Identifying sleepers is paramount in fantasy football, as the NFL’s premier players typically perform at a similar level each week. Thus, it’s the guys who round out your roster who oftentimes decide whether you flounder, or bask in victorious glory.
Many fantasy football owners are in a tough spot as we head into Week 7 of the 2016 NFL season. Injuries are piling up in the NFL, and the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys have a bye, which waters down the player pool.
While it’s undoubtedly difficult to overcome losing a starter, it’s not impossible. With that in mind, here’s a look at five potential fantasy football sleepers for Week 7.
Torrey Smith, WR – San Francisco 49ers
Torrey Smith wasn’t much of a factor in fantasy football through the first five weeks of the 2016 NFL season, tallying just nine receptions for 106 yards and one TD while the San Francisco 49ers were starting Blaine Gabbert under center.
In Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills, the 49ers started Colin Kaepernick, and Smith was finally relevant once again. Torrey finished the game with three receptions for 76 yards and one TD to the delight of fantasy owners worldwide.
What was most encouraging from a fantasy football perspective was the fact that Kaepernick targeted Smith seven times. With Gabbert at quarterback, Torrey had been targeted only seven times combined over the three weeks prior to the switch.
In Week 7, Smith has an ideal matchup with the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, which means he could provide tremendous value in both redraft and daily fantasy leagues.
However, according to David Fucillo of Niners Nation, Smith was limited in practice on Thursday with a back injury that is thought to have occurred on Wednesday. Thus, it’s important to monitor the situation and act accordingly.
Hunter Henry, TE – San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have dealt with a myriad of injuries on offense this season, and have been forced to ask rookie tight end Hunter Henry to contribute on a regular basis much sooner than expected.
Thus far, Henry’s been spectacular. He’s tallied 19 receptions for 310 yards and three TDs on the season.
In Week 6, Hunter made the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos look incredibly foolish in front of a national audience on Thursday Night Football, finishing with six receptions for 83 yards and one TD.
In Week 7, San Diego travels to Atlanta to take on the Falcons on the fast track of the Georgia Dome, and Atlanta’s been terrible against tight ends this season.
Thus, you can expect Henry to once again provide a gargantuan amount of value in what can only be described as an especially favorable matchup.
Marcus Mariota, QB – Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota’s been on fire over the past two weeks, tallying a total of 447 passing yards and six passing TDs, to go along with 124 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground.
In Week 7, the Titans host the Indianapolis Colts, who gave up 269 yards and two TDs to Brock Osweiler (who stinks) of the Houston Texans in Week 6.
Thus, fantasy football owners can expect Mariota to electrify for the third straight week, tallying 300 total yards and three total TDs at minimum on Sunday.
Brandon LaFell, WR – Cincinnati Bengals
After having a disappointing first quarter of the 2016 season, Brandon LaFell has been back on track of late. Over the past two weeks, LaFell’s tallied 10 receptions for 81 yards and two TDs.
Most importantly for fantasy football concerns, Bengals QB Andy Dalton has targeted Brandon 22 times over the last three games, and is not afraid to throw it his way in the red zone.
In Week 7, Cincinnati hosts the lowly Cleveland Browns, who have been abysmal on defense in 2016. Expect LaFell to hit paydirt for the third straight week.
Mike Gillislee, RB – Buffalo Bills
According to ESPN‘s Josina Anderson, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) will not play against the Miami Dolphins in Week 7.
I'm told #Bills RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring) is not playing this Sunday and could miss more time thereafter, depending on healing.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 20, 2016
That means fourth-year running back Mike Gillislee will start in McCoy’s place against the Dolphins, and likely be given 20 touches in Buffalo’s run-first offense.
Back in August, I wrote about Gillislee being a fantasy football sleeper that no one was talking about, and this was exactly the scenario I envisioned could come to fruition.
Rex Ryan loves to run the ball, and the Bills do so more than any other team in the league. Thus, you can expect Gillislee to flourish against the mediocre run defense showcased by the Miami Dolphins this week.
Multiple sources reported on Friday that McCoy was able to practice.
However, he’s still questionable at best. And I think Buffalo will hold him out a week.
Make sure to monitor this situation and act accordingly.
[Featured Image by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images]