With the fantasy football season approaching its latter stages, sleepers are becoming few and far between. By now, most of the surprise or low-profile fantasy studs have been picked up and invested in by owners in most leagues.
But as always, there are still some sleepers out there, and here are a few I find most valuable in week 9:
Alex Green, Green Bay Packers
Although he’s underachieved so far, Alex Green has the luxury of being the featured running back on a high-powered offense.
The Green Bay Packers obviously dominate with the passing attack week-in and week-out, but that doesn’t mean the carries aren’t there for Green. In his three starts this year, he’s gotten 22, 20, and 22 carries but has only produced 6, 5, and 7 points in ESPN standard leagues for fantasy owners. Why? He’s averaged an abysmal 2.4 yards per carry.
As long as the carries keep going Green’s way, which it appears they will for the foreseeable future, it’s only a matter of time before he helps propel his fantasy owners into the win column.
As the season progressed last year, especially in the final weeks and playoffs, defenses seemed to catch up a bit to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing game. When defenses can plan solely for one dimension of offense, they’re bound to be much more successful. And as Aaron Rodgers has started dominating once again, I expect head coach Mike McCarthy to try to balance it out a bit before it gets as one-sided as it was last year.
If the Packers want to do anything other than make a playoff push, they’re going to have to have balance. So I see them at least trying to give Green the consistent opportunity they have of late. They go up against a scuffling Arizona Cardinals team this week, so if Aaron Rodgers can get them off to a quick lead, as I assume he definitely will, then they can turn to the ground game throughout the rest of the contest.
It’s only a matter of time before Green breaks a big run or at least scraps his way into the end zone, and I think Week 9 against Arizona is the week he does so. If you’ve had him on your bench, don’t hesitate to throw him in to your lineup on Sunday.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals
After an effort that saw him carry the ball 8 times for just 6 yards on Monday Night Football in Week 8, fantasy owners are down big-time on the Cardinals’ starting running back, “LSH.”
If you watched the game this past Monday, you saw a Cardinals offensive line that got absolutely demolished by the best defense in the league, the San Francisco 49ers. Luckily Arizona doesn’t play against the 49ers again until week 17, so there’s room for some optimism for LSH owners.
Cardinals RB Beanie Wells can’t return to the team until at least November 25th because of Injured Reserve rules, so LSH will be the starter for at least about 4 or 5 more weeks. And what I like about him besides the fact that he’ll get the lion’s share of the touches is that he’s got big play potential every time he gets the ball. Even on a couple dump-offs against the stout 49ers defense, he picked up 31 yards, weaving through the defenders.
While Green Bay certainly has the upper hand in this game, I think the Cardinals playing from behind will help LSH’s fantasy stock. QB John Skelton struggles to throw the ball down the field, so he’ll have to rely on screens to Howling when the Packers defense puts pressure on him. Also, Green Bay isn’t anywhere near as good against the run as San Francisco, so LSH will have some gaps to run through, at least on occasion.
If the Cardinals are playing in a catch-up effort for most of Sunday’s contest against Green Bay, yards are bound to go LSH’s way. He’s a starter that’s only owned in 28.8% of ESPN leagues, a total way too low for any starting running back.
He’s not the most sure-fire play, but he definitely has a huge upside playing in your FLEX spot considering his big-play potential we mentioned.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Although Carolina’s offense has struggled more often than not so far this season, Cam Newton and the boys are poised for a solid day on Sunday against the lowly Washington Redskins defense. The ‘Skins are 31st in ESPN standard leagues against the tight end. And, just for good measure, they’re 29th against QB’s and 31st against WR’s. So it’s an all-around good matchup for the Panthers’ passing game, in particular.
Attention usually goes to Steve Smith from opposing team’s secondaries, and he’s yet to catch a touchdown pass in 2012. I see a lot of targets going to tight end Greg Olsen.
Olsen has been rather quiet fantasy-wise outside of his strong efforts in weeks 3 & 4, and he probably isn’t someone you need to stash on your bench … but this week he’s a good play.
It’s bound to be a shootout between Cam Newton and RGIII in D.C. Sunday afternoon, and enough yards should go around for a lot of people to get involved, including Olsen. And yes, Brandon LaFell of the Panthers is a solid option as well.
Make sure to post your fantasy football questions below & tweet them to @zach_gropper for tips and advice for your week 9 matchup!