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NFL Fantasy Football, Week 7: 5 under-the-radar must starts

A few lesser known flex options that should be in your lineups this week.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6 In Review

If you aren't familiar with my methods yet, I'll put myself on a "PASS" or "FAIL" scale which is based on flex options scoring above or below double-digit fantasy points. Above 10 points would be a PASS, and obviously below 10 would be a FAIL. So here we go once again, let's see how I did for you, folks.

Charcandrick West, 2.9 Points -- FAIL

Jamison Crowder, 8.0 Points -- FAIL

Doug Baldwin, 5.3 Points -- FAIL

Delanie Walker, 17.7 Points -- PASS

Willie Snead, 9.5 Points -- FAIL

I spent five-to-six minutes before writing this article contemplating if I should jab myself with a katana blade or just continue living my life in the manner in which I have, all the while carrying more shame inside of myself .... I chose to just tack on the shame. Look, not every chick is a 10, sometimes you gotta take a look in the mirror and go, "self, I am a 5... so how can I reasonably expect to pull a chick who's an 8 to 10? I cannot". This is just a fact of life, the same way I cannot predict the future and clearly in Week 6 I did not.

Charcandrick West got the butter fingers and changed his name to Charcandrick South, because that's the direction he sent fantasy owners in their league standings Sunday. Jamison Crowder faced a really difficult match-up and got the targets we had expected, but just didn't have the production to go with it -- apparently in Washington even without DeSean Jackson 2's a Crowder? I tried.

Doug Baldwin went full on Doug Baldwin and didn't do his fantasy owners any real favors -- it took a real sack to support him, some would even say a ‘prodigious' one. Delanie Walker the lone call that didn't blow up in my face like Jenna Jameson on every day other than the 4th of July -- the guy is a stud in this offense and should be an every-week start.

Slick Willie Snead came back down to earth -- which was bound to happen -- and came up just short of double digit fantasy production for owners -- but close doesn't count.

Week 7: '5 Must-Start Fantasy Sleepers'

5. Theo Riddick, RB DET

Not a household name, but a talented player nonetheless. Theo will benefit this week significantly from the inactive status for Joique Bell, and the potentially season-long loss of Zack Zenner -- this leaves just the up and down rookie prospect Ameer Abdullah to compete with him. This is why the arrow is pointing squarely up for Riddick in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings' defense.

As a fantasy footbal asset, most people know Riddick holds infinitely more PPR appeal than he does in standard scoring. On the year, through six games -- despite his wavering role -- he has exceeded 10 fantasy points four different times. On the year, the Vikings are giving up 4.5 YPC on the ground to opposing running backs, which is a favorable statistic for a player that isn't noted for his ball carrying skills.

Last week he saw a season high in carries with 7, and this week could be much of the same. What will not change with Riddick however is his pass catching role. On the year he has 41 targets -- that's good for an average of 6.8 per game. Examining last week's game even closer, Theo Riddick out-snapped Ameer Abdullah 42-to-35 -- and while Theo was out-carried 14-7, he was light years ahead of Abdullah as a pass catcher, averaging 16.7 YPC to Ameer's 7.0.

This is Theo's second crack at the Vikings on the year (the first match-up came in Week 2), in their first matchup in a reduced role, Riddick still posted 5 catches for 41 yards. With Joique missing from the backfield this Sunday look for Riddick to be a major part of Detroit's game plan. Do I trust Matt Stafford? Not really, but I trust Riddick.

4. Blake Bortles, QB JAC

Until he proves otherwise, Blake Bortles is a viable fantasy starter. Currently he is available in over 52% of Yahoo leagues & 44.6% of ESPN ones. In Week 6 he gets the preseason "darling" defense in the Buffalo Bills -- which isn't a death sentence.

Excluding Week 1 of the NFL season where Bortles posted an embarrassing 8.9 point performance against the Carolina Panthers, he has been on a tear. Since then, he has posted double digits outings for five straight weeks and not one of them has been under 19 points: 25.6, 19.3, 21, 35.2, 24.9 (W2-W6). With the emergence of Allen Robinson on the outside, and healthy return of stud tight end Julius Thomas, right now may be the perfect time to snag him. This week against Buffalo he's primed for another serviceable performance. On the season, the Bills DST has posted only one double digit performance in six games, despite all the preseason hype. Allowing teams to score 40, 34, and 24 points against them, they are certainly exploitable.

I realize betting on Bortles is easier said than done, especially against a defense that feels primed to explode every week. This could end up the type of matchup where we see Blake air it out 30-40 times which is great news for fantasy owners. Have faith ya'll -- it's Blake'aroni time.

3. Devin Smith, WR NYJ

I am sure people's heads are exploding right now, but Devin Smith is squarely in the conversation of "sleepers". In Week 7, he deserves increased consideration with the New York Jets taking on the New England Patriots in what should be a showcase of Ryan "Fitzmagic" at his finest.

Luckily for fantasy owners Devin Smith hasn't had "the game" yet, so he's available everywhere. To be fair, it's not as if the the Jets haven't tried to make it happen. Over his first 2 active weeks in the NFL (3 & 4) Smith saw targets of: 8 and 6 respectively. That's a significant amount of looks for an NFL rookie on a team that is as offensively loaded as the Jets are on the outside (Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker). Though the Patriots aren't the most likely to give up the big play -- they have. On a handful of occasions, this New England secondary has been burned deep for TDs, with two examples being Allen Hurns' 59 yard touchdown grab and Robert Woods 32 yard touchdown.

With Devin Smith's elite speed, and with defenses forced to respect the wide receivers on the outside, you can almost guarantee that one of his 7 targets per game (average) will be an attempt deep down the field. Remember, Smith is a guy who averaged 28.2 YPC and hauled in 12 TDs in college -- the Jets brought him in for this very reason.

You can assure yourselves that New England will hold the lead most of this game, so expect the Jets to pass their way to a competitive matchup with Devin Smith as their best weapon down field for a big play. Of course... this is Ryan Fitzpatrick we are talking about here.

2. Stefon Diggs, WR MIN

At this point it's hard to deny the fact..... that Cordarrelle Patterson's fantasy value is at zero. You want to know whose is not? Stefon Diggs'. Perhaps his production slides a tad with a healthy return of Charles Johnson, but all signs point to a changing of the guard in Minnesota's wideout corps.

Over the past two weeks -- or his first actual NFL games -- Diggs has produced stat lines of 6-86 & 7-129 on a total of 19 targets. Sure, you can pull the "Charles Johnson has been hurt" card, but the fact of the matter is that even when Johnson was healthy he was a borderline non-factor in this already run-first offense. In Week 7, the Minnesota Vikings take on the hapless Detroit Lions, a team with a secondary that has been bombed on by just about everybody with a pulse.

The Lions have been graded out through the first six weeks of the NFL season as the 6th worst in pass coverage and by the numbers the grade is justified. Even the offensively inept Seattle Seahawks found a way to get rookie Tyler Lockett involved with 4 catches for 58 yards (in his defense he is a highly polished rookie). Diggs was a special talent coming out of college, statistically and metrically, so his pre-breakout is certainly not the byproduct of a "fluke".

This Sunday look for Diggs to be heavily involved in the pass game while Adrian Peterson continues to be the focal point of the offense. With the Lions forced to load the box on one of the best in the league in Peterson, Diggs should find ample room underneath the coverage to exploit an awful defensive back core.

1. Tavon Austin, WR STL


Look, I get that there hasn't been a more disappointing player over the past few years than Tavon Austin, aside from Cordarrelle Patterson maybe. I think the point has been proven over the Rams first five weeks of the season, though, that Tavon, when given the opportunity, is as electric as any player in this league. In Week 7, the Rams get a shot at the Cleveland Brown at home -- a nightmarish location for anyone to enter. On the season, the only other Rams' wideout that Austin hasn't out snapped is Kenny Britt (141-137), although over the last three weeks Tavon Austin has out snapped Britt on passing routes.

Averaging 7 touches per game, Tavon definitely offers a rare combination of pass catching and rushing opportunity -- and this Sunday vs a leaky Browns defense, he should go on a tear. This is a Browns defense that is giving up a league 30th worst total yards per game to opposing offenses with 407.3 Yds/G. An extremely shreddable defense, that you can almost certainly bet Jeff Fisher is ready to pull some sneaky stuff on.

It's a gutsy call to select Tavon Austin as your #1 option, but I'll bet on his special talents, Jeff Fisher's ability to put guys in positions to succeed, and Tavon's 3 touchdowns in the last two weeks. It takes a big pair to roll him out, but his dynamic play making ability against this high school defense could be the perfect combination.

Good luck this week everyone.

As always you can find me on twitter @AnOutragedJew if you have sit/start questions or want dating advice.