NFL

Fantasy Football: 6 Sleepers for Week 3

Aidan McGrath
Aidan McGrath@ffaidanmcgrath
Fantasy Football: 6 Sleepers for Week 3

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 that 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 Week 3 Sleepers

C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans

FanDuel Salary: $6,600

Fans of the Houston Texans must be feeling uncharacteristically happy right now for an 0-2 team, and that's because of one player -- C.J. Stroud. The second overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft is just two starts into his career and already looks like he belongs. The team may have its franchise quarterback.

Despite playing behind an offensive line without four of five starters due to injury, Stroud has looked calm, collected, and competent in his first two NFL starts. While the Baltimore Ravens's fiery defense kept Stroud himself out of the end zone in Week 1, he notched the first two touchdowns of his career in Week 2. Stroud's on-field performance should inspire confidence from Texans fans, but it's also an encouraging sign for fantasy managers in need of a quarterback.

The Texans ranked third in the league in total pass attempts so far this season. They've been in catch-up mode for most of the season and have trusted Stroud to dig them out with his arm. Their offense has skewed even more heavily towards the passing game due to the rushing game's lack of success; the Texans have generated just four first downs across their 49 rush attempts, so we shouldn't expect them to suddenly curtail Stroud's volume any time soon. On the basis of his passing volume alone, Stroud should already be on fantasy football radars.

It's not just empty volume for Stroud, either. He's putting up yards -- his 626 passing yards rank fourth in the NFL -- and pushing the ball down the field, not just padding his stats with inefficient checkdowns. He's even flashed a bit of playmaking ability with his legs, hinting that we could also get some rushing production out of him at some point this season.

For Week 3, Stroud gets a nice matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose strong rushing defense pushes offenses to pass the ball even more. Their passing defense remains a little unproven at this point. They played rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson in Week 1 and then played against a Kansas City Chiefs team that coughed up a ridiculous 12 penalties for 94 yards in Week 2. Stroud looked like he was ready to break out in Week 2 and could have a strong Week 3 in fantasy football.

K.J. Osborn, WR, Minnesota Vikings

FanDuel Salary: $5,700

The Minnesota Vikings have two of the most exciting young wide receivers in the game on their roster this year -- Justin Jefferson and rookie Jordan Addison. But they also have K.J. Osborn, who is the only other wide receiver beyond Jefferson and Addison to run a route for the Vikings through two weeks this year. Only eight players on the Vikings' roster have even seen a target this year, making them one of the most consolidated passing offenses in the league.

That consolidated offense means we can actually bank on each of the Vikings' pass-catchers to see a solid share of the opportunities each week -- unlike teams like the Kansas City Chiefs using five- to seven-receiver rotations on game days. Minnesota's heavy passing volume (fourth-most passes in the league with 88 so far) also means that even their third- and fourth-best pass-catchers have a chance to put up real numbers.

Through two games, Osborn has been targeted by Kirk Cousins 12 times despite being the fourth-best option in their passing game when including T.J. Hockenson. His 12 targets in that span of time are more than several other teams' second receivers' totals and even rival the target volume of some teams' WR1s. Minnesota's passing game is a wellspring of fantasy opportunities.

That puts all of Minnesota's pass catchers (including Osborn) in position for massive production in Week 3 as the Vikings take on the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers' defense is shaping up to be one of the weakest units in the entire league this year, surrendering 877 yards of offense to their opponents in just two games -- the most in the league. 666 of those yards have come through the air, which also ranks the most in the league. That's not super surprising considering their Week 1 opponent was the Miami Dolphins, but they followed up their Week 1 loss by allowing Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans to average over 10 yards per pass attempt in Week 2. Their passing defense could be the worst in the league, setting up all Vikings receivers for big time fantasy outings.

This game has the highest implied points total on the slate by a wide margin (53.5). Osborn is available on waivers in most season-long leagues and carries a modest $5,700 salary on FanDuel, but the stars are aligning for him to have his best game of the year this weekend.

Jonathan Mingo, WR, Carolina Panthers

FanDuel Salary: $5,100

It's not fun to recommend a wide receiver whose starting quarterback is expected to miss their team's Week 3 game, but the underlying metrics for Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo indicate that he's on the precipice of a breakout in fantasy football. While Bryce Young may be forced to sit out the Panthers' Week 3 contest, fantasy managers can at least take a small comfort in knowing that backup quarterback Andy Dalton can at least deliver the ball to his playmakers better than the typical backup.

The Panthers' offensive struggles have somewhat obscured Mingo's strong role. The 2023 second-round pick has quietly played 87% and 98% of the team's offensive snaps through the first two weeks and surprisingly leads the team in targets (13). Unfortunately, he has only caught 5 of those targets for 43 yards so far.

We can partially explain his low reception rate on where he runs his routes. The team's other top pass-catchers -- Adam Thielen and Hayden Hurst -- have operated close to the line of scrimmage so far this season. Those veterans each have average depths of target (aDOT) of seven or fewer yards, illustrating their usage in the short-passing game. By comparison, Mingo's 14.8 aDOT is over double either of his compatriots'. Only seven other receivers in the league have earned a higher share of their teams' air yards than Mingo's 42.6% share, and each of the players with greater shares of their teams' air yards are fantasy studs in their own rights. With his surprising target share and usage down the field, it's clear the Panthers are banking on Mingo to generate the explosive plays for their offense. He hasn't connected with Bryce Young on many of those opportunities yet, but the two young rookies should build on their chemistry as the season progresses.

Week 3 would be a great opportunity for Mingo to get things going -- even if he's catching passes from Andy Dalton. The Panthers are slated to take on the Seattle Seahawks, who have allowed opposing passers to post an elite 8.7 yards per attempt (third-highest) so far this season and have only generated two sacks (fourth-fewest). The Seahawks aren't pressuring quarterbacks and aren't punishing them for pushing the ball down the field, setting Mingo up for the first (of hopefully many) big game of his career.

Kendre Miller, RB, New Orleans Saints

FanDuel Salary: $4,600

We haven't seen New Orleans Saints rookie running back Kendre Miller make his NFL debut yet, but we could see a lot of him in Week 3 as the Saints take on the Green Bay Packers. The third-round pick suffered a hamstring injury just before the season began but is now expected to be a full go in practice leading up to this Sunday.

The Saints have been without starting back Alvin Kamara to start the season while he serves out his three game suspension. His backup, Jamaal Williams, suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2. With only Tony Jones Jr. left standing to compete for touches, Miller has a huge opportunity to prove his mettle in Week 3 before Kamara returns.

The Saints look like they want to be a run-heavy offense. Williams handled 18 carries -- sixth-most in the league -- in the season opener before adding another 9 carries in just a quarter and change of action in Week 2. That's top notch usage for a running back, setting Miller up for a potentially explosive debut.

Miller was an exciting rushing prospect coming out of TCU, so we're eager to see what he can accomplish on an NFL field. He forced a committee with a five-star prospect in his second college season and arguably single-handedly led his team to the College Football Playoff last year. In that final season, Miller rushed the ball 224 times for 1,399 yards and 17 yards, maintaining elite 6.2 yards-per-carry efficiency in the face of heavy rushing volume. He's obviously not a Bijan Robinson-level prospect, but we're excited to see what he can do against a Packers defense that Robinson just carved up back in Week 2.

Tyjae Spears, RB, Tennessee Titans

FanDuel Salary: $4,800

Tyjae Spears is having a really fun start to his NFL career. The 2023 third-round pick is already seeing a surprising amount of work beside -- not behind -- Derrick Henry for the Tennessee Titans this year and looks like he's also on the precipice of a breakout.

In his first two games, Spears has carried the ball 11 times for an impressive 76 yards (6.9 yards per carry) while drawing 6 targets in the passing game. His 6.7 aDOT ranks first among qualifying running backs, illustrating how he's been more than just a third-down dump-off option in the passing game. We really haven't ever seen a running back earn this much usage on a Derrick Henry-led team, but Spears has earned his spot. His 89.7 PFF rushing grade ranks first among all running backs so far this season.

Week 3 could be Spears' moment in the spotlight. The Titans are slated to play the Cleveland Browns and could grab an early lead if Deshaun Watson continues to play as poorly as he has. The Browns' defense looks good on paper through two weeks but really has only played against an injury-hampered Joe Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals in a downpour and against a Pittsburgh Steelers offense that could rank among the worst in the league. If the Titans get out ahead in this one, we should see a lot more of Spears than we've already been seeing so far. He's been too efficient to ignore this year and now has a chance to see his heaviest workload yet.

Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals

FanDuel Salary: $5,100

As we are all aware, the tight end position is kind of a mess in fantasy football. Sometimes, all you really want from the position is a guy you know is going to catch a few passes. That's exactly what Zach Ertz will offer you this weekend as his Arizona Cardinals face the Dallas Cowboys' brutal defense.

As if we turned the time dial back to 2018, Ertz is surprisingly leading the NFL in targets at the tight end position with 18 through two weeks. He's caught 12 of those for 77 yards, earning him a 1.40 yards per route run mark -- the 13th-best at the position. The 32-year-old is at it again this season.

Ertz is getting a ton of volume this year operating as Arizona's short option in the passing game and could be in for a big night in Week 3 against a Cowboys defense that is bringing the heat this year. The Cowboys have pressured opposing quarterbacks at an absurd 32.1% rate so far this season and have a league-best 10 sacks already. They'll be putting the pressure on Cardinals starter Joshua Dobbs, which could lead to a ton of underneath looks to Ertz as a result.

Ertz flew under the offseason radar due to the Cardinals' poor 2023 outlook, his age, the knee injury he suffered in 2022, and the presence of 2022 rookie pass-catching tight end Trey McBride. He has assuaged those concerns this year and should continue putting up fantasy-relevant numbers as long as he stays healthy.


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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.