7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1
Holy smokes. Football?? It's back, folks. With football comes fantasy football, and with fantasy football comes everyone's favorite buzzword: sleepers.
Sleeper is an ambiguous term, however. For the purpose of this article, we'll define anyone on fewer than half of Yahoo! rosters as a sleeper. Typically, I'll actually aim to feature players on fewer than 40 percent of rosters.
Don't worry, deep-league gamers, this article is intended to help folks in leagues of all shapes and 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 a player on a bye -- or for whatever other reason you're diving into the free-agent pool.
While this article is primarily written through a season-long lens, sleepers are certainly viable as daily fantasy punts in certain builds, too. Keep that in mind when you're looking for cash-game savings or trying to gain leverage in tournaments. That's why you'll see every player's FanDuel price listed next to their Yahoo! roster percentage this year.
Jameis Winston (46% | $6,700) - Per Evan Silva of Establish The Run, in his first season in New Orleans, Winston banked career highs in touchdown rate (8.7%), passer rating (102.8) and adjusted yards per attempt (8.2). HIs first matchup of the year is on the road, but it's in a dome against an Atlanta Falcons defense that last year ranked 29th in schedule-adjusted defense, per numberFire’s metrics. Atlanta has struggled to make any meaningful changes to that unit, which notably graded even worse against the pass last year (31st). Atlanta specifically struggled to generate pressure, ranking dead-last in the NFL in pressure rate and sacks, per Pro Football Reference.
The New Orleans Saints, meanwhile, have revamped their passing offense. Drafting Chris Olave in the first round, signing veteran Jarvis Landry and getting stud receiver Michael Thomas back from injury means every starting receiver is improved from last year's unit. Add in elite pass catching back Alvin Kamara and one of the best offensive lines in the league, and suddenly Jameis is stepping into a very underrated situation. The Saints are 5.5-point favorites with the same implied team total as offenses powered by Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott and Trey Lance. Winston is likely a top-15 option at quarterback this week, which belies his roster percentage and DFS salary.
Mike Davis (27% | $5,600) - We've been down this road before with Mike Davis. I get it. However, he was a fifth-round pick in fantasy football drafts last year. This year, he's free. That price should come in handy for any running back-needy managers in a pinch.
We don't yet know the status of J.K. Dobbins, but it seems like a reasonable bet he won't be at 100% of his typical workload for Week 1. The Baltimore Ravens have Super Bowl aspirations, and Dobbins is still dealing with a limp. This offseason, the Ravens signed Davis, drafted rookie Tyler Badie, and then recently signed Kenyan Drake after he was released by the Las Vegas Raiders. They've been looking for Dobbins insurance all summer long.
Signing Davis was the first of that trio of moves, and he's clearly second on the running back depth chart in Baltimore. We know the Ravens want to establish the run, and they conveniently face a New York Jets defense that ranked 25th in schedule-adjusted rush defense last year (and 32nd overall). The Ravens enter Week 1 as 6.5-point road favorites with a 25.5-point implied team total. You can do worse than Mike Davis in your flex this week (I swear).
Ameer Abdullah (7% | $4,500) - Here's what we know about Abdullah -- he's displayed pass catching ability. Per Andrew Erickson of Fantasy Pros, "His 30% target rate per route run and 16% target share ranked 2nd among all RBs over the final four weeks (of 2021)." We know he has the pass catching role locked up for an offense that ranked fourth in pass rate last year. And we know the "James White role" in Josh McDaniels' offense has been very fruitful in the past.
Add it all together and Abdullah checks all the boxes as a classic PPR sleeper. At worst, he's worth a speculative add in deep leagues in case his role is a bit bigger than advertised. As we'll get to below, this game has one of the highest point totals of the week and features two offenses that both ranked top-five in pass rate last season.
Sammy Watkins (22% | $5,500) - If there was ever a week to start Sammy Watkins, it's Week 1. Seriously, though, Watkins' isn't rostered enough considering he's a starting receiver for Aaron Rodgers. Sometimes it's just that simple.
We know Rodgers doesn't trust every geek off the street, and earning his praise takes time. It's notable, then, that Watkins has earned plenty of it his first year in Green Bay. And although it feels like he's been in our lives forever, Watkins is somehow just 29 years old.
This game should be a fun one, too. Green Bay heads to Minnesota for a typically fun rivalry game. The Packers are just 1.5-point favorites, insinuating a back-and-forth affair, and Green Bay has a solid 24.5 implied team total. It's possible we leave Week 1 feeling foolish about how low we ranked Watkins this offseason.
Wan'Dale Robinson (10% | $4,700) - The Giants wide receiver room has had a tumultuous offseason and is a group dripping in ambiguity. Through all of it, though, the steadiest drumbeat has been for rookie slot maven Robinson, an undersized but prolific receiver coming out of Kentucky. Robinson won the starting job right away in camp, rare even for a second round rookie. As a result, he's gotten a full offseason of reps with Daniel Jones and the first team offense.
The New York Giants aren't anyone's idea of an elite offense, but they took major steps forward this offseason in two key areas: offensive line and coaching. New York drafted tackle Evan Neal with a top-10 pick and signed solid free agent interior linemen in Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano. The bigger improvement is in coaching, where losing Jason Garrett is the definition of addition by subtraction, and adding in former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is the cherry on top. Robinson is Daboll's hand-picked slot receiver, so a role similar to the one Cole Beasley had in Buffalo is on the table.
Here's betting Robinson is one of the hottest waiver wire adds after Week 1.
Rondale Moore (28% | $5,500) - I guess this is the week of undersized slot receivers. Rondale's role should be more robust out of the gate in his sophomore season, especially with DeAndre Hopkins out (suspension) and Zach Ertz nursing a calf injury that has him legitimately questionable. Moore is another guy who has had a steady drumbeat throughout the offseason, and frankly, the Arizona Cardinals need his playmaking on the field. With Chase Edmonds gone, Moore should retain his underneath manufactured touches role and also enjoy an expanded year-two route tree out of the slot.
This is simply a game we want to target, too. Arizona hosts the Kansas City Chiefs, which has the second-highest point total of Week 1 (behind only the Rams-Bills season opener). In both DFS and season long, Moore offers one of the cheapest attachments to a likely shootout.
Gerald Everett (22% | $5,200) - Everett checked a lot of the boxes this offseason when we're searching for tight end breakout candidates, yet he isn't even rostered in one-fourth of leagues. He's athletic, he's had fantasy success in the past, he's tied to a great quarterback, and the Chargers had the fifth-highest pass rate last year. At fantasy's worst position, Everett has more upside than meets the eye, at least relative to how many managers have him on their teams.
The Chargers carry the second-highest implied team total (28.0 points) in a game with a tight spread (-3.5) and therefore one of the highest game totals on the week (52.5). Similar to the Moore recommendation above, Everett offers us one of the cheapest attachments to a game we should all be targeting in DFS lineups. It doesn't hurt that the Raiders were a true pass-funnel defense last year, ranking 3rd in schedule-adjusted rush defense but 25th against the pass. And while positional fantasy points allowed isn't always sticky year over year, it certainly doesn't hurt that the Raiders gave up the third-most points to tight ends in 2021.
Eli Weiner is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Eli Weiner also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Eweiner2. 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.