After the longest regular season in NFL history, it feels like a nice time to take a break, right? Nope! Fantasy football is a year-long course, and with the playoffs on the horizon, we are just kicking into another gear!
There are a lot of different fantasy playoff challenges that you can partake in, all of which have unique formats. However, the most common format is one in which you pick your players at the start of the playoffs, and get points throughout. In other words, if a player gets eliminated too soon, you’ll be getting a “zero” from that spot.
This creates an extra element of strategy. Now, not only do you have to predict who the top playoff performers will be, but which teams will advance the farthest. Also, do you want to risk picking a team with the #1 seed, knowing that they play one less game than everyone else in a hypothetical Super Bowl push? These are the type of questions that need to be answered for you to win your playoff challenge.
Today, we will be looking at three fantasy football playoff sleepers. These players aren’t going to be premium picks, but can be very useful assets as you fill out their roster. All of them come from teams who play in the first round of the playoffs, yet could conceivably advance far into the playoffs. Meanwhile, all have underlying utilization in the favor as of late, meaning that they are getting the right opportunities at the right time.
Who are these playoff sleepers? Let us dive right into it!
2021 Fantasy Football Playoff Sleepers
WR Cedrick Wilson Jr., Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys, it is safe to say, have a luxury of talent when it comes to playmakers. Heading into the season, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup were supposed to be the top receiver trio in the NFL. However, Gallup got injured in Week 1, opening the door for Cedrick Wilson Jr. to get a chance to produce.
With that opportunity, Wilson didn’t stand out but did serve as a useful #3 receiver. Where he really made a difference, though, was with CeeDee Lamb (concussion) and Amari Cooper (COVID-19) dealing with various ailments between Weeks 11 and 12. In that span, he earned 17 targets, averaging 12.5 PFF expected fantasy points in that span.
With the receiver trio back in tack after Week 12, it did not look like Wilson Jr. would make much of an impact come playoff time. Then, Gallup tore his ACL making a terrific touchdown catch in Week 17:
Cowboys WR Michael Gallup’s touchdown vs. Cardinals. Amazing body control despite injurypic.twitter.com/jiL9IcTKZg
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 2, 2022
From when Gallup went down (rest of Week 17 and Week 18), Wilson shined. He earned six targets in both matchups, and made the most of them:
- Week 17: 6 receptions, 35 yards, 1 touchdown, 12.5 PPR points (WR19)
- Week 18: 5 receptions, 119 yards, 2 touchdowns, 26.4 PPR points (WR2)
Being able to get favorable looks from the slot for one of the league’s most passing offenses is quite beneficial for fantasy purposes. Thus, even though it came against the Eagles’ backups, I believe in that performance. In his past five games, he’s averaging 2.44 yards/route run- that is impressive.
This weekend, the Cowboys will take on the 49ers in a matchup with a 50.5-point total in which they are implied to score 26.75 points. If they win that game, they’ll head out to Tampa Bay for a shootout against the Bucs. The 49ers, with the 12th-most points allowed to wide receivers and the 16th PFF coverage grade, aren’t the most difficult matchup for Dallas’ passing attack.
A receiver on the rise playing in one of the league’s most productive offenses with multiple shootouts on the horizon? Sign me up!
TE Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
When you think of the Rams offense, a lot of names come to mind. Cooper Kupp just had one of the greatest wide receiver seasons of all time, Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the league’s most popular receivers, and Van Jefferson established himself as the team’s deep threat.
However, none of them was Los Angeles’ leading target getter over the past two weeks. Instead, that honor goes to Tyler Higbee. With four straight games with a TE1 finish, he’s been on a roll as of late and is coming off finishing as the overall TE1 with 20.5 PPR points against the 49ers.
Since coming from the COVID-19 list, Higbee has had three straight games with strong utilization:
- Week 16: 91.4% snaps, 84.2% routes, 6 targets
- Week 17: 96.6% snaps, 88.6% routes, 9 targets
- Week 18: 93.9% snaps, 83.8% routes, 6 targets
For a tight end, these are elite usage numbers. Higbee has had this in his favor all season long, but it is now turning into elite results. In fact, he’s finished as a TE1 in five of the past six games.
Between Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and George Kittle, there are plenty of tight ends to choose from in the fantasy playoffs. If you do choose to wait on the tight end position, though, Higbee is a great option. The utilization is great, and he’s finally benefitting from being a part of a productive passing attack. The touchdown upside is there every week, and not a lot of tight ends can be plugged in for six+ targets. If the Rams can make some sort of playoff push, he’s going to be a major asset.
WR Byron Pringle, Kansas City Chiefs
A key part of these playoff fantasy challenges is to draft players who can play the most games. Sure, you are looking for a Super Bowl favorite, but you’re also looking for a team that will have to play all four games to go all the way.
That’s exactly what the Chiefs are. Since they are the #2 seed, they are stuck playing in the wildcard round. However, that hasn’t stopped the betting markets from inserting them as the Super Bowl favorite in the AFC:
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) January 10, 2022
Due to this, Chiefs players are going to be quite popular targets in playoff leagues. However, there is one player that has fallen under the radar. Yes, Kansas City’s passing attack is condensed between tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. That being said, Hill is dealing with a heel injury, which could at least limit him in the wildcard round against the Steelers.
That opens the door for Byron Pringle. This season, Pringle exceeded Hardman’s routes run by a notable margin, particularly at the midseason point. This never turned into many elite fantasy finishes, outside of a top-10 finish in Week 16, but there is a lot of potential to be had given the spot he is in. Right now, Pringle is likely the #3 option in the passing game. The last time Kansas City faced Pittsburgh; he turned seven targets into 75 receiving yards with a couple of touchdowns and 2.68 yards/route run. If he can put up a strong game this week in a favorable matchup with Hill limited, and then just be an average contributor the rest of the way, he can be more valuable than, say, Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson who is a much better player but is likely to be eliminated this week. That’s the beauty of a format like this. If you either want to keep a Chiefs stack going or want to be contrarian in terms of your ownership of Chiefs players, Pringle is the perfect option!
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