7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 10
The only way a bye week can be fun in fantasy football is if it's a bye week in the playoffs you earned for dominating the regular season.
Bye weeks in the NFL serve a much-needed purpose, but in the fantasy realm, they can strike at the wrong time. With six teams on bye - teams that range from fantasy football gold to the Minnesota Vikings - you're almost assured to be without a starter or a needed plug-in for an injured player.
But even though Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego, and Washington are off this week, there are still some viable deep fliers who have good matchups and opportunities.
I'll be referencing our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which quantifies how many points a team is playing above or below expectation, and seeing who has a good matchup based on our math.
Week 10 All-Deep-Sleeper Team
Quarterback: Josh McCown (Started in 2.2% of ESPN leagues | Owned in 3.5% of ESPN leagues)
I honestly can't recall a single week in which it was more difficult to find good quarterback sleepers than in Week 10. A good deal of the reliable streaming options from earlier this year (your Carson Palmers, Eli Mannings, Ben Roethlisbergers, and Joe Flaccos) have become too heavily owned by now for their solid play. Take that, mid-round quarterback drafters. But other, more-streamy quarterbacks don't quite have solid matchups. Take that, quarterback streamers.
I know I've spent much of this space talking about anybody but McCown, and that's not necessarily an accident. There isn't much to say, really, except that the Falcons rank 31st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, meaning they're very susceptible to positive plays through the air. The Bucs rank 32nd.
So even though McCown has been the fourth-worst quarterback this year in terms of Passing NEP, the matchup is good enough to warrant starting him in deep leagues. Our projections see McCown throwing for 224.92 yards, 1.37 touchdowns, and 0.78 interceptions.
Running Back: Anthony Dixon (17.0% | 28.9%)
Running back is, at least, a little more optimistic than quarterback is this week.
Dixon is a good example of when the fantasy points against don't necessarily indicate the actual strength of a defense. The Chiefs are the third-toughest fantasy defense against running backs, but their metrics aren't nearly as daunting. Kansas City ranks 21st in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, so the matchup is exploitable, especially since the Chiefs rank 8th in pass defense per play, according to our metrics.
For these reasons, Dixon actually is projected as our 16th running back on the week.
Running Back: Chris Polk (2.1% | 3.2%)
Polk is far from a featured back, but his 8-carry, 50-yard, 1-touchdown performance against the Houston Texans in Week 9 evidenced his power and explosiveness. While we don't grade players based on how good they look, his metrics are very promising. Polk has just 11 carries on the year, all coming in the past two games because of a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the team's first 7 games. Of all running backs with fewer than 25 carries, Polk still has the best Rushing NEP of the group and the best Rushing NEP per play, too.
Sample sizes don't get much smaller, but run defenses don't get much worse than the Carolina Panthers, either. They rank 23rd in rushing on a per-play basis according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. It may not take Polk more than eight carries to impact this game, but he can give you a day's worth of fantasy production in a single drive.
Wide Receiver: Kenny Britt (5.0 % | 9.9%)
Britt only caught two passes last week, but one of them went for a touchdown. Britt saw only four targets, though, and the Rams threw just 24 passes. This week, Britt, the number-one receiver in St. Louis, faces off against the Cardinals, who allow the 29th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Arizona grades out as the 12th-best pass defense in the league on a per-play basis according to our metrics, but they also rank 7th in rush defense, so its actually more advantageous to try to move the ball through the air. It's hard to snare a number-one option this late in the season, and the fantasy points against is promising for Britt.
Wide Receiver: Davante Adams (2.7% | 8.7%)
I've recommended Adams before, and it's mainly because he was in a high-scoring matchup against a poor pass defense. He gets both this weekend in primetime on Sunday Night Football. The Bears rank just 26th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and the over/under in this game is a whopping 53.5 points. The Packers are favored by a full 7 points, meaning they are projected to score just over 30 points.
Adams has had either a touchdown or at least 6 catches for 70-plus yards in his past 4 games, which means he can either hit the end zone or rack up catches and yardage. Either way, he should be able to do one or both in this stellar matchup.
Tight End: Jace Amaro (1.6% | 4.7%)
Somehow, Amaro didn't see a single target last week against the Chiefs. That isn't likely going to become a trend.
The Steelers are, inexplicably, only 4.5-point favorites over the Jets in New York, which means the bookmakers think it's a 7.5-point game in Pittsburgh's favor on a neutral field. I'm not nearly as smart as those guys, but this Pittsburgh offense squares off against our 23rd-ranked Jets pass defense, so I think the Jets might have to throw a lot to keep up with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in each of its last two games and at least one in five of its nine games. There's a chance all of the extra work, if there is any, goes to the wide receivers, but Amaro is in a good spot as far as the numbers indicate.
If you're looking for other tight end recommendations who are widely available, I suggested two others in my earlier sleeper column this week.
Flex: John Brown (2.8% | 7.8%)
Brown is the very definition of a deep sleeper. If you roll him out, you're banking on a touchdown. He's such a big-play talent that you need him to haul in one to make him worthwhile. But Brown is averaging 6.0 targets per game so far this season and has seen fewer than 5 targets just once this year. Against the Rams, who rank 28th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and 25th in fantasy points against, Brown could turn those solid target numbers into enough production to justify plugging him into a flex or third receiver slot in three-receiver leagues.
And he has shown the ability to cash in on big plays. Of 37 receivers with between 40 and 60 targets (Brown has 48), he ranks 13th in Reception NEP per target. That's by no means elite, but he's certainly worth a flier if you're just scraping by during the big bye week.