Fantasy Football Week 14: Matt Camp's Top Sleepers at Every Position
Even in the fantasy playoffs, sleepers are necessary.
Now, there's a good chance the waiver wire is thinner than ever, with smart players grabbing anyone who even has a remote possibility of helping this month. Instead of keeping dead weight on your roster, cut players you know you won't have confidence in to start.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a name to consider for this week and the next two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. I featured Fitzpatrick almost two weeks ago on "Your Fantasy Fire Drill" as a strong playoff streamer because of his schedule, which includes back-to-back trips to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Jets and New York Giants before hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16.
When it comes to getting the most out of your roster, that could mean stashing a handcuff to give you a potential boost at the running back position. Dalvin Cook's chest injury knocked him out of Week 13 and has limited him in practice this week. Alexander Mattison could step into a bigger role to help protect Cook from getting overworked if he's playing through pain.
The right sleeper could send you into the next round of the playoffs. Keep an open mind and consider one (or more) of these options to slot into your starting lineup.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
Look, no one said picking sleepers was easy. If it was, they wouldn’t be sleepers. Sometimes, you have to pick from a receiving corps that doesn’t really have a standout player. That brings us to A.J. Brown.
If you believe in Ryan Tannehill, you should be looking to get some other piece of the Titans passing attack. Since taking over the starting job in Week 7, Tannehill is QB6 in total fantasy points and fantasy points per game. Tannehill gets a crack at the fourth-easiest matchup for quarterbacks in 2019 in the Oakland Raiders this weekend.
Landing on Brown instead of Adam Humphries or Corey Davis is about production and opportunity. Brown leads the team in targets (54), receiving yards (626) and receiving touchdowns (four). Humphries has a slight edge in receptions (37-34), but the difference is negligible. Brown is the only Titans wide receiver to post a 100-yard game this season, which happened just two weeks ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Brown hasn't been dominant, but he's the logical choice to grab from this group if you believe Tannehill can stay hot against a beatable Raiders defense. Brown may need only one big play to justify his spot in your lineup.
Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
It's not easy for a rookie tight end to be a consistent contributor right away, but that's especially true playing with three different quarterbacks. Noah Fant's rookie season is mostly forgettable, save for his three-catch, 115-yard performance (with a touchdown) in Week 9. Admittedly, we're hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Fant in that Week 14 could be one of the few times he posts strong fantasy numbers.
Fant moves into his second week with Drew Lock as the starter in Denver and does so with a nice matchup in Houston. The Texans are a top-10 matchup for tight ends in the last four weeks and have been a pretty average defense overall. After Courtland Sutton's 89 targets, Fant is second on the team with 55 targets. That's not a big number, but much like Brown in Tennessee, Fant has the best chance of emerging based on his role this season.
With the Broncos also struggling on defense, the other hope is that this turns into a high-scoring affair. Root for the defenses to not show up and for Fant show off his talent against the Texans. He's worth a deep reach if you need some help at tight end this weekend.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins
As I discussed at the beginning of this article, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been on the fantasy playoff radar for weeks because of one of the best possible schedules from Weeks 14-16. Could you win a fantasy championship with Fitzpatrick as your quarterback? Yes, which is why you might want to stick with him instead of treating him like he's a one-and-done.
Fitzpatrick helped his own cause in Week 13 by racking up 365 yards and three touchdowns (with one interception) on 27-of-39 passing in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Fitzpatrick now has at least 288 yards and multiple touchdowns in three of his last five games.
The New York Jets have been an average matchup for fantasy quarterbacks this season, and that's the proper perception of them as a defense in both fantasy and reality. In Week 9, Fitzpatrick threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns by completing 24 of 36 passes. That recent history combined with last week's performance makes it easier to trust Fitzpatrick throughout the fantasy playoffs, although it's fine if you just want to see how this week goes and then reassess.
Devlin Hodges, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Yes, Devlin Hodges has landed on the fantasy radar just one week after making his second NFL start. He didn't do much against the Cleveland Browns, with 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception after completing just 14 of 21 passes. However, there's room for improvement and stronger fantasy numbers in Week 14.
That's because Hodges and the Steelers head out west for a good matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Last week, the Cardinals defense brought Jared Goff back from the fantasy graveyard, as he lit them up for 424 yards and two scores. No team has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks this season or in the last four weeks than the Cardinals.
You'd be foolish not to consider any quarterback stepping into the best possible fantasy matchup. Obviously, more volume would help Hodges' cause, and the Steelers would be smart to increase Hodges' pass attempts. We already know James Connor is out, which means the Steelers won't have the most valued member of the backfield once again, and that's another reason to ramp up Hodges' role. He's a real deep sleeper candidate.
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
When a player addresses an injury so soon after it happens and assures everyone he will play the following week, you can completely ignore it. It's understandable that players are passionate about being on the field and not missing any time, so they become overly optimistic that treatment and rest will have them ready to play.
Dalvin Cook got taken out of Week 13 with a chest injury, yet he was pretty adamant he'd be ready for this week's game with the Detroit Lions. So far, Cook has been limited in practice. That's not ideal, and if he does push through the injury, that doesn't mean he'll take on his usual workload and/or make it through the game any worse for wear.
That's where Alexander Mattison comes into the picture. For the season, he's carried 86 times for 416 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown and added another eight receptions for 64 yards on 10 targets. Interestingly enough, four receptions and 51 yards came from this past Monday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Assuming Cook plays, Mattison still has flex value since the Lions have been a bottom-three defense against fantasy running backs in the last month. Minnesota could even play it safe with Cook and take him out of the game if it has a healthy lead. Because we've seen Mattison play well just about the entire season, using him doesn't seem like as much of a stretch, although he'd get a huge boost if Cook winds up inactive.
Zach Pascal, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Without a true No. 2 wide receiver for the Colts, the targets vacated by T.Y. Hilton's injury absence. However, last week was the first with Hilton, Marlon Mack and Eric Ebron out of the mix, which allowed Zach Pascal and Jack Doyle to feature in bigger roles.
In the Week 13 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Pascal caught seven of 10 targets for 109 yards. That marked his best performance of the season in all categories (except the lack of a score). It was also the second time he had at least 100 receiving yards. Of course, he didn't top 26 receiving yards in four of the last five games before last week, so trusting Pascal isn't easy.
Hilton's calf injury will likely keep him out again this week, which means Pascal is staring at a big opportunity to help an underwhelming offense get back on track heading down the stretch. Pascal has WR3/flex appeal with a chance to find himself in the WR2 conversation if he has another busy and productive game. Facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers only helps, as they have been the best possible matchup for the last month and all season for wide receivers. There's reason enough to fire up Pascal.
Darwin Thompson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The August hype for Darwin Thompson led to a grand total of five carries for eight yards and three receptions for 10 yards before he stepped in to run 11 times for 44 yards for the Chiefs in last week's victory over the Oakland Raiders. The path for Thompson to play more in Week 14 got a little clearer when the Chiefs put Darrel Williams on injured reserve. Plus, Damien Williams is battling a rib injury that has kept him out of practice this week.
That means the Chiefs could enter a massive showdown with the New England Patriots down two of their top three running backs. LeSean McCoy's workload continues to be monitored, so Thompson's role for this game could be significant. One reason to be cautious is the matchup, however. The Patriots rank as the ninth-toughest for running backs to face over the last month and the toughest for the duration of the season.
Unlike just about every other sleeper in this week's article, Thompson doesn't have the matchup in his favor, but he might walk into a sizeable role when these two AFC powerhouses clash. Thompson is a good flex play with real RB2 potential, especially if Damien Williams can't play this weekend.