Week 13 Offensive Sleepers

A look at the best under the radar starts for Week 13.

Quarterback

Matt Hasselbeck (vs PIT) - The Steelers pass defense is in meltdown mode. In the last three games, they have given up ten passing scores, including five to Russell Wilson and four to Derek Carr. All three quarterbacks they’ve faced have throw for at least 300 yards over that span, too. Hasselbeck clicked with his top two receivers last week and should carry that over into a very good game Sunday night.

Marcus Mariota (vs JAX) - Jacksonville has given up multiple pass touchdowns in five of the last six games. The one during that stretch that they didn’t give up two, or even one passing score was against Mariota, but that was on a Thursday and without Kendall Wright. Mariota threw three scores last week against Oakland and that was with Wright just getting back up to speed. Jacksonville looked powerless to slow down Philip Rivers last week. The converging forces point to a good game for the rookie.

Jay Cutler (vs SF) - San Francisco’s pass defense has been barely there on the road this year. Take Nick Foles out of the mix and the worst quarterback performance against them was a 260 yard, three touchdown game from Russell Wilson on only 29 attempts. Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, and Eli Manning all had at least 300 yards and two scores against them. Cutler is getting Alshon Jeffery back to full speed and Martellus Bennett will be back this week, so he should be set up with more quality options to move the ball against the 49ers.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs NYG) - Fitzpatrick is having one of the better fantasy stretches of his career right now. He has accounted for at least two scores in every game he has finished this year except one, and even in that game he had a passing score, over 200 passing yards, and 34 yards rushing. Brandon Marshall was in top form in Week 12, and Week 13’s opponent New York Giants just let Kirk Cousins throw for 302 yards and a score on only 29 attempts while adding a rushing score. They are also the team that gave up seven passing scores to Drew Brees just a little over a month ago. Fitzpatrick is a high floor, high ceiling play this week.

Running Back

David Johnson (at STL) - Don’t overthink this one. Johnson has already made a fantasy impact in a very limited role as a receiver and goal line back. Now, he’ll have the lead back role on one of the highest scoring teams in the league. Yes, St. Louis is a tough matchup, they beat the Cardinals in Arizona earlier this year, after all. Still, Johnson had 81 total yards and a score on seven touches in that game. St. Louis has allowed a running back to go for 100 or more total yards in each of the last four games. Johnson is an easy call as a low RB1 this week.

LeGarrette Blount (vs PHI) - Blount hasn’t been much help to our fantasy teams the last two weeks, but that’s about to change against an Eagles defense that just everything worked against over the last two weeks. The beleaguered Lions backfield accounted for over 200 total yards and two scores and Doug Martin ran for over 200 yards on his own. In the three games before that dynamic duo, they gave up two 100-yard rushing games and in the third Lamar Miller had 93 total yards and a score. Blount could easily get north of 25 carries if the Patriots control this one, and the Eagles defense should provide plenty of scoring opportunities.

Shane Vereen (vs NYJ) - It’s hard to count on any Giants back in any given week, but if Ben McAdoo watched Vereen last year, he saw how he could do damage against this Jets defense when he notched over 100 total yards and two scores against them in Week 7. The Jets have given up rushing back receiving touchdowns in three of the last five games. The Jets thwart the run and the Giants can’t run the ball anyway, so they should be more inclined to go pass heavy and get Vereen on the field a lot in this game.

Alfred Morris (vs DAL) - With the exception of the frantic comeback win over Tampa Bay, Morris has gotten at least 15 carries in every Washington win. He’s on the field so often in games that Washington controls that he also had at least two receptions in three of those four games. The Cowboys have to be deflated after losing Tony Romo and Washington will be fired up playing at home on Monday Night Football as a first place team, where they have won five straight games. If there’s a week left on the schedule you want to be playing Morris, this is it.

Shaun Draughn (at CHI) - Draughn is so clearly the 49ers lead back that he was on the field for every snap against the Cardinals. He has caught at least four passes and had at least 77 total yards in each of the last three games. This week, he gets a Bears defense that has allowed 100 yard rushers in each of the last two games, and at least 60 receiving yards to opposing running backs in three of the last four. Blaine Gabbert has been doing well for himself playing high percentage decision football, which will include a lot of touches for Draughn once again.

Jeremy Langford, Matt Forte (vs SF) - The lowest point total the 49ers have allowed on the road this year was 27 - and that was to the woeful St. Louis offense. Chicago’s offense is getting healthy just in time for this matchup, once that should produce a lot of touches for both running backs and plenty of scoring opportunities. Against the 49ers away from Northern California, DeAngelo Williams had three scores, Chris Johnson had 110 yards and two scores, Shane Vereen had 110 total yards and a score, Todd Gurley had 133 and a score, and Thomas Rawls had 249 total yards and two scores. Forte and Langford will have to split that production, but there should be enough to go around to make both good flex plays with the potential for more.

Wide Receiver

Kamar Aiken (at MIA) - The Dolphins secondary has been very generous to wide receivers lately. They have allowed six scores to wideouts in the last two weeks and twelve scores over the last six. Four wideouts have scored two times in a game against them this year. All of that points to a big opportunity for Aiken, who led the Ravens in targets by a good margin in Matt Schaub’s first start with ten. Aiken has actually been a high floor option since Steve Smith went down, with at least five catches and 50 yards in each of the three games and scores in two of the three. He’s a safe WR3/Flex with a high ceiling.

Rueben Randle (vs NYJ) - Randle is not for the faint of heart, as the margin of error could be razor thin, but Darrelle Revis - if he’s active - will likely be locked up with Odell Beckham, leaving Randle to face up against the rest of the Jets pass defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns to wide receivers in the last five weeks. There have also been five 100-yard games by wideouts over that span, and four of the five opponents have had more than one wide receiver go over 12 nonPPR fantasy points. Randle is the most likely to be that second highest scoring wideout for the Jets.

Kendall Wright (vs JAX) - Wright was only in on 34 of the 62 snaps against the Raiders last week, but now that he has knocked off the rust from his three-week absence, he should be good to go against a Jaguars defense that Philip Rivers took apart last week with steady short-range passing. Simply steady wideouts like Kamar Aiken, Robert Woods, Dontrelle Inman, and Eric Decker all had at least 65 yards against Jaguars in recent games, and three of the four scored. All Marcus Mariota and Wright have to do is run the plays as designed and the production should come easy.

Marvin Jones Jr (at CLE) - Jones should be able to have a big game against a Browns pass defense that is giving up big games with regularity. In the first meeting between these teams three weeks ago, Tyler Eifert scored all three receiving touchdowns, but in the adjacent games, they gave up three scores to Steelers receivers and two to Cardinals receivers. Eifert might play this week, but he is banged up, and Jones was able to put up 5-78 even while Andy Dalton only threw 27 times.

DeVante Parker (vs BAL) - Parker has just been installed as a starter in place of the injured Rishard Matthews. In limited (albeit garbage time) duty, Parker put up 80 yards and a score on four catches. This week with more snaps against a very limited Ravens pass defense, Parker could have a breakout game. Baltimore has given up multiple touchdown to wide receivers in five of the last six games, with only the anemic Rams pass offense failing accomplish that. Parker’s game is predicated on winning at the catch point, which makes him a leading candidate to catch one in the end zone this week.

Brandon LaFell (vs PHI) - Philadelphia’s defense has been good for what’s ailing opposing wide receivers lately. They have given up seven touchdowns to wideouts in the last two games and 11 in the last four. Eight different receivers have scored during that span and nine different ones have gone over 50 yards receiving. As the Patriots #1 outside receiver, LaFell is set up for a big day, and if you really want to dig deep, look at Keshawn Martin.

Tight End

Kyle Rudolph (vs SEA) - Rudolph had his two highest receptions totals of the season in the last two games, and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down this week against Seattle. Russell Wilson is hot and could force the Vikings out of their conservative comfort zone, but even if they don’t, Rudolph caught seven balls last week despite the fact that Teddy Bridgewater only threw 28 times. Seattle has allowed five tight end touchdowns since Week 5, and four tight ends have gone over sixty yards during that span. Last week, Heath Miller had five catches for 45 yards, before he left the game with a rib injury, and that came all in the first quarter.

Scott Chandler (vs PHI) - This is low hanging fruit, as Chandler is set up for a much larger opportunity this week with Rob Gronkowski almost surely out. Philadelphia’s defense has given us 45 points in each of the last two games. If the Patriots are knocking on the door of the end zone this week, Chandler is one of the most likely players to answer.

Luke Willson (at MIN) - Willson will step right into Jimmy Graham’s vacated role in the Seattle offense just as Russell Wilson is playing his best football of the season. Willson actually has more speed and big play ability than Graham. He has averaged almost 15 yards a catch over his career, and scored five times on only 54 catches. The closest player in size/speed among tight ends Minnesota has faced this year is Eric Ebron, who had five catches and a score in both Vikings games with the Lions.

Vance McDonald (at CHI) - It’s hard to argue with McDonald’s performance in the last two games with Blaine Gabbert at the helm. McDonald has been getting open downfield and Gabbert has been finding him, to the tune of 4-65-1 and 6-71-1 lines. Chicago has had some down games against tight ends lately, giving up a combined 11-146 to Denver tight ends in Week 11 and 6-69 to Antonio Gates in Week 9. As long as Gabbert continues to look McDonald’s way, good things should happen for McDonald’s fantasy owners.