Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 15
One of the reasons why I love the NFL so much compared to other sports is the parody and storylines. While other sports also have those points, you can make the case that the NFL carries so much more diversity than the rest. A big reason why is the fact that the league’s regular season is only 17 weeks long and teams only play 16 games. In theory, every game counts.
Now, as we sit here in Week 15, the parody can’t get any better than this. While many teams are out of it, 26 different clubs remain in the playoff hunt, which is the most since 2004, and I can’t get enough.
The same can be said in fantasy football. Although some formats stretch the full 17 weeks of the season, the majority of the fantasy league’s keep their championship game in Week 16. So Week 15 is the final four of fantasy football. I hope you enjoyed the ride because I know I did. However, part of the NFL’s parody is injuries. Consequentially, those “real football” injuries significantly affect the landscape of fantasy football.
Entering Week 15, Melvin Gordon and Spencer Ware did not play on Thursday night, Odell Beckham Jr. is out, James Conner is questionable and Ben Roethlisberger is banged up. With some of fantasy football’s most prolific players in and out of lineups, sleepers and dart throws become that much more valuable. It’s win-or-go-home. It’s the playoffs. It’s my fantasy football sleepers. Let’s get the gold!
Most-Productive Players from Week 14
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. Josh Johnson (0.2), Ryan Tannehill (1.7) and Derrick Henry (34.7) 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 14. 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.
Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 14: Full-Disclosure
|Player||Pos||STD Rank||STD Points||PPR Rank||PPR Points|
Week 14 Full-Disclosure: By the Numbers
Week 14 wasn’t good to me. And if it wasn’t good to me and you’re reading this, it probably wasn’t good to you either. I hope you all came out alive. Since I stand by my calls, I started Ty Montgomery last week in PPR over Jordan Howard and lost by a handful of points. It made a lot of sense but came back to bite me. It sucks. This was probably the most-difficult full-disclosure of the year to recap due to the magnitude of the games. UGH.
- While Josh Allen finished as the QBs and is the QB1 in the past three weeks, he didn’t perform as well as I expected. Due to his lack of weapons, these letdowns will happen until the BIlls improve, hopefully, this offseason.
- Chris Godwin was a tremendous fail, but the call made a ton of sense. While he only caught one pass he was targeted 10 times. However, I would say the bulk of those targets were uncatchable and on Jameis Winston if you watched the game. Still, it doesn’t help the end result.
- Courtland Sutton also plummetted, but his thigh injury was surely to blame. He banged up his thigh early in the matchup and played through it, which explains his letdown.
- Dan Arnold was an unexpected inactive designation. I usually like to update my article with another option, but I can’t do that unless they are ruled out the day before.
- My best call was Ian Thomas, who is beginning to emerge as a legit pass-catching option in a young offense. For all you dynasty players out there, I would be looking at Thomas. While Greg Olsen may return next season, he could also return. And even if Olsen foes play, who knows if he will be the same. He’s north of 30-years-old and has been battling injury for the past two years. I don’t blame him if he walks away. In that scenario, Thomas would be a fringe TE1 to open 2019. You heard it here first.
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 14 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 15, 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 LeSean McCoy, Ben Roethlisberger, and Jordan Reed 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 15 to help you fill the vacant holes on your fantasy rosters. You can read that here.
Week 15 QB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 37.4%
Normally, Kirk Cousins is not viewed as a sleeper. However, as we sit in Week 15 in 2018, he very much is despite his notable name. While he is being rostered in 89.9 percent of ESPN leagues, Cousins is only being started in 37.4 percent of them. Many of Cousins’ fantasy owners, including myself, are panicking. I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t and why he should be in your lineups this week.
While Cousins played well early in the season, he’s struggled immensely in the second half and especially in his past five games. Since Week 9, Cousins has totaled fewer than 15 fantasy points in 4-of-5 games, fewer than 10.8 points in three games, and fewer than eight points twice. In that five-game timespan, the Vikings are 2-3. a Super Bowl-or-bust team in 2018, someone had to pay for their offensive struggles and it came in the form of first-time offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was fired earlier in the week. With interim OC Kevin Stefanski taking over, perhaps the shakeup will do Cousins good.
What will also do Cousins good is his upcoming matchup at home versus the Dolphins. Not only are the Dolphins allowing the 13th most fantasy points to enemy QBs at an 18.2 FPPG rate, but they could also be without Xavien Howard, who is dealing with a knee injury. While he has yet to be ruled out — he is 50/50 for the game — he could be a step slower even if he is active. Howard’s absence should open things up even more for Cousins as Miami would be without their top cover corner. Let’s go Stefon Diggs. Moreover, they have also been vulnerable to the tight end, which is why I’m also on-board with Kyle Rudolph.
Facing a Dolphins defense surrendering 51.3 percent more fantasy points to QBs above the 20.5-point league average in the past three weeks — they’ve been lit up by Andrew Luck (29.7), Josh Allen (33.1) and Tom Brady (30.2) in that time period — Cousins brings top-end QB1 upside. Whether you think Cousins qualifies as a sleeper this week or not — and he does — START HIM!
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.3%
I’m usually not a Raiders or a Derek Carr guy, but in the past two games, he’s played really well. In fact, passing for 607 yards, five touchdowns, and zero picks while completing north of 70 percent of his passes in his past two games since Week 13 against the Chiefs (24.2-points) and Steelers (18.8), Carr is the QB3 with 43 fantasy points. Now, he will look to build on his late-season success in a dream matchup on the road in Cincinnati.
Not only will Carr face a Bengals defense surrendering the third-most fantasy points to rival QBs at a 21.7 FPPG pace, but they have allowed at least 17.6 fantasy points to nine different QBs this season in 13 games while ceding 30 total TDs to the position. In a game in which the Raiders will likely run the ball well, the passing lanes should be wide open for Carr to exploit. Moreover, in a game that could be a shootout due to both defenses being bad, Carr might end up passing a ton. Carr has fringe QB1 upside if he plays mistake-free football and takes advantage of the matchups.
Week 15 RB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 7.8%
With Isaiah Crowell already ruled out with a foot injury and Trenton Cannon questionable to play with a hamstring, Elijah McGuire is in line to handle the bulk of the workload in a tough Week 15 matchup with Houston. It has been a lost season of sorts for McGuire, who missed the first half of the year due to injury. And upon his Week 9 return, the second-year rusher ceded touches to Crowell, the starter, Bilal Powell before he was placed on IR and Cannon, which limited his upside.
However, when he was given the opportunity to produce last week, McGuire did just that. Managing 20 touches (three receptions), McGuire totaled 83 yards and a touchdown and finished Week 15 with 17.3 PPR points. What is significant is the fact that it was the first time this season in which McGuire received north of nine touches. Before getting 17 carries last week, McGuire was capped at six rushing attempts in each of the first four games he’s been active.
While McGuire’s upcoming matchup with the Texans isn’t a favorable one — the Texans are allowing the 26th most fantasy points to RBs at a mere 16.4 FPPG pace — they have given up at least 16.2 PPR points to an opposing rusher in two of the past four games — Adrian Peterson (17.1), Nick Chubb (16.2). And it’s not like the Texans completely shut down the enemy RB in the remaining two games either, ceding at least 9.3 PPR points to Dion Lewis (11.2) and Marlon Mack (9.3).
Considering McGuire averaged 4.2 yards per touch last week. Plus, the fact that Crowell is out and Cannon is banged up, I fully expect the Jets to feature McGuire for the second-straight game, which means he could again see close to 20 touches. Even in a terrible matchup, I believe McGuire could put up at least 10 PPR points if he is given the lion’s share of the workload. After all, since the weather isn’t expected to be the greatest and the fact that they are home is all the more reason why the Jets must employ a ground and pound philosophy if they want a chance to win the game. They must keep Deshaun Watson on the sideline. Otherwise, it will be a long afternoon at the Meadowlands. While McGuire holds back-end RB2 upside for Week 15, he is very much opportunity-dependent.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.0%
While Ito Smith is the RB2 in Atlanta, he out-touched a struggling — and likely out the door this offseason — Tevin Coleman in each of the past two games by margins of 14-to-11 and 8-to-7. The upside rookie had also out-gained the floundering vet by marks of 22-to-11 and 74-to-41. Although the totals look pretty bad, Smith’s Week 14 74 total-yard effort was the most yards-from-scrimmage by a Falcons rusher since Week 11. Let’s face it, Smith exploited a plus matchup against the Packers and will look to build off of his uplifting outing on Sunday in another favorable tilt with the Cardinals.
Although Arizona’s defense had played well at times this season, their strength is in the secondary led by Patrick Peterson. Ther Achilles heel, however, is continuing the run, which bodes well for Smith’s Week 15 outlook. While yielding the third-most fantasy points to enemy RBs at a 25.1 FPPG rate, the Arizona defense is also giving up 40.9 percent more fantasy points above the 24.-point league average to RBs in the past three games.
In the aforementioned three-game time period, the Cardinals have surrendered at least 11.8 PPR points to the opposition’s top-scoring RB — Austin Ekeler (26.3), Aaron Jones (15.2) and Zach Zenner (11.8). Smith is an opportunity-needy Flex option in deeper Fantasy formats for Week 15 who might need to snap his five-game scoreless streak to return value. But considering what’s going on with Coleman — it looks like Atlanta wants to see if Smith is the guy in case of the likely event Coleman takes a lucrative contract elsewhere — Smith should get every opportunity to be productive.
Week 15 WR Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 23.6%
While D.J. Moore is emerging as the WR1 in Carolina, Curtis Samuel is quietly making some noise of his own. In fact, in five of his past six games since Week 9, Samuel has finished with at least 12.0 PPR points — 19.8, 5.9, 16.2, 12.2, 15.6, 12.0. During that timespan, Samuel has caught at least four targets for 80 yards or scored a touchdown in 5-of-6 games and in four straight. He is the WR17 with 80 PPR points since Week 9. Samuel will look to extend his hot streak in a favorable home matchup with the Saints in a game that holds a 51-point over/under on Monday night.
Facing a Saints defense that has yielded the most fantasy points to enemy WRs at a 29.6 FPPG rate, Samuel could go off. And while the New Orleans defense has appeared to have tightened up of late, they are still giving up 21.2 percent more fantasy points to WRs above the 33.1-point NFL average in the past three games. With Marshon Lattimore expected to be locked on D.J. Moore and Devin Funchess, Samuel could carve up Eli Apple and the Saints in the slot, a spot at which Samuel has lined up 23.6 percent of the time in 2018.
Although Samuel had received limited opportunities at times this season, he has drawn at least seven targets in three of his past four games and 28 total in that time period — 7, 2,11,8. The No. 2 ranked wideout in fantasy points per pass-route (0.69) and No. 6 ranked in fantasy points per target (2.43), Samuel is an opportunity-dependent Flex option for Week 15. Samuel has rushed six times for 76 yards and two TDs this season, which raises is floor if the Panthers elect to run some gadget plays this week. And since they’ll likely need to pull a rabbit out of their hat to beat the Saints, it would shock me if Samuel wasn’t heavily involved in the gameplan.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 17.4%
With Odell Beckham Jr. ruled out for his second straight game with a thigh/ quad injury, Sterling Shepard is once again on track to handle the WR1 duties for the Giants. In fact, in last week’s win over the Redskins with Beckham out, Shepard caught 2-of-6 targets for 17 yards and a score. Good for 9.7 PPR points. If Shepard hauled in one more target, he would have hit the double-digit point plateau. I expect him to accomplish that feat this week against the Titans.
Facing a Titans defense surrendering the 11th most fantasy points to WRs at a 25.3 FPPG rate, Shepard could be in line for one of his most productive outings of the year despite drawing the 41st ranked CB Logan Ryan in coverage. While Ryan has played well in 2018, he is coming off of a game in which he was lit up by Dede Westbrook for 21.8 points in the slot, which is where Shepard primarily lines up with or without OBJ active. Shepard has played 55.8 percent of his 2018 snaps in the slot.
Quietly the 20th ranked wideout in red zone target share (24.7) with 18 targets — he saw three red area targets last week — Shepard is bumped into the WR2 tier with scoring upside this week with Beckham out. The Titans have given up at least 16.8 PPR points to the top-scoring enemy wideout in 9-of-13 games this season. I expect that trend to continue this week with Shepard. I’m starting him confidently in Week 15.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 12.9%
Dante Pettis has been sensational in his past three games since Week 12. Combining for a 12/255/4 stat line on 21 targets, Pettis also drew exactly seven targets in each contest. In each of his past three games since Week 12, Pettis has finished with 17.7, 29.7 and 13.9 PPR points and is the WR6 with 61.3 PPR points in that time span. And although Marquise Goodwin’s presence must be accounted for, it seems like Pettis is Nick Mullins’ top pass-catching target not named George Kittle. In last week’s win over Denver — the only game Goodwin has been active since Pettis’ emergence — Pettis out0targeted the pseudo WR1 7-to-2.
Entering his upcoming matchup with the Seahawks, Pettis will look to build off of his recent string of success. Not only is the Seattle defense allowing the 13th most fantasy points to WRs at a 24.3 FPPG rate, but they were also lit up by Pettis in their last meeting for a 5/129/2 stat line on seven targets back in Week 13. Finishing 29.7 PPR points, Week 13 was clearly Pettis’ breakout game.
And although the Seahawks were able to contain the Vikings’ passing attack last week, both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs managed to accumulate at least 12.1 PPR points. It is safe to say that even if the Seahawks are able to shut down the 49ers passing game this time around, Pettis still has a pretty safe floor. But since Mullins and Pettis went off against the Seahawks on the road, one would have to think they should be productive in a home matchup only two weeks later.
Facing a Seahawks defense that has allowed nine different WRs to total at least four receptions for 60 yards or a TD since Week 10, Pettis holds fringe WR2 upside for Week 15. Expecting to draw the 108th ranked CB Tre Flowers in coverage, Pettis is poised to further separate himself as the 49ers ROS WR1.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 11.1%
There aren’t many positives to take away from Jacksonville’s 2018 season, but if there is one, Dede Westbrook comes to mind. In a crowded wide receiver corps, Westbrook has begun to emerge as the Jaguars’ top pass-catching option. While he’s flashed at times this season, he’s played exceptionally well in two of his past three games. Aside from a 5.4-point clunker back in Week 13 against the Colts, Westbrook put up 17.7 PPR points on a 3/44/1 stat line in Week 11 against Buffalo and 21.8 PPR points on a 7/88/1 line last week against the Titans. In his past three games since Week 11, Westbrook has drawn 19 targets and developing a rapport with Cody Kessler.
In his upcoming matchup with the Redskins, Westbrook should once again shine. Not only are the Redskins yielding the sixth-most fantasy points to enemy WRs at a 26.3 FPPG pace, but with Quinton Dunbar out, Westbrook is in line to draw the 74th ranked CB Greg Stroman in the slot. Since Stroman is a tremendous downgrade from Dunbar, Westbrook should once again be the most productive wideout on the reeling Jags. Facing a Redskins defense that is surrendering 25.6 percent more fantasy points to WRs above the 33.1-point NFL average in the past three games — they’ve surrendered seven TDs to rival WRs in that time period — Westbrook is a fine Flex option with back-end WR2 upside for Week 15 if he scores.
Week 15 TE Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.8%
While Chris Herndon hasn’t scored since Week 8, he has still managed to accumulate at least 10.2 PPR points in his past five games without a score. In fact, while he was stifled in tough matchups with the Bills (6.4), Titans (5.1) and the Bills again (2.4), Herndon exploited the favorable ones against the Dolphins (10.2) and Patriots (12.7). Moreover, in that five-game timespan, Herndon has drawn target totals of 4,4,8,6,2 and very much remains an emerging part of a young offense.
In his upcoming matchup with the Texans, I believe Herndon will snap his five-game scoreless streak. Although the Texans defense is amongst one of the NFL’s best, they have been extremely forgiving to the enemy tight end. Surrendering 9.1 FG to rival TEs, the Houston defense is yielding the eighth-most points to the position.
However, in the past three games, Houston’s defense has been exceptionally bad, allowing at least 13.2 fantasy points to the opposition’s top-scoring TE twice — Rob Gronkowski (14.6), Anthony Firsker (13.2) — while only containing Charles Clay (1.6) last week. Facing a Houston defense that has yielded an 11/142/2 stat line to enemy TEs since Week 12, Herndon is primed to account for the fifth double-digit PPR-point outing of his rookie season. Herndon is a top-end TE2 with scoring upside for Week 15.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 7.8%
With Jonnu Smith out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Anthony Firsker has emerged (out of nowhere) as the Titans’ top pass-catching tight end. In each of his past four games, Firsker has drawn at least three targets and hauled in at least three passes for 27 yards while adding a touchdown in a tough Week 13 matchup with the Jets and scoring at least 9.2 PPR points twice in that timespan — 7.4 v. Colts, 9.2 v. Texans, 13.2 v. Jets, 5.7 v. Jaguars.
With so many injuries and so much uncertainty at the tight end position at this time of the year, you can do a lot worse than Firsker entering a quality matchup on the road against the Giants. Not only is the New York defense surrendering the 17th most fantasy points to rival TEs at a 7.4 FPPG pace, but they are also giving up 27.2 percent more fantasy points above the 12.2-point NFL average to TEs in the past five games — George Kittle (17.3), O.J. Howard (12.8), Zach Ertz (22.1), Adam Shaheen (8.5) Vernon Davis (7.1).
Moreover, the Giants have allowed the previously-mentioned TEs to catch a combined 32/337/2 stat line on 40 targets since Week 10. If Firsker receives the opportunity, he should produce in a must-win home encounter making him a middling TE2 with scoring upside for Week 15.
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Thank you for reading my Week 15 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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