In a week that finds six teams on bye, any number of players could emerge as sleepers. Add to that the cruel fate bestowed upon some of our favorite assets by the fantasy Gods, and backups that now find themselves in a prominent role may be able to come through for fantasy managers. In fantasy, there are very few sure things, especially the later we get into the season, as injuries pile up and the bye weeks hit us. Week 7 presents a unique challenge as one of the two heaviest bye weeks of the season. Players like CeeDee Lamb, Ja’Marr Chase, Tony Pollard, and Breece Hall will be sitting the week out as their teams get a rest, while others like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Justin Fields, and Trevor Lawrence could be out due to injury (although things are trending in the right direction for CMC and Samuel.) Hopefully, you drafted with depth in mind, but with all the injuries we’ve seen through six weeks, there’s a good chance many of you will be scouring the waiver wire to find that hidden gem that can produce for your team. Either way, here are a few names to know and potentially start in week 7.
Week 7 Sleepers
Start Stat Percentage, via Sleeper
Joshua Dobbs (QB)
Arizona Cardinals vs. SEA (11% Start)
Coming into the season, no one expected much from the Arizona Cardinals. There were several reasons for this, but chief among them was journeyman quarterback Joshua Dobbs being tabbed as the fill-in for the injured Kyler Murray. It’s difficult to make the case that a 1-5 team has over-performed, but the Cardinals have been far more competitive than their record would suggest, beating the Dallas Cowboys and losing two other games by a single score. Dobbs is a big part of why they’ve been able to stay in games, completing over 60% of his passes and throwing for multiple touchdowns two of the last three weeks. He also adds a dual-threat capability, rushing for more than 40 yards in four of six games. Now Dobbs will face a Seattle defense that allows over 250 yards through the air per game, ranking 28th against the pass. The Arizona defense has also shown an inability to slow offenses down or put up points, so this will either be a back-and-forth, high scoring affair, or Seattle (as the superior team) will get out ahead early, forcing Dobbs & Company to play catchup. Both scenarios would bode well for Dobbs’ fantasy prospects. If you are in a two-quarterback league or find yourself without your regular starter due to injury or being on bye, Dobbs is a solid pivot option.
Jared Goff (QB)
Detroit Lions vs. BAL (44% Start)
Jared Goff is currently top 5 at his position and yet, he’s only being started in 44% of leagues. Goff is averaging over 23 fantasy points per game and has thrown 11 touchdowns compared to three interceptions while adding another two touchdowns on the ground. I understand that the Ravens present a tough matchup (giving up the fewest points to quarterbacks this season) and that it’s a road game, typically Goff’s kryptonite, but I don’t know if it matters. Goff’s last two matchups were also tough (one of which was on the road) and in each of those he scored at least 26 points, resulting in 589 total yards and six total touchdowns. Goff is a good fit for the Lions’ offense, and as a result, he may be more matchup-proof than in the past. The Ravens’ defense may be too much for Goff to overcome, but if you lost Fields or Lawrence or don’t like the production you’ve been getting from the position, giving Goff a chance this week could be good move.
Roschon Johnson (RB)
Chicago Bears vs. LV (15% Start)
This one is purely speculative since Johnson (as of this writing) hasn’t been cleared to play this week. If he is good to go though, he could take over this backfield. Since week one, Johnson has failed to get double-digit touches in any game but has looked explosive in his limited opportunities. With starter Khalil Herbert landing on IR after suffering an ankle injury in week 5, only 27-year-old, D’Onta Foreman stands in the way of Johnson getting the type of volume that could lead to fantasy relevance. To his credit, in week 6, Foreman performed admirably, rushing 15 times for 65 yards but, in what is quickly beginning to look like a lost season, the Bears would be wise to see what they have in Johnson. If Johnson (who is currently averaging 4.9 yards per carry) does return and see lead back duties, he should do well. The Raiders’ defense is allowing nearly 23 fantasy points to opposing running backs. This game might get ugly, with both teams likely having to rely on their backup quarterbacks, but that means it should also remain close and if the Bears are hesitant to ask too much of Tyson Bagent’s arm, there could be plenty of opportunity for Johnson to showcase his abilities. If Johnson is cleared to play, he makes for an intriguing RB2 in week 7.
Keaontay Ingram (RB)
Arizona Cardinals vs. SEA (13% Start)
Ingram won’t be a league-winning waiver wire acquisition, but it looks like he could be the best Arizona running back as long as James Conner remains sidelined. If you dropped a substantial amount of FAAB or used your #1 waiver priority on rookie Emari Demercado, that is not what you want to hear, but, at least for now, Ingram looks like the preferred option. In week 6 (after returning from a neck injury) Ingram saw 10 carries, going for 40 yards on the ground, adding two receptions for 11 yards. Nothing about that stat line will set the fantasy world on fire, but Ingram led all Arizona running backs in carries, yards, targets, and receptions. Seattle is middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to running backs and is not giving up a ton of yards on the ground. Ingram is not an elite-level talent, but being a week healthier, we could see him carve out an even larger slice of this backfield. Ingram is worthy of flex consideration, and if he finds the end zone, producing a low-end RB2 finish is not out of the question.
K.J. Osborn (WR)
Minnesota Vikings vs. SF (35% Start)
Starting Osborn after a week in which he disappointed might be difficult, but in week 7, it could be worth it. After star wide receiver Justin Jefferson went down in week 5, the fantasy world expected big things from Osborn in week 6 against a suspect Chicago secondary. That did not happen. It was rookie Jordan Addison who got the touchdown and tight end T.J. Hockenson with the receptions and yards, leaving Osborn as the odd man out. Osborn finished the week with four receptions for 48 yards, an underwhelming stat line regardless of format, but also one that can be explained by game script. The contest against the Bears was a low-scoring, old-school battle between division rivals. This week, they will face a San Francisco 49ers team that will be looking to take their week 6 loss to the Cleveland Browns out on somebody. Even if the 49ers find themselves without Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel on Monday night (which seems unlikely) they could jump out to an early lead, forcing the Vikings to play catch-up, meaning more volume for the passing game and Osborn.
Jakobi Meyers (WR)
Las Vegas Raiders vs. CHI (59% Start)
After four years of promise with the New England Patriots, Jakobi Meyers is finally enjoying a bit of a breakout in 2023. Once it was clear the Las Vegas Raiders are moving on from quarterback Derek Carr and rolling with Jimmy Garoppolo, everyone wondered how the new signal caller would impact the skill position players. While both Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams have had their share of disappointing weeks, Meyers has benefited from a quarterback who prefers to attack the middle of the field rather than chuck the ball deep. Meyers is currently a top 15 fantasy wide receiver, averaging more than eight targets a game and scoring double-digit points in all but one game this season. He will now go up against a Bears defense that has been vulnerable through the air. The one knock against Meyers’ week 7 potential is he could be catching passes from backup Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O’Connell, not Garoppolo, but against a struggling Bears defense that should be on the field a lot because the offense will be relying on a backup of their own, it may not matter. Meyers is quickly becoming a set-it-and-forget-it flex option with WR2 upside, but until he’s started in over 60% of leagues (which should happen after this week), he remains a sleeper.
Michael Mayer (TE)
Las Vegas Raiders vs. CHI (3% Start)
It may seem like I’m singling out this matchup as a fantasy extravaganza, picking three players as sleepers, but I promise it wasn’t by design. Still, Michael Mayer may be my favorite sleeper at the position. Reports had emerged in recent weeks that the Raiders were planning to get Mayer more involved in the offense and in week 6 that was exactly what we saw. Mayer saw 81% of the snaps, his highest of the season, ending with five receptions for 75 yards and a TE5 finish in half-PPR formats. Rookie tight ends are difficult to rely on, but perhaps Sam LaPorta is not the only rookie at the position destined to break out. With things trending in the right direction for Mayer, he now faces a Chicago Bears secondary that has allowed the seventh most fantasy points per game to tight ends. If you’ve been streaming tight ends or have had to rely on Dalton Schultz or Jake Ferguson (both of whom are on bye this week), Mayer is a solid streaming option who could find himself in the top 10 at the position once again.
Pat Freiermuth (TE)
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. LAR (14% Start)
This one feels like a bit of a cheat because when healthy, Freiermuth is likely in your lineup, but having not seen game action since week 4 (after exiting with a hamstring injury) and with a start percentage of 14%, Freiermuth qualifies. Reports have surfaced that Freiermuth is expected to practice (and play) this week, and if he does, he could be in a great spot to produce. Coming into the season, Freiermuth was a popular sleeper pick, but through six weeks, he has yet to see more than four targets in any game and has only one double-digit outing to his name. Coming off a bye, though, I expect head coach Mike Tomlin will find ways to get Freiermuth more involved. If this happens, the matchup is among the best. Los Angeles has allowed the third most points to opposing tight ends, and the Steelers are desperate for playmakers to help 2nd-year signal caller Kenny Pickett find some consistency. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson (who has been dealing with an injury of his own) is also expected to return this week, which could make it hard to predict how the targets will shake out. Still, Freiermuth plays a position that, after Kelce, Andrews, & Hockenson, relies heavily on touchdowns. As a reliable target for Pickett, Freiermuth is as likely as any to find his way into the end zone.
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