7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1
It's never too early to start streaming. Gamers who had the misfortune of drafting Andrew Luck or Lamar Miller are already looking for roster help. Additionally, those riding out the holdout of Melvin Gordon could be looking for an early-season option, too. There are also gamers who've made unbalanced player swaps opening up a streaming spot on their roster.
Regardless of the motivation for turning to the waiver wire/free agent pool, this is the place to find streaming options -- even for gamers in leagues as large as 14- or 16-team formats. Every week in this space, you'll find a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, and a flex who are low-owned options in Yahoo! leagues and offer plug-and-play appeal.
Nick Foles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Yahoo Ownership: 18%
Nick Foles will forever be a sports hero in the City of Brotherly Love for leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory in relief of an injured Carson Wentz in 2017, and he played well in five regular season starts last year, too. Now, he's the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars and squaring off against a Kansas City Chiefs team with a high-flying offense in Week 1.
Circling back to Foles' solid play in 2018, out of 34 quarterbacks with a minimum of 200 dropbacks, his 0.16 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back tied for 11th-highest. He completed a whopping 72.3 percent of his passes and averaged 282.6 passing yards per game while tossing seven touchdowns and four interceptions in five regular season starts.
He moves from a team that ranked seventh in drop backs with 639 in 2018 to a Jaguars squad that ranked 17th with 589, and his supporting cast isn't as strong, but the Chiefs' offensive prowess could force the Jaguars to air it more out than they'd prefer. Kansas City's implied total of 27.5 points is the second highest of the week, and the Jaguars are 3.5-point underdogs. The Jags have an implied total of 24 points, which is the 12th-highest, and game script could call for them to play catch-up against Kansas City's prolific offense.
Our algorithm projects Foles to finish as just the 23rd ranked quarterback, which is behind some other potential streaming options at the position. However, I'm bullish on Foles' outlook in a matchup against a defense we rank 25th.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Yahoo Ownership: 12%
Giovani Bernard is one of two pass-catching backs to get a nod as a deep sleepers this week. Bernard's firmly behind Joe Mixon in the Cincinnati Bengals' backfield pecking order, but the former's arguably a superior receiver to the latter. Bernard totaled a 0.05 Target NEP per target in 2018, compared to Mixon's 0.03 Target NEP per target, and Bernard's mark last year tied for the lowest in a season in his six-year career. In 2017, Bernard was responsible for 0.12 Target NEP per target on 60 targets.
Perhaps Mixon will make strides as a receiver this year and close the gap with Bernard, but the elder's receiving skills should be utilized this week with the Bengals serving as the co-biggest underdog in Week 1. The host Seattle Seahawks are double-digit favorites, laying 10 points to the visiting Bengals. The game script will likely be negative for the Bengals most of Sunday's contest, and that would force them to chuck it regularly.
When Bernard is on the field against the Seahawks, he might not see much resistance as a receiver. Last year, the Seahawks were tied for the sixth-most receptions (99 receptions) ceded to running backs as well as the third-most receiving yards (906 yards) coughed up to them, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Bernard's not a high-ceiling streaming option, but there's a path to fantasy usefulness this week -- especially in point per reception (PPR) leagues.
Chris Thompson, RB, Washington
Yahoo Ownership: 11%
Derrius Guice is the starting running back in Washington. But when discussing the decision to cut Samaje Perine, Washington coach Jay Gruden said, "at the end of the day, it's not so much about Samaje than it is about Derrius Guice -- how much faith we have in him to carry the ball." Gruden also said about Guice, "we feel like he can be a first, second and even-third down back, if needed."
Reading the tea leaves from Gruden's quotes, he has faith in Guice as a ball carrier, but didn't give as ringing of an endorsement when saying the team could use him on third down, "if needed."
Chris Thompson has dealt with injuries throughout his career, so there could come a time when Guice will be needed on third downs. However, Thompson's healthy now and has demonstrated elite receiving ability. Washington should have numerous passing downs Sunday as 10-point underdogs.
Last year, Thompson had a down year as a receiver, ranking 26th out of 37 backs targeted a minimum of 35 times with 0.05 Target NEP per target. In 2017, however, Thompson sat atop the heap of 45 running backs targeted a minimum of 35 times with 0.58 Target NEP per target. There was a sizable gap between Thompson's mark and second-ranked Alvin Kamara's 0.44 Target NEP per target.
Thompson's matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles is a tasty one, too. Last season, the Eagles were tied for the second-most receptions (110 receptions) allowed and surrendered the sixth-most receiving yards (844 yards) to running backs, per Pro-Football-Reference. Thompson's best utilized in PPR formats, but his explosiveness makes him a viable dart throw in standard-scoring formats as well.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Yahoo Ownership: 16%
As noted above, the Chiefs have the second-highest implied total of the week, at 27.5 points. The offense is loaded with weapons, so Mecole Hardman can't reasonably be expected to see much in the way of volume. Although, that's okay given his elite speed and the home-run play potential that's tied to his wheels.
Hardman blazed a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine. His speed adds another vertical threat to an offense that already features speedster Tyreek Hill, stud tight end Travis Kelce, wideout Sammy Watkins and running backs Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy. Defenses simply can't account for everyone on Kansas City's offense, and that puts Hardman in a favorable position to rip off occasional long plays this season. He's a boom-or-bust pick, but using a player attached to an offense expected to hang points in bunches isn't a bad gamble.
Albert Wilson, WR, Miami Dolphins
Yahoo Ownership: 6%
The Miami Dolphins unclogged their receiving room a bit by shipping Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans in a blockbuster deal along with tackle Laremy Tunsil. Additionally, dealing Stills opens up some snaps from the slot after Stills lined up in the slot on 22.6 percent of his snaps last season, according to PlayerProfiler.
Miami's head coach last season, Adam Gase, didn't view Albert Wilson as a slot receiver, but the new coaching staff plans to use Wilson in the slot. That's an important position in a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense.
Pro Football Focus' Scott Barrett recently tweeted a couple of images showcasing Fitzpatrick's NFL-high target rate to receivers in the slot over the last decade among quarterbacks who've attempted at least 600 passes and Wilson's top-shelf numbers from the slot, yards after catch per reception numbers, and forced tackles per reception.
Do me a favor? If you still haven't drafted yet, please don't leave your league without Albert Wilson.
ADP: Round 15 (WR69) pic.twitter.com/nTDCsa0iFO
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 2, 2019
The Fitzpatrick-Wilson pairing has tantalizing potential for the speedy receiver. Furthermore, theoretically, Fitzpatrick should be looking to get the ball out quickly to his slot receiver for his own preservation in the wake of Miami dealing their starting left tackle.
The Dolphins are 7.0-point underdogs against the Baltimore Ravens, so Wilson should be busy this week. Wilson isn't risk free, coming off of a hip injury that ended his 2018 season, but he is ready to go for Week 1. Wilson was a limited practice participant Wednesday, according to the team's official website. He should be all systems go.
Will Dissly, TE, Seattle Seahawks
Yahoo Ownership: 3%
Earlier in the week, I touted three streaming options at tight end. I prefer all three to Will Dissly, but Dissly qualifies as a much deeper sleeper than the trio in the linked piece since his ownership rate is south of five percent. The second-year tight end was limited to only four games in 2018 before his season came to a close with a torn patellar tendon.
Dissly's recovered, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is a fan. In his limited first season, Dissly quickly showcased rapport with Russell Wilson. He hauled in eight receptions on 14 targets for 156 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dissly's scores came on a 15-yard reception and a two-yard reception.
Could he be a red-zone favorite of Wilson's? Maybe. The sample is tiny, but a couple of touchdowns from the red zone in less than four full games is eye catching. The Seahawks have the third-highest implied total at 27.25 points, putting Dissly firmly in play as a Hail Mary option with the potential to reach pay dirt, namely if Wilson does feel comfortable airing it out to his second-year tight end in scoring territory.
Trey Quinn, WR, Washington
Yahoo Ownership: 2%
I'll keep this short and sweet with slot receiver Trey Quinn since I've already touted him in early August. I remain a believer in Quinn's fantasy potential this season, and he could be busy in Week 1. As I pointed out in the Thompson analysis, Washington is a 10.0-point underdog at Philadelphia.
A negative game script is highly likely for Washington this week, and that means passing to play catch-up. Since the time when I penned my piece in early August hyping Quinn, Case Keenum's been named the starting quarterback for Washington. As I noted in the linked piece, Keenum has a track record of peppering his slot receivers. Quinn should see a heavy dose of targets this week, and the matchup is potentially favorable.
Last season, Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles 15th defending number-one receivers, 22nd defending number-two receivers, and 16th defending "Other" receivers. From a fantasy perspective, they were quite giving last year, as well. The matchup not only shouldn't dissuade gamers from using Quinn, it should be the cherry on top of his case as a deep sleeper this week.