Week 15 Sleepers and Busts: Hurns’ Turn
Fans and fantasy owners alike should prepare for a Week 15 that is setting up to be one filled with chaos. As I mentioned in my weekly rankings column, the injuries piled up en masse last week. That has resulted in a lot of uncertainty when it comes to this week’s rankings. I am not immune. I have tweaked my rankings several times already and will continue to do so until Sunday. Because of the fluidity involved in this week’s rankings, some of the players included in my Week 15 sleepers and busts may no longer qualify by the time Sunday rolls around. Conversely, there may be players that emerge in either category by the time rankings and rosters. I would encourage you to check back on not only my rankings but those of our other analysts as well. On with the show!
Week 15 Sleepers and Busts
Ryan Fitzpatrick (My rank: QB12; Expert Consensus Rankings: QB16)
Ryan Fitzpatrick may have seen his two-game streak of top-seven fantasy production come to an end in Week 14, but he still managed to lead all quarterbacks in rushing yards in Miami’s loss. I doubt that will be the case again this week (see Jackson, Lamar) but Fitzpatrick will have another nice matchup when the Dolphins play in MetLife Stadium for the second consecutive game, this time against the New York Giants. There is a bit of concern about Fitzpatrick performing well due to DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson being iffy after suffering concussions last week. But Carson Wentz had a similarly depleted receiving corps on Monday night and emerged with a QB12 finish against the Giants. That is precisely where I have Fitzpatrick ranked this week. We know it is not always pretty with Fitzpatrick, but he will find a way to put up fantasy points.
Kyler Murray (My rank: QB15; ECR: QB10)
Kyler Murray remains a high-end fantasy quarterback for the year. He currently checks in as the overall QB7 in his rookie campaign. However, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner has struggled down the stretch. Murray has fallen outside the top 20 in back-to-back weeks and has not thrown for 200-plus yards in a game since way back in Week 10. He has now thrown for fewer than 250 yards in six of his last seven games. The lone exception was against Tampa Bay, a team that trails only Arizona in passing yards allowed. Cleveland has been pretty solid in that area. The Browns have allowed the eighth-fewest passing yards this season. They had also allowed 24 points or fewer in six consecutive games. Given the circumstances and the matchup, I do not consider Kyler Murray a must-start in Week 15.
Sleeper Running Back
Kenyan Drake (My rank: RB21 in Standard; ECR: RB26)
It feels a bit like cheating to list Josh Jacobs (My rank: RB14 in Standard; ECR: RB38) here. Clearly, I am more optimistic about his chances of playing on Sunday than most. Jacobs had a clean MRI earlier in the week and reportedly looked great in practice on Thursday. I would suspect that if he starts against the Jacksonville Jaguars, most analysts will rank him where I have him. I would probably even bump him up a notch or two given the favorable matchup. Jacksonville averages a league-worst 5.47 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Despite the Raiders being in freefall mode, Sunday will be an emotional game, as it is their last in Oakland. For what it’s worth, I had DeAndre Washington at RB19 in my initial rankings and would likely slot him somewhere in that neighborhood should he get the starting nod.
So instead of Jacobs, I have Kenyan Drake as my Week 15 sleeper at running back. Drake has continued to operate as Arizona’s lead back despite the presence of both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds in recent weeks. Drake has had at least 14 touches in each game he has played as a Cardinal. That volume will come in handy this week against the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland allows a robust 4.69 yards per rush and 9.02 yards per reception to opposing running backs this season. Cleveland ranks among the worst six teams in the NFL in each of those categories. Joe Mixon completely gashed the Browns for last week’s overall RB3 performance. That would be a lofty expectation for Drake, but I see no reason why he should not be started with confidence as an RB2 in all formats.
Bust Running Back
Kareem Hunt (My rank: RB29 in Standard; ECR: RB22)
Sleeper Wide Receivers
Allen Hurns (My rank: WR29 in Standard; ECR: WR45)
Allen Hurns had season highs across the board with eight targets, five receptions, and 68 yards last week. That should come as no surprise considering that DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson both left early with concussions. Neither is a sure bet to play, leaving Hurns as Miami’s de facto number-one receiver this week. That designation could not come at a better time for those who grabbed Hurns off the waiver wire. The New York Giants have been a team to attack through the air in 2019. Janoris Jenkins is the only competent corner on the roster. However, he has not been used to shadow primary receivers this season. The combination of DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Grant Haley, and Corey Ballentine have all graded poorly and have routinely been skewered by opposing wideouts. If Hurns sees double-digit targets against that ragtag bunch, he could be in for a big day.
Golden Tate (My rank: WR34 in Standard; ECR: WR39)
Many will look at Golden Tate’s 1-11-0 stinker on Monday night and write him off. That likely goes double for the people who see Darius Slayton’s 5-154-2 line in comparison. I think those ignoring Tate this week are making a mistake. Philadelphia has had problems on the outside all season long but has been pretty good against slot receivers. The Giants simply exploited the better matchup. If they employ a similar tactic this week, Tate will be plenty involved against the Miami Dolphins. Pro Football Focus ranks slot cornerback Jomal Wiltz 83rd (out of 85) in coverage among those who have seen at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. I certainly don’t mind Slayton this week either, as Miami’s backend coverage leaves plenty to be desired. However, I think Tate gets plenty of looks in this game, making him a strong WR3 play this week.
Bust Wide Receiver
Tyler Boyd (My rank: WR37 in Standard; ECR: WR32)
I want to believe in Tyler Boyd this week. He is essentially the last man standing in Cincinnati. And the Bengals should throw the ball plenty as 10-point underdogs. I do not mind using him depending on your alternatives. I would just prefer to do so as a Flex, and in PPR leagues. In standard formats, I am not as willing to trust Boyd. Boyd should primarily be matched up against Jonathan Jones in the slot. Jones has had some recent hiccups, but I would not bet against him. He still ranks as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-highest graded cornerback on the strength of a 47 percent catch rate allowed. That is an extremely low number, particularly for someone manning the slot. If you are starting Tyler Boyd this week, you are chasing volume. I do not mind that strategy in a vacuum, but I would caution against expecting much productivity.
Sleeper Tight End
Jared Cook (My rank: TE10 in PPR; ECR: TE13)
Jared Cook was knocked out of last week’s game in the first quarter due to a concussion. Despite the early exit, Cook put up huge numbers. He scored two touchdowns and finished the week as last week’s TE3. He could have put up truly monster numbers had he not been injured, but alas, that was not the case. Because of Cook’s uncertain status, fantasy owners should have a backup plan in case Cook is ruled out. That is especially true given that Cook and the Saints play on Monday night. So, from that standpoint, I cannot blame those who want to play it safe and avoid Cook. However, he has a fair amount of upside if he can clear the league’s concussion protocol.
Cook has scored a touchdown and/or cleared 70 receiving yards in seven consecutive games. No other tight end in football can make that claim. In fact, no other tight end has been able to make that claim at any point this season. Not since Zach Ertz from Weeks 2-8 in 2018 has a tight end been on such a streak. Cook should be heavily involved against a Colts defense that primarily utilizes a zone scheme. That is part of the reason they are among the league leaders in receptions allowed to opposing tight ends. There is definitely some risk involved with Cook given the uncertain nature of his health, so trusting him may not be for the faint of heart. But if he is able to play, he has the potential to steal fantasy owners a last-minute victory in their fantasy football semifinals.
Bust Tight End
O.J. Howard (My rank; TE14 in Standard; ECR: TE11)
Listen, I want to be wrong about this. I really do. It makes complete sense that O.J. Howard would finally produce after virtually every analyst and fantasy owner alike finally gave up hope for a breakout. And, given that Mike Evans will not be there to rely on, Howard may get in a late-season groove, as evidenced by his season-high 73 yards last week. But there is also a scenario where Cameron Brate vultures a touchdown, or Howard drops a pass and gets benched. We have seen each of these scenarios play out in just the last couple of weeks. O.J. Howard has tremendous upside this week, all things considered. I am not here to tell you differently. But he is far from safe, and it is fair to be skeptical given his history. Caveat emptor, friends. Buyer beware.
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