Week 10 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Mullens mania to reach deafening level

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Composed and pinpoint, Mullens was marvelous in his first NFL start. Bank on another standout performance in Week 10. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Composed and pinpoint, Mullens was marvelous in his first NFL start. Bank on another standout performance in Week 10. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 18 fpts, RB: 12 fpts, WR: 11 fpts: TE: 10 fpts; .5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 10 Flames in the comments section below.

Nick Mullens, SF, QB (2 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $28)

Matchup: vs. NYG
Vegas line/total: SF -2.5, 43.5

Prior to a game crafted perfectly for #TequilaThursday, former NFL lineman and football sage Ross Tucker tweeted, “In honor of Nick Mullens who is your favorite random QB starter of all time?” Naturally, nostalgia rolled in. Tyler Thigpen, Billy Volek, Peter Tom Willis, Stoney Case and controversial QB/WR eligible Joe Webb were a few names listed. All offered radiant performances before quickly flaming out. Will Mullens follow suit? It’s possible, but he was nothing short of resplendent in his NFL debut. Yes, it was Oakland — a defensive sieve that could make Nathan Peterman look like Jim Kelly, but the greenhorn’s throws were accurate and on time. He completed 72.7 percent of his attempts, notched a godlike 11.9 pass yards per attempt and posted a near-flawless passer rating (151.9).

His resulting 262 yards and three touchdowns, good for 22.5 fantasy points in Yahoo leagues, commanded everyone’s attention. Replicate his Week 9 output and someone is sure to reward him with a Brock Osweiler-level sweetheart deal. It’s not at all farfetched. His opponent this week, New York, is already prepping for the offseason. Key defensive pieces Eli Apple and Damon Harrison, are now playing elsewhere. What remains comprises a highly-exploitable pass defense. First-string DBs Janoris Jenkins, B.W. Webb and Grant Haley have surrendered a combined 108.5 passer rating, 1.28 yards per snap, 68.7 catch percentage and seven touchdowns to their assignments. Collectively, the Giants have allowed 7.4 yards per attempt, 252.5 pass yards per game and 1.4 passing touchdowns per game. Riding momentum, Mullen strikes it rich.

Fearless Forecast: 258 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 22.3 fantasy points 

Spencer Ware, KC, RB (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $11)

Matchup: vs. Ari
Vegas line/total: KC -16.5, 50

Robin over Batman. Ron Weasley over Harry Potter. Hannibal Hamlin over Abraham Lincoln. Across the spectrum of history and pop culture, few, if any, would stump for a sidekick. The same viewpoints apply to fantasy. Secondary options are constantly overlooked; lost in the shadow of incumbents. Volume speaks, after all, and rushers who feed off scraps are rarely, if ever, recommended. This week, however, is a unique setup for Ware. Not long ago, the veteran was the Chiefs’ franchise running back of the present. Decisive between the tackles, versatile and tough to corral after initial contact, he looked the part of an offensive cornerstone. Then the injury imp struck. Sidelined by a knee injury in preseason 2017, he was promptly supplanted by rookie hotshot Kareem Hunt.

A forgotten footnote, Ware is without question the second fiddle. So far this season, he’s logged just 17.6 percent of the opportunity share. Exhibiting vintage toughness, he’s made the most of limited work, netting 2.85 yards after contact per attempt while forcing a missed tackle 15 percent of the time. Off his second straight 80 total-yard tally, he has reasonable odds of setting a new 2018 benchmark in the category. Arizona, a 16.5-point underdog, will hit the alarm clock, roll out of bed and find itself in a deep early hole. Assuming the impossible doesn’t become a reality, Ware could see an uptick in second-half touches while salting away the clock. He could possibly net some 10-12 touches against the friendliest fantasy run defense in the league. This year, the Cards have conceded 4.48 yards per carry, 175.5 total yards per game and 12 total scores to RBs. If you’re hurting for an upside FLEX option, heavily debate KC’s Costanza.

Fearless Forecast: 7 carries, 54 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 18 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.7 fantasy points 

Duke Johnson, Cle, RB (26 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $17)

Matchup: vs. Atl
Vegas line/total: Atl -4, 50.5

It boggles the mind how some coaches underutilize talented weapons. Take Johnson. His role reduced dramatically under Todd Haley. Though healthy and proven, he recorded a puzzling 21.8 percent of the opportunity share, shaking out to 6.4 touches per game. When the ax dropped on Haley and Hue JacksonFreddie Kitchens was inserted into the OC role. The Browns subsequently turned to a spread-heavy scheme and, shockingly, rediscovered Duke. Last week against Kansas City, the sure-handed back posted his finest output of the season. He registered action on only 50 percent of the snap share, but he easily chewed up yards in the short field. In total, he tallied 86 combined yards on 10 touches (nine receptions), finding the end zone twice.

Don’t consider it a short-lived resurgence. For the second-straight week, Johnson is blessed with a scrumptious matchup. Due to an accumulation of injuries, Atlanta is quite permeable on defense, particularly underneath. No unit has yielded more receptions to the RB position. On the year, the Falcons have given up 8.5 catches and 64.5 receiving yards per game to rushers. In a game with shootout potential, Duke earns his Alpo. In PPR leagues, a top-20 line seems inevitable.

Fearless Forecast: 3 carries, 14 rushing yards, 8 receptions, 70 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 19.9 fantasy points 

Tre’Quan Smith, NO, WR (13 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)

Matchup: at Cin
Vegas line/total: NO -4, 54

This year’s group of rookie wide receivers wasn’t the strongest compared to previous classes. No sure-fire No. 1 in the Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green or Julio Jones vein walked the stage last April. Naturally, without a clear frontrunner, there was much disagreement in the draftnik community on who the best prospect was. Some backed D.J. Moore. Others were on the Calvin Ridley bandwagon. This guy touted Courtland Sutton. Regardless who topped lists, one thing is for certain: Smith slipped through the cracks. Yes, he was selected in Round 3 as the 10th WR picked, but he entered training camp and the regular season with little fanfare. Off fantasy owner radars until Ted Ginn was placed on injured reserve a couple weeks back, he only tantalized the dynasty crowd. That perspective changed, however, in Week 5. He roasted Washington for 111 yards and two touchdowns, one of those scores resetting the record books for Drew Brees.

Due to Michael Thomas’ target hogging ways, Smith hasn’t lured the workload to convince gamers he’s an every week option (16 total targets in his last four). However, he’s played on at least 64 percent of the Saints’ snaps in four consecutive weeks. Matched against a Cincinnati secondary this Sunday that’s allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs on the season, the rookie is an employable WR3 in 12-team leagues. He’ll line up against Dre Kirkpatrick (83.2 passer rating, 1.00 yards per snap, 43.1 catch% allowed) roughly 40 percent of the time. When shifted elsewhere though, he should take advantage. Fly the fleur de lis.

Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 57 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.2 fantasy points 

Tyrell Williams, LAC, WR (23 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $19)

Matchup: at Oak
Vegas line/total: LAC -9.5, 50.5

Comb through your kitchen pantry and chances are, buried behind the cereal boxes or baking ingredients, lies a forgotten condiment festering with undiscovered bacteria. In fantasy, the other Williams in L.A. is that overlooked, long-expired bottle. This past summer, hype surrounding his teammate Mike Williams reached a crescendo. Fantasy pundits, like this punchable face, talked up the former first-round pick, suggesting a breakthrough campaign was on the horizon. He’s occasionally titillated the masses, averaging 18.8 yards per catch (WR7), 10.6 yards per target (WR16) and 2.61 fantasy points per target (WR7). However, his inconsistencies explain why he’s No. 42 in fantasy points per game. Tyrell, meanwhile, has offered steadier contributions.

Tyrell Williams has often outshined his counterpart, Mike Williams, this fantasy season. (Getty)
Tyrell Williams has often outshined his counterpart, Mike Williams, this fantasy season. (Getty)

Equally dynamic downfield, he ranks top-five in yards per catch (20.5), yards per target (15.0) and fantasy points per target (3.29) among all wide receivers. Most importantly, he’s recorded a reliable WR3 line (WR30) in fantasy points per game. With four scores and a pair of 100-yard performances to his name since Week 6, Tyrell is blossoming during these critical bye weeks. Another explosive effort is on tap in Week 10. The Chargers travel to Oakland to face a Raiders team suffering from its own version of the Black Death. Fully going through the motions, Jon Gruden’s bunch are historically atrocious defensively. A virtual ATM machine, they’ve given up a league-high 8.9 pass yards per attempt and the 11th-most fantasy points to WRs. Tyrell’s projected main adversary, slot corner Leon Hall, has conceded 118.8 passer rating, 87.5 catch percentage and 1.61 yards per snap to his assignments. Ride the hot hand.

Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 76 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.1 fantasy points 

WEEK 10 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

John Ross, Cin, WR (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $10)

Matchup: vs. NO
Vegas line/total: NO -4, 54

In a next-man-up league, elevated scrubs can rapidly transform into fantasy’s next stars. It’s always around this time each year when catastrophic injuries springboard previous unknowns into fantasy lineups. Over the years, guys like Justin Gage, Danario Alexander and Pierre Thomas escaped obscurity and supplied needy owners with much desired production. With A.J. Green (toe), who was responsible for 26.2 percent of Cincinnati’s target share (9.5 tgts/g), expected to miss multiple games, Ross could step into the spotlight. Tyler Boyd will undoubtedly be Andy Dalton’s top option, but the former top-10 overall pick should be on all radars.

Ross, now in his second season, is best known for his blazing speed. He’s also a better-than-advertised route runner who can be downright un-coverable on slant routes. He’s shown flashes, but injuries, the latest a groin setback, have stymied his production. Cincinnati sat idle at the trade deadline and are now paying the price. Then again, maybe they unapologetically trust Ross. Someone has to pick up the slack. The greyhound is likely to do exactly that. Matched against a dicey Saints defense, he’s a deeper play worth chucking in challenging formats. Keep in mind his primary defender, P.J. Williams, has surrendered a 72.7 catch rate, 130.4 passer rating, 1.76 yards per snap and five touchdowns to his assignments. Go long…

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 69 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.9 fantasy points 

BONUS WEEK 10 FLAMES (Under 50 percent started)

RB: Aaron Jones, GB (vs. Mia; $19) – Among the remaining dodos still actively coaching in the NFL, Mike McCarthy may be the head of the flock. It’s asinine Jones isn’t netting 15-plus touches per week. His fluid running style, vision and power are far superior to three-toed sloth Jamaal Williams. Jones ranks top-10 among all RBs in YAC per attempt (3.19) and missed tackle percentage (24.0). Against a very generous Miami front which has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points, 4.60 yards per carry, 173.8 total yards per game and 10 TDs to RBs, Jones logs one of his best efforts of the season. (FF: 13 atts, 76 yds, 1 rec, 5 yds, td, 14.6 fpts)

RB: Ito Smith, Atl (at Cle; $15) – One of the better vice backs in the league, Ito continues to quietly pile up respectable numbers. He’s notched 2.8 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle 22 percent of the time. His fortified role inside the red-zone and occasional usage as a receiver provide additional support. Slated to exchange haymakers with Cleveland, he’s a highly recommended FLEX option in 12-teamers. The Browns have yielded 4.70 yards per carry, 170.8 total yards per game, 13 total TDs and the third-most fantasy points to rushers. All in need of a plug ‘n play RB should rise for the honorable Judge Ito. (FF: 9 atts, 42 yds, 2 recs, 10 yds, td, 12.2 fpts)

WR: D.J. Moore, Car (at Pit; $17) – The rookie’s uneventful output last week against the Buccaneers was truly deflating. It ranked right up there with the first time you actually followed my advice. But I’m going back to the Moore well. He played on a season-high 89.5 percent of the snaps last week. His speed, versatility and primo schedule are sure to push believers over the top down the stretch, including this week. Pittsburgh is stiff up front, but ultra-soft on the back end. The Steelers rank No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to WRs. His matchup in the slot is ammo for skeptics (Mike Hilton: 61.7 RTG, 0.82 yds/snap allowed), but look for OC Norv Turner to feature Moore in a hybrid role working as an outside, slot and rushing weapon. (FF: 4 recs, 67 yds, td, 31 rsh yds, 17.8 fpts)

TE: Vernon Davis, Was (at TB; $12) – Here’s what’s remarkable: 1) Davis at his advanced age (34) continues to showcase the blend of power, speed and freak athleticism that propelled him to greatness early in his career. 2) Jordan Reed’s body parts remain intact. Strange times. For the TE-needy, the veteran is a fantastic option. He grabbed a season-high five passes for 62 yards last week and is thrust into a premium matchup this week. Tampa has given up the second-most fantasy points to the position. (FF: 4 recs, 50 yds, td, 13.0 fpts)

DST: San Francisco 49ers (vs. NYG; $11)Eli Manning wears concrete boots. He’s slower than Tom Brady pulling a rickshaw with Vince Wilfork as a passenger. Behind a bendable offensive line, which has kept pockets clean just 64.0 percent of the time (No. 30 in the league), he’s succumbed to 31 sacks. The Niners, who totaled eight Derek Carr takedowns last week, are a rock-solid stream option. (FF: 16 PA, 321 YDSA, 5 SCKs, 2 TO, 13.0 fpts)

Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their “Flames” (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

Reader record: 25-40

Brad record: 44-56 (WK9: 4-7; W – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dion Lewis, Kapri Bibbs, KC D/ST; L: Aaron Jones, Chris Godwin, Hayden Hurst, Courtland Sutton, D.J. Moore, Matt Brieda, Elijah McGuire; DNP: Keke Coutee)

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out his TV show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” now available in 91 million households on various regional sports networks, and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.”

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