7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 15
Regardless of the motivation for turning to the waiver wire/free agent pool, this is the place to find streaming options -- even for gamers in leagues as large as 14- or 16-team formats. Every week in this space, you'll find a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, and a flex who are low-owned options in Yahoo! leagues and offer plug-and-play appeal.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins
Yahoo Ownership: 24%
Ryan Fitzpatrick failed to deliver a touchdown in a plus matchup last week, snapping a stretch of back-to-back games with multiple touchdown passes. He passed for 245 yards and somewhat helped make up for the lack of touchdowns with 65 rushing yards. He'll have a chance to bounce back in another plus matchup, coincidentally, in the same road venue this week facing the Giants.
We rank the Giants as the sixth-worst pass defense in our power rankings. Big Blue has yielded the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season, according to Pro-Football-Reference. The Fitzmagic tout in this space isn't just about the soft matchup, either. Since Week 7, Fitz has the fourth-most passing yards (2,076) and is tied for the 16th-most passing touchdowns (11). Also, as he showed last week, he can still add points with his mobility. Our algorithm projects Fitzmagic to be QB12 in scoring this week.
Patrick Laird, RB, Miami Dolphins
Yahoo Ownership: 33%
I might need to start charging Patrick Laird rent for his occupancy in this space. Joking aside, he set new single-game highs last week with 15 carries, 48 rushing yards, and 82 percent of the offensive snaps for the Miami Dolphins. The efficiency doesn't generate excitement, but the volume is promising and doesn't even account for his receiving work.
Laird parlayed 5 targets into 4 receptions for 38 receiving yards against the Jets last week. He's caught four or more passes in three of his last four games. Relying on multiple Dolphins with the aforementioned Fitz and Laird isn't ideal. However, they have a not-terrible implied total of 21.50 points. Furthermore, Laird's receiving chops make him a correlation play with Fitz. The undrafted rookie back checks in as RB25 in our projections in point-per-reception (PPR) formats. He's firmly in RB2 territory in PPR formats, and he's a usable flex in standard-scoring formats, too.
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots
Yahoo Ownership: 5%
If you're looking for an extremely deep sleeper at running back in larger leagues, Rex Burkhead fits the bill. The floor's obviously low as part of the committee backfield for the New England Patriots. He's behind Sony Michel in the pecking order for carries, and he's behind James White for receiving work. Having said that, he played 27 percent of the team's offensive snaps last week, and he's hit that mark or exceeded it in three of the last five weeks.
Burkhead has failed to corral a pair of targets over the last two weeks combined, but he's previously demonstrated a pass-catching acumen. His receiving ability is the primary motivation for suggesting Burkhead as a deep sleeper after seeing an interesting nugget of info tweeted by my colleague Ryan McCrystal earlier in the week.
According to @SportsInfo_SIS, the Bengals are allowing an NFL-worst 8.1 yard per target to RBs lined up in the backfield.
They face James White in Week 15.
— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) December 10, 2019
Cincinnati's struggles with pass catchers out of the backfield enhances the potential for Burkhead's fantasy scoring. It's not the only reason to like him this week, though.
The Patriots have the sixth-highest implied total at 25.25 points, and they're 10-point favorites. The veteran back has seven carries and three targets in the red zone this year, making him a candidate to vulture a touchdown from his backfield mates. Additionally, the double-digit spread opens the door to a positive game script and ample garbage time for Burkhead to amass carries, and, with them, fantasy points while salting away clock. It takes some squinting to see Burkhead helping fantasy teams this week, but he's a viable Hail Mary in larger leagues.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
Yahoo Ownership: 22%
Through the first four weeks of the season, Anthony Miller totaled 8 targets, 4 receptions, 28 receiving yards, and zero touchdowns. Suffice to say, his sophomore season didn't get off to a good start. He's turned it on of late, though.
Among receivers since Week 11, Miller ranks tied for 6th in targets (37) and receptions (24), as well as 12th in receiving yards (313). His hefty workload, coupled with Mitchell Trubisky settling into a groove of competence of late, makes him an enticing fantasy option this week. Our algorithm isn't particularly bullish on Miller's outlook this week, projecting him to finish as WR52 in PPR formats, but I'm trusting his volume surge of late to help push him closer to a top-40 finish at the position.
Chris Conley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Yahoo Ownership: 20%
D.J. Chark is hurt and didn't practice Wednesday, but John Shipley of Sports Illustrated reports Chark will travel with the team to Oakland. Head coach Doug Marrone voiced optimism in regards to Chark's potential to play this week, but it remains to be seen if he will. An absence for Chark could pave the way to more work for Chris Conley, but the deep-threat's usage in this specific matchup makes him an intriguing option even if Chark plays.
We rank the Raiders as the third-worst pass defense, and they've been torched by receivers. Oakland's yielded the eighth-most receiving yards (2,263) to wideouts this season at a blistering 15.71 yards per reception. Conley's averaging a robust 18.62 yards per reception on passes from Gardner Minshew this season. Furthermore, among receivers and tight ends targeted at least 60 times this season, Conley's average depth of target of 15.2 yards downfield is tied for the fourth-highest mark, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Conley's truly only one big play away from delivering the goods as a starter for fantasy gamers this week. We project Conley to finish as WR42 in PPR formats.
Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
Yahoo Ownership: 29%
Noah Fant is a holdover from my tight end streamers piece published earlier in the week. Updating Fant's injury status, he didn't practice Wednesday. Head coach Vic Fangio was quoted in Aric DiLalla's piece for NFL.com voicing a positive outlook for Fant's status this week, though without going so far as to guarantee he'd play. Gamers should be ready to pivot over the weekend to a different option if Fant's not healthy enough to play, but his upside is worth scooping up and taking a wait-and-see approach this week.
Justin Watson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yahoo Ownership: 5%
Is Justin Watson a safe pick this week? Nope, not at all. Our football czar here at numberFire wisely doused some cold water on Watson optimism with a completely reasonable observation on Twitter.
Don't think there's necessarily a clear-cut answer here, but I'm surprised there's been so many people liking Justin Watson off the wire this week more than Breshad Perriman, when the latter's played ahead all season long.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) December 11, 2019
It's entirely within the realm of outcomes that Watson duds and Breshad Perriman -- or Scotty Miller in a likely return from a two-week absence due to injury, for that matter -- balls out with Mike Evans reportedly out for the rest of the year. It's also possible all three aforementioned receivers stink and O.J. Howard becomes a bigger factor in the passing game to complement Chris Godwin.
There's a wide array of possible outcomes, and among them is a blowup game for Watson in a fantasy-friendly matchup.
Fantasy points allowed per pass attempt over the last 8 weeks:
32. OAK (most)
1. BAL (fewest)
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) December 11, 2019
Take a gander at the tweet above from NFL.com's Graham Barfield, and notice the Lions have coughed up the second-most fantasy points allowed per pass attempt over the last eight weeks. For the full season, we rank the Lions as the 10th-worst pass defense. Simply put, this is a sweet matchup for any of the pass catchers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As for Watson, he possesses some nifty workout metrics that you can check out on his PlayerProfiler page. He put his tools to good use in his first extensive usage in his 25-game career in the wake of Evans exiting last week with an injury, hauling in 5 of 8 targets for 59 yards and 1 touchdown. His box-score numbers were good, but they don't tell the whole story.
Watson was a big air yardage performer last week. He accounted for 26.26 percent of Tampa Bay's air yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. His share of his team's air yards is the 31st-highest total in Week 14. That's a fairly impressive total when accounting for the fact Evans had already played 18 offensive snaps (23 percent of Tampa Bay's total offensive snaps in the game) before getting hurt and opening the door for Watson to play 55 percent of the offensive snaps.
Even if Miller returns this week (he was a limited participant in practice Wednesday), there's a reasonable chance for Watson mixing in for enough playing time with the returning Miller and Perriman to do damage. The Bucanneers have used the 11-personnel grouping (one running back, one tight end, and three receivers) 72 percent of the time this year, per Sharp Football Stats. Their 11-personnel usage is tied for the 14th-highest frequency this year. Interestingly, even with Evans getting hurt last week, the Buccaneers used the 11-personnel grouping at a higher rate (80 percent) in Week 14 than their full-season rate.
Watson's not the best streaming option for everyone. Having said that, gamers in need of a spike performance to topple a tough opponent should give Watson a look.