Week 3 Sleepers

Sigmund Bloom runs down and justifies some under the radar starts for Week 3.

QB

Ryan Tannehill (vs CLE) - Miami’s lack of a running game is a boon to Tannehill owners, as they will continue to lean on the high percentage passing game that now adds a healthy-ish and dangerous DeVante Parker to the mix. The Browns have given up multiple pass touchdowns to Carson Wentz and Joe Flacco so far this year, and neither passed for under 278 yards. It should be a good day for Tannehill to light up the Browns pass rush deficient defense.

Joe Flacco (at JAX) - The Jaguars new look defense is still giving up points and yards at a similar rate to their disastrous 2015 campaign. Aaron Rodgers was able to account for three scores and Philip Rivers threw for four touchdowns on only 24 attempts - without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead (for most of the game). Expect Flacco to throw 35-40 times (at least - maybe more if Blake Bortles is hot) and take advantage of resurgent players like Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, and Dennis Pitta to put up a respectable total for quarterback streamers going to the waiver wire this week.

Marcus Mariota (vs OAK) - Oakland’s defense has been abysmal, averaging over 400 yards given up through the air and 3.5 passing scores through two games. One of those was in the Superdome, but they faced only 34 attempts against Matt Ryan on his way to his 396 yard, three score effort in the Black Hole last week. Mariota has thrown at least 33 times in each of the first two games, accounting for two passing touchdowns in each game and at least 238 yards. He’s a high floor streamer this week, with the potential to be a top five quarterback play if Derek Carr can move the ball consistently against the Titans.

RB

Christine Michael (vs SF) - Michael has been outplaying Thomas Rawls, who is nursing a leg injury. Even though the team says Rawls is expected to play, if the defense summarily dispenses with Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers offense as expected, there should be a big helping of carries for Michael as they close this one out. Chip Kelly’s offense tends to tire out his defense with short drives that put them back out on the field too quickly. If Fozzy Whittaker can put 100 yards on them with only 16 carries in that situation, Michael should be just fine behind his piecemeal offensive line.

Jeremy Hill (vs DEN) - The Denver run defense is generally an avoid, but we might take a second look at Hill, who has had at least 19 carries in each of the last two matchups against the Broncos. Jonathan Stewart actually rushed for over four yards a carry on 15 attempts against them, and the Colts running backs accounted for two scores in Denver last week. Andy Dalton is coming into this one a little banged up and the Bengals defense should be able to keep the score low, so a slow and steady game plan that gives Hill lots of chances to break a big run is in order.

Dwayne Washington (at GB) - Washington is a size (6’2” 226) speed (4.44 40) athleticism (10’7” broad 37” vert 4.24 short shuttle 6.9 three cone) freak who will get a lot of chances to show how all this translates to an NFL field with Ameer Abdullah on injured reserve. He already got and converted a goal line opportunity in Week 1, and Washington is a former wide receiver, so he can fit in the Lions short passing game, too. The Lions might have designs on using Theo Riddick as a lead back, but Washington’s explosiveness (he had a 28-yard run among his four attempts last week) can change the script quickly. The Packers will also be without run-stuffing defensive tackle Letroy Guion, so their stiff run defense from the first two weeks could be compromised. Washington is a viable play if you’re desperate for an RB2 this week.

Jay Ajayi (vs CLE) - Ajayi still needs to work his way completely out of the doghouse and avoid a repeat of last week’s fumble, but he is clearly the best running back on the roster with Arian Foster likely out this week. Running backs have carried the ball at least 25 times in each game against the Browns this year, and one of those saw them jump out to a 20-0 lead. The Dolphins can’t run, but if they can build a lead on the passing game and introducing Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler to the NFL in a rude way (Ndamukong Suh, I’m looking at you), Ajayi can be the finisher and possibly even redeem himself to the coaching staff.

Shane Vereen (vs WAS) - Rashad Jennings has an injury on his left hand that could compromise him as a passcatcher and persuade the Giants to lean on Vereen in the red zone the way they did last week. Washington has been a porous run defense, with opposing running backs getting 29 carries and two scores in each of the first two games, including a 26-143-2 line for DeAngelo Williams. Vereen won’t approach those numbers, but 15 touches including red zone work is reasonable, and maybe even worth an RB2 start in PPR leagues.

Travaris Cadet (vs ATL) - If you have to reach really deep for a Week 3 running back in PPR leagues, Cadet is reporting for duty. The Falcons ragtag linebacker corps has 18 running back receptions so far this season, with at least eight surrendered in each game. Charles Sims took one for a touchdown when at least five Falcons had a clean shot at him before he scored. They have also allowed 154 yards on the receptions, which averages out to over eight yards a pop, on a somewhat large sample size. The Superdome should be charged up on the 10th anniversary of the Steve Gleason game. Cadet could get free for a few big gainers and hear his number called in the red zone again like it was in Week 1.

WR

Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz (vs WAS) - Washington pass defense is ripe for the picking even with the addition of Josh Norman. The Steelers posted three wideout scores, 241 wide receiver yards, and three 50+ yard receivers against them in Week 1, and the anemic Cowboys pass offense had two receivers go for 75 or more yards (all three Cowboys touchdowns came on the ground). Norman will reportedly follow Odell Beckham Jr Jr. everywhere but the slot, so that should leave Shepard and Cruz to feast on those matchups all game.

DeVante Parker (vs CLE) - Parker was a WR1 in a half of work last week and he might only need a half to put up quality numbers against a Browns secondary that has surrendered multiple wide receiver touchdowns in each of the first two weeks - this despite facing a rookie quarterback and Joe Flacco. Ryan Tannehill is good enough to exploit this matchup and he’s coming off of his best half of football this season. The only worry about playing Parker is that the Dolphins will get defensive scores against Cody Kessler and this game will get out of hand quickly.

Quincy Enunwa (vs KC) - Brandon Marshall is likely going to be a game-time decision on Sunday afternoon - that is if there’s any chance he will play after we see his practice status Friday. It probably shouldn’t even matter if you are mulling over playing Enunwa, because he has been a solid WR2 each of the first two games with Marshall in the lineup. Ryan Fitzpatrick should remain aggressive throwing to Enunwa, who has top 10-15 wide receiver upside if Marshall is out or limited.

Allen Hurns (vs BAL) - The Ravens “shut down” Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins in Week 1, but it’s clear now that we shouldn’t give them credit for that now that it’s clear Watkins isn’t himself. Last week, Corey Coleman scored twice in one quarter, including one deep score before Josh McCown got hurt. It’s entirely possible that the Ravens pass defense is very vulnerable, a hypothesis that should be tested repeatedly by Blake Bortles and his receivers. Hurns is the most likely deep target and he could have plenty of opportunities if the Jaguars don’t slow down Joe Flacco and his comeback kids. Hurns has at least 64 yards in each of the first two games, so he’s also a high floor play.

Kenny Britt (at TB) - The Bucs have given up five scores to wide receivers in the first two games and at least two in each game. This despite only allowing ten wide receiver receptions in each of the games. The Bucs have also allowed two receivers go over 66 yards in each of the first two games, even though no one caught over five passes and only three receivers caught more than two. Britt has actually at least 67 yards in each of the two games, so this is a surprisingly safe play for a Rams wide receiver.

Tajae Sharpe (vs OAK) - The Raiders equalled the Bucs five wide receiver scores allowed through two games, although they have given up 35 wide receiver receptions over the two-game span. Sharpe is obvious beneficiary of this matchup this week, leading the Titans receivers in receptions and targets. He has had at least seven targets in each of the first two games and Sharpe should be able to carry over the great chemistry he and Marcus Mariota exhibited in the preseason.

TE

Trey Burton (vs PIT) - The Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz have shown a strong inclination to use the tight end as a primary receiver so far this year. Zach Ertz had six catches in Week 1, and Burton had five catches (including a score) last week. Add in the Steelers allowing at least six catches to opposing tight ends in each of the first two contests and you have a recipe for a high floor play that you can get off of the waiver wire this week.

Jacob Tamme (at NO) - It’s probably a bit of a misnomer to call Tamme a sleeper in light of his first two games. He had eight targets in each game and caught at least five of them for at least 51 yards, including a score against Oakland last week. This week’s Monday night game at New Orleans should be a shootout that will give Tamme ample opportunity to keep his momentum going.

Jared Cook (vs DET) - Last week, Cook’s snaps trended up from 33 to 46, his targets went from two to six, his receptions from one to four, and his yardage from seven to 31. This week, he draws the Lions defense, likely without their best pass rusher and linebacker. A Lions defense that has allowed four tight end scores already after allowing 12 last year. Cook has rare big play ability for a tight end, and he has a quarterback who should have the time to find him ripping the seam this week.

Jack Doyle (vs SD) - The Colts lost Donte Moncrief for the next 4-6 weeks, and the next man up at wide receiver is… Quan Bray? Look for the team to go back to a lot more two tight end sets, with Jack Doyle playing the part of a less explosive and more reliable Coby Fleener. Doyle has already had a two score game and caught at least three passes for at least 35 yards in each game. The Chargers have a strong set of cornerbacks that should funnel the ball to the tight ends. They have allowed a 70+ yard tight end in each of the first two games, and multiple tight ends caught at least two passes in both games.