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.
With a wave of injuries crushing fantasy rosters in the last two weeks, and a few teams on bye this week, we'll leave no stone unturned to find roster fillers for you in this round. Some of these picks may not offer week-tilting upside, but most are widely available and can plug a hole if the bye week gauntlet or the injury bug left you with several vacancies on your roster. Even more crucial, some players are the type of high-upside stashes you ought to think about carrying into the run towards the fantasy playoffs. We focused on some deeper names of this variety in the Week 11 edition.
Looking ahead to this weekend's action, there are 10 sleepers I like to outperform what the masses expect from them in Week 11, including several 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
I'm not crazy, but I am a Case Keenum true believer. Well, all right, maybe I am a little crazy. Yet, thinking back to the Texans 2013 season, where they raced towards the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, it's hard to forget a fateful Sunday night game where Keenum offered an immediate spark to a lifeless team and took the soon to be 11-5 Colts down to the wire. Keenum threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns in that game.
I'm a sucker for the spunky backup quarterback who comes off the bench with energy, and plays with an aggressive mindset. That description fits Keenum to a tee. Perhaps this is the hope for realization of a dream long unfulfilled, as even before that Colts game, Case Keenum was one of the first players I ever wrote up back when I first started trying to crack into this business. Nevertheless, I think in the right formats, Keenum can be a sneaky fill-in quarterback.
To shade back to realism for a moment, let's recognize that Case Keenum is the ultimate volatility play. In his first three starts during that 2013 season, Keenum posted a sterling 107.7 passer rating. He was fearless, a trait his predecessor Matt Schaub sorely lacked, and threw seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. But after that, Keenum came careening down to his ghastly low floor. Over the last five games of the season, he on average finished as the QB25 in fantasy. It's his lack of ability to sustain his strong play that makes him a mere NFL backup, not a long-term answer.
For fantasy, we're not interested in his long-term outlook, just whether he can be a legitimate quarterback streamer or daily fantasy bargain play. If his history is any indication, Keenum is the type of backup that comes off the bench with a hot start, but fades the more he plays. If he's going to repeat that trend, he has an ideal matchup with Baltimore to get it done. The Ravens hold on to a poor 28th ranking in quarterback fantasy points allowed per pass attempt. The defense ranks in the bottom 10 in the NFL in terms of completion percentage, yards per completion, touchdown rate and interception rate allowed this season. The Ravens are tightening up lately, but this is still a friendly enough matchup for Keenum to walk into and have some modicum of success.
One thing is for sure, there's almost no way Keenum can be worse than Nick Foles. By just about every statistical measure, Nick Foles and his 9.9 fantasy points per game was the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. A gander at his 2015 game film confirms the evidence the numbers show. There is talent on this offense. All-World running back Todd Gurley and utility weapon Tavon Austin open up plenty of space for passing lanes. Expect Keenum to take more advantage of those on Sunday than Foles did.
Don't go crazy with Case Keenum as a potential fantasy starter in typical leagues this week. However, he's currently 17th in my Week 11 player rankings over several other popular streaming quarterbacks. If you're in a 2QB league, I highly endorse Keenum as your second starter this week. I'll go over it more in Friday's column, but in daily fantasy Keenum is one of those rare values at the quarterback position that helps you unlock a highly stacked lineup, and who has a high ceiling on his own. Do not go all in on Keenum as your Week 11 DFS quarterback, but gain some exposure to him and see where it takes you. As mentioned, the ceiling and floor with this player are more wide ranging than almost any other replacement quarterback. However, at least that makes for a fun ride.
Just a year ago, Mark Sanchez did wonder for quarterback streamers. During his starts over the last eight games, Sanchez averaged 15.86 fantasy points per game and generally moved the Eagles offense well. Of course, what we often fail to remember with most players when observing their season-long totals, those numbers came with major volatility. Sanchez's weekly finishes during that stretch go as follows: QB4, QB18, QB19, QB10, QB26, QB27, QB8, QB9. He had the best season of his career in Chip Kelly's offense last year, but it wasn't without some typical blunders.
Fortunately for fantasy owners, this sets up as one of those high-mark weeks. The Buccaneers continue shuffling their cornerback rotation, and rank 26th in fantasy points per pass attempt. The Eagles offense doesn't have the same outside-the-numbers threat this year that they enjoyed last year in Jeremy Maclin. Yet, there is still more than enough in this offense for Sanchez to fill in as a friendly, high-ceiling quarterback streamer. He's owned in just 0.5 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Still rather highly owned at 76 percent in NFL.com leagues, Stafford may not be available in your season-long leagues. Do your due diligence, however, as a frustrated owner may have cut ties with Stafford during his down weeks. He's not an every week starter, but can take advantage of a good matchup. In Week 11, the Lions welcome the Raiders to Ford Field, and a shootout could ensue.
The Raiders don't have a particularly strong secondary, as they allow the 13th-highest completion percentage in the league. Their pass rush lost Aldon Smith to a suspension, and already ranked 26th in sack rate coming into this game anyways. Stafford should have the time to sit back and find favorable matchups, and there will be plenty.
The Raiders bleed fantasy points to tight ends, and the athletic Eric Ebron should find open room against the safeties. Slot corner, D.J. Hayden will have his hands full with Golden Tate, and neither of the outside corners, T.J. Carrie or David Amerson, can hang with Calvin Johnson. Stafford makes for an interesting stacking candidate in daily fantasy with any combination of those player. The Raiders offense ranks ninth in points per game, and points won't be hard to come by in this game. The Lions lackluster offense should enjoy their best outing of the season in Week 11.
Have you seen the running back landscape after about the RB20 spot? It's a barren wasteland of players you probably don't want to start, but likely have no choice but to rely on. As such, it's hard to immediately turn your nose up at a potential 20-touch back. In Week 9, that's exactly what Shaun Draughn was.
Prior to that game against the Falcons, many believed the more well-known new addition in Pierre Thomas would quickly work into the rotation. However, right off the bat Draughn handled 16 carries, four receptions and churned out 96 yards in his first game with the 49ers. On his sixth team, and looking to prove he belongs, Draughn ran determined and averaged 9.5 yards on his receptions. The 49ers must like enough of what they saw from Draughn, as they released Thomas during the bye week.
The matchup traveling to Seattle is hardly favorable, but this is more about an attrition based play. Draughn's utility in the passing game should give him enough of a floor to prove flex worthy if you're in a major bind or deep league.
Alfred Blue just isn't that good at football, and Chris Polk doesn't hold any sort of consistent role. Watching the tape from Monday night's game, and tracking the Texans all season, I think Jonathan Grimes looks like their best running back. The William and Mary product is quite the athlete, after scoring in the 82nd percentile or better in the three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, vertical and broad jump prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, per Mock Draftable. His performance in those agility drills show up with good short-area explosiveness on film.
As far as an efficient producer, Grimes is lapping the field against his teammates. Grimes averages 5.08 yards per touch, which is far and away the best among the Arian Foster replacement trio; Blue averages 3.78, and Polk is just ahead of him with 3.88. This may not be the week to test Grimes in your lineup, as the Jets rank eighth in running back fantasy points allowed per touch and 12th in yards per touch. Yet, Grimes' value does come via his role in the passing game, and he may see a fair few targets in this contest with Houston needing to throw punches with a backup quarterback. Nevertheless, Grimes is well worth a stash in season-long leagues as you should be stockpiling the back-end of your bench with upside running backs. If the Texans do ever let one player run away with this backfield, Grimes is the only one who put anything on film this year to indicate he'd be worth it.
As mentioned earlier, Keenum should be able to help make some of the tides in this St. Louis offense rise. One of the top candidates is Brian Quick. The talented pass catcher was a fantasy surprise last year, going for 322 yards and scoring three times in the first four weeks of the season. He went down with a season-ending, and near career threatening shoulder injury, soon after. The Rams approached the situation with painstaking caution and Quick's return to the field has been a slow process.
However, last week was by far his most involved, and things may be on the up and up. Quick played a season-high 52 percent of the snaps, led the team in targets with seven, and looked good in St. Louis' Week 10 loss to the Bears. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Quick is by far the Rams most talented wideout, and it's not close. Not for nothing, during Keenum's 2013 season he elevated a big-bodied target hampered by a deficient quarterback right away:
Of course, Quick is not in the same stratosphere as the player Andre Johnson once was. But Keenum has a gunslinger's mentality who will put the ball up for a big target. Perhaps you don't play Brian Quick this week, but he's well worth monitoring for the 2015 stretch run, and his future prospects in dynasty leagues.
The young Chargers wideout threw up on his shoes a bit during the Chargers' Monday night game in Week 9. However, we've seen Inman produce in limited looks before, averaging in the five to seven catch, and 70 to 80 yards range when he sees some volume. Inman should see an uptick in targets this week, with Malcom Floyd unlikely to play. As the starter along with Steve Johnson, Inman should see around seven to 10 targets in the league's pass happiest offense this week.
Yes, he's been on this list before, and talked about by many before with little results. Word out of Tennessee holds that he's still not completely up to snuff with the playbook yet, as to be expected since he was suspended his final season of college football. However, the rookie receiver may inherit a good chunk of playing time and passing targets by default this week, and going forward.
With Kendall Wright still suffering with an MCL injury, and Justin Hunter going on IR this week, the Titans don't have much choice but to turn to Green-Beckham. He'll likely start alongside Harry Douglas on Thursday night. The 6-foot-5 rookie is already their best red zone threat, but should see an uptick in playing time between the 20s (64 percent of the snaps over the last three weeks). You should already be stashing Green-Beckham in the hopes his upside comes through, or at worst so he doesn't blow up for one of your leaguemates. Against a Jacksonville pass defense that ranks 18th in wide receiver touchdown rate, he could surprise on a national stage tonight.
This may seem a bit like point chasing, after Doug Baldwin went for 134 yards and a touchdown on the tough Arizona secondary. However, there's reason to believe Baldwin could go for a repeat performance, or at least offer a stable Week 11 floor. Rather quietly, Baldwin is in the midst of one of his better seasons. He's averaging 7.3 standard points per game in 2015, which trumps both his 2014 (6.3) and 2013 (6.8) averages. His current season figure jumps to an 11.5 average in PPR formats, which is much more akin to his skill set. Baldwin is the only receiver with a reasonable share of the targets (20 percent) behind Jimmy Graham.
Regardless, the play this week is more about the matchup. The 49ers are a far worse pass defense on the road than they are at home:
The Seahawks offense was one of the most dysfunctional of the first half of the season, with a porous offensive line railroading any chance of establishing a rhythm. However, with this lackluster defense coming to town in Week 11, this could be the week where Russell Wilson finally posts an explosive fantasy game. If he does, Baldwin should at worst pick up a few scraps from the meal.
The Raiders and Lions game could sneak up on a few folks and turn into the highest scoring game of the week. Both offenses carry the firepower, and the defenses spring enough holes on a weekly basis to make up for any potential flaws. Often times when finding DFS value plays, and sleepers for redraft leagues, you just want to pluck from these scripts. Clive Walford is one of the ancillary players off the radar that could benefit from a high-scoring game, and be a fine fill-in as a tight end streamer.
With none of the other receivers behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree seeing more than eight percent of the team's targets, the tight ends are the only other options in the passing game. Walford only played 34 percent of the snaps the last four weeks, but is far and away Oakland's best receiving and most athletic tight end. The Lions give up the seventh-most fantasy points per target to the tight end position. Walford could repay his value and expectations with just one end zone trip.