7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 5
Sleeper is an ambiguous term. I'm defining anyone on less than half of Yahoo! rosters as a sleeper in the interest of providing clarity. Typically, I'll aim to feature players on fewer than 40 percent of rosters. However, this provides me some wiggle room.
Don't worry, deep-league gamers, this piece is intended to help folks in leagues of all sizes. With that in mind, I'm following my predecessor's lead, including honorable mentions. If the featured players are already rostered in your league, the honorable mentions should provide you with players to consider filling in for an injured starter or player on bye on your roster -- or for whatever other reason you're diving into the free-agent pool for a sleeper.
While it should go without saying, the featured players at each position are my favorite sleepers for the given week. The honorable mentions are listed in descending order of the percentage of rosters they're on.
Sam Darnold (38%) - Darnold has completely distanced himself from the Adam Gase and New York Jets stench, and he's balling out in his first year with the Carolina Panthers. He ranks sixth in passing yards per game (297.3), and he's tossed five touchdowns versus three interceptions.
However, Darnold's most surprisingly added value with his legs. He's rushed for 52 yards, and Darnold leads the NFL with five rushing touchdowns. Obviously, his rushing touchdowns will regress, but he'll still add value in some capacity with his legs.
This week, I love his matchup for a couple of reasons. First, the Philadelphia Eagles rank in the middle of the pack in pass defense, per our power rankings. Second, the Panthers will receive a pace pick-me-up this week. According to Football Outsiders, the Panthers rank an underwhelming 25th in situation-neutral pace, but the Eagles rank 3rd.
Darnold's excellent play to open the year thrusts him into the weekly fantasy starter mix in leagues as shallow as 12-team formats. So, it's not a surprise the numberFire projections place him in that mix, ranking him as QB16 for Week 5.
Latavius Murray (48%) - Is Murray lighting the world on fire? No, he isn't. However, he surprisingly received a role boost last week when Ty'Son Williams was inactive. As a result, Murray led active running backs with a 61.64 percent snap share, well ahead of Le'Veon Bell's 27.4 percent and Devonta Freeman's 8.22 percent shares.
In the land of running backs, it's often prudent to lean heavily on usage rather than talent level. Thus, even if Murray underwhelms from an efficiency standpoint -- he has so far -- volume can offset that.
Also, he's reached paydirt three times, and having goal-line work among his jobs is a plus for fantasy value, though Lamar Jackson will steal some short-yardage touchdowns. Still, the Baltimore Ravens have attempted only three passes and rushed the ball eight times from 10 yards or closer to scoring, and Murray's three carries resulting in two touchdowns, tying Jackson's three carries with two touchdowns for the team lead.
Further, if Williams continues to be a healthy inactive, Murray could soak up more goal-line work, and Williams had a pair of rushes from that area of the field.
Usually, I'm stuck leaning heavily into the pass-catching back bucket for sleepers. Thankfully, Murray and some of the forthcoming backs add a new element to the mix this week. Our Week 5 projections rank Murray as RB27, putting him firmly in the RB2/flex mix.
Per source, tests showed Bears RB David Montgomery has a knee sprain that’s expected to keep him out 4-5 weeks. Not season-ending, but Bears will be without their starting RB for a while.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) October 5, 2021
Williams possesses the skill-set necessary to function as a bell-cow and direct replacement for Montgomery if the Chicago Bears opt to use him in that role. He tallied 70 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on only 10 touches last week. Before opting out of the 2020 season, he averaged 64.7 yards from scrimmage, 2.7 receptions per game, and scored 7 touchdowns in 11 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019.
Full-time, every-down running backs don't grow on trees, and Williams has a chance to fit that bill in the interim. He ranks as our RB12 for Week 5, and gamers should pounce on snagging him universally.
Marquez Callaway (35%) - Preseason darling, Callaway, has largely disappointed this year. However, he's somewhat quietly amassed six receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown on seven targets the last two weeks combined. Beyond the box score, his underlying numbers are promising, too. He leads the receivers in playing time, and, according to Pro Football Focus, he leads the team with 83 routes on 85 passing snaps played.
Unfortunately, Callaway's a boom-or-bust option for a few reasons. First, according to Sports Info Solutions, he has a reasonably deep average depth of target of 12.9 yards downfield. Second, the New Orleans Saints run the most run-heavy offense in neutral situations (an offensive scoring margin ranging from trailing by seven points to leading by seven points), passing at a paltry 44 percent clip, per Sharp Football Stats.
Gamers debating between Callaway and other sleeper receiver options must honestly assess their odds of winning this week's matchup. If they're an underdog and need a spike week from their sleeper receiver to win, then Callaway is an attractive option. However, if a high-floor option is a better fit, then someone like Hunter Renfrow in the honorable mention section is a better choice.
Sammy Watkins (22%) - First, I'll address the elephant in the room. Rookie Rashod Bateman might be back this week. When he joins the Baltimore Ravens, it will muddy the target distribution and playing time situation for the receivers. However, I suspect Watkins will retain an integral role in the passing game.
Perhaps surprisingly, he leads the team in routes (129) and ties Mark Andrews for the team lead in passing snaps (137). He's turned his playing time into a team-leading 29 targets, 16 receptions, 257 receiving yards, and, per Pro Football Focus, 1.99 yards per route run.
Further, in his first year on the team, he's been remarkably consistent. To that point, he's totaled seven targets in three of four games, setting a season-high with eight in Week 1. Additionally, he's caught exactly four passes in every game, and he's recorded at least 44 receiving yards every week.
If Bateman returns, Watkins' floor drops. Nevertheless, if Bateman returns and the offense operates more efficiently, there's increased touchdown potential for all parties in the offense. Regardless of the rookie receiver's status for Week 5, Watkins is a viable streamer.
Van Jefferson (5%) - The second-year breakout for Jefferson is quietly taking place. As a result of his emergence, the Los Angeles Rams are utilizing 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three receivers) at a league-high 82 percent clip in 2021, per Sharp Football Stats. Their usage of three receivers has allowed Jefferson to run 116 routes on 121 passing snaps, only 6 fewer routes and 12 fewer passing snaps than Robert Woods has tallied this year.
Jefferson's averaging a respectable 3.3 receptions and 56.5 receiving yards per game with a pair of touchdown grabs. Unfortunately, because he shares the offense with other talented playmakers, he carries some boom-or-bust risk.
Thankfully, this week's matchup with the Seattle Seahawks bodes well for numerous players in the offense producing fantasy-relevant numbers. The Seahawks rank as the fourth-worst pass defense in our power rankings.
Also, the game has shootout potential. According to the heat map, the Rams are tied for the fourth-highest implied total (28.50 points), and the game's spread is only 2.5 points, favoring the Rams. Among the highlighted receiver sleepers, Jefferson is my favorite.
Jared Cook (48%) - I wrote about my favorite tight end streaming options earlier this week in the 3 Fantasy Football Tight End Streaming Options for Week 5 piece. Cook ranks behind them, but he's a nifty option in his own right. He's run 29 or more routes in every game this year, and his 123 routes are the fourth-most on the Los Angeles Chargers.
Among tight ends, he ranks tied for 9th in targets (23), tied for 10th in receptions (16), 11th in receiving yards (181), and he snared his first touchdown of the year on Monday night. In all, those are starting-caliber numbers at the position. Thus, it's not a surprise we project him to finish as TE8 in scoring this week.
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.