It’s time for a TGIF edition of Deep Sleepers and DFS Bargains. Last week was rough, as two of my picks made their way onto the injury report and everyone else did a whole lot of nothing. On the bright side, Paul Richardson and Coby Fleener continued to find the end zone and Darren Sproles returned to fantasy relevance. Let’s try to bounce back in Week 3.
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.
[Watch on Yahoo: Ravens vs. Jaguars live from London Sept. 24]
Jay Cutler, QB, Miami Dolphins ($31)
Whether it was the brief hiatus or reuniting with Adam Gase, Jay Cutler looked rejuvenated this past Sunday. Executing mistake-free ball, the Bears’ former gunslinger suppressed his urge to play sandlot and accurately checked down to Jarvis Landry for much of the first half. Cutler decanted further as the third and forth periods wore on, logging a total of eight deep-ball attempts and demonstrating this offense’s exciting potential, which figures to be unleashed in Week 3.
Facing a Jets defense that gifted Tyrod Taylor and Derek Carr top-five fantasy finishes over the past two weeks, Cutty is in the QB1 conversation. The offense could, of course, lean on the run as the Dolphins are expected to take an early lead, but given Jay Ajayi’s sore knee that seems less likely. Maybe we see some Damien Williams/Kenyan Drake in this one, but the passing game should be on point. The Jets defense has given up the second-most TDs via the air (five) and an average of nearly 250 passing yards per game, making Cutler a better option than more widely owned commodities like Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota or Carson Wentz.
Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals ($11, 20-percent owned)
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Two weeks into the season, Ken Zampese was shown the door and Bill Lazor was promoted. A Chip Kelly disciple, the former quarterbacks coach doesn’t appear married to any specific offensive style, but seems to favor an up-tempo approach paired with a power-running element. Since accepting the new position, he’s talked about working within the current offensive framework and aiming to get QB Andy Dalton and Cincy’s cadre of running backs into a “rhythm.”
Given that there are three RBs in this backfield, it’s hard to tell which rusher — the vet or the rookie — will get first crack at the carries. Bernard, however, is the outlier, possessing a different skill set. He has the potential to carve out a significant role in what is likely to be a quick-hitting approach. Matching-up against the Packers’ potent offense, the Bengals are sure to be chasing points.
With Tyler Eifert expected to sit, Bernard should see an uptick in looks. Already out-snapping his backfield mates by a 22-percent margin and with three red-zone opportunities on the season, Bernard is flex-worthy play in PPR formats. Facing the Mike Daniels-less Packers — which gave up a score via the air to Tevin Coleman last Sunday — Bernard’s a contrarian bargain at just $11 in DFS.
Jaron Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals ($10)
Yeah, yeah, yeah … J.J. Nelson is everyone’s favorite “sleeper” this week. (Props, by the way, to my colleague Brad Evans for predicting Nelson’s Week 2 TD during Fantasy Football Live. Way to be ahead of the curve!) And I get it. He’s scored in back-to-back efforts, ripping the Colts for 120 yards last Sunday. But in the stead of John Brown (quad) it was Jaron Brown that led the team in looks, racking up a whopping 11 targets. He was also second in catches (four) and yards (73), which earned him a top-30 fantasy finish among WRs.
While Orlando Scandrick is likely to return this week for Dallas, Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamtring) are doubtful for Monday night. That leaves Nelson and Brown with oodles of upside, especially since both WRs saw the same number of red-zone opportunities last week. Nelson is the obvious choice, but Brown is the contrarian play.
Jared Cook, TE, Oakland Raiders ($14)
For nearly a decade the only thing Jared cooked up was disappointment. But here we are, apparently in the upside down, where the Raiders are a high-octane operation in which Cook is third in team targets (and not drops) with 11 looks on the season.
Facing a Washington defense that’s struggled to defend the middle of the field, allowing both Zach Ertz (eight targets, eight catches, 93 yards) and Gerald Everett (three targets, three catches, 95 yards) to close out their respective weeks as top-eight fantasy producers, Cook is part of the streaming conversation. With Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland doing their best to shut down the team’s top two receivers, Cook has a good shot of producing. He’s my TE12 on the week.
Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears ($12)
You know your team is tanked when its two top pass-catchers are a rookie running back and a 32-year-old tight end. Such is the case for my bumbling Bears. Having flashed in the past, Miller is back on the fantasy radar, serving as Mike Glennon’s second-favorite receiving weapon. While he’s just behind Tarik Cohen in total targets (15), he’s tied with Kendall Wright for first in team red-zone looks (4). That’s a solid amount of usage, especially in relation to the rest of the league, as he’s sixth in targets among TEs. His matchup against the Steelers doesn’t look like a gimme, but his volume gives him a tolerable floor, especially in PPR formats.
[Watch on Yahoo: Ravens vs. Jaguars live from London Sept. 24]
Watch List: Two players who need to be on fantasy radars, but aren’t likely to produce just yet.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, New York Jets ($11)
Back from a two-game suspension, ASJ reunites with a Jets squad desperate for a warm body. Gifted with impressive measureables, the former second-round pick has the skills to succeed … if he could just stay focused. Despite Todd Bowles’ remarks that he’s out of shape and could potentially be on a snap count, I like the former Buc as a Hail Mary play in Week 3. Teeing off against a Dolphins linebacking group that’s been AWOL on and off the field, he has a shot to produce.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, New York Giants ($10)
Paul Perkins has been a massive bust and Darkwa has been on the Giants’ roster since 2014. He’s not a special talent, but on a team motivated to make changes and save their season, he could see an unexpectedly featured role. Despite a stiff matchup against the Eagles, Darkwa’s workload needs to be monitored.
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