Breakout NFL Players to Start in Your October Lineups

These sleepers are ready to rise up.

By Dominic Schatzan

Injuries have decimated the NFL through Week 3 and you’re going to need someone to replace the lost production of your fantasy workhorses. October is coming and while September is a crapshoot, October is the month that savvy fantasy players gain an edge over their opponents. If you’re not the savvy type (or you’re here because you are), I’ve researched and identified 5 players that are ready to lead your fantasy team to the playoffs and give you an edge in your daily fantasy contests.

RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 1: 16 rushes, 62 yds, 1 catch, 28 yds, 0 TD; Week 2: 16 rushes, 102 yds, 3 catches, 18 yds, 1 TD; Week 3: 11 rushes, 42 yds, 6 catches, 83 yds, 2 TD

James Robinson is the ultimate fantasy sleeper. A relative unknown who went undrafted out of Illinois State (FCS), Robinson didn’t land on anyone’s fantasy radar even after Leonard Fournette was suddenly cut from the Jaguars.

The bulk of backfield touches were expected to go to veteran RB Chris Thompson, but Robinson has been the clear cut, every down option since Week 1. Robinson is in rare territory as he is just the second RB in the past 10 seasons to gain at least 300 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns in the first 3 games of a career.

Expect the Jaguars to heavily lean on Robinson throughout October when they face some of the weakest run defenses in the league: Week 4 at Cincinnati (0-2-1, 28th against RB), Week 5 at Houston (0-3, 29th against RB), Week 6 hosting Detroit (1-2, 27th against RB), Week 7 at LA Chargers (1-2, 2nd against RB), and Week 8 hosting Houston.

RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

Week 1: 9 rushes, 22 yds, 6 catches, 67 yds, 0 TD; Week 2: 26 rushes, 101 yds, 2 catches, 9 yds, 1 TD; Week 3: 13 rushes, 59 yds, 1 catch, 3 yds, 1 TD

While Jonathan Taylor isn’t as unknown as James Robinson, Taylor was supposed to be a backup coming into this season. After a season-ending injury to Colts RB Marlon Mack, Taylor was more than ready to step up for the Colts and it shouldn’t have been a surprise; Taylor ran for more yards in a 3 year span than any college player in FBS history.

Taylor has ran for a touchdown in each of his two starts and while RB Nyheim Hines will push Taylor for touches, Taylor is firmly planted as the team’s goal-line back and will receive the bulk of the carries this season.

Consider starting Taylor as the Colts will see weak run defenses throughout October: Week 4 at Chicago (3-0, 21st against RB), Week 5 at Cleveland (2-1, 8th against RB), Week 6 hosting Cincinnati (0-2-1, 28th against RB), Week 7 Bye, and Week 8 at Detroit (1-2, 27th against RB).

WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Week 1: 0 targets; Week 2: 6 targets, 3 catches, 35 yds, 0 TD; Week 3: 9 targets, 5 catches, 40 yds, 2 TD

Tee Higgins, the former Clemson standout, had a rough start to his rookie campaign (only 15 snaps in Week 1), but Higgins is quickly becoming a big focus in the Bengals offense. Higgins quadrupled his snaps to 60 in Week 2 and finally broke out in Week 3 with two redzone touchdowns.

The Bengals are a pass-first offense under head coach Zac Taylor and rookie QB Joe Burrow leaned on his taller, rangier WRs at LSU last year; if Week 3 is any indication, Burrow and the 6’4″ Higgins are developing a connection that will make their fantasy managers ecstatic.

Keep tabs on Higgins and start him against Cincinnati’s weaker October matchups: Week 4 hosting Jacksonville (1-2, 14th against WR), Week 5 at Baltimore (2-1, 15th against WR), Week 6 at Indianapolis (2-1, 10th against WR), Week 7 hosting Cleveland (2-1, 27th against WR), and Week 8 hosting Tennessee (3-0, 21st against WR).

WR CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

Week 1: 6 targets, 5 catches, 59 yards, 20 punt return yds, 0 TD; Week 2: 9 targets, 6 catches, 109 yards, 1 rush, 9 yds, 0 TD; Week 3: 6 targets, 5 catches, 65 yds, 1 rush, 1 yd, 32 punt return yds, 0 TD

The days of the Cowboys leaning on RB Ezekiel Elliot to win games are over. The once-stalwart Dallas offensive line has been ravaged by injuries and retirements; first-year head coach Mike McCarthy has a pass-first philosophy that has led to QB Dak Prescott averaging a staggering 48 pass attempts per game.

CeeDee Lamb was arguably the best WR coming out of the 2020 NFL Draft and it was a surprise that he slipped to the Cowboys at pick 17. Lamb has a pro-ready route running tree and is an elite talent with the ball in his hands. The Cowboys coaching staff is banking on his elite running talent to make big plays; Lamb is fielding punts and receiving jet sweeps just to give him more chances in open space.

Lamb will compete with WR Amari Cooper for targets, but with Cooper getting the bulk of the opposing defenses’ focus, Lamb will be the one who is putting up WR1 numbers in fantasy.

Dallas has had an up and down start to the season, but their October schedule is looking to ease up with plenty of home games: Week 4 hosting Cleveland (2-1, 27th against WR), Week 5 hosting NY Giants (0-3, 24th against WR), Week 6 hosting Arizona (2-1, 2nd against WR), Week 7 at Washington (1-2, 5th against WR), and Week 8 at Philadelphia (0-2-1, 20th against WR).

TE Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans

Week 1: 7 targets, 4 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD; Week 2: 5 targets, 4 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD; Week 3: 8 targets, 5 catches, 61 yds, 0 TD

Jonnu Smith’s average draft position was 16th among tight ends, yet he is a top 3 tight end in fantasy through Week 3; how did this happen? Well, WR AJ Brown’s injury is a factor, but the main reason Smith is outclassing his peers is that the Titans are finally playing to his strength: athleticism.

Smith isn’t considered an elite route running tight end, but there is no doubt that he is one of the fastest and strongest tight ends in the league. The bulk of QB Ryan Tannehill’s targets are going to Smith (leads Titans with 20 targets) and 95 of his 181 receiving yards are yards after the catch.

Smith is a rare big play threat at the TE position and his big play potential is going to be a factor in Tennessee’s October schedule: Week 4 hosting Pittsburgh (13th against TE), Week 5 hosting Buffalo (23rd against TE), Week 6 hosting Houston (19th against TE), Week 7 Bye, and Week 8 at Cincinnati (16th against TE).

Editor’s Note: The Tennessee vs Pittsburgh Week 4 game has been postponed after multiple Titans team members tested positive for COVID-19. Jonnu Smith has not been named as a player who contracted the virus.

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