Fantasy Football Sleepers
It eventually had to hit us. Bye weeks are here. With the Browns, Buccaneers, Chargers, and Seahawks on bye this week, fantasy owners are finding themselves looking toward replacements. In some cases, the choice may be obvious (depending on your roster), but in others, it may prove difficult to know who will produce. While only one of the players below is a must-start, every single name mentioned has the potential to help your team more than those on your bench that you may find yourself having to rely on. It may take a bit of courage to plug some of these players into your lineup, but if you’re staring down a 0-4 or 1-3 start it might be worth the risk.
Week 5 Sleepers
Start Stat Percentage, via Sleeper
Jordan Love (QB)
Green Bay Packers vs. LV (42% Start)
Love is currently produced as the QB3 on the season and has looked good while doing it. There have been the typical mistakes you would expect from a player in his first year as a starter. Some of that production was a result of having to play catch-up, but it’s hard to argue with his 25.31 fantasy points per game. Through four games, Love has finished in the top 12 at the position three times and top 6 twice. Love doesn’t add a ton of value with his legs, but he has run the ball 16 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Week 5 should be another solid game from Love as he faces a Raiders defense that has given up 10 total touchdowns to opposing QBs. With Christian Watson one more week removed from his hamstring injury and a healthier Aaron Jones, Love should continue to see plenty of opportunities. Another top-12 finish is not out of the question.
Joshua Dobbs (QB)
Arizona Cardinals vs. CIN (5% Start)
Don’t adjust your screen. That is the name Joshua Dobbs you see. You may turn up your nose at the idea, but allow me to make the case. Since a rough week 1 outing, Dobbs has given three straight fantasy performances of 19+ points, finishing in the top 8 at the position twice. His dual-threat capability has been a major reason why. In weeks 2-4, Dobbs rushed for over 40 yards each time and threw for more than 200 yards in two out of the three, and in week 4 he had his best statistical output with 365 yards through the air, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions, while adding 12 rushing attempts for 48 yards. This was against a talented 49ers defense, and if Zach Ertz hadn’t dropped what would’ve been an easy score Dobbs’ day could’ve been even better. I understand that it’s still difficult to trust the Cardinals, but Dobbs has been playing decent football, and that should continue against a Bengals team that seems to be unable to find any sort of identity on either side of the ball.
Jaleel McLaughlin (RB)
Denver Broncos vs. NYJ (1% Start)
In week 4, McLaughlin came out of nowhere to produce over 100 total yards and a touchdown, scoring 17.9 points in half-PPR formats. This performance was against the struggling Chicago Bears, but it was still an impressive performance. Every year there are rookie running backs that, once given the opportunity, show they are capable of carrying the load (*see De’Von Achane), and after starter Javonte Williams exited the game with a hip injury, McLaughlin flashed in an expanded role, and as a result he should see more work moving forward, whether Williams is healthy or not. There is some uncertainty regarding who would see more work between Perine and McLaughlin if Williams does miss time. In week 4, McLaughlin had a 33% snap share compared to 46% for Perine, but even if Perine is the “starter” come week 5, it might not take long for McLaughlin (who has looked more explosive) to usurp him. McLaughlin won’t be a league winner like Achane could be, but without Williams, McLaughlin could return RB2 value, and even if Williams is in the lineup, he is still worthy of flex consideration.
De’Von Achane (RB)
Miami Dolphins vs. NYG (67% Start)
Following Achane’s week 4 performance his starting percentage has jumped nearly 20% points, but that’s still too low, even if it is becoming increasingly difficult to call Achane a sleeper. One more week like the last two and he will catapult into set-it-and-forget-it territory. Achane is currently the RB3, after following up a week 3 that saw him go nuclear with over 49 fantasy points, with over 25 points in week 4. Achane out-touched and outproduced teammate Raheem Mostert in week 3, with just 11 touches resulting in 129 total yards and two touchdowns. Achane now has six touchdowns over the last two weeks, and now gets to face a Giants defense that has allowed at least one rushing TD in every game this season, and with the running back landscape as barren as it has become Achane should be started everywhere he’s owned.
Michael Wilson (RB)
Arizona Cardinals vs. CIN (3% Start)
So far in 2023 the Arizona Cardinals have been much more competitive than anyone expected. Before week 4 (against one of the top teams in the league) the Cardinals had not lost a game by more than four points. I’ve already discussed the play of QB Joshua Dobbs who is living proof that a rising tide lifts all boats. Coming into the season Michael Wilson had some minor buzz (especially in dynasty leagues), and through the first three weeks Wilson’s fantasy output was modest, but in week 4 he had a breakout scoring 23.10 fantasy points. The issue with Wilson is that he is still currently third in targets on the team behind Marquise Brown and Zach Ertz, but he is making the most of his opportunities and against a Bengals team that has allowed the fifth-most explosive plays, Wilson could give a repeat performance of week 4.
Tyler Boyd (WR)
Cincinnati Bengals vs. ARI (17% Start)
Through four weeks, Boyd has been an afterthought on the Bengals offense failing to hit double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR formats. The Bengals’ offense as a whole has been underwhelming and if Burrow is unable to right the ship they could continue to disappoint. But in week 5, Boyd may find himself with an opportunity to produce. On Sunday, wide receiver Tee Higgins left the game with a rib injury. As of now, his status is up in the air, although he has failed to practice yet this week. If he is out, Boyd would see an expanded role as the next man up. Boyd is already averaging eight targets a game over the last three weeks, and although he is not doing much with them, the added snaps and target share make him worth a look. On paper, week 5 provides an easy matchup for the Bengals offense. Perhaps this is the week they get back on track, but even if the offense continues to underperform, QB Joe Burrow should look to get the ball out early and often, providing enough volume for Boyd to produce as a WR2.
Jonnu Smith (TE)
Atlanta Falcons vs. HOU (2% Start)
The addition of Smith is a bit speculative but he is the TE10 on the season in half-PPR formats and is averaging nearly seven targets a game over the last three weeks. Logic tells us that teammate Kyle Pitts (a generational talent who is a matchup nightmare) should be the better fantasy option at tight end for the Falcons, but as Smith enjoys top 10 status, Pitts is barely in the top 30. While Pitts lines up as a wide receiver it has been Smith who is lining up as the tight end. This has led to Smith receiving the short to intermediate targets. Even more impressive is the fact that Smith has cracked the top 10 at the position without scoring a touchdown. Now he gets to face a team that has been middle of the pack against tight ends. It may feel like we’re living in an alternate reality, but Smith is the man at the position right now for Atlanta. Another double-digit outing is possible.
Jake Ferguson (TE)
Dallas Cowboys vs. SF (33% Start)
In week 4, Ferguson (who is currently the TE8) saw his lowest snap percentage of the season and yet he finished as the TE6 (seven receptions for 77 yards) on the week in half-PPR formats. This usage is something Ferguson owners have grown accustomed to, with the 2nd-year tight end receiving seven targets in all but one game. Dak Prescott has a history of utilizing his tight end and 2023 seems to be no different. At a position that gets hard to predict after the first two or three guys, a player is not completely touchdown-dependent and who can get you double-digit production based on usage is a valuable asset. With players like Dallas Goedert, Darren Waller, and Kyle Pitts disappointing this season, Ferguson has a real shot to continue to produce top-8 numbers.
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