7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 14
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.
Taylor Heinicke (38%) - Perhaps surprisingly, according to FantasyPros, Heinicke has been QB13 in fantasy points per game since taking the reigns as a starter in Week 2. In addition, one of the quarterbacks ahead of him, Jalen Hurts, is on a bye this week. Thus, by the crudest and most straightforward measure, Heinicke is a low-end fantasy starter in 12-team leagues from a per-game fantasy scoring perspective.
However, it gets better. The Dallas Cowboys might force the Washington Football Team to air it out in an uptempo game against this week. First, the hosting Football Team is a 4.0-point underdog. Second, according to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys play at the second-fastest situation neutral pace. Meanwhile, Washington is 18th in situation neutral pace. Thus, if the Cowboys impose their will for pace, Washington will be forced to run more plays.
Finally, the passing matchup is fantasy-friendly, despite being challenging in real life. According to our power rankings, the Cowboys are the fourth-best pass defense. However, according to Pro Football Reference, Dallas allows the seventh-most FanDuel points per game to enemy quarterbacks. Furthermore, the Cowboys permit the ninth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks in 2021, something Heinicke's equipped to take advantage of, evidenced by averaging 24.1 rushing yards per game.
As a result, Heinicke is my favorite sleeper quarterback this week thanks to a less volatile range of outcomes than forthcoming honorable mentions Taysom Hill and Cam Newton that both run the risk of an in-game benching.
Honorable Mentions: Taysom Hill (34%), Jimmy Garoppolo (31%), Cam Newton (29%), Teddy Bridgewater (23%)
Mike Davis (47%) - Unfortunately, Davis has been the poster child for getting burned by a "running back dead zone" selection in fantasy drafts this year. However, he's on under 50 percent of Yahoo! rosters presently, making him an available player worth streaming consideration from the running back wasteland. According to our snap counts, Davis has played as many (or more) snaps than breakout jack-of-all-trades Cordarrelle Patterson every week since Week 8.
Additionally, according to Pro Football Focus, Davis has run 95 routes to only 76 for C-Patt during that stretch, including running more routes than the more explosive do-it-all back last week (27 versus 19). Sadly, Davis hasn't done much with his playing time, falling short of 10 touches in four straight games. Still, he has three or more receptions in three straight, and he had his best fantasy performance of the year last week, totaling 69 scrimmage yards, four receptions, and one touchdown. The state of streaming at running back is dire, making Davis one of the best of a bad lot.
Ameer Abdullah (5%) - The Carolina Panthers are coming out of their Week 13 bye, and things couldn't be in much more disarray for an NFC South matchup against the visiting Atlanta Falcons. First, Christian McCaffrey suffered a season-ending injury, and Newton was benched for poor performance when Carolina last played in Week 12. Second, they fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady during their bye week. Regardless, the turmoil might create an opportunity for streaming in their backfield.
Chuba Hubbard is the best bet to lead the backfield in carries. However, Abdullah profiles as the pass-catching back. Since Week 8, Abdullah has run 59 routes, netted 16 targets, hauled in 13 receptions, and amassed 112 scoreless receiving yards. Meanwhile, Hubbard has run only 22 routes, garnering three targets, resulting in two receptions for 42 scoreless receiving yards.
Further, there might be more opportunities for all of Carolina's running threats (i.e., Newton, Hubbard, and Abdullah) to tote the rock in the wake of Brady's departure. According to NFL Network reporter Cameron Wolfe, head coach Matt Rhule made a "couple of mentions to wanting to run more."
Panthers HC Matt Rhule said he stepped out of his comfort zone hiring Joe Brady someone he didn’t have a lot of history with or similar system. He doesn’t view it as a mistake but decided they needed to make a change/score more points. A couple of mentions to wanting to run more.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) December 6, 2021
Therefore, Abdullah might receive a few more carries in addition to his receiving work, paving the way for him coming through as a desperation streamer.
Honorable Mentions: Dontrell Hilliard (42%), D'Onta Foreman (41%), Jeremy McNichols (11%), Rashaad Penny (6%)
Russell Gage (35%) - It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies for Gage this year. He tallied a bagel in Week 8 and Week 10. However, Gage has also reeled in four or more receptions five times in his last seven games, eclipsing 60 receiving yards in four of those contests.
The fourth-year pro has also settled into a nifty groove since Week 11, running the 16th-most routes (100) among wideouts, tying for eighth in targets (27), ranking fifth in receptions (22), 10th in receiving yards (241), and 14th in yards per route run (2.43 Y/RR) among receivers targeted at least 10 times, per Pro Football Focus. As a result, he has been the WR18 in half-point point-per-reception (PPR) formats per-game scoring since Week 11.
Gage is my favorite sleeper at any position this week. Thankfully, our projections support my optimism, ranking him as the WR32 for Week 14 in FanDuel's half-point PPR scoring format.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (22%) - I also love MVS this week. In our projections, he ranks only a few places below Gage, projecting as the WR35. The fourth-year speedster has ascended to the second option in the Green Bay Packers' passing attack since returning in Week 9.
Since Week 9, he has been second on the team in routes (89), targets (16), and receiving yards (192), ranking third in receptions (10) for good measure. MVS has also produced a stellar 2.16 yards per route run in his field-stretching role, sporting an average depth of target of 17.4 yards downfield in those contests.
Sure, his deep-ball usage creates volatility. Still, he's been targeted a whopping 19 times in Green Bay's last two games, resulting in eight receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown. So, the targets help offset the reduced odds of completions on deep balls, simultaneously boosting his floor and ceiling. As a result, I view him as a high-upside WR3 in Week 13.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (9%) - Forthcoming K.J. Osborn is my third-favorite streamer at receiver this week if chasing the median outcome. However, if you need a spiked week to claw your way into the playoffs, either because you need tiebreaker points or face a more talented lineup this week, then DPJ is an intriguing option.
Peoples-Jones has played in three games (Week 9, Week 10, and Week 12) without Odell Beckham on the Cleveland Browns. In those contests, he has tied for fifth in receptions (five) and ranked second in routes (81), targets (13), and receiving yards (112). But, of course, his receptions and receiving yards leave something to be desired for a three-game sample.
Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by his usage and a matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. DPJ has recorded a 17.1-yard average depth of target without OBJ, and the Ravens have coughed up explosive passes at a jaw-dropping rate. According to Sharp Football Stats, Baltimore allows the second-highest average explosive pass rate (13 percent) since Week 5. Unfortunately, things won't get easier for Baltimore's secondary as cornerback Marlon Humphrey is out with a pectoral muscle tear for the remainder of the year.
DPJ's range of outcomes is vast. His floor is low, but his ceiling probably is best represented by his four receptions, 101 receiving yards, and two touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6. Therefore, if you need to swing for the fences for a fantasy football playoff berth, DPJ should be on your radar.
Honorable Mentions: Tim Patrick (25%), DeSean Jackson (11%), Amon-Ra St. Brown (6%), K.J. Osborn (5%), Breshad Perriman (1%)
Cole Kmet (26%) - First, the honorable mentions are my favorite options at tight end this week. I featured them in 3 Fantasy Football Tight End Streaming Options for Week 14. However, Kmet is in roughly the same tier as the trio of honorable mentions.
The quarterback situation is fluid for the Chicago Bears as Justin Fields tends to his broken ribs. Regardless, Kmet is a fringe starting tight end in 12-team leagues or larger -- even if Andy Dalton starts again. On Fields' 198 passes this year, Kmet has been third in targets (38), receptions (23), receiving yards (242), and air yards (387). Meanwhile, on Dalton's 103 passes since relieving an injured Fields in Week 11, Kmet has been third in air yards (140), tied for second in receptions (12), and alone in second for targets (19) and receiving yards (116).
Additionally, Kmet has run the third-most routes (96) for the Bears since Week 11. So, he's an integral part of their passing attack. And, since the Bears are 12.5-point underdogs, they'll presumably need to take to the air often to keep pace with the Packers. As a result, we project him to finish as TE18 in FanDuel's scoring format this week, making him a defensible streamer.
Honorable Mentions: Tyler Conklin (30%), Foster Moreau (22%), and Ricky Seals-Jones (5%)
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.