Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 3
What makes a player a sleeper is hard to define. I tend to view any player who is still being underutilized (usually being started in 60% of leagues or fewer) and has the potential to outperform their weekly projection by a wide margin as a sleeper. Players that may be currently flying under the radar whether due to a lack of name recognition or simply because they aren’t the exciting, flashy pick. Sleepers come in all shapes and sizes and seem to be abundant each and every week. In more savvy leagues the majority of the names mentioned in any sleeper article will not be available to pick up off the waiver wire, but once in a while, you will find a hidden gem that no one has yet taken notice of that you may want to be ahead of the curve on. For the most part, though, the names below are already on a roster, and if you have them you may want to consider inserting them into your lineup this week.
Week 3 Sleepers
Start Stat Percentage, Via Sleeper
Matthew Stafford (QB)
Los Angeles Rams vs. CIN (14% Start)
Having discussed Russell Wilson in my start ‘em, sit ‘em article I am going with Stafford here. So far the touchdown production has not been there and Stafford has failed to score 20 fantasy points in either of his first two games, but Stafford (and the offense as a whole) has looked leaps and bounds better than in 2022. In two games, Stafford has thrown for 341 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, both of which came in week two against one of the premier defenses in the league. When the Rams lost Cooper Kupp to a hamstring injury prior to the season, many (myself included) thought we were in store for another season of ugly offensive play, but with the emergence of rookie sensation Puka Nacua, RB Kyren Williams seizing control of the backfield, 3rd-year wideout Tutu Atwell stepping up, and Stafford’s 46.5 pass attempts a game, the 1-1 Rams find themselves in a spot where they could be competitive every week. The Cincinnati Bengals pass defense has been solid, holding opponents to an average of 195 passing yards per game, but we just saw Stafford throw for over 300 yards against the 49ers. I would expect Stafford to once again attempt over 40 passes and this time find the end zone a couple of times.
C.J. Stroud (QB)
Houston Texans vs. JAX (7% Start)
I debated putting Kirk Cousins in this spot, but he’s currently the QB1 on the season and is coming off a 36+ point game, making him much more of a start suggestion than a sleeper. Enter C.J. Stroud, who has looked good in his first two starts throwing for 626 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, which includes an impressive 384-yard, two-touchdown effort against the Indianapolis Colts in week two. This was good enough for a QB11 or QB13 finish depending on the format. The Texans have also chosen to not play it safe with their rookie signal caller, letting him throw it 91 times in two starts (third most in the league.) Against a Jacksonville offense stacked with talent, Stroud should find himself once again airing it out. This could bode well for a productive afternoon. The Jaguars have allowed the sixth most fantasy points and fourth most pass attempts to quarterbacks this season. Stroud is dealing with a shoulder injury and has been limited in practice to start the week, so keep an eye on that, but there doesn’t seem to be any real danger of him missing the game. If he does play, Stroud, along with breakout candidate Nico Collins & Company, could reward anyone willing to give them a chance.
Roschon Johnson (RB)
Chicago Bears vs. KC (9% Start)
At some point, Johnson is going to take over this backfield. It’s only a matter of time. I predict it starts in week three. While the Bears offense has looked anemic through two weeks, there have been a few bright spots, Johnson being one. After two career starts, Johnson is the highest-scoring Bears running back in PPR formats. A big reason for this is that Johnson looks like the preferred option in the passing game, catching more receptions than starter Khalil Herbert in both of his first two games. Johnson also looks like the more explosive of the two players racking up 52 yards on just nine carries. Volume is the one issue with any Bears running back this season. Bears running backs have only run the ball 25 times, a surprising development from one of the most run-heavy teams in 2022. That would typically be a problem, but against the Chiefs the Bears could see themselves trailing by multiple scores, playing catch-up most of the game, and having to throw a lot which should mean more pass-catching opportunities for Johnson. Even if they do manage to keep it close and try to slow the game down to keep Mahomes off the field, Johnson should still see his name called early and often, as the running back who has shown the most juice. Don’t be surprised if he finishes the week with the most snaps and touches of any Bears running back.
Jerome Ford (RB)
Cleveland Browns vs. TEN (39% Start)
Fantasy football is a funny and fickle thing. One moment everyone is saying Ford is the clear-cut #1 waiver wire priority, and the next moment those same people are saying “Oh no, the Browns just signed Kareem Hunt. Ford is toast.” Don’t pay attention to the noise. I am not worried about Hunt at all. This signing makes sense for all involved. Hunt gets a contract and the Browns get someone familiar with the system to spell Ford and play a role similar to the one he played last year, but Hunt is not taking over this backfield. Hunt had clearly lost a step last year. He will eventually get 10-12 touches a game, but Ford will remain the lead dog here, and those double-digit touches for Hunt are not likely to start this week. On Monday night, stepping in for Chubb, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, Ford ran 16 times for 106 yards, showing solid vision and burst, especially on a play that looked dead on arrival, only for Ford to change direction, turn on the wheels, and take it for 69 yards, getting tackled inches away from a score. This was against a stout Steelers defense, so he should be able to find success against the Titans. The Cleveland offensive line is so good that almost any back taking the bulk of carries for them is matchup-proof. Ford isn’t only a must-roster player, but he might also be a must-start one, and the best waiver wire add all season.
Josh Reynolds (WR)
Detroit Lions vs. ATL (21% Start)
Reynolds looks like the No. 2 wideout behind Amon-Ra St. Brown, and with QB Jared Goff playing at such a high level, Reynolds is a sleeper candidate until further notice. Coming into the 2023 season everyone knew who the No. 1 passing option on the Lions was, but the competition for second on the team was wide open. Some predicted rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs or rookie TE Sam LaPorta might take on that role, but, while they have been involved in this offense, it has been the veteran Reynolds who has stepped up as a reliable second option for Goff. Through two weeks, Reynolds has 13 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He has averaged over 15 fantasy points per game and finished week two as the WR7 in half-PPR formats. Reynolds is dealing with a groin injury, but it isn’t thought to be a serious issue, and with St. Brown dealing with an injury of his own (toe), Reynolds could be the WR1 on Sunday for a Goff-led team that passes it 35 times a game, against a Falcons team that, while 2-0, is still trying to find its’ identity. Reynolds may just find himself in the top 10 at the position again.
Tank Dell (WR)
Houston Texans vs. JAX (7% Start)
Last week I mentioned Dell’s teammate, Nico Collins, in this column, this week I’m going with Dell. In week two, with Noah Brown on IR, Dell stepped up in a big way playing 79% of the snaps while demanding 10 targets and finishing with seven receptions for 72 yards and a score, making him a top 20 wide receiver on the week. Over the course of the first two weeks we have also seen solid and consistent development in C.J. Stroud, something that will only help the pass-catchers. Collins is the alpha on this team, but for the Texans to find success someone else is going to have to step up, and it looks like that person may be Dell. Coming into 2023, Dell was likely drafted as a bench stash at the end of drafts, if he was drafted at all, but he could soon find himself in weekly flex consideration. Dell did pick up an injury designation (thigh), the severity of which is not yet known, but the sentiment is that he’ll be fine. I imagine if he does play and has another strong performance in a game that predicts to be a shootout, against a Jaguars defense that has allowed over 20 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, Dell’s starting percentage will skyrocket.
Jake Ferguson (TE)
Dallas Cowboys vs. ARI (13% Start)
Picking a sleeper at the tight end position is often a fool’s errand because there is not much consistency after the top two to three guys. When trying to find those players that might produce in any given week looking at usage is a good place to start. Over two weeks Ferguson has 11 targets, five receptions, and one touchdown. Those numbers may not jump out at you, but his seven red-zone targets are more than any other TE through the first two games of the season. The Cowboys are also the number-one scoring offense in the league. That could be partly due to the level of their competition thus far, but still, they have looked very good, and I don’t see the Arizona Cardinals being able to slow them down. With a quarterback who airs it out over 30 times a game and who has a history of targeting his tight end, there should be plenty of opportunities for Ferguson. In this offense and with his red-zone usage Ferguson is a threat to score every single week giving him legitimate top-5 upside.
Cade Otton (TE)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. PHI (1% Start)
Fresh off a six-target game and going up against an Eagles defense that has given up the most fantasy points to tight ends this season, I like Otton this week. A two-touchdown week like T.J. Hockenson had last week might be a bit much to ask, but it is easy to picture Otton having similar success to Hunter Henry, who had five receptions for 56 yards and a score. Otton is only in his second year in the league and is on a team that provides him with no competition for targets at the position. Going up against an Eagles offense that will put up points, Baker Mayfield should have to rely on his arm a lot in this one. Mayfield has attempted 34 passes a game in 2023 and that number could be higher on Monday. This would benefit all pass catchers, but against a team that has been torched by tight ends, it might benefit Otton the most.
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