7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 4
The term "sleeper" takes on a different meaning as we transition from the offseason to the dregs of the regular season.
Before drafts, sleepers are players who can outperform their cost substantially. But during the season -- especially when injuries and byes pile up -- it's a player who can simply perform for your team in a given week.
It's a light bye week -- only the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles are out -- but if you're in a deep league, you likely need to consider some low-owned plays for Week 4 for one reason or another.
Take a chance on these guys if that's the case.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (Owned in 30.2% of ESPN Leagues | Started in 13.2% of ESPN Leagues)
Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs travel in Week 4 to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. They're 4.5-point underdogs, and the game has an over/under of 47.5, giving them an implied total of just 21.5. That's far from exciting, but the Steelers rank last in the NFL in sack rate at just 0.78%. Ryan Shazier is "very questionable," and safeties Robert Golden and Sean Davis are banged up as well. If the Steelers can't get to Smith and can't cover Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce because of injuries, then Smith will be able to post a usable fantasy floor in Week 4 with a somewhat exciting ceiling to boot against the 21st-ranked pass defense in the league according to our metrics.
Dwayne Washington, Detroit Lions (30.6% | 9.6%)
Last week should have been terrible for Dwayne Washington, whose Detroit Lions fell behind early to the Green Bay Packers, but he still managed 10 carries for 38 yards. Just note that the Packers are the top rush defense in the league according to our metrics, and teammate Theo Riddick ran 10 times for 9 yards in the same game. This week, the Lions are 2.5-point road favorites over the Chicago Bears, who rank 28th against the rush. The game script could set up for Washington to grind the clock and potentially get elevated goal-line touches, and he has fantasy appeal for more than just one week with Ameer Abdullah on injured reserve.
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants (27.5% | 11.2%)
The New York Giants will employ some sort of a committee in the backfield -- what else is new? -- but Orleans Darkwa should be a key cog in that rotation. Shane Vereen is out for an extended time with a triceps injury, and Rashad Jennings seems unlikely to play in Week 4. You can't get super excited about a matchup against the Minnesota Vikings' second-ranked run defense, but Darkwa got 10 carries on just 31% of the team's snaps in Week 3. He's the best bet for touches, though the Giants will be pressed for points. Digging this deep, we don't have many better options at running back.
Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys (35.4% | 17.5%)
Cole Beasley has been shaping up to have some fantasy appeal for three weeks now, but an injury to Dez Bryant should help his case. Beasley has been targeted on 24.3% of Dak Prescott's drop backs so far. For context, Larry Fitzgerald has drawn a target on 24.4% of Arizona Cardinals drop backs, and Amari Cooper has been targeted on 24.2% of Oakland Raiders drop backs. Beasley gets a pace-up game against the San Francisco 49ers, who rank 14th against the pass and 9th against the run, per our metrics. He's a safe PPR play even in shallower leagues.
Anquan Boldin, Detroit Lions (24.5% | 7.2%)
It's easier to get excited about the Lions' offense as a whole than it is to get excited about Anquan Boldin, but here we are. The Bears rank 22nd against the pass and lost Kyle Fuller for the season -- just another injury to their already depleted roster. Again, Detroit is favored by 2.5 points against the Bears and boast a 25.25-point implied team total. The Lions, led by Matthew Stafford, rank second in Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play so far. Boldin has played at least 78% of Detroit's snaps in every week, so he's going to be on the field in a positive matchup. He might not post more than four catches -- he's had three, four, and four in his three games -- but he's scored twice, and this is as good a matchup as any to employ him.
Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers (26.8% | 19.9%)
Last week, Hunter Henry played 100% of the offensive snaps for the San Diego Chargers, resulting in 5 catches on 5 targets for 76 yards. This week, the Chargers host the New Orleans Saints. San Diego owns an implied team total of 28.75 points, highest on the docket, and New Orleans is 26th against the pass, according to our metrics. Henry could have value moving forward, too, as Antonio Gates isn't looking close to returning this week.
Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6.9% | 1.3%)
This is certainly not a ceiling play, but sometimes any production is good production. Adam Humphries has been targeted on 16.9% of Tampa Bay Buccaneers drop backs, putting him in the range of Allen Hurns (16.9%), Golden Tate (17.2%), and Alshon Jeffery (17.4%). The matchup is dreadful against the Denver Broncos. Tampa Bay is a 3-point home favorite with an over/under of 20, so it's not going to be efficient, but Humphries could see targets in a catch-up game script. He's had 5, 8, and 12 targets since Week 1, resulting in 3, 6, and 9 catches. As a low-end PPR flex in a deep league, you could do worse, but I'm already sad thinking about it.