Week 15 fantasy sleeper candidates and guys who could exceed expectations

Looking for some guys to outperform expectations this week? Tyler Loechner has some suggestions.

| 6 months ago
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Week 15 fantasy sleeper candidates and guys who could exceed expectations

There are just three weeks left in the regular season, so in truth, there aren’t many “sleepers” left. If your sleeper draft pick hasn’t woken up yet, he’s probably dead. I held onto Kenneth Dixon for too long. He woke up in Week 14 from the brink of the beyond, but at that point, it was already too late. He was effectively dead to me.

But we still play DFS, and we still have to make tough lineup decisions to help secure a league victory. So we’ll once again try to identify some players who are poised for big games. Also as usual, I’ll try to identify players you probably aren’t automatically starting anyway.

Each week, I use our unique fantasy points per opportunity data to help identify some breakout candidates. An opportunity is defined as a rush attempt or a pass route run, so PPO is calculated by dividing total points scored by carries plus routes run. This stat can help you uncover which players are too reliant on volume, and which players could become fantasy studs if they get more opportunities.

We’ll look to use our unique PPO data to attempt to identify some players who will break out in Week 15.

Wide receivers

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Hill belongs in starting lineups. You’d think this would be obvious by now, but I still get a lot of questions on Twitter where Hill is on the bench, or even on the waiver wire. He’s still a player people are having a hard time buying in on. However, since Week 8, he has been fantasy’s No. 5 wideout in PPR formats. On the year as a whole, he has scored 0.75 fantasy points per opportunity, which ranks first by a mile. (The numbers for this piece are for standard leagues, where Hill also leads.) If he holds that pace, it will be a record for the PFF era. And this week he faces the Tennessee Titans, who have given up the 10th-most PPO to opposing wideouts this year and the most raw fantasy points per game to opposing receivers.

Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens

I spent the entirety of last week preaching DeSean Jackson — mostly because of his matchup against the miserable Eagles’ secondary — and he was able to capitalize. The Eagles have to again contend with a receiver with a similar profile to Jackson this week in Wallace. Philadelphia has given up the fourth-most fantasy points per opportunity to enemy wideouts, and they have been especially prone to the deep ball this year. Nearly 20 percent of Wallace’s targets have come 20-plus yards down the field this year.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles

This is much easier to believe after seeing them get demolished by Tom Brady on Monday night, but the Ravens haven’t been good against receivers either. In fact, they have given up the (tied for) most touchdowns to opposing wideouts on the year, with 20. They have also ceded the seventh-most fantasy PPO to the position. Matthews is in a great spot this week, especially when considering he has nearly as many receptions (65) as Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor (66) on the year as a whole.

Running backs

LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee, Buffalo Bills

I think both McCoy and Gillislee are in play this week against the porous Cleveland Browns, who have given up the second-most fantasy PPO to opposing running backs this year. You are playing McCoy no matter what, so I’ll focus on Gillislee. He is supposedly Buffalo’s goal-line back now — although that does seem to come and go as Rex Ryan pleases — but when he does carry the rock, good things happen. Gillislee ranks tied for first among running backs in fantasy PPO this year, with 0.59. His six rushing touchdowns are more than Jordan Howard, Todd Gurley, Frank Gore, Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram, Spencer Ware and others. He’s not a must-start, but he’s viable in deeper leagues this week.

Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

You can lean on Hill again in Week 15. You might want to shy away because, historically, playing Pittsburgh late in the season is a tall task. But the Steelers continue to give points away to running backs, and they have given up the fifth-most fantasy PPO to the position. Pittsburgh has also been gashed by running backs through the air, and while Hill is not an elite receiver, he has picked up 104 yards via 11 receptions over the past three weeks. He had only nine receptions from Weeks 1 to 11 combined.

Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

Rawls is definitely in play on Thursday night against the Rams. The Rams have flashed the ability to be a strong run defense at times this season — they are actually only slightly below average in PPO given up to running backs on the season as a whole — but that has fallen apart along with the rest of their season. They have been lit up in recent weeks, giving up lines of 25-139-0 to the Jets, 30-201-1 to the Saints, 26-132-1 to the Patriots and 24-66-1 to the Falcons all in the past five weeks. The Rams have checked out and it’s a home game for Rawls and the favorite Seahawks. Play him.

Tight ends

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins

I’m playing Reed and maybe even Davis this week against the Carolina Panthers, who have given up the third-most PPO to opposing tight ends this year, and have given up the most raw points to the position. Carolina has given up a touchdown to an opposing tight end in four straight games.

Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers

Green is once again in play against the Cincinnati Bengals this week. The Bengals have given up the fourth-most fantasy PPO to tight ends this year, and they have been exposed for some truly huge games against the position, including 12-210-1 to the Patriots, 14-192-1 to the Redskins, 8-71-1 to the Giants and 14-132-1 to the Eagles. Green has scored 0.39 PPO this year. He hasn’t played enough snaps to meet the minimum threshold to be included on the list below, but if he had, he would rank second behind only Rob Gronkowski.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

You can lean on Rudolph this week against the Indianapolis Colts, who have given up the fifth-most fantasy PPO to opposing tight ends this year. Rudolph is tied for third in targets among tight ends, and he’s fourth in receptions. His six touchdowns are tied for the league lead at the position.

Below is a chart showing the top 20 players at each position in terms of fantasy PPO scored so far this season (minimum 25 percent snaps).

2016 Season PPO Leaders (min. 25% snaps)
WR   RB   TE
Player Tm. PPO Player Tm. PPO Player Tm. PPO
Tyreek Hill KC 0.49 Mike Gillislee BUF 0.59 Rob Gronkowski NE 0.42
Taylor Gabriel ATL 0.46 Damien Williams MIA 0.59 Hunter Henry SD 0.37
Julio Jones ATL 0.39 Ryan Mathews PHI 0.56 Anthony Fasano TEN 0.33
Antonio Brown PIT 0.36 Tevin Coleman ATL 0.55 Delanie Walker TEN 0.31
Mike Evans TB 0.36 LeGarrette Blount NE 0.52 Jordan Reed WAS 0.31
A.J. Green CIN 0.36 LeSean McCoy BUF 0.5 Martellus Bennett NE 0.31
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 0.34 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 0.48 Tyler Eifert CIN 0.31
Rishard Matthews TEN 0.33 Rob Kelley WAS 0.48 Levine Toilolo ATL 0.31
Kendall Wright TEN 0.32 John Kuhn NO 0.47 Vernon Davis WAS 0.29
Russell Shepard TB 0.32 Latavius Murray OAK 0.46 C.J. Fiedorowicz HST 0.28
T.Y. Hilton IND 0.31 Jamize Olawale OAK 0.46 Vance McDonald SF 0.28
Cole Beasley DAL 0.31 Mark Ingram NO 0.44 Jimmy Graham SEA 0.27
Jordy Nelson GB 0.3 Jeremy Hill CIN 0.42 Erik Swoope IND 0.27
Dez Bryant DAL 0.3 DeMarco Murray TEN 0.41 Greg Olsen CAR 0.26
Darrius Heyward-Bey PIT 0.3 Jay Ajayi MIA 0.4 Travis Kelce KC 0.26
Michael A. Thomas NO 0.29 Isaiah Crowell CLV 0.4 Cameron Brate TB 0.26
Jamison Crowder WAS 0.29 Terrance West BLT 0.4 Antonio Gates SD 0.25
Sammie Coates PIT 0.29 Jalen Richard OAK 0.4 Dwayne Allen IND 0.25
Davante Adams GB 0.28 Derrick Henry TEN 0.4 Mychal Rivera OAK 0.25
Tyrell Williams SD 0.28 David A. Johnson ARZ 0.39 Zach Miller CHI 0.24
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 0.28 Devonta Freeman ATL 0.39 Jack Doyle IND 0.24
J.J. Nelson ARZ 0.28 Tim Hightower NO 0.39
Malcolm Mitchell NE 0.28
Brandon Coleman NO 0.28

Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

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