Sleepers - Week 11
by Bob Henry
November 14th, 2012

Editor's Note: Bob Henry is on travel with his "normal employer" this week. He penned thoughts/notes regarding his Sleepers article this week on early Monday and others on staff filled in as necessary to complete the piece. Our first iteration mentioned Taiwan Jones as a sleeper which is clearly not the case as he has been benched in favor of Marcel Reece. This is a corrected copy of the report. Sorry for the confusion...David

This weekly article looks at a variety of players that have an opportunity to outperform their normal production or expectations. Each position is analyzed looking at the matchups, injuries and other factors such as coaching decisions or game conditions, but not all of the players highlighted are your traditional sleepers. Some may be starters with tricky matchups, others might be deep sleepers in smaller leagues, but solid reaches in deeper leagues. Realizing that leagues and roster sizes vary wildly; your mileage will, too. If you're curious about my thoughts of other players, hit me up with questions on Twitter @bobhenry and I'll answer your questions in 140 characters or less. Stay thirsty my friends.

Before we begin, I apologize for the brevity (or absence, in some cases) of some of the write-ups. Another commitment kept me from my normal schedule with this article


Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Carson Palmer, OAK vs. NO
Saints defense has the most points allowed with 12 TDs and 3 INTs in their last five games, Michael Vick's 21.9 fantasy points last week were the second lowest output for an opposing quarterback with an average of over 29 points per game. On the flipside, Palmer is red hot coming into this week's game with 8 TDs and an average of 322 yards/game over his last four.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Josh Freeman, TB at CAR
Freeman is as hot as any quarterback in the league over his last four games with 11 TDs, 1 INTs and an average of 314 yards per game, but when he last faced the Panthers in Week 1, he was limited to 138 yards and a TD (no interceptions) on just 24 pass attempts in a 16-10 win on the road.

Tony Romo, DAL vs. Cle
Boom/bust, Browns giving up a lot of production to quarterbacks - 8th most points allowed, 259 yards/game and 16 TDs, but they've also intercepted 10 passes and held the last three quarterbacks well under 200 yards while allowing just 1 TD.

Andy Dalton, Cin at KC
Dalton has thrown an interception in a team-record nine straight starts going back last year's playoff loss in Houston. On the other side of this matchup, the Chiefs have intercepted a pass in six straight games although they've allowed 9 TDs passes in their last four games. Opponents also typically don't (need to) throw many passes against them. In their last six games, only Drew Brees attempted more than 28 passes against them, potentially capping Dalton's upside. But when teams do thrown on them, they tend to do so successfully with 13 TDs and 6 INTs in their last seven games, a league-high 8.9 YPA and 7 completions of 40 yards or longer (2nd most).

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF vs. Mia
The Dolphins have allowed the ninth most points as their opponents take to the air because they have little success against them on the ground; the Dolphins have allowed five quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards against them in eight games. Fitzpatrick had mixed success against them last year with a good game (316/2/3) and a poor one (209/0/2).

Matt Schaub, HOU vs. Jac
Not a tough matchup at all, but the Texans defense could really shorten this game from Schaub's perspective. The Texans could have this game secured early in the second half leading to a steady stream of handoffs to Arian Foster so for Schaub to be an effective play for fantasy purposes he'll need to do his damage in the first half. In Week 2, Schaub completed 26-of-35 for 195 yards against the Jaguars, but without a touchdown pass his fantasy production was capped at 9.45 points.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

Nick Foles, Phi at WAS
Boom/bust - hard to trust the rookie, but great matchup.

Ryan Tannehill, Mia at BUF

Mark Sanchez, NYJ at KC

Running Backs

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Rashard Mendenhall, PIT vs. Bal
Assuming Mendenhall is able to play this week, it will be an opportune time for him to do so against their arch rival Ravens who have allowed the second most points to RBs over the last four games (37-177-0.8 per game rushing). Five games in a row with a back producing 100+ total yards against them. Steelers' offense has found its rhythm under Todd Haley by focusing on a shorter passing game and a quickly improving offensive line that is opening big holes for the Steelers backs to run through.

Marcel Reece, OAK vs. NO
The Saints have the most points allowed, 148 yards and 1 TD per game. Each of the last six backs has produced more than 100 total yards against the Saints - three of the last four have found the end zone. Reece could be a workhorse for the Raiders this week and has an amazing matchup with the Saints defense.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Felix Jones, DAL vs. Cle
The Browns are allowing the sixth most points over last five games (30-141-0.8), although Phil Taylor's return at nose tackle makes them a more formidable defensive front. DeMarco Murray is said to be targeting this week for his return, but he appears to still be very questionable.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cin at KC
The Chiefs have allowed 134 rushing yards per game in their last three.

Pierre Thomas / Chris Ivory / Mark Ingram, NO at OAK
Depending on what happens this week with the Saints backfield, one or more of these guys are worth a look. The Raiders have allowed seventh most points to RBs over the last four weeks. Oakland held the Chiefs, Jaguars, and Falcons in check on the ground before Doug Martin exploded on them for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns in Week 9.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Ben Tate, HOU vs. Jac
In Week 2, Tate combined for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns even after Arian Foster rolled for 147 yards and a TD in a game the Texans easily controlled from start to finish on the road. At home, the Texans should dominate a weak Jaguars team allowing the third most points to RBs. If Tate remains sidelined from practice this week, then Justin Forsett becomes a sneaky flex play in deeper leagues.

Daniel Thomas, MIA vs. Buf
The Bills have allowed second most points. In their last five games, five different opposing RBs have run for 100 yards, seven have run for 70 or more yards while allowing 10 TDs.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ari at ATL
Last four games, Atlanta has allowed an average of 139 yards and 0.8 TDs to opposing RBs – Felix Jones (109 yards, 5 catches), LeSean McCoy (67 yards, 2 TDs), Darren McFadden (98 yards, TD), Mike Goodson (96 yards), and Alfred Morris (135 yards).

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

Ronnie Brown, SD at DEN
Broncos allowing 28-116-0.8, Brown had 36 yards (3 catches, 3 carries) in Week 6 against the Broncos with Ryan Mathews touching the ball 26 times for 93 yards. Brown continues to be one of the most active pass-catching backs in the league. Over the Broncos last five games they're allowing 6-38-0.2 receiving to RBs.

Daryl Richardson, STL vs. NYJ
Richardson has surprisingly earned a time-share with Steven Jackson and the Jets run defense isn't as formidable as it once was. It's hard to count on Richardson for much more than a flex option in deeper leagues while he splits work with Jackson, and most recently, fellow rookie Isaiah Pead emerging as another talented option for Jeff Fisher to utilize in the backfield.

James Starks, GB at DET
Starks expected to handle the bulk of the touches on early downs after their bye week with Alex Green contributing as a change-of-pace options and perhaps on passing downs. Nothing is written in stone, though, and Starks has not lived up to expectations since leading all 2010 post-season runners in rushing. The Lions are not an easy matchup either.

Wide Receivers

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Jeremy Maclin, Phi at WAS
Maclin has topped 40 yards just twice since Week 1 while seeing his year-to-date ranking fall to WR39 entering this week's game against the Redskins. His yards per catch are down a full yard from the three previous seasons and his career average with Michael Vick and the Eagles offense floundering their way through a season that surely will be the final nail in Andy Reid's coffin as the NFL's longest tenured head coach. The Redskins are allowing the second most points to opposing receivers and Maclin turned in a pair of 100-yard games against them last season. With the inexperienced Foles behind center, Maclin's anything but an elite, much less reliable fantasy option. That said, he has a great opportunity to cut loose this week as long as Foles and the offensive line don't short circuit the offense too much. The same goes for DeSean Jackson, except that he has maintained WR2/WR3 level production with a surprisingly consistent season to date.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK vs. NO
The Saints are allowing the most points to WRs - five straight games allowing a 100-yard game to an opposing receiver; in seven of the Saints' eight games an enemy receiver topped 100 yards or scored against the Saints. The opponents' No. 2 receiver has found the end zone seven times in the last five games alone. After missing a few weeks to injury, Heyward-Bey is back and performing and delivering WR3/flex value. With an excellent matchup this week, he has WR2+ upside.

Donnie Avery, Ind at NE
The Patriots defense has allowed the fourth most points to receivers. In the last few weeks, similar receivers to Avery have produced starter-quality stats in the WR3 range – Chris Givens 3-63-1, Jeremy Kerley 7-120-0 and Doug Baldwin 2-74-1. The Patriots secondary should improve down the stretch with the acquisition of Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay, who just finished a four-game suspension. Talib might spend the bulk of his time shadowing Reggie Wayne leaving Avery one-on-one with Devin McCourty. Avery has been consistently targeted around 8 times a game with at least four catches and 40 yards in four straight games, but he hasn't found the end zone since Week 1. With a plus matchup and Andrew Luck consistently throwing in his direction, Avery is a good bet to deliver solid WR3/WR4 value with some upside.

I've included Malcom Floyd frequently in this column this season since he routinely fits into that low WR3/high WR4 range of fantasy receivers. Once again, he's fits the bill as a high upside player against a familiar foe this week. Against the Broncos, Floyd has either caught a touchdown or yielded 50+ yards while seeing at least 5 targets in each of his last five games.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Titus Young Sr., DET vs. GB
Even with Nate Burleson sidelined for the rest of the season with a broken leg, Young's value and production have been frustratingly inconsistent. In three games with Burleson hurt, Young has been productive in two of them (6-81-0 and 9-100-2) while coming up considerably short in a third (2-20-0) game against a poor Jaguars secondary where expectations were raised. Young has caught 17 of his last 22 targets, though, and his excellent speed makes him a strong gamble in a matchup against Green Bay's defense allowing the 10th most points to receivers. Similar players have yielded strong results in recent weeks with Andre Roberts (4-86-0), Cecil Shorts (8-116-0) and Chris Givens (3-73-0) delivering a solid return to those who started them. Young has been slowed by nagging injuries, but if he's healthy and starting opposite Megatron there will be plenty of opportunity and WR2/WR3 upside/value.

Anquan Boldin, Bal at PIT
I'm not sure that I understand the reason why, but since joining the Ravens, Boldin has just one poor game against Pittsburgh (5 targets, 1 catch and -2 yards in the 2010 playoffs) out of five. In the other four games, Boldin has been a key figure in the Ravens' attack against them with games of 5-118-1 (9 targets), 7-68-0 (10 targets), 7-88-0 (10 targets) and 4-74-1 (7 targets). Boldin appears to be in the midst of his third consecutive second half swoon. At the age of 32, Boldin has lost his quickness and ability to separate, but he remains a handful for corners due to his size and physical play. He has delivered starter-quality numbers in four out of eight starts this year, but with a familiar matchup in which he has consistently had success, he's worth a reach as a WR3/flex option this week.

Mike Williams, TB at CAR
Williams 2-12-1 in Week 1 against Panthers; last year produced 5-93-0, 4-39-0; in 2010, 4-68-0 and 2-54-1; average stat line against the Panthers in five games is 6.8 targets for 3.4 catches, 53.2 yards and 0.4 TDs which puts him squarely in the WR3/flex range even though his current year-to-date ranking is in the WR2/WR3 realm. Williams is consistently targeted 6-to-8 times per game and he remains a strong red zone option for one of the league's hottest quarterbacks. Williams is second on the Buccaneers behind Vincent Jackson with 9 red zone targets and 5 TDs. Williams is more of a gamble this week as the Buccaneers offense might continue to feature Doug Martin and a strong running attack even more than previously.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Brandon LaFell, CAR vs. TB
The Buccaneers defense has allowed the 3rd most points to receivers. LaFell started the season against them with a solid 3-65-1 performance only to watch his production slip over the next month with inconsistent targets and some injuries that set him back. LaFell missed one game to injury and pitching a goose egg in another. He remains on pace for career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, but he's highly inconsistent from game to game alternating with TE Greg Olsen as Cam Newton's No. 2 guy. The Buccaneers have allowed as many big passing plays this year as any secondary in the league, which puts LaFell into the risky, but high reward category. In the last three games each of the No. 2 receivers have been productive: Darrius Heyward-Bey 5-74-0, Lance Moore 9-121-1 (or Devery Henderson 3-75-0) and Michael Jenkins (4-78-0).

Davone Bess, Mia at BUF
Bess is consistent and reliable as a pass-catching receiver for PPR league owners, but his failure to get into the end zone limits his upside as a flex option and as a capable bye-week fill in. Bess has been targeted 9+ times in four of his last five games while averaging 8.1 targets per game this season as the Dolphins second most productive receiver behind Brian Hartline. In his last four games against the Bills, Bess has delivered double-digit (PPR) production in three of those games while getting goosed in his most recent appearance against them.

Emmanuel Sanders, PIT vs. Bal
The Ravens are allowing 14-167-0.6 per game to WRs; in three career games against the Ravens while serving as the team's No. 3 or No. 4 receivers, Sanders has produced 2-20-1 (3 targets), 4-54-0 (7 targets) and (6 targets) 3-49-0. With Antonio Brown sidelined with a sprained ankle, Sanders will lineup opposite Mike Wallace as Ben Roethlisberger's second/third read in the passing game (arguably third behind Heath Miller). Sanders stepped in and caught a second quarter touchdown against the Giants in Week 9 after Brown left the game. He's a capable receiver who is very capable of taking advantage of this week's matchup against a Ravens secondary that has remained solid despite losing Lardarius Webb for the season. In the last two weeks, Greg Little (5-52-0) and Kevin Walter (4-74-1) delivered numbers that were on par or slightly better than their year-to-date averages and under Todd Haley, Roethlisberger is playing at or near career high levels.

Jeremy Kerley, NYJ at STL
Rams have allowed the fifth most points over their last three games after yielding 6 TDs to the Patriots, Packers and Dolphins receivers. It's fair to point out that the Packers and Patriots are among the elite passing offenses in the league, although, Kerley has proven himself capable of delivering WR3 value now that he's a featured player in the Jets' offense with Santonio Holmes sidelined. Meanwhile, starting opposite Kerley, Stephen Hill is as physically talented as they come and he has the potential to go deep any given week, but he's also a highly inconsistent and unreliable rookie.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

Laurent Robinson, Jac at HOU
In Week 2, Robinson caught three passes for 49 yards against the Texans. While that isn't typically relevant for fantasy purposes, he was the most productive of the Jaguars receivers in that game. In the three games where he has been healthy, Robinson has been targeted 6 or times in each one while averaging almost 4.7 catches for 52 yards (and no TDs). The Texans defense remains one of the most formidable in the league from a matchup perspective, but the Jaguars will most likely be backed into a must-pass corner before this week's game even reaches halftime and the Texans have allowed the fourth most points to WRs over the last four games. Robinson could very well see 6-to-9 targets, enough to garner consideration as a WR4/flex option for desperate owners.

Donald Jones, BUF vs. Mia
Jones saw a season-high 9 targets last week and he's already playing with house money after establishing career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns at the mid-way point in the season. Jones doesn't offer much upside with an ordinary skill set, but he has gone over 65 yards or scored in three of his last five games making him a decent gamble as WR3/flex option during the bye weeks for those of you in deeper leagues. The Dolphins have allowed the fifth most points to receivers this year and the Bills figure to throw a lot in this game considering the Dolphins' ability to consistently stifle their opponents running game.

Rod Streater, OAK vs. NO
The Raiders project as a pass-heavy offense this week against the Saints, who are an offensive juggernaut with a gambling, but easy-to-beat defense. As an undrafted rookie out of Temple, Streater has taken a firm hold as the Raiders slot receiver and he is coming of a 10 target game for 4-54-1 against a Buccaneers secondary that is nearly as bad as the Saints. Jabari Greer is the Saints' top cover corner and he'll probably spend the most time covering Denarius Moore. Even as the Raiders third receiver, he's arguably the fourth target for Palmer behind Moore, Heyward-Bey and TE Brandon Myers, so he's really nothing more than a desperate option for owners in deeper leagues trying to take advantage of the plus matchup.

Chris Givens, STL vs. NYJ
Despite losing Darrelle Revis for the season, the Jets have continued to be the league's toughest matchup for opposing receivers as Revis Island has become Cromartie Island. With Danny Amendola returning to the lineup, it's quite likely that Cromartie could spend a big portion of his day following around Sam Bradford's number one target in an effort to force Bradford into his second and third reads. Givens is arguably the team's best receiver, and certainly their best big play threat, after Amendola. If paired up against the Jets No. 2 corner Kyle Wilson, I like his chances of making at least one big play in this matchup. Overall, Givens is very much a long shot for fantasy owners since the Jets have not allowed a TD catch by an opposing receiver since Mike Wallace in Week 2. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Alshon Jeffery, Chi at SF
Love Smith said on Monday that he's hopeful wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be able to return Week 11 against SF. not a great matchup, but Jeffery brings top playmaking ability to the table opposite Brandon Marshall.

T.Y. Hilton, Ind at NE
Seemed to be coming on strong a couple weeks ago, helped by nagging injuries to Donnie Avery, but with a nice matchup against the Jaguars on Thursday night last week, he was targeted just once, but managed to gain 30 yards on a pair of end-around plays. (It's the Patriots, he's a good desperation look because of his big-play upside against a defense that gives up 279.5 yards per game in the past five weeks.

Tight Ends

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Dustin Keller, NYJ at STL
Rams allowed second most points over last four weeks, now that Keller is healthy and back in the lineup, he has once again become a vital cog in the Jets passing game and arguably back to being Sanchez' No. 1 target.

Brandon Myers, OAK vs. NO
Myers continues to perform as a low-end TE1, high TE2 despite having what most pundits consider to be below average athleticism. We can't knock his lack of usage in the red zone any longer after he caught a pair of touchdowns against the Buccaneers, not to mention hauling in a season-high 8 catches on 13 targets. With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson sidelined, the Raiders offense could continue to flow through the arm of Carson Palmer, which means a steady dose of check downs to Myers and a reasonable expectation of 7-to-10 targets for 5-to-6 catches and 40-to-50 yards. Myers is like the energizer bunny of fantasy tight ends, he just keeps going and going and going and the Raiders current state offensively seems poised to sustain his unexpected consistent production going forward.

Brent Celek, Phi at WAS
The Redskins are allowing the second most points to TEs this year, and 6-67-0.8 to TEs over last four weeks; Celek has caught a touchdown in each of his last two games, and in three of his last four, against Washington with 4-42-1 on 9 targets and 6-86-1 on 10 targets.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Greg Olsen, CAR vs. TB
In Week 1, Olsen caught six balls for 56 yards against the Buccaneers, who are allowing an average of 5-52-0.5 to tight ends this year. Olsen has been a little hit or miss as the Panthers number two man in the passing game, alternating with Brandon LaFell. More often than not, Olsen has been that number two target for Cam Newton and both players had success against the Buccaneers in the opener.

Jermichael Finley, GB at DET
Finley has been a frustrating player to own over the last year and a half. With elite athleticism at a position where there is an increasing number of similar players, Finley has underwhelmed compared to his pre-season expectations. Now that he has fought through injuries and he's as close to being 100% as he'll be the rest of the season, Finley draws a Lions defense with major question marks at the safety position with regular starters Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey hurt. Finley has caught a touchdown in three of his six career games against the Lions, and in two of his last three. He's a risk/reward play this week and going forward, but one that might be worth the required leap of faith.

Brandon Pettigrew, DET vs.GB
Charles Woodson out, Pettigrew has been targeted 30 times for 19 catches and 232 yards in his last three games against the Packers.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Logan Paulsen, WAS vs. Phi
The undrafted former UCLA Bruin has stepped in surprisingly well for the injured Fred Davis over the last few weeks with consistently productive box scores of 4-76-0, 4-43-0 and 5-59-0. While several owners went running to the waiver wire to put in a claim on the washed up Chris Cooley, prudent owners snagged Paulsen after watching him draw six targets against the Giants in the game where Davis was hurt. Paulsen might not be good enough to consider an every-week TE1, but it's hard to argue with the results he has delivered, especially when he'll be facing an underachieving Eagles defense with inconsistent play at the safety position. The Eagles have allowed an average of 6-74-0.3 to tight ends in their last three games, so keep Paulsen on speed dial just in case you need him this week.

Scott Chandler, BUF vs. Mia
Chandler produced a solid line of 5-71-0 vs. Miami in Week 11 last year, his only start against the Dolphins over the last two seasons. Chandler is a true boom or bust candidate where that 5-71-0 line is truly an outlier. Three times in eight games this year has Chandler produced 50 or more yards. Similarly, he has more than three catches just three times in eight games. Last year, Chandler produced 50+ yards three times and caught more than three balls just three times. Conversely, the Dolphins have yet to allowed a touchdown catch to a tight end this year, but they do allow a healthy 5-72-0 per game, so something has to give, right?

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

Anthony Fasano, Mia at BUF
Consider Fasano to be sort of a poor man's Scott Chandler. If he doesn't catch a touchdown, he'll burn you for starting him, but he does have a touchdown grab in each of his last two starts against the Bills. Against the Dolphins' divisional rivals, Fasano has typically caught a touchdown or averaged about 30-to-40 yards per game against them. With Ryan Tannehill continually improving throughout his rookie campaign, Fasano is worth a shot in deeper leagues, particularly those with non-PPR scoring systems or those that are heavily slanted towards touchdowns.

Dwayne Allen, Ind at NE
Patriots allowed fifth most points to TEs this year, 6-66-06. With Coby Fleener out for a couple more weeks, Allen will have little competition and should be free to accumulate a good deal of targets against New England.

Lance Kendricks, STL vs. NYJ
The Jets have allowed the fourth most points this year and 6-70-1 to tight ends over the last four weeks (3 games).

Defense/Special Teams

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WASHINGTON vs. Philadelphia
Redskins are giving up a ton of yards, but like most defenses against the Eagles struggling offensive line, they could generate a handful of sacks and force some turnovers to be a productive fantasy option.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

DALLAS vs. Cleveland
Weeden has not been protecting the football well of late, the Cowboys pass rush and much improved secondary could prove to be problematic for the 29 year old rookie.

DENVER vs. San Diego
Rivers turns the ball over about as much as any QB in the league, the Broncos pass rush is formidable and could prove to be very disruptive at home.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

ST. LOUIS vs. NY Jets

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

KANSAS CITY vs. Cincinnati
Dalton has thrown an interception in nine straight games.

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