7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 10
One of the first things you learn when you foray into fantasy football and sweat your first draft is to be mindful of bye weeks.
You don't want all of your running backs to have a bye in Week 9. That won't do you any good! And if you're one of those folks who drafts two tight ends, why take two who are off in the same weekend?
Well, after having team after team over the years be decimated by injuries or gutted by trades and -- by midway through the season -- not having a team that resembles my post-draft squad, I figured what's the point? Why not take the players I like best and ignore the byes?
For as much as it works out because of unforeseen transactions, when it doesn't -- and your team stays intact -- that can be bad news bears. I've found myself in this situation multiple times this year -- and not that you care how my teams have done -- but turning to some deep sleepers is the only resort when half your team is out on bye, with injury, or in a horrific matchup.
The point is that with three NFL teams boasting fantasy football talent (San Diego, Atlanta, and Indianapolis) on bye this week, you don't need to be in super deep leagues to need one of these guys.
Week 10 All-Deep-Sleeper Team
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins (Started in 26.0% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 31.4% of ESPN Leagues)
So, with three popular fantasy passers on bye in Week 10 -- Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Andrew Luck (who is hurt anyway) -- plenty of your league mates have likely been busy on the waiver wire. That's bumped up Cousins' ownership percentage by nearly 25 percentage points. That's not the only reason, though. The matchup helps.
The Saints allow the most points to fantasy passers in the league, and they are dead last in our Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. On a per-play basis, they allow 0.31 points above expectation through the air. The worst mark since 2000 is 0.29. Yeah. Cousins' Week 9 stat line (217 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception) was stifled by drops. That likely won't be the case again in this plush matchup.
Running Back: Theo Riddick (Started in 10.2% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 28.3% of ESPN Leagues)
It's a Theo Riddick week. As 11.5-point road underdogs, the Lions should be throwing plenty in the second half, and that's generally where Riddick does his PPR-league damage. The check-down magnet has seen at least six targets in five of his last seven games and has notched at least three catches in every game since Week 2. His snap count has ranged from 30 to 52 in the past four weeks, which isn't amazing in terms of consistency, but a guy with this ownership who can flirt with 50 snaps at the running back position is rare.
While the new offensive coordinator might impact Riddick's involvement, it's hard to imagine leaving Joique Bell or the underwhelming Ameer Abdullah on the field when Detroit is trailing and they have a better alternative.
Running Back: James White (Started in 8.2% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 34.3% of ESPN Leagues)
The season-ending injury to Dion Lewis rekindles the enigmatic firestorm that has been the Bill Belichick backfield. Prior to Lewis' injury, we could assume that he'd dominate the passing work and eat slightly into the rushing workload for LeGarrette Blount. Now? Who knows for sure? White, though, seems to be the top candidate for the passing-down role in New England's backfield, a slot that has seemed relevant regardless of point spread or opponent this year.
While it was Brandon Bolden who saw 10 snaps last week after Lewis' injury, White wasn't active for that game. Recall the team's Week 7 pass-happy approach against the New York Jets? White played on 43 snaps and saw 5 targets (3 catches for 26 yards). New York can't exactly stop the run or the pass (they rank 21st against the pass and 16th against the run, according to our per-play metrics), but he could be primed for a big workload on the team with the highest implied point total (30.75 points) on the slate.
Wide Receiver: Cecil Shorts (Started in 0.9% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 4.7% of ESPN Leagues)
You can't feel super confident riding with Cecil Shorts, but it's a logical play. Shorts had played five games this year (Weeks 1 through 4 and Week 6). In those games, he played at least 56 snaps and saw at least 6 targets. If you remove Week 6, he played at least 60 snaps and saw at least 8 targets in each of his games this season. He was one of the least efficient receivers in the NFL last year, per our metrics, but with this type of volume, it's hard to knock rolling him out this week if you need receiver help.
Cincinnati ranks 11th in the league in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, but with Houston as 10.5-point underdogs (second highest spread on the slate), the pass-happy Texans should continue to throw. If you're worried about Nate Washington, he was limited at Thursday's practice while Shorts was a full participant.
Wide Receiver: Dorial Green-Beckham (Started in 3.0% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 18.4% of ESPN Leagues)
Green-Beckham posted his best game of the year last week with 10 targets, 5 catches, and 77 yards. Push-offs or not, he's also got the ability to reach the end zone. He saw two red zone targets last week but neither were inside the 10-yard line. Regardless, Tennessee is a 5.5-point road underdog to the Panthers. Unfortunately, the Panthers do have a way to keep Green-Beckham quiet: Josh Norman.
Norman, who has stifled receivers with better track records than DGB has this year, is probably the only way the rookie doesn't produce in this matchup. If Green-Beckham can elude Norman on a few snaps -- or if the Panthers don't feel the need to target DGB -- then he can pay off in Week 10.
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph (Started in 8.1% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 22.0% of ESPN Leagues)
Rudolph's reception results are like some kind of hellish game of blackjack: 5, 5, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2. Sure, he could have stayed at 20, but I'm not changing the joke. Anyway, you can't be enthused about a tight end whose ceiling for catches seems to be stuck at two, but in this matchup, you have to consider it. The Oakland Raiders have been getting torched at the tight end position all year and have allowed at least one touchdown in every game but one. (Thanks, Owen Daniels.) They are the worst team in the league against fantasy tight ends.
Just because the matchup is good doesn't mean we should expect a monster outing from Rudolph, but he, having played at least 49 snaps in every week, has a stranglehold on the Minnesota tight end scene. A red zone threat in a great matchup, Rudolph is about as good of a bet as you can have when digging this deep for a tight end.
Flex: Crockett Gillmore (Started in 4.2% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 10.4% of ESPN Leagues)
Or, you know, you can also look at Gillmore this week. The Ravens are without Steve Smith for the rest of the season, and aside from Kamar Aiken, targets are likely up for grabs. Aside from a 30-snap Week 3, Gillmore has seen at least 52 snaps in his five other games. He's seen at least four targets in those contests, as well.
Coming off a two-catch, eight-yard performance isn't exciting, but the team has had a bye week to figure out how to approach their passing attack going forward. Gillmore could be a key part of it in Week 10 against the 30th-ranked pass defense (per our metrics) while the Ravens have a high team total (26.5 points).