7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 17
Everybody loves a good sleeper pick.
Throughout the season, of course, sometimes sleepers aren't just luxuries to gawk at but necessary fill-ins for our fantasy football lineups.
Not every situation requires benching your starters for a sleeper, but every fantasy team and situation is different, and I'm sure we're all playing daily fantasy football on FanDuel anyway. That's where sleepers really can pay off.
Because there is no consensus definition of what a sleeper is, I'll keep it consistent throughout the season. Using ESPN's fantasy football platform, I'll choose quarterbacks and tight ends outside the top 15 in roster percentage and running backs and wide receivers outside the top 40.
I'll also list some honorable mentions because there's nothing worse than realizing that every player mentioned in an article is already rostered in your league. We're seeking non-obvious plays who can put up starting-caliber performances. I'd rather list too many options than too few.
Kirk Cousins (33%) - The Minnesota Vikings have been eliminated from playoff contention, but that has been no or little fault of the team's high-paid quarterback. To this point, Cousins is seventh among quarterbacks with 300 or more drop backs this season, producing 0.25 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back on his 536 opportunities. This past week alone, he produced 291 yards and 3 touchdowns on 41 attempts in a losing effort to the New Orleans Saints. He's played well all year, and he'll look to finish on a high note against a Detroit Lions defense that ranks dead last versus the pass, according to our rankings. So long as he's not rested, look for Cousins to have a big day to close out the 2020 campaign.
Malcolm Brown (32%) - Brown isn't a flashy option, nor is he one born out of recent production. Since the start of the year, he has been overtaken by both Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, but both are likely to be out for the final week. If that plays out, it would leave Brown as the unrivaled top dog for a Los Angeles Rams offense that will be without Jared Goff, as well. They are going to focus on the run against the Cardinals, which could lead to at least double-digit carries, if not double his seven carries against the Seahawks. In the four games he has garnered at least 10 carries, Brown has averaged 11.3 fantasy points behind 4.6 yards per carry with three scores. You can't argue with that given there are so few options on the waiver wire.
Gus Edwards (23%) - Unfortunately, it has taken almost all season, but finally, the Baltimore backfield has become more clear. With Mark Ingram a healthy scratch of late, it's been Edwards and J.K. Dobbins splitting the snaps almost exactly down the middle. And while Dobbins has 2 rushing touchdowns on his 25 carries, Edwards -- who is scoreless over the last two -- has added 4 catches on 4 targets to go with his 127 rushing yards in that short span. Last week, he ended his day with 12.2 fantasy points against the New York Giants. The Cincinnati Bengals, this week's opponent, rate three spots lower against the run. And did I mention the Ravens are in a win-and-in scenario for the playoffs? They'll be full steam ahead against their division rival.
Sterling Shepard (58%) - Shepard has been a target monster all year when healthy. Not only does he average more than 7 targets a contest, but he's had five games of 8 or more and two with 10-plus. He's fresh off a 9-catch, 12-target game in which he totaled 77 yards and a touchdown. This week's matchup is a soft one, too, facing a Dallas defense that ranks 25th against the pass and 31st against receivers, according to Pro Football Reference. If he's out there in your shallower leagues, feel free to plug him into your lineup this week.
Nelson Agholor (34%) - Like Shepard, Agholor is one of a few guys who are both widely available and have produced big numbers down the stretch. Despite three straight losing efforts for Las Vegas, the veteran wideout has gone for 100 yards in two, and he has no fewer than four catches. He's totaled 23 targets for 204 air yards in that same period. That should play well on the road against Denver, who is eighth against the pass overall but has surrendered 2,400 (70%) of its 3,448 passing yards against wideouts. Considering Agholor is playing on a one-year deal, he will be looking to boost his numbers one last time before he hits free agency.
DaeSean Hamilton (0.2%) - On the other side of that same AFC West matchup, the Broncos are hurting for production at the wideout spot. Jerry Jeudy has been unreliable despite high target volume, and K.J. Hamler is in danger of missing this week after suffering a concussion. Hamilton will be asked to step up just as he did a week ago when he turned 9 targets into 5 catches for 77 yards. The Chargers didn't present a stiff test, but the Raiders have allowed 2.6 more fantasy points per game than their divisional foes. If Hamilton receives a large role, he should get his chances -- that is, if you have to scrape this far into the barrel for your championship matchup.
Irv Smith Jr. (6%) - If Cousins is in play, then so is Smith. The young tight end has been solid for large portions of this season despite injuries and a mere six starts. He has averaged 12.0 yards per catch and 8.4 yards per target on his 40 targets and has turned that into five touchdowns. Three of those scores have come in the last three games, during which he's hauled in 13 of 17 targets for 153 receiving yards. He's averaged 11.1 fantasy points in standard leagues and 15.4 in PPR scoring. And like Cousins, his Week 17 matchup is favorable against Detroit. The Lions have given up nine touchdowns to tight ends, but even more notable is the 30.5 implied total -- the third-highest on the slate -- for the visiting Vikes.