Last week was possibly the worst batch of sleepers I’ve put out yet. But, hey, that’s how it goes with this sort of thing. I’m not losing sleep over it. I caught some heat by being a week late to the T.Y. Hilton party. Of course, he ended up posting a complete dud anyway. This week, I’m picking running backs that aren’t in the top 20 of Patrick Daugherty’s Week 7 rankings and wide receivers that aren’t in the top 30. That way, I can’t catch any flak for not picking legitimate sleepers. Without further ado, here’s the Week 7 sleepers bunch. The Saints and Raiders are on the bye.
Vikings QB Josh Freeman vs. Giants: Minnesota announced Freeman as its starting quarterback Wednesday. The Giants are a bottom-nine pass defense in Pro Football Focus’ grading system and have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Freeman has been with the Vikings for two weeks, giving him enough time to at least pick up the basics of the playbook. That’s better than trotting Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel out for another game. Freeman couldn’t have asked for a better matchup for his debut. He’s conservatively Rotoworld’s No. 24 quarterback this week. I see Freeman as a legitimate QB2 option and would start him over guys like Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, and Brandon Weeden.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill vs. Bills: The Bills got Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Jairus Byrd (feet) back from injury last week as the two made their season debuts. Andy Dalton threw for 337 yards on the Bills in Week 6, albeit with Gilmore and Byrd playing part-time roles. The two should see their snap counts rise Sunday. The Bills have surrendered a dozen touchdown passes, though they’re tied for the league lead with ten interceptions. Tannehill and the Dolphins will be at home where they’ve averaged 25 points per game this season. Pass protection is a major concern, but I do like Tannehill as a middling QB2 play.
Chiefs QB Alex Smith vs. Texans: Smith had a rough day at the office last week against the Raiders, completing just 14-of-31 passes for 128 yards (4.13 YPA). Oakland’s defense is an underrated bunch, while the Texans are vastly overrated on that side of the ball. Houston just lost its best safety, Danieal Manning, to a broken leg. Sam Bradford picked apart this defense for three easy touchdown passes last week. He could have had a bigger day had Chris Givens not dropped a potential 80-yard score. Smith is firmly on the QB2 radar against a team that is struggling to tread water.
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Giants RB Brandon Jacobs vs. Vikings: Jacobs found the fountain of youth last week against the Bears, rushing for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. He’s had ten days to rest up and now has a date with the league’s second-worst fantasy run defense. The Vikings are allowing over 4.0 YPC and have given up seven touchdowns to opposing running backs. Jacobs is going to carry the load again this week with David Wilson (neck) still on the shelf. Michael Cox and Peyton Hillis will battle for scraps. Jacobs is certainly worthy of a flex play and might even be a back-end RB2 play.
Jets RB Bilal Powell vs. Patriots: Powell struggled against the Patriots in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football, but I try to avoid Thursday night games for fantasy purposes if I can. Powell was carrying the mail for the Jets in the first four weeks while Mike Goodson was suspended. Once Goodson returned, he and Powell split duties. Goodson tore his knee up last week and is done for the season. Powell is back in line to see 18-plus touches with Chris Ivory mixing in on early downs. The Patriots are allowing opposing running backs to run at a 4.1 YPC clip, while also surrendering 34 receptions. Powell is on the flex radar.
Panthers RB Mike Tolbert vs. Rams: The Rams have been getting straight up throttled by opposing running backs. Arian Foster was running through gaping holes against St. Louis last week. Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams should find plenty of running lanes Sunday. (Williams is a legit back-end RB1.) Tolbert is averaging seven touches per game, but I’d look for him to approach double digits this week with the Panthers running it down the Rams’ throats. You could do worse than Tolbert if in an injury or bye-week crunch. Tolbert does his best work near the goal line. The Rams have given up a league-high six rushing scores.
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Chargers WR Vincent Brown vs. Jaguars: Brown’s had only one “plus” fantasy week this season. That came in Week 5 against the Raiders when he caught seven passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. Brown saw eight targets that week. He saw nine passes come his direction the week before. Last Monday night, however, the Chargers were running the ball well and Keenan Allen was dominating. It resulted in a two-catch night for Brown. Look for the Jaguars to make it a point to try and stop Allen this week, leaving Brown in single coverage on the opposite side. The Chargers are a pass-first bunch. This game could end up being closer than some expect. San Diego is on a short week and is traveling cross-country. Brown is in the WR3 mix.
Dolphins WR Brian Hartline vs. Bills: Just as I mentioned earlier in Ryan Tannehill’s hit, the expectation is that Stephon Gilmore will shadow Mike Wallace. That will leave Hartline on Leodis McKelvin and the Bills’ other lackluster cover men. Tannehill doesn’t even seem to be a fan of throwing to Wallace, yet, anyway. The second-year quarterback has displayed a strong rapport with Hartline through the first month-and-a-half of action. Hartline is averaging over seven targets and five catches per game. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu combined for eight catches, 115 yards, and one touchdown opposite A.J. Green versus Buffalo last week. Hartline is a high-end WR4.
Patriots WR Aaron Dobson vs. Jets: Dobson was a major disappointment in his pro debut for the Patriots in Week 2 when he secured just 3-of-10 targets and dropped three passes. However, last week he played 80-of-88 snaps against the Saints and is in line for another full workload this week with Danny Amendola (concussion) certain to sit out. Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins will play outside with Julian Edelman in the slot. Dobson saw nine targets in Week 6, reeling in six of them for a season-high 63 yards. However, he did drop another two passes. Dobson was one of the more sure-handed receivers in college. He’s going to see upwards of six or seven targets and is on the WR4 radar.
Bills TE Scott Chandler vs. Dolphins: The Dolphins have allowed a league-worst six touchdowns to opposing tight ends, and they’ve played one fewer game than most other teams. Thad Lewis targeted Chandler just three times last week but hooked up for a touchdown on one of them. Chandler is mostly touchdown-dependent in fantasy, but there’s a decent chance he finds pay dirt this week against a defense that has struggled mightily over the middle. Chandler is a back-end TE2.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz vs. Cowboys: Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that it expected Ertz to become a “major player” in the Eagles’ offense “very soon.” That happened in Week 6 when the rookie played a season-high 61.7 percent of the snaps. Ertz was then listed as a co-starter on this week’s depth chart. The Eagles are looking for pass catchers to help DeSean Jackson out, and Ertz could be that guy. The Cowboys have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and this game has the makings of a potential shootout between two teams that don’t play much defense. Ertz is a TE2.
Packers TE Brandon Bostick vs. Browns: This is a complete shot in the dark. Bostick has played all of three snaps this season. However, the expectation is that he’s going to see more playing time in the wake of Randall Cobb’s broken fibula. James Jones is also battling a leg injury and may not play this week. Bostick is an athletic freak. He played basketball in college and was also a wide receiver on the football team. The guy can jump out of the gym at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds. The Browns surrendered three touchdowns to matchup nightmare Joseph Fauria last week. Bostick could reap some benefits this week. He’s a guy to certainly keep an eye on in dynasty formats.
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