NFL

Fantasy Football: 6 Sleepers for the Divisional Round

Aidan McGrath
Aidan McGrath@ffaidanmcgrath

The word "sleeper" gets thrown around a lot in the world of fantasy football, to the point where an actual definition may vary from person to person. In general, sleepers are NFL players who may be flying relatively under the radar in a particular field. That could be an under-rostered player in season-long leagues, a player with an exciting matchup in a given week, or even a potential star just ahead of their true breakout.

In any case, we all need to find a sleeper from time to time. Whether you're a fantasy football hipster looking to roster an exciting new player before your league-mates hear about him, a daily fantasy manager looking for a lower-salary player to fill out a lineup loaded with studs, or even just a manager in a pinch due to byes or injuries, we have you covered. We'll be bringing you six fantasy sleepers each and every week throughout the season.

Fantasy Football Divisional Round Sleepers

Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

FanDuel Salary: $7,200

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield has literally the best matchup for fantasy football among quarterbacks still left standing. He'll be paired up against the Detroit Lions for the Divisional Round this weekend, a team that allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this year. He also happens to have the second-lowest salary at the quarterback position this week on FanDuel, earning him the "sleeper" status for the week at QB.

Mayfield was pretty dominant against a similarly bad Philadelphia Eagles defense in the Wild Card Round, dicing their secondary up to the tune of 337 passing yards and 3 passing scores -- good enough for 27.08 FanDuel points. He accomplished that feat without much help from top wideout Mike Evans, with whom he nearly connected on a pair of potential deep touchdowns throughout the game. Mayfield appears to be heating up at just the right time.

The Lions have allowed an average of 26.3 points per game to their opponents since their bye week while allowing opposing passers to average the second-longest average air yards per attempt (9.3 yards down the field). Their pass rush struggled to get home all year, resulting in them earning the ninth-fewest sacks in the league.

The Bucs' offense is set up to hit deep shots to Evans as long as Mayfield has time, putting him in position for another fantastic fantasy outing in the NFL playoffs.

Josh Reynolds, WR, Detroit Lions

FanDuel Salary: $6,100

Even with Sam LaPorta making a shocking return to the field just a week after suffering a scary knee injury, the Detroit Lions still turned to veteran wideout Josh Reynolds to help move the ball against the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round. Reynolds finished that game with a solid 5 catches for 80 yards on 7 targets and should continue seeing similar work in the Divisional Round.

His opponent this weekend -- the aforementioned Bucs -- allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to receivers in the league this year while also surrendering the fourth-most yards to the position. That's kind of an impressive feat for a team that played against the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons twice this season. A passing game as sturdy as Detroit's should be able to tally up some passing yards during this weekend's contest.

Based on implied team totals, the Lions are expected to score the second-most points this weekend (27.5), which means bettors are expecting them to be in scoring position a fair amount. That means Reynolds could be in a good spot to find himself in the end zone on Sunday night.

Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

FanDuel Salary: $5,800

Green Bay Packers wideout Christian Watson didn't do too much in his return to the field for the Wild Card Round, but the Packers didn't really need him to do all that much with Romeo Doubs going nuclear and Aaron Jones carving up the Dallas Cowboys. The former second-round pick missed eight games during the regular season with hamstring injuries, so his disappointing 41% snap rate in last weekend's game makes sense given the injury and game script contexts.

He could see a bump in his usage this week as the Packers prepare to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The speedy receiver practiced all week with his team and will head into Saturday's game without an injury designation.

Watson is the kind of player who can put up fantasy-relevant numbers even while playing in a receiver rotation (like the kind Green Bay has been using of late). We saw him catch 7 passes for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last healthy regular season game, illustrating the kind of upside he brings to the table -- he's a touchdown machine. This year, 18% of his receptions went for scores (second among receivers) just a year after he scored nine times as a rookie.

His $5,800 salary on FanDuel is reflective of his inconsistent health during the regular season but not of his consistent ability to find the end zone when he's right.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Baltimore Ravens

FanDuel Salary: $5,600

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling the Baltimore Ravens have been saving veteran wide receiver Odell Beckham for the playoffs.

The former All-Pro wideout played between 30-50% of his team's offensive snaps for most of the season before essentially resting over the last two-and-a-half weeks. The team pulled him from their blowout win over the Miami Dolphins, rested him in Week 18, and are now kickstarting their playoffs after a bye week.

Beckham's limited on-field participation curbed his overall production for the Ravens this year, but he was efficient when called upon. Following the team's Week 13 bye, Beckham's 2.27 yards per route run ranked 11th among NFL receivers with 10 or more targets. The Ravens were just too busy blowing out their opponents and resting their veteran receiver to get his receiving yardage totals up.

Now that it's win or go home, the Ravens can't afford to keep Beckham off the field. I'm expecting him to have his heaviest usage since Week 1 when he played 92% of the team's offensive snaps. And if he can sustain his strong end-of-season play with an increase in snaps, he could be set up for a massive fantasy day in the Divisional Round.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers

FanDuel Salary: $5,000

The San Francisco 49ers had little issue giving Christian McCaffrey virtually every running back opportunity for most of the season, but the star back did finish the year on a bit of a concerning note -- he exited their Week 17 game with a calf strain and sat out the season finale. The time off seems to have done the trick, as he's practicing in full for Saturday's game. But the 49ers still may look to give him a few more snaps off going forward.

Elijah Mitchell has looked as good as ever when given the chance this year, even racking up 132 yards and 2 scores over 31 carries while McCaffrey caught some well-earned rest. He should be their go-to guy any time McCaffrey needs a breather, or even if this game gets out of hand.

The Green Bay Packers are no doubt an exciting team, but they are considered to be pretty significant underdogs in this one and played some lackluster rushing defense during the year. The 9.5-point underdogs allowed the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL this year (2,181), which incentivizes the 49ers to attack them on the ground aggressively and should make their ability to grind away clock late in the game even more efficient than usual.

If San Francisco does take that kind of run-centric approach, Mitchell could put up fantasy-relevant numbers alongside McCaffrey.

Brevin Jordan, TE, Houston Texans

FanDuel Salary: $4,700

The Houston Texans doled out a pretty solid contract to Dalton Schultz this offseason, but that doesn't necessarily make him their top tight end by default.

While Schultz was injured this season, we all got to watch former fifth-round pick Brevin Jordan flash the kind of playmaking upside Schultz cannot. Jordan even ripped off a 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the Wild Card Round, hitting a top speed of 20.03 miles per hour. He should start getting more chances with the Texans going forward, starting with the Divisional Round.

The Texans have a pretty tough matchup on tap for the weekend, as they're slated to face the top-seeded Ravens and their first-ranked defense. The Ravens shut down opposing passing attacks this year but were sneakily an alright team to start tight ends against in fantasy. While they allowed only 3,263 total passing yards on the season (fifth-fewest) and 804 receiving yards to tight ends (eighth-fewest), tight ends accounted for 25% of the receiving yardage the Ravens gave up during the year (the 12th-highest). Tight ends out-performed other positions when it came to taking on Baltimore's elite defense.

Either by increasing Jordan's reps or by identifying that potential weak spot in Baltimore's defense, the Texans could set up Jordan for another strong fantasy finish. He has the athleticism to generate fantasy points efficiently despite his limited opportunities and could see more targets than expected in a game where quarterback C.J. Stroud will be forced to drop back a ton.


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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.