By Jack Thomason-
(CBS) Who is in need of some spot-start sleepers? You may have some key players on byes this week (the 49ers and Giants are off) or maybe just have some struggling starters. Whatever the case may be, here’s a list of players at each position who I believe could put up some solid points.
As always, I will say this: Don’t start these guys over your studs who have tough matchups. That should go without saying, but I did have several questions around this topic last week. Unless your stud is hurt, on a bye or no longer can be classified as such, you play them. Enjoy as always and good luck.
Kyle Orton (Buffalo Bills) – In each of his three starts, Orton has attempted at least 38 passes and thrown for no fewer than 283 yards. He may be good for a turnover or two, but his attempts, yardage and two scores in each of his last two games makes him a nice sleeper option. Couple that with the fact the Jets have allowed a league-leading 18 passing touchdowns, three more than any other team, and things continue to look up for Orton. Divisional games can often shake out much different than the stats tell us, but I like this matchup for Orton.
Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins) – Tannehill is coming off his best game of the season. He walked into Chicago’s Soldier Field and dominated, completing 78 percent of his passes for 277 yards two touchdowns and rushing for 48 yards on six carries. He’s tossed 10 touchdowns on the season, and Miami’s already had a bye. That’s good for 13th-best in the NFL. Up next is the lowly Jaguars pass defense that ranks 30th in yards per game and has given up 12 touchdowns through the air. Get Tannehill in your lineups.
Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders) – McFadden isn’t getting much love — and rightfully so. He’s averaging a meager 3.8 yards per carry, but in this day and age of committee running backs, touches are king. And in his last four games, McFadden has averaged 18 per game. He only has one touchdown in that span and has averaged 69.5 yards, so he is no world beater, but this is a sleeper column, and he gets the hapless Browns next. Cleveland is allowing five yards per carry and a league-worst 156 rush yards per game. We saw last week what the Jaguars, then the NFL’s worst rush offense, was able to do. So if there’s ever a game to spot start McFadden, this is it.
Travaris Cadet (New Orleans Saints) – Pierre Thomas is out for two to three weeks with a shoulder injury in New Orleans. Cadet is set to take over the receiving back role, and his nine targets were second on the team last week. In a likely shootout against the Green Bay Packers, Cadet should see plenty of work. He caught six balls for 51 yards against the Lions, and in the last three weeks he’s accumulated 15 receptions, 129 yards and a touchdown. With Jimmy Graham banged up and Thomas out, look for Drew Brees to target Cadet often in a must-win game.
Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks) – Baldwin was one of my top 10 waiver adds this week. After Percy Harvin’s departure, Baldwin seems to have taken the reins as the No. 1 receiver in Seattle. He had a career-high 11 targets last week and cashed them in for seven receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin’s no stranger to the spotlight either. He had six catches for 106 yards in the NFC title game and caught all five targets for 66 yards and a score in the Super Bowl. This is a role he welcomes with open arms. Russell Wilson has been red hot as of late, and the dynamic duo gets a Panthers defense that has been abysmal this year. Carolina has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers and is the second-worst in the NFL with 15 aerial touchdowns allowed.
John Brown (Arizona Cardinals) – This guy is a big play waiting to happen. Last week, Brown and Carson Palmer missed by very little on a few long shots. However, they did hook up for a nice 22-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Brown has been targeted fewer than five times only once this season, and Palmer is nearing 100 percent health. This bodes well for his ability to throw down the field, which benefits Michael Floyd and Brown. Philadelphia has given up the eighth-most points to receivers, and with three touchdowns already this season, Brown looks like a nice WR3/flex play. He’s an all-or-nothing player in his young career, but we are shooting for “all” this week against Philly.
Charles Clay (Miami Dolphins) – Why not ride the hot hand and stick with one of Tannehill’s biggest beneficiaries in Clay? He snagged four of his five targets and turned them into 58 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. Many expected better, more consistent numbers from Clay this year after a strong finish to 2013, but it hasn’t happened thus far. After coming off his best game, he looks to build upon it, traveling to Jacksonville. The Jaguars are permitting the seventh-most fake football points to opposing tight ends. This is as good a week as any to fire up Clay. Look for low-end-to-solid TE1 numbers.
Clay Harbor (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Since Marcedes Lewis has been injured, Harbor has been a nice fill-in. In four games, Harbor has at least 70 yards twice, once with a touchdown. Not to mention, he has at least four targets in each contest. Miami is middle of the pack in points allowed to tight ends, but lowly Jacksonville will have to throw plenty, as usual. Plus, the Dolphins have the league’s 1oth-best run defense when it comes to rushing yards per game — yet another sign the Jaguars will need to throw often. There is TE2 appeal here.
Other considerations: Mike Glennon, Geno Smith, Theo Riddick, Anthony Dixon, Jarvis Landry, Martavis Bryant, Gavin Escobar and Jermaine Gresham.
Jack Thomason was the winner of the 2014 Bud Light Fantasy Expert Contest and is the co-host of Fantasy Streamers. Follow him on Twitter @jthomason77 and feel free to ask fantasy questions.