Week 16 Offensive Sleepers - Footballguys

A look at the best under the radar plays for Week 16

Quarterback

**Rookies Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Baker Mayfield have graduated from sleeper status and are solid QB1 candidates this week**

Nick Foles (vs Houston) - Foles showed last week that he still has ice water in his veins and even though his stats didn’t show it because the Eagles scored all three touchdowns on the ground, he moved the offense against a tough Rams defense that had all hands on deck. This week he comes home to face a suspect Houston secondary that probably can’t handle the myriad of passing-game options the Eagles will deploy against them. Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Marcus Mariota have all had good fantasy games against the Texans in the last four weeks, and before that even the Washington and Denver quarterbacks accounted for at least 18 points in standard scoring. Foles is a high floor streamer/QB2/superflex this week.

Sam Darnold (vs Green Bay) - Darnold was very impressive against the Texans last week, and this week he’ll get a Packers defense that is just as vulnerable in the secondary, but lacking the Texans pass rush. The Jets looked much more motivated around Darnold than the Packers did around Aaron Rodgers last week, with Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears passing game doing whatever they wanted to at Soldier Field. Only Josh Rosen failed to throw for multiple pass touchdowns against the Packers over the last five games. Darnold also had his highest rushing total of the season last week, showing that he is over his foot issue.

Derek Carr (vs Denver) - Carr has been better at home than on the road this year, and one of his best road games came in Week 2 against a Denver defense that was much stronger in the secondary than the one he will face this week. Carr has multiple passing scores and at least 240 passing yards in three of his last four home games and Denver’s pass defense recently gave up 332 and two scores to Nick Mullens and 236 plus a score to Jeff Driskel. Carr seems to be riffing with Jordy Nelson now, and Jalen Richard’s threat as a receiver out of the backfield will pad Carr’s numbers because of his high percentage approach to playing quarterback - he completed 29 of 32 attempts in the first matchup with the Broncos.

Josh Johnson (at Tennessee - Saturday) - Johnson didn’t do much against the Jaguars in Week 15, but he did enough to keep Washington alive in the playoff hunt and he’ll be tasked with doing that again in Week 16 against an easier to solve Tennessee defense. While the Titans did hold down the Odell Beckham Jr-less Giants in the rain last week, and put the clamps on Cody Kessler and Josh McCown in the two previous weeks, they gave up a huge game to Deshaun Watson in Week 12, including 70 rushing yards and a score, which is where you hope Johnson can do damage if he is your emergency streamer/QB2/Superflex in Week 16. Johnson has at least 45 rushing yards in each of his two appearances, and one of those was only a quarter and a half of play.

Running Back

**Tevin Coleman, Jaylen Samuels, Jamaal Williams, and Elijah McGuire are all clear every-down starters and deserving of RB2 status this week**

Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon (at Los Angeles Chargers - Saturday) - Dixon didn’t come through as a sleeper last week after Edwards took control of the backfield in the second half, but there is enough to go around against the Chargers for both to come through this week. Opposing running backs have scored three touchdowns against them in three of the last five weeks, with only the feeble Cardinals offense failing to score one, and the Jeff Driskel-led Bengals offense still accounting for 158 total yards and a score against the Chargers. Edwards is a solid RB2 this week, especially in nonPPR leagues, and Dixon should get at least nine touches and carries what the heck flex status.

Kalen Ballage (vs Jacksonville) - The matchup isn’t easy, but Ballage has fresh legs and busted a 75-yard touchdown in his first significant action of the season last week, hitting almost 22 miles per hour at his top speed. The Dolphins coaches seem to favor him over Kenyan Drake and Ballage is also a very good receiver out of the backfield, so he should have a featured role in the backfield in a game the Dolphins should be able at home to win against the hapless Jaguars offense.

Wendell Smallwood (vs Houston) - Sometimes the best move in desperate times is the simplest. Smallwood scored twice on the ground behind a very effective run blocking line in the red zone and faces a Houston defense that has allowed a running back rushing score in six of the last seven weeks. They have also given up at least six running back receptions in three of the last four weeks, along with at least 50 receiving yards. Smallwood should share the backfield targets with Darren Sproles and add a few more PPR points to his floor against this defense. Trust the hot hand if you are looking to the waiver wire for a flex or emergency RB2.

Sony Michel (vs Buffalo) - Michel hasn’t done much for us lately, but that could change in Week 16. The Bills have allowed a running back score in each of the last eight weeks, and multiple running back scores in half of those games. If James Develin hadn’t vultured three scores from Michel in the last three games, we would feel more confident about Michel as a flex or RB2 this week. The Patriots one offensive score against the Bills in the first meeting came from James White, who was the only healthy back out of the team’s top three.

LeSean McCoy (at New England) - So it has come to this. McCoy was an early round pick and failed miserably even though his potential legal troubles never interfered with his playing status this year. He could make amends in Week 16 against the Patriots if he is pushed into duty for your team. In the first matchup, he accounted for 83 yards on six receptions, so the hope is that the Bills feature him as a receiver. The Patriots have also been soft against the run lately, allowing over 150 rushing yards to opposing backs in the last two games, including one game where they allowed three scores to opposing backs against Miami. McCoy also has at least 100 total yards in the last three matchups he played against the Patriots in 2017 and 2016.

Wide Receiver

Corey Davis (vs Washington - Saturday) - A #1 receiver isn’t usually a sleeper, but Davis has been so quiet in December that he might seem like an automatic bench for Week 16. Don’t be so quick to skip over him when setting your lineup. Washington didn’t allow much to Cody Kessler through the air last week, but in the three previous games, they allowed seven scores to opposing wide receivers, including three to the Giants without Odell Beckham Jr. The pass defense is weary and the game plan should be geared up to stop Derrick Henry, which will give Davis one-on-one opportunities to make big plays in the downfield passing game.

Tre’Quan Smith (vs Pittsburgh) - Smith has been beyond unreliable this year, but when he is good, he can put up week-winning numbers. He has a shot to do this week against a Steelers defense that allowed Chris Hogan to get more open than any wide receiver has been in the last two seasons last week (really, look it up). The Steelers should be focused on Michael Thomas and the Saints running back duo, so Smith is likely to be matched up one-on-one against one of their lesser corners and it only takes one Drew Brees deep ball to make your week if you plug Smith in as a desperation option in deep league finals.

Dede Westbrook (at Miami) - Westbrook still found a way to be relevant in leagues that score special teams touchdowns despite the Jaguars passing game being shut down last week. While it’s difficult to feel good about relying on Cody Kessler in any way in a Week 16 lineup, the Dolphins have allowed multiple wide receiver scores in each of the last three weeks, including two to Zay Jones, who hasn’t scored in the two weeks since the matchup with Miami. Westbrook also had a scintillating toe-tap touchdown against the Titans two weeks ago to show he will make the most out of any opportunity he gets.

Jamison Crowder (at Tennessee - Saturday) - Crowder is a hail mary, but he has been Josh Johnson’s #1 receiver since Johnson came in to spare us all the sight of Mark Sanchez playing two weeks ago. Crowder had a long touchdown in garbage time against the Giants and led Washington in receptions and receiving yards last week. Tennessee has had the luxury of playing the Giants without Odell Beckham Jr in the rain last week and Cody Kessler (who looked reasonably effective against them as a passer) the previous week, and Josh McCown the week before that. If Josh Johnson can be marginally better, he could exploit a secondary that gave up multiple scores to wide receivers in four of the last five weeks before that recent easy stretch, and most signs point to Crowder being on the receiving end of any productive pass to a Washington wideout.

Calvin Ridley (at Carolina) - Julio Jones is a game-time decision, and even if he plays, it’s possible the injury gets aggravated in-game or he just doesn’t feel right when he tests the injury at game speed. Ridley would be the best choice to inherit Jones’ downfield targets against a Panthers defense that allowed a 4-64-1 line to him in the first matchup. Ridley had his second highest catch and target totals in the last six games last week and appears to be coming out of his second-half slump.

Tight End

Ryan Griffin (at Philadelphia) - Deshaun Watson had been very effective recently when throwing to his tight ends until DeAndre Hopkins dominated action last week. In the previous three weeks, Watson completed at least five passes to tight ends, with Griffin leading Texans at the position in receptions and receiving yards in two of the three games, topping out with 5-80 in Week 14. This week, Houston draws a Philadelphia defense that has given up at least six catches to opposing tight ends in the last three games, and 4-77 to backup Rhett Ellison in the game before that stretch. Gerald Everett and Blake Jarwin each had at least 9.6 PPR points against Philadelphia in the last two weeks, so unlikely tight ends are doing well against them lately.

C.J. Uzomah (at Cleveland) - Uzomah might be Jeff Driskel’s #1 target with Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green both out this week. He had 6-39 against the Browns four weeks ago, with the majority of his 13 targets coming from Driskel after Andy Dalton left the game. The Browns have given up at least five catches to opposing tight ends every week since Week 7, and they have allowed four scores to tight ends since Week 9. Austin Hooper had 10 receptions and Ian Thomas had nine in recent games, so the Browns defense tends to make the tight end an attractive option for opposing quarterbacks.

Antonio Gates (vs Baltimore - Saturday) - One week after posting his best game in a month, Gates is once again a sleeper in a crucial game against the Ravens. Keenan Allen is a game-time decision and could be limited or out to free up targets for Gates, and the Ravens have allowed four touchdowns to opposing tight ends in the last five weeks. They’ve also surrendered at least 44 receiving yards and four receptions to opposing tight ends in four of those five games.