Sleeper is a nebulous term in fantasy football. One size never fits all with any column.
My goal with this piece is to help you consider fantasy players that might be overlooked or under-appreciated, be it as temporary fill-ins, possible depth grabs or maybe the impetus for a prop play or DFS slot. As always, your mileage may vary, and you know your league — and particular needs — better than an outsider ever could.
The sleeper page had some fun hits last week, as Adam Thielen (WR4 in half-point PPR scoring) and Tank Dell (WR6) both came through. Let's see what we can find for this week.
WR Robert Woods, vs. Steelers (21% rostered)
Woods is the old boring player in this Houston passing game, screened by rookie C.J. Stroud and Tank Dell, and emerging third-year wideout, Nico Collins. But take note that the target distribution is roughly even among the team's three primary wideouts, and the Texans don't throw to the tight ends or running backs much. In short, this is an offense that can support three receivers.
The Steelers are a weighty matchup, certainly more imposing than the Jaguars were last week. But Stroud has passed the eye and the efficiency test through three weeks, and I'm not afraid to dial up Woods as a WR3 if injuries have forced me into a sleeper play.
TE Luke Musgrave, vs. Lions (35% rostered)
Sam LaPorta is one of the hottest names in fantasy, the rare rookie tight end who hits the ground running. But don't miss what Musgrave has done in Green Bay, playing an average of 83% snaps every week and coming off a useful 6-49-0 line last Sunday. The Lions are near the bottom of the tight end defense standings, and even with Christian Watson and Aaron Jones expected to return, Musgrave is already in Jordan Love's circle of trust. Although 18 tight ends are more rostered than Musgrave in fantasy leagues, Musgrave is ranked inside the TE1 cutline by three-quarters of the Yahoo staff. The unveiling to the world might come in Thursday's island game.
QB Russell Wilson, at Bears (54% rostered, 16% started)
Generally, we try to keep this column limited to players who are under the 50% roster threshold, but since Wilson is so lightly started in Yahoo leagues, we'll squeeze him in. Yes, the Broncos are a mess right now, and coming off that 70-20 shellacking at Miami. But Chicago's roster might be even worse off than Denver's. And Wilson's production hasn't been bad; he's coming off consecutive 300-yard games, and he ran proactively in the loss to Washington.
The Bears are the fifth-friendliest defense when it comes to handing out QB fantasy points, and it's possible this is the week the Broncos finally unleash exciting rookie WR Marvin Mims Jr. onto the world. Wilson is merely a specialty starter for fantasy leagues now, but this spot is about as good as it gets.
WR Rashee Rice, at Jets (32% rostered)
Let's be clear on the Rice recommendation: it's a stash play, a wait-and-see call.
The Jets' defense is still a nasty unit we want to steer clear of. But the Kansas City schedule opens up nicely after that, with the Vikings, Broncos, Chargers and Broncos again waiting for Weeks 5-8. I still have to believe Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid elevate some of their receivers to fantasy usefulness, and Rice has been solid in two of his three games (a touchdown on opening night, and a 5-59-0 line on seven targets last week).
Often the rookie receivers are like a slow-developing Polaroid, not useful at first glance but eventually blossoming into a pretty picture. I'll try to be patient, see if Rice can carve out a bigger role for the middle of the year.
TE Jake Ferguson, vs. Patriots (47% rostered)
I'm surprised Ferguson hasn't graduated from this column yet, but perhaps a lack of touchdowns is dulling the enthusiasm. The usage has been divine — he leads all tight ends in red-zone targets, and his 18 overall targets rank eighth at the position. And even with just one TD, Ferguson ranks TE12 in Yahoo's standard half-point PPR scoring, ahead of vanity tight ends like Kyle Pitts and Dallas Goedert.
Dak Prescott used to be a resourceful goal-line scrambler, someone who would tuck and run a few times every year around the goal. These days, he's looking to throw in those spots, take fewer hits. Ferguson still can get to six-to-eight touchdowns by the end of the year. Ferguson's Week 4 matchup against New England isn't ideal, but I want you to consider the long-term potential here. It's coming.
Broncos DST, at Bears (39% rostered)
This might sound like the goofiest recommendation of all — why would we want any part of a defense that just allowed 10 touchdowns and 70 points at Miami?
It's all about the schedule, of course. Denver draws the Bears and Jets the next two weeks, which means it gets to sack Justin Fields for three hours, then take aim at Zach Wilson (probably) the next week. If your nominal defense has a tough matchup this week, or a Week 5 bye upcoming, the Broncos actually make some sense.