Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 13
It is Week 13, and for some of us, the fantasy football playoffs have arrived. However, for the rest of us, we are still playing for a spot in the dance. And for a few of the lucky ones, we are playing to lock up a first-round bye.
This is what we are here for. The bragging rights, the hardware and of course, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. With everything on the line, it is safe to say that there are not many fantasy teams out there that haven’t dealt with injuries or suspensions throughout the year, which is why fantasy football sleepers are imperative to your fantasy campaign’s success or failures.
Last week, Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette lost his cool in a loss to the Bills. Not only did he get disqualified from the game, but he also picked up a one-game ban from the NFL for his conduct. Throwing a punch in the NFL is worthy of a suspension. This isn’t hockey.
For Fournette’s fantasy football owners, you must be losing your minds. If you drafted him, you basically lost him for the first nine games of the year. While he played in the first two games of the season, he wasn’t very healthy or productive. Then, he returns in Week 10 and goes absolutely bonkers. Combining for 358 total yards and six touchdowns, Fournette was the RB5 with 65.8 fantasy points in a three-game timeframe from Weeks 10-to-12.
For those Fournette owners playing for the aforementioned playoff spot or bye, his Week 13 absence might have you losing your mind. However, I want to keep you from that because I know the feeling all too well from playing 16-plus years of fantasy football. There is a handful of sleeper running backs out there to help keep you at ease and get you that much-needed win. This goes for every other position as well. So read on and let’s get it. And in case I haven’t shown my appreciation for all of my readers, thank you. I hope I have done my job well enough to help you to a successful fantasy football season up to this point.
Most-Productive Players from Week 12
While the top 15 overall fantasy football scoring leaderboard was dominated by some of the most notable names in the NFL last week, there were quite a few sleepers in the mix as well. LeGarrette Blount (8.8), Marcus Mariota (4.4) and Jameis Winston (32.2) are all being started in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN Fantasy leagues this week and finished amongst the top 15 most productive players for Week 12. For the purpose of this article, any player with less than a 50 percent start-percentage at ESPN Fantasy will meet the criteria of eligibility to qualify as a sleeper despite their notoriety.
Sleepers Week 12: Full-Disclosure
|Player||Pos||STD Rank||STD Points||PPR Rank||PPR Points|
Week 12 Full-Disclosure: By the Numbers
Week 12 was very good to me and my sleepers. To me, this was my best week-to-date. Consequentially, we are getting down to the nitty-gritty and there is no better time to peak. If you remember in one of my first articles of the season, I mentioned that I break late. Here we go.
- My QBs were absolutely positively phenomenal. Although they are only being started in a combined 43.5 percent of the fantasy leagues at ESPN this week, Baker Mayfield and Jameis Winston combined for 48.8 fantasy points and finished Week 12 as the QB4 and QB5 respectively. You’re welcome.
- While a red-hot Duke Johnson cooled off last week, Josh Adams and Gus Edwards continued to shine. Although Adams finished as a back-end RB1 in standard scoring formats, Edwards finished as a fringe RB2. You have to be happy about that!
- Although Keke Coutee was disappointing, he ended up exiting Week 12’s win over Tennessee with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. So it’s not all on him per se. However, my other wideouts, D.J. Moore and Adam Humphries, played well enough to finish as fringe WR2s in PPR. I’ll take it!
- As expected, Cameron Brate was a success without O.J. Howard in the mix. However, I can’t say the same about Vance McDonald. Not only didn’t he do much, but he just missed on a scoring opportunity in the red zone on a Ben Roethlisberger pass he should have had. UGH!
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 12 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 13, some fantasy owners may be forced to shop the waiver wire due bye weeks and a handful of notable injuries from around the league. With players that include Melvin Gordon, Andy Dalton, and Leonard Fournette (suspended) all succumbing to injuries last week, some more significant than the others, be sure to check out Andrew Erickson’s Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 13 to help you fill the vacant holes on your fantasy rosters. You can read that here.
Week 13 QB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 34.1%
I featured Jameis Winston in my sleepers column last week and it paid off in a big way. Throwing for a 312/2/0 stat line while completing 76.3 percent of his passes and no interceptions for the first time this season in a good matchup against the 49ers — he added another 24 yards on seven carries — Winston finished Week 12 as the QB5 with 22.9 fantasy points.
However, since he is only being started in 34.1 percent of leagues at ESPN and remains available in 37.5 percent of them, Winston still qualifies as a sleeper. Moreover, I can’t believe he is not on at least 80 percent of fantasy rosters at this point. Coming off a zero turnover outing, it is time to trust Winston moving forward in the fantasy playoffs. For those leagues in which he remains a free agent, there is a sure-fire QB1 lingering on waivers. For shame.
Now, Winston will look to build off of his exceptional Week 12 outing in a fine home encounter with the Panthers in Week 13. While Carolina’s defense played well early in the year, they’ve been torched by enemy QBs in three of the past four games. In fact, aside from Matthew Stafford, who only put up a dismal 13.4 points on the Panthers in Week 11, the Carolina defense was lit up by Ryan Fitzpatrick (24.0), Ben Roethlisberger (35.8) and Russell Wilson (22.0) in the past four games since Week 9.
The sixth easiest opponent for rival QBs yielding 20 FPPG, the Panthers have given up 31.5 more fantasy points than the 18.0 NFL average in the past three games and 25.6 above the league average in the past five. Averaging 18.9 FPPG against the Panthers in 11 career games entering 2018, Winston is an upside QB1 for Week 13. Hopefully, by next week, Winston will no longer qualify as a sleeper. But given how this season has gone, I doubt that will be the case. Sigh.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.4%
The Broncos have been playing better of late and Case Keenum is a big part of their success. While Keenum’s performance has been extremely up and down this season, he’s been productive in three of the past four games. In fact, despite putting up an 8.2-point clunker in a Week 11 win over the Chargers, Keenum has accumulated at least 15.4 fantasy points in Week 8 (15.4), Week 9 (15.6) and Week 12 (15.6). Coming off of a respectable 197/2/0 outing last week in a win over the Steelers, Keenum could be in line for his most productive game of the season in a dream Week 13 matchup at Cincinnati.
Not only are the Bengals allowing the most fantasy points to QBs in 2018 at a clip of 23.5 FPPG, but they have also surrendered 38.1 percent more fantasy points to enemy signal callers above the 17.9-point league average in the past five games. Obviously, I like Keenum for his matchup more so than any other factor. Allowing eight different QBs to pass for at least two TDs in 12 games this season, the Bengals just might be the worst defense in football in every phase — yes even worse than Tampa Bay. They simply can’t stop anybody, surrendering a league-worst 31.5 points per game in 2018. While Keenum is best-fit for leagues that allow you to start two signal callers, you can get away with employing him in deeper standard formats as well as a cheap option in DFS.
Week 13 RB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 32.7%
I mentioned in the intro that Leonard Fournette is suspended for this week’s game against the Colts. And although Carlos Hyde’s presence shouldn’t be ignored, T.J. Yeldon is my go-to guy from Jacksonville’s backfield not named Fournette.
While Yeldon has performed well at times this season without the starter in the lineup in standard scoring formats, he is a much better play in PPR. In fact, currently sitting as the RB21 in standard leagues with 108.8 fantasy points, Yeldon is the RB14 in PPR with 154.8. That’s a pretty significant difference. Yeldon has accumulated at least 9.1 fantasy points in PPR scoring formats in 9-of-12 games this season and double-digit points in 8-of-12.
And with Cody Kessler drawing the start at quarterback for Blake Bortles, who was benched earlier in the week by the Jaguars, the old adage “a pass-catching running back is the backup quarterback’s best friend” comes into play. Yeldon, who has caught at least five passes for 46 yards or a touchdown in seven games this season, will be Kessler’s check-down option, which bodes well for his fantasy outlook.
In his upcoming matchup with the Colts, Yeldon will not only get a familiar foe, but he will also get an Indianapolis defense allowing the 15th most fantasy points to enemy RBs at a 19.5 FPPG rate. While the Colts present a middle of the road matchup on paper, looking deeper into it, the matchup favors a player of Yeldon’s skillset and value on the team. A pass-catching specialist, Yeldon will face a Colts defense yielding the second-most receptions (79), the fourth-most yards (640) and the fourth-most touchdowns (three) to opposing RBs through the air.
Moreover, while Yeldon caught 5-of-6 targets for 51 yards on the Colts back in Week 10 with Fournette active and productive — Yeldon added another 12 yards on three carries, finishing with 11.3 fantasy points — he has played well against them from a historical standpoint. In five career games versus the Colts (not including 2018), Yeldon averages 10.2 FPPG. The No.5 ranked RB in targets (66), No. 9 ranked in receptions (46) and No. 10 ranked in yards receiving (423), Yeldon is an opportunity-dependent RB2 for Week 13. While he is a better fit in PPR scoring formats, I love Yeldon’s safe double-digit-point floor if he gets the targets. And he will.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 36.8%
In the past two games, Gus Edwards has been a terrific find for the Ravens. While he shocked the world with his 17/115/1 stat line in Week 11 against the Bengals — Edwards finished with 17.5 fantasy points — the formerly unknown running back from Rutgers followed that up with another solid outing last week. Finishing Week 12 with 11.8 fantasy points on a 23/118/0 stat line, Edwards is the RB9 with 31.3 fantasy points in a two-game timespan since Week 11.
While he has yet to catch a pass, Edwards has rushed for at least 115 yards on 17 carries in back-to-back games. I expect him to keep his good fortunes rolling in another favorable matchup with the Falcons on Sunday. And although Alex Collins has returned to practice on Thursday — he was inactive in Week 12 with a foot injury — Edwards has been way too productive for the Ravens to go back and fully commit to Collins now. At worst, they will split carries. However, even in a shared workload scenario, the Falcons cede enough production to RBs for both players to maintain fantasy-relevancy.
While the Atlanta defense is surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points to rivaling running backs at a 24.0 FPPG rate, they have also allowed 13 different RBs to total at least 98 yards or score a touchdown through 12 games this season. The Falcons give up chunk plays to the running back, which plays into Edwards’ hand. Edwards is averaging 5.8 YPC in his past two games.
If Collins is out, Edwards can be fired up as a back-end RB2 with scoring upside in Week 13. But if Collins plays, I’d start Edwards in the Flex spot with tempered expectations. Much like I said last week in my article, whether Collins is in or out, Edwards should be in your fantasy lineups. With the Ravens’ season on the line, I fully expect them to ride the hot hand to another win over the reeling Falcons and Edwards will be a tremendous part of it.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 7.0%
If you need a shot in the dark fantasy running back this week, Royce Freeman is your man. While Phillip Lindsay has separated himself as the clear-cut No. 1 running back for the Broncos, Freeman has been a solid commodity despite his counterpart’s emergence. In fact, in nine games this season, Freeman has carried the ball 84 times for 349 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.2 YPC. Moreover, it was Freeman who was supposed to be RB1 for the Broncos, not Lindsay. For a dart throw fantasy option, you can do a lot worse than a player with a third-round pedigree and a respectable track record of quality fantasy production as the RB2.
In his upcoming matchup with the Bengals, Freeman should find the end zone for the third time in his past four games. Not only is the Cincinnati defense yielding the most fantasy points to RBs at a rate of 26.7 FPPG, but they have also allowed 15 enemy backs to accumulate at least 89 total yards or score in 12 games this season. The Bengals are certainly giving up enough production to RBs for both Lindsay and Freeman to score in the double-digits this week. Facing a Bengals defense yielding a league-worst 17 total TDs to RBs — they are tied with the Buccaneers in that category — Freeman is a touchdown-needy Flex option, who is a better fit for standard scoring formats, in Week 13.
Week 13 WR Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 44.9%
Although Devin Funchess returned to practice this week — he was inactive last week with a back injury — I believe D.J. Moore will continue to build on his most recent success. Coming off of back-to-back strong performances in which he combined for a 15/242/1 stat line on 17 targets, Moore is the WR5 with 31.5 points in standard scoring formats and the WR5 with 46.5 points in PPR in the past two games since Week 11. The 24th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the rookie wideout is begging to emerge a the Panthers WR1. Sorry, Devin Funchess truthers.
Now with some positive momentum in consecutive games, Moore will look to make it three straight outings with double-digit fantasy points for the first time in his young career in a salivating matchup with the Buccaneers. Facing a Buccaneers defense surrendering the sixth-most fantasy points to enemy wideouts at a 26.3 FPPG pace, it shouldn’t be a difficult feat for Moore to reach, especially if he is drawing the targets. Not only has Moore drawn 17 targets in his past two games, but he’s been targeted at least five times in six of the past seven games. The third-ranked receiver in yards per target (11.8) and No. 7 ranked in yards per pass route (3.01), Moore is a big play waiting to happen. He is the 10th ranked WR in production premium (+23.4).
While the Buccaneers held Moore to one catch for 16 yards on only two targets in their last time out in Week 9, it is clear that he has moved up on the depth chart and is developing into one of Cam Newton’s most-reliable pass-catchers, which is a dire need for the offense. You can’t go on a run with just Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey acting as your top targets. While they are both effective in their own right, most NFL teams have one or two big boom receivers as complimentary pieces. Moore fits that bill along with Curtis Samuel. Challenging a Tampa Bay defense that has yielded at least nine receptions for 116 yards or a TD to 17 different WRs through 12 games, Moore is a quality Flex option with WR2 upside in Week 13. He will likely line up opposite the 107th ranked cornerback Brent Grimes, which makes the matchup even juicier.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 14.9%
With Cooper Kupp out for the season with a torn ACL, Josh Reynolds has emerged as a quality replacement both for the Rams and in fantasy football. While playing in at least 94.8 percent of the snaps and running at least 24 routes in the past two games in which Kupp has been out, Reynolds has totaled a combined for a 9/122/3 stat line on 12 targets. In translation, Reynolds has scored 19 PPR points in Week 8 and 20 PPR points in Week 11. Coming of the Rams’ Week 12 bye, look for Reynolds to have his most-productive game is the season in a favorable Week 13 encounter at the Lions.
While the Detroit defense is surrendering the 14th-most fantasy points to enemy WRs at a rate of 24.8 FPPG, the Lions have been exceptionally bad at containing the slot wideout. Moreover, although the Lions didn’t let a WR score a touchdown in their last matchup against the Bears on Thanksgiving, they were playing against Chase Daniel and not Mitchell Trubisky, which makes a big difference. In the two games leading up to the aforementioned Week 12 tilt with Chicago, the Lions secondary allowed opposing wideouts to accumulate five scores against them, three of whom finishing with north of 122 yards receiving — Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller reached those marks in Week 10 and D.J. Moore went off in Week 11. And now, the Rams’ offense led by Jared Goff is on tap. Good luck Detriot. Reynolds is an upside Flex option who is a better-fit in PPR scoring formats in Week 13.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 6.8%
ESPN Start-Percentage: 13.9%
Since the Buccaneers have already ruled out DeSean Jackson for Sunday’s tilt with the Panthers due to a thumb injury, the door is opened for both Chris Godwin and Adam Humpries to have a greater role in the Tampa Bay high-flying passing attack. For Godwin, he is likely going to start opposite Mike Evans, which means Humphries is poised to eat in the slot, his usual role.
While Godwin has been hit or miss this season, he should fare well his latest matchup with the Panthers compared to their Week 9 encounter in which he only caught 2-of-3 targets for 40 yards. And although Godwin has put up at least 8.0 PPR points in each of the past three games since, he did manage to go off for a big 17.3-point PPR outing back in Week 10 against the Redskins on a 7/103/0 stat line with Jackson active. Without Jackson in the mix, Godwin should see an uptick in targets which will likely translate into production considering the Panthers have given up 43.7 percent more fantasy points above the 22.6 league average in the past three games.
That said, Humphries should also be productive against a Panthers defense allowing the 13th-most fantasy points to WRs this season at a 25.1 FPPG rate. Moreover, they have also surrendered at least 19.3 PPR points to six different wideouts in the past four games including an 8/82/2 line on eight targets to Humphries in their previous Week 9 encounter, which was the speedy slot receiver’s breakout game of the year. In fact, in a four-game stretch since his fantastic outing against Carolina back in Week 9, Humphries has gone for at least 11.4 PPR points three times, scoring four TDs in that timespan. The icing on the cake? Humphries is the WR10 with 68.6 points in PPR scoring formats since Week 9.
While I like both Godwin and Humphries this week, Godwin is more of an opportunity-dependent Flex option who might need to score to return value. But since he is expected to draw the 70th ranked cornerback Donte Jackson in coverage, I like Godwin’s odds to win his WR/ CB matchup. I’ll echo those sentiments going in Humphries’ direction as well considering he will likely draw the 77th ranked corner Captain Munnerlyn in coverage, who has been torched in his own right. Although both Godwin and Humphries should accumulate double-digit points in PPR scoring formats in Week 13, I believe the latter is a much safer bet to do the most damage in a game that opened with a whopping 55.5-point total.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 35.1%
While David Njoku cooled off of late following a strong start to the season, the second-year tight end bounced back in a great matchup with the Bengals last week, catching all five of his targets for 51 yards and a touchdown, ending a three-game scoring drought. Finishing Week 12 with 17.3 points in PPR scoring formats, it was Njoku’s second-highest scoring output of the season. He scored 18.5 points in Week 6 versus the Chargers.
Njoku will look t keep his positive momentum flowing in a favorable Week 13 matchup with the Texans. Although Houston’s defense is amongst one of the best in the league, they do struggle to contain the tight end, which works in Njoku’s favor. Surrendering 9.4 FPPG to the position, the Texans are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to TEs in 2018. Moreover, in the past three games, the Texans have been absolutely smashed by the tight end, yielding 88.8 percent more fantasy points to the enemy TE than the 12.8-point NFL average in that timeframe. Dating back to Week 9, Jeff Heuerman (24.3), Jordan Reed (20.1) and Jonnu Smith (14.3) all managed at least two receptions for 63 yards and a score on Houston.
With Texans cornerbacks locking down Cleveland’s underwhelming wideouts on the outside — Houston is yielding the sixth-fewest fantasy points to WRs this season — the middle of the field should be wide open for Njoku to exploit. Considering Houston’s immense pass-rush, I can’t imagine Baker Mayfield having a ton of time to throw. In that scenario, Mayfield will be pressured and under duress leaving plenty of check-down opportunities for Njoku, which will pad his stats in case he is held out of the end zone. Njoku is a sure-fire TE1, trending toward the must-start category, for Week 13.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.0%
Although his matchup with the Jets isn’t the greatest, I believe Jonnu Smith is poised for his fifth straight game with double-digit fantasy points in PPR scoring formats on Sunday. And while Smith was a mirage through his first five games of the season, he’s put up at least 10.4 PPR points in each of the past four games since Week 9, scoring a TD in three of them. The TE6 with 49.5 PPR points in a four-game time period since Week 9, Smith is emerging as Marcus Mariota’s most productive pass-catching option not named Corey Davis or Dion Lewis. Facing a Jets defense allowing the fifth-least fantasy points to rival TEs at a 5.5 FPPG rate, I fully understand that the matchup on paper is no a favorable one. But I’m betting on Smith’s momentum, plus, the fact that this is a must-win spot for the Titans in this one. Smith is a touchdown-needy TE2 for Week 13.
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Thank you for reading my Week 13 Fantasy Football Sleepers for 2018.
If you’ve enjoyed it, I will be writing this feature on a weekly basis for the duration of the 2018 season right here at Gridiron Experts! Want more of my content? Follow me on Twitter @therealnflguru and check out my @GridironExperts archive here. And before I forget, Mike Hauff and I debate fantasy football as well as other NFL news notes and nuggets on our show @Faceoff. You can follow us on Twitter, hear us on the Gridiron Experts Podcast Network, or watch us on Youtube. We are also available at most of the top podcast providers, including iTunes here.
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