We made it! It’s week seventeen, and the end of the fantasy football season. It’s been a wild ride, as we’ve seen sleepers graduate into must-start guys (Rashee Rice, Isaiah Likely, Ezekiel Elliott) and… the exact opposite (Brandon Powell(?!), Tyson Bagent, Pierre Strong). So, let’s take one last spin on the sleeper Merry Go Round and see where we land, shall we? To qualify for this list, a player must be available in at least half of Yahoo! leagues, with one player in each category available in at least 90% of leagues.
Derek Carr at Tampa Bay (44% rostered)
I may, as recently as “just a few weeks ago,” have called Derek Carr, “washed,” “dog water,” and “stinky doodoo.” His brother hasn’t blocked me, so I can only assume that Derek Carr hasn’t heard the comments, but he’s certainly felt them. That’s the only way to explain how he’s notched back-to-back games with 3 passing touchdowns, and 20+ fantasy points to go with that production. He gets the Buccaneers this week that have given up the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the season, including at least 17 fantasy points to quarterbacks in three straight games.
Nick Mullens versus Green Bay (14% rostered)
To quote the poet, Rayne Dakota Prescott, “Yeah, here we go.” Mullens isn’t very good at quarterbacking, at least not without disastrous results. However, he does know how to sling the ball, as evidenced by his 714 passing yards and 4 passing touchdowns—and six interceptions—in the last two games. It’s looking like he will get at least one more start this week, and it comes against a woeful Green Bay Packers secondary that just benched Jaire Alexander for “conduct detrimental to the team,” for not knowing how coin tosses work. Mullens is in line for another solid game as the Vikings and Packers play out the string.
[UPDATE: Nick Mullens has been benched. Don’t start him.]
Jarrett Stidham versus L.A. Chargers (1% rostered)
The Raiders let Jarrett Stidham start two games last season after they decided that they would bench Derek Carr, to prevent from potentially paying out Carr’s injury guarantees. Fast forward to 2023, and the Broncos will let Jarrett Stidham start two games this season after they decided that they were going to bench Russell Wilson, to prevent from potentially paying out Wilson’s injury guarantees. Stidham lit up the 49ers last season, then held his own against the Chiefs. Between his two starts, he averaged 292 passing yards and 2 touchdowns per game. The Chargers won’t stop Stidham from carving them up, as little do we forget that they have given up an average of 37 points per game over the last three contests. Stidham should be in the middle of that, and I would start him over Tua this week (and I am, in multiple finals, God help me).
K.J. Osborn versus Green Bay (23% rostered)
I already outlined how Nick Mullens will be gunslinging on Sunday, but we haven’t discussed how T.J. Hockenson will be out for the season, and that Jordan Addison will be extremely hobbled at best if he plays on Sunday. Without Addison last week, the Vikings turned to Osborn with extreme frequency. He had seven targets, which feels like his floor in this matchup. The last seven wide receivers to get at least seven targets against the Packers had at least 15 PPR points against them, and they’re circling the drain. After all, they made Bryce Young look like a real NFL quarterback last week.
Demarcus Robinson at N.Y. Giants (20% rostered)
I want to lie to you and tell you something mindblowing here, but in reality, it’s because I had him on the list the last two weeks, and was right both times due to touchdowns. I’m playing with fire here, but Robinson has four straight games with double-digit fantasy points, and he’s averaging six targets per game at 9.5 yards per target… and a touchdown. This week, the Rams take on a Giants squad that is playing out the string, and who has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers on the season.
Greg Dortch at Philadelphia (5% rostered)
The Cardinals are likely to be without the services of Marquise Brown due to his heel injury, just like last week. And Dorch led the Cardinals’ wide receivers in targets and fantasy points. This week, he’s once again likely to lead them in targets, and he’s going to do it against the Eagles. This Eagles team has a real issue stopping opposing wide receivers, which is why eleven wide receivers have had double-digit fantasy days against them in their six games since their bye.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire versus Cincinnati (44% rostered)
Who’s laughing now, people who thought he shouldn’t have been a first-round pick during his rookie season?! All it took was Jerick McKinnon hitting IR, and an errant knee hitting a helmetless Isiah Pacheco, and now we have CEH’s big game in the fantasy finals. While CEH wasn’t astounding last week, no part of the Chiefs offense jumped off the page. However, Edwards-Helaire is averaging 3 catches for 45 yards per game over the last three contests (since McKinnon started to struggle with injuries). If you give him ten carries on top of that, you’re looking at a double-digit fantasy day. The Bengals are unlikely to put up much of a struggle, as they’ve allowed big days to Ty Chandler and the Steelers’ running backs the last two weeks.
Zamir White at Indianapolis (39% rostered)
Josh Jacobs’ quad injury might keep him out of week seventeen action, and if that happens, then it’s time for the Raiders to once again turn to Zamir White. White has 39 carries and 3 receptions for 230 yards and a touchdown as he spelled Jacobs over the last two contests. Should White once again spell Jacobs, he’s in line for a big game. The Colts give up the third-most fantasy points to running backs on the season. Eighteen running backs have double-digit fantasy points on the season against them, so they shouldn’t put up much of a fight against White on Sunday.
Jaleel McLaughlin versus L.A. Chargers (9% rostered)
In a rope-a-dope, I am advocating for a Denver running back, not a running back playing against Denver. The Broncos are turning to Jarrett Stidham this weekend, and that likely means that McLaughlin gets more dump-off passes, and can turn in a stupidly-built 12 PPR day on the back of 6 carries for 20 yards and 4 catches for 40 yards. It’s not pretty, but it can help, and the Chargers suck out loud and are spiraling the drain, so maybe he’ll sprinkle a touchdown on top, as well.
Gerald Everett at Denver (44% rostered)
Everett has eight targets in each of Easton Stick’s two starts and turned those targets into back-to-back 40-yard games while averaging six catches in the last two. If you know anything about how I tackle tight ends, my flow chart is Gerald Everett, then guys getting 4 catches for 40 yards a week. And the thing about Gerald Everett getting 4 catches for 40 yards is that I can stop at step one! The Chargers and Broncos are both circling the drain, and the Broncos were the best tight end matchup for fantasy football before they decided to pack it in for the season.
Chigoziem Okonkwo at Houston (40% rostered)
The Texans are the third-best possible matchup for tight ends on the season, and the Titans have decided that they are going to build the whole passing game out of Chiggy Okonkwo. Okonkwo has five or more targets in four out of the last five games, and he’s finished top-13 in three out of those five contests, including a TE2 finish last week. The Texans are one of the two times that he finished outside of the top 13, but that’s not going to happen twice, right?
Juwan Johnson at Tampa Bay (10% rostered)
Juwan Johnson has two straight top-ten finishes at tight end, thanks to touchdowns in each of the last two games. However, this has coincided with an uptick in Derek Carr’s production, which likely leads the Saints to believe they are onto something. The Buccaneers won’t put up much of a fight, as they’ve given up at least 14.7 PPR points to a tight end in three straight games, including touchdowns to Kyle Pitts and Tucker Kraft.