7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 4
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.
Kyle Allen, QB, Carolina Panthers
Yahoo Ownership: 12%
In his first start this year, Kyle Allen had the offense clicking on all cylinders for the Carolina Panthers. They hung 38 points on the Arizona Cardinals, and they looked like the high-powered offense many envisioned entering the year. Allen was tasked with attempting only 26 passes, but he made the most of his limited throws by completing 19 of them for 261 passing yards and 4 touchdowns.
This week, he'll look to build on his strong performance on the road against the Houston Texans. We rank the Texans 17th in pass defense, making them a neutral-to-favorable draw for Allen. I'm also bullish on the potential of this game turning into an up-and-down, back-and-forth affair. Football Outsiders ranks the Panthers second in pace of play (i.e. second fastest running plays) and ninth in situation-neutral pace of play. The Texans rank just 24th in overall pace of play, but they rank a more uptempo-friendly 10th in situation-neutral pace of play.
Carolina's implied total this week is a ho-hum 21.75 points, but if this turns into the uptempo game I'm expecting based on each team's pace numbers, they can exceed that total. Our algorithm projects Allen to finish 20th among quarterbacks in scoring this week, but, as I've laid out, there's upside for him to do a bit better than that.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Yahoo Ownership: 34%
I typically avoid players on more than 30 percent of Yahoo rosters, but Justin Jackson checks in outside of the top-50 highest-owned running backs in Yahoo leagues. On that note, I'm making an exception to include him in this week's piece. Our algorithm is optimistic about Jackson's outlook this week, and he's projected to be the 36th highest scoring running back in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.
And, frankly, why shouldn't we be optimistic?
Jackson's clearly been the number-two back behind Austin Ekeler for the Los Angeles Chargers, but he's made up for his lack of volume with exceptional efficiency. He's totaled 155 yards from scrimmage at a blistering 6.5 yards per touch this year. Among backs with a minimum of 15 carries this year, Jackson's 0.30 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry is third highest behind only Mark Ingram (0.39) and Dalvin Cook (0.33).
He has a dreamy matchup against the historically inept Miami Dolphins. Miami checks in last in run defense, per our numbers, and they've served up an NFL-high 535 rushing yards at 5.30 yards per carry to running backs this year -- 121 rushing yards more than the next worst team, per Pro-Football-Reference. Last week, the Dolphins were squashed and allowed a pair of rushers, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, to both hit triple-digit rushing yardage totals at 125 rushing yards on 19 carries and 103 rushing yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, respectively.
The Chargers are projected to be the fourth team to stomp the Dolphins. The visitors are a week-high 16.5-point favorite in Miami this week, and they're tied for the highest implied total of the week at 30 points. This game sets up nicely for Jackson getting some extra run, a la Pollard last week.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Yahoo Ownership: 16%
It's tough to get fired up about streaming a back with only 88 yards from scrimmage and no touchdowns through three weeks, but there are a few angles that support using Giovani Bernard this week. The first is that at least Bernard's regularly on the field. He played 63 percent of Cincinnati's offensive snaps in Week 1, 39 percent of them in Week 2, and 43 percent of them last week, per Pro-Football-Reference.
Second, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers has the potential to be a plus for Bernard. The game has a chance to feature a lot of plays run, with the Cincinnati Bengals ranking sixth in pace of play and 13th in situation-neutral pace of play and the Steelers ranking eighth in pace of play and 14th in situation-neutral pace of play. Additionally, the Steelers are giving to backs through the air, and that's where Bernard shines.
Pittsburgh's tied for the third most receptions (22) allowed and has coughed up the most receiving yards to running backs this year. Out of 47 running backs targeted a minimum of six times this year, Bernard's 0.46 Reception NEP per target is tied with teammate Joe Mixon's mark for 15th best. Bernard's receiving chops play in this matchup, making him a defensible streamer.
Kenny Stills, WR, Houston Texans
Yahoo Ownership: 18%
I discussed the potential for a track meet in Houston as part of Allen's write-up above, and that would benefit Kenny Stills, as well. He's also on the better side of that potential shootout, at least in terms of gambling info. The Texans are 4.0-point favorites and tied for the seventh-highest implied total at 25.75 points.
Although the matchup looks tough, that might not be the case. We rank the Panthers as the fifth-best pass defense, but they've been notoriously giving to slot receivers this season and last. This year, the Panthers allowed 7 receptions for 46 receiving yards on 10 targets to Cooper Kupp in Week 1, 8 receptions for 121 receiving yards and 1 touchdown to Chris Godwin in Week 2, and 10 receptions on 12 targets for 59 receiving yards to Christian Kirk and 5 receptions for 36 receiving yards and 1 touchdown on 7 targets to Larry Fitzgerald last week.
Stills has played the slot 57.5 percent of the time this year, according to PlayerProfiler, and he set new single-game highs this year in last week's contest with 6 targets, 4 receptions, 89 receiving yards, and 53 percent of offensive snaps played. Comparatively, Stills' primary competition for slot reps, Keke Coutee, played just 28 percent of the offensive snaps and wasn't targeted at all in Week 3. Stills has a high ceiling this week and is lower owned than he should be with what might be an ascending role in Houston's offense.
Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills
Yahoo Ownership: 10%
With new weapons in the Buffalo Bills' offense, Josh Allen has throttled back his average target depth from 10.2 yards in 2018 to 8.0 yards this season, according to Sports Info Solutions. One of those new weapons on offense is his trusty slot wideout, Cole Beasley. Beasley has been targeted 23 times this year, good for a 24.0 percent target share, tied with teammate John Brown's mark for 26th highest in the league.
Beasley has parlayed his hefty target share into 17 receptions on 19 catchable balls for 171 receiving yards. His numbers are solid if unspectacular. The Bills could be forced to rely on him and the passing game early and often this week as 7.5-point underdogs to the visiting New England Patriots, the number-one team in our Power Rankings. Our algorithm ranks Beasley as tied for WR49 in PPR formats this week.
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills
Yahoo Ownership: 10%
Dawson Knox. You love to see it. #CINvsBUF | #GoBills pic.twitter.com/ovMqiUTmZN
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 22, 2019
I don't have anything to add to the analysis I provided for Knox earlier in the week, but I'll add a video tweeted out by the Bills' official Twitter account of Knox's herculean effort on a 49-yard reception on their game-winning drive that should stoke the flames of excitement for rolling the dice on the rookie at tight end this week.
Devin Smith, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Yahoo Ownership: 8%
Devin Smith is back again as a deep fantasy football sleeper after disappointing with only two receptions for 39 yards last week against the lowly Dolphins. It's important to have short memories in fantasy, and there are positives to draw from last week's game. Smith's five targets were actually second on the team to Amari Cooper's seven, and Smith played a whopping 92 percent of the team's offensive snaps in the win.
Smith has a golden opportunity to showcase his field-stretching ability this week. Smith's average depth of target of 21.9 yards is highest among all pass-catchers with a minimum of five receptions this year, according to Sports Info Solutions. Deep shots from Dak Prescott to Smith could find the mark against the Saints this week.
New Orleans is tied for the sixth most receptions of 20-plus yards (14) and tied for the second most 40-plus yard receptions (five) allowed this year, per NFL.com. The Saints have allowed a 54-yard reception to Will Fuller, a 37-yard touchdown reception to Stills, a 21-yard reception and a 38-yard reception to DeAndre Hopkins, a 57-yard reception to Brandin Cooks, a 29-yard reception to David Moore, a 54-yard reception to D.K. Metcalf, and a 32-yard reception, a 24-yard reception, and a 40-yard reception to Tyler Lockett.
That's a silly number of long receptions coughed up to receivers through only three games, and Smith will have a chance to add to the Saints' struggles with his big-play prowess.