As we count the milliseconds before Sunday’s full slate of action, it is essential that we examine the sleepers that are most likely to help fantasy owners prevail in week 1. While the sleepers in this column will be proportioned based upon the current events of each particular week, it just so happens that we currently have a preponderance of injuries to some high profile WRs and RBs. This in turn has created a surplus of players at those two positions who have been elevated into the role of sleepers. With that, here are some players who are worth consideration if you prefer to take advantage of matchups and potentially enhance your scoring total this week.
Robert Turbin (vs. Cardinals)
If you are a Marshawn Lynch owner and don’t already have Turbin on your roster, stop reading this for a moment, and grab Turbin immediately. In fact, if Turbin is available in your league secure him right now - period. Then monitor Lynch’s back issues very closely leading up to Sunday. Turbin’s presence on the roster will provide peace of mind for Lynch owners, since Seattle’s game is a late afternoon start, and you will be covered regardless of which back starts. And if it’s Turbin who ultimately lines up against Arizona, he has the speed and athleticism to be very effective against a Cardinal rush defense that ranked just 21st in 2011. Any owner can feel very confident starting him.
Jonathan Dwyer (vs. Broncos)
During the summer, Dwyer appeared to be Pittsburgh’s best RB. Now, he might have the chance to demonstrate that he is. Issac Redman’s ankle injury has created uncertainty concerning his availability, and may propel Dwyer into the No.1 slot. He was far more impressive than Redman throughout August, and amassed 147 yards on 28 attempts (5.3 YPC). While that nearly matched his career total during his first two years he is currently healthy, and Redman would need to recover very quickly to keep Dwyer from capturing a major role in Sunday Night’s opener. Even though Rashard Mendenhall shocked the world by practicing this week, the chances of him becoming a major contributor in Denver appear slim.
Ronnie Brown (vs. Raiders) The Ronnie Brown who generated 1,008 rushing yards in 2006 will not be suiting up for San Diego on Monday Night. However, the 2012 version of Brown may be in a position to produce sizably for anyone in search of a temporary fix at RB. While he might be utilized as the Chargers’ feature back, there is definite risk that he will only be employed as part of yet another dreaded committee. Plus, there have been signs during the preseason that Oakland’s run defense has improved. If you plan on starting him, also be aware that in his last 242 carries he has produced an unimpressive 3.5 YPC.
Kendall Wright (vs. Patriots)
Kenny Britt’s suspension has opened the pathway for Wright to make his NFL debut as a starter this Sunday in Nashville. Not only does Wright have the obvious opportunity that comes with ascending beyond backup status, but he will also be lining up against New England. The Patriots ranked a lowly 31st against the pass last season, while allowing 294 YPG. Even with the offseason improvements, their defensive unit will remain vulnerable. Wright has the quickness and size to deliver excellent numbers as a week 1 start, if you are looking for a boost to your WR3 slot.
Rod Streater (vs. Chargers) As a senior at Temple in 2011, Streater only caught 19 passes. But he made an immediate impact as a Raider by nearly matching that total during the preseason. Not only did he garner the second most receptions among all NFL WRs (18), but his 165 yards also placed him ninth overall. Denarius Moore’s hamstring has been an issue since mid-June, and Jacoby Ford’s sprained left foot continues to impede his participation. Streater could easily start for Oakland on Monday Night. And even if Moore is able to perform, Carson Palmer is now very comfortable throwing to Streater, and will look for him.
Brandon LaFell (vs. Buccaneers) After manufacturing just 74 receptions and four TDs in his first two seasons, the third year wideout is now the clear No. 2 option in Carolina. He will face a Tampa Bay secondary that yielded 238 YPG through the air last season, along with a whopping 30 TDs. Only two teams permitted more scores, and LaFell could jump start his season by producing one against the Buccaneers on Sunday. He possesses a size advantage that will supply Cam Newton with a tempting red zone target.
Russell Wilson (vs. Cardinals) There aren’t many owners scrambling for a solution at QB just yet. Although injuries and performance issues will create some quandaries, and thrust some signal callers into the sleeper role later this season. But if anyone who drafted QBs late in their drafts is now underwhelmed with the matchups awaiting their QBs, Wilson is the closest thing to a sleeper in week 1. Lynch or Turbin will do the majority of heavy lifting for Seattle, as they control the ball and clock against Arizona. But Wilson displayed his elusiveness during the preseason by running for 150 yards. Which actually ranked him 15th in rushing. He will generate yardage on the ground and via the air.
Kyle Rudolph (vs. Jaguars) As a rookie in 2011, Rudolph established his season high of 44 yards in week 4. Now, he could easily surpass that total this Sunday against Jacksonville. At 6’6”, and 265 pounds, Rudolph will present matchup problems throughout the season. And he possesses the receiving and blocking skills to become a mainstay in Minnesota’s lineup. He could be the Vikings second best receiving option behind Percy Harvin this year, and is definitely worth a week 1 start if you do not own one of the elite TEs.
Seahawks DST (vs. Cardinals) I’ve been singing the praises of this unit throughout the summer. But for some reason, they continue to be underestimated by many analysts. They ranked ninth in total defense last season, and should be equally stingy this year. Plus, they have the benefit of lining up against the not-so-explosive offenses of their NFC West division rivals six times. Including Sunday, when they face an Arizona team with shaky options at RB, and a horrific situation at QB.
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