Week 13 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Desperation plays worth a closer look

There were some useful clicks in the fantasy Sleeper page last week, with Elijah Moore scoring and Miami coming through as a look-ahead defense. The look-ahead theme will continue this week, as we’re mindful that six NFL teams don’t play in Week 14, a week from now. Cut the line whenever you can.

There is no right way or wrong way to digest this column. You might consider it for start/sit purposes, or the impetus of a prop play. Perhaps you’ll add someone to your roster for depth but not start him this week. Maybe you’ll apply the column to a DFS decision. It’s up to you.

We’re onto Week 13.

Tyler Conklin at Minnesota

Conklin has given us all the porridge the last month — a smash game against New England, a quiet rematch against the Patriots, a no-show versus Buffalo and a good-not-great line against Chicago. You don’t dance in the streets over last week’s 3-50-0 line, but our expectations are so much lower for tight ends these days.

Now Conklin gets his revenge spot against his former Vikings teammates, the unit that escorted Hunter Henry anywhere he wanted to go last week. Elements won’t be a problem with the game indoors, and I like how Mike White was in control of the offense last week. Maybe you can find 12 tight ends better than Conklin this week, I can’t. It’s likely he’s the team’s second or third passing option for the Jets on game day.

Jaylen Warren at Atlanta

You need to vet the Pittsburgh injury report before committing to anything, but Warren could be a right answer Sunday. Najee Harris (oblique) did not practice Wednesday, while Warren (hamstring) says he’s been cleared to play Week 13.

On the field, Warren is crushing Harris this year; the rookie averages 6.1 yards per touch, while Harris is stuck at 3.9. And the Falcons defense offers little resistance, ranking 30th in defensive DVOA and 25th in run-defense DVOA. If we can get confirmation that Warren will start Sunday, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is more injury-forthcoming than most coaches — I’ll have Warren started in a few lineups.

Jaylen Warren is worth getting in fantasy lineups if he suits up and Najee Harris sits on Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Jaylen Warren is worth getting in fantasy lineups if he suits up and Najee Harris sits on Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Olamide Zaccheaus vs. Pittsburgh

I get anxiety just looking at the Falcons stat page. Kyle Pitts was a fantasy brick, Drake London fizzled after a quick start, even Cordarrelle Patterson has been a fantasy frustration since he came back, sharing touches with multiple teammates.

To be clear, I don’t really blame these guys for their inconsistency. I put most of the culpability on quarterback Marcus Mariota and head coach Arthur Smith.

All those reservations noted, Zaccheaus offers some deep-league consideration for Week 13. He quietly leads this team in receiving yards — through a juicy 11.9 yards per target. He was the team’s busiest receiver last week (eight targets), and the only pass-catcher who did anything (5-91-0). The Steelers in many seasons are a nasty draw, but Pittsburgh this season is only average in pass-defense stats. If you’re backed into a wide-receiver corner, Zaccheaus is at least worth a thoughtful moment of consideration.

[Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

Hunter Henry vs. Buffalo (and Arizona Week 14)

It felt like we waited forever, but the quarterback class of 2021 is starting to show up. Justin Fields has been electrifying at times. Trevor Lawrence is coming off three sizzling games and a fun comeback win over Baltimore. And Mac Jones had the best game of his career Thursday night, lighting up Minnesota.

Okay, the Vikings pass defense is a sieve, we consider that. But also note Henry had a touchdown in that game, and deserved a second one — a sketchy review denied him.

Maybe you’ll use Henry for the Thursday matchup against Buffalo, maybe not. But note Henry draws the Cardinals next week, the worst tight-end coverage unit in the league. Be ready for that one. Tight end is gross this year, and we need to pick on the weakest matchups we can find.

Chiefs DST (look ahead for Week 14)

You probably won’t want to deploy the Chiefs defense this week, especially with Ja’Marr Chase likely back for the Bengals. But the upcoming schedule has some treats: Denver in Week 14 and Week 17, and the Texans in Week 15. If your bench has a free spot to play with, cut the line and tuck the Chiefs away.

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