All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So, if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
This week, two teams—the Lions and the Texans—are on bye, and we lost Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), Golden Tate (shoulder) and Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) to multi-week injuries, so owners will have some work to do on the waiver wire.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few Sneaky Starts for Week 7.
Brett Hundley, Packers (vs. Saints)
The more I look into Hundley, the more optimistic I am about the chances that he’ll provide quality quarterback play for the Packers while Aaron Rodgers recovers from surgery on his collarbone. Over the course of three preseasons, Hundley completed 98-of-148 passes (66.2%) for 7.97 yards per attempt. He also registered a 6.8% touchdown rate against a 1.4% interception rate. Yes, it’s the preseason, but these are the numbers that a team wants to see out of its backup quarterback in preseason play. Looking at his college stats, he was almost a Tyrod Taylor type as a runner, only he was also a much more accurate passer (68.0% vs. 58.1% in their last two years in college). He may not run as much as Taylor does in the NFL, but he has vastly better weapons at his disposal. He’s been in the Green Bay program for two-plus seasons now, so knowing the offense shouldn’t be an issue. Give him a week of preparation to start against an improving-yet-shaky Saints pass defense, and I think we’ll see a good fantasy line in Week 7. I currently have him ranked as our No. 10 quarterback this week, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on the injuries to the Packers offensive line.
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Dion Lewis, Patriots (vs. Falcons)
By now, most fantasy owners are aware that Mike Gillislee fumbled in the first quarter against the Jets and didn’t see another touch until the end of the third quarter. What’s lost in this story is that Dion Lewis actually drew the start for the Patriots, carrying the ball three times on New England’s first drive of the game. He also got the team’s lone goal-line carry, a role typically reserved for Gillislee. Has Lewis passed Gillislee as the primary runner in this offense? Time will tell, but it certainly seems that way. Remember, Lewis accounted for an average of 89 total yards in seven games back in 2015 and was an early-round draft pick heading into the 2016 season. He has 142 total yards and two touchdowns in the last three games.
Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, Rams (vs. Cardinals in London)
With Patrick Peterson, if he plays, likely shadowing Sammy Watkins, Jared Goff will likely avoid that headache of a matchup and funnel most of his targets to Kupp and Woods. Those two will will mostly square off with Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Bethel, respectively. Kupp was quiet against the Jaguars last week, but had 15 combined targets in Week 4 and Week 5. Meanwhile, Woods has turned in three solid fantasy outings in the last four weeks, and has seen at least six targets in each of the last four games. Watkins is clearly the most talented receiver of the bunch, but his recent usage and poor matchup are major red flags this week.
Jack Doyle, Colts (vs. Jaguars)
Doyle returned from a concussion last week to post seven catches for 50 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets against the Titans. He has averaged 6.8 targets per game on the year, so he clearly has the trust of Jacoby Brissett. The Jaguars have given up touchdowns to tight ends in two of their last three games. Dial up Doyle.