7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 6
Everybody loves a good sleeper pick.
Throughout the season, of course, sometimes sleepers aren't just luxuries to gawk at but necessary fill-ins for our fantasy football lineups.
Not every situation requires benching your starters for a sleeper, but every fantasy team and situation is different, and I'm sure we're all playing daily fantasy football on FanDuel anyway. That's where sleepers really can pay off.
Because there is no consensus definition of what a sleeper is, I'll keep it consistent throughout the season. Using ESPN's fantasy football platform, I'll choose quarterbacks and tight ends outside the top 15 in roster percentage and running backs and wide receivers outside the top 40.
I'll also list some honorable mentions because there's nothing worse than realizing that every player mentioned in an article is already rostered in your league. We're seeking non-obvious plays who can put up starting-caliber performances. I'd rather list too many options than too few.
Kirk Cousins (16% Rostered) - After watching Teddy Bridgewater work out as a successful streaming option against Atlanta last week, why not go back to the well in Week 6? The Falcons are banged up on the defensive side, and they will now adjust their approach with Dan Quinn dismissed from his coaching duties. That adds more uncertainty to a unit that, according to our numbers, ranks in a tie for last in pass defense, allowing 0.43 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged more than 30 fantasy points per game -- nearly 6 clear of the next closest team. Cousins hasn't lit the league on fire this year, but he's had at least 14 fantasy points in three straight, all while averaging 0.32 Passing NEP per drop back compared to -0.06 in his first two starts. We could see a big game from Cousins and the Minnesota passing offense.
Alexander Mattison (42%) - Speaking of the Vikings' offense, the engine behind it, Dalvin Cook, left this week's game with a groin injury. Reports suggest that Cook is unlikely to play in Week 6, meaning an opportunity for Mattison to step in as the lead back, absorbing Cook's 21.6 opportunities a game in a matchup with Atlanta. And that bodes well for the run-first approach in Minnesota. The Falcons have been bad against the pass, but -- per Pro Football Reference -- they've also been hit up for more than 20 fantasy points a game by opposing backs, even with them allowing only two rushing scores. A 54.5-point total is enough for all Vikings to reap the rewards.
J.D. McKissic (15%) - There are a lot of worthy backs available in 50-60% of leagues, but McKissic is one of the few players who's available in more than 80% while splitting up a starter's workload. That's exactly what is happening in Washington, where McKissic's logged 49% of offensive snaps -- 4% above rookie Antonio Gibson. The Football Team has trailed often this season, and Week 5 was no different. As they turned to the short passing game, McKissic caught 6 balls for 46 yards, marking his second straight game with a half-dozen catches and at least 40 receiving yards. Kyle Allen and Alex Smith fulfilled their tendencies as dump-off guys, so no matter who is under center, we should see McKissic just as involved against the Giants' 21st-ranked defense. He's a deep-league option to fill in at your flex with others on bye this week.
Mecole Hardman (38%) - One of the more notable injuries in Week 5 took place in the Kansas City Chiefs' surprising loss at the hands of the Oakland Raiders. Sammy Watkins exited early, allowing Hardman to play a season-high 69% of snaps, which trailed only Tyreek Hill among K.C. wideouts. The second-year wideout saw just 3 targets, yet he turned in 2 catches for 50 yards. He's averaging 14.9 yards per catch with a 76.5% catch rate on his 17 targets. With Watkins set to miss time, his 15% target share will present Hardman with greater opportunities to produce, starting this week against the Buffalo Bills. A matchup with Tre'Davious White and company isn't an obvious smash spot, but the high-powered Chiefs could strike at any point.
Laviska Shenault (32%) - Shenault has been on the rise for weeks now. Since opening the season with four targets in each of his first two games, the former Colorado star has seen at least six targets in three straight, culminating in a seven-catch performance against the Houston Texans. Shenault ended the day with 7.9 fantasy points in a game Jacksonville scored 14 points. This week, the Jags are an implied for 25.5 points and draw a Detroit Lions team that, according to JJ Zachariason, has allowed the third-highest percentage of receiving yards and second-highest share of targets to the wide receiver position. A blow-up could be in the works.
Chase Claypool (9%) - Yet another explosive rookie from this receiver class, Claypool is a freak of nature. He stands 6'4" and weights 238 pounds, but on top of that, he posted a 99th percentile Speed Score, according to PlayerProfiler. Some of his breakout metrics suggest a slow build to an NFL role, however, his most recent play says otherwise. Claypool followed up a dud in Week 3 with a 7-catch game (on 11 targets) for more than 100 yards, 3 touchdowns and 35-plus fantasy points against the Philadelphia Eagles. He stepped in for the injured Diontae Johnson and worked his way to a 69% snap share -- the second straight week he reached that threshold. There's no guarantee that Johnson misses time, but Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers are in love with the rookie stud. Now, he draws a Cleveland Browns defense that's allowed the second-most targets and third-most yards to receivers through four weeks. Look out!
Irv Smith Jr. (4%) - We already touched on the Minnesota quarterback and running back, but why limit ourselves? For as poor as Atlanta has been against signal callers and backs, they also happen to be one of the worst defenses against tight ends, too. They give up the second-most points on a per-game basis and have allowed the most touchdowns (7) on 40 targets. To date, Smith hasn't proven himself a breakout guy at his position, but he is trending up after a 64-yard outing against Seattle. He's also played more than 60% of snaps in four of five games, and he could very well benefit from the absence of Dalvin Cook. If you're in a pinch with Darren Waller and Hunter Henry on bye, Smith could surprise with a touchdown in this Vikings-friendly matchup.