Week 5 was a tough one. Fantasy stars, both old and new, went down to injury as we lost Anthony Richardson, De’Von Achane, James Conner, and Justin Jefferson, all of whom have been placed on injured reserve and, as a result, will miss at least the next four weeks. This has caused their owners to scrounge the waiver wire to find replacements that may be able to get them through the next few weeks. Whether 5-0 or 0-5, a fantasy season can turn in an instant, and while no player will be able to duplicate the production of those players, there are names out there that may be able to ease the pain slightly. Hopefully you drafted enough depth to provide some solace, but even if that’s the case, you’ll need more depth or straight-up replacements for players you’ve lost. Below are some names that could be sneaky starts and help win you the week. If they’re on your waiver wire, grab them. If they’re on your bench, you may want to play them. Here are my sleepers for week 6.
Week 6 Sleepers
Start Stat Percentage, via Sleeper
Brock Purdy (QB)
San Francisco 49ers vs. CLE (38% Start)
As the QB7 on the season, Brock Purdy is quickly entering must-start territory with his early season success. In four of five games, Purdy has at least 20 points, and in a week five matchup against a tough Dallas defense, Purdy managed over 34 points. While the passing volume has not been there (throwing over 30 times just once this season) he has been extremely efficient, passing for nine touchdowns. Typically touchdowns are not a reliable or predictable stat, but in an offense that boasts elite talents like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey, games with multiple touchdowns are more likely than not. The 49ers offense has been firing on all cylinders, looking nearly unstoppable. Purdy has a tough matchup in week six against a stout Cleveland defense, but after what he did against Dallas, it may not matter. If Purdy can find similar success in week 6 he will officially enter matchup-proof status.
Gardner Minshew (QB)
Indianapolis Colts vs. JAX (3% Start)
For the second time this season, Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson left due to injury. This time, it was a shoulder injury that landed him on IR, meaning he will miss at least four weeks, but reports say it could be as many as eight. Minshew is likely the next man up and could provide some-short term fantasy appeal. After Richardson left against the Titans, Minshew completed 11 of 14 passes for 155 yards. Minshew does not possess the upside of Richardson because he’s unlikely to take off and run, but as a more natural pocket passer, Minshew could provide some passing upside. In week 6 he will face a Jaguars defense that opponents have been able to pass on and that most recently surrendered 359 yards and two touchdowns to Josh Allen. Minshew is not Allen but should find enough success to be a serviceable replacement for anyone struggling at quarterback or who needs a bye-week fill-in. If Richardson misses more time than expected, Minshew could be one of the better quarterback waiver wire adds this season.
Emari Demercado (RB)/Keaontay Ingram (RB)
Arizona Cardinals vs. LAR (19% - 1% Start)
As you look at the middle of this list, you will see there are a few players mentioned because they suddenly find themselves with an opportunity they did not have before this week. Minshew was one such player. Keaontay Ingram and Demercado are two others. In week 5, starting running back James Conner suffered a knee injury that has landed him on IR, sidelining him for at least four weeks. Enter Ingram and Demercado, both of whom should’ve been added off of waivers. The consensus seems to be that Demercado will see the majority of the workload, with Ingram still nursing a neck injury of his own, but recent reports state that Ingram is expected back this week and is listed as the starter on the most recent depth chart. There is the possibility that with Conner out, the Cardinals will employ more of a committee approach to their backfield. Even if that is the case, both Ingram and Demercado should be worthy of flex consideration, with the eventual starter approaching low-end RB2 status. The Rams have been decent against opposing running backs, but, as we’ve seen with mid-level talents like Kyren Williams, opportunity is key to fantasy football success. With both likely getting double-digit touches, they could provide some much-needed production for those looking for running back help.
Roschon Johnson (RB)/D’Onta Foreman (RB)
Chicago Bears vs. MIN (15% - 3% Start)
Here is another backfield that we don’t know the status of at this moment. What we do know is that starter Khalil Herbert suffered an ankle injury, is not practicing, and could soon find himself on IR. Even if he doesn’t land on IR, he is already listed as doubtful for this week, making way for either Johnson or Foreman to thrive. Johnson is currently in the concussion protocol, so fantasy managers will want to check on his status before inserting him into their lineups. If both are healthy, Johnson is the preferred option as the running back projected to step into a massive workload. When given opportunities this season, Johnson has looked good. So good that some are predicting him to take over this backfield by the end of the season, which could start as early as week 6. If Johnson’s not cleared to play, Foreman would get that workload and could be a low-end RB2 against a Vikings defense that has given up an average of over 100 yards per game. Johnson has more upside, but if Foreman starts and gets almost all the work, the volume may be too much to pass up.
Josh Downs (WR)
Indianapolis Colts vs. JAX (14% Start)
Through five games, Downs hasn’t exactly lit up the fantasy scoreboard, but in week 5, he did have a breakout of sorts, catching all six of his targets for 97 yards. He failed to score on the afternoon but finished with 12.7 half-PPR points. Now, with Anthony Richardson’s shoulder injury, he will be catching passes from Gardner Minshew. Some may see this as a negative, but it might be a positive for the fantasy value of the pass catchers, including Downs. Minshew is a veteran who has found pockets of success throughout his NFL career and will now face a Jaguars secondary that opponents have been able to pass on. He also boasts a completion percentage of 68.7% compared to 59.5% for Richardson. It’s not entirely an apples-to-apples comparison since one is a rookie who does a lot of his damage with his legs, and the other is a five-year veteran who is a more natural pocket passer. With Minshew, the passing volume could go up, even as star running back Jonathan Taylor gets back up to speed, and with Downs seeing a healthy 20.9% target share on the season and 25% with Minshew at quarterback, he could provide high-end flex/low-end WR2 production.
Jordan Addison (WR)
Minnesota Vikings vs. CHI (66% Start)
With news that teammate K.J. Osborn will step into the role vacated by Justin Jefferson, who landed on IR this week due to a hamstring issue, many analysts, experts, and enthusiasts may see Osborn as the more obvious sleeper choice, but I’m hitching my wagon to rookie Jordan Addison. In five games, Addison already has three outings that saw him score 14+ fantasy points and has seen at least eight targets in two out of the last three contests. All this as a part-time player. He should see his playing time increase substantially, and while Osborn may have the Jefferson role, Addison is the better, more explosive player, and should be able to outproduce Osborn on a weekly basis, starting in week 6. The Bears have allowed the 13th most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, and the Vikings are the most pass-friendly team, making it the perfect situation for Addison to produce. It’s always hard to trust a rookie, but more often than not, betting on talent leads to fantasy success, and in week 6, Addison’s talent, opportunity, and opponent could lead to a top-12 wide receiver finish.
Logan Thomas (TE)
Washington Commanders vs. ATL (27% Start)
Every year, tight end is a frustrating position. Beyond names like Andrews, Kelce, and Hockenson, finding a consistent option can prove difficult. This often leads fantasy managers to stream the position, hoping a consistent option emerges throughout the season. That may have happened with Thomas. Thomas has seen at least eight targets in half of the games he’s played this season and had his best game of the year in week 5, catching nine of 11 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown, finishing in the top-5 at the position. The yardage won’t win you many weeks, but Thomas continues to rack up short receptions, making him intriguing to anyone in half or full-PPR formats. The Commanders seem intent on spreading the ball around, but Thomas could be the most consistent producer in the offense. Now he gets to face an Atlanta defense allowing the second most fantasy points per game to tight ends. The matchup, combined with his usage, could mean another big week and a top-five finish.
Cole Kmet (TE)
Chicago Bears vs. MIN (43% Start)
Kmet was recently added to the Bears’ injury report, so his situation is one to monitor throughout the week, but if he is out there on Sunday, he could be worth getting into your lineup. You may not be aware of this, but Kmet is currently the TE3 on the season in half-PPR formats. After a slow start to the season Kmet has scored three touchdowns in his last two games, finishing as the TE1 and TE7. With the Bears shipping Chase Claypool away to Miami and Darnell Mooney being a non-factor this season, Kmet has seen his role in the offense grow as the clear-cut #2 option behind D.J. Moore. Justin Fields is currently playing good football, throwing eight touchdowns in the past two games, and that success should continue against a team that is in the bottom seven against quarterbacks and middle of the pack against tight ends. Kmet should continue to get a heavy dose of targets and find his way into the end zone, once again. Play him with confidence.
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