Week 10 Sleepers and Busts: Tight Ends to Make Amends
With a season-high six teams on bye this week, plenty of borderline players will be wedged into fantasy lineups. Take Miami Dolphins’ tight end Mike Gesicki, for example. Gesicki has played 24 NFL games and has scored as many touchdowns as I have. However, the tight end position has been a wasteland all year long, and Gesicki has seen some increased productivity of late. These factors, combined with the bye-week crunch, lead to Gesicki being a borderline starter in both my rankings and in the expert consensus rankings. When a player with his track record is too highly ranked to be considered a sleeper, you know it will be an interesting week. But fear not – I have provided three (yes, three!) tight end sleepers this week for your streaming pleasure. To see who makes the cut, check out my list of Week 10 sleepers and busts below.
Week 10 Sleepers and Busts
Matthew Stafford (My rank: QB11; Expert Consensus Rankings: QB13)
There is not a big difference between my ranking and the consensus ranking on Matthew Stafford. But in 12-team leagues, he is a starter for me and not for the consensus, so he fits the bill here as a Week 10 sleeper. Stafford has a difficult matchup in Chicago to face the Bears. But Stafford has been balling out of late. Stafford has thrived in new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s scheme. The former first overall draft pick has at least three touchdown passes and over 300 passing yards in each of his last three games, finishing as a top-seven fantasy quarterback in each instance. The Bears will certainly present a difficult challenge, but I would continue to ride the hot hand and keep Stafford in Week 10 starting lineups.
Josh Allen (My rank: QB14; ECR: QB11)
Josh Allen was one of the best fantasy quarterbacks towards the end of last season due to his prolific rushing numbers. Over his last six games in 2018, he finished as a top-four weekly fantasy quarterback four times. This season, he has zero top-four weekly finishes and has yet to rush for 50 yards in a single game. His passing statistics have slightly improved, but not enough to counter the decline in rushing production. Allen leads the Bills into Cleveland to face the Browns on Sunday. I think this is a game where Buffalo will look to exploit Cleveland’s deficiencies in run defense. The Browns have allowed nearly five yards per rush this season. Devin Singletary has seen an increased workload of late, and Frank Gore is still very much in the mix. This could be another game where each back sees double-digit carries, thus limiting Allen’s potential.
Sleeper Running Backs
Damien Williams (My rank: RB20 in Standard; ECR: RB25)
Things are finally looking up for Damien Williams after a dismal start. Williams played well ahead of LeSean McCoy last week. Not only did McCoy get just four touches, but he was on the field for a mere six snaps. Williams, meanwhile, had 14 touches and played a season-high 43 snaps. The result was his best fantasy finish of the year, as he emerged as the overall RB8 for the week. Williams should once again be the featured back when Kansas City travels to Tennessee to take on the Titans. The expected return of Patrick Mahomes will keep Tennessee’s defense honest, which should open up lanes for Williams. The Titans have also allowed the second-most receptions to the position this year, which should benefit Williams. Williams should be in Week 10 lineups as an RB2 who has more upside than most running backs in this range.
Jamaal Williams (My rank: RB22 in PPR; ECR: RB27)
The “Free Aaron Jones” movement reached a fever pitch in Week 5 when he ran for four scores against Dallas. But what many people conveniently forget is that Jamaal Williams missed that game following a concussion suffered the week prior. Williams has remained involved in the offense whenever he has been on the field. Strange, but true – Jamaal Williams has caught a touchdown pass in four straight games. That is the longest current streak in the NFL. While you cannot rely on that every week, we know he is an integral part of Green Bay’s offensive attack. Carolina gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, so this is not a matchup to shy away from. Williams is not the safest option on the board but is a serviceable Flex play in Week 10.
Bust Running Backs
Latavius Murray (My rank: RB31 in PPR; ECR: RB25)
To say that Latavius Murray filled in nicely for Alvin Kamara in the Saints’ last two games would be a massive understatement. Murray finished as a top-three fantasy running back in both games. There is some upside for Murray in what should be a high-scoring game, but I think his floor is lower than most realize. Murray was largely invisible for much of the year before Kamara got hurt. From Weeks 2 through 5, Murray had a total of 11.90 PPR points. That is less than three points per game. The former Minnesota Viking may have earned more work based on his recent production, but that is certainly not guaranteed. I don’t mind playing Murray in a pinch this week, but I would prefer not to rely on him as an RB2 option. He is a volatile RB3/Flex for me in this game.
Joe Mixon (My rank: RB29 in PPR; ECR: RB26)
Joe Mixon finally showed some signs of life in Cincinnati’s last game before their bye week. He ran for 66 yards and caught a touchdown pass. Ironically, all three of his touchdowns this season have come through the air. This week, he will face another tough test against the Baltimore Ravens. With rookie quarterback Ryan Finley making his first NFL start, I would expect the Ravens to stack the box against Mixon and make Finley beat them with his arm. Finley is unlikely to do so, particularly following the recent setback suffered by A.J. Green. Mixon may be a frequent target of short, quick throws from Finley. That could make him worthy of a flier in PPR leagues. However, I do not think Mixon makes it into the end zone in this game, thus he is a no-go for me in standard formats.
Sleeper Wide Receivers
Larry Fitzgerald (My rank: WR25 in PPR; ECR: WR35)
Larry Fitzgerald has fallen off the fantasy map in recent weeks. He has a total of just 58 receiving yards over his last three games after getting off to a torrid start to the season. Despite his struggles, Week 10 presents a golden bounce-back opportunity for the future Hall of Famer. This is a likely shootout featuring two offenses that have flashed potential and two defenses that have struggled to limit passing production. That is especially the case for the Buccaneers, who allow the most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. Vernon Hargreaves is the corner most likely to line up against Fitzgerald this week. Hargreaves ranks just 108th out of 116 qualified cornerbacks according to Pro Football Focus. Fitzgerald has taken a backseat to Christian Kirk but is still worthy of starting in this game.
Cole Beasley (My rank: WR34 in PPR; ECR: WR41)
While I am not necessarily on board with Josh Allen being a QB1 this week, I do believe that Cole Beasley can continue his three-game touchdown streak. Cleveland has struggled against perimeter receivers this season, but that was primarily due to injuries to Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Both have returned, leaving slot corner T.J. Carrie as the unit’s weak link. Carrie has allowed 78 percent of passes thrown in his direction to be completed. Beasley should be able to get open underneath and be Allen’s safety valve when under duress from Myles Garrett and company. Beasley does not come without risk. He has totaled just 91 receiving yards in his last four games. But despite the low floor, Beasley carries enough upside to make him a decent option this week.
Bust Wide Receivers
Sammy Watkins (My rank: WR38 in PPR; ECR: WR32)
If I admit I have Sammy Watkins ranked lower than the consensus simply because I cannot stand him anymore, will that suffice? After his dominant performance in Week 1, I thought this was finally going to be the year he put it all together, particularly since Tyreek Hill would be out several weeks. Instead, Watkins let us down once again. He has not scored nor reached 65 yards in any game since the opener. This week, Watkins figures to tangle primarily with Logan Ryan in the slot. Ryan has been solid all season long. If Watkins can get lined up across from LeShaun Sims from time to time, he may break a big play. But “If” might as well be Sammy’s middle name at this point. With so many teams out on bye, you can probably do worse in your Flex spot. Just don’t expect much, and you won’t be disappointed.
Josh Reynolds (My rank: WR44 in Standard: ECR: WR39)
Josh Reynolds filled in quite well when called upon a season ago. Many are expecting a similar transition as Reynolds takes over for Brandin Cooks, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. While I do think Reynolds is a smart pickup, I am not necessarily on board with starting him this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers tend to play sides with their corners, so Reynolds should see more of Steven Nelson in coverage than Joe Haden. Nelson is Pro Football Focus’ 20th rated cornerback among qualifiers. I expect Jared Goff to get Robert Woods more involved, and I expect Cooper Kupp to have another big game despite his tough individual matchup. Reynolds is a Flex play based on the consensus rankings, but I would prefer to hold off a week if possible to see how he is utilized in what is a less than ideal matchup.
Sleeper Tight Ends
Jared Cook (My rank: TE10 in PPR; ECR: TE19)
My trio of Week 10 sleepers at the tight end position are players who have largely disappointed this season but can begin to atone for their sins this week. First on the docket is Jared Cook. Cook got off to a bad start this year but finally got going in Weeks 5 and 6, posting a pair of top-eight weekly finishes. However, he suffered an ankle injury and has not played since. He is scheduled to return against Atlanta this week. Atlanta is not the greatest matchup for tight ends, but with the state of ends being what it is (read: ugly) and six teams on bye, Cook is a relatively safe option in what should be a high-scoring affair in the Bayou.
O.J. Howard (My rank: TE13 in PPR; ECR: TE17)
Like Cook, O.J. Howard has fallen well short of expectations in 2019 and has missed the last two games due to injury. Unlike Cook, Howard has done little to offer even a glimmer of hope to those of us who invested this preseason. However, Howard is practicing in full before his Week 10 game against Arizona. The Cardinals have easily the league’s worst defense against tight ends. They allow 22.11 PPR points to tight ends per game. Tampa Bay is the only other team to allow as many as 16 points per game. Cameron Brate is questionable this week with a rib injury, which could further increase Howard’s usage. If you still have Howard rostered, you have to roll him out there in Week 10. If he cannot produce in this matchup, he is useless for fantasy purposes.
Chris Herndon (My rank: TE15 in Standard; ECR: TE23)
Chris Herndon was a popular offseason sleeper, even once word of a four-game suspension hit. Owners expected to get Herndon back in Week 6, but he suffered a hamstring injury during an individual workout while preparing for his season debut. He appears to finally be ready to play this week. The New York Giants are much tougher against tight ends than they were a year ago. But given Sam Darnold’s recent struggles, I would expect a lot of safe, high-percentage throws in this game. It may be more prudent to employ a wait and see approach on Herndon, but not all fantasy owners will be afforded that luxury this week. Herndon offers a relatively high ceiling compared to other tight ends in this range.
Bust Tight End
T.J. Hockenson (My rank: TE15 in PPR; ECR: TE11)
I am just going to list T.J. Hockenson here every week until someone listens to me. Hockenson had 56 yards last week, which was his most productive output since Week 1. He still finished as just the TE16 on the week. His only good game came against Arizona. We have long since established that the Cardinals are terrible at defending the tight end position. The Chicago Bears are not the worst matchup, as Zach Ertz owners can attest to. But T.J. Hockenson is not Zach Ertz. Detroit’s pass offense revolves around Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, with Hockenson fighting for scraps with Danny Amendola and J.D. McKissic. Most people have Hockenson as a starter in 12-team leagues this week, but I simply do not see it. My Week 10 prediction is that at least two of my three tight end sleepers outproduce Hockenson.
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