Week 1 Fantasy Football All-Sleeper Team
Let's talk everybody's favorite buzzword: sleepers.
I think everyone who spends an inordinate amount of time engrossed in the fantasy sports world has grown weary of the term, but there's really no better alternative to sum up exactly what the word means: a player who could outperform general expectations. Typically, sleepers mean the most in drafts, but the under-appreciated will have the chance to come through on a weekly basis.
So now that drafts are over, it's time to start doing the start-sit salsa. Sure, it's only Week 1, but if you took a suspended player like Ray Rice or you have to debate on your flex because that's how the draft unfolded, sleepers might be necessary already.
If that's the case for you, then I've got some suggestions in the All-Sleeper team for Week 1.
It's impossible to know who's available in your league or how deep your benches are, and recommending Brian Quick isn't going to help many owners in 10- or 12-team leagues, but I'm going to be dealing with guys who are being started in fewer than 25% of ESPN leagues. These guys may or may not be long shots (like Quick) based on your league size, but they're being underused in standard-sized leagues, which makes them a useful type of sleeper.
If your league goes deeper or you're looking for some even less utilized players, I'll be covering that, too, in a separate article.
Of course, don't bench your studs for these players just because they are being underutilized, but if you own these guys or they're available, consider rolling them out this week if you can get them into your starting lineup because the numbers think they have a good week in store.
One last thing - I'll be referencing Net Expected Points (NEP), which is numberFire's unique metric that quantifies the amount of points a player adds to his team's total through every target or touch. For teams, NEP indicates their production compared to the league average and can be adjusted for schedule strength.
Week 1 All-Sleeper Team
Quarterback: Carson Palmer (started in 5.5% of ESPN leagues)
Palmer is definitely a player you can target this week if you waited on quarterback in your draft. Playing the Chargers at home, Palmer should be in one of the biggest shootouts we see in Week 1. Last year, the Chargers ranked a lowly 26th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, meaning they surrendered a lot of points through the air. They also ranked third in Adjusted NEP per play, which means they put points on the board.
In a pass-friendly offense with some play-makers (Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andre Ellington), Palmer could post a big day for your fantasy squad even though he's owned in just 32.7% of leagues and barely being started in any of them.
Running Back: Fred Jackson (18.6%)
Last year, few matchups were as welcomed for running backs as the Chicago Bears. They ranked last (by quite a large margin) last year against the run, finishing 32nd in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. Meanwhile, Jackson ranked sixth among running backs with at least 100 carries last year in Rushing NEP.
He's ranked as our 23rd running back this week, so he may not win your week, but not many people who have him are starting him. If you do have him, consider rostering him this week because of the matchup and his penchant for goal-line carries. For that reason, he's projected the highest rushing touchdown total (0.45) of any back outside the top 14.
Running Back: Pierre Thomas (16.3%)
Thomas, like Jackson, isn't necessarily an exciting name, but he's being underutilized. He probably only cost you a mid-round pick, but he has a great matchup in what should be a very high-scoring game.
Last year, the Falcons ranked 30th against the rush, so they were very susceptible to the run. This game has an over/under of 51, so there will be plenty of points to go around. For these reasons, the metrics like Thomas as the 16th-best running back this week. His 4.90 projected catches give him an extra boost in PPR formats.
Wide Receiver: Anquan Boldin (21.1%)
If you drafted Boldin, you probably have him stashed on the end of your bench, and it's understandable given his ADP. However, he's got a great matchup this week against the Cowboys. The Cowboys were better than most realize in 2013 against the pass, but their metrics took a big hit without Sean Lee. Lee's out, and the over/under is set at 51.
He doesn't get a huge boost in PPR leagues, as he's projected for 3.56 receptions and 54.35, but his 0.48 reception touchdowns is the highest projected of any receiver outside our top 26 this week.
Wide Receiver: Kendall Wright (13.6%)
Wright is owned in 100.0% of ESPN leagues, but he's being started in just over 13% of them. Hopefully you didn't draft him early enough to rely on him as an every-week starter. Considering that and the fact that Kansas City had a great pass defense last year (ranking third in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back), it's not a surprise that he's being underutilized. Wright won't get you a touchdown, but the Chiefs are favored by 3.5, meaning the Titans could experience a slight uptick in passing in the second half.
Wright should handle the volume well, and the math likes him for 5.53 receptions and 64.05 yards. The promise of receptions and yards give him a solid floor and make him a useful option in case your initial, volatile options are in a bad match-up in Week 1.
Tight End: Heath Miller (7.0%)
Our algorithms give Miller a touchdown line of 0.44, fourth-highest among all tight ends this week. If you're a tight end streamer, you know how hit-or-miss these guys can be, but Miller provides some serious upside as well as as a pretty legitimate floor.
Over the past two years (29 games), Miller has had at least 4 receptions in 22 of them (75.86% of contests), and is just two years removed from an 8-touchdown season in 2012. The Steelers no longer have a red-zone target, and Heath has the track record of being a reliable target.
Flex: Riley Cooper (13.2%)
Cooper isn't likely to be on your waiver wire, as he's owned in 99.6% of ESPN leagues, but he's not getting the starting nod very often. It'll be hard to pinpoint when to use Cooper and when not to use him, but there's reason to believe this would be a week to chance it if your receivers or flex spot is looking thin.
He has touchdown upside in the fantastic Week 1 matchup. Last year, the Jags ranked 31st against the pass according to our metrics, and there's an over/under set at 53 along with a 10-point spread in favor of the Eagles.
In 10 wins last year, Cooper averaged 2.90 receptions, 62.60 yards, and 0.70 touchdowns, much better than his splits in 6 losses: 3.00 receptions, 34.83 yards, and 0.17 touchdowns. The Eagles are in great position to win, which could give Cooper, our 33rd receiver, a usable week even in smaller leagues, as long as three receivers are being started.