In this article KFFL breaks down the fantasy football sleepers of the week. We will avoid marquee names because players of that caliber are rarely benched, regardless of their matchup. Instead, we will focus on the players that make your fantasy lineup decisions stressful each week. Read on to learn which midrange to low-end players you wouldn't necessarily consider that you need to get into your lineup.
Note: All statistics are from Weeks 2 and 5, unless otherwise stated.
Fantasy football sleepers: Running backs
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
Smith may be Arizona's lead RB
Fantasy value: Low-end No. 1
- Mendenhall came back from a knee reconstruction in a strong way by rattling off 81 yards on 14 carries (5.8 per attempt) and scoring once in his season debut. He added two grabs for 20 yards.
- Tennessee has allowed 180.8 offensive yards and 1.25 total touchdowns to the position. Running backs have gashed the Titans through the air - an area Mendy isn't particularly effective - to the tune of 7.5 receptions, 56.8 yards and 0.25 touchdowns.
- Expect considerable running room for the now-healthy veteran back as Tennessee contends with slowing Ben Roethlisberger through the air.
NEW - Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets
Fantasy value: High-end No. 2
- Donald Brown (knee) is out this week, which paves the way for Ballard to see extensive work. His 2.0 yards-per-carry average this season is largely due to his role as a short-yardage and goal line back. He should see close to Brown's average of 16 touches and should be targeted as nothing less than a one-week play on your waiver wire.
- The Jets' youthful defensive front needs to mature faster than expected if they want to right the ship. This group has permitted 134.0 rushing yards, 40.3 receiving yards and 1.50 offensive scores per contest to the position. It doesn't get too much more tempting than that if you're facing a bye week or injury situation and are looking at Ballard for help.
NEW - LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Fantasy value: No. 2 or flex
- Averaging 2.8 yards per carry last week wasn't pretty, but Blount's saving grace was a trip to paydirt. He has touched the ball just 14 times on the year but has 10 totes in the last two weeks.
- The Chiefs' run defense has been gashed by the position for 117.5 rushing yards, 63.3 receiving yards and 1.25 offensive touchdowns, on average, each outing.
- The all-round game of rookie Doug Martin should help exploit the defense and soften them up for the bruising Blount, especially if he gets a chance around the stripe.
Alfonso Smith, Arizona Cardinals vs. Buffalo Bills
Fantasy value: Flex or bench
- Beanie Wells ... done for several weeks. Ryan Williams (shoulder) ... done for the year ... LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) ... still on the mend. Next up ... Smith. He rushed for 54 yards on 17 carries in 2011 in his only game with meaningful attempts. Nothing impressive, but next man up means it is likely Smith's turn this week. Keep an eye on LSH's health status, although Smith should have a role even if Stephens-Howling makes his way back onto the field.
- The Bills are a breeding ground for fantasy success this year, and that shouldn't change this week. The Cardinals have to do something to keep Kevin Kolb upright, which starts with the running game. Buffalo has yielded 154.5 rushing yards, 36.0 aerial yards and 1.75 offensive scores per matchup to the position.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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