7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1
The 2020 NFL season -- like everything about 2020 -- is unique. While turning to the waiver wire or free agent pool for streaming options is a common practice in normal years, the need for deeper options could be even greater this year as the NFL tries to navigate playing through a pandemic.
This is your weekly home for finding deep sleeper options across the board this year with plug-and-play options listed at quarterback, running back, receiver, and tight end. Whether you set out to stream or circumstances have changed for your roster and dictate streaming on the fly, I've got you covered with a full roster's worth of low-rostered options in Yahoo! leagues.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
Yahoo Rostership: 3%
It looked like Mitchell Trubisky might be relegated to backup duties for the Chicago Bears after they not only declined his fifth-year option but also traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles. Instead, Trubisky won the starting quarterback gig. The presence of Foles creates the potential for an in-game benching if Trubisky's a train wreck, but in an unusual offseason with no preseason action, Trubisky's familiarity with his pass-catching targets and head coach and play-caller Matt Nagy's offense helped him get the edge as a streaming option at quarterback over Teddy Bridgewater, who was my second choice as a deep sleeper at quarterback.
He has a plus matchup against our sixth-worst ranked pass defense of the Detroit Lions. Their poor pass defense no longer includes talented veteran cornerback Darius Slay after they traded him in the offseason, but they did add promising rookie Jeff Okudah to the fold with the third pick in this year's NFL Draft. Further, while player versus team stats can be noisy due to small samples and the overturn of personnel on teams annually, it's still promising Trubisky's played well against the Lions throughout his career. He's tossed exactly three touchdown passes in each of his last three games against Detroit and eclipsed 300 passing yards in three of five career games against them.
Trubisky's legs also add to his fantasy appeal. Among quarterbacks since Trubisky entered the league in 2017, his 21.0 rushing yards per game rank as the 16th-highest total, according to Pro-Football-Reference's play index tool. Also, as recently as 2018, Trubisky was a fantasy-starting caliber signal caller ranking 10th in fantasy points per game during the standard fantasy football season (Week 1 through Week 16), per FantasyPros. He's a risky option, but there's enough here to like him as a streamer in super-flex or two-quarterback formats.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Yahoo Rostership: 10%
Jerick McKinnon's a wild card after missing the last two years due to ACL surgery and complications in his recovery. Without a preseason, there wasn't an opportunity for fans and gamers to lay eyes on him on the gridiron, but there are some favorable reports about how he's looked in camp such as this one and this one. Where McKinnon has the easiest path to a significant role in the San Francisco 49ers' backfield is as a pass-catching/third-down back.
The 49ers didn't lean on one back in the passing game last year with returning backs Raheem Mostert amassing only 22 targets in 16 games and Tevin Coleman tallying 30 targets in 14 games, and traded running back Matt Breida targeted 22 times in 13 games. If McKinnon is able to consolidate the bulk of the backfield targets for himself, he'd be an intriguing point-per-reception (PPR) option. He'll have an opportunity to get right to work out of the chute against an Arizona Cardinals defense that was tied for the eighth-most receptions (93) and sixth-most receiving yards permitted to running backs in 2019, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
As an added bonus, the 49ers are projected to score in bunches this week, which adds to the appeal of using anyone in their offense, including McKinnon. According to our matchup heat map, the 49ers have the second-highest implied total at 27.75 points in Week 1.
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots
Yahoo Rostership: 1%
Damien Harris was generating buzz in camp and appeared poised for an expanded -- and perhaps feature back -- role in the New England Patriots' backfield. Alas, he'll open the season on injured reserve. Additionally, the team brought in Lamar Miller as a free agent, but they ultimately cut him. As it stands entering the season opener, the backfield looks mostly the same as last year with Sony Michel projected to be their between-the-tackles bruiser, James White lined up to be their pass-catching back, and Rex Burkhead positioned to touch the ball a bit as a ball carrier and receiver.
This will be Burkhead's fourth season with the Patriots, and in his three years with the team, he has per-game averages of 6.0 carries for 24.3 rushing yards and 2.3 receptions for 21.4 receiving yards. He's also scored 12 touchdowns in 31 games. His 45.7 yards from scrimmage per game, 2.3 receptions per game, and occasional ability to get the ball in the end zone all add up to make him a viable streamer.
Perhaps there's upside for more, too. Michel spent part of the offseason on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing foot surgery. He's in no danger of missing this game. In fact, he should be favored to lead the backfield in carries. However, it's not inconceivable the club may opt to exercise caution and avoid overtaxing him. If that's the case, Burkhead's the better bet to pick up some vacated carries than White.
Also, the game script should be favorable for the Patriots feeding their backs carries if things go according to the script. New England's tied for the fourth-biggest favorite laying 6.5 points to the visiting Miami Dolphins. Our projection model projects Burkhead to finish as RB49 in PPR formats, but I'm a bit more bullish on his Week 1 outlook and think he'll flirt with a top-40 finish at the position.
Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Yahoo Rostership: 22%
Back in late May, I penned a piece touting both Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. that you can check out here. While I liked both a lot when touting them back then, Campbell's slightly edged ahead of him thanks in part to being listed as a starter on the Indianapolis Colts' unofficial depth chart while Pittman Jr. isn't listed as a starter. My reasons for liking Campbell remain the same, and you should check out that piece for my in-depth analysis of his 2020 outlook.
As for this week specifically, he's tied to an offense that's tied for the third-highest implied total at 26.5 points. He also has a plus matchup against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that ranks 10th worst in pass defense in our power rankings.
Hunter Renfrow WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Yahoo Rostership: 18%
Hunter Renfrow is another receiver I hyped in the offseason, and the slot receiver for the Las Vegas Raiders is my favorite deep sleeper this week, namely in PPR formats. In the linked piece, I lauded Renfrow's efficiency and emergence down the stretch for the Raiders, and I like his odds of picking up where he left off to open his sophomore campaign. His rapport with Derek Carr should pay immediate dividends on a team with major overturn at the receiver position. Having said that -- spoiler alert -- I do like another member of their receiving corps this week, too.
The Raiders have a tasty implied total of 25.25 points this week, good for the sixth-highest mark. Our projections call for Renfrow to finish as WR53 this week in PPR formats, but I'm a believer he can greatly exceed that projection and finish inside the top-36 receivers this week, putting him in fringe WR3 or flex territory in 12-team leagues.
Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Yahoo Rostership: 35%
In 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts, Eric Ebron finished fourth among tight ends in PPR scoring and PPR points per game during the fantasy season. Last year, he tumbled to 25th at the position in scoring and watched his PPR points per game nosedive from 13.8 to 7.9. He'll get a fresh start donning the uniform of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.
Ebron's 2018 outburst was largely fueled by scoring 13 receiving touchdowns. While regression was hardly a surprise, dipping to three receiving touchdowns in 10 games was a sizable swing. Additionally, he fell from averaging 4.1 receptions and 46.9 receiving yards per game to 2.8 receptions and 34.1 receiving yards per game. Perhaps his new home will award him a rebound opportunity, as it sounds like he'll be an important cog in Pittsburgh's offense.
The presence of Eric Ebron allowed the Steelers to feel comfortable going to 5 WRs since he’s almost like another himself.
More often than not, he will be flexed out all over the field as a mismatch chess piece. Ebron’s going to get a lot of targets and looks this year.
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) September 5, 2020
Nick Farabaugh's tweet above provides some reason for optimism regarding Ebron's role in the Steelers' passing attack. Another reason for optimism, at least this week, is a matchup with the leaky pass defense of the New York Giants. Big Blue ranks fifth-worst in pass defense in our power rankings. Ebron's worth a look for gamers in need of a tight end this week.
Bryan Edwards, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Yahoo Rostership: 21%
It's possible rookie third-round pick Bryan Edwards would be starting in the opener if the Raiders hadn't lost veteran wideout Tyrell Williams to a season-ending torn labrum, but the rookie's now definitely starting opposite fellow rookie Henry Ruggs with Renfrow in the slot in three-wide receiver formations.
Quarterback Derek Carr has sung Edwards' praises, as you can read in Vic Tafur's piece for The Athletic. Offseason chatter should always be taken with a grain of salt, but coupled with Edwards' ascension to a starting role, it's encouraging for the rookie's ability to make fantasy waves right out of the gate.
Additionally, as I noted in Renfrow's write-up above, he'll benefit from being attached to a high implied team total. Further, he has what appears to be a favorable matchup. Carolina's top three corners look suspect at best, and downright bad at worst, as you can see in Jared Smola's tweet below.
#Panthers top 3 CBs:
1. Donte Jackson, who ranked 85th among 115 CBs in PFF’s 2019 coverage grades
2. Fourth-round rookie Troy Pride
3. Eagles castoff Rasul Douglas
Good debut spot for Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards.
— Jared Smola (@SmolaDS) September 8, 2020
Using a rookie in his first game after an offseason that didn't include preseason contests is risky, but Edwards appears worth rolling the dice on in fantasy leagues for WR-needy or Flex-desperate gamers.
Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.