Week 16 Offensive Sleepers

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

Quarterback

Matt Barkley (vs WAS) - Barkley has been a good fantasy play in two out of his three home games, and the one “off” game was played in snowstorm and featured only 18 pass attempts by Barkley, two of which were big Josh Bellamy drops. The Washington pass defense has had numerous lapses, and six of the last seven quarterbacks to face them have accounted for multiple scores, including the likes of Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, and Carson Palmer. Even Cam Newton got off the schneid with a 300-yard, two touchdown game last week. Five of the last six quarterbacks Washington has faced have gone over 300 yards, including Carson Wentz. If you have to go deep, look for a cheap DFS quarterback or scrape for a superflex or second quarterback, Barkley is a good choice.

Andy Dalton (at HOU) - Before the Texans drew Blake Bortles last week, they had given up multiple pass touchdowns to the last five quarterbacks they had faced, including Bortles in Week 10. Dalton had been able to post two passing scores in two of the last three weeks, all played without AJ Green, who is set to return for Week 16 as of the time of this writing. If Tom Savage isn’t ready for prime time, the Bengals could play it more conservative on the road, but that same running game isn’t finishing, and Dalton has four rushing scores since Week 16, to raise his ceiling if Savage hands the game to Cincinnati.

Colin Kaepernick (at LA) - With the exception of the game played in a Chicago snowstorm, Kaepernick has been very reliable for fantasy with a built-in top five ceiling because of his legs and his defense’s penchant for digging big holes that allow for lots of prevent defenses in the second half on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Kaepernick’s one decent weather blemish was a game that the 49ers led most of the way against the Jets, so that potential pitfall looms in a very winnable matchup with the Rams. The good news is that the Rams have given up 11 passing scores in their last four games, so there’s a chance Kaepernick will have success while the game is close.

Blake Bortles (vs TEN) - This one is not for a faint of heart, but there is an argument for Bortles as a streamer or DFS play this week. Yes, his play has been floundering, but it was no better when he faced the Titans in Week 8, when a disastrous first half led to a second half against a slack defense. When the game was over, Bortles had thrown for 337 yards and three scores. The next four quarterbacks to face the Titans threw for multiple scores, and Trevor Siemian had 334 yards and a score two weeks ago. Among second half opponents, only Alex Smith failed to ring up fantasy points against the Titans in last week’s game, and that’s because the Chiefs went very conservative on offense after building an early lead. It’s hard to trust a quarterback as bad as Bortles in your lineup, but a big Week 16 wouldn’t be a complete surprise.

Running Back

Mark Ingram II (vs TB) - Ingram hasn’t done anything of note for fantasy teams in the last three games, but there are reasons to think that will change in Week 16. He ran strong against the tough Arizona front in Week 15, but was replaced at the goal line twice by Tim Hightower, so Hightower had the better fantasy day. Ingram was livid on the sidelines about missing out on a $100,000 incentive that would have been triggered by his next score. Now that the story has gone public, the Saints might be embarrassed into getting Ingram his score in win to stay alive game against the rival Bucs, who have given up rushing scores in each of their last two road games.

Kenneth Farrow (at CLE) - Farrow was far from impressive in his first start last week against the Raiders, but this week he draws the cupcake Browns defense. The Chargers are on the road, but they should still be able to control the game against Robert Griffin III and company, which should lead to touches and scoring opportunities for Farrow. The Browns have allowed 12 rushing scores to running backs since Week 7, including three multi-score games. They have allowed 100-yard rushers in three of the last four games, including Jeremy Hill, who didn’t post more than 43 rushing yards in any of the other three games he has started since Giovani Bernard went down. Farrow is a pure matchup play, but the softness of the Browns defense has been one of the surest things in fantasy this year.

Paul Perkins (at PHI) **Thursday** - Perkins has pulled even with Rashad Jennings in touches once this season, only to fall behind him for the next four games. In Week 14, Perkins had 16 touches to Jennings 17, only to once again get out-touched 18 to 11 last week. Still, Perkins had 56 yards to Jennings 38 against Detroit, which triggered a report from ESPN beat writer Jordan Raanan that Perkins role could grow. Shane Vereen’s re-injury of his triceps should free up some passing game snaps, and the Eagles have allowed six rushing scores to backs in the last five games, so matchup and momentum intersect at Perkins if he can indeed get a larger opportunity this week.

Kenneth Dixon (at PIT) - The Ravens running back usage has been maddening this year, but there is a method to the madness based on the last two weeks. Against the Patriots, when Baltimore trailed for most of the game, it was a Dixon night, with 19 touches for the rookie compared to six for West, including eight Dixon receptions. Last week, with the Ravens leading for most of the game, West dominated touches, with 17 to Dixon’s nine. The first time around against the Steelers, the Ravens used more West as they led for the entire game, but in Pittsburgh on Christmas, the Steelers are favorites and it’s reasonable to project a Dixon game.

Justin Forsett (at KC) - Forsett isn’t a strong play in Week 16, but there’s a path to value against the Chiefs. The Broncos haven’t been able to establish the running game since Forsett was signed two weeks ago, but Forsett has at least established himself as the lead back, out-touching Devontae Booker nine to five and 14 to 8 in those two contests. This week, the Broncos go to Kansas City to face a hyperconservative Chiefs offense that should keep the game close. The same Chiefs have allowed five rushing scores in the last three games, and two different backs have at least four catches and 49 yards during than span. Forsett could have a decent floor in PPR leagues with a ceiling that is padded by the chance for a score or two if the Broncos can finally move the ball with their season on the line. The first time these teams met this year, the Broncos had 33 rush attempts.

Dion Lewis (vs NYJ) - Lewis has been resident of the sleeper column and failed to deliver week after week, but the win over the Broncos last week brought his strongest game and highest usage yet. Lewis had 20 touches, over 100 total yards, and that was with LeGarrette Blount still get 17 carries and James White still getting six touches. Lewis had a first and goal carry that was just short of a score and he has seven red zone touches since his return. Against the Jets defense that is disintegrating, giving up 75 points in the last two games against teams other than the 49ers, Lewis should finally break through for his first score of the year.

Wide Receiver

Cameron Meredith (vs WAS) - Meredith has come alive once again with a Bears backup quarterback. He has at least 67 receiving yards in each of the last three games with Matt Barkley, culminating with a nine catch, 104-yard effort against the Packers last week. He has been lining up in the slot more often, which should steer him clear of Josh Norman on most snaps. Washington’s pass defense has allowed 300-yard passing games in four of the last five contests, and Barkley has proven that he can deal in the cold, so there’s a good foundation for Meredith to have strong numbers again this week.

Eli Rogers (vs BAL) - Rogers started out the season with a real shot to emerge as the team’s clear #3 option behind Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but he failed to secure the job, and players like Sammie Coates Jr and Ladarius Green surged ahead of him in the target pecking order, only to suffer injuries, as Green did with his latest concussion last week. That coincided with Rogers making plays downfield to the tune of 75 yards on only five receptions, including the Steelers only touchdown in the win over the Bengals. Green is likely out for Week 16 against Baltimore, a defense that induces a lot of passing because of their #1 ranked run defense. Rogers has lines of 6-59-1, 6-103, 4-20, and 5-75-1 in the four games that have featured at last six targets this year. The 6-103 came against the Ravens in the first matchup in a very good sign for his prospects this week.

Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell (vs NYJ) - This one isn’t difficult. The Jets pass defense is vanishing into thin air, as they gave up four scores and 236 passing yards to Miami last week on only 18 attempts. The last time they faced the Patriots, the Jets gave up two scores to Malcolm Mitchell and four catches for 70 yards to Hogan, and neither of them led the team in targets. Hogan has the ability to make your week on one play, and Mitchell’s red zone prowess against this defense has already been proven. Both are excellent upside plays in what should be an easy passing day for Tom Brady.

Pierre Garcon (at CHI) - Garcon is only a sleeper because the fantasy world moved on from him this offseason when Washington drafted Josh Doctson in the first round. There was even speculation that Washington would move on from him because of his 7.6 million dollar salary, but he has earned it this year, and he has earned his roster spot on fantasy teams, especially in PPR leagues. He has at least 14 PPR points in five of the last six games, and he faces a Chicago defense that let Davante Adams get free in the end zone twice last week (Adams dropped both targets). With Jordan Reed still banged up and Jamison Crowder fading, Garcon has a high floor and a higher than expected ceiling with Washington’s season hanging in the balance.

Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee (vs TEN) - Much like their quarterback, the Jaguars wide receiver duo are not viable championship plays if you have a weak stomach, but in the first matchup between these two teams, Robinson had 6-70 and Allen Hurns had 7-98-1. Hurns has been out and he was on the verge of being passed by Lee anyway, so it’s Lee and Robinson set up for a garbage time feast this week if the Jaguars wilt again in a divisional matchup. The Titans have allowed five 100-yard games to receivers since Week 10 and six receiving touchdowns to wideouts in that same span, which includes their bye. Only Alex Smith and a feeble Chiefs passing game failed to post a game of at least 97 yards and a score by a wide receiver in those five games, so the die has been cast for at least one big game by a Jaguars passcatcher this week.

Tight End

Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry (at CLE) - Gates’ “catch Tony Gonzalez on the all-time tight end touchdown list” narrative has a hit brick wall, as Henry has been the Chargers Johnny on the spot in the red zone lately. Henry has four scores to Gates one over the last five games, but against the Browns this week, there could be enough to go around for both to reach paydirt. Cleveland has allowed six tight end scores in the last six games and twelve on the season. Everything seems to work against the Browns defense, so if the Chargers do have a priority on getting Gates name in the record book again, this week presents a golden opportunity to do so.

Martellus Bennett (vs NYJ) - Bennett has been quiet since hurting and then re-injuring his ankle this year, but he did come back to life with a 4-70-1 game against Baltimore two weeks ago, and this week, he gets the Jets defense that has given up five tight end scores in the last two weeks, with only the woeful 49ers pass offense failing to get a tight end in the end zone. Dwayne Allen and Dion Sims had four scores combined going into their matchups with the Jets, they had five in those games, with each having at least two in week-winning performances for fantasy leagues. Bennett gets that spot this week.

Jared Cook (vs MIN) - Cook has had two big weeks in five games since returning from injury, which aren’t the greatest odds for Week 16, but the payoff has been big, with six catches for at least 85 yards in both games. This week against Minnesota, he faces a defense that was waving the white flag against the Colts last week, allowing eight catches for 95 yards and a score to Indianapolis tight ends in basically one half. Aaron Rodgers has passed for multiple scores in each of his last four home games, increasing the chances that Cook flirts with the #1 tight end of the week if he is a big part of the game plan.

Jesse James (vs BAL) - The likelihood that Ladarius Green is out again this week with his latest concussion puts James back on our sleeper tight end radar. James started out the season with scores in four of the first five games before Ben Roethlisberger was injured. He hasn’t had a game with a fully healthy Roethlisberger and no Green since then. The Ravens have allowed scores to tight ends in three of the last six games, including one to the lowly Browns, and a tight end has had at least 68 receiving yards in three of the last four games against the Ravens.