7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 3
This weekend, I watched a lot of football with my girlfriend. It was the first time she really slummed it all day with me while I had on the Red Zone Channel for seven hours.
In her first real foray into the glorious Red Zone haze, there were two things that seemed to captivate her.
The first is that football is a lot more fun to watch when there are no commercials, when highlights are immediate, and when punts are avoided like the plague.
The second is that everyone was getting hurt in Week 2.
As much as I hate to say it, though, this might mean that your fantasy squad is looking thin entering Week 3. If that's the case, you might need to dig deep, even in shallow leagues, for some fantasy production. If so, you're in luck, because I've found some potential candidates to do just that this weekend.
If these recommendations are a bit too risky for your league, or if you're looking for some other guys who are pretty available and could have good Week 3 games, then check out my other Week 3 sleeper picks from earlier in the week.
Week 3 All-Deep-Sleepers Lineup
Quarterback: Josh McCown (started in 1.4% of ESPN leagues | owned in 5.8% of ESPN leagues)
Sure, it's early, but McCown is currently fantasy football's 11th-best quarterback in standard scoring leagues. Okay, so he has more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2), but he is facing off against the Falcons on Thursday night. The Falcons rank 30th in Defensive Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, meaning they surrender a lot of positive plays to opposing quarterbacks.
Starting quarterbacks who play in Thursday games can be letdowns, but the Falcons can be thrown on. If you're looking for some bigger stats, I much prefer both Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins, whom I discussed in my other sleeper article, but McCown should be able to give you a solid floor in this matchup if you really need him. McCown is our 12th-ranked quarterback going into Week 3.
Running Back: Matt Asiata (3.6% | 11.9%)
Asiata was far from overly impressive on the ground in his starting gig against the Patriots, turning 13 carries into just 36 yards, but he did save his fantasy day with a receiving touchdown. Of the 47 running backs who attempted between 10 and 30 rushes so far this year, Asiata, who has 15 carries, ranks just 29th in Rushing NEP per Play.
In case you're wondering, the Patriots rank just 22nd against the run on a per-play basis, so Asiata wasn't facing super stout competition in his start. Fortunately, the Vikings get to face off against the Saints this week, who rank 30th against the run and have allowed the 26th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.
This game has a huge over/under (51), and the Saints are favored by 9, but Asiata has 6 receptions on the year, ranking 10th among running backs in Reception NEP per target among all backs with at least 5 catches. He could be phased out, but the matchup is right, and he should have a clear path to touches this week.
Running Back: Bobby Rainey (1.2% | 6.8%)
Rainey should be a hot waiver wire commodity once they clear this week, so he's really not a "deep" sleeper despite his current ownership suggesting he is. He had a huge Week 2, rushing 22 times for 144 yards (6.5 per carry) and adding 3 receptions for 30 yards.
He stayed out of the end zone, and Doug Martin might be back, but even if both play, Rainey should be able to put up starter-worthy numbers. The Falcons rank 32nd in fantasy points allowed to running backs and are just 29th against the run according to our Net Expected Points metric. There should be enough scoring from each team to ensure that Rainey gets his share because the Falcons likely won't be able to stop him.
Wide Receiver: Kelvin Benjamin (9.2% | 45.3%)
Benjamin disappointed after a strong Week 1 showing, catching just 2 passes for 46 yards against the Lions. This week, though, the matchup is nicer. Pittsburgh ranks 22nd in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and he projects to be the 23rd-best receiver this week, per our metrics. He's not so much a deep sleeper, but if he's available or if you have him and are afraid to roll him out, this week may not be a bad choice to roll the dice on his upside.
Of the 61 receivers with at least 10 targets, Benjamin ranks 13th in Reception NEP per target. He's doing work with his targets despite a poor Week 2 showing, so a solid day from the rookie is to be expected against that Steelers secondary.
Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu (0.7% | 2.6%)
Sanu had a big game when A.J. Green struggled with turf toe. Against the generous Falcons defense, Sanu turned three receptions into 84 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted only four times, which sounds frightening, but the Bengals ran the ball 45 times. This week could be more of the same, as the Bengals are seven-point favorites against the Titans in a game with an over/under of a modest 43.5.
The Titans also rank eighth in against the pass on a per play basis so far this year, so the matchup isn't very enticing. However, if Green is out, the Bengals would be without both Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert, so some passes will have to go his way. He's far from a lock, but the opportunity certainly exists for Sanu to provide some fantasy points this week.
Tight End: Charles Clay (13.0% | 25.7%)
Clay doesn't fit the ownership criteria for this article, but he's close enough that I picked him. Clay's been bad this year while struggling with a knee injury. He ranks just 29th out of 31 tight ends who have at least six targets this year in Reception NEP per target.
But Clay was a fringe redraft target this year, and everyone seems to be, rightfully, giving up on him. However, he has 14 targets this year, 9th among all tight ends, and he gets a great matchup against the Chiefs this week, who rank last against the pass when adjusted for strength of schedule. Their Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play is 0.40, while the league average is 0.09, meaning they've been nearly four times as inefficient as a league-average secondary.
So far this year, the Chiefs are allowing 5.0 receptions, 52.0 yards, and 1.5 touchdowns to opposing tight ends and the 26th-most fantasy points to the position. Clay did have seven receptions last week (for only 31 yards), but he's likely available, has a track record of usability, and is our 14th-ranked tight end this week.
Flex: Niles Paul (0.4% | 1.0%)
Anybody who watched football this Sunday (and who didn't?) knows that Paul had a big game. He caught 8 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He should be a pretty popular waiver claim, but I think anybody who's currently owned in fewer leagues than Tony Gonzalez (1.1%) is eligible for this article.
So far, the Eagles rank 12th against the pass (per our metrics) and 11th in points allowed to opposing tight ends. Not so great, right? Well, in case you are afraid of rolling with Paul straight away because of the matchup, just know that the Eagles could be without a critical component of their linebacking corps: Mychal Kendricks.
Kendricks exited Monday night's game with a calf injury, and backup Casey Matthews exited soon after because of his poor play. This game, with a 50-point over/under, could be another advantageous matchup for Paul, so don't think he's a one-week wonder.