Week 11 Fantasy Football: Dark Horse Sleepers and Busts
Sleepers and Busts for Week 11
We are 10 weeks into the NFL season, meaning we’ve had a chance to determine what we think of most players in the league. Some players (Ray Rice comes to mind) simply aren’t going to be the players we had projected three months ago while others (Eddie Lacy for example) figure to continue to exceed our expectations. But, not all cases are that cut and dry. There are plenty of players that are matchup players or players who struggle to consistently give you high-end production. There are also players that offer the occasional game-breaking performance that can make all the difference … as long as he isn’t rooting on your bench. The job of this slide show is to prevent you from making that costly error that may cost you your matchup and potentially a playoff spot.
How do I determine sleepers and busts? I first diagnose favorable and unfavorable matchups based on the players' skill set and track record, as well as his opponents'. After combing through the player pool and selecting a handful of potential sleepers/busts, I then look at how the prominent fantasy websites (ESPN, Yahoo, etc) rank such players and what they are projecting them to do. Many fantasy players will consult such websites, so I want to offer insight that is applicable to decisions they may come across. Therefore, my six players (a sleeper and bust at QB, RB and WR) are labeled sleeper or bust based on what the general public seems to believe they will produce against how I think said players will perform this week.
Cam Newton (vs. New England Patriots)
This is our third season of watching Newton and our third season of experiencing a drastic range of fantasy production from him week to week. We’ve seen the bad Newton of late (39-of-69 for 418 yards and one passing touchdown and three interceptions over his last two games), and getting a solid New England pass defense on the prime time stage coming off of its bye week is less than ideal. New England has intercepted 12 passes this season and has only given up more than 236 yards through the air twice all season. The Panthers' winning and elite fantasy production from their quarterback aren’t directly related, meaning that Carolina may ask Newton to chew up clock and shorten the game in an effort to beat New England in a similar fashion that they beat the San Francisco 49ers last week.
Projection: 20 completions for 235 yards and a touchdown
Ryan Tannehill (vs. San Diego Chargers)
The Chargers will be traveling across the country while the Dolphins only have to travel across the state, something that should have a positive impact on the dysfunctional Fins. San Diego’s secondary has been exposed with regularity this season (298 pass yards allowed per game), a trend that should mesh nicely with Miami’s 37 pass attempts per game and their putrid running performance last week (14 carries for two yards). Rishard Matthews (11 catches on 14 targets for 120 yards and two scores) emerged as a consistent chain-mover alongside Brian Hartline, and Mike Wallace is still capable of the big play against a poor pass defense.
Projection: 25 completions for 268 yards and two touchdowns
Running Back Bust
Chris Johnson (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
The Colts rank as the third-best defense when it comes to limiting fantasy production to running backs, and considering the Titans have a short week to adjust their game plan for a new quarterback, it is easy to envision Indianapolis loading the box all night long. They haven’t allowed a running back to total 100 yards for a month, making it unlikely that we see RB1 production from a running back that has totaled fewer than 40 rushing yards in five of his last six games.
Projection: 15 touches for 55 total yards
Running Back Sleeper
Ryan Mathews (at Miami Dolphins)
Mathews may not be a “sleeper” in terms of name, but Yahoo has him ranked as their 27th-best running back in PPR formats this week as a borderline RB2, while I believe he can offer RB1 numbers in Miami. The Dolphins were gashed for 129 yards and a touchdown by Buccaneers running backs that the casual fan was unaware of, a stat line that Mathews should be able to approach given a heavy workload. Mathews has recorded double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games, and the lone exception was a game in which Phillip Rivers threw the ball 46 times, something that seems unlikely given the fact that the Dolphins have the second worst run defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Projection: 23 touches for 115 yards and a touchdown
Wide Receiver Bust
Percy Harvin (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
I love Harvin’s talent, and he is the primary reason why I think the Seahawks are the team to beat at this point in time. That being said, don’t jump the gun. Seattle wants to have all of their weapons for the postseason, making it very unlikely that we see will a ton of Harvin against his former employer in his first action of the season. Marshawn Lynch is having another great season, and I see no reason why the Seahawks wouldn’t use him early and often on their way to what should be an easy victory. With a low projected snap count and a run-heavy offense, I’m not starting Harvin in anything but the deepest of formats.
Projection: three catches for 32 yards
Wide Receiver Sleeper
Kendall Wright (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
He last caught seven passes on nine targets for 78 yards, the seventh time in eight games he has caught at least five passes, tallying at least 54 receiving yards in every one of those games. This pass game is far from explosive, but he has offered the type of consistent production that is nice for a WR3 in PPR formats. His aDOT of 7.6 tells me that the switch from Locker to Fitzpatrick at quarterback shouldn’t change his value much, as he will continue to serve as a chain-moving option. I expect the Colts to lead for most of this game, thus forcing the Titans to air the ball out more than they’d like.
Projection: six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown
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