Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 4

Source: USA Today

It’s hard to believe we’re already into week four of the fantasy season.  The first three weeks have gone very fast and have been full of disappointing performances and surprising breakouts that very few people could’ve predicted.  But whether this production (or lack thereof) has led to you getting off to a fast or slow start with each new week comes new hope.  Hope that those underperforming fantasy stars will finally get on track and help turn a losing fantasy season around, or that those waiver wire pickups will work out and produce for your squad in a way that ends with a victory.  But choosing who to put into your lineup is not always easy, especially when it comes to those players who seem to be on the cusp of doing something special.  Each week there are players left on your bench who produce in a way that leaves you saying “If I only would’ve started them I would’ve won.”  Knowing who those players will be is difficult and undoubtedly some of the decisions you make will turn out to be wrong, but hopefully, I can help.  Below are some players that should be able to help you this week if you find your squad hit by the injury bug or just want options to allow you to pivot away from certain players.  Here are this week’s sleepers.

Week 4 Sleepers

Start Stat Percentage, via Sleeper

Jameis Winston (QB)

New Orleans Saints vs. TB (1% Start)

I fully admit this one could blow up in my face.  It’s also dependent on Derek Carr not being ready to go in week 4, but all signs are trending in that direction, and if you’re hurting at QB, either due to injury or lack of production, grabbing Winston off waivers as a one-week spot start may not be a bad idea.  In week 3, after Carr left with a shoulder injury, Winston played 38% of the snaps and completed 10 of 16 passes for 101 yards and no touchdowns.  A small sample size to be sure, but throughout his career Winston has not been afraid to air it out early and often.  He also tends to take deep shots down the field, and with the weapons at his disposal that could lead to a productive day.  In the past, relying on Winston in fantasy lineups has come with many ups and downs, but week 4 could provide more of the former than the latter.  The Saints boast a solid defense that could make things difficult for the Buccaneers all afternoon, leading to more offensive possessions for Winston and the Saints.  On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers defense has allowed 832 yards and four touchdowns through the air this season so there will be opportunities for success.  Throwing Winston in your lineup isn’t without its risks, but the reward may very well be worth it, if only for one week.

Russell Wilson (QB)

Denver Broncos vs. CHI (19% Start)

Russell Wilson has been surprisingly decent to start the 2023 season.  After only throwing for 177 yards (but two touchdowns and zero interceptions) in week one, Wilson has thrown for over 300 yards in each of the following weeks.  He has also added four touchdowns (bringing his total to six), two interceptions, and 57 yards on the ground.  Those are solid numbers.  Even in a week that saw his Broncos lose in a 70-20 routing by the Dolphins, he managed 16.24 fantasy points.  In his other two games, he scored 19.18 and 31.92, so there could be both a decent floor and upside this week as he faces a Bears team that has consistently looked outmatched .  To start the season the Bears have been outscored 106-47, and while the Broncos are not a great team, they should be able to find success against a struggling Bears defense.  The chances are if you have Wilson he is your 2nd QB, and if that is the case I’m not saying you should start him over whoever you drafted as your QB1, but if you find yourself struggling at the position, Wilson could be just the sleeper you need.  

Jaylen Warren (RB)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. HOU (15% Start)

Each week we have seen Warren’s snap share slowly creep up.  He is now splitting snaps almost equally in the Steelers backfield.  While Harris is still the lead back, it has become clear that Warren has the pass-catching role with 16 targets to Harris’ six, and of those 16 targets, Warren has caught 10.  With how C.J. Stroud and the Texans have been playing I would not be surprised if Warren was the lead back in week four as the Steelers try to play catch up.  Warren has also looked more decisive and explosive than Harris, averaging 6.3 yards per touch this season, and in week three against the Las Vegas Raiders (which, admittedly is a weak defense) the Steelers offense showed signs of life.  Ifthey can carry that momentum into week four we may see more production from all the skill players.  With increased usage and playing at a higher level than his teammate, Warren should have standalone value as a flex option, even if we don’t ever see a true changing of the guard.  So while he’s not exactly a set-it-and-forget-it option just yet, he does provide some upside that might be worth taking a chance on.

Roschon Johnson (RB)

Chicago Bears vs. DEN (12% Start)

Like Warren, Johnson has seen his snap share rise every week with it hitting its peak in week three at 45%.  The Bears are struggling, to put it lightly, and need to figure out some way to jolt their offense to life.  Some pundits have suggested benching Fields and seeing what that does, but I do not think that is happening any time soon, so why not give the rookie RB a chance to take the reins and see if he can energize this offense?  In limited action, Johnson has 90 yards on 17 carries (an average of 5.29 yards a carry) and has caught 10 passes for 56 yards.  He has also added one touchdown on the ground.  To be fair, starter Khalil Herbert hasn’t been bad, but with the season getting away from them, switching things up might be what is needed.  Even if Johnson doesn’t take the backfield over in week four, there could be enough usage and production for both running backs to reward fantasy owners.  In week three, against this same Broncos defense, the Dolphins ran for 305 yards and five touchdowns.  Granted, the Dolphins are a much different offense than the Bears, so I wouldn’t expect that type of production, but someone in this backfield could surpass the century mark and, if given the opportunity, my money is on Johnson.  This could be the week we see Johnson breakout and plant his flag as the starter going forward.  

Adam Thielen (WR)

Carolina Panthers vs. MIN (36% Start)

So much for all those naysayers who said Thielen is too old to produce for fantasy.  Over the last two weeks, Thielen has seen 23 targets, catching 18 of them for 199 yards and two touchdowns, culminating in a week three that saw him finish as the WR4 with 26 points in half-PPR formats.  The one caveat to all this is that his best production came with Andy Dalton under center and with Bryce Young getting in a full practice on Wednesday he is set to take the field on Sunday, but that shouldn’t scare you off.  Even with Young throwing him passes, Thielen finished as a top-20 WR in week two.  He now gets to face the team where he spent his first nine seasons.  This Vikings team allowed Justin Herbert to throw for over 400 yards and two receivers (Keenan Allen and Mike Williams) to go over 100 yards receiving.  Young is not Justin Herbert, but the 0-3 Vikings should find themselves in a get-right game where they lead for much of it, forcing Young to pass a lot, and many of those targets should go Thielen’s way.  If Thielen has another solid performance in week four this might be the last time we can call him a sleeper.

Joshua Palmer (WR)

Los Angeles Chargers vs. LV (14% Start)

To begin the season, Palmer was not on many fantasy managers’ radar, except, perhaps, in very deep leagues, but with injury, comes opportunity.  After suffering a season-ending ACL tear, WR Mike Williams is unavailable, and someone will have to take on that role for the Chargers.  Eventually, I believe rookie Quentin Johnston will overtake Palmer for the WR2 role, but for at least one week, maybe two, Palmer should see his share of targets.  Of course, there’s the chance that the injury to Williams means more targets for star Keenan Allen, or that they choose to get TE Gerald Everett more involved.  Austin Ekeler also seems poised to return to the line-up, muddying the waters even more, but regardless, Palmer should find himself with a much bigger role than he had previously, and there’s a history to back that up.  In six games that Williams either missed or barely played in since 2021, Palmer scored at least 12 PPR points four times and over 15 PPR points three times.  Each of the No. 2 receivers the Raiders have faced this season have between 9 to 21 PPR points and they have all scored a touchdown.  If Palmer finds the end zone he could produce WR2 numbers as a top-20 option, and even if he doesn’t, he’s still a solid flex play.

Dalton Kincaid (TE)

Buffalo Bills vs. MIA (23% Start)

TEs usually find it difficult to produce in their first year in the NFL, and Kincaid, so far, is no exception.  Kincaid has seen 12 targets through the first three weeks, catching 11 for 72 yards, and no touchdowns.  His snap share has also been heading in the wrong direction starting at 80% in week one then dropping to 60% in week two and 51% in week three.  None of this screams that you should put him in your lineup, and chances are you do have a better option if you drafted Kincaid, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have sleeper potential in what could end up being a back-and-forth shootout with the highest point total on the week.  In week three we all saw what the Dolphins offense is capable of and we are also well aware of the firepower the Bills offense possesses, and while both teams boast a much better defense than what the Dolphins faced in week three, there could be too much talent on the field not to see a high-scoring affair.  If that happens we could see everyone get in on the action, including Kincaid.  Admittedly, the floor is still fairly low with Kincaid, but I still believe he is the most likely rookie TE to break out in year one, and what better week than when facing a team that arguably has even more firepower than the Bills do?

Donald Parham (TE)

Los Angeles Chargers vs. LV (2% Start)

I know, I know.  Parham isn’t even the TE1 on his team, so how can I suggest him as a sleeper?  It’s simple.  Through three weeks, Parham has been a red zone monster for the Chargers, scoring three touchdowns on only seven targets.  Similar to Cowboys TE Jake Ferguson, when the Chargers get in the red zone they often look Parham’s way.  With Mike Williams out for the season, that role could increase.  At 6’8” and 238 pounds, Parham is an ideal end zone target for QB Justin Herbert.  Touchdowns are hard to predict, but one thing you can predict is that if a player isn’t targeted near the end zone, he’ll have a much more difficult time getting in the end zone.  In week four, Parham gets to a face a Raiders defense that has allowed a touchdown to the TE position each of the last two weeks.  There’s a lot of volatility with someone like Parham (as there is with every TE other than the top 2 or 3), but sitting as the TE6 on the season in half-PPR formats (primarily due to his success in the red zone) Parham has as good of a chance as any (and better than most) to find the end zone on Sunday.  

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