Our weekly rankings have just been updated, and as always, they will provide you with a dependable resource to help with those difficult lineup decisions. Here is a look at some additional players that I believe could provide you with high quality production this week, if you are inclined to utilize sleepers in your starting lineups. For a look at defenses to grab from your waiver wire check out my column here.
Jake Locker at Rams
Locker has performed in just five games this season, having thrown six TDs and no INTS in his first four contests before multiple injuries sidelined him for two weeks. He returned to produce two more scoring throws in Week 7, despite performing at less 100%. Now he should be fully recovered as the Titans return from their bye week. And Locker will face a St. Louis team that had very little time to rebound from a deflating loss. Locker has completed 62% of his passes this season, which is a notable jump from the 54% that he averaged during his first two seasons. He also supplies owners with the potential to amass fantasy points on the ground, as he has already generated 127 yards and a TD in somewhat limited action. An additional benefit of having Locker on your rosters is his remaining schedule, which includes matchups with the vulnerable defenses of Jacksonville (twice), Denver and Houston.
Fantasy owners gave up on Matt Schaub long before the Texans did, but the 10- year veteran’s time as a starter appears to have ended. Schaub has recovered sufficiently from his ankle issue, but Keenum will be receiving his second career start against Indianapolis. It is difficult to envision a more unfavorable scenario for an NFL debut than the one that Keenum faced Week 7. Not only was he on the road, but was asked to perform in Kansas City. Against a defense that led the NFL in sacks. Plus, he was without the services of Arian Foster during the second half due to his hamstring injury, while Ben Tate’s broken ribs rendered him ineffective. Yet, Keenum completed 15 of 25 passes for a 271 yards and a TD. He also managed to avoid any INTs, which is a noteworthy change from the nine that Schaub had tossed prior to Keenum’s debut. He now supplies hope for a franchise that must end its five game losing streak, and is an option for owners who are in need of a QB2 in deeper leagues.
Jonathan Stewart vs. Falcons
He burst into fantasy relevance at the onset of his NFL career by rushing for 1,969 yards and 20 TDs in 2008-2009. As a result, he quickly became a highly coveted back among fantasy owners. However, his stock has plummeted considerably in recent years. Primarily because Stewart averaged just 622 yards from 2010-2012, while scoring a grand total of seven times. Offseason surgeries on both ankles have prohibited him from participating this season, although he is now eligible for activation from the physically unable to perform list. If that occurs, he will have an appealing matchup against Atlanta’s 22nd ranked run defense. Stewart will be competing for touches within a crowded stable of RBs, which has become customary with the Panthers in recent years. But there are legitimate reasons to believe that Stewart could seize a sustainable role, as neither of his fellow backs have distinguished themselves to this point of the season. DeAngelo Williams is averaging just 4.2 YPC, and has failed to surpass 43 yards in three of his last four games. Mike Tolbert’s 3.6 YPC is even worse. Plus he has averaged just 26 YPG, and has yet to exceed 36 yards in any one contest. Owners who are in need of a boost at RB should monitor Stewart's status, as he does possess the talent to be effective.
Deji Karem vs. Colts
In a week that is extremely light with sleepers at RB, Karem qualifies as a possibility for those who are willing to plunge deep in order to obtain their backs. His viability is totally dependent upon the collective health of Foster and Tate. And not only is their status for Sunday Night’s home matchup with Indy virtually impossible to ascertain at this time, but it might not be clear until kickoff is imminent. If Foster or Tate ultimately become available, then Karem’s value is nearly negligible. But if Foster’s hamstring and Tate’s ribs conspire to leave the Texans woefully short at RB, Karem would appear to be the next man up. With 98 career rushing attempts, he easily has the most experience among the trio of backs that Houston signed during their bye week, as the team also added rookies Ray Graham and Dennis Johnson to their potential backfield mix. Plus, Karem would have an appealing matchup with the NFL’s 25th ranked run defense. The entire situation should be monitored extensively as game day approaches. While the Sunday night start time will create an additional complication if you are considering Karem, he could suddenly become a viable option.
Percy Harvin at Rams
He makes a repeat appearance because he is well ahead of schedule on his recovery from surgery that repaired a torn labrum. Harvin’s original timetable was six to eight months, but various reports continue to suggest that could be activated from the physically unable to perform list this week. While that was also the case prior to Week 8, the chances of Harvin lining up for Seattle against the Buccaneers are better. The Seahawks do not have to execute that maneuver this week, although the former Viking’s big play ability would inject more explosiveness into the Seahawk offense. His presence has become more critical since Sidney Rice's multiple injuries have depleted the Seahawks' options at WR. If he is able to practice at full speed, demonstrate that his timing and health have both been regained, and accomplish all of the above without encountering a setback, then he could be in the lineup this week. If you are among those who stashed him months ago, you might be on the verge of injecting a high end WR2 into your lineup.
Darrius-Heyward-Bey at Texans
Though his first seven games as a Colt, DHB has only garnered 18 receptions on 34 targets, and his yardage total of 190 places him just 129th among all receivers. That places him alongside wideouts such as Ace Sanders and David Nelson, which should be unsettling for owners who emerged victorious in last week’s sprint to secure him from the waiver wires. Particularly since he has started every contest for Indy while participating in nearly 75% of the snaps. Of course, Reggie Wayne and T. Y. Hilton were targeted with far more frequency, and Wayne’s torn ACL will force OC Pep Hamilton to significantly alter the team’s strategic approach. That should include a sizable rise in targets for Heyward-Bey, who has averaged just under five per game to this point. That should enable him to accumulate enough receptions to warrant use as a WR3. Just temper your expectations if there is any thought that DHB will become a highly productive weapon for the Colts. He was given every conceivable chance to succeed during four seasons with Oakland. Yet he averaged 517 yards, and scored a total of 11 times.
Drew Davis at Panthers
Harry Douglas has commanded a sizable degree of attention since Julio Jones’ season concluded prematurely, and Roddy White evolved from route running decoy who averaged just 26 YPG to a spectator. And deservedly so, in view of the fact that Douglas has produced 18 receptions for 270 yards in the past two weeks. But Davis is also benefiting from additional opportunities, and is not even remotely as prominent within the fantasy landscape. All eight targets that he has garnered this season took place during Atlanta’s last two contests, including the seven passes that Matt Ryan launched in his direction last Sunday. The second-year wideout responded by collecting five of those throws for 77 yards and a TD. It is likely that he will be located repeatedly by Ryan again this week in Carolina. First, because the Falcons will struggle mightily to gain ground against the Panthers’ second ranked rush defense, and will be forced to the air. Second, Atlanta will almost assuredly trail in the matchup, which will increase the need for employment of a sustained aerial assault. This is not to imply that Davis will undoubtedly deliver high quality production. But if bye weeks have you are desperately searching for a replacement, he is in better position to provide numbers than some of the the more familiar options that you may consider.
Timothy Wright at Seahawks
Wright played for Greg Schiano at Rutgers, which was a major factor in the Buccaneers’ decision to sign the undrafted rookie. He was moved from wide receiver to tight end on the second day of training camp, but only received three targets during the team’s initial three games. But he is now an emerging factor in the team’s passing attack, having garnered 26 of his 28 targets in his last four contests. That includes the eight that he garnered in Week 8, which enabled him to generate five catches, 48 yards, and score his first career touchdown. Mike Williams’ season ending hamstring injury has created the opportunity for Wright to become quarterback Mike Glennon’s second option behind Vincent Jackson. Plus, Tampa Bay is very likely to trail consistently during their remaining matchups, which will force Glennon to launch passes with frequency. All of which provides owners with a viable option at TE this week in Seattle and beyond.
Coby Fleener at Texans
He appeared in this column earlier this year when a season ending injury to Dwayne Allen appeared destined to supply Fleener with more targets. However, with the exception of Weeks 2 and 4, when he produced 146 yards while also finding the end zone twice, his numbers have been largely disappointing. Including four games in which he has failed to exceed 16 yards. But now, the second-year TE is likely to receive additional opportunities due to the absence of Wayne. That bodes well for his potential output, as his season high of eight targets occurred during both games in which he accumulated the most yardage. It is also conceivable that Fleener’s routes could be altered to include more deep patterns. If that were to take place, his size would create mismatches that might lead to big plays. Regardless of how he is utilized, his role within the Colts’ offense should be expanding, which makes him a viable sleeper for Week 9 and beyond.