You guys know the drill with sleepers. It’s a pretty simple subject, so I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of pointless drivel here in the opening. I didn’t have a good first week picking them, though I did hit on a couple. The only direction I can go is up from here. Let’s get to it. Just as last week, I pick three quarterbacks, three running backs, three receivers, and three tight ends who I can potentially see being quality fantasy plays. Let’s unveil them.
Rams QB Sam Bradford vs. Falcons: Aside from a goofy, knuckleheaded pick-six near his own goal line that landed in NT Dan Williams’ lap, Bradford looked really good against the Cardinals in the opener. The Rams’ offensive line kept him upright against an underrated defense with a couple quality pass rushers. In turn, Bradford looked like the improved passer he showed flashes of at the end of last season. The Falcons don’t scare many teams off the edge. They also may be forced to rely heavily on two rookie corners with Asante Samuel (thigh) at less than 100 percent. Bradford’s top deep threat, Chris Givens, was also locked down by Patrick Peterson in Week 1. Givens should be able to find more space to operate this week, giving Bradford some opportunities to take shots down field if he so chooses. Bradford is a safe QB2 this week. He could even sniff top-15 numbers. On a personal note, I even considered starting him over Russell Wilson this week in my main money league. I eventually decided against it, but the fact that I even gave it some thought shows how confident I am in Bradford as a Week 2 streamer.
Bears QB Jay Cutler vs. Vikings: Cutler looked like a different quarterback in his first game under offensive guru Marc Trestman last week against a top-notch Bengals defense. He completed 63.6 percent of his passes and spread the ball around with emphasis on getting the ball out quickly. Cutler has a very favorable matchup against a young, mostly inexperienced Vikings secondary. Last season against the Vikings at home, Cutler completed 74.2 percent of his throws. He’s very much on the back-end QB1 radar this week and for the foreseeable future. Cutler is entrenched as a starter in two-quarterback leagues this week. You can also do worse than Cutler in 12- and 14-team leagues.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill vs. Colts: Tannehill went up against a ferocious Cleveland defensive front in the opener and still completed better than 63 percent of his passes despite intense pressure. He also had his No. 1 receiver, Mike Wallace, taken away by one of the better shutdown corners in the league in Joe Haden. While Vontae Davis is no slouch for the Colts, he is susceptible to the deep ball. The Colts made Terrelle Pryor look like a competent passer last week, allowing him to average 7.5 YPA and complete 19-of-29 passes. As a rookie, Tannehill threw for 290 yards against Indianapolis. He didn’t have near the amount of offensive talent around him that he has now. Tannehill is a mid-to-low QB2 this week with some upside.
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Packers RB Eddie Lacy vs. Redskins: Lacy was mostly shut down in his debut against the 49ers last week, but that was to be expected. He still managed to total 71 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches. Lacy is an every-down back, and the Redskins were completely gashed by LeSean McCoy in the opener. Lacy doesn’t have near the lateral quickness and agility McCoy possesses. We still feel comfortable projecting Lacy to average at least 4.0 YPC on close to 20 totes this week. He’s locked in as a middle-of-the-pack RB2. London Fletcher looked a step slower, while the Washington defense missed a ton of tackles. Lacy is a bulldozer. He’s going to inflict some pain.
Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Jaguars: McFadden averaged an uninspiring 2.8 YPC against the Colts last week, but he was a threat out of the backfield in the passing game. The Jaguars gave up 175 total yards and a touchdown to Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs’ running back group last week, showing little stoutness up front. The Oakland offensive line is significantly worse than the Kansas City one, but McFadden is going to see 20-plus touches. He’s a safe RB2 play this week.
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams vs. Bills: Williams actually looked pretty good for much of last week’s game against a tough Seattle defense, displaying some of the juice we saw from Williams early in his career. A late, fourth-quarter fumble inside the ten-yard line hurt his final output. The Bills surrendered over 200 yards from scrimmage to New England’s running backs last week. Buffalo is one of the most beat up defenses in the league, while Williams is locked in as the unquestioned lead dog in Carolina. Williams is on the RB2/flex radar this week.
Ravens WR Marlon Brown vs. Browns: Brown actually started for the Ravens in the opener, eventually playing 68-of-91 offensive snaps. With Jacoby Jones out for at least a month with a sprained MCL, Brown is locked in as the No. 2 receiver opposite Torrey Smith. Smith is going to see a ton of Joe Haden, forcing Joe Flacco to look for his other pass catchers. Chris Owens, the Browns’ starter opposite Haden, was beaten like a dead horse by Brian Hartline and company last week. He surrendered nine catches for 89 yards on ten passes thrown at him. Brown is a big dude at 6-foot-5, 216 with 4.5 wheels. He’s a strong WR3 play this week.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman vs. Jets: Edelman was undoubtedly one of the top waiver wire adds this week ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Jets. He’s going to draw the start in place of Danny Amendola (groin). Expect Edelman to play in all two-wide sets with either Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, or Josh Boyce. One of the three rookies is going to draw Antonio Cromartie in coverage in all likelihood, leaving Edelman to work in the slot against Kyle Wilson or on the outside versus rookie Dee Milliner. Edelman is a risky, potentially high-reward WR2 play this week. Tom Brady and the coaching staff love him. Update: Edelman finished with 13 receptions for 78 yards on Thursday night against the Jets. He also had one rush for four yards.
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Dolphins: Hilton is the definition of a gamble this week. He saw just five targets in the opener, playing behind Darrius Heyward-Bey and Reggie Wayne in an offense ran by Pep Hamilton that likes to play in lots of two-tight, two-wide sets. However, coach Chuck Pagano expressed a desire to get Hilton more involved in the offense this week. Heyward-Bey didn’t do anything special Week 1, and Hilton is clearly the far superior talent. Look for Hilton to see a lot of Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll this week. Last season against the Dolphins, Hilton exploded to produce 102 yards and a touchdown on six catches against largely the same secondary. He’s a boom-or-bust WR3 play this week.
Eagles TE Brent Celek vs. Chargers: The Chargers were sliced and diced by the Texans’ tight ends in the Monday night opener to the tune of three touchdowns. Coach Chip Kelly love his tight ends, and Celek is the No. 2 or 3 option in the passing game for Michael Vick. Celek saw just three Week 1 targets, but the Eagles dialed up just five pass plays after halftime. He turned one of his two catches into a touchdown. Celek is firmly on the TE2 radar against San Diego.
Giants TE Brandon Myers vs. Broncos: Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson combined to see a whopping 17 targets against the Broncos last week. The Broncos’ safeties and linebackers struggled to cover both players, but Clark and Dickson helped them out with a handful of drops. Denver’s best cover linebacker, Wesley Woodyard, is also at less than 100 percent due to an ankle injury. Myers saw nine targets in the opener and turned them into seven catches and a touchdown. He’s a borderline TE1 this week.
Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph vs. Bears: The Bears surrendered ten catches to Cincinnati tight ends in Week 1. Rudolph is entirely dependent on touchdowns, and can just as easily post a goose egg as a five-catch, one-score performance. In one game against Chicago last season, Rudolph caught five passes for 55 yards. In the other, he was kept off the stat sheet. That’s how things go with Rudolph in Minnesota’ weak passing offense. We like Rudolph as a borderline TE1/2 this week. If I had the choice of starting any of the three tight ends mentioned here, I’d start Myers over Celek and Celek over Rudolph.