Week 12 Fantasy Sleepers

Mayfield a pitchman worth listening to vs. Miami

Baker Mayfield, Cle, QB (23 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $29)
Matchup: vs. Mia
Vegas Line/Total: Cle -10.5, 44.5

Dampened by the Myles Garrett fiasco, Mayfield, who’s bombed terribly after many fanalysts, this flabby boob included, deemed him top-10 in August drafts, posted one of his finest fantasy lines of the season. He failed to reach the 200-yard mark for the fourth time this year, completed a miserable 53.1 percent of his attempts and his end-zone dive was flukey, but the 21.8 fantasy points established a new 2019 benchmark. Shockingly, it was just the second time Mayfield record 20 or more fantasy points in a game this season.

Maybe the dude should stop focusing on maintaining his house and devote more energy to his actual craft. 

From air yards per attempt (’18: 7.5; ’19: 6.1) to adjusted completion percentage (73.9, 69.7) to just above every other category imagined, the former Heisman winner has fallen off, dramatically so. Living down to the “sophomore slump” label, he’s been exiled to the waiver wire in most 12-team leagues. This week, however, he possesses considerable sneaky stream upside. His opponent, Miami, has surrendered 8.0 pass yards per attempt, 254.5 pass yards per game, 2.3 passing TDs per contest and the seventh-most fantasy points to QBs. Additionally, only Detroit and New England (!) have given up a higher average depth of target (9.5). Playing him ahead of Dak Prescott (at NE), Tom Brady (vs. Dal) and Aaron Rodgers (at SF) isn’t a rookie move. 

Fearless Forecast: 268 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 12 rushing yards, 19.9 fantasy points

RoJo to be muy caliente in Atlanta

Ronald Jones, TB, RB (52 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)
Matchup: at Atl
Vegas Line/Total: Atl -4.5, 53.5

Denizens in Fantasyland always rush to judgement. Take RoJo, for instance. Last season, the Buccaneer ran aground. He rarely broke tackles, displayed buttery digits in the pass game and lost his wits attempting to grasp Dirk Koetter’s playbook. For anyone who spent a lucrative pick on his services, the resulting rancidness left a permanent bitter taste. Despite his sharp price reduction in August drafts, many harbored a stubborn grudge.

Writing off Jones was premature.

Adding muscle this offseason, the young rusher was motivated to prove doubters wrong. His turnaround wasn’t immediate, but his steadfast commitment has started to pay dividends. He’s plowed through would-be tacklers (2.77 YAC/att), exhibited the evasiveness that once drew scout comps to Jamaal Charles (21.0 missed tackle%) and, most shockingly, found hands. Over his past five games, Jones has hauled in 13 receptions for 110 yards. Quietly, he’s morphed into a useful three-down rusher.

This week, Tampa travels to Atlanta to face a middle-of-the-pack Falcons run defense. This season, they’ve allowed 4.0 yards per carry, 5.4 receptions per game, 132.8 total yards per game, nine total touchdowns and the 18th-most fantasy points to RBs. Though it checks in at No. 5 in run-stuff percentage and has shown marked improvement overall the past couple weeks, Atlanta’s abysmal pass defense has set the opposition up for several goal-to-go opportunities. Against Jameis Winston, more of the same is in store, which should tee up Jones nicely.

Fearless Forecast: 12 carries, 50 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 33 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.8 fantasy points

Scarbrough what the doctor ordered for Detroit

Bo Scarbrough, Det, RB (3 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $15)
Matchup: at Was
Vegas Line/Total: Det -2.5, 41.5

Forget the multi-use pressure cooker, karaoke machine or L.O.L Surprise! winter disco chalet, this holiday shopping season, Scarborough is the must-have doorbuster deal. A popular waiver addition this week, the former Alabama star is hoping to blaze a trail similar to prior school standouts Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram and Kenyan Drake. Heck, even if he exhibits one-quarter the power and burst of peak Eddie Lacy, his speculators will gladly take the weekly dividend. In his pro debut versus the team that drafted him in 2018, Dallas, he seized command of the backfield playing on 49.2 percent of Detroit’s snaps while pilling up 55 yards and a TD on 14 touches.

It’s been a circuitous route for Scarbrough. After the Cowboys booted him, he latched on briefly with Jacksonville and Seattle, but was never promoted from the practice squad. In those situations, he was buried on the depth chart, far behind top-of-the-heap stallions Zeke Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Chris Carson. With only ragtag competition surrounding him in Detroit, he’s the between-the-tackles bulldozer (4.07 YAC/att in WK11) Matt Patricia desperately needs. His fresh legs and ascending confidence could make him an out-of-nowhere late-season fantasy producer. Yep, he could be that guy this year.

This week, the bulky back visits Washington and its philanthropic defense. This season, it’s conceded 4.1 yards per carry, 161.7 total yards per game, nine total touchdowns and the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs. Also ranking No. 26 in adjusted line yards and No. 27 in run-stuff percentage allowed, it should roll out the red carpet for the aspiring RB2.

Fearless Forecast: 15 attempts, 64 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 reception, 3 receiving yards, 13.2 fantasy points

Parker turning into Miami Points Machine

DeVante Parker, Mia, WR (32 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)
Matchup: at Cle
Vegas Line/Total: Cle -10.5, 44.5

Dion Waiters spewing gibberish midst post-gummy mid-flight freakout. That’s the only time anyone with any shred of sanity would recommend a Miami Dolphin with fantasy playoff hopes on the line. It’s justifiable. Almost the entire roster could be dubbed “unreliable.” Kalen Ballage, who couldn’t break through a wet Kleenex, tops among them.

Parker, though, is the exception. 

Ballyhooed when he entered the league in 2017, the former Louisville Cardinal has taken an eternity to tap into his enormous potential. Injuries, drops, general mishaps — he struggled for years adjusting to the weekly NFL grind, causing many to prematurely write him off. His preseason explosions notwithstanding, Parker, until recently, only sporadically tantalized. But the 26-year-old is starting to string it together. Establishing a consistent rhythm with Ryan Fitzpatrick, he’s topped 10 or more .5 PPR points in four of his past seven games. WR15 since Week 4 in fantasy points per touch, he’s averaged a 14.2 aDOT and 8.1 yards per target. His 973 total air yards on the season also slots handsomely (WR13). Essentially, he’s the field-stretching, high-pointing, prolific RAC receiver we expected to see years ago.  

This week, Parker exchanges pleasantries with Cleveland. Headhunting and head-bashing aside, the Browns have performed admirably of late defending the pass. Over the past three weeks, they’ve yielded 6.5 pass yards per attempt, 226.7 pass yards per game and a 3:4 TD:INT split. But they were tested by a murders’ row of Brandon Allen, Josh Allen and Mason Rudolph. Fitzpatrick isn’t a world beater, but Parker, who will tango with Denzel Ward (74.1 passer rating allowed), should benefit from volume and his newfound dynamism. 

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 73 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.8 fantasy points

Hot Hollister to add another log to the fantasy fire

Jacob Hollister, Sea, TE (4 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $18)
Matchup: at Phi
Vegas Line/Total: Phi -2.5, 49.5

Josh Allen. Brian Hill. Hollister. In 2016, each weren’t indispensable centerpieces on a Power Six roster. Nope, they were ‘Pokes suiting up for one of the smallest state schools in the contiguous United States (12,379 undergrads strong), the University of Wyoming, an institution probably best known for educating a certain former Vice President who nearly shot his colleague’s face off. 

Hollister is bucking the competition. Pressed into duty after Will Dissly was lost for the season due to an Achilles rupture, he’s become a Russell Wilson crutch. His plus athletic profile, precise routes and strong hands has lured several throws from No. 3, especially inside the red zone. Numero uno in average target separation per route at the position, Hollister, who’s top-10 in fantasy points per target, is sure to be a permeant TE1 pillar rest of season. 

This week, a top-five effort isn’t out of the question. His opponent, Philadelphia, is overly forgiving to opposing pass attacks. The Eagles have allowed an 8.4 aDOT this season. Similar to Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis before him against Philly, Hollister crosses 10 fantasy points for the third-consecutive game. 

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 55 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.5 fantasy points.

Josh Gordon, Sea, WR (3 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $15)
Matchup: at Phi
Vegas Line/Total: Phi -2.5, 49.5

In Greek mythology the siren’s song, if heard, entranced the senses, guiding gullible sailors to inevitable doom. Gordon, fantasy’s version of the legendary tale, is a player, at one time or another, we were convinced would lead us to glory. Whether through suspension, self-exile or under-performance, he, however, shipwrecked teams, leaving managers bitter and resentful. 

The 2011 version of Gordon will never resurface. We all, including this zealot, need to accept that reality. But it doesn’t mean he can’t be at least a serviceable option. He was, after all, occasionally useful as a WR2/WR3 during his brief New England stint. 

In his Seahawks debut, Gordon, for fleeting moments, resembled the player of yesteryear.  Strong, sure-handed and nearly impossible to corral on slant routes, he played a critical role down the stretch in Seattle’s upending of San Francisco. Now fully immersed in the playbook post-bye and with Tyler Lockett hurting, he could see an expanded role this week against Philadelphia’s brotherly loving secondary. On the season, the Eagles have given up a 8.4 average depth of target, seven 70-yard WR performances and the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. His likely coverage assignment, Jalen Mills (49.7 passer rating allowed), is a stiff challenger, but Gordon should become a Wilson favorite on the road. 

Bold prediction: The vagabond scores his first TD as a Seahawk.

Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 56 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.1 fantasy points

BONUS FLAMES (Under 60% started)

QB: Ryan Tannehill, Ten (Ten -2.5; $25) – Tannehill’s reemergence and subsequent viability is up there on this season’s most unexpected list. Since commandeering the position full time Week 7, he’s performed masterfully. His QB21 standing in adjusted completion percentage during that stretch doesn’t deserve praise, but his 9.8 aDOT, QB6 output in fantasy points per snap and 20.9 fantasy points per game average land a strong counterpunch. Well-protected (30.2 under pressure%) and bolstered by Derrick Henry’s steamrolling ways, the former Dolphin has flourished no matter game script. This week against Jacksonville, he should once again exceed expectations. The Jags have yielded just 240.8 pass yards and 1.4 pass touchdowns per game, but always surrendering 7.3 yards per attempt, their secondary is far from invincible. With Henry likely driving the Titans often inside the red zone, another multi-TD day is very likely for Tanny. (FF: 259-2-0-23, 20.7 fpts)

RB: Jaylen Samuels, Pit (Pit -6.5; $17) – The bloodbath which unfolded on television screens last Thursday wrecked rosters before the bulk of the week even began. The unforgiving injury imp killed off many prominent fantasy characters, including James Conner. The rusher, who aggravated a shoulder injury, looks to be a long shot to return this week in Cincinnati. Samuels and Trey Edmunds should form a committee with the former toting at least 60 percent of the touches. The rusher isn’t an advanced analytics achiever (2.07 YAC/att; 7.6 missed tackle%), but his multidimensionality and prominent role as a receiver labels him fantasy relevant. So does his Week 12 matchup. The Bengals are lasagna-stuffed Garfields on defense. Slow to react, they’ve surrendered 4.7 yards per carry, 163.0 total yards per game, 12 total touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs. Again, assuming Conner is inactive, Samuels, who scored against Cincy in Week 4, is a dynamite top-20 play. (FF: 10-31-1, 6-37-0, 15.8 fpts)

RB: Jamaal Williams, GB (SF -3.5; $12) – At the season’s start fantasy managers grew increasingly skittish about Matt LaFleur and his desire to implement a rotational backfield. With Aaron Jones humming and Williams a near weekly end-zone spiker, those fears no longer exist. Alongside New Orleans and Los Angeles (Chargers), Green Bay sports one of the deadliest 1-2 RB punches in the league. The complement, who’s scored in four of his past five contests, is a sound bet to splash six in Week 12. San Francisco, no longer the impregnable fortress from earlier this season, has started to crumble of late. In their past four games, the Niners have allowed 5.1 yards per carry, 99.8 rush yards per game and three total TDs to RBs. Dalvin Cook, Melvin Gordon, Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake enthusiasts seeking a one-week stand should swipe right. (FF: 7-26-0, 4-28-1, 13.4 fpts)

WR: Zach Pascal, Ind (Hou -3.5; $16) – Increasing his rehab work in recent days, T.Y. Hilton is aiming for a Thursday return. With or without the WR1, Pascal is worth debating as a WR3. Why? Houston couldn’t chase down a caged sloth in coverage. Collecting refuse from other teams in the hopes of at least executing at an average level, the Texans have given up 7.6 pass yards per attempt, the 10th-most air yards and the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs. Week 7 with Hilton on the field, Pascal skewered DB Lonnie Johnson to the tune of 6-106-2. Expecting a similar output in the rematch is a high bar to reach, but double-digit fantasy points are doable. Johnson, on the year, has yielded a 136.1 passer rating. (FF: 4-73-1, 15.3 fpts)

WR: Russell Gage, Atl (Atl -3.5; $15) – Tampa’s rancid secondary, like the Jelly of the Month Club, is the gift that keeps on giving. Despite enforced changes (Adios, Vernon Hargreaves), it’s still the most inept unit when it comes to defending WRs. Also down M.J. Stewart for the next 2-3 weeks, any wideout who lines up against it has a chance to establish new career highs. This season, the Bucs have surrendered 7.5 pass yards per attempt, an 8.7 aDOT and the most fantasy points to the position. Gage, who’s logged action on 54.9 percent of the Falcons snaps the past two weeks, is a fumble in the dark worth finding. Against backup slot corner Mike Edwards (136.5 passer rating allowed), he owns measurable WR3 appeal in 12-team leagues. (FF: 4-51-1, 13.1 fpts)

DST: Baltimore Ravens (Bal -3; $18) – In the NFL’s power hierarchy the Ravens sit alone on a golden throne. With MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson donning a crown and the defense firing on all cylinders, Baltimore has the look of a team destined for sun-splashed Miami. Its smashing of Houston last week has the club flying high into Los Angeles. Against the Rams’ reshuffled and flimsy front (No. 28 in pass-blocking efficiency per PFF) DE Matthew Judon will dial up the heat. Combine that with how well the secondary has played with Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith in tow and it could be another single-digit offensive performance for the Lambs. (FF: 7 PA, 302 YDSA, 4 SCKs, 2 TO, 12.0 fpts)

BONUS QUICKIE: Jordan Wilkins, Ind, RB (Hou -3.5, $13) — With everyone and their grandmother sprinting to waiver wires to acquire Jonathan Williams post-Marlon Mack hand breakage, the overlooked Wilkins could be the cream who really rises to the top. A hard-nosed, tackle-breaking rusher with excellent burst and vision, I’ve always admired his skill set. This season in limited work he’s notched a superb 4.59 yards after contact per attempt. Against Houston’s suddenly susceptible run defense (4.4 yards per carry allowed to RBs) and running behind the second-best run-blocking line in the league, he could easily surprise on Thursday night. (FF: 11-56-1, 1-6-0, 13.7 fpts)


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