Although we rely on big-name players to guide our fantasy football teams to victory, knowing how to locate the sleepers in a given week could be what pushes your team over the edge. With Week 16 of the NFL and fantasy championships on the horizon, here are some sleepers to keep in mind when setting your lineups.
Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco, 49ers
Brock Purdy is now 3-0 in the NFL, including a win in his first start against Tom Brady and his first Thursday Night Football game against the Seattle Seahawks on the road. Purdy showed total command of the offense, completing 17 of 26 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns with 16.5 PPR fantasy points.
Since Week 13, Purdy has been the QB10 overall in fantasy scoring and 13th in per-game average (17.8), despite recording zero rushing yards and missing Deebo Samuel for more efficient passing attempts. Although his passing volume isn’t the highest (204 per game), Purdy has three straight multi-touchdown games and six combined (T-third most). Purdy is less of a sleeper than a higher-end QB2 in Week 16.
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Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos
Do I feel great about this? No, but at least there is a sliver of hope as Russell Wilson is coming off his best game of the season back in Week 14, where he threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns and gained 57 yards on the ground against the Chiefs to finish as the QB3.
Wilson was held out of Week 15 despite clearing concussion protocol and is expected to suit up on Christmas Eve in a rematch with Kansas City. Since Week 11, the Chiefs have been 21st in DVOA and EPA, and 28th in points per game (21.59 PPR). We need to see who will be available at receiver for Denver, but Wilson is a sleeper to keep an eye on for Week 16.
Zack Moss, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Week 15 was brutal for some fantasy managers, especially those with Jonathan Taylor. Injured on his first carry of the game, Taylor was quickly ruled out, and according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapaport, was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain.
While not official yet, I do expect the Colts to shut Taylor down for the season, given their 4-9-1 record, which was punctuated with the largest blown lead in NFL history.
In similar situations, Deon Jackson had taken over and produced solid results for fantasy. Yet, on Sunday, Jeff Saturday went with former Buffalo Bills RB Zack Moss. Moss led the backfield with 24 rushes for 81 yards. However, Jackson was the more efficient back, with 55 yards on 12 carries and a one-yard touchdown on his only carry.
The two backs rotated every couple of plays, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is, at best, a two-man committee or even a three-man with Jordan Wilkins, assuming he’s activated off the practice squad. Moss dominated snaps 31-9 in the second half and overtime when the Colts were trying just to make it to the end, but he will never be the high-ceiling option.
However, if you lost Taylor and the waiver wire is sparse, Moss is likely available as a sleeper in Week 16 and has a favorable schedule with games against the Chargers, Giants, and Texans yet to come. In deeper leagues, or if you lose out on Moss, Jackson should be considered, as I don’t see this backfield being set in stone yet.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers
In a surprising twist, Chuba Hubbard dominated the snaps over D’Onta Foreman last week. While Hubbard only gained 10 yards on four carries, he caught three passes for 57 yards while seeing 100% of the short yardage, third down, and two-minute drill snaps.
Even more interesting is his 16 early-down snaps were also the most on the team, which indicates a likelihood of more carriers in the future. The upcoming matchups against Detroit and Tampa Bay are perfectly fine. With RB9 and RB34 finishes in his last two games, Hubbard is not only a sleeper worth rostering in Week 16, but he might be the lead back.
Khalil Herbert, RB, Chicago Bears
This one is a bit more speculative, but it’s expected that Bears running back Khalil Herbert will return from IR. Herbert suffered a hip injury against the Lions back in Week 10 and has been on the sidelines ever since.
Herbert had plenty of momentum before that, with six games as an RB3 or better, while splitting carries with David Montgomery. We’ll have to wait for more information, but Herbert is a very intriguing Week 16 sleeper that’s likely out there in the vast majority of leagues.
If, for some reason, anything were to happen to Montgomery over the next couple of weeks, Herbert would be a high-end RB2.
Chris Moore, WR, Houston Texans
After recording 10 catches on 11 targets for 124 yards in Week 14, it was always going to be difficult for Chris Moore to replicate that same success. With that said, it wasn’t a bad day either, but the volume intrigues me more.
Moore once again led the Texans with nine targets, catching four of them for 42 yards in a scoreless effort.
With Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins on the sidelines, Moore is the No. 1 option and is likely a fantasy starter so long as both players are inactive. The Texans play the Titans this week and then the Jaguars in Week 17. That’s important as the Titans are last in points allowed while the Jaguars are 23rd.
Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans
Due to a concussion, Treylon Burks has missed the last two games after sustaining his head injury against the Eagles back in Week 13. It’s a shame because he was on a roll and genuinely becoming the No. 1 of this offense.
In Weeks 11 and 12, Burks had 11 receptions on 14 targets for 181 yards, and if he comes back this week, he’ll face a cakewalk matchup against the Texans. Assuming he’s cleared, Burks is a sleeper I would have in my starting lineup as a Flex option in Week 16.
Rashid Shaheed, WR, New Orleans Saints
Although Chris Olave has been the No. 1 option for the New Orleans Saints this year, Rashid Shaheed is matching him in terms of volume over the last three weeks. The UDFA rookie led all Saints skill players in snaps (39), routes run (20), and caught three of his four targets for 95 yards and touchdowns.
Shaheed has 50 yards or more in three straight games and is a player who is undoubtedly on the rise. The matchup against Cleveland is middle of the road in terms of difficulty, but keep an eye on the weather on Christmas Eve. If we see the winds and snow keep to the west, Shaheed is a sleeper worth considering for fantasy football in Week 16.
Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Tennessee Titans
With Burks on the shelf, Chigoziem Okonkwo has been the best receiver for Ryan Tannehill. Okonkwo led the Titans in targets with five and caught four of his looks for 54 yards. He’s now recorded double-digit PPR points in three straight games and is the TE2 over this time and fourth in points per game at 13.1.
Not only is Okonkwo scoring in fantasy, but his 2.63 yards per route run is No. 1 amongst tight ends with at least 50 routes. He’ll have a favorable matchup against Houston in Week 16. Okonkwo is not just a sleeper; he’s a legitimate low-end TE1.
Juwan Johnson, TE, New Orleans Saints
All this man does is score touchdowns. Making his return after suffering an ankle injury in Week 12, Juwan Johnson had another incredibly efficient outing. Although the Saints limited his playing time to just 13 routes, Johnson saw a ridiculous 46.1% target-per-route-run rate with four receptions on six targets for 67 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons.
Johnson’s 22.7 PPR points left him sitting as the TE2 on the week, and he has now scored seven touchdowns in his last seven games. When it comes to fantasy, all you’re looking for, unless it’s an elite volume TE option, is touchdown upside. And right now, no one has more upside than Johnson. Although the Browns have allowed only two touchdowns to tight ends this year, Johnson is a high-end TE2 sleeper for Week 16.