Week 4’s top five fantasy football sleepers are a wide receiver heavy group.
5- Chris Ivory (NYJ), $6,100 vs (DET)
Ivory has a tough task running against the Lions defense. Pro Football Focus ranks them as the fifth best run defense this year, and Football Outsiders grades them as the second best run defense. That type of matchup would be reason to fade the vast majority of players, but Ivory’s price point and talent level are too great to pass up. Seriously, he’s an elite running back that both doesn’t get his due from the fantasy community, or his own damn coaching staff. The fact that he’s sharing touches with Chris Johnson is a farce. Ivory has earned Pro Football Focus’ second highest elusive rating among running backs with 25% of their team’s attempts this season, and he has the highest yards after contact per attempt (Yco/Att). It’s more than a flash in the pan, too. Ivory finished last season with the third highest Yco/Att and ranked tied for fifth in elusive rating. Like I said, a stud and a worthy inclusion in this week’s top five fantasy football sleepers.
4- Stevie Johnson (SF), $6,750 vs (PHI)
Ancillary pieces are going to have value in the 49ers and Eagles contest, and Johnson’s eruption in week three could be a sign of developing chemistry in his first year with Colin Kaepernick. Vernon Davis was a limited practice participant on Thursday, and even if he’s a go this week, he’s clearly less than 100%. Johnson was the second most targeted 49ers receiver in week 3, and he reeled in all nine of his targets for a team leading 103 yards receiving. Expecting a duplication of that production is too ambitious for my liking, but a matchup with the Eagles could be fruitful. Pro Football Focus ranks the Eagles 17th in pass coverage and Football Outsiders ranks them 21st defending the pass. Breaking things down further, Football Outsiders grades the Eagles 13th defending “other” wide receivers, and Johnson is clearly not the number one or two on the 49ers. There is some bust potential here, but I want a piece of a game in which the 49ers are 4.5 point favorites with a 50.5 point total according to Vegas Insider.
3- Malcom Floyd (SD), $7,350 vs (JAX)
Floyd basically epitomizes boom or bust, but that’s the type of chance I have to take when putting together the top five fantasy football sleepers. He’s a huge receiver and a deep threat. Floyd has only been targeted 10 times this year according to Pro Football Focus, but six of those targets have been more than 20 yards (tied for the ninth most among wide receivers), and he’s caught all three catchable deep targets. The Chargers should torch the Jaguars, there is a reason they are 13 point favorites, and with a 45 point total, that’s some serious point scoring. Even if the Chargers salt the lead away on the ground, that leaves some early point scoring to be done against a bad Jaguars secondary. Pro Football Focus grades the Jaguars as the third worst pass coverage defense, and Football Outsiders grades them 28th defending the pass. The Jaguars have also struggled mightily against receivers according to Football Outsiders ranking 20th against number two receivers and 31st defending other wide receivers that aren’t number ones.
2- Kenny Stills (NO), $7,650 @ (DAL)
Stills isn’t the big wide receiver Floyd is, but he’s a home run threat in a game with a higher point total (53.5 with the Saints as a three point favorite). The second year wide receiver only received 46 targets last year, his first in the league, but a whopping 14 of them were for 20 yards or more. Six of those passes were catchable, he caught all six, and turned five into touchdowns. This year Stills has only played in two games and been thrown at seven times, none for more than 20 yards. That’s the semi-bad news. The good news is that of 72 Saints snaps in week three, Stills was on the field for 42 and ran pass routes on 11 according to Pro Football Focus. If he’s healthy enough to be on the field for that many plays, it’s only a matter of time before he’s breaking off big receptions like he did last season. There are other mouths to feed in the Saints passing game, but against a bad secondary like the Cowboys, Stills might not need more than a couple targets to pay off being used. Pro Football Focus ranks the Cowboys 27th in pass coverage and Football Outsiders ranks them 16th defending the pass. The good news for Stills is that Football Outsiders grades the Cowboys ninth defending number one wide receivers, and an identical 22nd defending number two wide receivers and other wide receivers.
1- Jordan Matthews (PHI), $8,700 @ (SF)
Matthews is pricier than the non-quarterback players I usually like to highlight in my top five fantasy football sleepers, but the reason he gets the nod is because I think the upside is there for him to crack the top 10 at wide receiver in points this week. As is noted in Johnson’s write-up above, the point total in this game is high, and even as an underdog, the Eagles will get theirs. Both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus grade the 49ers better against the run than the pass, and Pro Football Focus has a sizable gap in grades. The latter grades the 49ers as tied for third in run defense, and eighth in pass coverage. Football Outsiders grades the 49ers 14th against the run and 18th defending the pass. Chip Kelly is no dummy, and while he’ll get his running backs involved, he’ll exploit the greater weakness in the 49ers defense, and that’s defending the pass. Back to Matthews though, he was a star in week three. He played 47 snaps, 21 fewer than both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, but he ran 38 pass routes, just six fewer than Cooper. He was the most targeted receiver on the Eagles according to ESPN, with 10 targets compared to nine for Maclin and seven for Cooper. He also tallied two touchdown catches, including an impressive display of body control and a knack for dragging his toes near the boundary on his second grab. Cooper is nothing special, and Matthews is quickly paying dividends on the Eagles spending a second round pick on him this year in the NFL Draft.