Although we rely on big-name players to guide our fantasy football teams to victory, knowing how to locate the sleepers in a given week could be what pushes your team over the edge. With Week 2 of the NFL and fantasy football season on the horizon, here are some sleepers to keep in mind when setting your lineups.
Week 2 fantasy football sleepers | Quarterbacks
Kirk Cousins | Minnesota Vikings @ PHI
All we heard in the offseason was how much more explosive this offense could be. Well, I’d say they were right, with the Vikings, now under Kevin O’Connell, looking to establish the pass, not the other way around for once.
Kirk Cousins looked good in his first game with the new scheme, completing 23 of 32 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 23-7 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Where the verticality was felt was in the connection to Justin Jefferson, who is all but unguardable, accounting for 184 yards and both of Cousins’ touchdowns. The offensive line, which was a question, held up under pressure as Cousins was only sacked once and finished with a QB rating of 118.9.
In Week 2, Cousins takes his team to Philadelphia. The Eagles are coming off a win but did allow Detroit to score 35 points while giving up 386 total yards in the process. The Eagles look powerful in 2022, making this a potentially higher-scoring affair. Cousins comes into fantasy football for Week 2 as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 that would be my top choice of sleepers for the position.
Carson Wentz | Washington Commanders @ DET
Was it pretty? No. But in the end, Carson Wentz delivered and gave fantasy managers a solid outing in Week 1. Although I doubt many started him, Wentz completed 27 of his 41 pass attempts for 313 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars. Wentz also added 12 rushing yards on six carries.
This was an inconsistent day, but Wentz walked away as the QB3 on the week with 29.7 PPR points. He also spread the ball around with Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson (2), and Curtis Samuel, all finding the end zone.
While Wentz won’t throw four touchdowns every week, 41 passing attempts show that kind of volume can help him find weekly fantasy relevance. Plus, he’s got arguably the best group of WRs he’s had yet if Week 1 was any indicator.
Wentz and Co. head to the Motor City to take on the Lions, who are coming down off a three-point loss to the Eagles in which they allowed 38 points and 455 total yards. If you lost someone like Dak Prescott and now are opting to use streamers until he returns, Wentz has a solid matchup for Week 2 and hits the fantasy sleeper list.
Week 2 fantasy football sleepers | Running backs
Jeff Wilson Jr. | San Francisco 49ers @ SEA
It didn’t take long, but we have our first “next man up” scenario. Playing in a torrential deluge in Chicago, Elijah Mitchell took a hit to the side of the knee. He was ruled out within minutes of leaving, and reports say he could miss “at least a few weeks.” Mitchell took six carries for 41 yards before exiting the contest in the second quarter.
In his place was Jeff Wilson Jr. With Trey Sermon now on the Eagles and Tyrion Davis-Price inactive, Wilson was the clear handcuff. He finished the contest with nine carries for 22 yards and caught both targets for eight yards. I care more about the volume as the field conditions were brutal.
When Wilson is healthy, he is one of the best running backs on the 49ers’ roster, especially in short-yardage situations. In 2020, Wilson led the team with seven rushing touchdowns while also registering a team-high 25 red-zone carries. Despite missing half the season in 2021, Wilson ranked second among 49ers rushers in red-zone carries (9).
Given Kyle Shanahan leaving Davis-Price a healthy scratch and giving zero touches to fellow backup and preseason standout Jordan Mason, this is Wilson’s role. Taking on Seattle in Week 2, Wilson will not be a sleeper in a few days as fantasy football managers get ready for Week 2.
Jaylen Warren | Pittsburgh Steelers @ NE
This has nothing to do with what Jaylen Warren did on the field. He had only three carries for seven yards on Sunday. It’s the role he could inherit.
Najee Harris, the league leader in touches last year, went down with a “lower-leg/foot” injury in the fourth quarter. Initial reports varied from a high ankle sprain to some even saying he would be “fine.” However, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport suggested Harris’ injury could be not only foot related but a potential re-aggravation of the Lisfranc injury that Harris sustained in camp.
Given the lack of depth, Warren suddenly would become a very intriguing option for deeper fantasy leagues after winning the No. 2 role over Anthony McFarland and Benny Snell. The matchup against New England is less than ideal, but Warren is a sleeper to keep in mind for fantasy, depending on the news of Harris.
Rex Burkhead | Houston Texans @ DEN
Welp, this didn’t go how we planned. Everyone was excited about the coronation event for Dameon Pierce. Instead, we got a healthy dose of Rex Burkhead. Rather than play second fiddle, Burkhead played 72% of the snaps and dominated the work in overtime.
The do-it-all back had 14 carries for 40 yards and caught five of his eight targets for 30 yards to finish as the RB22 (12 PPR). I try not to make massive swings in perceptions of players over one game, but this might be one we need to re-evaluate completely. I do believe Lovie Smith will hand this over to Pierce, but at the beginning of the season, maybe he just feels more confident in the veteran.
For now, given his ridiculous usage, Burkhead should be considered a Flex option in fantasy for those looking for some stability at the position, not the ceiling. However, Burkhead does make the list of fantasy sleepers for Week 2.
Week 2 fantasy football sleepers | Wide receivers
Joshua Palmer | Los Angeles Chargers @ KC
When I say “injured Chargers receiver,” who do you think of first? I’d be willing to bet most of you first thought of Mike Williams, but this time it’s Keenan Allen finding his way onto the injury report with a hamstring injury.
This leaves a vacancy in the depth chart with another divisional matchup looming, this time against the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs. Joshua Palmer is the likeliest bet to step up. Although he didn’t have much on Sunday — catching three of four targets for a whopping five yards — we know the talent and trust are there.
As a rookie, Palmer averaged over seven targets per game and scored a touchdown in his three games with a 60% snap share, averaging 15.8 PPR/game. Palmer was also efficient when it counted, pulling in three of his five total end-zone targets for scores.
DeAndre Carter did have a better game, including a TD reception, but how much was “right place, right time” as nine different Chargers recorded a reception? And how much was him actually being the guy Justin Herbert trusted? I’ll place my bet on Palmer as the sleeper we target in Week 2 for fantasy football, but if we see another game as we did, a re-adjustment is coming.
Curtis Samuel | Washington Commanders @ DET
After breaking out in 2020 and earning a significant payday, Curtis Samuel missed nearly all but a few snaps last season as a groin injury plagued him all year. Folks, I think he might be back. Samuel led the Commanders in targets with 11 and managed to haul in eight for 55 yards and a TD. He also had four carries for 17 yards and lost a fumble.
For context, Samuel had more touches Sunday (12) than during the entire 2021 season. Health, not talent, has been the only concern for Samuel. If he can stay on the field, he’s going to find his way into starting lineups.
That could happen as soon as Week 2 with the Commanders facing the Lions, who as we talked about with Wentz, gave up a ton of points and yards in Week 1. Not all sleepers need to be names you’ve never heard of before. Sometimes the best sleepers are guys with a known skill set in a prime position after a down year. Samuel might be the post-hype sleeper we all needed for fantasy in 2022.
Robbie Anderson | Carolina Panthers @ NYG
At 3:39 p.m. ET on Sunday, I tweeted, “I see Robbie Anderson is doing Robby Anderson things: 7 targets, 4 receptions, and 27 yards.” Precisely 10 minutes later on the dot, his stat line showed five of eight for 102 yards and a touchdown. I’m not saying I had anything to do with this, but I’m also not saying I didn’t. You make your own conclusions.
The vast majority of Anderson’s production in the season opener came on a 75-yard touchdown reception in the final quarter. But at the same time, Anderson led the team in both targets and receptions despite tying DJ Moore on snaps (100%) and routes ran (33).
The Panthers threw the ball only 27 times, so it’s not out of reach to say more volume for Anderson could be on the way, although I do expect Moore to be the clear No. 1 on this team. Baker Mayfield took some shots, and it paid off, a pattern we could see continue down the road. Odds are Anderson could be hit or miss, but after five straight years of 94+ targets, what other Week 2 sleepers for fantasy football can claim similar volume?
Week 2 fantasy football sleepers | Tight ends
Gerald Everett | Los Angeles Chargers @ KC
The tight end position once again looks like a crap shoot for fantasy outside of the elites or upper-tier options. From that point on, it’s anyone’s guess as you’re hoping they can fall into the end zone to offset the minimal volume.
But one of the popular sleepers might be emerging as Gerald Everett had himself a productive outing in Week 1. Everett caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s victory over the Raiders.
Those who snagged him off the waiver wire last week ended up with a solid value. Everett’s reception and yardage totals have increased every season he’s been in the league, and just last year, he posted career-highs in targets (63), receptions (48), yards (478), touchdowns (4), and catch rate (75%). Additionally, his 11 forced missed tackles were sixth-most among all tight ends.
In Seattle, Everett was on the field quite a bit, finishing with a 12% target share, 63% route participation, and 17% target rate per route run. It just didn’t show up as the Seahawks ranked dead last in attempts (29.1). Los Angeles, in contrast, was third in passing (39.6 att/game), with tight ends representing 21% of the team target share. On Sunday, it was 26.4%.
Herbert will use his tight ends once the Chargers are in the red zone. With Allen looking unlikely to play on a short week, Everett could make it back-to-back weeks with a score. The TE4 of Week 1, I wouldn’t discount another TE1 performance from the top tight-end fantasy sleeper of Week 2.
Robert Tonyan | Green Bay Packers vs. CHI
Making his return from a torn ACL, Robert Tonyan seemed to have the bounce back in his step. Tonyan was targeted five times resulting in three catches for 36 yards, including a 23-yard gain. He was also targeted in the end zone once.
That is where fantasy managers hope Tonyan can get back in rhythm and find some middle ground between league-average efficiency and his outlier 2020 season, where he had more touchdowns (11) than incomplete targets (7).
Green Bay’s passing offense looks rough. Almost as rough as you’d imagine an offense might look after losing arguably the best receiver in football and now are relying on two unproven rookies with questionable pedigrees (Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson), a 29-year-old who hasn’t had 700 yards in four team changes (Sammy Watkins), and a 32-year-old they saved from Houston (Randall Cobb).
If you’re streaming tight ends, Tonyan makes sense, given the current lack of options for Rodgers to rely on until Allen Lazard returns. By no means do I believe the 2020 season will return, but Tonyan could be a sneaky sleeper for Week 2 against a Bears team who relied on mother nature to make the stops for them.