Week 12 Sleepers

A look at the best under the radar starts for Week 12.

Quarterback

Carson Wentz (vs GB) - This one isn’t complicated. The Packers pass defense has vanished into thin air, allowing at least 288 passing yards and three scores in three of the last four games. They’ve given up three or more passing scores in half of their ten games, and the Packers are in the bottom ten in passing yards allowed per game and bottom five in passing touchdowns. This while facing the second fewest pass attempts in the league. Wentz was a game competitor against Seattle last week on the road, this week he returns home, where all of his best games have come, and he’s facing a defense on the opposite end of the spectrum from Seattle.

Joe Flacco (vs CIN) - Flacco has been mostly solid when has had a healthy Steve Smith, and this week he faces a Cincinnati pass defense that has been lit up by the likes of Trevor Siemian. Cincinnati’s offense is crippled and could have trouble putting together drives, which would give Flacco more possessions and chances to find Breshad Perriman or Mike Wallace deep. Marshall Yanda is back to upgrade the offensive line, so everything is trending in the right direction for Flacco.

Ryan Tannehill (vs SF) - We have marveled at how poor the 49ers run defense has performed this year, but we haven’t given enough attention to the abysmal state of their pass defense. Only the Rams and Cardinals failed to throw multiple scores against them, and Carson Palmer threw for 376 yards despite only throwing one touchdown. Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton, and Cam Newton all found ways to throw for at least two scores. Tannehill has actually been passing well over the last two weeks and should be very successful in between Jay Ajayi runs for first downs.

Colin Kaepernick (at MIA) - Kaepernick is a stretch as a sleeper at this point with a high floor and top five weekly ceiling, but fantasy players are still reluctant to trust him. This week, he goes to Miami, where Kaepernick will face a defense that allowed rushing scores to Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Mariota already this year. Russell Wilson was the only other “running” quarterback they’ve faced, and Wilson got hurt during the contest. If Kaepernick has been your best quarterback over the last three weeks, he’s the right call again this week.

Running Back

Wendell Smallwood (vs GB) - Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles haven’t practiced yet this week, and even if they do, Smallwood should be in line for a large workload. He has at least seventy total yards every time he has touched the ball at least 13 times, and we just saw the Packers run defense turn to dust at the end of the Week 11 loss to Washington. They lost yet another inside linebacker, Blake Martinez. Green Bay isn’t going to put up much resistance to the Eagles under the Monday Night lights, which puts Smallwood on target for a great opportunity as the possible lead back.

Dion Lewis, James White (at NYJ) - You have to go back to 2013 before you find a Patriots-Jets game that included more than 20 rush attempts from New England. This is not shaping up to be a LeGarrette Blount day, which opens the door to Lewis and White both playing larger roles. Lewis had eight touches on only 21 snaps last week. If those numbers increase to something like 12 and 30, Lewis should be in line for flexworthy or better numbers, especially if the Patriots give him red zone touches like they did last year. White caught five passes and scored in the second matchup last year, and he has four scores in the last five weeks. The Patriots should be able to control this game and use their receiving backs to slow down the pressure from the Jets defensive line.

Jalen Richard (vs CAR) - Richard is a deep sleeper this week, but he has been trending up in backfield involvement, and he has already shown that he can score from anywhere on the field. The Panthers run defense is still stiff even without Luke Kuechly, but they have trouble containing running backs as receivers. Over the last four weeks they have given up at least 100 receiving yards to running back twice, and they surrender nine receptions to backs in one of the other games. If Latavius Murray can’t find any running room, look for more Richard, which means more big play opportunities.

Bilal Powell (vs NE) - Powell had 12 touches for 90 total yards the one time he faced New England last year. He has at least 50 total yards in every game that he has notched at least ten touches this year, and Powell has scored in two of the last three games. The Patriots gave up a receiving score to Shaun Draughn last week, and seven catches for 87 yards to CJ Prosise the week before. If the Jets fall behind in the second half, look for more Powell than Forte, which should get him to and beyond that ten touch threshold.

Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West (vs CIN) - The Bengals rush defense has been weakening lately with opposing backs combining for over 100 yards in the last three games and six rushing scores given up to opposing backs in the last six games. The Ravens offensive line just got Marshal Yanda back last week, and the running game responded by averaging almost six yards per carry on 14 carries. West and Dixon will split the work, with West more likely to score or get the salt the game away carries against a Bengals team that will be without AJ Green and Giovani Bernard. Dixon has a higher PPR ceiling with his receiving ability. Both are suitable flex plays.

Wide Receiver

Dorial Green-Beckham (vs GB) - Six different wide receivers have scored against the Packers in the last two weeks. Eight wide receivers have at least 50 yards and a score over the last four games against Green Bay. The secondary is in shambles, so any viable receiver against them has to be considered. With Nelson Agholor needing to take a step back and Green-Beckham coming off of his best fantasy performance of the year, he is a good GPP DFS play and waiver wire pickup in deep leagues to see if he can build momentum in December.

Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd (at BAL) - We’re digging deep here, but Andy Dalton faced Baltimore without AJ Green back in 2014 and Mohamed Sanu had a 5-125 line. It’s there for one or both of these receivers with the Ravens likely focused on Tyler Eifert on pass plays and shutting down Jeremy Hill with their strong run defense. Boyd has more momentum, coming off of a good performance after Green went down last week, while LaFell has the better touchdown profile with a three-game scoring streak earlier this year.

Tyler Lockett (at TB) - The Buccaneers have had many lapses this year in the deep secondary. As mentioned before in this column, Jaron Brown, Mohamed Sanu, Tavon Austin, and Brian Quick all got open deep against Tampa earlier this year, and they gave up three 50+ yard receivers in each of the last two times that they faced a viable quarterback. Russell Wilson is much better than viable right now, and his mobility should create time for Lockett to get open deep. Lockett could make your week on one play in Week 12.

DeVante Parker (vs SF) - Parker had two catches for 21 yards entering the fourth quarter last week, only to reel in six catches for 58 yards and the game-winning score the rest of the way. This week, he faces a 49ers pass defense that has allowed multiple pass touchdowns to receivers in six of the last seven games. Two receivers have gone for 66 or more receiving yards in each of the last four games against the 49ers. Parker has been surging up in targets and should be the #2 target with the most downfield targets in this easy matchup.

Michael Floyd (at ATL) - Floyd was battling the flu last Saturday night, so he was already compromised going into the tough matchup with the Vikings. This week, he should feel good enough to resume his #2 receiver role that he regained with a 5-101 line in Week 10. The Falcons pass defense was run all over by Ryan Mathews and company in Week 10, but before that they had allowed seven touchdowns to opposing receivers in Weeks 8 and 9. Floyd has the big play and red zone profile to maximize the value of his targets in what should be one of the highest scoring matchups of Week 12.

Adam Thielen (at DET) **Thanksgiving** - Stefon Diggs is unlikely to play this week, so Thielen should be able to pick up where his 5-65-1 line left off last week, when Diggs was blanketed by Patrick Peterson. In the one game Diggs missed this year, Thielen had 7-127-1, and he had 4-68 against Detroit back in Week 9 on only six targets. Thielen should be able to get all of the downfield targets in the Vikings passing game, and he has been coming through in the deep passing games since he got more involved earlier this season.

Tight End

Will Tye (at CLE) - Tye was called a “strong weapon” by Eli Manning this week, with Manning adding that the team has to find ways to keep getting him the ball. Tye scored last week, and this week he faces a Browns defense that has given up nine touchdowns to tight ends this year, with three in the last three weeks - the windswept game against Pittsburgh being the only contest without at least one opposing tight end score in that stretch. Tye’s targets and snaps are both topping out at just the right time heading into this matchup.

Ladarius Green (at IND) **Thanksgiving** - Green has been eased back in with only 20 snaps in his first two games as a Steeler. The good news that he has six targets in that small sample. If he can get up to 30 or more snaps, he could easily get 6 or 7 targets against a Colts defense that has a lot of vulnerabilities. An opposing tight end has topped 70 receiving yards five times against Indianapolis this year, and that includes the likes of Hunter Henry, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Zach Miller. Green should be ready to go under the light on Thanksgiving and it only takes one or two well-placed balls down the seam from Ben Roethlisberger (who has ten passing scores in his last two matchups with the Colts) to make a good fantasy tight end week.

Vance McDonald (at MIA) - McDonald is settling into a nice groove with Colin Kaepernick. He has six targets in each of the last four games. Twice that has produced a score, and three times it has yielded at least three catches and 46 receiving yards. Those odds give you a solid shot at a good week against a Dolphins defense that has given up at least 66 receiving yards to every tight end of import (Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, Gary Barnidge) they have faced this year. Three of the four scored against Miami. If Kaepernick throws a touchdown this week, McDonald is the favorite to get it.

Gary Barnidge (vs NYG) - Barnidge has Josh McCown back, and he promptly scored in windy conditions when McCown got back in the game last week. Last year, Barnidge produced at an almost Gronkian rate with McCown, and this week he gets a favorable matchup for tight ends against the Giants. An opposing tight end has gone for at least 55 receiving yards in every game this year against New York except when Richard Rodgers, Coby Fleener, and Dennis Pitta were the opposing tight end. Barnidge is probably better than that group as long as McCown can finish the game.