We're through two weeks of the 2023 NFL season and a lot of things are becoming clearer. The Miami Dolphins' offense is exploding. The Chicago Bears' offense is imploding. Running backs are rotating in ways we never anticipated. Goodbye, Cam Akers and Rashaad Penny. Hello, Kyren Williams and Kenneth Gainwell. (Well, maybe Akers gets new life in Minnesota.)
And, as always, there are injuries. Nick Chubb is gone for the season. Anthony Richardson and Davante Adams were evaluated for concussions. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. went out with ankle injuries. If you didn't believe that fantasy football rosters are living entities in constant motion, you should now. Which brings us to my list of Week 3 sleepers. Chances are, you're going to need help somewhere on your roster. In which case ... here are some names.
A couple of weeks ago, the narrative around the Rams’ passing game was that Matthew Stafford was trying to figure out how to reach these kids. Two weeks into the season, the new narrative is that maybe we didn’t give the Rams enough credit. They surged in the second half to pull away from the Seahawks. Then they gave the 49ers' defense all it could handle in the first half of Week 2. Puka Nacua is getting the headlines, but none of it happens without Stafford dealing from the pocket.
He’s thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back weeks and gets to take aim at Cincinnati. The Bengals are coming off a loss to Baltimore in which they allowed Lamar Jackson to throw for 237 yards and two touchdowns. There’s also concern about Joe Burrow’s calf injury. If he’s limited or can’t play, that would put a bigger onus on the defense to make plays. Stafford should be more heavily rostered and is gaining steam as a fringe QB1 option.
It’s been a slow start to the fantasy season for Prescott. While his Week 2 outing was far more productive than his showing in the season opener, he’s still been outside the top 15 among QBs in both weeks. It hasn’t mattered on the real-football scoreboard. The Cowboys' defense has been more than good enough to deflect attention away from a (so far) middling passing game.
But this feels like a get-right game for Dak. The Cardinals put up a fight against Daniel Jones and the Giants in the first half last week. In the second half, Danny Dimes and Big Blue’s passing game came to life. Jones racked up 259 passing yards and threw both of his touchdowns after the break. Prescott hopefully won’t wait as long to break out against the Redbirds' defense. He has low-end QB1 upside this week.
There weren’t high fantasy expectations for Stroud this season. The Texans aren’t expected to contend. The weapons around him aren’t considered top tier. He wasn’t drafted in the majority of leagues, and as of Sunday, he was still rostered in less than five percent of NFL.com leagues. But after his Week 2 performance against the Colts, it’s time to acknowledge the No. 2 overall pick.
He went for 384 passing yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort vs. Indianapolis, totaling nearly 21.5 fantasy points. Unsurprisingly, Houston has been in pass-heavy game scripts in the first two weeks of the season. That shouldn’t change this Sunday against the Jaguars. Forget Jacksonville’s nine-point outing against the Chiefs -- this offense can score. Houston will have to try and match. Stroud should again approach 40 pass attempts against a defense that has allowed two 20-point fantasy QBs. For anyone dealing with quarterback injuries or streaming the position, Stroud could be a low-end QB1 in Week 3.
Etienne popped in Week 1, with more than 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. His Week 2 encore was underwhelming, with fewer than 45 total yards and no scores. That is the way of things with Etienne: consistently inconsistent. At least he didn’t have Tank Bigsby pushing him for snaps and touches in Week 2, so he’s got that going for him.
And he's got more going for him in Week 3 -- namely, a matchup with the Texans. Houston was one of the league’s worst run defenses in 2022. There was hope that new head coach DeMeco Ryans would shore things up. It’s only been two games, so there’s still plenty of time to turn things around. But so far, the Texans have allowed more than 100 rushing yards in both games. That bodes well for Etienne and the Jaguars' ground game. Etienne is an RB2 in most situations, but he has RB1 upside in Week 3.
You either believed in Isiah Pacheco this offseason or you didn’t. He was an afterthought at the start of last season. Eventually, he worked his way into a larger role, only to be usurped late in the year by Jerick McKinnon. Shortly into 2023, he’s retained his status as Kansas City’s lead running back -- even if the early returns have been lackluster.
That could change this week. The Chiefs host a Bears team with a host of issues. Not the least of which is a defense that was victimized by Aaron Jones in Week 1 and Rachaad White in Week 2. Chicago was one of the NFL’s most friendly units to fantasy running backs in 2022. It looks like things haven’t changed much this season. Pacheco is a strong RB2 candidate for fantasy folks this week.
Jordan Addison isn’t a secret. He’s rostered in almost 98 percent of NFL.com fantasy leagues. But while fantasy managers are aware of Addison, it seems they don’t trust him. He was started in fewer than a third of fantasy leagues last week. That number is about to change.
The rookie has had 60-plus yards and a touchdown in each of his first two games. It’s gone relatively unnoticed because they’re already engraving Puka Nacua’s name on the Fantasy Rookie of the Year trophy. But it’s been a great start to the season for Addison. That shouldn’t change this week against the Chargers. Los Angeles has been in a pair of high-scoring contests and has given up some big plays in the passing game. Kirk Cousins has shown a willingness to take downfield shots with Addison. That should be a big part of Minnesota’s Week 3 plan of attack. He's a strong WR2 candidate this week.
Plenty of people expected Nico Collins to be a prominent name in the Texans' passing game. Unsurprisingly, he leads the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Some people thought Tank Dell could be an impact player. Not nearly as many people believed it could happen so soon. Dell’s route participation jumped from 46 percent in Week 1 to 82 percent in Week 2. That led to seven catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Houston's offense figures to be pass-heavy all year. Only four teams have thrown the ball at a higher rate. The Texans will likely have to take to the air again this week against the Jaguars. If they continue their early trend of heavily using three-receiver sets (72.8 percent of plays), Dell will be on the field plenty. Look for C.J. Stroud to continue incorporating his fellow rookie into the passing game.
If I was going to talk about a Falcons wide receiver, I didn’t think this was going to be the guy. Seeing Drake London get seven targets was reassuring. (I’m not mentally in a place to talk about Kyle Pitts.) Seeing another six targets for Mack Hollins was jarring. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Hollins was targeted on four of Desmond Ridder’s 18 attempts in Week 1. He’s obviously a part of Atlanta’s plan in the passing game.
Hollins should be in the mix again in Week 3 against the Lions. Detroit’s defense is still vulnerable to opposing passing games. It’s true that Kansas City’s receivers didn’t do much in Week 1, but that was due to a slew of dropped passes. The Seahawks' receivers didn’t have much issue in Week 2. The Falcons won’t have the same level of passing volume as those other two offenses, but they will have to throw the ball to keep up with Detroit. Hollins has a upside as a third receiver in Week 3.
Choosing a Chiefs receiver to ride with this season has odds akin to a sidewalk game of three-card monte. (You’re most likely to lose.) But if you do win, the payoff still might not be as big as you’d like. In the season opener, the inability of Kansas City’s receivers to make any plays was the story of the night. That group was far more productive in Week 2, though the targets were widespread. The tough part of this receiving corps is that no one has really great route participation. But a few guys offer intriguing target rates.
One of those players is Justin Watson. He only participated in 36 percent of the routes in Week 1. That number didn’t jump significantly in Week 2, but he has earned a target on 23 percent of his routes. What gives him upside is his average depth of target. Watson has a team-high 23.6 air yards per target so far this season. If you’re not going to get the heavy target share of a Travis Kelce (or formerly Tyreek Hill), give me the guy who can make some plays down the field -- especially against a woebegone defense like Chicago's. Watson’s value is greatest as a WR3 in deeper leagues.
This might be the last week we can reasonably call LaPorta a sleeper. More than anything, this is a call for fantasy managers to add him to their rosters. LaPorta was rostered in fewer than 20 percent of NFL.com leagues entering Week 2. Then he posted his second top-10 weekly positional finish in as many weeks. Jared Goff has 70 pass attempts over the first two games. There will be opportunities, and so far, LaPorta has been a big part of what the Lions are doing.
That’s not going to change in Week 3. Detroit’s offense is built around throwing the ball. Amon-Ra St. Brown is the lead target, but after that, the targets are up for grabs. LaPorta not only has a 16 percent target share -- he’s also earned a target on 21 percent of his routes and even has 10 percent of the air yards. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s significant for a tight end -- even more noteworthy for a rookie tight end. Until further notice, he’s a TE1 in all formats.
We haven’t been in the business of recommending starting players against the Eagles over the past couple of years. But sometimes you have to go against the norm when you see an opportunity. This season, the opportunity comes in the form of a defense that has suffered injuries at linebacker and in the secondary. It’s also a defense that has had issues with tight ends in the first two weeks.
Otton doesn’t have the upside of Hunter Henry or T.J. Hockenson. But he has seen his fair share of chances from Baker Mayfield. Don’t get it twisted: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are still the alphas in this passing game. But Otton is operating as the No. 3 target. If the Eagles can score points -- which isn’t a ridiculous notion -- the Bucs will need to be aggressive through the air. That should open things up for Otton. He’s normally a TE2, but this week, he has low-TE1 vibes.
The Bills' defense looked soft against the run in Week 1. There were mild alarm bells going off after the Raiders marched down the field and scored on their opening drive. Buffalo settled in after that, forcing three turnovers and limiting Las Vegas to three points the rest of the game. Maybe it was uncertainty after a shaky opening week, but the Bills were started in less than 70 percent of leagues.
That number should be much higher this week, with Buffalo headed to D.C. Washington might be 2-0, but those wins haven't come easy. The Commanders have turned the ball over three times and allowed 10 sacks over the first two weeks. The Bills should be able to get after Sam Howell and cause havoc. They should be started in all formats.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who has unwittingly learned his way around the L.A. Zoo. Send him your amusement park inside knowledge or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.