Secret Sleepers  

 

Dorial Green-Beckham leads list of Week 16 sleepers

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As the season wears on, the art of identifying sleepers gets evermore tiresome. Few stones have been unturned at 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 opporuntity, and Melvin Gordon, LeSean McCoy and Thomas Rawls' injuries, in addition to Odell Beckham's suspension 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 16, including some players left for dead a long time ago, an ultra-talented rookie wideout and of course, more than a few injury fill-ins.

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Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans

After many months of pining, it appears the football world will get their wish of watching Dorial Green-Beckham's role grow in the Titans offense. He has targets totals of five, six, seven and nine the past four games, a clear steady increase. Green-Beckham played on 84 percent of the snaps last week, just barely behind Harry Douglas for the team lead among wide receivers. The opportunity is finally there for this rookie to take a step forward to establishing himself as a pro.

Dorial Green-Beckham's off-field troubles are well documented, but he's one of the more physically gifted wide receivers to enter the NFL the last few years. The Titans slowly worked him into their offense, and he's paid dividends with two 100-yard games to end the season.

The Texans pass defense is strong, with Jonathan Joseph having a revival year that could have earned a Pro Bowl berth without much eye raising. Making matters worse, Zach Mettenberger will be behind center, and he'll take plenty of sacks in the face of Houston's fearsome pass rush. However, what Mettenberger will also do is sling the ball downfield in a more aggressive fashion (right or not) than his predecessor at quarterback in Marcus Mariota. He'll give the big rookie wideout plenty of chances to win on big plays in the deep game.

Playing Dorial Green-Beckham is a less than optimal matchup in your fantasy championship is a risky proposition. However, the usage indicates that his volume could be secure enough to make it worth the risk, and he makes a great dart throw in a daily fantasy tournament, either way.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Over the last two weeks Teddy Bridgewater finally showed the potential that many believed would vault him up the quarterback rankings. Against defenses playing their best football in the latter half of the season, Bridgewater threw for 566 yards, on a 75 percent completion rate and scored six total touchdowns without throwing an interception the past two weeks.

While this offense will remain committed to Adrian Peterson, Bridgewater may have improved to the point where he can be hyper-efficient with his volume. Either way, he's worth a desperation stream against the Giants on Sunday night. No team allowed more fantasy points to the quarterback position than New York over the last four weeks.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

It's hard to fully trust Rivers in an offense that continues losing talent at an alarming rate. However, the latest loss of Melvin Gordon could shift the Chargers to an even more pass-heavy approach. The Raiders get better play out of their defense than one may imagine, especially with the dynamic play of Khalil Mack, so this is far from a guarantee. Nevertheless, plenty of fantasy owners dropped Rivers after his impossible to deal with stretch of single digit games. If you are hurting at the quarterback position, you should get a usable line out of Philip Rivers.

Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Is it finally happening? Do our eyes deceive us, or is Christine Michael finally mortgaging his immense potential into tangible good play on the field? The answer to those queries is simple: we don't know. Pete Carroll indicated Michael would split carries with Bryce Brown going forward. The Seahawks backfield could remain a hot-hand only approach, meaning Michael's workload is tenuous at best. However, reports out of the locker room were fantastic after the game regarding Michael's "focus."

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It was in a pristine matchup, but Michael seized the momentum early and sliced through the Browns run defense. He looked powerful, determined and aggressive. Michael sustained the offense, with a long run of just 10 yards. It was not as if he accrued his production through boom or bust plays. This was a steady and consistent effort.

When the Seahawks welcome the Rams to their building on Sunday, they'll find another game script favorable to running the football. St. Louis allowed the third-most yards in the NFL the last four weeks on a 5.01 yards per carry figure. If Christine Michael sees the bulk of the carries once again, he could be looking at another career day in a favorable spot. Of course, your fantasy championship is more comfortable not in the hands of Michael, but if you are desperate, and many of you likely are, there is some reason for optimism here.

Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions

We took plenty of shots at the next two running backs on this list but with 90 percent of the running backs injured (estimation), we can't be picky. Joique Bell turned in his best day of the season by far on Monday night, going for over 100 total yards and scoring a touchdown. Much of the credit goes to the Saints defense, of course, but Bell gets another favorable matchup in Week 16.

The 49ers jumped ahead of the Falcons last week for most touchdowns allowed to the running back position (19) on the season. San Francisco is trending in the wrong direction too, with seven of those scores allowed in the last four weeks. Simply being a home favorite against a bad team brings a running back into our focus, and Bell fits all those qualifications. If you are desperate at the running back position, don't be surprised if Bell brings another double-digit point outing.

Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans

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Bill O'Brien told us that a zero touch game in Week 14 for Alfred Blue was merely a factor of his injury, and not a performance benching. It turns out he was being genuine, as Blue came out the next week and led the Texans backfield with 20 carries. Despite some interesting talent behind him, it appears that Houston is committed to Blue. Week 15's win over the Colts was his fourth game since Week 8 with more than 15 touches.

The Titans showed a strong defense at times this year, but the unit is falling apart of late. Over the last four weeks they allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs. The Texans have a good chance to beat the Titans on the road with Zach Mettenberger under center. A favorable running game script will set up an opportunity for Blue to post RB2 numbers, at worst. Talent aside, there is no reason to turn your nose up at back set to push for 20 touches in a good spot.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Buffalo Bills

LeSean McCoy won't play against the Cowboys, and while Karlos Williams was the clear handcuff early in the season, a long injury absence caused him to lose some ground in the rotation. Mike Gillislee, an explosive journeymen running back, stepped in the last few weeks, despite Williams' return to the field. He showed some big-play potential, averaging over 14 yards per carry combined and scoring a touchdown in each of the last two weeks.

Dallas likes to slow play opposing offenses by sitting on the ball and bleed the clock on the ground. With that game script playing out, you'll need a running back who creates big plays on a lower volume. Williams was that guy early in the season, but it looks like the shoulder injury compromised his power for now. If you're desperate at running back, Gillislee is an upside dart throw.

Donald Brown, RB, San Diego Chargers

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Much like the Philip Rivers analysis, the Raiders do have a better defense than many expect. Over the last four weeks, they allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, and just a 3.04 yards per carry average. Those numbers don't scream "get a running back in your lineup," but touches are touches, and Donald Brown looks in line for a good workload on Thursday. If he assumes the touches left behind by Melvin Gordon, that would be quite the boom. Gordon averaged 17 touches per game from Week 8 until his injury in an unsuccessful rookie year.

After Melvin Gordon went down with an injury, Donald Brown came in to handle 12 carries and caught two of his three targets. He performed quite well, averaging 7.25 per touch. Brown has a history of solid play, including a stretch where he milked relevance out of an Indianapolis backfield in 2013 that Trent Richardson was sinking. Again, these are desperate times, but Brown has a shot at 20 touches on Thursday night against the Raiders.

Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

In the last four weeks, Markus Wheaton has three touchdowns and more fantasy points than Eric Decker, Julio Jones and his own teammate, Martavis Bryant. Of course, he's not the player those receivers are, but he's producing results. Wheaton took a ton of heat from the fantasy community throughout his career, but looks like he's developed into a solid third receiver. In an offense as strikingly potent as Pittsburgh's, that has value. Wheaton could post yet another solid outing against a poor Ravens secondary on Sunday.

Will Tye, TE, New York Giants

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Will Tye found his way to this article several times over the last month, but for some reason fantasy owners keep ignoring his production. There is some mention of his name as a potential target share benefactor of Odell Beckham suspension, but not enough. As of Wednesday morning, Tye is owned in just 1.1 percent of NFL.com leagues. That is absurd. Tye has 70 yards or a touchdown in each of his last four games. He posted double digit fantasy points in PPR leagues in five straight games going back to before the Giants bye week.

Regardless of Odell Beckham's suspension, people need to take notice of Will Tye. At a volatile position, it's a crime to let such a steady contributor stay out there on the waiver wire. The undrafted free agent is one of the more pleasant surprises of this late portion of the season.


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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