For the purposes of this article, in order for a player to be considered a “sleeper” he must be out of the top 20 in scoring for his position, or owned in less than 70% of ESPN Fantasy Football leagues.
Alex Smith, QB KC
Alex Smith is both 26th in ESPN standard scoring at his position, and is also owned in just 39.5% of leagues. However, that is very understandable considering he’s already had two games this year where he had no touchdowns and threw for under 225 yards. In year’s past, his ability to scramble at least gave him a little bump. That’s not the case in 2016, as he only has 17 yards rushing through six weeks.
So, why should this week be any different? Well for starters, he is coming off a week where he set the franchise record for completion percentage (with a minimum of 20 passing attempts) at 86.2%. He completed 19-22 passes and was pressured on just two attempts.
This week Kansas City will be at home hosting New Orleans. The Saints come into the game ranked in the bottom eight of the NFL in pressuring the opposing team’s quarterback. While Smith most likely won’t win you your fantasy matchup all by himself, he should be a solid streaming option on a one week basis.
Mike Gillislee, RB BUF
Ranked 36th among running backs in scoring and owned in just 5.1% of leagues, Gillislee makes for a very intriguing play if starter LeSean McCoy misses time with a hamstring injury. At the time this article was written, McCoy was listed as questionable with it looking like he will be downgraded to out before kickoff Sunday at Noon.
In limited action so far this season, Gillislee has shown fantastic ability. He is averaging 6.9 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. The Bills are an offense that is built to run the football, and they are amongst the league leaders in most rushing categories. Gillislee looks to have the talent to continue that trend while filling in for LeSean McCoy. He has the potential to have a very big week.
Mike Wallace, WR BAL
Ranked 15th in scoring among wide receivers and owned in just 64.8% of ESPN leagues, Wallace has flown under the radar this season. He started the season on fire, with 7 receptions for 132 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first two games. However, over the next three games he had a total of 14 receptions for 141 and zero touchdowns.
With new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg taking over last week and emphasizing the deep ball more (Wallace’s strong point), Wallace saw nine targets and turned those into four receptions for 97 yards. Baltimore will be visiting the Jets this week, who have given up the 2nd most yards to opposing receivers in the AFC this season. With fellow receiver Steve Smith looking like he will miss another game with an ankle injury, this could be a very rewarding opportunity for Wallace owners.
Michael Thomas, WR NO
29th at his position in scoring and owned in just 62.9% of ESPN leagues, Thomas won’t be easy to find on a waiver wire by season’s end. After averaging five receptions and 57 yards per game with zero touchdowns over the first two weeks, the rookie wide receiver is averaging 5.3 receptions, 64.3 yards and 1 touchdown a game since Week 3. Thomas has scored a touchdown in each of the last three games the Saints have played.
Standing at 6’3’’ and 212 pounds, he is quickly becoming a favorite of quarterback Drew Brees in the red zone. His arrow is point up and his size is a great compliment to the smaller receivers on a pass-friendly offense that has a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. If he is still available in your league, you need to grab him. If you already have him, he will be a solid start on the road against Kansas City.
Sterling Shepard, WR NYG
Ranked just 38th at his position in scoring and owned in 82.1% of leagues, Shepard has disappointed many fantasy owners over the last three weeks. He started off the season and his rookie year with a bang, posting 16 receptions for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns over the first three games. During the last three games, however, he has a total of just 10 receptions for 69 yards and zero touchdowns.
Still, Shepard is the #2 receiver on a team that likes to throw the ball, allowing him a healthy dose of targets each game. This week, the Giants will be facing off against the Rams who have a surprisingly weaker pass defense than anticipated. With Odell Beckham Jr. finally looking like his normal self, that should open up plenty of looks for Shepard if Eli Manning can get him the ball.
For more Fantasy Football tips, follow Blake on Twitter @blakegibbs.