Fantasy Football Week 11 Sleepers at Every Position
We're neck-deep in it now, folks.
Ten weeks into the 2018 fantasy football campaign, the playoffs are rapidly approaching. For some teams, a berth in those playoffs is all but assured, but even then, securing a first-round bye remains on the old to-do list.
For others, it's all over but the crying. But even if your season hasn't gone according to plan, you can still exact a measure of revenge by playing spoiler.
Misery loves company.
For most fantasy owners, however, nothing's decided yet. Have a successful stretch run, and it's on to the tournament. Fall flat over these last few weeks, and all the preparation and research of the past few months will have been for naught.
It's a great time for the NFL to drop a six-team bye in our laps.
Whether it's those bye-week blues, injuries or just an underperforming player, plenty of those same desperate fantasy owners have a hole in their starting lineup they need to patch this week.
Luckily for them (and by them, I mean you—let's stop pretending), this article is the fantasy football equivalent of duct tape.
And if it can't be fixed with duct tape, it can't be fixed.
Before we move on to the Week 11 sleeper picks, here's a look back at how the Week 10 calls fared.
With introspection comes wisdom. Read that in a fortune cookie.
For the record, sleepers count as wins if they finish inside weekly starter territory in a 12-team, points-per-reception fantasy league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one defense and the always popular flex play—a fairly standard setup.
Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts (3 receptions, 36 yards): Well, I was half right. A tight end for the Colts did have a huge game last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It just wasn't Doyle. The curse of Eric Ebron strikes again. LOSS
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (228 passing yards, 2 TDs, 21 rushing yards, 1 reception, 21 yards): Mariota's gone from complete fantasy afterthought to legit streaming option, and his run isn't over yet. Foreshadowing! WIN
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (216 passing yards, 3 TDs, 20 rushing yards): Plenty of people questioned Cleveland's decision to draft Mayfield at No. 1 overall back in April. No one's questioning it now. WIN
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks (11 carries, 58 yards, 4 receptions, 22 yards, 1 TD): The Seahawks piled up a jaw-dropping 273 rushing yards in last week's loss to the Rams. Davis was a top-15 back, despite playing second fiddle to Rashaad Penny. WIN
Ito Smith, RB, Atlanta Falcons (4 carries, 11 yards, 4 receptions, 15 yards): This recommendation was based on the belief the Falcons would be playing from ahead in the second half. Instead, Atlanta got thumped, and Smith was a non-factor. LOSS
Maurice Harris, WR, Washington Redskins (5 receptions, 52 yards, 1 carry, 4 yards): Harris cooled off last week relative to his big Week 9, but his performance against the Buccaneers still landed him inside middling flex territory. WIN
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (2 receptions, 39 yards, 1 TD): I was hoping for more than two catches from Ross with A.J. Green sidelined by an injured toe, but his touchdown catch against the Saints salvaged the day for fantasy owners. WIN
Tyrell Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (4 receptions, 46 yards): Williams has had some big games for the Chargers this season. This wasn't one of them—four catches and under 50 yards was barely enough to crack the top 50. LOSS
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins (GIANT FAT ZERO LOSER GOOSE EGG): One week after a solid five receptions and 62 yards on seven targets, Davis was thrown at just once in a win over Tampa. This has not been a good year for me where tight ends are concerned. LOSS
Buffalo Bills Defense/Special Teams (199 yards allowed, 10 points allowed, 2 INT, 3 sacks): Did I know that the Bills were going to open a six-pack of Butt-Kicking Lite on the Jets? No. But I'll absolutely take it. WIN
WEEK 7: 6-4 (.600)
SEASON: 44-56 (.440)
My best week of the season, the first time I've gotten more right than wrong and the fourth time in five weeks I've hit on half my picks. At almost 45 percent for the year, if I didn't know better, I'd think I might actually sort of know what I'm doing.
Sleeper of the Week
For most of the 2018 season, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hasn't been much of a startable fantasy option. Prescott's 1,930 passing yards and 11 touchdowns place him just a so-so 17th among fantasy quarterbacks for the season.
However, it's been a different story over the last few weeks. Since the Cowboys went out and acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper, Prescott's production has spiked. Over his last three games, the third-year pro has 786 passing yards and four touchdowns. He's 10th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks over the past month.
While speaking with Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, Cooper said he admires Prescott's fortitude when times are tough,
"He's resilient," Cooper said. "He never gets down on himself, never gets down on the team. He's always believing that we can go out there and overcome any circumstance. And you need that. Especially in a quarterback. That’s something I really admire."
However, the reason that the Dallas QB leads off this week's sleepers is that the times shouldn't be tough Sunday in Atlanta—at least for Prescott personally.
Through 10 weeks this season, the Atlanta Falcons rank third in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks. Just last week the Falcons surrendered 216 passing yards and three scores to Cleveland's Baker Mayfield—numbers that got Mayfield into QB1 territory in 12-team leagues.
Prescott should finish there as well.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (vs. TBB)
I can't believe I'm going down this road again.
This isn't the first time the New York Giants' Eli Manning has made an appearance in this column this year. Or the second.
The results have been—well, the results have been about the same as the results the Giants have had as a team this year.
However, as of late, there have been some signs of life from Manning and the Giants. An inkling of a pulse. A glimmer of hope. The Giants were able to notch their second win of the season last week in San Francisco, and while Manning threw for just 188 yards, the 37-year-old had his first three-score game of the season.
Per ESPN's Jordan Raanan, Giants wideout Sterling Shepard said that Manning's performance in the game (including a late touchdown drive to secure the win) should show naysayers that the QB isn't done.
"It frustrates me when people go at him. I see that from the media, but you wouldn't want a better guy with the ball in his hands," Shepard said. "You saw what he did on that last drive. When we need him, he's going to come through for us."
I don't necessarily share Shepard's confidence in Manning, who ranks outside the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks this year. Had he not played well in the 49ers game, it's entirely possible he would have gotten the hook.
But he did. And didn't. And that means it will be Manning under center when the Giants host a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has given up the fourth-most fantasy points in the NFL to quarterbacks this season.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (at IND)
The multiple holes in fantasy rosters created by this week's six-team bye don't really extend to the quarterback position. There's just one weekly starter at quarterback (the Patriots' Tom Brady) who will be sitting Week 11 out.
However, there are fantasy owners outside of the Brady bunch who would be well-served to consider a spot starter this week. Or, in the case of the poor schmucks who drafted Matthew Stafford (raises hand sadly) a replacement.
That's where Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans comes in.
Like the other quarterbacks listed here this week, Mariota didn't get off to a good start this season. But as NFL.com managing fantasy editor Graham Barfield pointed out, much like Dak Prescott, Mariota is riding a mini-hot streak in advance of a favorable Week 11 matchup.
"The Titans are out of the doldrums of their schedule," Barfield wrote, "and Marcus Mariota is back to performing near his ceiling. With two top-eight weekly QB finishes in Weeks 9-10, Mariota now faces a Colts' defense that was just whacked by Blake Bortles (320 yards, 2 TDs, 112 passer rating) in Week 11. Mariota is also averaging a career-high 29.8 rush yards per game, buoying his floor if he struggles as a passer. Simply put: Mariota is dripping with fantasy upside in a likely competitive affair against a bad Colts defense that ranks dead last in pass success rate (43 percent)."
Throw in that the Colts have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points per game in 2018, and Mariota joins a nice little pile of streaming options at the position this week.
Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at NYG)
It's not all that often that the lead tailback for an NFL team has an ownership percentage of less than 60 percent.
Of course, it's also not all that often that a lead tailback is as uninspiring from a fantasy perspective as Tampa's Peyton Barber.
For the season, Barber has gained just 437 yards on 117 carries—an average of 3.7 yards a tote. He's added 51 receiving yards on nine catches and has found the end zone twice. The 24-year-old ranks 42nd at his position in PPR fantasy points and 50th in fantasy points per game.
Those are the types of numbers that lead to a running back—a position where someone with even moderate upside is taken—sitting on the waiver wire in more than four out of every 10 fantasy leagues.
However, there is a however.
Over the past few games, Barber's effectiveness has picked up. In two of his last three games, he has averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry, including a Week 8 trip to Cincinnati in which he picked up 85 yards on 19 carries with a score.
That stat line came against one of the softer run defenses in the NFL, and as it happens, Barber gets another marshmallow in Week 11. The New York Giants rank 24th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 122.6 yards per game. The G-Men are also 11th in PPR fantasy points given up to running backs.
Barber isn't going to torch the Giants for 132 total yards and two scores like San Francisco's Matt Breida in Week 10, but there's promise enough here to warrant a look if you need help in the backfield.
Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions (vs. CAR)
It may not even be completely accurate to call Theo Riddick of the Detroit Lions a running back. He's done very little of that this year. For the season, the sixth-year veteran has all of eight carries. He hasn't toted the ball on the ground since Week 5.
However, that doesn't mean Riddick hasn't been a part of the Detroit offense. Quite the opposite.
Since the Lions shipped Golden Tate off to Philadelphia, Riddick's been seeing more time in a role as Detroit's slot receiver. In the last two games alone, he's been targeted 15 times in the passing game, parlaying those targets into 13 catches for 96 yards.
Those aren't knee-buckling numbers, but if you play in a format that awards a point for receptions, they should be enough to get your attention—especially in a week where a half-dozen teams are on a bye.
The Lions are in free-fall, losers of three in a row and four of their last six, and they'll be hosting a 6-3 Carolina Panthers team that just got drilled on the road by the Pittsburgh Steelers. It doesn't take a great deductive leap to foresee the Lions playing from behind in this one and going to a pass-heavy game script offensively.
That could mean quite a few dump-offs and short passes for Riddick.
And the chance for some RB2 production on the cheap.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears (vs. MIN)
Despite having a coming-out party of sorts last week, the Chicago Bears' Anthony Miller remains on the waiver wire in more fantasy football leagues than not; the rookie's ownership percentage at Yahoo remains under 40 percent.
Not everything went swimmingly last week for Miller, who reeled in five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown against a Detroit defense that will be making another appearance in this week's column in just a bit. The youngster from Memphis drew a taunting call late in the game for spinning the ball toward his opponent, although head coach Matt Nagy told Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune that Miller said it was unintentional.
"You teach him the why,” Nagy said. “You teach him: 'Hey, listen, this is what can happen. Just don't spin the football — or get better at doing it.'"
Nagy's got jokes.
Amazing what winning can do for one's sense of humor.
Fantasy owners who roll Miller out in this week's big NFC North showdown with the Vikings will likely be making knock-knock jokes by Sunday evening. Miller has now caught five balls two weeks in a row on 12 targets, numbers that demonstrate a rapport and measure of trust with Mitchell Trubisky.
The Vikings admittedly haven't been a great fantasy matchup for receivers, but with Allen Robinson likely to draw Xavier Rhodes in coverage, Miller has a real chance at leading the Bears in receiving in Week 11.
DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers (at DET)
There have been flashes this season of the talent that led the Carolina Panthers to select Maryland's DJ Moore in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. The 4.42-second speed. The hands. The ability to hurt opponents both outside and in the slot.
What there hasn't been from Moore is consistency, or a big statistical impact. For the season, he has just 23 catches for 317 yards and a touchdown. He's been even quieter of late: Over his last two games, Moore has just five receptions for 36 yards.
Those numbers aren't going to win weeks for fantasy owners.
However, as the Panthers try to wash off the stink from last week's thrashing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, this week they'll have a helping hand of sorts from an opponent that has cured all that ails NFL teams of late.
Feeling bad? Take on the Lions. You'll feel better.
After an OK start to the season, the Lions defense has fallen apart, especially against the pass. Over the last three games (all losses), the Lions have given up 86 points and the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
As Dave Richard wrote for CBS Sports, the defensive struggles go back even farther than that. Over Detroit's last five games, the Lions have allowed 15.8 yards per reception, a 73.5 percent catch rate and 17 pass plays of 20-plus yards to wide receivers.
Detroit has also surrendered 10 touchdown passes over the span, including seven (1.4 per game) from the slot.
That last number portends especially well for Moore in Week 11.
Tre'Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. PHI)
Not that long ago, rookie wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith of the New Orleans Saints was something of a fantasy darling.
Back in Week 5, Smith torched the Washington Redskins for three catches for 111 yards and two scores, sending fantasy owners scrambling to the waiver wire to pick him up.
However, since then, Smith's managed just eight catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. He wasn't so much as targeted in last week's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. And after the Saints signed first Dez Bryant and then (after Bryant tore his Achilles) Brandon Marshall to bolster the wideout corps, Smith has faded back into fantasy oblivion.
So why recommend him this week?
Marshall just got to the Big Easy. He's barely had time for a bowl of gumbo, much less an opportunity to learn the playbook. For one more week at least, Smith's still going to be the No. 2 receiver for the Saints.
This week New Orleans plays host to a reeling Philadelphia Eagles secondary. The Eagles were already having trouble covering wide receivers this season—only three NFL teams have given up more PPR fantasy points to the position this year. Now, the Eagles will be without the one cornerback on the team who had actually been playing well. Ronald Darby will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
I smell a long score for Smith in this game.
Jeff Heuerman, TE, Denver Broncos (at LAC)
This certainly isn't a recommendation based on matchup. Through 10 weeks this season, the Los Angeles Chargers rank 19th in PPR fantasy points given up to tight ends per game.
However, in a five-alarm dumpster fire of a season at the tight end position, in a week where several weekly starters (Rob Gronkowski, George Kittle, David Njoku) are either banged up, on a bye or both, any tight end with a modicum of upside has a fantasy pulse.
If Week 9 was any indication, the Denver Broncos' Jeff Heuerman has more than just a modicum.
Surprisingly, it was Heuerman who was the biggest beneficiary of the trade that sent Demaryius Thomas to Houston. Two weeks ago against those same Texans, Heuerman had the best stat line of his three-year career—10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. It was the second consecutive week he found the end zone.
As Kyle Fredrickson reported for the Denver Post, the performance impressed another surprise star for the Broncos this year.
"I'm proud of Jeff,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. "He came up big for us and he's going to continue to come up big for us. He's a big body and he's good. We've got to continue to find ways to get him the ball."
Last year in Minnesota, Case Keenum wasn't shy about throwing at tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was targeted 81 times.
Heuerman isn't going to receive the 11 targets he got two weeks ago on a regular basis, but it's not hard to imagine him getting the five per game Rudolph received—especially with Thomas gone.
That puts Heuerman on the fantasy radar, bad matchup or no.
Arizona Cardinals Defense/Special Teams (vs. OAK)
The Arizona Cardinals have not exactly been a fantasy bonanza in 2018.
And by "not exactly a fantasy bonanza," I mean, "not worth starting 90 percent of the time."
It's not that Arizona is a terrible defensive team. The Redbirds are 20th in total defense and just 17th in takeaways, but the team ranks in the top half of the NFL in scoring defense (15th, at 25.0 points allowed per game) and sixth in the league with 29 sacks.
However, thanks in no small part to an offense that was offensive much of the season (leaving the defense in an untenable position), the Cardinals haven't been much of a fantasy option: The team ranks outside the top 15 in most scoring systems this year.
Given those uninspiring numbers, it would take a pretty sweet matchup to make the Cardinals fantasy-relevant this year.
Well, folks, we have one in Week 11—and then some.
The Oakland Raiders are redefining the concept of imploding on a weekly basis. For the season, the Raiders rank 22nd in the NFL in total offense and 30th in scoring offense. But of late it's been much worse: Over the last two games, the Raiders have scored all of nine points.
Oakland is also tied for 10th in the NFL in giveaways with 13 and is also tied for 10th in most sacks allowed (29) in the league—numbers that have contributed to the Raiders ranking fifth in fantasy points allowed to defenses this year.
Combine that primo matchup and Arizona's improving offense, and you have the makings of a good week in the Valley of the Sun.