Fantasy Football: 6 Sleepers for Week 4
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 Week 4 Sleepers
Bryce Young / Andy Dalton, QB, Carolina Panthers
FanDuel Salary: $6,800/$6,800
One of the easiest ways to scrounge up fantasy points off of your waiver wires is to figure out which teams have the best matchups for the upcoming week and to target players on those teams.
They may have hired Brian Flores to lead their defense in the offseason, but even Flores is having trouble overcoming the personnel issues that persisted from last year when the Vikings' defense allowed the second-most yards (6,670) and third-most points (427) in the entire NFL. The Vikings are going to be a team to target aggressively with streamers this season, which puts whichever quarterback they face on the map each week in fantasy.
In Week 4, they'll face either Bryce Young (ankle) or Andy Dalton depending on whether or not Young can get cleared in time for Sunday. The Panthers' passing game looked stagnant in the opening weeks of the year against solid defenses but was revitalized in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks. We'll hope to see more performances like Week 3 going forward regardless of who is under center, but it's fair to be optimistic about their offense in this matchup.
It was easy to dismiss the Panthers' offense as slow and stale in the first two weeks of the season -- and even to assign some of the blame to Young in his first NFL games -- but those critiques ignore that the Panthers were missing their vertical receiver and were leaning on a 33-year-old slot receiver with an injured ankle to move the chains for them. With D.J. Chark back to full speed and Adam Thielen off the injury report, the offense looked functional in Week 3.
We'll be expecting either of Carolina's quarterbacks to put up solid fantasy numbers with healthy pass-catchers against the Vikings' struggling defense.
D.J. Chark, WR, Carolina Panthers
FanDuel Salary: $6,000
Speaking of Panthers lined up to face the Vikings in Week 4, D.J. Chark is widely available on waiver wires this week and has the opportunity to blow up against the Vikings' secondary.
Chark was an offseason standout for the Panthers this summer, with reporters noting how the veteran deep threat was building chemistry with his young quarterback. A hamstring injury late in training camp cost Chark the first game of the season and limited him to a part-time role in Week 2, but the former second-round pick popped off with a full workload in Week 3 -- he caught 4 of 11 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks.
Eleven targets. That is a ton of volume for an NFL wide receiver. What makes his huge target volume even more notable is that he maintained a whopping 17.1-yard average depth of target (aDOT) across them. Catching just 4 of those targets was good enough to get him 86 yards and a score in Week 3, but we're talking about serious fantasy football upside if he ever manages to reel in over 50% of those opportunities.
The Vikings are blitzing opposing passers on 63% of their drop backs, the highest rate in the league by over 10 percentage points, but they are generating pressure on those quarterbacks at the sixth-lowest rate in the league. By sending so many defenders at the quarterback, they're leaving their secondary understaffed. And since their pass rush isn't getting home, that vulnerable secondary is getting roasted constantly.
The Panthers will be sending Chark out into that secondary on nearly every drop back, setting him up for a potentially massive fantasy day.
Marvin Mims, WR, Denver Broncos
FanDuel Salary: $5,400
Mims has only been allowed to run 27 routes for his team this season, just the seventh-most on the Broncos. Over 100 other wide receivers in the NFL have run more routes than Mims so far this season, and until we see that number come up a bit, he's at a huge risk of putting up a dud in the box score.
That said, Mims has been hands-down the league's most efficient wide receiver this year. He is averaging an out-of-this-world 7.22 yards per route run through three weeks, far and away the best mark in the entire NFL. He's earned 9 targets on his 27 routes (an also-impressive 33% targets per route run rate), catching 7 of those for 195 yards and a touchdown.
He even ran back a 99-yard kick return touchdown in Week 3 and took his only punt return for 45 yards. He is an electric playmaker and a must-roster player for fantasy football, even while the Broncos stubbornly insist on having "Brandon Johnson" play ahead of him.
Quite frankly, we haven't seen a player show this much efficiency and play-making ability out of the gates since Tyreek Hill's debut season with the Kansas City Chiefs. And unlike Hill, who entered the league as a fifth-round pick and as a relatively unheralded prospect, Mims has an elite track record of production dating back through his college career with the Oklahoma Sooners.
This is exactly the kind of production the Broncos were hoping Mims would be capable of when they traded up to draft him in the second round this year. After the team's Week 3 meltdown against the Miami Dolphins, they're probably looking to make some significant changes -- and there's no more obvious change to make than getting Mims on the field as often as possible.
Even if you can't start him with confidence in your fantasy lineups this week, you're going to want to make sure you get Mims on your season-long rosters as soon as possible.
Matt Breida, RB, New York Giants
FanDuel Salary: $6,500
The New York Giants did not rise to the occasion when they took on the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football in Week 3. The team mustered up just 150 total yards of offense and finished the night with 12 total points. It was their second disaster in three weeks, though we shouldn't forget that the team nearly lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, as well. They're shaping up to be one of the worst teams in the entire NFL.
However, running back fantasy points are hard to come by on the waiver wire, and Giants backup Matt Breida looks like the go-to guy with Saquon Barkley (ankle) sidelined. Though he only rushed the ball four times in Week 3, the Giants should have a slightly better time against the Seahawks in Week 4.
Through the first three weeks of the season, only three teams have given up more points (88) or yards (1,222) than the Seahawks have, and one of those teams (the aforementioned Broncos) is fresh off of a record-breakingly bad loss. The Seahawks' defense might just be weak enough to let the Giants play some actual offense.
If New York can put up a fight this week, we're expecting to see Breida handle the majority of the running back work ahead of teammate Gary Brightwell. Breida has a track record in his career of putting up occasional fantasy-relevant production and was given the red zone opportunity in Week 3, meaning he could be a flex-worthy start in fantasy football this weekend if Barkley remains sidelined.
Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans
FanDuel Salary: $5,300
The Houston Texans have looked surprisingly feisty to start the year, mainly on the back of rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, who, as last week's sleeper quarterback, finished as the QB12 in fantasy with 20.6 FanDuel points. While Stroud has been setting rookie passing records through the air, the Texans' ground game has left a lot to be desired.
Starting running back Dameon Pierce has been having a brutal start to his season. The team's poor offensive line has been letting defenders through on a frequent basis, leading to Pierce averaging just 1.4 yards before contact per attempt (seventh-lowest among qualifying backs).
However, it is fair to question how much Pierce himself has contributed to these issues. According to Next Gen Stats, only two backs in the league are taking longer paths to the line of scrimmage than Pierce is this year, and they're not two backs you'd like to be statistically associated with (Cam Akers and Dalvin Cook).
Likewise, only four other backs have spent more time behind the line of scrimmage per carry than Pierce, which could be an indicator that he's trying to do too much instead of just taking the yards he can gain.
By comparison, teammate Devin Singletary has been getting a bit more done with his rushing opportunities than Pierce and could earn his coaches' favors if these trends continue. Singletary has been averaging 2.4 yards before contact (a full yard more than Pierce) and has been getting to the line of scrimmage a third of a second faster than his teammate on average.
It's been helping him produce yardage more efficiently than Pierce, too. Per numberFire, Singletary has averaged -0.10 Net Expected Points per rush attempt this year, while Pierce has managed just -0.22. Neither back has been great in that regard, but Singletary comes out on top when we compare the Net Expected Points they've generated per carry.
Singletary has seen his role increase slightly through each game this season, though he's still playing under half of Houston's snaps. That makes him tricky to trust as a fantasy football starter in Week 4, but he's an appealing running back to stash as a handcuff with the potential to earn more work.
The Texans' offensive line will hopefully be returning some of their banged-up starters (like Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard) in the coming weeks, which could help make their running game look a lot better in support of Stroud.
Noah Fant, TE, Seattle Seahawks
FanDuel Salary: $5,000
The tight end position is rarely pretty for fantasy football, and sometimes all you can really hope for is a shot at an end zone target or a soft matchup on paper. That's what Seattle Seahawks tight end Noah Fant can give you in Week 4.
Note that there could be better options available in your leagues. We try not to target Thursday Night Football players in this column, but Green Bay Packers rookie Luke Musgrave is an exciting young tight end drawing targets down the field, and Los Angeles Chargers veteran Gerald Everett could see an increased workload after the team lost wideout Mike Williams to the injured reserve. If either of those players are available in your leagues, it's perfectly justifiable to target them over Fant.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming, the Seahawks have been taking a bold stance with their personnel packages this season. Despite drafting first-round wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to join veterans Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, the Seahawks have fielded 11-personnel groupings (three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back) at the seventh-lowest rate in the league while fielding packages with multiple tight ends on almost 50% of their offensive snaps.
This has led to Lockett and Metcalf continuing their dominance in the Seahawks' receiver room, but it has also led to a surprising amount of receiving production from their trio of tight ends: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, and Colby Parkinson.
In Week 3, the Seahawks had to rule out Dissly with a shoulder injury, leaving just Fant and Parkinson to handle their tight end duties. The pair responded well, posting 7 combined catches for 79 yards in the victory. With Dissly's status in doubt again for Week 4, we might actually be able to rely on Fant or Parkinson for fantasy points against the Giants.
The Giants are quietly shaping up to be a smash spot for opposing tight ends. While they haven't allowed a touchdown to any yet -- despite the Dallas Cowboys' repeated efforts to get Jake Ferguson to actually catch one of his multiple wide-open end zone targets -- only two teams have allowed more targets to the tight end position than New York has, and only one team has given up more receiving yards to opposing tight ends. We should be seeing TE1 performances from the Giants' opponents on a near-weekly basis at some point this season.
Anecdotally, it feels worth pointing out that beat reporters this summer were insistent that veteran tight end Darren Waller had looked unguardable going against their own secondary during training camp. Given how distinctly guardable the veteran tight end has looked through three weeks this season, it feels fair to retroactively call this an indictment of their secondary as much as it was an endorsement of Waller.
It's a continuation of a trend from last year, as well, when the team gave up serious yardage to any real pass-catching tight end threats. Both of T.J. Hockenson's 100-yard games as a member of the Vikings came against the Giants.
That puts both Fant and Parkinson in a good setup to produce fantasy points in Week 4. Parkinson has been surprisingly solid over the last two seasons for Seattle, but Fant has first-round draft capital pedigree behind him and the kind of long speed you rarely see in tight ends, so we're giving him the edge when it comes to their Week 4 output. The former Broncos tight end runs routes on a slightly higher percentage of his snaps than his teammate does, as well, meaning he should get more bites at the apple on game day.
If you're in a pinch for tight end production this year, you could probably do worse than targeting whichever tight end gets to play the Giants.
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.