Secret Sleepers  

 

Cody Latimer leads the list of Week 12 fantasy sleepers

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As the season wears on, the art of identifying sleepers gets evermore tiresome. Few stones have been unturned to this point. The hot upside plays that were under-discussed just a few weeks ago are now every-week starters.

Looking ahead to this weekend's action, there are 10 sleepers I like to outperform what the masses expect from them in Week 12, including two under-the-radar tight ends from the Thanksgiving games I feel very strongly about.

Note: I'll try to be a little more quarterback-heavy with sleepers going forward. With the injury to Andrew Luck, and this being the perfect time to sell off your big-name quarterbacks for other usable positons, we'll examine at least three potential passing sleepers every week. If you're in trouble with a Luck injury or you want to cash out on Tom Brady's immense value right now, the best approach is to stream and get through. You can win your championship with this strategy, if you pick the right players.

Colonel Sanders' Super Secret Sleeper


Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos

After plenty of hype coming into the NFL, Cody Latimer's two reception rookie season was quite the letdown. Of course, we're far too reactionary in today's NFL culture, and rarely are players given the benefit of the doubt to develop. When he didn't produce early this season, many dynasty owners called it a wrap and moved on from Latimer. While Latimer admits it took him "too long to actually catch on" as a rookie, perhaps most of the reason for his struggles were external not internal.

According to ESPN Denver analyst Cecil Lammey on The Audible Podcast, Latimer routinely makes All-Pro level plays on the scout team, but struggled to get on the same page with Peyton Manning, who Lammey reports yelled at the young receiver quite frequently. Latimer himself spoke publicly about that to the Denver Post over the summer. Lammey has long asserted that a change in quarterback and a boost in confidence were the necessary ingredients to Latimer changing the course of his career.

By that logic, it's no surprise that Cody Latimer made noise the last two weeks with Brock Osweiler behind center. After seeing seven targets for three catches and 24 yards in over a year and a half with Manning, Latimer has six targets for four receptions 51 yards and a touchdown in less than a game and half with Osweiler. In the last two games, Latimer went out for 44 percent of the team's snaps. His increase in role and productivity is no coincidence if you follow Lammey's theory.

Emmanuel Sanders practiced Wednesday and could return to the field this week, although he did the same last week and was still inactive with a high-ankle sprain. Even so, Latimer may well have locked down a role as the No. 3 receiver in this offense. While the decreasing passing volume in Denver makes him a risky play, Latimer does carry touchdown upside. He's always been a strong player in the contested game, and led the team in red zone targets last week, taking one in for a 10-yard touchdown.

The real message here is that the final chapter of Cody Latimer's story is far from completed. In fact we may have just arrived at the beginning. For dynasty league players, check to see where Latimer stands. His owner may well have moved, landing him on the waiver wire. If he's still rostered, see if you can flip a late 2016 rookie draft pick or low-end veteran for him. All signs point to a still bright future, and a stretch run where he's relevant in season-long leagues.

Brian Hoyer, QB, Houston Texans

If you're in search of a quarterback streamer, Houston's Brian Hoyer will be the most popular candidate of the week. In his second stint as Houston's start, Hoyer averaged 19.92 fantasy points in the five games before he left the Texans' Week 10 Monday night win early with a concussion. While leaning heavily on star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the journeymen quarterback efficiently led the Texans offense while still taking shots downfield.

The real attention-grabber here is the matchup. The Saints historically bad pass defense ranked 31st in yards allowed and 32nd in touchdown rate prior to their Week 10 bye. New Orleans allowed the all-star duo of Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota to combine for eight touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. In this spot, Hoyer has around a safe 15-point floor with top-five quarterback upside in Week 12.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington

Last we saw Cousins he was busy following up his 324-yard, four touchdown game in Week 10 with a paltry 207-yard, three turnover loss. But we all knew that was coming. The two matchups (New Orleans to Carolina) couldn't be further apart. Cousins is a solid streaming level quarterback, whose performance is rather predictable.

In 2015, Cousins averages 266 yards, two touchdowns, and 0.4 interceptions with a 75.74 completion percentage at home. On the road, his numbers dip to 231 yards, one touchdown, and 1.6 interceptions with a 61.86 completion percentage. Couins thrives when the situation is favorable, and face plants when it's not. He averages almost 10 more fantasy points the last two seasons against bottom-half ranked pass defenses than top-15 units. Prior to their Week 10 bye, the Giants ranked 31st in yards allowed through the air. At home in a good spot, this is a week to fire up Kirk Cousins again.

Josh McCown, QB, Cleveland Browns

With Josh McCown back as the starter in the wake of Johnny Manziel's latest off the field slip-up, he's back on the streaming radar. Last time he faced this Ravens secondary, McCown went for 457 yards and three total touchdowns, and that was on the road. In this contest, the Browns will play in their stadium, as the favorites over the three-win Ravens starting Matt Schaub. The game script may not call for 51 passes like McCown threw in their first meeting, but the matchup should still provide an efficient floor.

Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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The young Seahawks castoff impressed in his first game action with the Chiefs. In relief of an injured Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware took his 12 touches for 101 total yard and two red zone touchdowns. Ware is a big back with good balance, and runs with the bullying attitude that wears down the opposition. While the temptation is to consider him a flash in the pan, Ware is a long-time favorite of Matt Waldman, who studies college prospects in more detail than any other analyst.

West did not practice Wednesday with the hamstring injury he suffered Sunday. Signs point to him sitting out the upcoming game with the Bills. Much like when West stepped in for Jamaal Charles, Ware could easily get dropped right into a 20-plus touch per game role as the Chiefs starter. That offense just funnels touches to the running back position. Even when West returns, Ware could hold down a role as the power and goal-line back in a complementary role to the smaller West. Ware has tremendous Week 12 upside as the starter in this offense with the Chiefs favored to win at home.

Jonathan Grimes, RB, Houston Texans

Even though the chatter of more work for Jonathan Grimes leading up to the game only culminated in nine touches, compared to 24 for Alfred Blue, we'll go back to the well another week. Grimes once again out-played the starter, with Blue averaging under three yards per carry, and almost all of his production coming on a trick play touchdown pass via Cecil Shorts. The Texans and Saints should get into a competitive shootout, and Grimes is the primary passing down back. He has a safe floor in PPR leagues, and upside for more if Houston starts treating him as their best running back.

Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins

Since Week 8, Kenny Stills is a 68 percent snap share player in the Dolphins offense. After a slow offseason marginalized by injury, he's finally figuring into the  regular season rotation. Still a big-play threat, Stills holds a 23.3 yards per reception figure the last four weeks. Darrellle Revis looks unlikely to suit up for the Jets, freeing up some room for outside passing lanes for the Dolphins on Sunday. Stills could get over for a long ball, and is an interesting contrarian punt play in DFS.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts

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Many expected Donte Moncrief to fall by the wayside with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm. On the contrary, the talented young wideout led the team in receiver snaps, and passing targets last week. Moncrief only averages 7.9 yards per catch in games where Hasselbeck starts, and the lack of red zone trips (where he does his best work) hurts, but he's still certainly worth a roster spot. Tampa Bay's secondary continues to shuffle personnel, and ranks 19th against No. 1 receivers, and 30th against No. 2's according to Football Outsiders. They're particularly susceptible to short passes, so as the more sustaining receiver than T.Y. Hilton, this could be a nice game for Moncrief.

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

With the outside wide receivers disappearing, the combination of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz soaked up 28 targets the last two weeks. Celek was the more efficient player, turning his looks into 11 catches for 213 yards. Ertz suffered a scary looking concussion in Week 11, and is already ruled out for the Eagles' Thanksgiving road game. Celek should handle all of the tight end work in Ertz's absence, and with Jordan Matthews closing in on non-factor status of late, could lead the team in targets. Without DeAndre Levy, the Lions give up 49.4 yards per game, and are tied for second in touchdowns allowed to the position. Celek is a strong choice in Thanksgiving-only daily fantasy, and the top streaming tight end of the week.

Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears

You were advised to ignore Zach Miller's unexpected big plays of late, but it's time to finally take notice. The Bears ruled out starting tight end Martellus Bennett for the Thanksgiving game against the Packers. Miller comes into this game averaging 2.75 fantasy points per target the last three week, after usurping reps from the underperforming Bennett.

They're not often grouped with the pitiful Giants/Raiders/Saints tier, but the Packers do struggle to defend the tight end positon. For the season Green Bay ranks seventh in tight end points allowed, and are regressing of late, allowing 13 points per game since their bye week. With Alshon Jeffery still not 100 percent, Miller may need to shoulder a big share of the passing game. He and Bennett already split a 30 percent share of the passing targets. He's the best high-upside contrarian play at tight end for Thanksgiving DFS.


Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.

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