Gardner Minshew, James Cook, Jahan Dotson Lead a List of Under-the-Radar Options

Although we rely on big-name players to guide our fantasy football teams to victory, knowing how to locate the sleepers in a given week could be what pushes your team over the edge. With Week 17 of the NFL and fantasy championships set to begin, here are some sleepers to keep in mind when setting your lineups.

Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles

I mean, come on, was there ever any doubt Gardner Minshew wouldn’t come out and play with his hair on fire? While the Eagles did lose to Dallas, it’s hard to pin it all on Minshew, who went 24 of 40 for 355 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while scoring another TD on the ground. But even those picks weren’t truly on him, as both were pretty much on target, and Quez Watkins basically had the ball taken from him.

Jalen Hurts will assuredly try to get back for Week 17, but if he can’t, Minshew would be a high-end QB2 against a Saints defense that is nowhere near as aggressive. Minshew winning fantasy championships just feels right.

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Baker Mayfield, Los Angeles Rams

Baker Mayfield is going to find a job in the offseason, that much I am sure. His play since joining the Rams has been some of the best ball of his career, given the circumstances.

Mayfield was efficient, completing 24 of 28 passing attempts for 230 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday against the Broncos, who just fired their head coach after the loss but only because they can’t fire Russell Wilson’s contract.

Mayfield will have QB2 upside as a sleeper in Week 17 against a Chargers defense that is 18th in points over their last four games and 21st in EPA since Week 10.

James Cook, Buffalo Bills

The Bills’ running backs could do no wrong on Saturday in the freezing Chicago temperatures, and James Cook had a highly efficient day which is what many have come to expect when he catches the ball.

MORE: Early Start ’em Sit ’em Week 17

Cook rushed 11 times for 99 yards and a touchdown while also catching a pass for nine yards. Cook averaged over nine yards per carry which keeps his season total at a healthy 5.8 YPC, with 2.99 yards per attempt coming after contact. Cincinnati will be a tougher matchup, but if Cook sees double-digit touches, which was expected last week, he should comfortably hit RB3 territory as a Week 17 sleeper.

TY Hilton, Dallas Cowboys

I have to say I didn’t think I would be talking about TY Hilton as a sleeper this late into the season. Really this is the first time I’ve talked about him at all, as Hilton made his 2022 debut on Saturday. The Ghost only saw one target in his limited usage (five routes), but Hilton hauled in a 52-yard bomb, keeping the momentum on the Dallas sidelines.

I would be surprised to see Hilton as anything more than the fourth option in Week 17, but all you need is one of these plays to hit or for there to be a bit more volume, which should be expected with more familiarity in the system. I wouldn’t bet against it happening either against a Titans defense that is bottom of the league across the board in passing defense and has allowed the most yards on deep targets.

Hilton is a boom-or-bust sleeper to watch in Week 17 for fantasy football.

Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders

Better late than never, but Jahan Dotson is a player whose recent play will have him rising up draft boards next season. The rookie from Penn State now has 235 yards and three touchdowns on 24 targets over the past three games after catching six of nine targets for 76 yards and a score against the 49ers.

Dotson has scored in three straight games, but more importantly, he’s averaging eight targets per game, which is better than streaky touchdowns. As one of the few bright spots on an otherwise depressing Commanders offense, Dotson is not just a sleeper, but a higher-end Flex play against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.

Isaiah Hodgins, New York Giants

After being released by the Bills earlier in the year, Isaiah Hodgins was signed by the Giants following their trade of Kadarius Toney. After a rotational role in the offense, Hodgins had his best day yet, catching eight of his team-high 10 targets (tied) for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings.

The signs were there this could happen. Between Weeks 12 and 15, Hodgins had a 17.5% target share with two scores with an 82.2% route run rate. Hodgins had two top-24 outings over this span and took advantage of a game script that forced the Giants to throw the ball against a Vikings defense that had allowed the second-most points to opposing wide receivers.

We certainly cannot expect a similar boom game from Hodgins, but he’ll certainly be in Flex consideration. However, the Colts’ run defense might mean the team can lean on Saquon Barkley, limiting Hodgins’ upside. Still, outside of Darius Slayton, Hodgins is likely the WR2 for New York and could be a sleeper for managers who need a WR in Week 17.

Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers

As the week continues, monitor the health of Packers WR Christian Watson. On Sunday, Watson injured his hip and was ruled out for the game without stepping on the field in the second half. Watson has downplayed the injury, saying he’ll be fine for Week 17, but we must watch it.

MORE: Early Fantasy WR Rankings Week 17

In his absence, fellow rookie Romeo Doubs stepped up as the No. 2 for Aaron Rodgers, playing on 88.2% of the plays in the second half. Doubs caught three of six targets for 36 receiving yards but would see a larger role in an even better matchup against the Vikings in Week 17, who have allowed the second-most receiving yards to wide receivers this season. Keep Doubs on the shortlist of sleepers for fantasy football.

Tyler Conklin, New York Jets

Tyler Conklin caught all four of his targets on Thursday night for 34 yards in the pouring rain, despite Zach Wilson playing so poorly that they benched him for third-string rushing QB Chris Streveler.

Conklin’s 34 yards led the Jets’ receivers, but you have to go back to Week 8 for the last time Conklin scored double-digit fantasy points (25.9 PPR vs. NE). However, Conklin is eighth in targets (77) on the season and faces Seattle in Week 17, who have allowed the second-most points to TEs. Additionally, he’s getting Mike White back under center, which boosts the floors and ceilings of all Jets players.

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

Chalk this one up to things I didn’t see coming. Tyler Higbee exploded against the Broncos, catching nine of his 11 targets for 94 yards and two touchdowns in Week 16.

Higbee led the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and caught both of Mayfield’s touchdowns. After going scoreless for the first 14 weeks, Higbee now has three in his last two games with TE9 and TE2 finishes.

Higbee has back-to-back weeks with double-digit points, and there’s a direct correlation that can be made between his success and Mayfield’s arrival after Higbee dropped off the radar following a hot start to the season as the TE6 in Weeks 1 through 6 (12.4 PPR/g).

The Chargers have been tough on tight ends thanks to Derwin James, but I could see Higbee putting in a decent game as a Week 17 sleeper that has higher-end TE2 value.

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