7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 17
It all comes down to this.
If it hasn't already in Week 16. Maybe you're in a two-week aggregate league (like soccer), which is always a better option for deciding champions than just one week.
Or unless you're in a league where you run into the playoffs, which -- I admit -- is the type of innovation that fantasy leagues need sometimes. Good job on you!
Wait. Where were we?
Ah, yes. Sleepers. And deep ones to boot. I have some recommendations for Week 17.
Week 17 All-Deep-Sleeper Team
Quarterback: Eli Manning (Started in 8.4% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 33.9% of ESPN Leagues)
Manning isn't quite as deep as I normally go for quarterback recommendations, but in a slower week with fewer teams vying for quarterbacks, he pretty much fits the bill. (I also have recommended two more available quarterbacks in my initial sleeper column for the week.) Manning has gone over 22.0 fantasy points in back-to-back games, and the emergence of Odell Beckham, who could be primed for a big 2015, has brought Manning's ceiling up tremendously.
Manning gets the Eagles bump, which means he should see an increased volume in Week 17. It didn't quite work out for him in their last matchup (in which he threw for 151 yards without touchdowns or turnovers), but Beckham is otherworldly right now, and the Eagles cornerbacks are getting burnt by everyone and everyone and currently rank 19th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP).
Running Back: Joseph Randle (1.5% | 20.8%)
With a playoff spot locked up, it's in the Cowboys' best interest to lean more on Randle than on DeMarco Murray in Week 17. We saw a glimpse of that last week, as Randle tallied 13 carries (for 37 yards) to Murray's 22 carries. Still, the Cowboys can actually clinch a first-round bye with a victory and losses by both Seattle and Arizona, so Randle won't be taking over the backfield this week.
Either way, Randle's usage last week indicates he's the second option, and that's a good sign. Washington ranks sixth in rush defense, according to our metrics, so some dump off passes are likely in order. Murray saw no targets last week, and he might be healthy enough to sneak out of the backfield in Week 17, but expecting him to pound the ball at the Washington front isn't a safe bet. Randle should see a handful of touches, and you can't be too picky when you scrape this low for a running back.
Running Back: Stepfan Taylor (0.3% | 2.9%)
Taylor wasn't great last week against the Seahawks (who rank fifth in run defense, per our metrics) and rushed 11 times for just 19 yards but did add 2 catches for 25 yards. Taylor saw 34 offensive snaps (49.0% of all running back snaps for Arizona last week), and his 13 touches accounted for 76.5% of touches from Arizona backs.
San Francisco, who ranks 11th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP, isn't a pushover matchup by any means, but Ryan Lindley is just downright scary bad. Per our projections, Taylor has a ceiling of close to 16 points -- but a floor below zero. If you're a big underdog, Taylor makes a good a play as any among this group of backs.
Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings (3.9% | 23.0%)
Jennings has a touchdown in four of his last five games. The Bears rank 29th in pass defense, according to our metrics. They rank 23rd in fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Per Vegas, the Vikings are pegged to put up 25.25 points, a healthy total.
Sure, Jennings hasn't hit 80 yards or 7 receptions in a game all year and is really touchdown-dependent, but that's why his ownership is low and he makes for a solid deep flier play in Week 17, given the matchup.
Wide Receiver: Robert Woods (0.6% | 2.8%)
That attention held Watkins to 2 catches and 27 yards against the Patriots in Week 6, freeing up Woods to post a 7-catch, 78-yard, 1-touchdown line. Woods has been the definition of hit-or-miss this year, but he's not going to be the focal point of the defensive gameplan from New England. Woods is a good a bet as any to shake free for some modest production
Tight End: Jermaine Gresham (0.9% | 4.8%)
Excluding a donut game in Week 15 (when the Bengals blew out the Browns), Gresham has averaged 10.4 half-PPR fantasy points since Week 11. He's seeing a respectable 4.6 receptions per game and scored four touchdowns in that span. Plus, A.J. Green isn't 100% and is battling a biceps injury, so tertiary targets could benefit as a result.
The Bengals square off against the Steelers in a division-deciding matchup in Week 17. Before keeping Falcons and Chiefs tight ends out of the end zone in back-to-back weeks, Pittsburgh had allowed a touchdown to tight ends in six consecutive contests and seven of their previous eight. Gresham has been solid lately and gets a good matchup in a big week. Can't ask for much more to go in his favor.
Flex: Rueben Randle (3.3% | 15.7%)
Apparently, Beckham is who some analysts thought Randle could be this year, but with Beckham's cannibalizing the receiving numbers in New York, Randle has been mitigated to, basically, a useless fantasy option. That's why his 6-catch, 6-target, 132-yard, 1-touchdown game was a big surprise last week.
Randle, who is actually tied for 28th in targets among receivers with 114, did only see 6 targets last week. But he did make the most of them. If the Eagles do anything extra to try to slow down Beckham, then Randle's opportunity will be even better against the problematic corners of Philadelphia. In this last hurrah, Randle might have enough open area around him to put up useful numbers again.