Week 13 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Top Studs You Don't Know About
Everybody knows that Tom Brady is going to throw for roughly 600 yards against Miami. Everybody knows that Calvin Johnson is going to bring the Indianapolis defense to tears. Everybody knows that sitting Arian Foster against the Tennessee defense just means that you're tanking.
That's not who I'm concerned about.
I want to identify the supposed weaklings, the guys you left on your bench five weeks ago and thought you would never have to use again. I want to identify the best matchups, the players with a surprising number of touches, the ones whose role has grown as the season has progressed.
I want the sleepers.
I'm the editor of numberFire.com, a sports analytics website that crunches out some of the most accurate fantasy projections on the web. Our projections beat the projections given in your fantasy league's lineup page 93 percent of the time, all through the help of a little math.
This week, our numbers have strong opinions about some key players that may be right on the edge between your starting lineup and your bench that can help you win this crucial fantasy matchup.
Want to find out who they are? Read on, my friend.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Projected Stats: 265.63 pass yards, 1.58 pass TDs, 0.56 INTs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 18.90 FP
NumberFire Rank: No. 7 QB (No. 8 overall)
Week 13 Opponent: at Detroit Lions
You might have heard of this guy before once or twice. The NFL draft overtaking Easter as the biggest April holiday has made sure of that.
It might be, though, that you don't know how valuable he can be for fantasy football purposes.
As of now, Andrew Luck is still being started in less than 30 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. But I can't help but wonder why.
Having scored at least 13 fantasy points in each of his past six games and in nine of his past ten, Andrew Luck's prowess comes primarily from the Colts play-calling. Indianapolis has thrown the ball on 59.1 percent of their offensive plays, one of the highest proportions in the league.
While Luck may have a tough schedule at the end of the season facing Houston twice in three weeks, his owners will want to get value out of him this week while they can. The Detroit secondary has allowed 93.81 expected points more than the average NFL defense this season, the seventh-worst total in the league.
Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Projected Stats: 62.37 rushing yards, 0.26 rush TDs, 18.99 receiving yards, 0.02 receiving TDs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 9.50 FP
NumberFire Rank: No. 16 RB (No. 60 overall)
Week 13 Opponent: at Detroit Lions
But Luck isn't the only Colt you should focus on this week for fantasy purposes; for the first time in a while, you should be taking a dose of Vick(s) to cure your fantasy ills.
Donald Brown is banged up, and although he will play (he's our No. 44 RB this week), Ballard looks likely to see the majority of the carries. That's not out of the ordinary for Ballard, as he has amassed 29 carries over the past two weeks combined to Brown's 14.
While Ballard has not been the most efficient back, losing the Colts an average of 0.21 net-expected points (NEP) per rush, it might not matter against the Lions rush defense. Detroit gave up over 20 fantasy points to Arian Foster last week and 74 yards rushing to James Starks the week before.
Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Projected Stats: 42.27 rushing yards, 0.37 rush TDs, 22.79 receiving yards, 0.02 receiving TDs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 8.44 FP
NumberFire Rank: No. 22 RB (No. 82 overall)
Week 13 Opponent: at Baltimore Ravens
From Mendenhall to Redman to Dwyer we go; where it stops, nobody knows. But the merry-go-round of running backs seems to have rested squarely on Dwyer's shoulders after leading the team with nine carries in Week 12 and 12 carries in Week 11.
While Dwyer has not had many opportunities for big games, the Steelers may not have a choice but to run the ball down Baltimore's throats.
With Ben Roethlisberger's return not likely for Sunday, Charlie Batch looks to still be the man under center. Although he threw on 67 percent of Pittsburgh's plays against Cleveland on Sunday, I don't expect a repeat; Batch lost an astounding 0.25 net-expected points per pass attempt on Sunday.
Since he hasn't been the most effective back this season, I don't see Dwyer as a surefire starting RB2. But as our No. 22 running back, he easily fits into flex consideration. Our projections at least have him higher than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Reggie Bush and Shonn Greene this week.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
Projected Stats: 5.54 receptions, 75.30 receiving yards, 0.37 receiving TDs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 9.77 FP
NumberFire Rank: No. 17 WR (No. 57 overall)
Week 13 Opponent: at Dallas Cowboys
The Eagles offense is poor, to say the least. Not even Bryce Brown looking like the reincarnation of Brian Westbrook's Villanova days could save the team from losing to the Carolina Panthers.
But it makes no sense to start a member of that passing game, right?
Yes...until you look at the targets Jeremy Maclin has received recently with Foles in charge.
In Week 12, Maclin garnered 33 percent of Foles's throws; in Week 10, 31 percent of the Eagles throws, most of which belonged to Foles. Despite one off-week with three targets in Week 11, it seems that Foles has found a primary receiver in Maclin.
The Dallas Cowboys should provide ample opportunity for Maclin to snag those points as well. Dallas has given up five double-digit fantasy games to opposing receivers in the past four matchups, and opposing quarterbacks have thrown for at least two touchdowns in each of their past three contests.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks
Projected Stats: 3.83 receptions, 68.02 receiving yards, 0.36 receiving TDs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 8.90 FP
NumberFire Rank: No. 24 WR (No. 70 overall)
Week 13 Opponent: at Chicago Bears
The Bears have the No. 1 overall opponent-adjusted defense according to our metrics. So far this season, they have given up 104 total points less than the average team would have given up if provided with the same game situations. Despite holding the No. 27 most-efficient offense in the league, they are 8-3. And I'm suggesting that you give flex consideration to a no-name receiver opposing them this week.
But it's Rice's high number of targets, catch rate and his big-play ability that has the analytics convinced that he could be a solid option this week.
Rice's 58 targets lead the Seahawks, ten more than No. 2 receiver Golden Tate. And he's been able to convert those targets into 37 catches; Rice's 64-percent catch rate is the highest among all Seahawks receivers. When he catches those passes, he makes receivers pay; his 14.2 yards-per-catch average is the highest among Seahawks with at least five receptions.
All that adds up to a good, but not great, fantasy option because of the matchup. NumberFire likes Rice better than Steve Smith, Denarius Moore and Mike Wallace this week.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
Projected Stats: 4.17 receptions, 54.68 receiving yards, 0.28 receiving TDs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.15 FP
NumberFire Rank: No. 9 TE (No. 110 overall)
Week 13 Opponent: at San Diego Chargers
He's been slowly climbing up the tight-end charts recently.
Gresham was started in just over half of ESPN fantasy leagues last week, but not enough people may recognize that the Bengals tight end is extremely close to must-start status at this point in the season.
With at least six fantasy points in each of his past four games (and in six of his past seven), Gresham has the consistency factor down. While A.J. Green is far and away Dalton's favorite target, some may be surprised to see Gresham sitting in second with 67 looks of his own.
Those looks have led to 47 Gresham receptions, ninth most among all tight ends.
While San Diego is not a poor defense—they're numberFire's No. 11 unit in opponent-adjusted efficiency—Gresham should be able to find some holes. Dennis Pitta registered a double-digit fantasy-point day against them last week, and the Denver tight ends combined for over 80 yards receiving the week before.
For full rankings, refer to numberFire's Full Projection List for Week 13. You can follow numberFire on Twitter @numberFire. The author takes no responsibility for any Andy Reid/Jeremy Maclin fistfights that may change the order of our projections.