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Week 16 Fantasy Football Sleepers

Last Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Do not overthink lineup decisions in the second round of the fantasy football playoffs, as your stars and most reliable performers must remain in the lineup in most cases. However, injuries and recent down performances from guys you may have counted on require finding the proper lineup pluggers to complement the top starters.

I provide the best Week 16 streamers and fill-in options to help your team advance to the league finals.

Fantasy Football QB Sleepers for Week 16

Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Jacksonville Jaguars

Fantasy players who have stayed alive in their playoffs despite significant QB injuries need a quality streamer for Week 16. Mayfield fits the bill as he attempts to steer the Buccaneers to an NFC South title. He passed for a season-high 381 yards last week and has passed for six TDs with a rushing score over the past two games.

Mayfield has often been unreliable and mediocre, but he is trying to do his part to will Tampa Bay to the postseason, and his top WRs, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, are too much for the Jacksonville secondary to handle. The Jaguars rank 30th in Fantasy Points Per Game allowed to QBs.

Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans

The 38-year-old has demonstrated that he can be utilized as a desperation option for those still in QB survival mode in the fantasy postseason. Flacco has passed for two-plus TDs in all three games he played with Cleveland, with 300-plus yards in two outings.

Houston ranks 26th in passing yards allowed to QBs. Flacco should be able to provide a solid fantasy floor in Week 16, and you should also check where he places in our superflex rankings for Week 16.


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Fantasy Football RB Sleepers for Week 16

D’Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Giants

In Week 15, Swift carried the ball 18 times, his highest total in five weeks, and the rushing attempts total tied a season-high. The Eagles have good reasons to repeatedly hand him the ball in a good matchup.

The Giants rank 30th in rushing yards allowed to RBs, and Philadelphia has the fourth-best run-blocking grade of any team on Pro Football Focus for Week 16. Consider starting Swift for respectable production, and he could outperform recently lowered expectations.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans vs Seattle Seahawks

Henry is certainly not a true sleeper in the sense of the fantasy term, as he is a well-established past standout. But after coming off one of the worst performances of his career in Week 16, he is being widely viewed as a declining former star.

If you had a first-round bye in the fantasy football playoffs or somehow survived Henry’s 20-touch, 10 scrimmage-yard outing in Week 15, it will be hard to put him back into the lineup. However, I believe that the two-time rushing yardage champ will want to bounce back effectively this week.

Henry may be playing in his penultimate home game as a Titan and likely wants to perform well for emotional reasons. Seattle has allowed the second-most rushing yards to RBs over the past four weeks while allowing 14 rushing TDs overall (second-most in the NFL), so Henry can be started even though you may not feel too good about utilizing him after last week’s dud.

See where Henry fits in our Week 16 fantasy football rankings.

Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown sees limited touches but is elusive and explosive as a dual threat. Fantasy leaguers who have to dig deep for an RB or flex option should consider him for the potential to provide a big play at any time.

In Week 13, Brown ripped off a 31-yard run, and in Week 14, he totaled 105 yards from scrimmage while racing to the end zone on a 54-yard catch-and-run for a TD. He has 21 touches in his last two games, and 10-12 touches may be enough to provide upside against a Steelers defense that will spend a lot of time on the field due to QB issues and ranks 22nd in FFPG allowed to RBs over the past four weeks.

Fantasy Football WR Sleepers for Week 16

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans

The regularly prominent role of DK Metcalf, plus the ascension of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, has cut into the production of a WR who has long been one of the most underrated players at his position in real life. In fantasy football, Lockett has often been perceived as a boom-or-bust type, and we have seen less of the “boom” this season.

Lockett does not have a 100-yard game this season, and he has one TD catch in his last seven games.

The heroics of Metcalf and Smith-Njigba on the final drive of Monday night’s upset of the Eagles will only lead to them continuing to draw heavy defensive attention as a duo. Lockett can benefit, as he has a top 15 WR/CB matchup grade against opposing secondaries for Week 16 on PFF, and the Titans rank 27th in FFPG allowed to WRs.

Adam Thielen, Carolina Panthers vs Green Bay Packers

The former Viking was a pleasant fantasy football surprise earlier in the season, but he has progressively fallen off in production. Thielen has not reached the nine-point mark in PPR points in three of his past four games.

If you need a fill-in WR in Week 16, you should still consider Thielen for possible adequate output. He has the fourth-best WR/CB matchup grade on PFF for Week 16 against the Green Bay CBs, and the Packers rank 28th in FFPG allowed to WRs over the past four weeks.

Wan’Dale Robinson, New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

This is a super-deep play for those who have to seek out desperation options at WR this week. The Eagles’ secondary is broken; it cannot be fixed at this point of the season, and the Giants will want to play spoiler against one of their most hated rivals.

Philadelphia has allowed the most FFPG to WRs this season, and in Week 14, Robinson showed some signs of late-season promise with six receptions on seven targets for 79 yards. The Eagles have been a WR matchup to exploit all season, and Robinson should also get some Week 16 DFS consideration.

Fantasy Football TE Sleeper for Week 16

Hunter Henry, New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

The Broncos have allowed the most FFPG to TEs this season. Bailey Zappe has helped Henry re-emerge in the New England offense, as the veteran TE caught two TD passes in Week 15. He followed that up by catching seven of nine targets for 66 yards and a TD in Week 16.

Fantasy Football D/ST Sleeper for Week 16

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bengals have three-plus sacks in their past three games, with three interceptions in the last two. Facing a Steelers team that features some of the worst backup QB play in the league should lead to desired sacks and turnovers while also keeping the score down.

Fantasy Football Draft Sleepers 2024

Fantasy football draft season sits far in the distance, but fantasy players are already starting to think about picking their 2023 teams.

The pile of potential fantasy football sleepers for the upcoming season will feel the fallout from free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release.

With this in mind, The Game Day’s fantasy football crew (Frank Ammirante, Scott Engel, Jeff Hicks, Sam Wagman, and Matt De Lima) delivered their early 2023 fantasy NFL sleepers for drafts. Use these fantasy tips to know which names to highlight on your cheat sheet.

Our staff’s favorite fantasy football preseason sleeper targets for 2023 leagues:

StaffQBRBWRTE
Frank AmmiranteSam HowellKendre MillerTerrace MarshallTrey McBride
Jeff HicksSam HowellAlexander MattisonMichael GallupSam LaPorta
Lance PattonDeshaun WatsonCam AkersTerrace MarshallCade Otton
Matt De LimaKenny PickettKhalil HerbertGeorge PickensDalton Kincaid
Pat PickensAaron RodgersZach CharbonnetGeorge PickensDarren Waller
Sam WagmanJared GoffAntonio GibsonJordan AddisonDalton Kincaid
Scott EngelJordan LoveZach CharbonnetJalin HyattJuwan Johnson

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Fantasy QB Sleepers 2023

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

The Commanders have shown confidence in 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell as the starting quarterback because they didn’t take one in this year’s draft. While Howell will have to compete with veteran Jacoby Brissett, the second-year quarterback is expected to win the job.

This is intriguing for fantasy football due to Howell’s rushing upside. We saw this in his lone start in 2022, where he carried five times for 35 yards and a touchdown. This was also the case in college, as he rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final year at UNC.

Howell has a strong group of pass-catchers, including Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, and Antonio Gibson. Washington also upgraded at play-caller by hiring former Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to run the offense.

In other words, this is a young quarterback with a fantasy-friendly profile and strong team context. As of June 1, Howell is going as QB28 in Underdog drafts, making him a significant value, especially in Best Ball formats. — FRANK AMMIRANTE

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

At the peak of his powers, Deshaun Watson was one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL – finishing as a top-5 fantasy QB in his first three seasons as the full-time starter.

After missing nearly two full seasons with well-documented off-the-field issues, Watson didn’t seem sharp last season, but I’m willing to throw out the minuscule six-game sample size – although he did close the year with back-to-back top-10 finishes.

While Watson doesn’t possess the same rushing upside as Lamar Jackson or Justin Fields, he does have the ability and willingness to make plays with his feet. An improved wide-receiving core and another year in the Browns system make this pick a perfect buy-low candidate for a dynamic dual-threat talent. — LANCE PATTON

Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets

Keep counting out Rodgers to your own detriment. The four-time MVP, just a season removed from winning consecutive awards, has made a career proving naysayers wrong.

Rodgers has a loaded group of offensive weapons, notably Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, who are each in the top 30 in ADP. Plus, the Jets brought in familiar faces Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, and burner Mecole Hardman as wide receiver weapons for the veteran.

Still, Rodgers is ranked 124th and the 17th QB in our fantasy ranks, which suggests he’s a league-average signal-caller. I have a hard time believing that. — PAT PICKENS

(Psst: Some of our writers also picked Aaron Rodgers as one of the top fantasy football busts. Click to see why.)

Fantasy RB Sleepers 2023

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings

There are several reasons to believe Mattison turns the Vikings’ backfield into a 50/50 split or takes over. It has been no secret that the Vikings have wanted to shed salary, with a target on Dalvin Cook‘s contract.

While he is still rostered, the Vikings still felt the need to give Mattison a two-year deal that can average $4 million per season. That is not nothing when looking at the current contracts starting running backs get.

Then there’s the talent factor. Cook has 28 broken tackles in the past two seasons. Mattison has 20 in 305 fewer rushing attempts.

Running backs can break down, and Mattison is showing he has a chance to be a better back than Cook is right now at a sizable discount in drafts. — JEFF HICKS

Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos

Javonte Williams’ progress may be on a slow track as he recovers from a major knee injury, and Perine showed late last year that he could deliver quality production when pressed into additional service. Russell Wilson will need a quality ground game and a reliable pass-catching RB to support him in his effort to bounce back from his worst season.

If Williams is not ready to start the season on time, the former Bengal might be ticketed for a significant role as soon as the schedule opens. Over the longer term, Perine will at least operate in a timeshare, and it is possible he could be the more productive of the two Denver RBs for a long stretch.

Denver’s offense will have more potency under Sean Payton, and Perine can be more versatile than Williams. He has some additional promise as a pass-catcher and frequently utilized RB in an improved offense, so Perine has a potential floor as a quality flex option. — SCOTT ENGEL

While we wait for fantasy draft season, peek at our top NFL futures odds, then continue reading:

Fantasy WR Sleepers 2023

Jalin Hyatt, New York Giants

The Giants committed to Daniel Jones in the offseason with a new contract. They also ventured to provide him with more playmakers, and Hyatt could quickly make a splash in New York as a unique weapon for Jones.

The wide receiver depth chart is open for a talent like Hyatt. In its preseason scouting report, the NFL’s official website compared him to DeSean Jackson.

Hyatt may prove to be an instant upside performer. He has a tremendous deep gear and TD promise, and the former Tennessee star should flash his upside early in his rookie year.

Listed at 6-foot-0 and 180 pounds, Hyatt must add more bulk and refine his intermediate and short passing techniques. But he can progress fundamentally throughout the regular season, and New York’s third-round draft pick is a nifty fantasy WR depth target in the final rounds of seasonal drafts. — SCOTT ENGEL

George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers

What attracted scouts to Pickens ahead of last year’s NFL Draft had to be his body control and ability to manipulate himself to get into position to catch the football. Acrobatic catches and high-pointing the football are part and parcel of Pickens’s talent.

In what was a good, but not great rookie season last year, Pickens lacked consistent production—but, this was an issue across the entire Steelers offense. Look for him to climb the fantasy football rankings through the preseason.

Looking ahead to 2023, Kenny Pickett is bound to have a positive regression in his touchdown totals. Furthermore, by the end of the year, it will be clear that Pickens is the leader of this receiving corps over Diontae Johnson. — MATT DE LIMA

Fantasy TE Sleepers 2023

Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills

It’s always hard to rely on a rookie tight end because they tend to start slowly, given all the intricacies of the position.

Just look at Kyle Pitts, the most heralded rookie the NFL had seen in years. He had over 1,000 receiving yards, but he struggled to score touchdowns in an offense more concerned with running the football than passing it.

I’m willing to throw many of those preconceived notions away here, though, because I don’t think that Kincaid will play a true tight-end role in his rookie season. I believe he acts more as a hybrid wide receiver/tight end while incumbent tight end Dawson Knox lines up in line, and the Bills run more two tight end sets.

The Bills are one of the most pass-heavy teams in the NFL and desperately need a player to step up as the WR2. Look for Kincaid to try and fill that role. — SAM WAGMAN

What are Fantasy Football Sleepers?

A fantasy football sleeper can mean one of two things. Either a relatively unknown player who has a big year or a player who takes the next step forward and significantly outperforms expectations with career-best statistics.

Generally speaking, a sleeper is a player undervalued during fantasy football drafts. It’s important to be mindful of fantasy football average draft position (ADP) when judging whether or not a player is a good value, sleeper, or breakout.

How to Identify a Fantasy Football Sleeper

The best way to identify or find sleepers for the upcoming season is to think about each player’s context and past history. For example, if a player moves from a backup role to a starter.

Here are a few more ways to find sleepers:

  • Players who emerge, show improvement and play really well late in the previous season.
  • Players who played through injuries in the previous season. They may finally be healthy and improve this season.
  • Head coach or offensive coordinator changes often result in roles shifting.
  • Positive regression. IE Diontae Johnson caught 86 passes in 2022 but had no touchdowns. No WR ever had that many catches without a TD. A positive regression suggests a more statistically in-line touchdown total (averaged ~7 TDs in his first three years).

Author

Scott Engel

Scott Engel is a Senior Sports Writer at The Game Day. Previously he was at SportsLine.com and The Athletic. His work is also featured at RotoBaller and on Seahawks.com. Scott is a host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 13-time finalist. He was an Associate Editor and featured writer at ESPN.com. and his career began at CBS SportsLine, where he was a Senior Writer and Managing Editor. Scott was the Managing Director at RotoExperts.

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