It’s hard to believe it’s already October and we’re near the quarter point of the 2021 regular season. However, it’s still early. Even if you’ve started 0-3 or 1-2, the fantasy playoffs are still within reach. Sometimes the best players to push you up the standings or keep you sitting atop them are the unconventional ones.
Let’s take a look at some players flying under the radar who are sneaky starts in Week 4 (please note, all players below are currently rostered in fewer than 25% of leagues to qualify for this list):
Taylor Heinicke (QB - WSH)
Heinicke is one of my favorite players this week both in season-long formats and DFS. He’s coming off back-to-back 20-plus-point performances and his rushing ability gives him a pretty high floor most weeks. He also faces a Falcons defense that ranks in the top five for most fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks this season after allowing the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season. Washington needs a get-right game and this Sunday presents the perfect opportunity inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
OwnersBox Price: $5700
Sam Darnold (QB - CAR)
I’d have a hard time arguing against Darnold as a high-end SuperFlex option this week. After all, he’s averaged 21.41 fantasy points per game so far this season and, while Dallas’ defense does look improved compared to a year ago, the Cowboys are still a favorable matchup for fantasy quarterbacks, ranking in the top 10 for most points allowed to the position. D.J. Moore looks like a superstar, Terrace Marshall Jr. is an emerging rookie, and there’s plenty of meat on the bone for players like Robby Anderson and Tommy Tremble to produce at a higher level. What’s worth noting and what’s giving me a little pause when it comes to including Darnold on this list is his atrocious career marks on the road coupled with no access to Christian McCaffrey in this matchup. How different will Carolina’s offense look and how different will the Cowboys’ defense play them without the threat of McCaffrey in the backfield?
OwnersBox Price: $6000
Deep Sleeper: Jacoby Brissett (QB - MIA)
Kenneth Gainwell (RB - PHI)
While Gainwell is only playing about one-third of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, he’s finding ways to remain fantasy-relevant. He’s averaging a little more than 8.63 fantasy points per game through the first three weeks of the season and will have the opportunity to take advantage of a Chiefs defense that looks like Kansas City’s Achilles heel right now. The Chiefs have allowed nearly 30 fantasy points per game to the running back position so far this season, and if we expect the Eagles to be down and throwing a lot, Gainwell should see plenty of work in the receiving game. Don’t be surprised if Gainwell has his second double-digit-point performance of the season.
OwnersBox Price: $4600
Royce Freeman (RB - CAR)
This is a bit more speculative than usual, but history tells us that we’re not always correct when it comes to predicting the workload of teams’ backup running backs when the starter goes down. Chuba Hubbard played more than three-quarters of Carolina’s running back snaps when McCaffrey went down—and I have him ranked as an RB2 this week—but we can’t rule out Freeman, who the Panthers claimed off waivers from Denver late in the offseason, having a bigger workload. With a week and a half to prepare between Week 3 and Week 4, I would not be surprised to see Freeman getting closer to 35-40% of the snaps compared to the 22% he got last week after McCaffery left the game.
OwnersBox Price: $4100
J.J. Taylor (RB - NE)
James White is out for the rest of the season and Damien Harris is a net-negative in the passing game, both as a pass-catcher and blocker. So that leaves a void that must be filled in the Patriots’ offense. Special teamer Brandon Bolden filled in last week when White left the game, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be the long-term fix. Rhamondre Stevenson is the flashier name, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle the White role better than Harris. In fact, none of the running backs on the roster can do what White did, but Taylor is a more dynamic offensive weapon right now than both Bolden and Stevenson. Considering the Patriots will likely need to throw a lot to keep up with Tom Brady on Sunday night, whoever is New England’s passing-down back will have fantasy value.
OwnersBox Price: $4000
Deep Sleeper: Kyle Juszczyk (RB - SF)
Zach Pascal (WR - IND)
I know the Colts aren’t a whole lot of fun to watch right now, but that shouldn’t mean you just ignore the fantasy value that is present on the roster. Pascal continues to be overlooked despite a really solid start to the season. Sure, he only had 5.1 fantasy points last week, but he had 35.1 combined points in Weeks 1 and 2. He’s clearly the WR2 in the Colts’ offense, is targeted in the red zone, and doesn’t have a terrible matchup against the Dolphins this week. Pascal has been one of my favorite under-the-radar plays all season long and that continues this week.
OwnersBox Price: $3900
Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR - CAR)
While the Cowboys have been better against fantasy quarterbacks than they were a year ago, fantasy receivers have had a field day against them so far this year. Only Tampa Bay and Washington have allowed more fantasy points per game to the position this season than Dallas. With McCaffrey out of the lineup, targets have to go somewhere—especially for Darnold and Co. to keep up with Dak Prescott—and they all won’t go to Hubbard. Marshall is playing more and more snaps and was only two behind Anderson and nine behind Moore in Week 3. With the majority of the defensive attention on Moore, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marshall consistently has the most favorable matchup on the field for Carolina.
OwnersBox Price: $3600
Tim Patrick (WR - DEN)
I’m going to keep fighting the good fight. Patrick makes this list for the third week in a row because he’s still so widely available. He’s a bit more expensive this week on OwnersBox, but he’s freely available in the vast majority of season-long leagues. He’s scored a dozen or more points in every game this season, and while he doesn’t have a great matchup this week, it’s not one to run from either. Patrick has high touchdown potential and is the clear No. 2 wide receiver on an offense that will be without both Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
OwnersBox Price: $5100
Deep Sleeper: Anthony Miller (WR - HOU)
Dawson Knox (TE - BUF)
The No. 8 overall tight end in fantasy through three weeks, Knox looks like a much-improved player compared to the prior two seasons—the eye test confirms this too. He’s more involved than ever in Buffalo’s passing offense and faces a Houston defense that’s allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. I’m buying in on Knox as not only a hot waiver-wire pick-up, but a TE1 this week.
OwnersBox Price: $4200
Zach Ertz (TE - PHI)
Hello, old friend. Ertz jumped back into the land of fantasy relevancy with his seven-target, 15.3-point performance on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys. He got nearly twice as many targets as fellow tight end Dallas Goedert and found the end zone. Although the Chiefs have been a pretty neutral matchup for fantasy tight ends thus far, Kansas City’s overall defensive struggles coupled with Philadelphia’s (likely) need to pass a ton should make Ertz a fringe startable tight end this week.
OwnersBox Price: $3700
Deep Sleeper: Tommy Tremble (TE - CAR)
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