A rash of injuries, especially at the quarterback position, has shaken up the fantasy football landscape through the first two weeks of the season. Hopefully, the injury bug hasn’t struck your team, but even if it has, you can take advantage of lineup changes as they create new opportunities for players — and not just for the backups stepping into jobs. Many of the sleepers included here are seeing an increased workload due to injuries on their roster.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
When a backup quarterback enters the game, there’s no guarantee the team will stick with the same game plan. Fortunately, it looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers will remain an aggressive offence with Mason Rudolph taking over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger.
According to Sports Info Solutions, only Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers attempted more throws of at least 20 yards downfield than Roethlisberger in 2018. After Rudolph entered last week’s game against the Seahawks, he continued to throw downfield at a similar rate. Here’s a comparison of their 20-yard attempts this season.
In Rudolph’s first career start in Week 3, he’ll face a San Francisco 49ers squad that allowed 300 yards to Andy Dalton in Week 2. While Rudolph probably isn’t someone you need to start every week, he could be a streaming option this weekend.
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Daniel Jones is a riskier option than Rudolph because he’s surrounded by less talent in the New York Giants offence. However, Jones ability to run the ball may make up for the Giants less potent passing attack and will allow the team to open up the playbook in ways that haven’t been possible in the Eli Manning era.
The following table, via Sports Info Solutions, shows Jones’ production during his junior year at Duke on scrambles and designed runs (including quarterback draws).
Jones will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first career start — a defence that allowed over 40 rushing yards to three different quarterbacks in 2018 (Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson).
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have a revolving door at wide receiver, but rookie Deebo Samuel leads the team with 63 per cent of the snaps played. As one of the team’s slot receivers — six of his 10 targets have come from the slot, according to Sports Info Solutions — Samuel will have an opportunity to take advantage of a weak Steelers secondary.
Through two games, opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 494 yards and five touchdowns when targeting their slot receivers against Pittsburgh’s defence, per Sports Info Solutions.
This logic could also apply to Marquise Goodwin (21 per cent ownership) and Dante Pettis (28 per cent ownership), who also see playing time in the slot for the 49ers.
Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have a crowded backfield, but there is an obvious trend starting to emerge in how carries are split between Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, and Dare Ogunbowale. When Tampa is playing with a lead, Barber has seen 100 per cent of the touches in the Buccaneers’ backfield.
Since Tampa is unlikely to have a winning season, that fact may not help your fantasy team in the long run, but the Bucs host the Giants in Week 3. This has the potential to be a game Tampa can control throughout, likely leading to a significant workload for Barber.
Ty Montgomery, RB, New York Jets
After getting on the field for just five snaps in Week 1, Ty Montgomery’s snap count climbed to 24 (35 per cent of the Jets snaps) in Week 2. The reason for Montgomery’s increase in usage could stem from Adam Gase’s lack of trust in his backup quarterbacks filling in for Sam Darnold.
According to Sports Info Solutions, 10 of Luke Falk’s 25 pass attempts (40 per cent) failed to travel past the line of scrimmage — the second-highest rate in a game this season. A conservative passing attack bodes well for Montgomery, who is likely to be targeted on a high percentage of those throws when he’s in the game.
In Week 3, Montgomery could also benefit from the New England Patriots typical strategy of taking away their opponent’s best offensive player — in this case, Le’Veon Bell. With the Patriots likely stacking the box to stop the Jets traditional run game, a logical countermove could be to send a high percentage of quick passes to Montgomery out of the backfield or in the slot.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, New England Patriots
Playing behind Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon doesn’t leave a ton of targets available for Phillip Dorsett, but he makes up for the lack of volume with the quality of the targets. Dorsett leads the Patriots with four targets of 20 or more yards downfield, according to Sports Info Solutions, and he’s hauled in all four.
In Week 3, Dorsett will line up against a Jets defence that has allowed 13 plays of 20 or more yards, second-worst in the NFL. Dorsett probably won’t put up huge numbers, but there’s a decent chance he hauls in a couple of deep balls and may be able to score another long touchdown this week.
Super-Sleeper: Devin Smith, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Through Week 2, Dak Prescott is tied with Mahomes for the NFL lead with four touchdown passes that travelled at least 20 yards through the air. Prescott had just seven during the 2018 season, according to Sports Info Solutions. Devin Smith was on the receiving end of one of those touchdown throws in Week 2, and he will likely see more opportunities with Michael Gallup sidelined for a few weeks.
Smith never lived up to expectations as a second-round pick of the Jets in 2015, but he was a dangerous weapon in the deep passing game during his college days at Ohio State.
Devin Smith had more deep receptions (20+ yds) on half as many targets as the rest of the Buckeyes last season pic.twitter.com/ZfO4yyIOjd
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) August 20, 2015
In Week 3, Smith goes up against a Miami Dolphins defence that has already surrendered 102 points. So there should be plenty of scoring opportunities for Smith and the rest of the Cowboys offensive weapons.