Offensive Sleepers: Week 4

A look at the best under-the-radar starts for Week 4.

Quarterback

Derek Carr, OAK - Is Carr still a sleeper after two strong QB1 weeks? He was still on a lot of waiver wires, so at the very least he’s worth a pickup and start for Tom Brady owners and being part of the bandage for Ben Roethlisberger owners. Carr gets a Bears defense this week that is shedding players in trades. The vibe at Soldier Field is going to be somber while the Raiders are a happy resurgent team, so look for the current trends to continue. With a solid group of wideouts led by rookie wunderkind Amari Cooper, Carr has the weapons to stay among the QB1 ranks for at least one more week.

Michael Vick, PIT - This one’s not for the faint of heart, as Vick could be a complete disaster in his return to a starting gig while Ben Roethlisberger is out - at least based on he looked last year with the Jets. What Vick does have going for him is the ability to gather rushing stats, a good deep ball in a vertical passing offense, an offensive coordinator who tends to use his players to best leverage their abilities, the best running back and wide receiver in the NFL, and an opposing Baltimore defense that has made Derek Carr and Andy Dalton look like Aaron Rodgers. Whether it’s a good, bad, or mediocre game for Vick, we’ll say we should have known.

Colin Kaepernick, SF - Starting Kaepernick in any given week seems like a bad idea this year, but there are some factors that foreshadow a bigger game for him. The Packers and Dom Capers’ defense have never been effective against Kaepernick, they have allowed at least 30 yards rushing to every quarterback they have faced this year, and Aaron Rodgers is likely to open up a big lead and pave the way to prevent defenses that Kaepernick had a big second half against under similar circumstances in Week 2. There are no style points in fantasy football, and you don’t get points taken away when a player is bad for half of the game, so Kaepernick could work out to cover a Brady bye or Roethlisberger injury.

Jameis Winston, TB - Winston has a tough draw against the Panthers this week, but he should be much better than his disastrous home opener against the Titans. The Panthers have little to no pass rush until Jared Allen gets up to speed, and teams tend to skew very pass heavy against Carolina. While their defense has been stingy to date, Mike Evans is getting an inordinate number of targets, and he can win at will in one-on-one situations. Vincent Jackson is still an excellent #2 who should see favorable one-on-one matchups with Evans up and running. Winston is also liable to run a touchdown in himself if the situation calls for it. The struggles of Kyle Brindza last week could also make Lovie Smith more inclined to go for two or go for fourth downs in scoring range.

Running Back

Karlos Williams, BUF - Williams isn’t just a sleeper this week, he’s a must-start. After scoring touchdowns in each of the first three games, Williams is ready to get his first start with LeSean McCoy’s hamstring injury likely to keep him out of the Week 4 against the Giants. Williams has broken two touchdown runs of over 20 yards already, and he is also a good receiver out of the backfield. In a surprisingly vibrant offense with a top notch defense to control field position and game flow, Williams might be one of the top 3-5 running backs in Week 4.

Shane Vereen, NYG - The Giants can’t get anything going in the running game and they are facing one of the stoutest defensive lines in the league. If they are smart, they will mimic the Patriots, spread the Bills out, and bleed them with short passes. Shane Vereen fits perfectly in this approach, and he was able to have his biggest game last year with the Patriots against the Rex Ryan Jets under similar circumstances. After his dud of Week 3 (because the Giants controlled the game), Vereen will be a player many move away from, but the game script should feed right into his strengths.

Justin Forsett, BAL - It’s odd to list a second or third round pick as a sleeper in Week 4, but that’s where Forsett is as we recalculate values and confidence in players three weeks into the season. Forsett hasn’t gotten the benefit of a good game script yet. The Ravens have constantly been playing from behind and not able to get Forsett and the running game in a good groove. He is just as combative, quick, and resourceful as he was last year, Forsett just needs the Ravens as a team to have a good game to unlock his fantasy potential. Even though they’re on the road, the Ravens can handle the Michael Vick-led Steelers. A team with such a recent history of good play isn’t going to go to 0-4 without a fight, and Forsett can ride that wave to his first good game of the year.

CJ Spiller, NO - Spiller has been the opposite of exciting since joining the Saints, and Drew Brees has gotten injured in the meantime. The back should be ready to make a bigger impact in his third week back from preseason knee surgery, and the Saints seem poised to include him in the offense to the greatest extent yet. Head coach Sean Payton said “I’ve got to get him more opportunities” and this is the time of the season when teams start to make adjustment based on what they’ve seen. The possible return of Brees and game on the fast track indoors at home also lead to more optimism about Spiller for Week 4.

Melvin Gordon III, SD - Gordon’s owners have been waiting for some bang on their significant bucks spent in their drafts. This could be the week as the Chargers face their worst opponent to date, the Cleveland Browns. San Diego’s offensive line is banged up, which is a yellow to red flag here, but the next time the Browns give up fewer that 150 yards rushing to opposing running backs in a game this year will be the first. The Chargers have tried to get Gordon going early in games, and he has obliged, even though it hasn’t led to wins. It should lead to a win and more fantasy points this week.

Chris Johnson, ARI - Head coach Bruce Arians likes what he sees and said Johnson should continue to earn 15-20 touches this week even with Andre Ellington returning to the lineup. Johnson has been a hardnosed inside runner who has rediscovered the edge in his game. Mike Iupati should be back this week to pave some highways. and the Cardinals should be able to easier handle their inferior division opponent, St. Louis. Johnson got the call for multiple touchdowns last week and there is no reason for them to go away from there this week in a game they should control. The Cardinals are averaging over 40 points a game and over 25 points margin of victory, which points to more mop up work for Johnson.

Thomas Rawls, SEA - Marshawn Lynch is currently 50/50 to play on Monday night, and we haven’t learned the results of his MRI. After seeing Rawls run like vintage Lynch last week in relief against Chicago, the Seahawks should be inclined to sit Lynch, or at least split the work roughly equally between the two backs. Rawls could be a jackpot sleeper if Lynch is a scratch, but he’ll have value in your lineup even if Lynch plays in Week 4.

Wide Receiver

Allen Hurns, JAX - Rashad Greene Sr is out, Julius Thomas is out, Marqise Lee can’t stay healthy, Allen Robinson is drawing Vontae Davis (assuming he’s healthy enough to play), and the Jaguars are likely to have to open up their offense to stay with Andrew Luck on Sunday. #2 wideouts like Eric Decker and Percy Harvin have already had very nice days against Indianapolis, this week it’s Hurns’ turn. With his vertical speed, he also has top 10 overall upside in any given week, which never hurts.

Percy Harvin/Robert Woods, BUF - Sammy Watkins is going to be questionable with a calf injury, but Harvin and Woods have been so good so far that the Bills don’t need to rush an injured Watkins back out there. Tyrod Taylor has been a more accurate and poised quarterback than anyone expected, and the Bills are letting him take shots downfield, far from a game manager approach. Leonard Hankerson and Terrance Williams have both had at least five catches and fifty yards against the Giants as #2 receivers, so Woods deserves your consideration here as well as the de facto #1 Harvin, who has had sustainable fantasy value while Watkins was still on the field.

Phillip Dorsett, IND - Andre Johnson is barely even a possession receiver at this point. Andrew Luck is no longer looking his way, and the rookie Dorsett was beginning to steal snaps from Johnson as the game went on in Week 3. Dorsett is unlikely to completely usurp Johnson’s role in Week 4, but the snap split should continue to trend towards Dorsett, and as he showed last week, he only needs one deep target to have a good fantasy day. The Jaguars have already given up deep shots to Ted Ginn Jr and Rishard Matthews, and Dorsett is a better hands catcher than Ginn, and faster than Matthews.

Marvin Jones Jr, CIN - Jones is back to his touchdown scoring ways. He was making all-pro level plays on the ball in the air against the Ravens, and he should have a field day against a depleted Chiefs secondary. The Bengals are pass-first offense right now, and there seems to be enough to go around to keep Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert as viable fantasy option while still feeding AJ Green when the game script calls for it. Jones had scores in back-to-back games in 2013, then followed with a four touchdown game. He has scored in back-to-back games heading into this one, and the Chiefs are coming off of a short week of rest after being thumped at Green Bay.

Ty Montgomery, GB - Davante Adams aggravated his ankle injury early on Monday night, so it’s very unlikely that we’ll see him on Sunday against the 49ers. The rookie Montgomery has looked more than ready to assume a role in the offense when he has been called upon, with a score when Adams went out in Week 2, and four catches last week. The 49ers have given up two scores to wide receivers in each of the last two weeks, so Montgomery is one of the better bets to score of the widely available waiver wire receivers in Week 4.

John Brown, ARI - Brown started out the season drafted as a WR3/WR4, and if you looked at the Cardinals scoring numbers and stats, you’d think he was off to a great start. The numbers don’t reflect it, but he is. Brown has drawn numerous pass interference penalties, including multiple end zone calls, and he was barely short of a touchdown last week (albeit after dropping one on the previous play). The Cardinals offense emphasizes deep passing, and Brown’s game emphasizes his deep speed. This is going to come together in a big way soon, and you don’t want Brown on your bench when it happens.

Ted Ginn Jr, CAR - How good has Cam Newton been? Ginn, who has never been a fantasy factor in his career, has reeled in two deep balls - in Weeks 1 and 3 - and scored in the week that he didn’t convert a deep shot. He has also dropped a sure deep touchdown. This week against the Bucs, look for Newton to take at least one more shot to Ginn. Tampa has given up a long touchdown to Kendall Wright, and they’ve also allowed multiple receivers to go over 50 yards against them in each of the last two weeks. One deep connection to Ginn could make your WR/Flex/DFS cheap play week. 

Tight End

Maxx Williams, BAL - Crockett Gillmore is good and will become a mainstay in this offense, but Week 4 will belong to Williams. He got seven targets after Gillmore went out in Week 3, and converted three into catches. Against the Steelers defense that gave up four scores to tight ends in Week 1 and let Vernon Davis have maybe his last decent fantasy stat line ever in Week 2, Williams looks like an excellent Rob Gronkowski bye week play

Charles Clay, BUF - Clay shouldn’t be on the sleeper list. He is playing like a strong TE1. Clay is making tacklers miss like he’s Dion Lewis but still a massive load to bring down and very fast for his size. Clay and Tyrod Taylor have great chemistry so far, and Sammy Watkins likely absence will shake loose a few more target that could land in Clay’s lap. The Giants have allowed a three-score game to tight ends in Week 1, and in Weeks 2 and 3, Jacob Tamme had 77 yards receiving on four catches, and Jordan Reed managed 96 yards on six catches, excluding two wide open end zone shots that should have been scores, but were underthrown by Kirk Cousins.

Martellus Bennett, CHI - It has been a bleak beginning to the season for the Raiders, but the return of Alshon Jeffery, possibly Jay Cutler and the Raiders coming to town could brighten things up a bit. Bennett should shine against the Oakland defense that has allowed 21 catches, 305 yards, and five scores to tight ends in three games. They haven’t faced Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, or Travis Kelce either. Gary Barnidge is putting up 100-yard games against them. Bennett is an easy call until this trend slows down.

Coby Fleener, IND - Dwayne Allen already has missed a practice this week and he is not known as a fast healer. The Colts are making good on their intent to get the tight ends more involved, with Fleener notching four catches last week against the Titans. Fleener scored against Jacksonville in one of their two meetings last year, and Fleener should be low on the list of offensive players to contain for the Jaguars. We’ve seen Fleener post a two touchdown game when Allen has been out, so getting him in your lineup gets another in to Andrew Luck’s weekly upside.