7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 7
No matter what we want to believe, we are at the mercy of the NFL schedule makers.
Thursday Night Football has changed the way we operate during the week. A game in London kicks off when the sun rises? We'll be awake, and we'll plan accordingly.
And don't tell me you just don't watch those games on Saturdays when that whole business starts.
In a similar vein, four fantasy-relevant offenses -- Green Bay, Cincinnati, Chicago, and (to a much lesser extent) Denver -- are all on a bye this week, and we have to adjust. Some good matchups now appear better than they would have been had those four squads been on the field as a result.
Then again, long shot running backs aren't really in great spots as a whole this weekend, and not even injuries can really make up for that. Still, there are deep sleepers worth mentioning at all positions, some more exciting than others.
Week 7 All-Deep-Sleeper Team
Quarterback: Brian Hoyer (Started in 8.9% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 12.3% of ESPN Leagues)
Prior to their demolition of the Tennessee Titans in Week 6, the Miami Dolphins owned the worst passing defense in the league on a schedule-adjusted and per-play basis, according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, which compare a team to expectation-level. The Week 6 version might be the new Dolphins' defense, but it might also be a bit of a mirage. They still rank 23rd in the league in the metric, and Hoyer has DeAndre Hopkins, the leading receiver in terms of Reception NEP, on his side.
Based on Passing NEP, Passing NEP per drop back, and Passing Success Rate (the percentage of drop backs that added points to his team's expected scoring output), Hoyer is a top-eight passer in the league. Only Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers can say the same among guys with at least 100 drop backs. Unless the Miami defense has completed the 180-degree turn, this is a matchup in which Hoyer can produce.
Running Back: Khiry Robinson (Started in 1.9% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 8.4% of ESPN Leagues)
It's hard to get too excited about Robinson, given that Mark Ingram is healthy and C.J. Spiller is still on the team (I think he is, at least), but in this matchup against the Colts, he makes some sense as a deep dart throw. The over/under in the game (52 points) is 4 points higher than any other contest.
Robinson hasn't topped 20 offensive snaps since Week 1, but he has had at least 6 touches in every game. That includes at least five carries in every contest and multiple catches in every game but one. Against the 23rd-ranked Colts defense according to Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, the Saints should be moving the ball, and Robinson could make the most of his pretty safe (yet low number of) touches.
Running Back: Toby Gerhart (Started in 0.8% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 3.8% of ESPN Leagues)
Ugh. This again. T.J. Yeldon was limited in practice on Thursday, and -- this might be a weak take -- a flight across the Atlantic might not be the best medicine for his ailing groin injury that kept him out of the team's Week 6 contest. But the fact of the matter is that if Yeldon doesn't play, Gerhart and Denard Robinson have to be considered. Gerhart played 52 offensive snaps and got 12 touches (9 carries and 3 receptions) in Week 6. Robinson played just 27 snaps but did get 10 touches (7 carries and 3 catches). It's not exciting, but finding double-digit touches at this ownership percentage is sometimes the best target.
You can instead try to solve the Titans' running back Rubik's Cube if you'd like, but Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster, and Antonio Andrews are practically indistinguishable based on volume. Making matters worse: they have basically identical Rushing NEP per carry marks (all are actually above average at 0.01) and receiving metrics. For this reason and for the lack of genuinely better recommendations that aren't total shots in the dark, roll with Gerhart if Yeldon is out.
Wide Receiver: Dorial Green-Beckham (Started in 1.5% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 9.1% of ESPN Leagues)
Okay, now I'm excited. DGB's snap count has increased in every game this year (9, 13, 14, 18, 29), and his targets are -- possibly -- growing, too: 0, 2, 3, 0, 6. He's got four red zone targets, and with the rib injury to Harry Douglas, he could be in store for a bigger role in Week 7.
Of course, Marcus Mariota is banged up, and if he doesn't improve enough by gametime, then Zach Mettenberger will get the start. As five-point underdogs, Tennessee should be forced to throw against the 24th-best pass defense in the league, per our metrics. With his touchdown potential, he's the right type of play.
Wide Receiver: Chris Hogan (Started in 0.4% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 0.8% of ESPN Leagues)
Hogan danced with fantasy relevance last yearn while Kyle Orton had the Buffalo Bills' passing game clicking rather well. What a time to be alive that was. In Week 7, though, he makes sense. Sammy Watkins left the team's Week 6 game on crutches, and Percy Harvin is contemplating retirement because of his hip injury. While it's unfortunate that we have to look to those situations to capitalize, that's just how things work sometimes.
Robert Woods should be in line for the bulk of receiver targets while Charles Clay eats up tight end targets. And Buffalo will continue running the ball, as they are the seventh most run-heavy team in the NFL according to pass-to-run ratio. Still, there's opportunity for Hogan against the Jacksonville pass defense, which grades out as the worst unit in the NFL in terms of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Tight End: Jacob Tamme (Started in 2.6% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 4.9% of ESPN Leagues)
Tamme's production isn't very predictable, but his snap count is. Tamme played 53 and 54 snaps, respectively, in Weeks 1 and 2. He played just 12 in Week 3 before exiting the game with a concussion, and he missed the team's Week 4 tilt. But in Weeks 5 and 6, he was on the field for 63 and 53 offensive snaps, respectively. He has at least five targets in three of his last four games (and all three if you excuse the Week 3 early exit).
In the four games with at least 50 snaps, Tamme has secured at least 3 receptions, as well. He's got three plays of longer than 20 yards this season, and as 5-point favorites against our 17th-ranked pass defense, there's enough logic to think he'll come through with some sort of floor even if the ceiling is low. At the tight end position and at this ownership level, that's not a bad proposition.
Flex: Lance Moore (Started in 2.3% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 4.8% of ESPN Leagues)
Rolling out Lance Moore feels a bit like chasing a big performance -- he caught 5 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 -- but he had a lesser game in Week 5 worth noting, too: 6 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. He actually had more targets (8) in Week 5 than in Week 6 (6), but the big play was realized more recently. Moore's Reception NEP per target (0.57) ranks just 59th among 78 receivers with at least 20 targets, but it's the recent performance we're hoping he can sustain rather than the early-season clunkers.
Minnesota is 11th both in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and in fantasy points allowed to receivers, so it's not a matchup play. This one comes down to volume and touchdown potential.