7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 16
Everybody loves a good sleeper pick.
Throughout the season, of course, sometimes sleepers aren't just luxuries to gawk at but necessary fill-ins for our fantasy football lineups.
Not every situation requires benching your starters for a sleeper, but every fantasy team and situation is different, and I'm sure we're all playing daily fantasy football on FanDuel anyway. That's where sleepers really can pay off.
Because there is no consensus definition of what a sleeper is, I'll keep it consistent throughout the season. Using ESPN's fantasy football platform, I'll choose quarterbacks and tight ends outside the top 15 in roster percentage and running backs and wide receivers outside the top 40.
I'll also list some honorable mentions because there's nothing worse than realizing that every player mentioned in an article is already rostered in your league. We're seeking non-obvious plays who can put up starting-caliber performances. I'd rather list too many options than too few.
Baker Mayfield (35%) - For quarterbacks facing the New York Jets, it's not about either efficiency or volume. It's both. While defensively they have allowed the sixth-most pass attempts, they have given up the third-most touchdowns (30) compared to only 14 on the ground. As a result, our rankings place them 29th against the pass, as they've been hit up for 0.24 Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. On the other side, Mayfield checks in ninth among qualified quarterbacks at 0.24 Passing NEP per drop back this season. It's a match made in heaven for anyone in need of a fill-in for championship week.
Tony Pollard (47%) - Pollard went off as he drew the start in place of the injured Ezekiel Elliott this past week. On his 21 opportunities (carries plus targets), he rushed for 69 yards and 2 scores but also notched 63 yards on 6 catches. Now, Elliott could return in Week 16 after he nearly played against the 49ers, but whether he is in there or not, Pollard could play a significant role against the Eagles. The second-year back has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 0.13 Rushing NEP per carry compared to Elliott's marks of 3.9 and -0.04, respectively, in 2020. So long as he gets his chances, he should produce at home in what projects to be a tight game (Dallas +2.5) with Philadelphia.
Benny Snell Jr. (35%) - Like in Dallas, Pittsburgh's backfield situation is an unknown. Due to COVID and injuries, James Conner has missed three of the last four weeks, including the most recent one -- an embarrassing loss at the hand of the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite splitting time with Anthony McFarland and dealing with a negative game script, Snell ended the contest with 18 carries for 84 yards, along with 3 catches and 23 yards on 4 targets. His 16.7 fantasy points marked his second game of the year in double digits, and while Conner's been the featured back when healthy, coach Mike Tomlin was impressed with Snell, so we could see more of him against the Colts. Indy is a top-10 defense, but the upside of a workhorse back is there for Snell in a get-right week for Pittsburgh.
Emmanuel Sanders (64%) - For the Saints, it wasn't exactly no Michael Thomas, no problem in Drew Brees' first week back. He struggled early, but after he shook off the rust, the Saints ended the day with 234 passing yards against the tough Chiefs defense. Sanders accounted for more than 32%, as he hauled in 4 of his 5 looks for 76 yards -- including a 51-yard catch and run. His five targets were tied for the highest of anyone not named Alvin Kamara, and though that's nothing to get super excited about, the Saints' Christmas matchup with the Minnesota Vikings calls for a high-floor, high-ceiling game. According to Pro Football Reference, the Vikings are third-worst against receivers, and they are fresh off allowing double-digit games to both Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney in the same game.
Allen Lazard (33%) - Like the Vikings, the Titans have been very friendly to opposing wideouts this year. With Adoree' Jackson just recently returning to make his 2020 debut, Tennessee has offered little resistance, giving up the fourth-most passing yards overall and seventh-most fantasy points per game to receivers. In Week 15, they were lit up by Marvin Jones for 10 catches, 112 yards, and a touchdown (17.2 fantasy points), so imagine what Lazard could do with Aaron Rodgers slinging it against this weak secondary.
Darnell Mooney (12%) - As we alluded to above, Mooney posted another good showing in his last time out, accounting for 12.5 fantasy points against the Vikings. It was his second consecutive game with a touchdown, giving him 4 scores to go with his 78 targets and 46 catches. Of course, his production has followed his team's quarterback play, but Mitchell Trubisky has been playing well of late, and that should continue against Jacksonville. The Jags are sixth-worst against receivers, while the Bears draw a 27-point implied total on the road -- 4.5 above their average output this year. If you're in need of some upside, Mooney has all the potential for a big game here.
Austin Hooper (53%) - If you are streaming a quarterback in a light matchup, it's not uncommon for his tight end to be in play, as well. This week is no different but even more so for a guy like Hooper. On the year, his first with Cleveland, Hooper has 35 catches, 327 yards, and 3 touchdowns in 11 games. He's struggled through some injuries, but ultimately he's been productive opposite Mayfield. In his return to the field last week, he hauled in 5-of-6 targets for 41 yards and a touchdown. And this week, he's facing a Jets team that ranks dead last against tight ends, having allowed a league-high 13 touchdowns to the position in 14 games.