Now that we’ve finished processing the various performances of week three, it is time to examine players such as Tashard Choice and Jerome Simpson, who have not previously appeared in your starting lineups, but could now provide a scoring boost if you choose to use them in week four. They are among this week’s sleepers, who are players that were either drafted toward the latter half of your fantasy drafts, or spent time residing on your leagues’ waiver wires until this week. Either way, a combination of their ability, and their specific week four matchups, have propelled them into a position to enhance your scoring total should you decide to start them. With that, here are the sleepers for week four:
Andy Dalton vs. Jaguars
Dalton certainly does not qualify as an unknown. But he has been essentially ignored as a starting option, as nearly 90% of his owners have chosen to affix him to their benches. But this is a great week to change that. He has already thrown for 867 yards which is the NFL’s fourth highest total. And he has already produced six TDs, which ties him for fifth among all QBs. He will now face a 21st ranked Jacksonville pass defense that has allowed 258 YPG. The Jaguars have already been exploited for 270 yards by Christian Ponder, while Andrew Luck produced 313 yards and two scores against them. Dalton will connect frequently with A.J. Green, and generate one of the day’s highest yardage totals.
Ryan Williams vs. Dolphins
Williams’ fortunes have changed significantly in the past few weeks. After managing just 22 yards on 18 carries (1.2 YPC) in his first two games, Williams rambled for 83 yards on 13 carries (6.4 YPG) in week three. Now, he has ascended into the unquestioned feature back role as Beanie Wells has been placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list. Which means that the earliest Wells could rejoin the Cardinals would be week 12. If Williams is somehow available in your league, grab him right now. And if he is on your roster, you have suddenly been supplied with a legitimate RB2 that you can confidently employ for at least the next two months. Just understand that his output this week will not be exceptional, as he must negotiate yardage against the third ranked Miami rush defense, that is only permitting 64.7 YPG.
Lamar Miller vs. Cardinals
Reggie Bush’s knee injury creates a potential opportunity for both Miller and Daniel Thomas. While the tandem will share the workload, Miller has exhibited that he is the superior back. He certainly has been more effective, collecting 48 yards on just nine carries against the Jets (5.3 YPC), while amassing 113 yards and a TD on just 19 attempts for the season (5.9 YPC). Thomas averaged just 3.6 YPC in week three (69 yards on 19 carries), has managed just 80 yards on 22 attempts for the year, and has already coughed up two fumbles. Miller is not as familiar with the playbook as Thomas, and he needs to improve his blocking. But he has undoubtedly been the more productive RB, and is a better option both as a roster addition and starter if Bush is out.
Tashard Choice vs. Patriots
As with Miller, Choice’s value is predicated on how healthy Buffalo’s explosive tandem of C. J. Spiller and Fred Jackson will be on Sunday. There is an increasing chance that both backs might be available, and Jackson in particular appears close to a return. If so, Choice would not be worth utilizing, no matter how desperate you might be at RB this week. But if neither of the Bills’ primary backs appear capable of handling an extensive workload against New England, Choice becomes an excellent one week option. Chan Gailey is familiar with Choice from their time together at Georgia Tech, and will construct plays that maximize his chances for productivity.
Bilal Powell vs. 49ers
How safe is Shonn Greene’s position as the Jets’ feature back? About as secure as any runner who can’t even generate 3.0 YPC. He only averaged 3.48 in the season opener, and that has been by far his most effective performance. Since that time, he has averaged an anemic 2.1 YPC, which is simply unacceptable for any NFL back, let alone a starter. Meanwhile, Powell has averaged 3.8 YPC on 22 attempts, and should soon be assuming a far greater percentage of the RB touches. In fact, that could easily occur this Sunday. He will be a popular roster addition throughout the week, and if you are able to grab him, monitor the situation as game time approaches. An increased role might make him a worthy flex option.
Jerome Simpson vs. Lions
The Vikings currently rank 18th in passing (232 YPG), as Christian Ponder has successfully employed Percy Harvin (27 catches for 277 yards) and Kyle Rudolph (three TDs). Now, Simpson will return from his suspension, and easily provide Minnesota with a far better option at WR2 than either Devin Aromashodu or Michael Jenkins. His availability is perfectly timed for a matchup with Detroit’s 20th ranked pass defense. The Lions just allowed Jake Locker to scorch them for 378 yards, and Ponder should experience at minimum a very productive day. And it will include Simpson, who established career bests last season in receptions (50), and yardage (725), while performing for Cincinnati. He now has an excellent opportunity to approach those numbers as the season progresses, and that process will begin on Sunday.
Ramses Barden vs. Eagles
For those fantasy owners who chose to add Barden after the stunning news that Hakeem Nicks would be inactive in week three, congratulations! But if he remains available in your leagues, and you now believe that the opportunity for him to be a productive roster addition has passed, that is hardly the case. First, even if Nicks returns as expected, Barden is essentially a must add for nervous Nicks owners who desire a hand cuff. And such outstanding insurance could be beneficial immediately, if Nicks suffers another setback before Sunday. Plus, it is very likely that Barden has carved out a permanent role in the Giant’s attack, with the possibility that he could be employed opposite Nicks on certain plays, while Victor Cruz works from the slot. Regardless, it is doubtful that he won’t remain part of the game plan, after he generated 138 yards in his outstanding performance versus Carolina.
Leonard Hankerson vs. Buccaneers
He initially thrust himself into fantasy relevance in week 10 of 2011, by collecting eight catches for 106 yards. Then Pierre Garcon’s absence last week enabled Hankerson to become a big bodied No. 1 target for RG3, and a last minute option for fantasy owners. Now, he becomes a potential WR3 for anyone who is scrambling to replace Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne due to their bye weeks. Hankerson did garner four passes for 56 yards in week three, and has amassed 124 yards and a score in his last two games. If the concept of starting him causes concern, remember that he will be facing Tampa Bay’s porous pass defense, which has already given up 1,060 yards in three games. That is more than any other team.
Mike Williams vs. Redskins
The Buccaneers have also struggled offensively, and rank just 30th in passing. Williams has in turn been limited to only seven receptions. So any hesitation to count on him in week four is understandable. However, he will line up against Washington’s 31st ranked pass defense, which has performed almost as poorly as Tampa Bay’s. The Redskins have permitted 1,012 yards (337 YPG), and have also surrendered an NFL worst 10 TDs. Williams is legitimate red zone target for Josh Freeman, and has already collected two TD receptions this season. He now has a very good chance to secure a third on Sunday.
Owen Daniels vs. Titans
Daniels has been targeted 22 times, and has grabbed 13 of those passes for 160 yards and a TD. This week he should improve upon his 53.3 YPG average, and double his scoring total against a Tennessee defense that has surrendered 938 yards (313 YPG) and eight TDs in their first three games. Five of those scores have been yielded to TEs, with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez each finding the end zone in week one, and Dante Rosario amassing three TDs in week two. Even though Brandon Pettigrew failed to generate a TD against them in week three, he still accumulated eight catches for 61 yards. Fantasy owners can be confident that Matt Schaub will locate Daniels and connect with him repeatedly.
Cardinals vs. Dolphins
It’s time to take the unbeaten Cardinals seriously on many fronts, including their viability as a No.1 fantasy defense. They are ranked ninth in total defense, and are seventh against the pass while allowing just two TDs. But not only are they neutralizing their opponents, but they are doing an exceptional job of generating turnovers and drive killing plays. They are second with five forced fumbles, lead the league with four recoveries, and are also tied for second with 12 sacks. Plus, Patrick Peterson supplies big play potential as a ballhawk and returner. This unit should be employed in all lineups against a Miami offense whose sole playmaker is less than 100%.