2023 Week 12 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Low Key Hiding in a Byepocalypse

The last big bye week is here, with week thirteen bringing forth a second byepocalypse, knocking numerous big-name players off of our rosters with our fantasy seasons sitting in the balance. With the Bills, Bears, Raiders, Vikings, Ravens, and… Saquon Barkley… on bye, we will be without a ton of fantasy options this week. With that in mind, let’s dive into some one-week options available in at least 50% of leagues. For each position, there’s also one player available in at least 90% of leagues.


It’s rough out there for quarterbacks this week, as these quarterbacks (and only these quarterbacks) are rostered in between 50% and 23% of leagues: Josh Dobbs (bye), Joe Burrow (IR), Aaron Rodgers (IR), Anthony Richardson (IR), and Deshaun Watson (IR). So… it’s slim pickings out there.

Gardner Minshew at Tennessee (22% rostered)

I almost made this a Minshew versus Will Levis sleeper-off, but Will Levis has been mad doodoo since his four-touchdown NFL debut and is fast-tracking himself to becoming the #3 QB in 2024 for the Titans (behind Jimmy Garoppolo and Bo Nix). But, Gardner Minshew is proving why he’s your favorite contrarian’s favorite backup quarterback.

Minshew hasn’t been incredible, and he hasn’t been terrible, he’s just been overwhelmingly Gardner Minshew. He took on two of the toughest matchups in weeks 9 and 10 (Carolina and New England) and finished with just over 300 total yards, 1 touchdown, a pick, and 17 combined fantasy points. But, they rank 25th and 29th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, so everyone struggles against them. Last week, he took on the Buccaneers, who rank fifth in fantasy points allowed to opposing signal callers, and he put up a modest 15.64 fantasy points. The Titans have allowed the thirteenth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks despite playing against Taylor Heinicke, Bryce Young, and Kenny Pickett, making them a solid matchup for Minshew and his robust 37 pass attempts per start this season.

This is also because the Titans will get obliterated by Michael Pittman on Sunday. They lead the league in contested catch rate on defense and lead the NFL in first-read targets allowed. Michael Pittman leads the league in contested catch rate and is seventh in the league in first-read targets. It’s going to be a Pittman-led bloodbath on Sunday, and Minshew will reap all the rewards.

Kenny Pickett versus Arizona (21% rostered)

Let’s go, baby, the Pittsburgh Steelers are BACK! Call them the Kenny Pickettsburgh Steelers, because they did something that most teams do (get over 400 yards in a game) and they dominated the terrible Bengals defense to the tune of SIXTEEN POINTS! Obnoxious hyperbole aside, this could be a very good week for Kenny Pickett. The sophomore signal caller was allowed to throw away from the sidelines last weekend and finished with 278 passing yards. The team sputtered out in the red zone, but those 278 passing yards were the most since his second career start.

This has more to do with the Cardinals than Kenny Pickett, however. The Cardinals are seventh in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, and over the last several weeks, they’ve been torched by Matthew Stafford, the Heinicke/Ridder dynamic duo, and Deshaun Watson. The Cardinals are one of the worst secondaries in the NFL in under-the-hood stats, allowing the second-highest completion percentage over expectation, all while allowing the third-lowest pressure and forcing the second-lowest rate of off-target throws. Pickett should be able to perform well with nobody in his face on Sunday.

Jake Browning at Jacksonville (9% rostered)

This isn’t that I think Jake Browning is a particularly adept NFL quarterback, he’s struggled in his one game as a starter, finishing with 227 passing yards and one touchdown while pretty much only completing dump-offs (his average air yards per completion was 3.4 last week). But, this is more a bet on the opposition failing to stop Ja’Marr Chase than anything else. After all, we saw on Thursday Night Football that one wide receiver could make a day for a quarterback. The Jaguars allow the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks on the season and have given up multiple touchdowns in three straight games, including to Will Levis.

The Jags are a team that you can throw on, and the Bengals will need to throw to keep up. This game doesn’t have a high over-under (38.5), but I would bet the over on this one. The Jaguars will struggle to contain Ja’Marr Chase, mostly because they struggle to contain yards after the catch. The Jags allow the tenth-most yards after the catch per reception, which should lead to more Chase catches ending up going for a long distance… and perhaps to the end zone.

Wide Receivers

Elijah Moore at L.A. Rams (42% rostered)

While the Browns are turning to Joe Flacco and whatever he might be able to muster, I can’t ignore Elijah Moore’s recent target volume. He has 7, 7, and 9 targets in the last three games, which he’s converted into fantasy points in a Jarvis Landry on the Browns mold. The Browns use him in the short area game extremely often, as he’s notched at least seven targets eight times this season. That ranks fourteenth in the league in number of 7+ target games this season, tied with folks like DJ Moore, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, and teammate Amari Cooper (hooray for arbitrary endpoints). Moore is looking at at least seven targets in this one, and seven of the last eight receivers (and nine-of-eleven on the season) who had at least seven targets against the Rams ended up with double-digit fantasy points. If you’re streaming in a byepocalypse week, that’s the kind of plug-and-play volume you can count on.

Curtis Samuel versus Miami (38% rostered)

Speaking of plug-and-play volume, the Commanders are throwing the ball all over the field, as Sam Howell has at least 40 pass attempts in six straight contests, averaging 45 pass attempts per game since week seven. Sam Howell has distributed the ball around, but Samuel had 12 targets last week, so you have to sit up and take notice. The Dolphins allow the twelfth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, the fourth-highest catch rate, and the sixth-most touchdowns and second-most receptions per game to receivers on the year.

Greg Dortch at Pittsburgh (9% rostered)

The Cardinals keep Dortch behind a large Demolition Man-style tank that says “IN CASE OF WIDE RECEIVER INJURIES, BREAK GLASS.” The Cardinals’ receiver room has been mostly healthy for most of the year, and Greg Dortch had two targets up until week ten. Then, injuries to Michael Wilson and Marquise Brown forced the Cardinals to turn to Dortch, and he turned his 17 targets over the last two weeks into 4.5 catches for 51.5 yards per game. That’s not crazy, but it does provide a nice floor, and you would be hard-pressed to find another player who is likely in line for 7+ targets under a 10% roster rate.

Running Backs
Royce Freeman versus Cleveland (13% rostered)

The Rams got Kyren Williams back last week, and given the anticipated target and carry load that came to fruition, managers jettisoned Royce Freeman back to the waiver wire. Except, and here’s the thing: Kyren Williams maxed out his touches last week, and Freeman still had 13 carries. He turned these 13 carries into 77 yards and a touchdown. That was against a bad Arizona run defense, but, arguably, the Browns are even worse than the Cardinals. They rank first in explosive run rate allowed (runs that go for 15+ yards) and allow 70% of rushes inside the five to end up with touchdowns.

D’Ernest Johnson versus Cincinnati (13% rostered)

There are a lot of questions surrounding Travis Etienne’s availability, which tells me that even if he plays, that he is likely on a snap count on Monday Night Football against the Bengals. There’s also the fact that the Bengals stink, so there is a high likelihood of garbage time in this one, which would mean that Johnson would get a bunch of plays as the Jaguars kill the clock to hasten victory.

If Johnson gets carries against the Bengals, he should feast. They have the fifth-lowest run stuff rate, per Fantasy Points’ Data Suite, which tracks touchdowns, first downs, carries of 4+ yards on first down, and 3+ yards on every other down. So, running backs are extremely successful against the Bengals. They also allow the third-highest explosive run rate, and the ninth-highest yards after contact per opportunity. All-in-all, they’re a bad run defense, and Johnson should take advantage of that as he spells Travis Etienne on Monday Night Football.

Michael Carter at Pittsburgh (3% rostered)

The Cardinals seem dead set on using Michael Carter as their change-of-pace back, getting him in on 38% of snaps last week, which he turned into 8 touches (4 of them catches) for 34 total yards. While that isn’t a particularly impressive total, the shape of his touches and his snap count do make me intrigued for this Steelers matchup, at least in a deep PPR league context. The Steelers are a neutral matchup, but they have allowed multiple catches to seven running backs in their last four games, giving Carter a decent floor.

Tight Ends

Hunter Henry versus L.A. Chargers (27% rostered)

Now, I know that the Patriots are a dumpster fire and that they have benched Mac Jones (bum) for Bailey Zappe (also a bum), and I know that the Patriots run the tenth-fewest plays per game, and they have the second-fewest dropbacks in the red zone and… okay, I’ve lost where I was going with this. I know the Patriots are bad in the red zone, outside the red zone, and everywhere.

But, this is about the Chargers, not the Patriots. Hunter Henry has 5+ targets in each of the last two games, and the Chargers love to give up at least 8 fantasy points to every tight end that hits 5 targets. Six tight ends have at least 8 targets against them since week two, and five of them finished with at least 8 PPR points, which gives us that 4 catch, 40-yard floor equivalent that we are looking for.

Juwan Johnson versus Detroit (19% rostered)

With Rashid Shaheed out, Chris Olave questionable, and Michael Thomas on the IR, the Saints need someone to throw targets to (who isn’t Alvin Kamara). Enter Juwan Johnson, who saw seven targets last week against the Falcons, which he turned into 4 catches for 45 yards, and the 4/40 floor that we are chasing at tight end. The Lions are also a primo matchup to try to get fantasy points against for a streaming tight end. They’ve given up the sixth-most touchdowns in the league (5) which is one touchdown behind the lead (Philly, Denver, New Orleans, the Jets, and the Cowboys have given up six touchdowns).

Brevin Jordan versus Denver (1% rostered)

Dalton Schultz is gone, and with him go seven targets per game going back to the beginning of October (removing last week, when he left with an injury). The Texans love to throw the football, and the tight end is a key part of that. This week, that role will fall to Brevin Jordan with Schultz on the shelf, and he should produce well against the Broncos. And there’s one very simple stat to explain myself: the Denver Broncos give up the most fantasy points per game to tight ends.

About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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