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Fantasy Football Week 1: Deon Jackson leads sleeper picks

Sleeper is a nebulous term in fantasy football. One size never fits all with any column. Half of the NFL's starting quarterbacks in a shallow league might be on the waiver wire. And in my deepest league (a 400-pick bloodbath, a five-hour dance Wednesday night) every backup quarterback and WR5 is rostered.

My goal with this piece is to help you consider fantasy players that might be overlooked or under-appreciated, be it as temporary fill-ins, possible depth grabs or maybe the impetus for a prop play or DFS slot. As always, your mileage may vary, and you know your league — and particular needs — better than an outsider ever could.

Deon Jackson, RB, Colts (43% rostered)

All the seas have parted for Jackson over the last few weeks. Jonathan Taylor is out for at least a month as his contract standoff moves along. Evan Hull is a rookie. Zack Moss is coming off an injury, and may not be good anyway. The Colts are home underdogs to Jacksonville and could be chasing the game in the second half, but Jackson proved a capable receiver as a rookie (30 catches on 34 targets); game script won't eliminate him.

If you need a player in the Indianapolis backfield, I'm placing my chips on Jackson.

Jake Ferguson, TE, Cowboys (33%)

The Pokes let Dalton Schultz go in the offseason, and although Dallas did address the position in the draft, it also has big hopes for Ferguson. Ferguson had a better yards-per-target number than Schultz last year (7.9 against 6.5), for whatever a small sample means to you, and it's reasonable that Ferguson could approach something similar to Schultz's 2022 production (57-577-5), which hashed out to the TE11. Even if you're already set with a stronger tight end, Ferguson makes sense as a depth consideration.

Tyler Higbee, TE, Rams (87%)

I'm going to sneak Higbee into this column even though his 84% roster tag generally would disqualify him. I merely want to make the point that the Rams offense is set up for Higbee to catch 80-plus passes, with Cooper Kupp hurt and the wide receiver room desperate for answers. Higbee isn't an exciting talent — his game is mostly catch-and-fall at this point, other than the occasional wide-receiver screen which sets up for YAC — but the Rams are going to play the hits as they open the season, and Higbee is their senior target. I'll look to punch some Higbee props in Week 1.

Sam Howell, QB, Commanders (22%)

I spent most of the summer pumping up Jahan Dotson (and I certainly wasn't alone), and we know Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel are talented players. This is an offense on the rise, especially if new OC Eric Bieniemy is a hit. Howell was an interesting prospect at North Carolina, with a 4-to-1 touchdown/interception ratio for three years, and a juicy 828 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior.

The Cardinals make for a delicious Week 1 matchup; Washington is a seven-point favorite against a franchise that might not even be trying. The Commanders defense is all over my rosters (it's rostered too much to be in this column), and I'll also consider Washington as a possible survivor selection. Howell's surrounding pieces give him an interesting upside.

Seahawks defense (17%)

The DST position isn't difficult in fantasy — we're chasing favorites and positive game scripts. The point spread is always your guide here. The Rams come to Seattle as 5.5-point underdogs (I suspect that will rise before Sunday), Kupp is out indefinitely and the offensive line has exploitable holes. Home-field advantage has evaporated some recently, but it's alive and well in Seattle.