This might be *initiates echo* The Biggest NFL Season Ever, but that doesn't mean you can expect to lose too many games early in the season and think you're going to make the fantasy playoffs. We've reached an inflection point for fantasy squads with losing records. Does the turnaround start now? Or are you just going to think about playing spoiler for everyone else in your league?
The "start your studs" theory has been long debated, but when your studs have continually let you down, it's foolish to keep going back to a tapped-out well. Maybe what you need is to find help from unexpected sources. A kickstart from someone you don't expect.
Is this a pep talk to energize one of my teams that has faceplanted out of the gate? Maybe. But if it applies to you, then you're welcome.
Let's start with Damien Williams. Maybe he's not your traditional sleeper because he'll be started in plenty of places where David Montgomery is missing. The reason he makes this list is because he's not exactly a plug-and-play starting option. What we most remember is his late-season run in 2019 that culminated in him rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl win over the 49ers. What's overlooked is making 13 career starts in seven seasons and never reaching 500 rushing yards. Alas, we'll disregard it once more and hope that the expected volume -- and a matchup with the underperforming Raiders run defense -- will in the day.
Michael Carter is much more in the traditional sleeper vein. The rookie running back is slowly taking over the Jets backfield. It was heartening to see him get goal line work and score his first NFL touchdown last week. Game script will generally be an issue for Carter since New York will spend a lot of time playing catch-up this season. However, it might not be nearly as much of a factor this week in London when they play the equally dysfunctional Falcons. Now if only we could sprinkle in a few more targets. Baby steps, I guess.
During the offseason, I was increasingly a fan of drafting Van Jefferson in the late rounds. That faith has been rewarded a couple of times this season -- most recently with six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals last week. Jefferson might not qualify as a sleeper for too much longer. When you have more fantasy points than Robert Woods, it's hard to say people aren't checking for you. But he can put on the Cloak of Underdoggedness one more time against Seattle's Legion of Whom.
How far Robby Anderson has fallen to land in a sleepers column. And to have it be a spot of wishcasting, at that. Anderson has easily been one of fantasy's big disappointments through the first four weeks. Yet his season-high 11 targets last week were a flicker of hope. If this increased attention continues, increased production should follow. With so many fantasy managers relegating Anderson to the bench, this feels more like an observation week. But late production is better than no production at all.
While we're trying to speak things into existence, let's talk about Brandon Aiyuk. He's worked his way out of Kyle Shanahan's doghouse, but apparently not into Jimmy Garoppolo's line of sight. Eleven targets through four games is far from what anyone expected. Week 5 offers an opportunity. George Kittle is banged up and the Cardinals are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. The Niners can't live on Deebo Samuel alone. This has the makings of the long-awaited Aiyuk awakening. We hope.
Forecasting a productive week from Jamison Crowder doesn't take the same level of mental gymnastics. In his return from injury, the veteran receiver caught seven of nine targets for 61 yards and a touchdown. Zach Wilson has shown a propensity to target slot receivers and focus on shorter throws. That's right in Crowder's wheelhouse. The ceiling might not be high, but the floor is plenty safe. Sometimes that's all you need.
Who doesn't love a good ole fashioned revenge game? If you don't, then you shouldn't read about Gerald Everett going up against the Rams this week. Russell Wilson has traditionally targeted his tight ends near the end zone, giving him the target upside you want from a streaming tight end. On top of that, the Rams have been victimized by a group of tight ends ranging from Rob Gronkowski to Jack Doyle. Everett has the chance to take advantage of a defense that's likely to be focused on DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Also … revenge.
For the time being, the aforementioned Gronk is on the shelf with rib injuries, which brings Cameron Brate back into our lives. Until O.J. Howard pulls off a more noteworthy catch than at a Rays baseball game, he's not a trustworthy fantasy option. Meanwhile, the Dolphins defense hasn't been as formidable in 2021 as it was the past couple of years. It's an excellent streaming spot.
There still isn't much clarity with the Patriots tight end situation but it was good to see Hunter Henry find the end zone. This week, the Pats take aim at the Texans. The illusion of Houston's Week 1 win over the Jaguars has blown away like smoke in a fan factory. The Texans have been particularly porous against tight ends this year. We might not consistently know when to start New England's tight ends but this feels like a good opportunity.
While we're here, feel free to stream the Patriots DST against Davis Mills and the hapless Houston offense.
Be good and good luck this week!
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who has had more pizza than the law allows. Send him your overindulgences or fantasy football questions onTwitter@MarcasGor TikTok atmarcasgrant.