Secret Sleepers  

 

Denard Robinson leads list of Week 15 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. However, sadly injuries and late-season collapses create opportunity, and T.J. Yeldon, Jonathan Stewart and Thomas Rawls' injuries could prove examples this week.

Looking ahead to this weekend's action, there are 10 sleepers I like to outperform what the masses expect from them in Week 15, including a running back off everyone's radar, and of course, more than a few injury fill-ins.

Colonel Sanders' Super Secret Sleeper


Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

We have a chalky sleeper pick here at the top of the Week 15 list, but it's hard to envision a scenario where this doesn't work out. T.J. Yeldon suffered a knee sprain in the Jaguars win over the Colts, and is all but ruled out for this game. Denard Robinson is the clear next man up, and we have some history of him as a useful fill-in starter. There was a five game stretch last season where Robinson averaged 19 touches, 98.2 yard per game and scored four touchdowns, including a hyper-effective 20-touch, 116.3-yard average in the first three games. Showing that was not a fluke, Robinson once again looked great in relief of Yeldon last week.

He's an exciting player in the open field, who can play on passing downs. With the Jaguars clicking on offense, and welcoming a moribund Falcons defense to their stadium in Week 15, you can get a strong start out of Robinson. Atlanta allowed the most touchdowns to running backs this season (18 total) and finally started to crack in the yardage department of late. Running backs earned 537 yards on the ground on a 4.71 average over the last four games.

The Jaguars offense surprisingly emerged as one of the league's highest scoring units with an average of 29.83 points per game scored since the beginning of November. Their defense struggles to stop even the most timid of foes, and the Falcons could have a one-week revival against them. With a game that should feature plenty of scoring, and Robinson's status as a three-down back playing at home, everything comes up rosy for his Week 15 outlook. Don't be the least bit surprised if Robinson finishes this week as a top-10 running back, and is a big reason why your team hoists your league's championship trophy. Find a way to get him in to your lineup this week at almost any cost, and pencil him into your DFS plans.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington

Kirk Cousins put up a strong game on the road last week, which hasn't been the norm for him this season. He returns home to the comfortable confines of FedEx field this week. The Bills defense is scary in name only, and can be had with short, matriculating passes. Cousins is 17th in air yards per pass attempt among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts this year. He fits right into the fold of the type of player that can exploit the Bills defense. We know Cousins has a tangible ceiling, and this is a fine week to stream him.

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

The Ravens secondary hasn't stiffened up much at all. While the Chiefs certainly aren't known for their high-flying tendencies, Alex Smith is the QB12 on the season in fantasy. Smith posted fewer than 13 points just once (Week 2 against Denver) and presents one of the most locked-in floors among streaming quarterbacks. Rather outside of his character, we've seen a tangible ceiling from the veteran quarterback. Smith went over 21 fantasy points in two of his last three games, scoring six total touchdowns in that stretch.

The upside isn't sexy with Smith, though it never is. However, if you have a roster with enough tantalizing high-ceiling players, and your league is all but dried up of streamers, Smith can present with a usable stat line, at worst, in a good matchup to get you through to the next round of the fantasy postseason.

Fozzy Whittaker, RB, Carolina Panthers

With Jonathan Stewart likely to rest in Week 15, it's time to look at his backups. The resounding narrative all offseason, and most of the regular season held that rookie Cameron Artis-Payne was the top handcuff to Stewart. However, Artis-Payne was a healthy scratch the last few games, and the team never even intimated he'd get the bulk of the touches in a "break glass in case of emergency" situation with their starting running back's health.

Fozzy Whittaker, on the other hand, was the No. 2 running back behind Stewart all season. After claiming him off waivers last preseason, the team quickly grew to appreciate his pass blocking acumen, consistency as a runner and hands out of the backfield. Whittaker isn't the type to dazzle with highlight runs, but he can certainly help fill-in with the Panthers in a pinch. The Giants and Panthers should be trading points in this contest, which brings Whittaker's pass-catching ability into focus.

It's hard to endorse Whittaker as anything more than a desperation play in PPR leagues, and the smart move is probably to avoid what should be a three-way committee backfield with Stewart out. However, don't be surprised if Whittaker finishes this game with the bulk of the backfield touches and posts a usable PPR line. Or course, I could very well just be interested in this player based off his first name.

Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While the fantasy world's attention turned to a ton of haggard players at the running back position this week after another rash of injuries, let's not forget about the quiet contributors who got us here. Charles Sims still essentially splits the snaps with Doug Martin, playing on 41 percent the last three games. Sims is also playing quite well, and contributing in fantasy with point totals of 12.9, 3.9, 7.7 and 7.4 in standard leagues the last four weeks.

If you're in a tough pinch at running back, you can get a spot start out of Sims this week, and likely RB2 numbers in PPR leagues. Sims has a steady 70.6 percent catch rate on the year. More than a few running backs got over on the Rams through the air in recent weeks, and they allow 9.26 yards per reception the last four weeks.

Hall of Fame voting

Albert Wilson, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Am I clouded by trutherism here? Perhaps -- likely, even. However, Wilson has been an 83 percent snap share player the last four weeks, and had an 87-yard, one-touchdown game last week. However, as mentioned in the Alex Smith blurb, the Ravens secondary is not playing well. In this matchup, Wilson might be worth a "what the heck" flex level play. Of course, this could be me just missing the forest for the trees in regards to one of my favorite under the radar long-term sleepers in the wide receiving game right now.

Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints

Willie Snead might not be better than Brandin Cooks, but he's at least a more reliable presence for his team. It was no coincidence that Snead went 7-122 on just eight targets last week coming off of an injury. Snead is in another good spot this week when the Saints welcome the Lions to the Superdome. Snead runs most of his routes from the slot, and will avoid squaring off with the Lions best corner, Darius Slay. Of all the games on the Week 15 slate, New Orleans vs. Detroit looks like the most likely candidate to turn into a shootout. That means you'll want to pluck value plays like Snead from the game in DFS, and he's a strong flex option for PPR leagues.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Seattle Seahawks

At this point, you're just trying to get a piece of the white hot Russell Wilson. While the spotlight is rightfully on Doug Baldwin, and even extending over to Tyler Lockett, on the other end of those Wilson heaters, Kearse came out of this four game stretch with one two-touchdown game, and another with 7-74. Of course, those two did sandwich a zero catch game in Week 13, so you know this is as volatile a play as there is. But if you need the upside in a deeper league, the Seahawks should continue their aerial assault against the Browns on Sunday. Kearse should find himself on the receiving end of some quality passes in that spot, and he played the most snaps of any Seahawks receiver over the last four games.

Vernon Davis, TE, Denver Broncos

For just the second time in his Broncos tenure, Vernon Davis played more snaps than Owen Daniels in Week 14. The results were a steady 7-74 game, but Davis also let a pass get away from him that could have resulted in a long score. If he's still available on waiver wires, you can probably snag him and toss him right into your lineup. The Steelers had their share of struggles against tight ends this season, allowing over 800 yards on 118 targets this season.

Will Tye, TE, New York Giants

A repeat from last week, Tye did us right with five receptions and a red zone touchdown. You can go right back to him another week if you snagged him for streaming purposes. We all know about the impending Josh Norman vs. Odell Beckham showdown, and while I will never even come into the same zip code of suggesting you bench Beckham, it will change things for the Giants offense.

It will be harder for New York to funnel their passing game through Beckham, and secondary options will have to step up for the team to move the ball. Their most reliable ancillary player the last month has been Tye.


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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