Nick Mensio

Weekly Surprises

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Week 15 Sleepers

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


We’ve entered the home stretch of the 2013 fantasy football season. Most leagues have two weeks left to go, while some play through Week 17. There are quite a few injuries we need to keep our eyes on this week, so these sleepers could come in handy for those Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Rob Gronkowski owners. It’s going to be another jam-packed, drama-filled Sunday with a 14-game slate, so let’s get to this and check out some players who might be available on the waiver wire and could be of some use for Week 15.

Quarterbacks

Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs. Redskins: Ryan has become a bit of a forgotten man since Julio Jones went down with his season-ending foot injury. He’s still fantasy football’s No. 14 quarterback, and his top receiver, Roddy White, is as healthy as he’s been all season. Ryan would have had a much bigger Week 14 if not for multiple drops by his receivers. He now gets a Redskins defense that is surrendering the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, ranks dead last in Pro Football Focus’ pass defense ratings, and is allowing 256.7 yards-per-game through the air. On top of all that, Ryan gets to face them at home in a controlled dome climate. The Redskins are dead in the water and just got spanked at home by the Chiefs. Opposing quarterbacks have a combined 101.2 rating against Washington in 2013. Treat Ryan as a low-end QB1 in this tasty matchup.

Texans QB Case Keenum vs. Colts: The Indianapolis defense has been in freefall mode for weeks now. Andy Dalton, who had been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league the past month or so, just lit the Colts up for 275 yards and three touchdowns last week. He added a fourth score on the ground. Keenum has been nothing short of awful lately. But, in Week 9 against this same Colts defense, Keenum completed 20-of-34 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns, posting a personal season-best 123.4 quarterback rating. That game was played in the dome in Houston, while this one will be played in Indianapolis’ dome environment. There will be no weather worries. The Texans have committed to Keenum for the remainder of the season. He won’t have to look over his shoulder at Matt Schaub. Keenum can just go out there and sling it, knowing the front office wants to see as much of him as possible over the final three weeks. Keenum is on the QB2 radar.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Lions: Flacco disappointed a bit last week in a juicy date with the Vikings, but the weather was certainly a factor in that. He still tossed three touchdowns, but paired them with three interceptions. Flacco gets another burnable NFC North pass defense in Week 15. This one will be played at Ford Field in a dome against the Lions, so weather will not be an issue. The Lions are allowing 255.8 pass yards per game this season and have been torched for 14 40-plus yard pass plays. That’s second-most in the league. Flacco, as we all know, has a big arm. The deep ball is his specialty. Look for he and Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to attempt to hook up long several times. Flacco is locked in as a high-end QB2.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 15. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

Running Backs

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley vs. Dolphins: Ridley returned from his one-game banishment to the sideline as a game-day inactive to play on 16-of-83 snaps against the Browns last week. That seems awfully low, but No. 1 “big back” LeGarrette Blount played just 22 snaps. Both players touched the ball nine times, and it’s painfully obvious that Ridley is the more talented runner. With Rob Gronkowski (torn ACL) done for the season, the Patriots could start leaning more heavily on their running game again. The Dolphins are a bottom-ten run defense and are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs. We can’t confidently project more than ten or so carries for Ridley this week, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he handled most of the work as a runner. Shane Vereen is the clear-cut passing-down back. Ridley will have some flex appeal with room to grow.

Colts RB Trent Richardson vs. Texans: Richardson is coming off probably his best game as a Colt. He played 25-of-61 snaps, compared to 32 snaps for “starter” Donald Brown. Richardson was in the game when the Colts were actually “in the game” before getting blown out late by the Bengals. Richardson turned his 11 touches into 88 total yards and did a ton of damage as a receiver. Meanwhile, Brown totaled 29 yards on eight touches. The Texans have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs, and they’ve mailed it in. Maurice Jones-Drew is coming off his best game of 2013 against this Houston defense. I’d personally play Richardson over Brown this week as a flex option.

Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya vs. Bears: We’ve discussed Ogbonnaya a number of times in this weekly column. He hasn’t come close to living up to the talk, but this week he’s taking on a Bears defense that is getting gashed on the ground. Six running backs have run for over 100 yards in six consecutive games versus Chicago. Willis McGahee suffered a concussion late in last week’s loss to the Patriots, and his status is in serious doubt. Ogbonnaya would handle much of the load, with Fozzy Whittaker chipping in. It’s hard to see Ogbonnaya rushing for 100-plus yards, but he plays in the passing game and could make hay there. Ogbonnaya has RB2/flex appeal, especially in PPR formats.

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Wide Receivers

Jaguars WR Ace Sanders vs. Bills: Sanders has played 59 percent of the offensive snaps over the past two weeks. And over his last four games, the rookie has drawn a total of 32 targets in the passing game. He saw just 28 passes come his way the first nine games. While Mike Brown is the “No. 2 receiver” in terms of snaps played, Sanders is the real No. 2 behind Cecil Shorts. The Jaguars are starting to find ways to get Sanders in space. They’re lining him up in the backfield, as well as featuring him out of the slot. Sanders gets to go up against a Bills defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to receivers. Sanders is worth WR4 consideration. He gets a boost in PPR leagues.

Panthers WR Ted Ginn vs. Jets: Ginn is coming off a game where he played a season-high 80.9 percent of the offensive snaps. That undoubtedly had to do with the Panthers getting throttled by the Saints last Sunday night, forcing them to employ a ton of three-wide sets. But if we take that game away, Ginn still plays at about a 45-50 percent clip on a weekly basis. That’s enough playing time to warrant fantasy consideration against a helpless Jets defense that is getting torched deep. The Jets, like I mentioned earlier with the Lions, have allowed a whopping 14 pass plays of 40-plus yards. Running deep is why teams pay Ginn. I like his odds of scooting by some combination of Dee Milliner, Darrin Walls, and Ed Reed for a long score at some point Sunday. It helps that Ginn plays with arguably the strongest-armed quarterback in the game.

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin vs. Giants: Over his past five games, Baldwin has played 84.8 percent of the offensive snaps and has drawn 29 targets. He’s found the end zone three times during that span and is practically an every-down receiver right now with Percy Harvin (hip) still on the shelf. Baldwin and Russell Wilson have a good rapport. Wilson trusts Baldwin, especially when he needs a big catch on a third down. The Giants aren’t playing bad defense – and haven’t been for some time now – but slot corner, where Baldwin lines up in three-wide, Terrell Thomas is burnable. Thomas has given up three touchdowns out of the slot in 2013, and quarterbacks have a 98.1 rating when throwing at him. Baldwin has WR3 upside.

Tight Ends

Titans TE Delanie Walker vs. Cardinals: Walker is the lucky dog of the week. He gets to go up against Arizona’s league-worst defense when it comes to stopping tight ends. Jared Cook didn’t do much of anything against the Cardinals in Week 14, but Kellen Clemens missed him a couple times. Walker sat out last week with a concussion, but he should be back in action Sunday. As Adam Levitan pointed out in his Waiver Wired column, Walker was really starting to catch fire before getting hurt. In Weeks 10-12, he averaged 6.3 catches for 66.3 yards and scored two touchdowns. Walker fits in well with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pop-gun arm. He’s on the back end of the TE1 map.

Bills TE Scott Chandler vs. Jaguars: Chandler is one of the streakiest tight ends in the league. Even his big days are more average than special. But Chandler gets to go up against a Jaguars defense that is just behind the Cardinals in terms of fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Chandler should run free a couple of times. He has a knack for 20-plus-yard gains and could draw an end-zone look or two. Desperate owners in need of a tight end could do worse than Chandler.

Bucs TE Tim Wright vs. 49ers: Wright has mostly been a disappointment since Week 9 or so. He’s caught two passes or less in four of his last five games. However, Wright is coming off a game in which he played 60-of-68 offensive snaps, so it’s not like he’s losing playing time. He simply isn’t drawing the eyes of Mike Glennon like he was earlier in the year. The 49ers defend tight ends well. This is more of a “feel” pick on my part. I expect the 49ers to blow the Bucs out, leaving plenty of garbage time for the Tampa Bay passing offense. Tight end has been a position that’s lacked talent in 2013. There aren’t a lot of great options out there for needy fantasy owners. I could see Wright finding pay dirt.



Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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