If there's an unofficial marker to the stretch run of the fantasy football season, it's Thanksgiving. We've long passed the halfway point of the season but still have a few weeks left of the regular season. It's not quite do-or-die for many managers. But there's also just a different feel in the air. We've entered the Holiday SZN, standing on the precipice of winter.
And as with plenty of things this time of year, it's worth taking stock of what's happened and being grateful for what we've endured. Sure, I could tell you I'm thankful for having Tyler Lockett fall in my lap in many fantasy drafts. Or that I'm thankful for Tua Tagovailoa developing into an electrifying playmaker on the field and in fantasy. In reality, none of that really matters. It's all fun and games but it's fleeting.
What I'm thankful for is a family that has been supportive of what I do every day and in every way. I'm thankful for a set of co-workers who have been equal parts friends and family. I'm also thankful for all of you out there who read this every week. Or who watch our shows. Or listen to our podcasts. Or who interact with us via social media. Often, it feels like our work floats out into the void of the internet and it's easy to forget that there are lots of you on the other end who are informed and entertained by what we do. This year, I've had the chance to connect with even more of you and have been humbled by your response to me, my work and the efforts of our staff as a whole. I appreciate each and every one of you (even the trolls) and hope that there will be plenty more to come in the future.
I know you didn't come here for my heartfelt confessions. You are here for fantasy football sleeper names. So here you go. But still … Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
It’s been a tumultuous year in Indianapolis. A quarterback change followed by a coaching change followed by another quarterback change. In the interim, the fantasy fortunes of those supporting the Colts have yo-yo’d week to week. One thing is certain, this is a better offense when Ryan is under center. That doesn’t mean you’re always going to start him. But when the mood is right, you can slide him into the lineup.
We’re feeling in a good mood this week because the Colts are hosting the Steelers. This Pittsburgh defense isn’t the formidable stop unit we’ve seen in years past. This group is ranked 24th in total defense and 31st against the pass. Ryan has fared rather well against some of the better matchups, most recently putting up 22 points against the Raiders in Week 10. Understanding that Ryan’s ceiling is low, he’s best reserved for 2-QB situations but there is value to be had.
Before all the Rachaad White stans get too excited, I’m not off the Leonard Fournette bandwagon. He’s too valuable to the offense to be relegated to second RB status. Not to mention that having the bye week gave him a chance to rest his injured hip. Still, White has shown that he’s deserving of more touches -- especially for a team that has designs on the playoffs and would like to keep its primary back fresh for the stretch run.
Enter the Cleveland Browns. It feels like they’ve been run over more than a four-lane highway this season. The numbers don’t totally bear that out, but it’s still not been good. Maybe it’s the 5.2 yards per carry the Browns have allowed to running backs. Or the league-high 13 rushing scores given up to the position. Even with an offense that has struggled to run the ball, the Browns defensive line has been soft enough that it may not matter a whole lot.
The astute among us (and I mean Adam Rank, not myself) suggested a couple of weeks ago that Murray should be added on fantasy rosters. He was met with derision. Turns out, Rank was on to something. Not that it took a genius to believe Murray would get touches -- just experience with fantasy football and the NFL in general. Now after Melvin Gordon’s release and Chase Edmonds’ injury, Murray is front and center in Denver.
All season we’ve recommended avoiding Broncos running backs. For good reason. The team is last in points per game and 26th in rushing offense. Even the league’s best defense hasn’t helped Denver ground things out. But this week, the Broncos face a Panthers team that has been almost as bad as them offensively. Unless you’re a fan of either team, I wouldn’t recommend watching this one -- and even then, I’d understand if you passed. It should be a low-scoring affair featuring a pair of struggling quarterbacks. The running backs should see plenty of work. That may not work out well for D’Onta Foreman against the Broncos front but Murray should have room to roam versus Carolina’s 29th-ranked run defense.
At this point, there’s little doubt that Jeff Wilson has taken over as the Dolphins' running back of choice. In the two games since he was traded from San Francisco to Miami, Wilson has played 57 percent of the snaps compared to just 37 percent for Mostert. But that doesn’t mean Mostert has evaporated from the Miami offense. He’s still averaged double-digit touches in those two games and his big-play ability means he can put up decent fantasy totals without a lot of touches.
That could come into play this week against the Houston Texans. They’ve been bullied all season long by opposing running backs. Houston has allowed more rushing yards than any other team this season. The Texans have also given up the most explosive runs by a wide margin. Fifty-seven runs have gone for 10 or more yards against Houston. The next closest defense is Carolina with 45. Even without seeing most of the touches, Mostert could get enough work to break a long one this week and should be in deeper league lineups.
Robinson hasn’t been the most efficient running back this season. He’s averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per attempt this season and his carries have been heavily dictated by the game script Washington finds itself in. Combine that with Antonio Gibson’s recent resurgence and it’s hard to find a spot for the rookie in many fantasy lineups.
If there’s ever a week to give Robinson another shot, it’s this week against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons like to run on offense. They like to get run on defensively. OK, maybe they don’t like it. But it happens to them frequently. Only six teams have faced more rushing attempts than the Dirty Birds. Along the way, the Falcons have surrendered 4.4 yards per carry and 15 rushing scores. In a contest that doesn’t figure to be very lopsided one way or another, game script shouldn’t be an issue. Expect Robinson to see a solid number of carries and have a chance to post a good number.
After his last few games, it’s hard to truly call Campbell a sleeper. But he’s on this list mostly to raise awareness. In games with Matt Ryan at quarterback, Campbell’s numbers have been significantly better. The speedy wideout has posted at least 18 points in three of his last four outings with Matty Ice under center and has pushed Alec Pierce aside as Indy’s WR2.
Look for that trend to continue against a Steelers defense that hasn’t figured out how to slow down opposing passing games. With Campbell lining up heavily in the slot (70 percent of snaps), he can be used as a quick outlet if the T.J. Watt-led pass rush finds a way to get pressure on Ryan. Who knows what the future holds for the Colts this season, but it’s nice to see their pass-catchers once again be relevant.
Davante Adams is the king of targets for the Raiders. There is no denying that. But like a knuckleball pitcher who sneaks in the occasional straight pitch, Las Vegas occasionally targets someone else. For all the criticisms of Derek Carr, one thing he will consistently do is target the open man. This week, that man could well be Moreau. Coach Josh McDaniels’ offenses have been tight end friendly in the past. This year really isn’t any different. The problem has been keeping a healthy tight end.
With Darren Waller still out of the mix, Moreau should see a steady target share. He’s had at least four targets in six of the seven games he’s appeared in this season. In Week 12, the Raiders head to Seattle to face a Seahawks defense that has had plenty of issues with tight ends. The ‘Hawks are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to the position and are being attacked by tight ends in the red zone. If Seattle’s offense continues to score as it has, the Raiders should be forced into a pass-heavy game script, meaning more chances for Moreau to get on the board.
After a breakout season in 2021, Knox hasn’t been much of a presence in 2022. But his season-high 14-point outing last week could be the start of something big for a player who was incredibly touchdown-dependent last season. Besides the touchdown numbers, things look very similar from last year to this year for Knox. Which is a reminder that touchdowns are fickle beasts. But the Bills tight end could possibly coax a score on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions.
The Lions have been bad defensively in just about every category. That includes covering tight ends. Only the Cardinals have allowed more touchdowns to the position than Detroit this season. With Buffalo’s offense not looking as explosive recently as it did early in the season, this feels like a get-right game for Josh Allen and company. It could also be a shot of fantasy wonder tonic for Knox’s 2022 campaign.
Once upon a time, there was a belief that Fant had the potential for big things in the NFL. While the dream isn’t fully dead, it’s on life support. He’s splitting opportunities with Will Dissly in a passing game that is still heavily slanted toward the wide receiver duo of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that Fant’s best games have come in some of the best matchups. Admittedly, those “best games” have yet to even produce 15 points. But with the current state of tight ends, we’re setting the bar low.
That’s where the Raiders come in. They’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this year. This week’s contest has the potential to be one of the higher-scoring games of the week. If Geno Smith can spread the ball around, I’d prefer to lean on the more athletic of Seattle’s two tight ends. Fant is only an option in deeper leagues. But if you find the waiver wire thin at the position, he’s worth a look.
The refrain has become a common one this year: Pick on the Rams' offense. It has been a mess all season long. Things may have only gotten worse with Matthew Stafford leaving last week’s game with a suspected concussion. That leaves Bryce Perkins in line to play behind a bad offensive line with a dearth of weapons. The Chiefs' ability to score, combined with the Rams' inability to run the ball means the quarterback will be in the spotlight. It also means Kansas City can plan to tee off with its pass rush. This could get bad for Los Angeles. But good for your fantasy squad.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is making room for pie. Send him your Thanksgiving gluttonyor fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.