper and gets a great matchup in Week 3 against a Chiefs defense that has given up a league-worst 41 catches and 506 yards to opposing receivers. With Eddie Lacy potentially missing the game, or at least playing at considerably less than 100%, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Packers leaning more heavily on MVP Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. That could create enough value to go around for Green Bay’s receivers, and if Adams remains hampered by his bad ankle, Montgomery could be in for an even more pronounced role on Monday night.
6. Dexter McCluster
Running Back, Tennessee
After missing out on the fun of Marcus Mariota’s coming out party in Week 1, McCluster was heavily involved in the Titans offensive attack last week in Cleveland. With Tennessee playing from behind pretty much the entire game, McCluster saw extensive action ahead of Bishop Sankey and Terrance West. He was the team’s most productive rusher, gaining 98 yards on 10 carries, but the thing that stood out for PPR purposed was McCluster’s four receptions on four targets. When the Titans are in catch-up mode, it’s clear that McCluster will be active in the passing game, with a handful of carries mixed in to keep the defense honest. A potential “get-well game” for the Colts offense in Week 3 could trigger another heavy dose of McCluster, and while a repeat of last week’s rushing total shouldn’t be expected, he can help fantasy owners in PPR scoring formats.
5. Michael Crabtree
Wide Receiver, Oakland
After a couple of mostly forgettable seasons in San Francisco over the previous two years, Crabtree unceremoniously moved across the Bay to Oakland in the offseason and has settled into the number-two receiver role behind rookie Amari Cooper. And it seems to be suiting him just fine. Through two games, Crabtree is tied for fifth among all receivers in targets (more than the likes of Antonio Brown and Calvin Johnson) and he’s hauled in 14 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Cleveland has done a good job defending number-one receivers this season, but secondary options not shadowed by Joe Haden have has some success. Crabtree isn’t likely to see a repeat of the volume experienced in Week 2’s shootout with Baltimore, but he is a big part of what the Raiders are doing in the passing game and has a lot of PPR upside this week.
4. Theo Riddick
Running Back, Detroit
Many fantasy owners likely assume rookie Ameer Abdullah is the top pass-catching target out of the Lions backfield, but through the first two weeks of the season, it’s been Riddick. He is forth among all Detroit players in targets, receptions, and receiving yards, including five catches on six targets a week ago for 41 yards. Given that the Lions rank last in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2015 and could be playing catch-up against a Broncos offense that seemed to find its groove in the second half of last week’s game, Detroit’s receiving options could be busy once again on Sunday. Denver currently boasts the NFL’s top pass defense, but has allowed 15 receptions to opposing running backs, tied for seventh most in the league. Matthew Stafford was beat up last week against the Vikings, but he’s practicing in full and is listed as probable for Week 3. Assuming Stafford is active, Riddick could be a sneaky source of PPR points.[wlm_nonmember]
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3. Coby Fleener
Tight End, Indianapolis
Andrew Luck and the Colts offense are off to a lackluster start in 2015 and Fleener has been a complete afterthought in the passing game. But Dwayne Allen has already been ruled out for Week 3 with an ankle injury, setting up Fleener as an every-down player in a favorable matchup with the Titans. After opening the season against the stout defenses of the Bills and Jets, things should open up considerably for Indianapolis as they travel to Tennessee, a team that was torched by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in Week 1 for five catches, 110 yards, and two touchdowns. In the three games that Allen missed last season, Fleener saw 18 targets and reeled in 11 receptions for 211 yards and four scores. He and Luck have been playing together since their Stanford days and the fourth-year pro has TE1 upside at a bargain basement price in Week 3.
2. Lance Dunbar
Running Back, Dallas
Three weeks in a row for Dunbar on the PPR sleeper list? Until his ownership levels or DFS values go up, the Cowboys’ pass-catching back might just be a fixture here. He’s tied for second among running backs in targets through two weeks with 13 and now gets a matchup with a Falcons defense that has been abused by backs in the passing game. After getting torched by Darren Sproles for seven catches and 76 yards in Week 1, Atlanta surrendered eight receptions and another 76 yards to Shane Vareen a week ago. All in, the Falcons are giving up 12 catches and almost 100 yards per game to opposing running backs, setting the table for Dunbar to have a big week. Injuries have ravaged Dallas’ offense, with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant out, while Jason Witten is questionable with knee and ankle problems. The Cowboys will almost certainly look to control the game on the ground, but when Brandon Weeden goes to the air, it will likely include a heavy dose of dink and dunk plays to Dunbar. He’s a great PPR option this week and will cost you just $3,200 and $4,900 on DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively.
1. Stevie Johnson
Wide Receiver, San Diego
Johnson was a popular sleeper pick to start the season, as he figured to have a big role in the Chargers offense as the slot receiver while Antonio Gates was suspended. After seeing six targets in each of the first two games and also finding the endzone in each contest, Johnson would seem to be shaking the “sleeper” label, but he’s still getting overlooked in a lot of season-long leagues and costs just $4,300 on DraftKings and $5,900 on FanDuel. Gates is out for another two weeks and Ladarius Green suffered a concussion in Week 2, his second in an 11-day span. Green somehow has a chance to play in Week 3 against the Vikings, but Johnson should be relied upon even more on underneath routes and in the middle of the field. With San Diego averaging better than 300 passing yards per game, Johnson has become a vital cog on a high-powered offense, and he should continue to return excellent value for fantasy owners.[/wlm_ismember]