We’re a month in, Fam! That means 13 more weeks of genius tinkering. Of course, the most dedicated and passionate managers find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While some weeks your roster may allow for snoozing on sleepers, it’s always beneficial to keep tabs on emerging trends and players. This weekly column is for those who understand the satisfaction of digging deep.
All of the listed players are rostered in under 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily game. They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks … but that’s what makes them so intriguing.
No lies: I crushed last week, hitting on five of my six listed sleepers. Zack Moss and Michael Carter (who is all-of-sudden leading sleeper lists elsewhere throughout the interwebs this week) both found the end zone. Additionally, Taylor Heinicke was FF’s QB5 while Dawson Knox and Hunter Henry (another guy I was a week ahead on) both scored and finished inside the top-12 TEs.
On to Week 5!
It appears to be happening later than #FantasyTwitter demanded, but Lance is trending towards his first career start on Sunday. Brimming with upside, the third overall pick is a gifted runner who can use his legs to extend plays while pushing the ball downfield with a surprising amount of touch and accuracy. Not all of those platitudes showed up last Sunday when the 21-year-old took to the field in place of Jimmy Garoppolo (calf). But the 7 carries for 41 yards? Well, that matters to us fantasy folks.
Surrounded by difference-making weapons, protected by an above-average offensive line, and working in an ultra-friendly scheme, Lance’s ecosystem is ripe for fantasy fruit. Bushels of which should come to bear when he travels to Arizona this Sunday. The Cardinals have defended the pass with aplomb (64.3% cmp), but Arizona has given up the seventh-most rushing yards (100) to opposing QBs. In a divisional showdown that’s likely to be high-scoring (50 O/U per BetMGM), Lance offers low-end QB1 appeal. He’s ranked behind Justin Herbert and ahead of Joe Burrow.
Damien Williams, RB, Chicago Bears ($18)
Williams was an absolute beast from late December 2019 through early February 2020. In that span, the then-Chief averaged over 107 total yards per game and scored 9 TDs (two of which came versus the 49ers in LIV). He joined the Bears this fall after being released by KC and opting out of 2020.
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The next man up behind David Montgomery (knee), Williams touched the ball 10 times for 70 total yards and a score last Sunday versus Detroit. A shifty back who can break tackles and catch balls, Williams figures to operate in a three-down capacity on Sunday at Vegas. The Raiders have been leaky versus the run (4.9 YPC allowed), making Williams a low-end RB2 in Week 5.
Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots (5% rostered, $10)
Well, this feels dirty. But hang on.
With James White inactive, Bolden closed out Monday night’s tilt versus the Bucs second in team targets, converting all six of his looks for 51 yards. It’s worth noting that Damien Harris logged more snaps and recorded a career-high 17 pass routes so there is a likelihood that some of the work in the passing game could lean Harris’ way.
Still, with Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor seemingly in Bill Belichick’s dog house, and given Bolden’s familiarity with the team, the long-time Patriot figures to be a factor. Plus, Harris has dealt with durability concerns in the past and fumble issues in the present. In an effort to achieve stasis, Bolden should be involved, particularly on early downs and near the goal line.
His usage could be at an all-time high in a matchup at Houston in which New England is a 9.5-point favorite. Grinding out the clock versus a defense that’s given up the sixth-most rushing yards (455) to opposing RBs, Bolden is a spot flex start for managers needing a band-aid at the position.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets (34% rostered, $16)
Leading the Jets receiving corps in targets in his 2021 debut, Crowder converted 7 of 9 looks for 61 yards and a score. The 28-year-old slot man worked as a much-needed safety blanket for Zach Wilson while providing experience and reliability to the offense.
He should continue to bolster the rookie QB in Week 5 when the team travels to London to take on the Falcons. Atlanta’s secondary has been generous, allowing the third-most TDs (7) to WRs on the season (and, yes, that’s good news for Corey Davis, too). Crowder’s floor makes him a safe flex in PPR-friendly formats.
Bonus WR: Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants (9% rostered, $13)
Dubbed “The shiftiest player in the SEC,” Toney gains YAC and weaves through traffic like a Missoni dress pattern; the fit may not be for everyone, but he’s never going out of style. At least, not while Sterling Shepard (hamstring) is unavailable.
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Toney led the Giants pass-catchers in looks last Sunday, converting 6 of 9 for 78 yards. He should be plenty peppered again in Week 5 as the G-men (+7) try to keep pace with the ‘Boys. Dallas’ defense has largely exceeded expectations, but the secondary can still be had, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing WRs.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16% rostered, $10)
Brate was targeted by Tom Brady immediately after Gronk was knocked out of Week 3. He’s obviously not a one-for-one replacement, but there’s enough data to know the long-time Buc can thrive in the red area of the field (2016-2018).
Brate logged his highest snap total and ran the most routes not only of the 2021 season but of the Tom Brady era last week at New England. Drawing 11 looks over the last two weeks (and a red-zone target in each outing), Brate could do some damage versus a Dolphins defense that gave up 2 TDs to Mo Alie-Cox last Sunday. He’s a stream for managers frantic to replace Logan Thomas (hamstring) and, of course, Gronkowski.
Bonus TE: Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Washington Football Team (1% rostered, $10)
A converted receiver, Seals-Jones is a physical player with an enviable catch radius. He’s the kind of player that can help an inaccurate (or young) passer out, particularly in the red zone. He recorded a snap share over 92 percent and ran 24 routes (the most since Week 6 of 2019) after Thomas exited last Sunday. I don’t like his Week 5 matchup at New Orleans, but he could be useful on Week 6 versus Kansas City. Keep an eye on him.
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