7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 12

Sleeper is an ambiguous term. I'm defining anyone on less than half of Yahoo! rosters as a sleeper in the interest of providing clarity. Typically, I'll aim to feature players on fewer than 40 percent of rosters. However, this provides me some wiggle room.

Don't worry, deep-league gamers, this piece is intended to help folks in leagues of all sizes. With that in mind, I'm following my predecessor's lead, including honorable mentions. If the featured players are already rostered in your league, the honorable mentions should provide you with players to consider filling in for an injured starter or player on bye on your roster -- or for whatever other reason you're diving into the free-agent pool for a sleeper.

While it should go without saying, the featured players at each position are my favorite sleepers for the given week. The honorable mentions are listed in descending order of the percentage of rosters they're on.


Cam Newton (52%) - Newton is the first player I'm bucking my self-imposed rule of featuring only players available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues to include. According to FantasyPros, he was tied for QB4 in Week 11, his first start in the 2021 campaign. The veteran signal-caller was adequate through the air, completing 21 of 27 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns.

However, as has often been the case in Newton's career, he kicked his production up a notch with his legs. Newton toted the rock 10 times for 46 yards and a touchdown. Newton's rushing ability makes him a matchup-proof fantasy option since he can produce a starting-quarterback caliber line against even a challenging pass defense.

Newton is a fringe starter or better from here out, and our projections rank him as QB14 in Week 12. I'm going against my standard rules to include him because he's more than just a single-week streamer, making him a priority add for quarterback-needy gamers.

Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Garoppolo (32%), Taylor Heinicke (16%), and Tyrod Taylor (6%)

Running Backs

Rhamondre Stevenson (58%) - We have a new data point in the New England Patriots' backfield distribution after last week's Thursday Night Football game. The game was the first in the wake of Stevenson's breakout contest, and it included the return of Damien Harris. Despite the lopsided final score, the game was close enough throughout to provide meaningful information about how they might operate in a neutral or favorable game script.

It looks like Stevenson and Harris will share most of the carries and occasionally run a route, while Brandon Bolden is the top pass-catching back that will rarely cut into the rush attempts.

In Week 11, Stevenson carried the ball a team-high 12 times for a team-leading 69 yards, Harris toted the rock 10 times for 56 yards, and Bolden ran only once for one yard. Meanwhile, per Pro Football Focus, Bolden ran 11 routes, Harris ran 7, and Stevenson ran 5 in Week 11, resulting in respective reception marks of two, one, and one. Finally, according to our snap counts, Harris played 39.06 percent of the snaps, followed by Stevenson's 34.38 percent snap share and Bolden's 26.56 percent mark.

Thus, Stevenson's floor is low if the game gets away from the Patriots and they're forced to play catch-up. However, he's a fringe RB2 when the Patriots have a neutral or favorable game script. According to our heat map, the Patriots are 6.0-point favorites this week, setting the table for Stevenson helping RB-needy fantasy teams. He is projected to finish this week as RB24.

Ty Johnson (21%) - Unfortunately, Michael Carter is expected to miss a few weeks with a high-ankle sprain. However, that opens the door for more opportunities for the New York Jets' healthy running backs. Also, there's clarity on who will start at quarterback for Gang Green this week, as Zach Wilson is back to man the position with Joe Flacco and Mike White on the COVID-19 list. So, let's look at how Wilson distributed his targets.

In the rookie's five full starts, excluding his injury-shortened Week 7 contest, he attempted 171 passes, directing 14 to Carter, 13 to Johnson, and 3 to Tevin Coleman, amounting to a 17.5 percent target share. If Johnson can consolidate the lion's share of the running back targets for himself, that's a good foundation for providing fantasy value. And, I expect Johnson to be the higher-used back in the passing attack. In six games Johnson and Coleman have played together this year, the former has run 86 routes to only 29 for the latter.

In those same six games, Coleman carried the rock 30 times for 118 yards compared to 26 carries for 85 yards. Thus, Coleman might have the edge for rushing work. However, it's not guaranteed that previous usage with Carter in the fold indicates usage for the remaining healthy backs without Carter. Nevertheless, my educated guess based on past performance is Johnson sharing running duties and owning the bulk of the receiving work, which is the more valuable role. We projected Johnson to finish this week as RB28, and I agree with ranking him in the fringe RB2 range.

Honorable Mentions: Boston Scott (21%), Tevin Coleman (3%), and Matt Breida (2%)

Wide Receivers

Darnell Mooney (58%) - Mooney is the highest-rostered player I have included in this space in 2021. However, he is projected to be WR27 this week and has staying power on fantasy rosters. He's likely to be the unchallenged top receiver on the Chicago Bears again this week, with Allen Robinson missing practice again on Tuesday.

Last week, he was targeted an eye-popping 16 times, resulting in 5 catches for 121 yards and a score. Further, I'm not worried about Andy Dalton starting this week. Dalton has attempted 74 passes this year, throwing team-high 22 to Mooney, producing team-leading totals in receptions (12), receiving yards (130), and air yards (198).

Mooney's top billing in the passing game should do wonders for him against the hapless Detroit Lions. Detroit is ranked as the ninth-worst pass defense in our power rankings. In addition, according to Sharp Football Stats, Detroit is allowing the third-highest average explosive pass rate (12 percent). As a result, Mooney should be on rosters in all but the shallowest of leagues, and he's a reasonable streamer in leagues as shallow as 10 teams this week.

Kendrick Bourne (20%) - I've been reluctant to tout Bourne this year because playing time and routes have provided me pause. However, I'm finally willing to cave in and suggest using him. Over the last three weeks, he has been tied for third on the Patriots in routes (52). However, he's also second in targets (11) and first in receptions (11), receiving yards (174), and yards per route run (3.35 Y/RR), per Pro Football Focus.

The veteran wide receiver has at least three receptions, 26 receiving yards, or a touchdown reception in nine straight games. Sure, not all of those marks are high bars to clear. Nevertheless, they speak to Bourne's steady inclusion in New England's offense. Further, it's possible his stellar play result in more opportunities in the future. However, even if they don't, he has a great matchup this week.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Tennessee Titans are allowing the most half-PPR points per game to wide receivers in 2021. He is projected to finish as only the WR53 this week, but I think he's closer to a fringe top-40 receiver, making him a flex or WR3 fill-in this week.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (9%) - MVS erupted for 4 receptions, 123 yards, and a touchdown on 10 targets last week. However, this isn't a point-chasing suggestion. Instead, I'm intrigued by his routes and usage in the last two weeks combined. In Week 10 and Week 11, Valdes-Scantling has been second on the Green Bay Packers in targets (9), receiving yards (164), and routes (59).

Further, MVS has been blending his moderate volume with valuable vertical usage. According to Pro Football Focus, he has an average depth of target of 22.3 yards downfield in the previous two games. Yes, obviously, deep usage like that enhances volatility. Still, Aaron Rodgers only needs to connect on one of his deep targets to the speedy receiver for MVS to pay off for risk-taking fantasy gamers.

He is tied for a WR44 projection this week, putting him firmly in the same tier as Bourne. However, gamers in need of a blow-up game are better suited using MVS, and those who require a higher floor at the expense of ceiling should turn to Bourne.

Honorable Mentions: Van Jefferson (46%), Tre'Quan Smith (4%), Cedrick Wilson (3%), Nico Collins (1%), and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (0%)

Tight Ends

Logan Thomas (52%) - I slightly prefer the three forthcoming tight end that I previously featured in 3 Fantasy Football Tight End Streaming Options for Week 12 for this week exclusively. Gamers that need a long-term solution might be better off snagging Thomas if he's available. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the plan is for the Washington Football Team to welcome Thomas back to practice this week.

Meanwhile, Ricky Seals-Jones was out last week. If RSJ's injury sidelines him again and Thomas doesn't suffer a setback in practice this week, the latter could return to the top of the depth chart in Week 12. Though, it's reasonable to wonder if he'll face playing time restrictions, making him a fringe streamer this week with a more encouraging long-term outlook.

Nonetheless, Thomas's usage before his injury warrants a speculative addition in most leagues. Among tight ends in Week 1 through Week 3, Thomas was 5th in routes (100), 14th in targets (14), tied for 10th in receptions (12), 12th in receiving yards (117), and tied for 3rd in receiving touchdowns (2). If your team can absorb a lower floor and ceiling tight end in Week 12, then adding Thomas has the potential to yield better results than the other widely available tight ends once Thomas is completely up to speed.

Honorable Mentions: Dan Arnold (40%), Tyler Conklin (36%), and Gerald Everett (20%)

Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.