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The NFL Sleeper Cell: Week 1

We’re starting a new thing here at 3 Up, 3 Down and it might just tear us all apart! We started a Fantasy Football League… with a twist!

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The NFL Sleeper Cell: Week 1

Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

When I first started 3 Up, 3 Down, the emphasis on this blog was Daily Fantasy Sports. I have had a lot of success playing Draftkings and FanDuel and was looking for a way to express my knowledge of the game. The first post entitled “How It Works” went something like this:

“Let’s start by getting something out of the way. I’m not an expert. I’m not Peter Gammons, Bill James, Theo Epstein or Buster Olney. If anything, I’m closer to Aaron Boone; just a guy who knows a few things about baseball, has a platform to share them, but in the end, isn’t known for incredible analysis. I’m just a guy. I’m simple, and in the world of Daily Fantasy Baseball, simplicity is key. So how’s this gonna work?

Every day, I am going to let you in on 3 guys I am UP on for the day, and 3 guys I am DOWN on. The blog is called Three Up, Three Down for a reason. In between, I’ll talk strategy, I’ll talk who to take, picking against a pitcher, picking against a team, a ballpark, even picking against the other DFS players. I’m here to help you crack the code of the day’s lineups using stats, rumor, legend and most important, my gut feelings on how well David Ortiz is going to hit Nick Tropeano in the second game of a three game stint in Anaheim. “

There’s a secret key to playing Daily Fantasy Sports hidden in that passage. It’s the most important piece of advice I can give you to be successful playing DFS sports. You have to pick against other players.

That’s what wins. You could have a full lineup of the top performer players, but if 90 other people have that lineup, your winnings will be significantly smaller. That’s where Sleepers come in.

A Sleeper is a player who you believe is going to break out and have a very, very productive week, but not many people know about. For example, Dak Prescott was a sleeper last year. Everyone thought Tony Romo was the guy who would take Dallas the distance, but after another back injury, Dak was named the starter ahead of the 2016 season. And he went off.

Dak went primarily undrafted in most 2016 drafts, as he was an untested rookie, but now he’s a stud with an arsenal of weapons and a strong running game behind him. He was a sleeper and is now a bonafide play each week.

Another example of a sleeper is Kareem Hunt, a guy most of you probably didn’t know existed until he murdered the New England Patriots Defense on Thursday. SLEEPER.

So what we’ve decided to do here at 3 Up, 3 Down is our own kind of Fantasy Football, all based around Sleepers.


What I’m proposing is this: our own fantasy league, based around sleepers.

Each week our writers will make one sleeper pick each, in the hopes of that guy pulling through and exploding for a big week. We’ll note reasons why we like that player over another so on and what not. Each writer will accrue points every week from their pick, but there’s a catch.

Since it’s about sleepers, we’re going to take the DraftKings ownership percentage and subtract that amount of points. For example, if you select Drew Brees as your pick and he scored 50 points, but his ownership is at 50%, you’ll only score 25. If your player’s ownership is under 5%, your points will multiply accordingly (i.e. 5% is multiplied by 1.5, 4% by 2, 3% by 3, 2% by 4, and 1% or less is multiplied by 5.) At the end of the season, the top 2 writers with the most points will split a $100 prize pool.

Do you follow that? Picking a sleeper is the most important thing you can do for a DFS lineup, and low ownership allows you to score those points and no one else!

So without any further adieu..


Ryan Kelly

Braxton Miller, WR – Houston Texans

Look out for Braxton Miller to get ample opportunities to make some plays this weekend against Jacksonville, as Will Fuller (injury) and Jaelen Strong (suspension) will both be out. And while the Jacksonville pass defense is nothing to scoff at, the Jags haven’t won on opening day since 2011. I think the Texans have a chance to control this game at home and exploit a team that is used to slow starts.

Andrew Wilhelm

Marvin Jones – WR, Detroit Lions

I’ll start with a homer pick this week.

Justin Colombo

Evan Engram – TE, New York Giants

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS KID?!?! HE’S NASTY. Let’s start with what I like. Engram is owned by 23.% of Yahoo Fantasy teams and 19.8% on ESPN. I like that ownership percentage. No, I LOVE IT. So there’s that making me want to play Engram.

The other factor here is that he’s a 6’3″, 236 pound Tight End who plays the game like a receiver. That sounds like another talented Tight End who reshaped how the position is played: Rob Gronkowski Evan Engram is Rob Gronkowski, but faster and more devastating. In his last season in college Engram caught 8 touchdowns and amassed 926 receiving yards, the 5ht most in the SEC. Engram also had 14.2 yards a catch and had 84.2 yards a game, the second highest in the SEC. It should also be mentioned that J’Mon Moore of Mizzou, who held the top spot, only beat Engram by .1 yards.

What more could you want? Do you want him to come from the same school as his starting QB? OH SNAP. WE GOT THAT TOO! Both Manning and Engram are Ole Miss Rebels, and while that means very little, it also means a lot. These are two guys from the same school, the same system and those ties don’t just fade away, they run deep.

Moral of the story is this: Engram is going to be the G-Man for the G-MEn on Sunday night. You heard it here first.

Meg Schneider

Marcus Mariota – QB, Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota because he has the power of Puddles behind him always.

Ned Donovan

Brian Hoyer – QB, San Francisco 49ers

Okay, right out of the gate you’ll be like WHY WOULD YOU PICK THAT HUMAN? I’m purely living in the rules of the game. We’re looking for ownership, high ceiling. And I have a suspicion that users will not be picking the 49ers QB to lead their team.

But maybe they should. Why? Let’s break it down.

First, from a standpoint of something that doesn’t matter to our contest, he’s comparatively cheap. You’ll be saving a couple of thousand dollars over the top tier quarterbacks, giving you some room to spend on an RB/WR that can take you to victory.

Second, look at the matchup. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills when everyone says that the Carolina Panthers defense is unbelievable. Yes, two years ago they were absolutely fantastic. Also last year they were bad. Like really not good. And in the time since then they’ve lost some key players to free agency and trades, and really have not done a stellar job at replacing for the immediate future. Long term? Their rookies will be fantastic 3rd-year players. But week 1, 2017? Not so much. My verdict? We remember the Panthers for their greatness, and we overlook their problems.

Now that being said the 49ers are a worse team, make no mistake. But I don’t think that’s the same thing as saying that Brian Hoyer will get slapped around. He studied under the greatest quarterback of all time and is in a Kyle Shanahan offense where he just might thrive. He’s got the mechanics, the experience, and the football IQ to have a fantastic season despite the problems of his team as a whole. And against the Panthers? I think he puts up solid points.

Andrew O’Neill

Joe Mixon – RB, Cincinnati Bengals.

Give me Joe Mixon.  Because rookie RBs are my favorite kind of RBs.

Charlie Forray

Ted Ginn, Jr. – WR, New Orleans Saints

Ted Ginn Jr. is about as fast as they come. With a 4.28 forty-yard dash time, he is a lightning bolt. To give that perspective, Usain Bolt’s 100m split at the 40 yard mark is 4.64. Now comparing the two is silly because Bolt is undisputedly the fastest man to ever walk this earth doing people stuff. But the point is this; Ted Ginn Jr. is the human equivalent of a turbo button. Now that he is in a new city, we may see a new Ted Ginn. With Drew Brees as his QB he is going to see some deep targets. Ginn benefits this week from being the number 2 wide receiver on The Saints. With Willie Sneed is serving a three game suspension, Ginn is 2nd behind only Michael Thomas. Thomas will probably draw coverage from shut down corner Xavier Rhodes leaving Ginn to have a serious deep threat night. With the kind of speed that Ginn has and the kind of pass happy arm Brees has, I would expect Ginn to bust one loose for a touchdown. Remember, he only needs one deep ball and a TD to outperform his points projection which is why he is my sleeper of the week for week one.

Joanna Krupnick

Christian McCaffrey – RB, Carolina Panthers

I’m going with Christian because his name and his looks are exactly what I’m looking for in a 90s heartthrob.

Jake Bridges

Jared Goff – QB, Los Angeles Rams

I have spent so much of the offseason telling anyone who brings up Jared Goff how terrible he is. I have never bought into his talent, and I don’t understand how he was drafted overall. I think he is terrible. HOWEVER…I think he has a shot to make some noise against the Colts this week. As much as it pains me, I’m going with Jared Goff as my Week 1 sleeper.

Why? Well, in 2016, the Colts ranked 27th against the pass and 25th against the run. And let’s remember they play twice a year against such vaunted offenses as the Jaguars and Titans. I shouldn’t rag on Tennessee too much because Mariota looks like the real deal, and I think they’ll improve big time this season. But the Colts still suck. No one on their defense puts fear into me, and their best player on D (arguably Vontae Davis) will not suit up in Week 1. Almost every guy on the front seven is brand new via free agency, and that combined with an inexperienced and uninspiring secondary means Goff could have a big day.

Give me Goff to Watkins all day.


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