Week 1: Deep Sleepers and DFS Bargains

Will a revitalized Bengals squad force <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24822/" data-ylk="slk:Andy Dalton">Andy Dalton</a> into production? Yahoo fanalyst Liz Loza believes it’s an early-season possibility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Will a revitalized Bengals squad force Andy Dalton into production? Yahoo fanalyst Liz Loza believes it’s an early-season possibility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

It’s baaacccckkk! Not just football, but a regular dose of my Deep Sleepers and DFS Bargains. Every week I’ll continue digging for gold and doling out five under-the-radar grabs.

To review … all of these players are owned in less than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily game. They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks, but that’s why they’re so cheap and available! I’d never advocate taking all of these guys, but rather utilizing them if a manager were in a pinch at a position or aiming to build a “stars and scrubs” sort of DFS lineup.

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Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals ($25)
The Red Rifle is by no means a world beater. He is, however, a competent signal-caller whose game is defined by the level of his surrounding talent. In 2015 — the same year Tyler Eifert amassed 13 TDs — Dalton managed a passer rating of 106.2 and was on pace for 4,000 passing yards and 30 passing scores before a thumb injury cost him the last three games of the regular season.

While there’s no ensuring that his weapons stay the course throughout 2018, there’s also no denying that the team’s corps is loaded with high-level options. From perennial stud A.J. Green and a healthy Eifert to the additions of breakout candidates RB Joe Mixon and No. 2 WR John Ross, Dalton has a full complement of bailout options. That should prove exceptionally beneficial facing the Colts’ bottom-ranked defense, which is in the midst of another schematic transition. Owned in just 31 percent of Yahoo leagues, Dalton has top-10 fantasy potential to open the season.

James White, RB, New England Patriots ($12)
“Tom Brady trusts James White.” Those were the words uttered by former teammate Martellus Bennett when I asked him about New England’s stable of running backs on the set of MOSTLY FOOTBALL earlier this week. With Dion Lewis now in Tennessee, Sony Michel working his way back from a knee scope, and Rex Burkhead likely to be “eased” into action, White figures to be leaned upon.

He may not rack up the totes, but he will see plenty of action in the passing game, especially with Julian Edelman suspended to start the season. Averaging over five looks per game, White was the ninth-most looked to running back in 2017 … and that was with Lewis in the mix. Given the Pats’ lack of WR depth — speedster Phillip Dorsett and special-teamer Cordarrelle Patterson are expected to round out the team’s top-three WRs — Brady and White figure to connect early and often, especially facing the Texans’ dominant D-line. A low-end RB2 in PPR formats, White could catch upwards of 10 balls on Sunday.

Danny Amendola, WR, Miami Dolphins ($12)
The Dolphins are deep at slot receiver, but Amendola’s connection with fellow-bro Ryan Tannehill places him ahead of the other sub-six-footers. With DeVante Parker (finger) doubtful for Sunday, the 32-year-old should see plenty of opportunities in the passing game. Coverage via former teammate Logan Ryan — who allowed six TDs and nearly 10 fantasy points per contest last year — should additionally help Amendola’s numbers. Given Tannehill’s penchant for dinking and dunking, Jarvis Landry’s (potential) replacement offers PPR flex appeal to open the season.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars ($16)
Acquired by the Jags over free agency, Seferian-Jenkins figures to exist as a 6-foot-6 and 262-pound binky for the oft-inaccurate Blake Bortles. Not surprisingly, the two reportedly developed a strong rapport over the summer. That connection, particularly downfield, should benefit both parties, especially when noting the loss of No. 1 WR Marqise Lee (knee).

The absence of Lee and Marcedes Lewis (who was cut by Jacksonville in March) leaves 18 red zone targets up for grabs. Admittedly, that’s not a staggering number. However, it is appealing when facing the Giants, who allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2017. Were ASJ 100 percent healthy, a 4-57-2 would be well within reason. While news of a core-muscle injury has me less enthusiastic, I’m bullish enough to rank the former Jet as my TE12.

Bonus: Keelan Cole has emerged as the consensus choice to lead the Jags’ receiving corps. While Cole’s skill-set may be the most diverse, Donte Moncrief is a more traditional end zone threat, as evidenced by his nearly 25 percent (WR15) red area target share in 2016 (when Andrew Luck was under center). Noting LB Olivier Vernon’s Week 1 absence, Jacksonville’s passing game should more freely flow. If Seferian-Jenkins’ health has you spooked, consider throwing a dart Moncrief’s way. Owned in 16 percent of Yahoo league and $10 in DFS, the former Colt is a sexy-flexy flier to open the season.

Jordan Akins, TE, Houston Texans ($10)
Less a player to start in Week 1 and more of a player to watch, Akins has breakout potential. The former baseball standout and converted wide receiver was drafted by the Texans in the third round. A move tight end with downfield ability, over 43 percent of Akins’ college receptions netted 20-plus yards. At 26 years old, he’s far from a spring chicken (by NFL standards), but his speed and ability to separate raised eyebrows early in the preseason.

Beating out third-year player Stephen Anderson, Akins is listed as the team’s No. 2 TE, behind Ryan Griffin. While Griffin is, undoubtedly, a superior blocker, Akins’ hands and physicality can’t be ignored. Given Houston’s lack of depth at receiver, and noting Will Fuller’s current hamstring issue, the rookie could be forced into action sooner than expected.

Dig Deep with Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF.

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