7 Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 14
Fantasy playoffs are always kind of underwhelming, no matter how your season has shaped up.
If you miss the playoffs, what use is there in being excited about Weeks 14, 15, and 16?
I mean, the best position of all might be that of a surging team in the last playoff position. If your team crumples in crunch time, at least you made the playoffs (right?).
If you're a top seed, you reach the realization that all of your hard work comes down to one week (maybe two) of fantasy football wildness. Basically, if you're dominating your league, you're just terrified your studs all mail in a clunker when it matters most. You know, if you're a pessimist.
This is the game we play.
But no matter where you are in the league standings or playoffs, you can always use a deep sleeper to boost your lineup's potential. Maybe one of these guys can get you through to the next round or play spoiler in your league's playoff seeding.
Week 14 All-Deep-Sleeper Team
Quarterback: Johnny Manziel (Started in 2.9% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 6.8% of ESPN Leagues)
According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, Manziel hasn't exactly taken the NFL by storm this season. His Passing NEP of 3.65 (the points above expectation-level he's added to his team on his drop backs) ranks just 31st among 40 passers with at least 100 drop backs on the season. His Rushing NEP (-1.97) ranks better than only Sam Bradford (-4.54) and Matt Ryan (-9.40). Yeah.
San Francisco, Manziel's opponent, ranks 25th against the pass, per our metrics. They're 20th against fantasy quarterbacks. The matchup is good enough even for a strugglesome passer like Manziel to take advantage. He also has the added pressure of playing for his future as a starter with the team -- if that's your kind of thing.
Running Back: Tim Hightower (Started in 6.0% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 32.5% of ESPN Leagues)
With news that Mark Ingram is done for the year, the Saints' backfield is back in its typical fantasy football disarray. C.J. Spiller may be the starter in name, but it's Hightower who could be in line for the bigger workload, given his size and skill set, one that more closely mirrors Ingram's. Plus, Spiller owns a Rushing NEP of -4.71 on 31 carries, an average of -0.15. For context, Ingram's -2.22 on 166 carries works out to an average of -0.01, which is actually just above average among high-volume guys.
Hightower has just 12 carries on the year, but half have gone for positive NEP gains. (By comparison, Ingram's Rushing Success Rate has been just 38.55 percent, and Spiller's has been 41.94 percent.) His straight-line approach could be phased out against Tampa Bay's 10th-ranked rush defense according to NEP, as the Saints are four-point underdogs. However, with a 23.75-point implied total, he could see a red zone touch or two, giving him value in deeper leagues.
Running Back: Bilal Powell (Started in 7.5% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 23.7% of ESPN Leagues)
In the past three weeks, Powell has outperformed teammate Chris Ivory by a wide margin. Ivory has a Rushing NEP of -6.88 on 31 carries since Week 11, an average of -0.22 -- that's about as bad as it gets for guys with a sample size at least that big. On 12 carries, Powell has been at 0.00 Rushing NEP, though 50 percent of those carries went for positive NEP gains. Only 35.48 percent of Ivory's led to positive NEP.
Powell also, of course, has the receiving edge, as has has managed a Reception NEP of 5.95 in the past three weeks compared to Ivory's 1.32 (on just three fewer catches). The gap between the two in Total NEP (Rushing and Reception NEP combined) in that span has been cavernous: 5.95 to -5.56.
As 7.5-point favorites against Tennessee, both could see increased work, but Powell has been the better back of late. Take note.
Wide Receiver: DeVante Parker (Started in 17.5% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 44.4% of ESPN Leagues)
Parker's Week 13 line was buoyed by a touchdown (he had just 3 catches for 63 yards on 5 targets), but in his defense, Ryan Tannehill completed just 9 of 19 passes for 86 yards.
The better news is that Parker played 43 snaps against the Ravens (the same number as Jarvis Landry). Rishard Matthews is still banged up, a good sign that Parker will be in a big role yet again when the team plays the Giants on Monday night. The Giants are 23rd against fantasy receivers and are 22nd in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Parker's ownership is rocketing upward, but he makes a great play for this week and beyond, provided his role continues to grow.
Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett (Started in 7.6% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 20.1% of ESPN Leagues)
Because of his involvement in the return game, Lockett is almost always worth a dart throw if you're in a serious bind, but with Jimmy Graham out for the season, he could be in line for receiving work, too. He caught all 7 of his targets last week for 90 yards and a score.
Baltimore ranks 27th against fantasy receivers and is 16th against the pass, per our metrics. Seattle is tied for the third-highest implied point total on the slate (26.75 points), and Lockett only needs one big play to provide a usable fantasy score. The added volume could easily lead to a big day.
Tight End: Jacob Tamme (Started in 18.5% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 36.4% of ESPN Leagues)
Tamme has had his share of quiet games of late, but with Leonard Hankerson out, he's the second option in the passing game behind Julio Jones. Jones doesn't generally leave many targets behind for other pass-catchers, but he will be seeing all the Josh Norman he can handle this week. Norman is a shutdown corner, and Jones can still get his, but funneling the ball to the tight end could be how the Falcons move the ball.
Their team total is low (shy of 20 points), but as 7.5-point underdogs, there could be underneath throws to Tamme that help your fantasy squad more than the Falcons this week.
Flex: Robert Woods (Started in 3.1% of ESPN Leagues | Owned in 10.5% of ESPN Leagues)
Woods is a very squint-worthy start in Week 14, given his matchup against the mostly hapless Philadelphia Eagles. Woods has seen 7, 9, 9, and 5 targets in his past four games, and played on 61, 68, 69, and 46 snaps. The Eagles are last in the NFL against fantasy wide receivers, and they should have their hands full trying to contain Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy in his first game against the Eagles.
Woods' metrics aren't great (just a 0.53 Reception NEP per target), but with all eyes on Watkins and McCoy, Woods could hit a home run play, making him worth a desperation nod in Week 14, given his mostly consistent volume.