7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1
Hopefully, your fantasy football team is fully healthy and ready to roll in Week 1, but we know that's not the case for everyone. If you're already looking to the waiver wire for sleepers to plug some lineup holes, here's a look at seven guys who could help you out this week.
For the purposes of this list, we'll limit sleeper selections to any player with less than 50 percent ownership on Yahoo's fantasy football platform. Additionally, I'll select one super-sleeper, with under 10 percent ownership, to help out those of you who may be playing in deeper leagues.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions (vs. Cardinals)
Yahoo Ownership: 26 percent
Stafford's ownership rate reflects the reality his days as a top-10 fantasy quarterback are probably behind him. This matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, however, might revive his passing success.
As Rotoworld's Nick Mensio points out, the Cardinals only cornerback who saw the field in 2018 is 31-year-old journeyman Tremaine Brock.
Updated #AZCardinals CBs vs. #Lions Week 1:
Tramaine Brock (31 yo, 5th team in 4 years)
Byron Murphy (2nd-round rookie, 33rd % SPARQ)
Chris Jones (2nd-year UDFA, 0 snaps in '18)
Kevin Peterson (4th-year UDFA, 0 snaps in '18)
Charles Washington (4th-year UDFA, 0 snaps in '18)
— Nick Mensio (@NickMensio) September 1, 2019
New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is used to operating a run-heavy offense from his days with the Seattle Seahawks, and that trend will likely continue in Detroit. However, it's hard to imagine the Lions not attempting to take advantage of Arizona's inexperienced secondary in the matchup.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Colts)
Yahoo Ownership: 33 percent
Austin Ekeler was the running back coming off the board early in fantasy drafts due to Melvin Gordon's holdout, but it's unclear if he holds a significant edge over Justin Jackson. According to ESPN's Eric D. Williams, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco recently said Jackson and Ekeler "are going to work in tandem with each other."
In 2018, the Chargers played three games without Gordon while Ekeler and Jackson were both active. In those three contests, Ekeler commanded 41 percent of the team's touches, compared to just 17 percent for Jackson. However, the team's opinion of Jackson appeared to improve as the season progressed. During their Week 7 game without Gordon, Ekeler out-touched Jackson 17 to 3. In Weeks 13 and 14, Jackson closed the gap to 35-18.
The fact that Los Angeles has not made any transactions to improve its depth while Gordon is out is a strong indication the front office and coaching staff are genuinely comfortable with both Ekeler and Jackson, and it would not be surprising if their opportunities are split close to 50/50.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Detroit Lions (vs. Cardinals)
Yahoo Ownership: 13 percent
In 2018, Detroit ran the ball on 63 percent of its plays inside the five-yard line, the sixth-highest rate in the league. Of those goal line attempts, 71 percent went to LeGarrette Blount, who primarily served as the short-yardage back in the Lions' offense.
Blount is no longer in Detroit, but the 225-pound Anderson is certainly capable of filling that role and, against a shaky Cardinals defense, there will likely be some scoring opportunities for Lions' running backs on Sunday.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Chargers)
Yahoo Ownership: 47 percent
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich stated this offseason that Marlon Mack will remain the early-down back while Nyheim Hines will play on third downs. If the Colts take a significant step back this season, however, the running backs could see a more even split of touches.
Rotoworld's Hayden Winks recently broke down the usage rate of the Colts top playmakers based on game situations. Predictably, Mack dominated when the Colts held a lead, but the scales tipped slightly in Hines' favor when Indy was playing from behind.
Everyone has to take a stand on if the Colts will still be good or not.
Looks like T.Y. Hilton will get his unless the Colts are really, really bad. I don't see that happening. All he needs is Jacoby Brissett to be functional, which I do see happening. pic.twitter.com/SI9YdeGYPX
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) August 26, 2019
Maybe the Colts will surprise us and the offense won't miss a beat without the recently-retired Andrew Luck. But until Jacoby Brissett proves himself, it's probably best to assume they'll be playing catch-up more frequently than in past years.
John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills (vs. Jets)
Yahoo Ownership: 49 percent
Brown was suiting up for the Baltimore Ravens a season ago, but his transition to the Buffalo Bills could actually lead to an increase in that rate -- no quarterback threw 15 yards downfield more than Josh Allen (30 percent).
Allen's inconsistent passing makes any Bills receiver a risky play on a weekly basis, but if you have a hole to fill and are willing to gamble on a boom-or-bust receiver, Brown should be on your radar. In six of Allen's 11 starts last season, at least one Bills receiver went over 15 fantasy points (PPR scoring), including three games with a receiver over 20 points.
Randall Cobb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Giants)
Yahoo Ownership: 10 percent
Opposing quarterbacks picked up 9.4 yards per attempt last season when targeting their slot receiver against the New York Giants, the second-worst rate in the NFL according to Sports Info Solutions. That bodes well for Randall Cobb, who was signed this offseason to replace the productive Cole Beasley in the slot for the Cowboys.
The slot receiver typically hasn't played a significant role in the Cowboys' offense in recent years, but in Week 16 against the Giants, Beasley hauled in six receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown, with all six catches coming from the slot.
If new Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore believes the slot creates a mismatch in Cobb's favor, he could post a similar stat line to Beasley's last outing against New York.
Super-Sleeper: D.J. Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Chiefs)
Yahoo Ownership: 1 percent
The Jaguars will likely remain a run-oriented offense, despite the quarterback upgrade from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles. However, someone has to emerge as a pass-catching weapon opposite Dede Westbrook, especially in this matchup against the high-scoring Kansas City Chiefs.
Former starter Marqise Lee missed the entire 2018 season with a knee injury and did not suit up in the preseason. He'll return eventually, but his Week 1 status remains in doubt. In Lee's absence, D.J. Chark may emerge as another weapon for Foles.
In the Jaguars third preseason game -- when starters typically get an extended look -- Chark was on the field for 16 of Foles' 18 snaps, a good sign the team is hoping to develop a connection between the two. Jacksonville invested a second-round pick in Chark in 2018, so they are likely eager to see what he can do in a bigger role this season.
Chark, who ran a 4.34 forty-yard dash at the 2018 NFL combine, also provides value as a deep threat. Donte Moncrief, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, led Jacksonville with 19 targets at 20 or more yards downfield last season, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Kansas City's defense allowed an NFL-worst 65 receptions of at least 20 yards last season, so there is a strong possibility of Chark cashing in on some big-play opportunities.