While we rely on big-name players to guide our fantasy Football teams to victory, knowing how to position sleepers in a given week could be what pushes your team over the edge. With Week 17 of the NFL and fantasy championships set to begin, here are some sleepers to keep in mind when setting your lineups.
Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles.
I mean, come on, was there ever any doubt that Gardner Minshew wouldn’t go out there and play with his hair on fire? While the Eagles lost to Dallas, it’s hard to blame Minshew, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 355 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while scoring another TD on the ground. But even those picks weren’t really on him, as both were practically on target, and Quez Watkins basically stripped the ball away from him.
Jalen Hurts will likely try to return for Week 17, but if he can’t, Minshew would be a top-tier QB2 against a Saints defense that isn’t as aggressive. Minshew winning fantasy championships feels good.
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Baker Mayfield, Los Angeles Rams
Baker Mayfield is going to find work in the offseason, that’s for sure. His play since joining the Rams has been some of the best of his career, given the circumstances.
Mayfield was efficient, completing 24 of 28 pass attempts for 230 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against the Broncos, who just fired their head coach after the loss, but only because they can’t fire Russell Wilson’s contract.
Mayfield will have the QB2 advantage as a sleeper in Week 17 against a Chargers defense that ranks 18th in points in its last four games and 21st in EPA since Week 10.
James Cook, Buffalo Bills
The Bills’ running backs could do no wrong Saturday in the frigid Chicago temperatures, and James Cook had a very efficient day, which is what many expect when he catches the ball.
Cook rushed 11 times for 99 yards and a touchdown while also catching one pass for nine yards. Cook averaged over nine yards per carry, which keeps his season total at a healthy 5.8 YPC, with 2.99 yards per attempt after contact. Cincinnati will be a tougher matchup, but if Cook sees double-digit touches, which was expected last week, he should comfortably reach RB3 territory as a Week 17 sleeper.
TY Hilton, Dallas Cowboys.
I have to say, I didn’t think I would be talking about TY Hilton as a sleeper this late in the season. Actually, this is the first time I’m talking about him, as Hilton made his 2022 debut on Saturday. Ghost only saw one target in his limited usage (five routes), but Hilton caught a 52-yard bomb, keeping the momentum on Dallas’ sidelines.
I’d be surprised to see Hilton as anything more than the fourth option in Week 17, but all you need is one of these plays to hit or for there to be a little more volume, which should be expected with more familiarity in the system. I wouldn’t bet against it happening either against a Titans defense that is last in the league across the board in air defense and has allowed the most yards on deep targets.
Hilton is a boom-or-bust sleeper to watch in Week 17 for fantasy Football.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders.
Better late than never, but Jahan Dotson is a player whose recent play will move him up draft boards next season. The rookie out of Penn State now has 235 yards and three touchdowns on 24 targets in the last three games after catching six of nine targets for 76 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers.
Dotson has scored in three straight games, but more importantly, he’s averaging eight touchdowns per game, which is better than back-to-back touchdowns. As one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Commanders offense, Dotson is not just a sleeper, but a high-level Flex play against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.
Isaiah Hodgins, New York Giants.
After being released by the Bills earlier in the year, Isaiah Hodgins was signed by the Giants following their trade of Kadarius Toney. After a rotating role in the offense, Hodgins had his best day so far, catching eight of his team-high 10 targets (tied) for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings.
The signs were there that this could happen. Between Weeks 12 and 15, Hodgins had a 17.5 percent target share with two scores with an 82.2 percent route-run rate. Hodgins had two top-24 outings in this span and took advantage of a game script that forced the Giants to throw the ball against a Vikings defense that had allowed the second most points to oppose wide receivers.
Certainly, we can’t expect a similar boom game from Hodgins, but he will certainly be in Flex consideration. However, the Colts’ run defense could mean the team can lean on Saquon Barkley, which limits Hodgins’ upside. Still, outside of Darius Slayton, Hodgins is likely to be New York’s WR2 and could be a dream for managers in need of a WR in Week 17.
Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers.
As the week progresses, monitor the health of Packers WR Christian Watson. On Sunday, Watson injured his hip and was ruled out for the game without taking the field in the second half. Watson has downplayed the injury, saying he will be fine for Week 17, but we should keep an eye on him.
In his absence, fellow rookie Romeo Doubs became Aaron Rodgers’ No. 2, playing on 88.2 percent of plays in the second half. Doubs caught three of six targets for 36 yards receiving, but would see a bigger role in an even better matchup against the Vikings in Week 17, who have allowed the second-most receiving yards to wide receivers this season. Keep Doubs on the sleeper list for fantasy Football.
Tyler Conklin, New York Jets.
Tyler Conklin caught all four of his targets Thursday night for 34 yards in the pouring rain, despite Zach Wilson playing so poorly that he was benched to replace quarterback Chris Streveler.
Conklin’s 34 yards led Jets receivers, but you have to go back to Week 8 to see the last time Conklin scored double-digit Fantasy points (25.9 PPR vs. NE). However, Conklin is eighth in targets (77) on the season and faces Seattle in Week 17, which has allowed the second most points to TEs. He is also getting Mike White back under center, which boosts the floor and ceiling of all Jets players.
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
Chalk this one up to things I didn’t see coming. Tyler Higbee exploded against the Broncos, catching nine of his 11 targets for 94 yards and two touchdowns in Week 16.
Higbee led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards and caught both of Mayfield’s touchdowns. After not scoring for the first 14 weeks, Higbee now has three in his last two games with TE9 and TE2 finishes.
Higbee has back-to-back weeks with double-digit points, and there is a direct correlation to be made between his success and Mayfield’s arrival after Higbee fell off the radar following a strong start to the season as a TE6 in Weeks 1-6 (12.4 PPR/g).
The Chargers have been tough on tight ends thanks to Derwin James, but I could see Higbee having a decent game as a Week 17 sleeper who has high-end TE2 value.