Week 17 Fantasy Sleeper Starts To Potentially Replace Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Darren Waller
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images. Pictured: Kirk Cousins.
Week 17 and the fantasy playoff finals are here — whether you’re ready or not. We’ve got a slew of injuries and COVID-19 cases across the league and there are very few fantasy rosters that have remained untouched by the chaos.
Here are some of the fantasy-relevant players who aren’t or might not be playing in Week 17, just to name a few: Lamar Jackson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, James Robinson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Miles Sanders, Antonio Gibson and Darren Waller.
Below are players at each position that could have “sleeper” value in the fantasy football finals in light of the numerous potential absences across the NFL.
Sleeper QB Starts To Replace Lamar Jackson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins
Tyler Huntley, Ravens vs. Rams
Huntley is a fringe-QB1 if Jackson sits for this game. He had a stellar Week 15 starting in place of Jackson, who was sidelined with a bone-bruised ankle, and finished as the QB1. The backup completed 28 of 40 attempts for 215 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and rushed 13 times for 73 yards and two rushing touchdowns against the Packers — good enough for 36 fantasy points. He missed Week 16 on the COVID-19/reserve list, forcing the Ravens to lean on Josh Johnson for the start against the Bengals. Baltimore lost the contest 41-21.
Jackson practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday with a visible limp but was absent from practice on Thursday and Friday. He is trending towards not playing this week, making a Huntley appearance more likely. Like Jackson, Huntley offers high rushing upside as a mobile signal-caller and would be a solid streaming option in Week 17, even against the Rams who have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this year.
Trey Lance, 49ers vs. Texans
We haven’t seen Lance throw a pass since Week 5 against the Cardinals. He had been dealing with a knee injury, but could get the start for the 49ers this week with Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with a thumb injury. It’s a tricky matchup against the Texans, whose defense has been surging against quarterbacks of late. Lance still falls into the borderline QB1 tier based on his rushing upside alone and is a serviceable streamer for the fantasy finals.
Taysom Hill, Saints vs. Panthers
Hill was a dud last time we saw him in Week 15 against the Buccaneers, mustering only nine fantasy points. He missed Week 16 after landing on the COVID-19/reserve list along with Trevor Siemian, forcing the team to start Ian Book. The Saints were defeated by the Dolphins 20-3.
Hill was activated from the COVID-19/reserve list on Thursday and will likely get the start against the Panthers this week. Carolina’s defense has been strong this year, but did not inspire much fear last week against a Buccaneers team without Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. Hill will be a low-end QB1 based on his rushing upside for Week 17.
Sleeper RB Starts To Replace Clyde Edwards-Helaire, James Robinson, Antonio Gibson, Miles Sanders
Darrel Williams, Chiefs at Bengals
Williams has been fairly quiet ever since Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned from injury in Week 11. While Edwards-Helaire was out, Williams averaged 15.4 points per game in half PPR scoring over five games. He has another opportunity to step up now that CEH is listed as week-to-week and unlikely to play due to a clavicle injury he sustained in Week 16 against the Steelers.
Williams will likely lead this backfield with Derrick Gore sprinkled in and should be considered as a high-end RB2 based on workload and situation against the Bengals this week.
Dare Ogunbowale, Jaguars at Patriots
Ogunbowale led the Jaguars’ rushing attack with star running back James Robinson going down early with a torn Achilles. He recorded 17 attempts for 57 yards and a touchdown and caught two of four targets for 15 yards in a 26-21 loss to the Jets. Robinson will miss the remainder of the season, which presents an opportunity for Ogunbowale — a former undrafted free agent from Wisconsin. He immediately vaults into the streaming conversation based on workload, even with the Patriots’ stout run defense on deck.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Buccaneers at Jets
Ronald Jones led the Buccaneers’ backfield in touches with Leonard Fournette out. Jones saw 20 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 16 yards. Vaughn was also involved and was the more effective rusher. He saw seven carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. Jones is a top play this week against the Jets, who have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this year, but Vaughn will also be an enticing flex play in this juicy matchup.
Boston Scott, Eagles at Washington
Scott saw the bulk of the running back carries in Sunday’s 34-10 win over the Giants with Miles Sanders going down early in the third quarter. He recorded 12 attempts for 41 yards and a touchdown while Jordan Howard recorded nine carries for 37 yards and Kenneth Gainwell did not record a rushing attempt.
Sanders is unlikely to play this week due to a hand injury and Howard is officially listed as questionable heading into Week 17 with a stinger. If both cannot play, Scott would be up next in this backfield to face Washington, whose defense was just eviscerated for 56 points in primetime.
Rex Burkhead, Texans at 49ers
Burkhead had a monster day for fantasy in the Texans’ upset win over the Chargers. He recorded 22 carries for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns with David Johnson sidelined with a quad injury. Royce Freeman also saw a healthy workload with 12 carries for 34 yards. Johnson is now on the COVID-19/reserve list as of Monday, which could mean Burkhead could be in line for more touches in this suddenly not-so-anemic offense. He will be a high-floor streamer this week against the 49ers’ middle-of-the-road run defense if Johnson sits.
Sleeper WR Starts To Replace Adam Thielen
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions at Seahawks
St. Brown has seriously turned heads lately. He is coming off of a career game against Atlanta in which he caught nine of 11 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown. He has scored three times and is the WR4 in half PPR over the last four games.
His production stems from his high target volume, due in part to the team losing tight end T.J. Hockenson for the season, as the rookie has seen at least 11 targets in each of the last four games. He is a top play this week, even against Seattle, whose defense ranks ninth-best in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers.
K.J. Osborn, Vikings at Packers
Osborn had a surprisingly good game in Week 16 with Adam Thielen’s short-lived return. He caught five of seven targets for 68 yards and a touchdown — his third score in four games. Thielen is officially done for the year after re-aggravating his ankle injury and undergoing surgery this week, meaning Osborn will be the WR2 in this offense once again.
He is a high-upside WR3/flex play this week, even with backup quarterback Sean Mannion getting the start with Kirk Cousins on the COVID-19/reserve list and the Packers on deck. Green Bay has been above average against the pass and is getting Jaire Alexander back, though Alexander will likely shadow Justin Jefferson if he plays.
Sleeper TE Starts To Replace Darren Waller
Gerald Everett, Seahawks vs. Lions
Everett has had a solid second half of the season and is coming off of his best game of the year. He reeled in four of five targets for 68 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bears — good enough for 15 fantasy points and a TE3 finish in half-PPR. He has the chance to extend this hot streak this week against the Lions, whose defense has allowed seven tight ends to score at least nine fantasy points over the last five weeks. Everett is a borderline TE1 for Week 17.
Pat Freiermuth, Steelers vs. Browns
Freiermuth missed Week 16 against the Chiefs after suffering a concussion in the week prior. He returned to practice on Thursday as a full participant and is trending towards playing in the Steelers’ Week 17 matchup against the Browns. Prior to the injury in Week 15, he had scored six times in seven games and should be considered a high-end TE2 with upside versus Cleveland, whose defense has allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to the tight end position this year.
Foster Moreau, Raiders at Colts
Moreau has finished as a top 10 tight end in three of the five games Darren Waller has missed this season. He caught seven of nine targets for 65 yards in Week 15 against the Browns and all four targets for 67 yards in Week 16 against the Broncos, who have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year. He is a decent streaming option for managers scrambling once again to replace Waller for the fantasy finals with the Colts on deck, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the position.