Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 16
It’s been an outstanding year in the NFL and fantasy football. However, as the old adage suggests, “all good things come to an end.” Yes, it is Week 16 of the 2018 season which means it is fantasy championship week in most fantasy football formats.
And while there are some leagues that stretch their campaign through 17 weeks, those formats grow fewer and far between every year. Thus, this will more than likely be my final sleepers article of the season.
It hasn’t been my best year, but, while some of my calls were letdowns, there were many that were rewarding. Perhaps there will be a season-long recap article on the horizon. But that’s enough about me, there is football to be played and fantasy championships to be earned. So let’s cut to the chase and get right into my sleepers.
But before we move on, I do, however, want to wish everyone happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and even to those who don’t. Everyone can use some good vibes no matter what holiday we observe. Cheers.
Most-Productive Players from Week 15
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. Mike Williams (17.3), Doug Baldwin (43.1) and Sam Darnold (1.7) 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 15: Full-Disclosure
|Player||Pos||STD Rank||STD Points||PPR Rank||PPR Points|
Week 15 was an odd week as points appeared hard to come by. Not only did we not have a player score more than 29.5 points (Mike Williams), but as far as my calls, I had two players finish in the top 10 at their respective positions with point-totals that seem low (Kirk Cousins, Chris Herndon). Sheesh.
- While Kirk Cousins only finished with 15.3 fantasy points, he still managed to wrap up the week as the QB9. The Vikings had control of the game from the start, which limited Cousins’ ceiling. But given the state of the week, you could have done worse.
- Derek Carr once again killed us. While he does go off at times, projecting his finishes will make you tear your hair out.
- Ito Smith had a disappointing finish. However, to be fair, he did enter the game banged up and was ultimately placed on IR this week. However, for the third straight game, he either out-touched or matched Tevin Coleman in touches. The matchup and opportunity were there and the call made sense, but it was Coleman’s day. Moreover, Smith’s injury could have capped him in the game. That’s just how it goes.
- Elijah McGuire shined in the second straight game in which he was awarded the opportunity. Despite a tough matchup with Houston, McGuire finished as a back-end RB2 in both formats.
- Curtis Samuel had a nice streak entering last week’s game against the Saints. But an injured Cam Newton limited the budding wideout’s upside.
- Sterling Shepard was limited by Eli Manning — because he is Eli Manning in 2018 — and an inept Giants offense shut down at home in a must-win spot by the Titans. Without Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup, the opportunity was there.
- Dede Westbrook scored on a special teams touchdown. While it doesn’t pad his fantasy stats in most formats, the cal was a hit in my book. A score is a score.
- Dante Pettis continues to emerge as the 49ers top wideout in the second half of 2018. He should finish strong and play himself into a significant role in 2019.
- Similar to Kirk Cousins, Chris Herndon was the other player who didn’t finish with very many points, but still managed to end the week in the top 10 at his position. Herndon finished as the TE10 in standard scoring formats and as the TE11 in PPR with only 5.3 points and 8.3 points respectively. You can tell the kind of year it has been when a 3/53/0 stat line will get you a back-end TE1 finish.
- Anthony Firsker – insert eye-roll Emoji.
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 15 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 16, 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 Aaron Jones, Frank Gore, and Lamar Miller 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 16 to help you fill the vacant holes on your fantasy rosters. You can read that here.
Week 16 QB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 26.3%
Like a Randy Orton RKO, Baker Mayfield “came outta nowhere” in 2018. Not only has he navigated the formerly lowly Browns to fringe playoff contention — they need a ton of help but they are there — but the red-hot rookie passer is currently sitting as the QB16 with 194 fantasy points since taking over as the starter back in Week 3. And although Mayfield has failed to score over 13.9 fantasy points in each of the past three games in pretty favorable matchups with HOU (13.9), CAR (13.7) and DEN (12.1), he has an exceptional opportunity to bounce back in a plus Week 16 home encounter with the Bengals.
Not only are the Bengals surrendering the second-most fantasy points to enemy QBs at a 21.0 FPPG pace, but the last time these two teams met, Mayfield went off for a career-best 25.9 fantasy points on a 258/4/0 stat line in Cincy. And this time around, the Browns are at home, which favors the rookie even more.
The lowly Bengals will do their part en route to a Baker bounce back, believe me. While they have played better of late — they have allowed 22 percent more fantasy points to QBs above the 17.1-point NFL average on the season. Moreover, despite Cincinnati’s recent improvement against the signal caller, they managed to contain Case Keenum (10.9), Philip Rivers (13.5) and Derek Carr (12.5) in each of the past three games since getting pummelled by Mayfield and the Browns. And while I get Phillip Rivers was held in check, but he was also playing shorthanded on offense and really didn’t need to pass a ton. His containment makes sense.
Even with Rivers trending in the wrong direction and the Bengals pass defense trending in the right one since their Week 12 meeting, I believe both sides are on a collision course to get-right. I’m trusting Mayfield in the fantasy championship. Dare I say, I trust him more than Tom Brady facing a terrific Bills defense this week?
ESPN Start-Percentage: 38.2%
My Cowboys laid an egg last week. Dak Prescott included. However, before I get into why he will bounce back, I also want to shed light on the fact that the Cowboys offense played without their interior offensive line, who are the tough guys and set the tone for games in the trenches. While Travis Frederick hasn’t played all season with his life-threatening illness, elite guard Zach Martin and upside starter Xavier Su’a-Filo were sidelined with their respective knee and eye injuries. Whilst both guards are trending in the right direction to play this week, the Dallas offense should get back on track, handle their business and lock up the NFC East.
For Prescott, he’s scored at least 21.7 fantasy points in three of the past six games since Week 10. He’s exploited plus matchups again the Eagles (21.7), Eagles (24.7), and Redskins (27.4) in that time span while struggling in tougher ones with the Saints (14.1), Colts (6.2) and Falcons (14.8). And while the matchups he struggled in were still beatable, game-slow dictated a lot (as did Dak’s struggles with accuracy).
Now, the third-year passer will get one of his best matchups of the season in the form of the Buccaneers, who are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to rival QBs at a 20.6 FPPG rate. Although the Tampa defense has played better of late — they haven’t surrendered 20 fantasy points to a QBs in the past six games since Week 9 — they still managed to yield at least 15.3 fantasy points three times in that time period — Cam Newton (15.3), Lamar Jackson (16.7) Eli Manning (17.1).
With an anticipated healthy cast of linemen and weapons in a game with a lot to play for — they can clinch the NFC East and a home playoff game with a win — Prescott could be in line for one of his most productive games of the season. This is when Dak needs to show up. He needs to prove himself. and when he is in these types of spots with his back against the wall, he usually delivers. Prescott holds fringe QB1 upside for Week 16 and is worth starting with everything on the line.
The Buccaneers have given up quite a bit of production on the ground to QBs — the sixth most — and Prescott is the fifth-ranked QB in rushing attempts (67), ninth-ranked in rushing yards (303) and second in rushing TDs (9). His rushing ability raises his floor, making him a trustworthy option in the championship.
Week 16 RB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 36.9%
With Aaron Jones out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Packers backfield is left for Jamaal Williams’ taking. While Williams opened the season as the RB1, Jones was previously serving a suspension for the first two games of the year. Obviously, Williams lost the job upon Jones’ return. However, while Williams struggled in the two games he started with Jones banned, he had tough matchups with the Bears and Vikings and has since redeemed himself.
After Jones went down against the Bears last week, Williams managed to rush 12 times for 55 yards and a TD while adding another 44 yards on 4-of-5 catchable targets. He finished Week 15 with 19.7 PPR points. And did I mention he played that well in Chicago? Despite all of the ups and downs in Green Bay this season, they have managed to run the ball well. And heading into an exploitable matchup with the Jets this week, I believe the Williams-led Packers rushing attack should continue going strong.
While the Jets have played well in each of the past two games — they shut down the Bills and Texans (Lamar Miller injured his ankle in the first quarter) on the ground — they’ve been gashed all season long by enemy rushers in the many of their previous games. Allowing the 18th most fantasy points to the position at an 18.8 FPPG pace, the Jets have conceded a touchdown to an opposing back in four of the past five games.
If Williams gets the bulk of the touches, and he should as he will only have to cede touches to Kapri Bibbs, who was recently signed after playing most of the year with the Redskins, the former could be poised for another big game. At worst, he should find the end zone. Williams is a workload-need RB2 with scoring upside for Week 16. He could be one of the better starts of the week at running back if he goes off.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 28.7%
Gus Edwards is coming off of one of his best games since taking over as the starter back in Week 11. Not only did handle his most carries since Week 13 (19) and rush for his most yards since Week 12 (107) last week, but he also scored for the first time since Week 11. Moreover, the Ravens have won four of their past five games since Edwards has led the Ravens rushing attack.
With Edwards controlling the tempo with his downhill running and Lamar Jackson also getting in the mix on the ground — the Ravens are leading the league in running plays per game (33.2) — I not only believe the Ravens to win, but I also expect Edwards to continue on the late-season run that has him slated as the RB11 with 62.6 fantasy points in a five-game timespan since Week 11. Handling 96 carries in the past five weeks — Edwards hasn’t seen fewer than 16 carries in a single game while getting at least 19 three times — the workload will be there once again in a tough matchup in Los Angeles with the Chargers.
While the Ravens will want to run to keep Philip Rivers and company off the field, they will also employ the run to exploit a plus matchup facing a Chargers defense are surrendering the 10th most fantasy points to RBs at a 21.2 FPPG rate. Although the Chargers are one of the best teams in the NFL right now, their defensive Achilles heel is against the run.
In fact, while the Chargers are conceding 30.9 percent more fantasy points to enemy RBs above the 19.0-point league average in the past five weeks, they are also giving up 48.2 percent more points above the revolving 18.7-point league average in the past three weeks. Outside of David Johnson, who was bottled up for a 7.9-point letdown, Phillip Lindsay (22.6), James Conner (19.4) Joe Mixon (19.8) and Damien Williams (24.3) have each dropped at least 19.4 fantasy points on the Chargers in four of the past five games since Week 11. Edwards is primed for a big game.
While he is a zero in the passing game, Edwards’ fantasy value takes a slight hit in PPR scoring formats — he only caught one pass for seven yards back when he wasn’t even a blip on the fantasy radar in Week 7 — it’s not by much. Earlier, I mentioned that Edwards is the RB11 in standard formats since Week 11, but despite his lack of usage in the passing game, he remains a top 20 back in PPR. Edwards is the RB18 in PPR scoring formats in that time span. In a must-win spot for the Ravens, expect them to continue to do what got them to this point, which is running behind Edwards. Edwards is an upside RB2 for Week 16.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 16%
Although Spencer Ware (hamstring) missed last weeks game against the Chargers, allowing Damien Williams to go ballistic, the initially presumed starter returned to limited practice this week and could be on track to play. However, since both players seem to be productive even when they are both active, I still like Williams a lot this week.
While in Week 14, the Kansas City RB duo accumulated 15 (Damien) and 17.9 (Ware) PPR points respectively, Williams was dominated in touches by a mark of 20-to-12. And while Ware also accumulated more yards by a total of 129-to-30, it was Williams who won the scoring battle. Williams had two Week 14 scores to Ware’s zero. In fact, aside from a touchdown back in Week 13 against the Raiders, Ware hasn’t found the end zone since Kareem Hunt’s departure. And I get that Ware didn’t play last week, but he had ample opportunities in Week 14 when he got the touches and yards while Willims vultured the scores. And if you ask me, Ware’s Week 15 absence hurt him.
With Ware out last week, Williams rushed 10 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 74 yards on six receptions. Finishing Week 15 as the RB2 with 24.3 PPR points, Williams is also the RB5 with 49.3 points in the past two games since Week 14, scoring four times in that time span. Williams will look to take his red-hot momentum into a decent Week 16 matchup facing a Seattle defense whose handicap is defending the run. . In fact, while the Seahawks are stingy to opposing passers and pass-catchers, they are giving up the 19th-most fantasy points to RBs at an 18.8 FPPG pace.
Although the Seattle front seven had improved in recent weeks, they have given up at least 14.8 PPR points in each of their past eight games since Week 8. It seems like pass-catching running backs have their way with the Seahawks. In that timespan, Kerryon Johnson (15.1), Melvin Gordon (19.3), Todd Gurley (25.0), Aaron Jones (27.3), Christian McCaffrey (46.7), Jeff Wilson (21.4), Dalvin Cook (19.3) and Matt Breida (14.6) have combined for 44 receptions, 441 yards receiving and three TDs to pair with their rushing totals.
If you view Damien Williams as the Chiefs primary receiver out of the backfield as I do, you’ll see he is the wise play whether Ware is active or not. An opportunity-dependent fantasy asset, Williams is an upside Flex option if Ware plays. But if he is out, Williams will trend toward the top-end RB2 tier in an exploitable Week 16 matchup. Either way, you want to play the hot hand in the championship.
Week 16 WR Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 22.6%
In his past three games, Robby Anderson has emerged as the standout of a depleted Jets wide receiver corps. In fact, while he’s seen at least seven targets in each of his past three games since Week 13 — Anderson has drawn target totals of 7,7,11 — the big-play wideout has returned PPR fantasy-point marks of 8.8 v. TEN, 17.6 v. BUF and 22.6 v. HOU. He’s also scored twice in that timespan, finding the end zone in back-to-back tough matches with Buffalo and Houston.
Anderson will attempt to keep his target and touchdown streak alive in a fantastic Week 16 matchup with the Packers, who have all but packed it in for the season. Not only is the Green Bay defense allowing the fifth most fantasy points to WRs at a 26.3 FPPG rate, but they have also yielded 14.6 percent more fantasy points to enemy wideouts above the 32.9-point NFL average in the past five weeks since Week 11. In that timespan, the Packers have allowed nine different receivers to accumulate at least 54 yards or score a touchdown, which bodes well for Anderson’s fantasy outlook this week.
While Anderson is expected to draw the outstanding 24th ranked cornerback Jaire Alexander in coverage, Alexander is still a rookie and could be beaten, especially when Sam Darnold has some momentum, is coming off of a career game in a tough matchup last week with the Texans and is also developing a budding rapport with Anderson. They could once again connect for a big score this week. In a game that could ultimately become a shootout — both defenses are bad and Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers — I believe Anderson is primed to return his third straight game with double-digit PPR points. Anderson is a target-needy Flex option with WR2 upside in Week 16.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 10.3%
Jordy Nelson has been an utterly wasted talent in Oakland this season, but in his past three games, the veteran wideout has seen an uptick in is usage and production. Since Week 13, Nelson has been targeted 26 times, hauling in 22 of them for 233 yards. With a 10.8 PPR-point floor in that three-game timespan, Nelson had finished with PPR-point totals of 19.7 v. KC, 10.8 v. PIT and 14.8 v. CIN.
Nelson will look to keep his good fortunes rolling in an outstanding matchup against the Broncos, who have been and will be without standout cornerback Chris Harris for the rest of the way due to a leg injury. Without Harris, Nelson should have an easier time getting open for a productive afternoon, especially since he will draw a WR/ CB matchup with Bradley Roby, who is the 79th ranked corner and a step down from Harris.
Facing a Broncos defense allowing the 17th-most fantasy points to enemy WRs at a 23.5 FPPG rate — they have surrendered at least 10 PPR points to nine different wideouts in the past five games since Week 11 — Nelson is an opportunity-dependent Flex option in PPR scoring formats for Week 16. It’s that time of the year in which if you’re skimming the waiver wire, Nelson might be the best receiver out there. Though his quarterback is hard to trust, Nelson is at least getting the targets to justify starting him.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 6.8%
In four of the past five games since Week 10, Robert Foster has been a fantastic low-end PPR option. In fact, he’s finished with PPR-point totals of 13.5 v. NYJ, 17.4 v. JAC, 3.7 v. MIA, 17.4 v. NYJ (again) and 20.8 v. DET. Moreover, Foster has drawn at least four targets and went for at least 94 yards four times in that same timespan. Foster has dropped yardage totals of 105, 94, 27, 104 and 108 in five games since Week 10, scoring twice in that time period. With Kelvin Benjamin in Kansas City and Zay Jones being Zay Jones, Foster has emerged as Josh Allen’s top pass-catching target. Foster is the WR25 with 72.2 PPR pints since Week 10.
Foster will look to maintain his positive momentum in a winnable Week 16 matchup with the Patriots, who are allowing the 22nd most fantasy points to WRs at a 23.0 FPPG rate. And although Foster is expected to draw a significantly tough CB matchup with Stephon Gilmore, who is the No. 9 ranked corner, the Patriots have allowed at least 65 yards or a touchdown to seven different wideouts in their past five games. Foster, whose caught 11-of-13 targets for 212 yards and a TD in his past two games, is a target-needy Flex option with big-play upside for Week 16. Facing a New England secondary that has allowed six different wideouts to score since Week 10, Foster could be in line for another big outing this week.
Week 16 TE Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 26.6%
With Cam Newton out, Taylor Heinicke will draw the start at quarterback for the Panthers. While many see Newton’s absence as a downgrade, perhaps we can find something positive from seeing Heinicke under center. As well all have heard for what seems like forever, the old NFL adage of “a tight end is a backup QB’s best friend” comes into play. Drawing his first career start, Heinicke has completed a combined 3-of-5 passes for 56 yards in his two-year career. I expect a ton of check-downs as well as passes to players running short-to-intermediate routes this week. Thus, players like Thomas and of course, Christian McCaffrey should be busy in the passing game.
Facing a Falcons defense surrendering the 24th most fantasy points to TEs this season at a 5.4 FPPG rate, the matchup isn’t the greatest. In fact, tight end matchups suck this week, especially for relevant sleepers. Thomas, who has drawn at least four targets in each of the past three games without Greg Olsen (5,11,4), is one of the better dart-throw options for Championship weekend. Thomas is a target and reception-needy TE2 in PPR scoring formats for Week 16. As we saw last week, Chris Herndon finished as a top 11 tight end in both scoring formats on a 3/54/0 stat line. It is slim pickings.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 0.3%
Since Geoff Swaim went down with an injury earlier in the season, the Cowboys tight end position has been in flux. That is until recently. In his past two games, Blake Jarwin has not only garnered seven targets in each, but he’s also caught 11 of them for 101 yards and no scores. Seeing 14 targets combined in his past two games, Jarwin finished Week 14 with 12.6 fantasy points and Week 15 with 8.6 points in PPR.
Now, he will be entering a terrific Week 16 matchup with a Buccaneers defense yielding the eighth most fantasy points to TEs at a 9.1 FPPG rate. While Tampa Bay was able to bottle up underwhelming tight end play by the Saints and Ravens in the past two games — Ben Watson and Mark Andrews had both finished with fewer than 5.4 PPR points — neither of the aforementioned top pass-catching TEs saw north of four targets in their matchup.
However, when facing a tight end who drew at least five targets this season the Buccaneers have given up a 9.1 PPR-point floor to those players in those matchups. That scenario had occurred with nine different tight ends this season and it looks like Jarwin is trending in that direction this week. Jarwin is a target-dependent option with low-end TE1 upside in PPR scoring formats for Week 16.
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Thank you for reading my Week 16 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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Thanks for Reading
Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don’t hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.