Week 14 Offensive Sleepers

A look at the best under-the-radar starts for Week 14.

Quarterback

Jameis Winston (vs NO) - The best quarterback in the NFL this year is whoever is playing New Orleans. They are currently allowing an all-time high passer rating against, and they have also surrendered 21 passing touchdowns in the last five games, with no fewer than two allowed in any game. Winston just got the last of his major three weapons - tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins - back, and he is also second in the NFL in quarterback rushing touchdowns with five. Tampa is still in the playoff hunt and they have plenty to play for, so Winston should have plenty of stats to collect in this one.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs TEN) - Perhaps it is absurd to list Fitzpatrick as a sleeper. He has been a top 10 quarterback over the last five games, and he is coming off of QB3 and QB8 finishes in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively. This week he draws a Titans defense that just allowed five passing scores to Blake Bortles. Add in Fitzpatrick’s willingness to run the ball, including in the red zone, and you have a recipe for a third straight top 10 quarterback score this week.

Matt Hasselbeck (at JAX) - Hasselbeck seemed banged up coming out of the blowout loss to the Steelers, but he practiced on Wednesday and should be just fine for the AFC South “showdown” with the Jaguars. The Jags have allowed eight total touchdowns to quarterbacks in the last two games and 18 over the last six games. Jacksonville’s defense is also tough on the run, allowing only 3.6 yards per carry, so the Colts should be even more inclined to attack the weakness of their defense through the air.

Blaine Gabbert (at CLE) - Gabbert is only a desperation play, but one that could pay off well enough to keep your season alive (Yes, I’m starting him in one league, so I’m probably trying to talk myself into this one). The Browns have given up multiple pass touchdowns in each of the last five games, totalling 14 over the span, even though they haven’t faced over 38 pass attempts in any of the games. Gabbert’s downfield targets of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are more than good enough to exploit the problems in the Browns secondary.

Running Back

Duke Johnson Jr (vs SF) - We’re digging deep here, but the return of Johnny Manziel to the lineup could spell better things for Johnson. The matchup with San Francisco is winnable, which means that the Browns should have more chances to feed their futile running game. Johnson was becoming more prominent in Manziel’s eye during his last stint of starts, with one score and a couple of long receptions against Arizona and Cincinnati before catching four balls against Pittsburgh in Manziel’s last start. If Travis Benjamin, who didn’t practice on Wednesday, can’t go this weekend, Johnson should be a top target along with Gary Barnidge and Brian Hartline.

Ameer Abdullah (at STL) - The waiting is over. We’ve finally come to a moment when Ameer Abdullah looks like he could be relevant again. The Rams run defense is still somewhat tough on an efficiency basis, but they have faced at least 28 carries from running backs in each of the last five games as their offense and defense are both in decline. They’ve also allowed five running back scores over that span, and this week should follow a similar script unless Case Keenum is a miracle worker or the Lions have folded up shop after their crushing hail mary loss to the Packers (which is possible). Either way, Abdullah has led the team in carries each of the last three games, and he should get the lion’s share of the likely large number to go around in the backfield this week.

Tim Hightower (at TB) - This is for the truly deep leagues. Mark Ingram II has a serious shoulder injury and is currently undergoing tests that could reveal a need for his season to be over. CJ Spiller will certainly figure into the backfield in some way, but Hightower is the best-suited to take over Ingram’s runs between the tackles, and he’s been an excellent receiver out of the backfield in the past. The Bucs run defense is stiff, but they have allowed four running back touchdown receptions. Hightower could be a complete dud, but he’s one of the only running backs that was on the waiver wire on Monday, but could help you on Sunday.

Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware (vs SD) - The Chargers are a hopeless team right now, short-handed on offense and not providing enough resistance on defense. These two teams faced off in San Diego three weeks ago, with West piling up 64 total yards on 13 touches before leaving with a hamstring injury. Ware took over from there and put away the Chargers, with 101 yards on 12 touches and two scores. Both West and Ware are strong flex plays at worst, with big play and touchdown potential to spare at home running for a team that is making a playoff push.

Shaun Draughn (at CLE) - Draughn shouldn’t really be a sleeper because he is a clear lead back, but we are at the point in the season where it might be hard to start a no-name back over the big draft capital backs like Eddie Lacy, Jeremy Hill, and Demarco Murray despite the clear trends for the players and matchups right now. Draughn is getting almost all of the snaps and touches in the 49ers backfield, and catching at least four balls in every game. He scored on a goal-to-go carry last week, and Draughn is also facing the defense that has allowed the second most yards and third most carries per game in the NFL.

Wide Receiver

Markus Wheaton (at CIN) - Wheaton followed up his career game at Seattle with a 3-50-1 line that would look just fine as a flex in most lineups. The Steelers set Wheaton up for that monster game in Seattle by using him to attack the weakest part of the Seahawks pass defense. It just makes sense that with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on the field, Wheaton will get the easiest matchup. Back in Week 11, J.J. Nelson put up a 4-142-1 line as the #3 for Arizona. Wheaton could easily follow in his footsteps, as the Bengals will be occupied with Brown and Bryant the same way they were occupied with Brown and Fitzgerald in Arizona.

Stefon Diggs (at ARI - Thursday) - It has been a while since Diggs mattered in our fantasy lineups, but Week 14 could be his return to relevance. The Vikings are missing four key starters on defense, and they are likely to be playing from behind against the Cardinals on the road, likely forcing Teddy Bridgewater to drop back a lot more than the Vikings would like him to on Thursday. Every time Bridgewater has had more than 35 pass attempts, Diggs has caught six passes. He’s a good WR3/Flex play in PPR leagues.

DeVante Parker (vs NYG) - Parker soared for a score over the Ravens last week, and he’s set up to start on Monday night against the Giants with Rishard Matthews likely sitting again with a rib injury. If Odell Beckham gets going and puts the Dolphins in a hole, Ryan Tannehill might come out of the shell the Dolphins created for him last week, which could spark Parker to a big game. The Giants have given up at least two 50-yard wide receiver games in four of the last five games, and four different receivers have posted 100-yard games against them during that span.

Tyler Lockett (vs BAL) - It’s all about Doug Baldwin right now when the Seahawks get in the red zone, but remember that Lockett had two scores in Week 11 against San Francisco, and he could easily be the apple of Russell Wilson’s eye this week against Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed multiple wide receiver scores in more than half of their games this year, and Malcom Floyd, Travis Benjamin, Torrey Smith, and DeVante Parker have all scored on deep balls against them. Lockett is probably the target if Russell Wilson takes any downfield shots this week.

Donte Moncrief (at JAX) - Moncrief (and the whole Colts passing game for that matter) was a dud last week, but the Jaguars pass defense is always a tonic what’s ailing quarterbacks and wide receivers - just as San Diego. Moncrief had 6-75 in the first meeting between these teams, and if the Jaguars pass defense as of late is any indication, that is more floor than ceiling this week.

Tight End

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs NO) - Seferian-Jenkins just got back on the field last week after a protracted absence due to a shoulder injury. He didn’t even play half of the snaps, but he still caught three passes and got six targets. This week against the most generous Saints defense, he should be in line for closer to a full complement of snaps and targets, and that should yield very useful fantasy numbers. The Saints have given up six touchdowns to tight ends in the last four weeks, and in the one game that they didn’t allow a tight end score, they surrendered nine catches for 129 yards to Greg Olsen.

Luke Willson (vs BAL) - Willson only had two catches for 36 yards last week, but he also only got three targets. Against Arizona in Week 16 last year, three targets were turned into a 3-139-2 line by Willson with his seam-ripping speed. The Ravens have dodged almost all of the good tight ends in the NFL this year, but they have seen Gary Barnidge twice, and he put up 8-139-1 and 7-91 stat lines on them.

Ladarius Green (at KC) - Green is one of the last men standing in a Chargers passing game that is probably down to him, Malcom Floyd, and Antonio Gates among the original array of pass catchers that Philip Rivers had at the beginning of the season. Green’s snap count has gone up in each of the last three weeks, and he should be back to an almost full-time player this week with the San Diego shortage at tight end and wide receiver. Green scored four times in the first six games before he got hurt, so his chances of a score (even if it’s a garbage time score) are pretty good this week.

Coby Fleener (at JAX) - We haven’t cared about Colts tight ends for most, if not all, of this fantasy season, but that doesn’t mean that Fleener can’t help you this week. Dwayne Allen is basically persona non grata in this pass offense now, and Fleener has a 9-83-1 line in Week 4 against this Jaguars defense (with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback) to build on this week. If that’s not enough to nudge a tight end streamer Fleener’s way, the Jags have given up six touchdowns to tight ends in the last four games.

Jared Cook (vs DET) - If you have to go to the waiver wire for your tight end in a deep league this week, Cook might work out on a wing and a prayer. First and foremost, Cook led the Rams in catches and targets in Week 14 starter Case Keenum’s only start this year, and Keenum’s touchdown pass in that game went to tight end Lance Kendricks, who is in concussion protocol. On top of that, the Lions have allowed six tight end touchdowns in the last six games. If Keenum throws a score this week, chances are, it will be to Cook.