Featured Pros: Championship Week Sleepers
Quick…what do Josh Freeman, John Kuhn, Jerome Simpson, and Jared Cook all have in common? We’ll accept 3 answers:
- Their first names all begin with the letter “J”.
- All have been relative non-factors for fantasy purposes this season.
- To everyone’s surprise, each player produced at a top 5 fantasy level during week 16 of last season.
Obviously, we’re not saying #3 will happen again this year (we’ve seen enough of Josh Freeman to make such a claim). The point, however, is that someone will step up as an unexpected championship week stud. It happens every season and you can bet that it’s likely to occur again.
For this week’s edition of Featured Pros, we’re calling on the industry’s top “out of the box” experts to give us their sleeper picks for championship week. These are the pundits who aren’t afraid to go against the grain and they frequently hit the mark when doing so. Simply put, if anyone is going to have a read on surprise performers, it’s most likely these experts. Let’s find out who they like to step it up with fantasy titles on the line…
Q & A
Q: Several guys (Lance Moore, Donald Brown, Brent Celek, etc) stepped up above & beyond expectations in week 15. Name a trio of players (1 WR, 1 RB, & 1 TE) that are the most likely to put up surprise top tier numbers in week 16. Why do you like these players this week?
|Week 16 Sleeper Picks|
|Brad Evans – Yahoo! Sports||Jabar Gaffney||Kahlil Bell||Anthony Fasano|
|Mike Clay – Pro Football Focus||Roy Williams||LeGarrette Blount||Kyle Rudolph|
|Sigmund Bloom – FootballGuys||Ben Obomanu||Kevin Smith||Jared Cook|
|Patrick White – Fantasy Sharks||Titus Young||Lance Ball||Heath Miller|
|Kevin Roberts – NFL Soup||Jonathan Baldwin||DeAngelo Williams||Vernon Davis|
Brad Evans: Jabar Gaffney (vs. MIN) – Gaffney is the ‘Skins’ steadiest producer, particularly in PPR formats. His 6-85-0 line last week against the Giants marked the fourth time in his past five contests the wideout has recorded at least five catches. Most owners usually want nothing to do with anyone whose value is tied directly to Rex Grossman, but a matchup with Minnesota, ravaged by injuries and ineffectiveness, can put lipstick on the ugliest pig. The Vikes have allowed 8.3 yards per attempt on the season. And at least one WR has logged 10-plus points against them in four straight, including Lance Moore who spanked them for 5-91-2 in the Saints’ blowout win. Point blank: Cedric and Asher Allen couldn’t blanket a one-toed sloth. Gaffney, who is the 23rd-best wide receiver in per week output since Week 11, is a spectacular, WR2 play in Week 16.
Mike Clay: Roy Williams (@ GB) – I’m digging deep at the wide receiver position. With Johnny Knox now out for the season with a back injury, Roy Williams will step up as the Bears’ top option at wide receiver. Williams is the team’s active leader in snaps played by a wide receiver this season and, despite seeing only three targets, tied Earl Bennett for the team-lead with 51 snaps played this past Sunday. The quarterback situation is a mess (will it be Josh McCown or Caleb Hanie?), but the Bears are going to be forced into a pass-heavy attack while playing from behind against the Packers. Green Bay’s defense has been one of the most generous to opposing wide receivers this season and Williams will have plenty of opportunities to produce fantasy points.
Sigmund Bloom: Ben Obomanu (vs. SF) – With Big Mike Williams out, Obomanu should get close to starter snaps at home against the 49ers. The only way to really attack the Niners D is through the air, and Obomanu has proven chemistry with Tarvaris Jackson. Only recommended in very deep leagues, but has a chance to make some noise.
Patrick White: Titus Young (vs. SD) – San Diego’s pass defense is no joke but neither is Calvin Johnson. When the Chargers sit down and review tape this week they should take notice that Megatron needs additional coverage. With Calvin drawing safety attention, Titus Young will be able to fully utilize his biggest attribute: his burner speed. Don’t expect a ton of catches from Young but what he does pull in should go for huge chuncks of yardage and hopefully a home run score.
Kevin Roberts: Jonathan Baldwin (vs. OAK) – It didn’t happen in week 15 (one catch, 17 yards), but something tells me Kyle Orton under center means a much-improved Chiefs passing offense for the final two weeks. Baldwin is a huge target who has flashed great potential already, while his remaining two games offer up potentially huge games. He gets a weak Raiders defense in week 16.
Brad Evans: Kahlil Bell (@ GB) – “Jingle Bell Rock” could be the anthem for many championship seekers in PPR formats. Bell, the closest asset to Matt Forte the Bears currently have on roster, clearly outplayed Marion Barber last week. The coaching staff has supreme confidence in his balanced abilities, evident in the wide snap count disparity between he and Barber last week. This time around, he gets the rival Packers in Lambeau, the league’s most generous defense to receiving backs. Green Bay has allowed 6.5 receptions per game to RBs. In a contest the Bears may easily play from behind in, Bell could rack his second consecutive 100-total yard performance.
Mike Clay: LeGarrette Blount (@ CAR) – Starting Blount this week is going to be an extremely risky move when you consider that he saw only 13 snaps in Week 14. Still, as bad as the Buccaneers are playing, they should be able to compete with the Panthers. Actually hanging in the game will allow Tampa Bay to continue to run the ball, which means 15+ carries for Blount. He’s been a disappointment this season, but has still managed a respectable 4.5 yards-per-carry mark. I have him down for 94 total yards and a score on 18 touches. That qualifies him as a borderline Top-12 back this week.
Sigmund Bloom: Kevin Smith (vs. SD) – Smith actually had most of his burst and cut sharply with decisiveness – he just never really got the ball in space vs Oakland. Against San Diego in what should be another high-scoring game on the carpet in Detroit, Smith could be a very strong play as long as he doesn’t leave the game with an injury.
Patrick White: Lance Ball (@ BUF) – This all depends on how serious Willis McGahee’s hamstring tweak is. If McGahee misses time Ball makes for an interesting play against the same defense that Reggie Bush just carved up for 200 plus yards. Knowshon Moreno being sidelined for the season and the possibility of McGahee being either limited or out makes Ball worth watching during the week. If given the start, he should put up larger than expected numbers.
Kevin Roberts: DeAngelo Williams (vs. TB) – It seems whenever Williams has a dream matchup, he comes to life. He hasn’t been the most consistent fantasy back out there, but he’s still explosive and can get the job done with the right matchup. With a terrible Buccaneers run defense on the docket in week 16, this is another one of those weeks to confide in D-Will.
Brad Evans: Anthony Fasano (@ NE) – Miami’s warhorse, quite possibly the most disrespected tight end in Fantasyland, has been tough for defenses to saddle in recent weeks. The ninth-best TE in fake football since Week 11, he’s averaged a stout 6.2 points per week, an output better than marquee names Jermichael Finley and Brandon Pettigrew. This week gifted another generous matchup, he’s a sure-fire top-10 weapon at his position. The Pats have allowed just three TE touchdowns this year, but five oversized targets, including Fasano Week 1 (5-82-0), have totaled at least four catches and 65 yards in a game against them. In a contest that will surely present numerous red-zone opportunities for the ‘Fins, the Italian Stallion is definitely worth riding even in 10-team leagues. Giddy up.
Mike Clay: Kyle Rudolph (@ WAS) – For the first time in his short career, Kyle Rudolph led his team’s tight end unit in snaps on Sunday. Rudolph played one more snap than veteran and impending unrestricted free agent Visanthe Shiancoe, leading me to believe that we’re looking at a possible changing of the guard. Considering the team’s underwhelming group of wide receivers and their propensity for having to lean on the pass while playing from behind, Rudolph will generally be in a position for a handful of targets and the occasional score. Week 16 matches him up with the Redskins, who slowed the Giants’ passing attack this past week, but who have still been pretty generous to the tight end position this season. The rookie is far from a safe play, but has significant upside if he works as the team’s top tight end.
Sigmund Bloom: Jared Cook (vs. JAC) – Cook seemed to have something good going with Jake Locker in the hurry-up offense and we know the Jags are prone to giving up the big play through the air to physical talents like Cook.
Patrick White: Heath Miller (vs. STL) – As long as Roethlisberger is under center I’d put Miller down as a must start against the St. Louis Rams. Big Ben will be still be hobbled by his high ankle sprain but will need to continue to throw to keep the Rams defense honest. I’d expect a lot of high percentage short passes to keep Roethlisberger from getting reinjured before a playoff run. Being that the Rams don’t offer much of a pass rush, Miller should be allowed to run a lot of 5 yard routes frequently and give Ben a large option over the middle of the field.
Kevin Roberts: Vernon Davis (@ SEA) – There’s no denying Davis’ weak numbers the past three weeks and overall the past two months (*editor’s note: this was written prior to the MNF game). But I don’t buy it happening forever. The 49ers take on the Seahawks in week 16, with the best method of beating them being through the air. Davis was OK against them in the season opener, but I think he has much more success this time around.
That wraps up this week’s edition of Featured Pros’ advice. Thanks to the Pros for stopping by to share their insight. Be sure to check out the experts’ respective sites for additional analysis.