Welcome to our new weekly series where we profile potential fantasy football sleeper picks who can give you a leg up on the competition this coming week and for the rest of the season in your fantasy matchups. My criteria for sleeper selection are players owned in less than 50% of leagues in Yahoo that look primed to break out in a big way. In future weeks, I’ll look to publish this column on Monday or Tuesday so you can really take advantage of these sleeping giants before your league mates snap them up. Without further ado:
RB Ryan Torain (Washington Redskins) – Mike Shanahan seems to be up to his old antics again. Owners of Tim Hightower basked in their reflective glory starting him against the woeful run defense of the St Louis Rams last week. What they didn’t count on was Shanahan yanking Hightower from the line-up in the first quarter and putting in his golden boy Ryan Torain – for good reason I might add. Torain proceeded to rip off 135 yards rushing and a touchdown for his troubles. Hightower has looked lethargic all season so the change up makes sense and as long as Torain continues to chomp up the field in large chunks expect Shanahan to keep feeding him the ball. The one rather large caveat is Torain has a reputation for being as fragile as a porcelain doll so having a strong bench back suited up and ready to go is highly recommended. The Redskins have a bye week this week so this is a delayed gratification pick, but expect Torain to be explosive week 6 and beyond.
Owned in 46% of Yahoo Leagues – 26% Change from Last Week
RB Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots) – Similar to the Redskins, we seem to be witnessing a passing of the torch with the Patriots. Danny Woodhead is injured and BenJarvus Green-Ellis has looked like he’s been stuck in quicksand at times this season. Enter LSU rookie back Stevan Ridley. He goes 97 yards rushing and a touchdown last week. He’s averaging a stout 7.9 yard per carry this season and looks like an explosive presence in the Patriots backfield. I’m not expecting Ridley to immediately supplant Green-Ellis as the Patriots lead back, but they should start to see an even distribution of carries so Ridley can prove his mettle. Belichick is always a fun one to deal with as fantasy RB owners, but coupling the Patriots high scoring offense with the talent of Ridley makes this a tantalizing proposition.
Owned in 42% of Yahoo Leagues – 29% Change from Last Week
RB Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh Steelers) – Rashard Mendenhall was downed by a hamstring injury in week 4 that looks to sideline him for at least a week. Couple this with the fact that Mewelde Moore is hobbled with a high-ankle sprain and you have the new Steelers lead back Isaac Redman. That Steelers offensive line is extremely suspect (just look at the beating Rothlisberger took last week), but with 20+ carries against the Titans expect Redman to put up big numbers. Although Redman shows strong potential and Mendenhall hasn’t been stellar thus far this season, Redman may only be a week 5 and possibly a week 6 play.
Owned in 30% of Yahoo Leagues – 24% Change from Last Week
RB Bernard Scott (Cincinnati Bengals) – What Bengals season wouldn’t be complete without a run in with the law by its players? Lead back Cedric Benson seems to be a week-to-week question mark awaiting his three game suspension to kick in. The league is still evaluating his appeal so he continues to play. His luck can’t last forever though and Bernard Scott will be the beneficiary of Benson’s gameday couch surfing. Talent wise Scott isn’t much of a drop off from Benson, and it’s just a matter of time till the commissioner comes a calling. If you don’t have a bench slot to stash him at currently, watch like a hawk for that suspension ruling because he looks to take off once it’s levied.
Owned in 13% of Yahoo Leagues – -2% Change from Last Week
WR Victor Cruz (New York Giants) – Mario Manningham owners must be groaning after last week’s benching. Rumor has it he has lost his number 2 job to scrappy newcomer Victor Cruz. Cruz initially came on the fantasy radar in week 3 against the Eagles with his 110 yards and three touchdown effort on a mere three catches. He put in a solid 98 yard effort last week as he really begun to cement himself into the Giants receiver line-up in the absence of Steve Smith. Look for Cruz to continue to put up strong numbers as he becomes Eli’s go to guy.
Owned in 48% of Yahoo Leagues – 15% Change from Last Week
WR Jacoby Jones (Houston Texans) – One of the stranger sights last week was watching Andre Johnson crumple up like a sheet of paper on a no contact play. It seems a tweaked hamstring was to blame for the early exit from the Steelers game. Word from Texans camp is that Johnson will miss three games. Up steps Jacoby Jones to fill Johnson’s rather large shoes. Jones may not have the otherworldly talent Johnson does, but he has shown he can put up strong numbers in Johnson’s absence. He posted an average 92 yards a game in his fill-in role for Johnson over two games last year. Expect the Texans to lean harder on Arian Foster to take on more of the offensive load on the ground, but Jones looks to be a solid play here over the next few weeks. Owned in 44% of Yahoo Leagues – 18% Change from Last Week
TE Jared Cook (Tennessee Titans) – Matt Hasselbeck has been a revelation through week 4. He didn’t make the cut for the sleeper file (owned in 52% of leagues), but if you are looking for a solid backup QB who has a real potential to be putting up QB1 numbers by the end of the season, look no further than Hasselbeck if he’s still available. The big question mark in my mind was how would Hasselbeck handle Kenny Britt’s early season exit. The answer was he’d find new playmakers to pick up the slack. That is where Jared Cook comes in. He finished last week’s game against the Browns with two catches for 93 yards including a 80-yard score. Considering Hasselbeck only had 20 throws, Cook looks to benefit as Hasselbeck eases into the new rhythm of his post-Britt receiver corp.
Owned in 35% of Yahoo Leagues – 7% Change from Last Week
Best of luck in your Fantasy matchups this week and have fun patching those bye week holes in your lineup. For those comedy addicts out there, be sure to catch the season 4 premiere of ‘The League’ on FX this Thursday at 10:30pm.