Week 12 Offensive Sleepers

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

Quarterback

Russell Wilson (vs PIT) - A quarterback that was going in the top five in drafts shouldn’t be a sleeper, but he’s in this column just in case week after week of low QB2 production had turned you off to starting Wilson before he finally came through against the 49ers. He should have success against a game but vulnerable Steelers defense, and the Steelers offense’s vertical capabilities should keep this game loose and wide open. Wilson will likely find a lot of room to run if he evades the pass rush. The Steelers have allowed four 300-yard games in the last six and Colin Kaepernick had his biggest game of the year by far against them.

Marcus Mariota (vs OAK) - Except for 22 attempt Teddy and Peyton Manning, every single quarterback that has faced Oakland this year has gone over 20 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. Mariota should keep that going, as he is being turned loose to run more often and he also gets Kendall Wright back this week.

Josh McCown (vs BAL) - It’s easy to forget that McCown was a very good fantasy quarterback before he went down for the second time this year and was temporarily benched for Johnny Manziel. McCown managed to throw at least two scores in every game he finished except for a rough outing at St. Louis - and that includes facing Denver. He is a threat to score with his legs, and McCown also draws Baltimore, who has allowed multi pass scores to every quarterback they’ve faced except Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, and Case Keenum.

Brian Hoyer (vs NO) - Your most obvious streamer play of the week is Hoyer against New Orleans. The Saints allowed a whopping 17 pass touchdowns in the last four games, and at least 324 yards passing to each of those quarterbacks. Hoyer will have DeAndre Hopkins, who can probably account for 200 of those yards and two of those scores on his own. Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts will round out a downfield passing attack that should have its way with the Saints defense unless Dennis Allen is a miracle worker.

Running Back

Spencer Ware (vs BUF) - Check back on Charcandrick West’s status for Sunday, but as of this writing he hasn’t practiced yet. Speed backs need to be very careful with hamstring injuries and Ware was more than capable in relief of West last week, so the Chiefs should be inclined to err on the side of playing it safe with West. As long as West is out, Ware should get at least 15 carries, any goal line opportunities, and the close out the game carries if the Chiefs can win, as the Chiefs defense should be able to control this game against a banged-up Tyrod Taylor.

Javorius Allen (at CLE) - Allen is facing a weak run defense, although the Browns should be able to key on the run with Matt Schaub starting at quarterback for the Ravens. Still, Allen is a great receiver out of the backfield and the Ravens offense under Marc Trestman should feed the running back as a receiver, especially because Schaub throwing downfield is a scary proposition. Allen is a strong RB2 play in PPR and acceptable RB2 in nonPPR.

Shaun Draughn (vs ARI) - Draughn is likely to start against the Cardinals and get most, if not all of the work in the backfield. He isn’t going to run roughshod over Arizona or get many scoring opportunities, but Draughn is likely to get a ton of targets out of the backfield, and the Cards have struggled against good receiving backs, allowing 8-128 to Giovani Bernard, 2-68 to Duke Johnson Jr, 10-53-1 to Theo Riddick, and a combined 13-149 to Saints receiving backs. Draughn has had 12 catches in the last two weeks as the starter and should get a lot of opportunities this week.

Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes (vs NO) - The Saints defense has turned into a sieve against running backs. Washington running backs piled up 380 total yards against them, and even lackluster Giants and Titans running back groups notched over 150 total yards the two games before that. Blue should get more touches and goal line opportunities, so he’s the better play, but Grimes has been outplaying him and could close to the gap and turn this into a committee at any time.

Rashad Jennings (at WAS) - The Giants seem unwilling to give Jennings much more than 15 touches in a game, but he is well-rested coming off of the bye and this is a crucial divisional game, so perhaps they will be more willing to feed their most well-rounded running back. Washington has allowed a 100-yard back in five of the last six games, and the only they didn’t was a blowout win over the Saints, when Saints backs still combined for 178 yards on 29 touches despite playing from behind. Jennings could have his best outing of the year in this one.

Darren Sproles (at DET - Thanksgiving) - Ryan Mathews has already been ruled out of the Thanksgiving day game, so Sproles should get more work behind DeMarco Murray. The fast track at Ford Field should magnify Sproles’ quicks and burst. Sproles has scored in both games that one of Mathews or Demarco Murray missed, and he has 15 receptions in the last four games, even though he was the #3 back for three of them. He’s an upside PPR flex special this week.


Wide Receiver

Martavis Bryant (at SEA) - Hopefully you’re saying that Bryant as a sleeper is a joke, but we’ve seen so little of the Steelers offense with anything resembling full strength personnel that it might not be obvious that he should be in your lineup against Seattle. The Seattle pass defense struggled at home with a similar Arizona passing attack in Week 10, and Bryant is a mismatch for every corner in the league, including Richard Sherman. If Sherman is on Antonio Brown, even better. Bryant’s weekly upside is too high to put him on your bench going forward.

Tyler Lockett (vs PIT) - Doug Baldwin is slated to play Sunday despite a nicked up ankle, but Lockett is the more exciting option against the generous Steelers secondary. The Steelers have allowed a 100-yard receiver in each of the last three games, and fast/quick receiver John Brown notched 10-196 against them. Lockett has scored three touchdowns on only 13 receptions in the last four games. If this one turns into a shootout, Lockett should get a chance to put up big numbers and be on the receiving end of big plays.

Travis Benjamin (vs BAL) - Benjamin’s worst game with Josh McCown at quarterback from beginning to end was a 4-45-1 line against Oakland in their second game together. This week, he gets a Baltimore pass defense that had allowed multiple wide receiver touchdowns in four games before “shutting down” Case Keenum and the Rams pass offense. The Ravens pass defense will likely have a lot of trouble keeping track of Benjamin’s speed and sharp routes on Monday night.

Golden Tate (vs PHI - Thanksgiving) - Tate tied his highest reception total of the year last week against Oakland, as the Detroit offense finally started to have semblance of a game plan and solid execution. Tate should be in line for an even bigger day against an Eagles offense that seemed to wave the white flag last week against Tampa Bay, allowing five passing touchdowns to five different receivers. Before that, they gave up 7-52-1 to Jarvis Landry, and 9-112-2 to Cole Beasley. Tate should get a ton of snaps from the slot to exploit that matchup.

Rueben Randle (at WAS) - Randle hasn’t been converting many big plays this year, but he has also been nursing a sore hamstring that probably needed the extra week of rest last week’s bye brought. He’s facing a Washington defense that has had a lot of problems in the back end, allowing five scores to five different players last week, and 7-116-1 to Randle in the first matchup between these two teams in Week 3. If Washington devotes extra help to the corner on Odell Beckham, Randle should benefit in single coverage and have a chance for a big game.

Kendall Wright (vs OAK) - Wright is due back this week against an Oakland pass defense that hasn’t been very hard to catch this year. Receivers that are skillful at creating separation on short and intermediate routes have had field days against them, including Steve Smith (10-150), Eddie Royal (7-54-1), Emmanuel Sanders (9-111), Keenan Allen (9-89), Antonio Brown (17-284), and Golden Tate (8-73). Marcus Mariota is playing well and should be eager to target his #1 receiver upon his return.

Tight End

Kyle Rudolph (at ATL) - Rudolph finally came alive last week, getting open downfield and adding value after the catch. The first 100-yard receiving yard of Rudolph’s career is a good sign heading into a matchup with an Atlanta defense that has allowed seven scores to tight ends this year, including two to Garrett Celek, one to Cameron Brate, and a 10-127-1 line to Ben Watson. Look for Teddy Bridgewater to try to keep a good thing going with Rudolph.

Zach Miller (at GB - Thanksgiving) - Miller made a spectacular game-winning catch against San Diego, then followed with a two touchdown, 100-yard game against St. Louis. Last week, he “only” had 3-47, but that was with Martellus Bennett in the lineup, who is out for this week’s game against Green Bay. This is the same Green Bay defense that just gave up the Kyle Rudolph breakout game mentioned above. They also allowed tight end touchdowns in three of the last four previous games, and 105 total tight end receiving yards in the one they didn’t surrender a TE score in. Miller should be a big part of Jay Cutler’s attempt to win in Lambeau.

Heath Miller (at SEA) - Miller is Ben Roethlisberger’s preferred target when defenses are devoting too many resources to taking away Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, and this week that combustible situation is combined with an opponent that struggles to contain the opposing tight end. Seattle has allowed seven tight end touchdowns this year, and three times this year, opponents have notched at least 100 tight end receiving yards against them. Miller should be open often on Sunday in Seattle.

Brent Celek (at DET - Thanksgiving) - Zach Ertz is out for Thanksgiving with a concussion, which should be your cue to add and use Celek this week if you need a tight end. He had 7-79 in relief of Ertz last week, and he’s facing a Lions defense that has given up eight touchdowns to tight ends this year. Philadelphia tight ends have had at least four catches in each of the last six games, averaging almost 100 tight end receiving yards a game over that span. Celek should be one of the parts of the Eagles offense that actually works this week against a resurgent Lions defense.