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Fantasy football 2023 Week 12 sleepers: Three tight ends who could feast

We've reached Thanksgiving week! That means a couple of things. Time to take stock of what's good in our lives -- be it family, friends or that waiver wire pickup that has kept your fantasy team afloat most of the season.  

It also means that time is getting short to make a move for the fantasy playoffs. In many leagues, there are just three weeks remaining in the regular season. If you're already in, can you improve your seed? If you're on the bubble, can you make the push to get into the second season? Fortunately, in Week 12, there are no teams on a bye, so you should have your whole roster available to you. In theory.

Alas, Roger Goodell forgot to turn off injuries before the season started, which means you probably are working your way about missing players and finding alternatives to fill out a roster to try to win a critical matchup. Welcome to the latest edition of the sleepers column -- where we feel your pain and try to offer solutions. Or at the very least, some names to read.


Derek Carr
New Orleans Saints NO · QB
Atlanta Falcons
2023 · 4-6-0

The Saints haven’t gotten what they’d hoped for from Derek Carr this season. Fantasy managers’ expectations of Carr weren’t quite as high. After all, Carr has been a consistent fantasy QB2 for most of his career, and a change of scenery didn’t figure to significantly change that. Though things still have been worse than most prognosticators would have forecast. Carr’s 223.1 yards per game would be his lowest since his rookie season. and he’s on pace for a career-low 18 touchdowns. 

Carr has a chance to turn the narrative this week against the Falcons if he clears the concussion protocol. Atlanta has surrendered 17 touchdown passes this year – only four teams have given up more. Coming off a bye, Carr has a chance to put together one of his best games of the season. He should be a high-end QB2 in most formats. 

Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers GB · QB
Detroit Lions
2023 · 8-2-0

Yep. We’re doing it again! Last week, Jordan Love appeared in this space and proceeded to have his first career 300-yard passing game. It was also the first time he topped 20 fantasy points since Week 3. Love has also thrown multiple touchdown passes in three of his last five games. Maybe the Packers have hit a softer spot in the schedule. Maybe Love is starting to get comfortable in the offense. Either way, he’s been markedly better the past couple of weeks. 

This week, he gets a Thanksgiving date with the Lions. When they met in Week 4, Love accounted for 246 passing yards with two total touchdowns. He also threw a pair of picks but let’s ignore that for the moment. Detroit’s defense, which was stout earlier in the season, has gotten a bit leaky recently, allowing a QB1 weekly finish in four of its last five games. Love’s ceiling isn’t as high as some other QBs Detroit has faced lately, but he should be started in all two-QB formats. 

Running backs

Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams LAR · RB
Arizona Cardinals
2023 · 2-9-0

Welcome back, Kyren Williams! At least we certainly hope so. The Darrell Henderson experiment was fun for a few weeks. But Sean McVay (as he is wont to do) grew tired of Henderson and tried to replace him with Royce Freeman. The results were underwhelming, but the message was clear. McVay is longing for his breakout star to return.  

The last time we saw Williams, he was carving up the Cardinals for 158 rush yards and a touchdown in Week 6. Good news! The Rams travel to the Cardinals’ nest this week, and Arizona’s run defense hasn’t gotten any better since the last time these teams met. The Cards have allowed at least 110 rushing yards in six straight games and nine total this season. If Williams can return this week, he should see a heavy workload and produce at a high-end RB2 level. 

Isiah Pacheco
Kansas City Chiefs KC · RB
Las Vegas Raiders
2023 · 5-6-0

Isiah Pacheco has slowed down a bit since a nice run in the middle of the season. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 7 and has only topped 70 scrimmage yards once since Week 6. But he’s retained the job as Kansas City’s lead running back, playing most of the backfield snaps and taking most of the rushing attempts. 

That’s good enough to make him a strong start candidate against the Raiders this week. Interim head coach Antonio Pierce has infused new life into this team with Vegas’ close loss to Miami as the latest proof. One thing Pierce hasn’t done, however, is shore up the run defense. Opponents have had their way with the Raiders on the ground this season. Expect Pacheco to take a heavy load of rushing attempts and is positioned to be a high-end RB2 this week. 

AJ Dillon
Green Bay Packers GB · RB
Detroit Lions
2023 · 8-2-0

The Packers’ run game has left us wanting this year. Most of the frustration has been directed toward Aaron Jones, who just can’t seem to get going or stay healthy, but we can’t let AJ Dillon off the hook. Whereas Jones has earned some fantasy goodwill after years of solid production, Dillon has never been the player he was expected to be. This season, “Quadzilla” has just two top-20 weekly finishes and six efforts that landed 30th or worse. 

Why should we turn to him this week? Volume, my friends. Volume. Jones seems to have avoided a major knee injury, but he likely won’t be back on the field in a short week. There is even less optimism for Emanuel Wilson to play this week. That leaves Dillon with the potential for a big workload against a Lions defense that has allowed 126 rushing yards per game with five rushing scores over its last four games. Dillon’s history will cause fantasy managers to be wary, but he should be a flex play in plenty of leagues this week.  

Wide receivers

Gabe Davis
Buffalo Bills BUF · WR
Philadelphia Eagles
2023 · 9-1-0

We know who Gabe Davis is by now. The quintessential “better in best ball” player who will have major highs and lows. Trying to start him in managed leagues is a headache because it’s hard to tell which weeks will be Gabe Davis Weeks. He’s had three or fewer catches and scored fewer than 10 fantasy points in five of his last six games. 

Just when Davis looks like he’s hit rock bottom, he bounces back. I know that’s not very analytical. But it counts for something, right? If that doesn’t do it for you, how about the Eagles’ pass defense? Ten receivers have had a top-12 weekly finish this season. On three occasions, opponents have had two top 12 wideouts against the Birds (also good news for the slumping Stefon Diggs). Davis’ volatility means you won’t want to trust him as more than a third receiver or flex option, but he does have upside in Week 12. 

Deep sleeper ...

Alec Pierce
Indianapolis Colts IND · WR
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2023 · 4-6-0

Indy’s passing game has mostly run through Michael Pittman and Josh Downs. The former is not a surprise. The latter is a bit more unexpected. This has also pushed Alec Pierce to the background after a few notable performances in 2022. While the second-year wideout was always considered a longshot to have weekly fantasy relevance, it’s been hard to come by with Downs’ emergence in his rookie season. 

The Colts have gone to more of a short passing game with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, but they will still take shots occasionally. That’s where Pierce comes in. He’s second on the team to Michael Pittman in targets of 10 or more air yards -- a place where the Bucs secondary has been vulnerable. Tampa has allowed the fifth-most receiving yards and third-most touchdowns on downfield throws. Pierce is a risk-reward play in Week 12 but does have flex appeal in leagues of 12 or more teams.  

Tight ends

Evan Engram
Jacksonville Jaguars JAX · TE
Houston Texans
2023 · 6-4-0

When can you consider the TE9 overall to be a sleeper? When that player has one game with more than 70 receiving yards, no games with 17 or more fantasy points and not a single touchdown all year. Hello, Evan Engram. The reason no one is talking about him being a top 10 tight end is that there’s not much to talk about. He’s been perfectly mid all season long, but that’s all it takes to be a TE1 these days. 

There’s reason to hope for more than “mid” in Week 12. It’s the Texans defense. Houston has allowed more catches to TEs than any other team in 2023. Last week, the Cardinals trio of Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, and Elijah Higgins caught eight balls against it. Engram doesn’t have to share his tight end targets either, so he should be a magnet for the ball this week. He’s already a TE1, but he could land in the top 10. And maybe even score a touchdown? One can only dream.  

David Njoku
Cleveland Browns CLE · TE
Denver Broncos
2023 · 5-5-0

Njoku had one of his best fantasy weeks of the season against the Steelers in Week 11. It could have been even better if he had avoided a few drops. Nevertheless, the big tight end has the trust of rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson as evidenced by the game-high 15 targets he saw in the win.  

In Week 12, the Browns visit a Broncos defense that has completed a major turnaround since the rock-bottom low it hit in Week 3. Through it all, Denver still hasn’t figured out how to slow down tight ends. No team has allowed more receiving yards and fantasy points per game to the position in 2023. Even if Njoku doesn’t get double-digit targets this week, his usage combined with the matchup gives off strong TE1 vibes.  

Isaiah Likely
Baltimore Ravens BAL · TE
Los Angeles Chargers
2023 · 4-6-0

Isaiah Likely gained fantasy attention early. As a rookie in 2022, he had two big preseason games that put him on the radar before posting a pair of top 10 weekly finishes – including a 19.7-point effort against the Buccaneers in Week 8 – with Mark Andrews trying to play through injuries.

After Andrews’ latest injury, Likely takes over as Baltimore’s TE1 against a Chargers defense in turmoil. Among the Bolts’ deficiencies has been an inability to cover tight ends. Los Angeles entered Week 11 having allowed the third-most receptions to the position. Then it gave up six catches for 60 yards to the Packer pair of Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave. Likely won’t absorb all of Andrews’ targets, but he should earn enough to challenge as a low-end TE1. 


New England Patriots
2023 · 2-8-0
New York Giants
2023 · 3-8-0

The Giants surprised everyone with their Week 11 victory, though that performance might have said more about the Commanders. Nonetheless, it counts in the standings. However, some things remained the same -- namely, Big Blue’s inability to protect the quarterback. After surrendering nine more sacks against Washington, Giants quarterbacks have been taken down a league-high 63 times this season. 

This is where I remind you that sacks and turnovers are the best way for defenses to score fantasy points. Even if the Patriots haven’t been great at getting to quarterbacks – 18 sacks in 10 games – it shouldn’t matter so much against New York’s offensive line. Anyone in the business of streaming defenses needs to put New England high on their list this week. 

Miami Dolphins
2023 · 7-3-0
New York Jets
2023 · 4-6-0

Things are bad with the offenses in New York. But you, dear reader, already know this. The Jets finally ended their long touchdown drought, but the offense is still problematic, to say the least. Zach Wilson couldn’t move the offense, leading Robert Saleh to turn things over to Tim Boyle. The offensive line is still a mess. We’ve been targeting the Jets offense all year with streaming defenses. No reason to stop now. 

Miami’s defense had one of its best days last week against Aidan O’Connell and the Raiders. Jalen Ramsey is making his presence felt in the secondary. Look for him and his Dolphins teammates to make Black Friday an inhospitable one for Boyle and Gang Green. 

Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for and a man who should have done a better job of hiding the leftover Halloween candy. Send him your snack failures or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.

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