Week 17 Sleepers

A look at Week 17's best under the radar plays

Quarterback

EJ Manuel, BUF (at NYJ) - Manuel will get a golden opportunity to start in Week 17 on the eve of his entry into free agency. Interim head coach Anthony Lynn will get a chance to see Manuel up close and personal as a starting quarterback, and many think Lynn will be the Bills head coach next season. Manuel has the upside of a dual threat quarterback. His Week 17 opponent, the Jets, have given up 14 passing touchdowns in the last five weeks, as the defense has been mailing it in against the likes of Matt Moore. More than half of the quarterbacks that have faced the Jets this year have thrown for multiple scores.

Blake Bortles, JAX (at IND) - Feel lucky? Bortles was a big Week 16 hit and he is set up for success in a meaningless Week 17 game at Indianapolis. Allen Robinson came back to life last week while the Colts defense gave up three scores to Derek Carr before he left the game with a leg injury. Ten of the fifteen quarterbacks to face the Colts this year have accounted for multiple scores, including Bortles in Week 14, who added a rushing score to supplement his two passing scores.

Matt Barkley, CHI (at MIN) - Barkley’s five interception performance from Week 16 will mar his free agency market, but he has still been a good fantasy quarterback no matter what his NFL suitors think of him. Barkley has thrown for multiple scores (and interceptions) in three of his five starts, while the Vikings defense has been fading in the second half, allowing multiple passing scores in five of the last eight games. As long as your league doesn’t penalize heavily for interceptions, Barkley is a viable Week 17 option.

Sam Bradford, MIN (vs CHI) - Five of the last seven quarterbacks to face the Bears have put up multiple scores, with only the frigid weather games against San Francisco and Green Bay sparing the Bears pass defense. This week’s game in indoors, and against Bradford, who is coming off of his first 300-yard (383 to be exact) and three-score game in the Week 16 loss to the Packers. The Vikings offense may let it all hang out in the passing game with their running game shrinking every week.

Running Back

Mike Gillislee, BUF (at NYJ) - LeSean McCoy missed a practice earlier this week with an illness, but there’s no reason (yet) to think that he will miss Week 17. Still, Gillislee has been running strong, with three scores in the last four weeks and eclipsing seven yards per carry over that stretch. The once vaunted Jets run defense has collapsed, giving up five scores to backs and a 193-yard effort by Carlos Hyde over the last three weeks.

Jacquizz Rodgers, TB (vs CAR) - Doug Martin won’t play in Week 17, and there’s an argument that he shouldn’t have been playing over Rodgers at all this season. Rodgers had over four yards per carry in the start against the Saints last week, something Martin did not do at any point this season. The first time the Bucs faced the Panthers, Rodgers had 129 yards on 35 touches, and the Bucs should aim to feed him again in the season finale.

Darren Sproles, PHI (vs DAL) - Ryan Mathews was put on injured reserve last week, leaving Sproles as the lone healthy established back for the Week 17 game against a Dallas team that has nothing to play for. Byron Marshall and potentially practice squad call-up Terrell Watson will share with Sproles, but Sproles had 103 total yards and 20 touches against the Cowboys the first time these two teams played, so the Eagles have already seen his usefulness against this defense that could rest starters after a few token series.

Alfred Blue, HOU (at TEN) - Blue isn’t going to be a week winner, but he should get a large workload with Lamar Miller ailing enough to miss Week 16 and the Texans needing him to have as much juice as possible for their wild card home game next week. Blue has shown the ability to handle a lot of touches, even if he’s not efficient, and this game should feature a lot of running because Matt Cassel isn’t going to run away from the Texans while he’s piloting the Titans offense in place of the injured Marcus Mariota.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, PIT (vs CLE) - DeAngelo Williams has been a league winner as a backup to Le'Veon Bell, but this year, he has missed six games because of a knee surgery, and he hasn’t had a touch yet since the procedure. He could get a few series to knock the rust off against the Browns in Week 17, but it is more likely that Toussaint gets the lion’s share of touches against one of the league’s worst defenses.

Paul Perkins, NYG (at WAS) - Perkins has been surging in the Giants backfield, and last week he finally moved ahead of Rashad Jennings in touches, the week after he decisively outplayed Jennings. The Giants have nothing to gain this week, but if they can establish Perkins as a lead back when he is still relatively fresh compared to other lead backs and defenses in the playoffs. Washington’s defense has seemed uninterested in tackling the hard-charging Jordan Howard and Jonathan Stewart over the last two weeks, allowing well over 100 yards on the ground to both of them.

Rex Burkhead, CIN (vs BAL) - Jeremy Hill is likely to be out this week, but Burkhead has been outplaying him of late anyway. He's good enough as a receiver to earn snaps lined up in the slot, and while Cedric Peerman will get some work to spell Burkhead, the Nebraska product should get the bulk of the work to show off what he's got for the teams looking at backs in the 2017 free agent class that he will be a part of.

Wide Receiver

Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson Jr, SEA (at SF) - Tyler Lockett was lost for the rest of the season with a gruesome leg injury, so Richardson and Kearse should be thrust into roles with more snaps and targets just in time for a matchup with one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Richardson should take Lockett’s place as the designated deep target, and Kearse had a very strong finish to 2015 when an injury to Jimmy Graham increased his involvement in the pass offense.

Terrance Williams, DAL (at PHI) - Dez Bryant should join Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott on the bench early in this one as Dallas has nothing to play for, which will put Williams in the bullseye as the Cowboys #1 receiver for most of this game against the Eagles poor corners. Williams is a free agent in 2017 and this will be an opportunity to impress with more tape as a lead receiver. He has two games with at least four catches and 60 receiving yards in the last three, and he can build from that if Mark Sanchez is competent in the second half.

JJ Nelson, ARI (at LA) - Nelson has scored in each of the last four games and he was tackled at the one last week against Seattle. This week against Los Angeles, he should get a starter’s complement of snaps versus a pass defense that has allowed 11 wide receiver scores in the last six games, including eight wide receiver games of at least 60 yards. Nelson has a good shot to reel in another long score this week.

Eli Rogers, PIT (vs CLE) - The Steelers #1 and #2 targets, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, will be on the sidelines to rest for the playoffs, so Rogers becomes the de facto #1 target for Landry Jones in Week 17. Jones is far from one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, and Rogers is a slot receiver, not a #1, but the Browns defense has a tendency to amplify fantasy value. Similar players like Cole Beasley, Kendall Wright, and Jarvis Landry have had outstanding games against the Browns this season.

Marvin Jones Jr, DET (vs GB) - Jones has been very quiet in the second half of the season, but the high point of his first half was a 6-205-2 monster against the Packers in Week 3. Jones should have good matchups against the vulnerable Green Bay corners that gave up a 200-yard game to Adam Thielen last week and three wide receiver games of at least six catches and 89 yards in Week 15 against Chicago.

Cameron Meredith, CHI (at MIN) - Meredith has been the #4 fantasy receiver in PPR leagues over the last two weeks, trailing only Jordy Nelson, Brandin Cooks, and Doug Baldwin. This week, he draws a crumbling Vikings defense that just gave up over three scores and over 250 yards to Packers receivers last week. Meredith has settled in as Matt Barkley’s #1 target and he should have a lot of opportunities to shine in the season finale.

Tight End

Charles Clay, BUF (at NYJ) - Clay has somehow been the #1 fantasy tight end over the last two weeks after a quiet 2016, ahead of even Travis Kelce during the all-important typical semis and finals weeks in fantasy leagues. He had 12 catches in Week 17 starter EJ Manuel’s two starts in 2015, and he’s red hot heading into a matchup with a Jets defense that has allowed seven tight end touchdowns over the last four weeks.

Jared Cook, GB (at DET) - The Lions defense has firmed up a bit against tight ends after giving up nine scores to the position in the first nine games, but they have still allowed at least six catches to tight ends in four of the last five games, and Jason Witten scored in the only game that they didn’t let tight ends get open frequently. Cook has been up and down since returning to the lineup, but he has two games of six catches and at least 85 yards, so his ceiling is high in the last game of the 2016 regular season.

Jeff Heuerman, DEN (vs OAK) - Heuerman has a chance to be the last man standing at tight end for the Broncos with AJ Derby and Virgil Green still trying to come back from concussions that cost them Week 16. He’ll be facing a Raiders defense that gave up over 100 receiving yards to tight ends in two of the last three and three of the last six weeks. After coming on with five catches for 72 yards in the last two games, Heuerman could take on an even bigger role this week.

Jack Doyle, IND (vs JAX) - Doyle has levelled off as a consistent target in the Colts pass offense, with at least four catches and 30 yards in each of the last four games. His ceiling is even higher this week with Donte Moncrief likely sidelined. The Jaguars have given up tight end scores in two of the last three weeks, and they allowed an 8-85 line to Ryan Griffin in the one week without a tight end score.