Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 16

Source: USA Today

Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 16

Here we are, the fantasy football semifinals.  While the season has gone fast, no one can say it’s been boring.  At this point in the season, it’s always difficult to pinpoint players with sleeper potential.  By this time most of us know what we have in these players and there’s been enough of a body of work to make an educated guess as to how things will go.  But as anyone who plays fantasy football knows, the surprises keep on coming until the very last week.  So to that end, I have chosen 10 players (most of whom may not seem to be obvious choices) who have the potential to outperform their projections this week.  If you find yourself in need of help at any position, turning to the names below could make perfect sense for you.  Here are my sleepers for week 16.  

Geno Smith (QB)

Seattle Seahawks vs. TEN (17% Start)

After missing the last two weeks with a groin injury Seahawks QB Geno Smith seems poised to return in week 16.  Smith (along with the Seahawks in general) has had a bit of an up-and-down season, but the last time we saw him he scored nearly 36 Fantasy points against a tough Dallas defense in Week 13.  That performance was easily his best of the season, and if it’s any indication of things to come he could be a great fill-in for anyone in need of quarterback help.  The Titans may not look like the easiest matchup on paper, but they have allowed five quarterbacks this year to score at least 22.2 Fantasy points.  There is some concern about the Seahawks leaning on the ground game early and often to take some of the pressure off of Smith, but the Titans are far more vulnerable through the air than on the ground, so I don’t expect that game plan to work for long.  Neither team should run away with this one, so Smith should have ample time to put up numbers.  I expect him to once again air it out 30+ times en route to multiple touchdowns and low-end QB1 numbers, and if you’re hurting at the position, you could do a lot worse.  

Joe Flacco (QB) 

Cleveland Browns vs. HOU (21% Start)

Since taking over as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, Joe Flacco has looked like a player with something to prove.  The Browns are 2-1 with Flacco leading the charge, including an improbable come-from behind-victory against the Bears in week 15.  He has also scored over 20 fantasy points in all three games he has started.  As unlikely as it may sound, Flacco is a legitimate QB1 for week 16 when he heads to Houston to face the Texans.  Flacco has thrown over 250 yards in every game this season and has seven passing touchdowns in three games.  The Texans’ defense allows the seventh most fantasy points to the quarterback position.  This combination should lead to solid production out of the Browns signal caller.  Cleveland has relied heavily on Flacco over the last few weeks, allowing him to throw it over 40 times in each game.  There’s no reason to believe that will change this week against a Texans defense that has allowed five of their past seven opposing quarterbacks to score at least 23 Fantasy points.  Flacco has real top-10 upside this week.

Gus Edwards (RB)

Baltimore Ravens vs. SF (22% Start)

The sleeper potential of Gus Edwards could take a bit of a hit if the 49ers get Arik Armstead (ankle) and Javon Hargrave (hamstring) back for Week 16.  But assuming they miss another game, Edwards could be in a great spot to produce for his managers.  In week 15, when San Francisco faced Arizona, Armstead and Hargrove were missed.  James Conner, Emari Demercado, and Michael Carter combined for 21 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns in that game, and it would not surprise me to see the Ravens lean on the run game in week 16.  If this is the case, Edwards will be the main running back after Keaton Mitchell suffered a torn ACL ending his season, and Edwards has proven successful when given that role.  Edwards has 10 touchdowns in his last eight games, including three games with multiple touchdowns.  The 49ers are typically a tough matchup for opposing running backs, but if Armstead and Hargrave are out, all bets are off, and Edwards (who is a solid flex play regardless) has RB2 upside in what could be a high-scoring affair.

D’Onta Foreman (RB)/Roschon Johnson (RB)

Chicago Bears vs. ARI (7% Start/5% Start)

There’s no other way to say it.  Foreman was bad in Week 15 at Cleveland with six carries for minus-6 yards.  He also split touches with Roschon Johnson and Khalil Herbert, and it was Johnson (not Foreman) who led the Bears in snaps.  None of that seems like a recipe for success.  This backfield has (at times) been hard to figure out, but against a Cardinals defense that is allowing the most fantasy points and the 2nd-most rushing yards per game (139.6) to running backs both Foreman and Johnson should have value (regardless of who is the “starter” on paper.)  With the season getting away from the Bears, my preference would be Johnson.  I expect Eberflus & Co. to see what they have in their talented rookie for the rest of the season, but that doesn’t mean Foreman won’t get enough work to produce.  I’m not necessarily endorsing either player as someone you should insert into your lineup over other running backs you may like, but if you’re looking for some low-end RB2 or flex help, both Johnson and Foreman should produce for you.  The chance of them splitting the work fairly evenly is high, so their ceiling will be capped, but if one of them does get the RB1 job to themselves this week (my bet is Johnson) they could be in line for a surprising week.

Chase Brown (RB)

Cincinnati Bengals vs. PIT (5% Start)

This isn’t an endorsement of Brown as the lead back in Cincinnati.  That status still belongs to Cincinnati, but with Ja’Marr Chase already ruled out for week 16 Brown could be called upon more than usual.  In week 15, Brown had 10 touches, and over the last two weeks has done most of his damage in the passing game catching all six of his targets for 108 yards and a touchdown.  This is where he could excel once again as a safety blanket for backup  QB Jake Browning.  The Steelers were already a middle-of-the-pack unit against running backs but now find themselves without the services of some key starters.  Safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Domatnae Kazee are out due to injury.  This could mean more extended drives for the Bengals leading to more opportunities for all involved, catapulting Joe Mixon into must-start territory while also meaning good things ahead for Brown.  While Mixon is a solid RB1 this week, Brown could provide flex production with the upside for more if he manages to find the end zone. 

Noah Brown (WR)

Houston Texans vs. CLE (12% Start)

Nico Collins (calf) logged a limited practice on Thursday so his status for Sunday’s game against the Browns is still very much up in the air.  If he is out again, then Noah Brown would become the de facto WR1 on this offense, which is a role he has shown he can excel in.  In week 15 against the Tennessee Titans and with Collins out, Brown had eight catches (on 11 targets) for 82 yards and a touchdown, and this wasn’t an outlier.  Brown has often done well when Collins misses time. In three games where Collins was hurt, Brown has scored at least 22.2 PPR points. It is reasonable to have some concern with the likelihood that C.J. Stroud will miss another week having yet to practice, but it’s not like Brown didn’t just produce with Case Keenum under center (spoiler alert, he did.)  The Browns are not an easy matchup, but Brown should be peppered with targets and as a result, has WR3 appeal this week.

Diontae Johnson (WR)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CIN (41% Start)

I know, anytime a receiver is linked to Mason Rudolph it takes a certain amount of faith to put that receiver into your lineup.  But if Johnson was a sure thing this week, then he wouldn’t be a sleeper.  Johnson has been very hit-and-miss this season but comes into week 16 having scored a touchdown in three straight games. While the last time he failed to score was in week 12 against this same Cincinnati team, I like his chances to correct that in the rematch. Johnson has scored at least 13 PPR points in his last three games, and the Bengals have allowed five receivers to score at least 12.8 PPR points in their past three games.  The downside is that with Jake Browning and no Ja’Marr Chase on the other side of the ball, this could be a surprisingly close game which could mean lower passing volume.  It could also be a very low-scoring game.  Still, I expect Rudolph to look to the veteran Johnson early and often giving him low-end WR2/flex appeal.  

Curtis Samuel (WR)

Washington Commanders vs. NYJ (15% Start)

You would think by now that fantasy managers would understand that a player doesn’t have to be exciting to produce.  Still, over the last few weeks, Samuel has shown himself to be capable of WR2 numbers.  There is no argument that Terry McLaurin is the cream of the crop of this receiving core.  He is the most talented, most dynamic, and has the most upside of the group.  But that doesn’t mean that value can’t be found elsewhere.  Over his last three games, Samuel has two games with double-digit points (14.5 and 18.6) and, doing most of his work in the slot, seems to have developed a real connection with QB Sam Howell.  In each of those two games, Samuel received at least nine targets, and he’s coming off a week in which he scored two touchdowns.  The Jets (who are allowing the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in the league) could make things difficult for Howell and his playmakers, but Samuel appears to have the safest path to targets and could find himself open on a lot of short routes, piling up those PPR points.

Trey McBride (TE)

Arizona Cardinals vs. CHI (57% Start)

Don’t look now, but the Trey McBride breakout is among us.  While the talent has never been an issue with McBride, the quarterback situation has been a problem.  Prior to Kyler Murray taking over, McBride only had one top-10 TE finish in nine games.  Since Murray has been under center, he has four in five games, and has 38 catches for 425 yards in that same span.  Clearly, Murray is good for McBride.  Both McBride and LaPorta could realistically be the first two tight ends off the board in 2024, and if you asked me to bet on who would go first, I couldn’t say.  What I can say is that in his games with Murray, McBride has at least nine targets in all but one, but only has one touchdown.  Yet, he’s produced as a top-5 tight end.  Volume is key and that type of volume at a volatile position is rare.  Chicago’s defense has actually been much improved in recent weeks but is still allowing the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends and just allowed David Njoku to put up over 20 points.  The only reason McBride is a sleeper is because his start percentage is still criminally low for what he’s done.  But he should be in your lineup.

Dalton Schultz (TE)

Houston Texans vs. CLE (31% Start)

In his first game back after a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury, Dalton Schultz was fine, catching four passes on five targets for 58 yards.  But that was against the defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to tight ends in the league.  This week Schultz will get to face the Browns who have been bad against tight ends recently.  In their past four games, they have given up four touchdowns to tight ends and over their last two, they have allowed double-digit points to the position, including 27 to Evan Engram.  The Texans could be without C.J. Stroud and Nico Collins again, but that should just mean more targets from backup Case Keenum, and although the quality of those targets may drop, the number of targets should be high.  Schultz has the chance to produce as a low-end TE1 this week. 

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