7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1
I'd probably be pretty safe in assuming that most of your fantasy football leagues are made up just 10 or 12 teams, so you should be able to find recommendations for some unconventional plays in those leagues. But if you go deeper than that, then you'll become accustomed to some serious reaches into the depths of the waiver wire in your quest for fantasy points.
I'm just here to help you figure out which long-shot options the math here at numberFire like. These aren't just gut calls or feelings, but rather suggestions based on matchups, opportunity, and potential.
As a rule of thumb, I'm going to rely on ESPN leagues to find players who are being started in under 10% of their leagues and will keep an extra eye on guys with low ownership, too, giving the nod to a more readily-available player if he's got a good chance to produce in a given week.
Two more things: don't bench a solid player for one of these fliers just because he's on the list. Also, I'm going to be referencing Net Expected Points (NEP) quite often. NEP is numberFire's way of identifying how many points a player added to his team's point total in a season, and they also are used for teams and can be adjusted for schedule strength.
If you're looking deep enough for these types of recommendations, then you'll know there's no such thing as a can't-miss, but there are some surprising players who fit the criteria and who our algorithms like in Week 1. Here are the best of the deep sleepers for the week.
Week 1 All-Deep-Sleepers Lineup
Quarterback: Geno Smith (started in 2.0% of ESPN leagues)
Rex Ryan is going to blitz Derek Carr, and for as good as he looked in the preseason and for as shaky as the Jets secondary is, Carr is projected to throw for just 184.98 yards, 1.01 touchdowns, and 0.89 interceptions. It won't take much for the Jets to get ahead in this contest, and that would be stellar for Smith, who is earmarked as a solid quarterback streaming option.
Last year in eight wins, Smith averaged 219.6 passing yards, 1.25 touchdowns, 34.3 rushing yards, and 0.75 rushing touchdowns. Compared to his production in losses (161.1, 0.25, 11.5, 0.00), where Smith was a different player. That's a difference of nearly 20 fantasy points between wins and losses. Smith isn't reliable, but he's got a great ceiling if the game flows like it should.
Running back: Shonn Greene (3.8%)
Greene is owned in just over 85% of ESPN leagues, so it's unlikely you could snatch him from the waiver wire, but most people who have him don't seem interested in starting him for some reason. For as feared as the Kansas City defense seemed last year, the unit ranked only 15th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and also ranked 20th in fantasy points allowed to running backs.
That's not a bad matchup for someone who's listed as the number-one running back on his team, and the goal-line back as well. The whole Titans backfield is a bit messy, but Greene is projected for 0.26 touchdowns (second-highest among running backs outside the top-30) on just 8.31 carries. It's far from a sure thing, but he has a realistic shot at a touchdown, which is saying more than I can for most of the guys being started so infrequently.
Running back: Lance Dunbar (0.3%)
Dunbar has a team in just 7.4% of ESPN leagues, and it's both obvious and puzzling as to why that is. DeMarco Murray is the clear number-one option, but he's not very successful in staying healthy. I'm not big on handcuffing, but Dunbar also has some weekly potential. Reports are that Dallas has big plans for Dunbar this year, and that could start in Week 1.
Despite playing the 49ers, who ranked ninth last season against the run according to our metrics, Dunbar could prove useful. The 49ers are struggling with injuries and suspensions to their defense, and the game has the third-highest over/under (51.5) of the Week 1 slate. Dunbar should be in a good role in the Scott Linehan offense, and provides the biggest potential in PPR formats.
Wide Receiver: Donnie Avery (1.0%)
This suggestion stems primarily from the opportunity presented to Avery. Dwayne Bowe will be out, and there has to be someone to catch a few passes for the Chiefs. Last year, the Titans ranked 23rd against the pass, so Avery is afforded a pretty comfortable match-up to go along with his massive opportunity.
He's projected for 4.11 receptions, 54.32 yards, and 0.31 touchdowns this week, good for 34th in our rankings. He's owned in just 2.9% of ESPN leagues, so he's probably out there for you in a deep league. Use him while you can before Bowe returns to the lineup.
Wide Receiver: Doug Baldwin (2.0%)
Baldwin is owned in under 20% of leagues and isn't really on the Week 1 radar, but the algorithms like him as the 35th receiver this week and peg him for 3.10 catches, 49.95 yards, and 0.40 touchdowns. The touchdown upside is pretty solid for someone with his level of ownership, and the matchup might let him cash in on that.
With a 46.5 over/under and a six-point spread in favor of the Seahawks, Baldwin should contribute. In 30 career wins, Baldwin has averaged 2.90 receptions, 45.73 yards, and 0.33 touchdowns. In 16 losses, Baldwin contributed just 2.69 receptions, 35.00 yards, and 0.13 touchdowns.
Tight End: Travis Kelce (1.9%)
I'm a huge Kelce fan this year for many reasons. Firstly, he compares physically to many elite tight ends, and secondly, the Chiefs have a dearth at wide receiver. Without Bowe especially, Kelce, who had a breakout preseason, should be used pretty heavily against a Titans team that ranked 25th in defending tight ends last year in standard leagues.
Kelce and Avery should be the main benefactors in the offense after Jamaal Charles, obviously, and finding second- and third-options this easily should entice deep-league owners.
Flex: Brian Quick (0.1%)
Here's a deep sleeper for you. Quick has come alive in the preseason, but is being started in just 0.1% of ESPN leagues and owned in only 0.3% of them. He's a long shot for sure, but not as much as these usage numbers indicate. Quick is listed second on the Rams' depth chart, and the Rams get to face off against the Vikings who ranked just 28th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back last season.
He's a big dude (6'3'', 218) who's playing well and gets a good matchup. He'll have a size advantage over either Vikings cornerback: Captain Munnerlyn (5'9'', 195) or Xavier Rhodes (6'1'', 215). If you're really digging deep already, Quick might be able to answer your prayer, and he might actually end up more useful than just a Week 1 flier if he can continue his strong play into the regular season.