Week 16: Super Sleepers
Week 16 is likely the finals for those owners still in fantasy playoffs. At this point in the season owners are beginning to worry about fantasy studs receiving rest, filling roster spots for injured players and looking for that last minute edge to bring home the fantasy hardware. Last week I rolled with Matt Asiata in my 18-team league where running back injuries plagued my team and backs were scarce on the waivers. This week look for Houston's new starter Dennis Johnson to get some great targets out of the backfield and his teammate Ryan Griffin to get solid TE targets, the two defenses facing New York teams to shine, Andre Holmes to continue to rack up targets and make plays, Edwin Baker to vault himself into fantasy circles as Cleveland's RB upgrade, Tim Wright to put up solid numbers despite his tougher TE match-up, Andre Caldwell to find some coverage gaps with the focus on his fellow receivers and Alex Henery to get you some needed kicker points in a shootout with Chicago.
Houston's running backs caught the injury bug this season. First Arian Foster hit the IR, now Ben Tate joins him following a lost battle with a nagging rib injury. Enter Dennis Johnson. Johnson has been named the new starter with Deji Karim moving into the number two spot on the depth chart, followed by recent sign-on Jonathan Grimes. This week Johnson (and likely some combination of Karim and Grimes) will face a Denver defense that has given up the ninth most fantasy points to RBs on the season. Most experts foresee Denver taking an early lead, forcing Houston to throw the ball often. If this is the case, Johnson may not see as many rushing attempts, but has the capability to play a big role in the passing game. Last week he saw six targets out of the backfield and could see more this week. Case Keenum is sidelined, so Matt Schaub will get the start, but that should not have any negative effect on Johnson's safety valve looks. Johnson could be a great flex play in 12 to 14 team formats and maybe a RB2 in deeper leagues.
Edwin Baker who? Baker was on the practice squad until about a week ago. He looks to be Cleveland's new solution at running back. We will have to wait and see if what the coaching staff has shared about Baker's increased workload comes to fruition, but my guess is that he will be the workhorse back this week against a New York run defense that is ranked sixth against RBs in terms of fantasy points allowed. Baker is a true super sleeper this week as we have not seen enough of him to really know what to expect. What we do know is that he rushed for 38 yards on eight carries and found pay dirt last week vs. Chicago, outperforming Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker. With Willis McGahee's concussion keeping him sidelined, the Cleveland offensive staff is ready to give Baker the rock. In most standard sized leagues Baker is a very long shot option, but in deep leagues he might be worth a flex look even though he faces a stout run defense this week.
After Jacob Tamme filled in for an injured Julius Thomas and produced in the slot role replacing Wes Welker, most experts thought Tamme would find further fantasy value in Week 15. However, it was Andre Caldwell who played nearly 70% of snaps last week in the slot and put up a huge six receptions for 59 yards and two TDs. The three wide-out schemes that featured Caldwell worked and if Welker does not pass his concussion protocols this week, we can assume that Caldwell will get similar playing time and looks. Houston's pass defense has allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to WRs, but the team is in disarray and should be easy prey for Manning and his high-powered offense.
Andre Holmes stepped in a few weeks back for the injured Denarius Moore; despite Moore's return to action, Holmes is still on the fantasy radar in deeper leagues as a WR3. In smaller formats Holmes does not have as much appeal because he is rotating in and out of schemes with Moore, but this week Oakland faces a San Diego pass defense that has given up the fifth most fantasy points to wide outs this season. Holmes has 25 targets and 14 receptions over the past three weeks. I like the odds of Holmes having a solid fantasy outing this week given the match-up. Last week Holmes grabbed four receptions for 58 yards and a score against a stout Kansas City defense. Holmes is a play-maker and if given the chance to haul in a pass, he will likely produce.
Denver has given up the ninth most fantasy points to TEs this season. This week under the leadership of Matt Schaub (who will be playing in place of the injured Case Keenum) Ryan Griffin should get plenty of looks. This game is shaping up to be a Peyton Manning clinic in my opinion and that means Schaub will be throwing early and often trying to keep pace. Last week Griffin was targeted six times and hauled in every target for 62 yards. Griffin is filling in for Garrett Graham, who is nursing a hamstring injury and will likely be sidelined again this week as his status is "iffy". In terms of targets, Griffin is right up there in looks with Dennis Johnson out of the backfield and not much behind Andre Johnson.