Every week I'll dive into some sleepers beyond what we write in Start 'Em and Sit 'Em to help some of you in deeper leagues. Some weeks will have more guys than others, but this should be helpful for those owners in 14- and 16-team leagues.
Sam Bradford (at DET): Bradford has been a pleasant surprise and is the frontrunner for rookie of the year with the Rams at 2-2. And in his past three games he has played well with five touchdowns and three interceptions over that span. He's coming off his best game against Seattle with 289 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and he has a favorable matchup at Detroit. The Lions are among the worst teams against opposing quarterbacks, and Bradford should continue his recent success.
David Garrard (at BUF): Garrard has struggled on the road going back to last year, but he has a favorable matchup this week with the Bills, who have allowed eight passing touchdowns with no interceptions. Garrard is also coming off a strong performance against the Colts in Week 4, and his two best games have come with Mike Sims-Walker doing nothing. Imagine how good Garrard could be if he gets Sims-Walker involved. You’re not going to start Garrard in the majority of leagues, but with Tom Brady on a bye and Michael Vick (ribs) and Jay Cutler (concussion) out, he could be a decent replacement option.
Chris Ivory: (ARI): We’ll include Ladell Betts in this category as well since there’s a strong chance Pierre Thomas (ankle) is out against the Cardinals. Arizona was run over by San Diego last week with Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert each scoring rushing touchdowns. The Cardinals have allowed 155 yards per game on the ground with five rushing touchdowns, and Ivory and Betts could work well in tandem if Thomas is out again. If Thomas starts he would be considered a must-start option, but Ivory and Betts are quality replacements.
Michael Bush (vs. SD): It appears like Darren McFadden (hamstring) is going to miss this game, so Bush is expected to start and get the majority of carries. It’s not a great matchup for Bush, but based on the amount of touches he will get he should be considered a solid flex option in standard leagues and a starter in deep formats. The Chargers have allowed only one rushing touchdown on the season, so keep your expectations for Bush in check if you decide to start him this week.
Tim Hightower (vs. NO): We expect Beanie Wells to carry the running game for the Cardinals this week based on his comments about wanting more touches, but Hightower will still remain part of the action. The Saints have struggled in run defense this year, allowing 138 rushing yards per game with four touchdowns. Even if Wells does well, Hightower can still be productive. Remember, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both scored against the Saints last week.
Felix Jones (vs. TEN): If you’re in dire need of a running back this week then give Jones a chance with the hope the Cowboys stick to their word and give him more touches. Marion Barber has struggled as the starter, and Jones could provide a spark. He hasn’t run well this year, but no one has for the Cowboys. It’s not a great matchup against the Titans, but Jones could always break a long run based on his speed. Again, in a desperate situation, Jones could help you get the job done as a No. 3 option.
Dexter McCluster (at IND): The Colts secondary is banged up, and the Chiefs are rested coming off a bye. McCluster also scored in his previous game in Week 3 against the 49ers, and hopefully his production will start to increase. Dwayne Bowe could also play well in this game since the Colts have allowed six passing touchdowns with only three interceptions on the season. And don’t be surprised if tight end Tony Moeaki finds the end zone again.
Mario Manningham (at HOU): With Eli Manning as the Start of the Week, all of his targets become viable options in this matchup, including Manningham. He started off the year strong before cooling off last week against the Bears, but he could get double digits in Fantasy points this week based on the matchup. The Texans are last in the NFL in pass defense and have allowed eight passing touchdowns on the season. Manningham could do well along with Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith.
Mike Thomas (at BUF): Thomas is playing well for the Jaguars, but their passing game is too inconsistent to consider him a quality Fantasy option. And we're still not sure what's happened to Sims-Walker outside of last year just being a one-year wonder. Someone has to catch the ball in Jacksonville, and Thomas appears to have the most upside of the receivers. He has a favorable matchup this week with the Bills and their banged up secondary.
Steve Johnson (vs. JAC): Johnson is playing well with two touchdowns in his past two games, and this is a great matchup for him in Week 5 against the Jaguars. Lee Evans has struggled this year, so Johnson has picked up the slack, and it's clear Fitzpatrick has faith in him. For a one-week replacement in deeper leagues, Johnson could provide dividends based on the matchup.