Fantasy Football Sleepers: Rookies ready to deliver in Week 12

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 12 Flames in the comments section below.

Baker Mayfield, Cle, QB (7 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $30)

Matchup: at Cin
Vegas line/total: Cin -3, 47.5

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As we gather around the table to pass the trimmings, trappings and succulent turkey, we pause to give “Thanks!” to a higher power, the company of one another and, for fantasy purposes, the Cincinnati Bengals defense. Redefining “forgiving,” the representatives from the Queen City are a bunch of cooked cats. No defense has surrendered more fantasy points to the quarterback position this season.

On the year, they’ve given up an obscene 306.1 passing yards per game, 2.1 passing touchdowns per game and 7.9 pass yards per attempt. Starting corners Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson have allowed a 110.1 passer rating combined to their assignments. For Baker “The Touchdown Maker,” salivary glands are already working overtime. The matchup alone conjures hunger growls — as it should. Mayfield is the answer to Cleveland’s long-running QB failures.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is ready to deliver for fantasy owners coming off a bye. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is ready to deliver for fantasy owners coming off a bye. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

As one would expect from a young, unpolished quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes, the OU product has been imperfect. His 6.3 YPA and QB23 standing in red-zone completion percentage speak to his inexperience. Still, he’s proven useful in spurts. Currently riding a four-game multi-TD streak, the rookie is an ideal one-week remedy for Mahomes or Jared Goff owners. With carving knife in hand, Mayfield slices and dices Cincinnati in the Battle for Ohio.

Fearless Forecast: 285 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 turnovers, 11 rushing yards, 20.5 fantasy points

Jordan Howard, Chi, RB (58 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $21)

Matchup: at Det
Vegas line/total: Chi -4, 45.5

There isn’t enough Pepto Bismol to quell the indigestion Howard owners have experienced. Unpredictable touchdowns. A one-dimensional role. Empty performances. Missed opportunities. The popular early-round draft pick has made any investor feel queasy. He currently ranks RB34 in fantasy points per game in .5 PPR leagues, RB40 in yards after contact per attempt (2.59) and RB59 in elusive rating. Though he stumbled terribly in his last game against the division rival Lions only two weeks ago (12 touches, 32 total yards), Howard is worth dishing up on Thanksgiving.

Matt Patricia, and his shrinking pencil, continues to trot out one of the most forgiving run defenses in the game, even after adding Damon Harrison via trade. In total, 10 running backs have crossed the 10 fantasy point threshold against them. Overall, Detroit has surrendered 5.16 yards per carry, 116.2 rush yards per game, seven rushing touchdowns and the ninth-most fantasy points to the position. With the Bears offense humming, odds are strong Howard, off a 19-touch workload versus Minnesota, finds a way to deliver meaningful fantasy numbers in a game with sneaky high-scoring appeal.

Fearless Forecast: 17 attempts, 68 rushing yards, 1 reception, 6 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.9 fantasy points

Gus Edwards, Bal, RB (4 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $18)

Matchup: vs. Oak
Vegas line/total: Bal -11, 42.5

The Hook. The Bender. The yakker. Uncle Charlie. Yellow Hammer. Whatever your favorite nickname is for a curve, John Harbaugh threw one last Sunday that would leave Clayton Kershaw speechless. With all sensible expectations pointing to Alex Collins or possibly recently acquired Ty Montgomery leading up the Ravens backfield, Edwards, a minimally used undrafted rookie from Rutgers, buckled knees and drew whiffs. Against a very welcoming Bengals front, the bulky back (6-foot-1, 229 pounds) plowed and burrowed his way to 115 rushing yards and a score on 17 carries.

His physical style, forward lean, balance and vision jumped off the screen. Post-game Harbaugh talked up the “north-south” youngster saying he “took the bull by the horns.” An ideal complement to slashing running QB, Lamar Jackson, Edwards’ breakout performance wasn’t a flash in the pan. He tallied an impressive 5.35 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle 47.1 percent of the time. This week he’s blessed with an equally favorable matchup. He will be a highly employable RB2 even in shallow formats. This season, the rancid Raiders have conceded 5.12 yards per carry, 131.0 rush yards per game, eight rushing TDs and the eighth-most fantasy points to rushers.

Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 89 rushing yards, 0 receptions, 1 touchdown, 14.9 fantasy points 

Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards emerged from the depths to shock the fantasy world. Can he do it again against Oakland? (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards emerged from the depths to shock the fantasy world. Can he do it again against Oakland? (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Mohamed Sanu, Atl, WR (18 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $22)

Matchup: at NO
Vegas line/total: NO -13, 59

Nothing reinvigorates the senses after a post-tryptophan, alcohol-induced snooze on Thanksgiving night quite like a good old-fashioned high-scorer. With an over/under set at 59, Falcons/Saints should deliver on all fantasy fronts. You should crave action wherever offered. Lining up for a $10 door buster crock pot at Target simply isn’t worth it. This game demands your full attention, Sanu included. Overshadowed by Julio Jones and rookie hotshot Calvin Ridley, the veteran receiver continues to command a sizable target share in one of the more electric offenses in the NFL. He hasn’t scored since Week 6, but over the past three weeks he’s enticed 19 targets from Matt Ryan.

Though underutilized inside the red zone, he’s ranked appreciably in other areas, particularly yards after catch. Thrust into a premium matchup, he’s a viable WR3 in 12-team and deeper leagues. The Saints’ secondary, which Sanu posted a 4-36-1 line against Week 3, is largely dreadful. Slot corner P.J. Williams, who the receiver is slated to exchange pleasantries with most often, has yielded a 131.2 passer rating, 1.98 yards per snap and five touchdowns to his foes. Overall, no team has given up more fantasy points to WRs than New Orleans. The Fleur de Lis’ remarkable efficiency on offense only increases opportunities. Maximize the matchup. Start Sanu.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 67 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.2 fantasy points

Demaryius Thomas, Hou, WR (53 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)

Matchup: vs. Ten
Vegas line/total: N/A

The contempt and disgust fantasy owners currently house for Thomas is palpable. Off a bye week, most expected the recently dealt wide receiver to play a substantial role in an above average Houston offense. Instead, he whizzed in his backers’ mashed potatoes. On 78.2 percent of the snap share and targeted only once, DT served up a string of bagels. Keke Coutee and DeAndre Hopkins were Deshaun Watson’s primary flavors of the week.

Thomas’ ghostlike disappearance was a likely anomaly. Recall that he established an instant rapport with Watson in Denver Week 9. Though dropped en masse by shallow leaguers, he’s a name to consider this weekend. Any wideout with the potential to line up against Malcolm Butler is worth entertaining. The man is a stats philanthropist, a corner so “dedicated” to his craft career benchmarks of his opponents are constantly threatened. Just look at what T.Y. Hilton accomplished mostly against him last week. Missed tackles, blown coverages, generally inept — he’s quite possibly the worst starting DB in the league. Somewhere in Foxboro, Bill Belichick is chuckling. On the year, he’s allowed a 70.7 catch percentage, 1.98 yards per snap, 136.4 passer rating and seven touchdowns to his assignments. Give DT a second chance. Hop aboard the Gus bus and double-digit fantasy points are sure to greet you.

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 64 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.4 fantasy points

WEEK 12 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

Jordan Wilkins, Ind, RB (0 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $10)

Matchup: vs. Mia
Vegas line/total: Ind -10, 51

Turkey, stuffing and green bean casserole always receive all the hype at the holiday table, but creamed corn, brussel sprouts and buttered squash deserve similar praise. Wilkins, too, is an under-appreciated side dish. One of my favorite deep rookie sleepers from last April’s NFL Draft, the Ole Miss product hasn’t exactly satisfied owner palates this year. Operating as a companion back behind Marlon Mack, he’s only sporadically pumped the juices. He’s totaled a laudable 3.05 yards after contact per attempt. Off his first touchdown of the season, he’s a name to weigh in challenging formats in Week 12. Why? We all should be thankful for Miami’s horrendous run defense.

This season, the Dolphins have given up countless yards to running backs. In total, they’ve surrendered 4.85 yards per carry, 173.9 total yards per game, 12 touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Secondary rushers, like LeGarrette Blount and Tarik Cohen, excelled against them. In a contest Indy should easily build a mammoth lead, Wilkins flexes his big-play chops on a handful of touches.

Fearless Forecast: 7 carries, 48 rush yards, 1 reception, 7 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 12.0 fpts

BONUS WEEK 12 FLAMES (Under 50 percent started)

RB: Sony Michel, NE (at NYJ; $22) – The one week R&R should do Michel wonders. After three consecutive 100-yard games mid-season, the rookie’s balky knee severely hindered his explosion and between-the-tackles power. Well-rested and likely at or near 100 percent, he’s rejuvenated and poised to regain his earlier form. The Jets have given up the 13th-most fantasy points to RBs this year surrendering 4.12 yards per carry, 97.6 rush yards per game and nine touchdowns. In a contest with an expected positive game script for the Pats (Line: NE -9.5), Michel piles up the fantasy points while salting away the clock. (FF: 17 atts, 94 yds, 1 rec, 4 yds, td, 16.3 fpts)

RB: Peyton Barber, TB (vs. SF; $17) – The lack of publicity Barber has received is unfair. In this era of timeshares, he’s practically a workhorse, tallying 65.1 percent of the opportunity share. He also ranks favorably in several advanced categories including total evaded tackles (RB14) and total yards created (RB15). Additionally, his 2.84 yards per contact per attempt isn’t anything to scoff at. Matched against a San Francisco defense that’s yielded 131.6 total yards per game and 1.0 touchdowns per game to rushers, Barber buzzcuts the competition. (FF: 16 atts, 69 yds, 2 recs, 12 yds, td, 15.1 fpts)

WR: Sterling Shepard, NYG (vs. Phi; $18)Doug Pederson better post billboard advertisements in the greater Philadelphia area for defensive back tryouts. Already sans Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, the team may be without the services of Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in Week 12. At this rate, kicker Jake Elliott may have to log snaps in the secondary. On the year, Philly has given up the second-most fantasy points to WRs, allowing 205.9 yards per game, 12 touchdowns and a 65.3 catch rate. Though inconsistent, Shepard is a trustworthy WR3 in 12-team leagues. (FF: 5 recs, 62 yds, td, 13.7 fpts)

TE: Vance McDonald, Pit (at Den; $15) – Two weeks. Two TDs. That’s what McDonald has accomplished. He may extend the streak this week. Brutalizing after initial contact, the tight end has developed into one of the position’s best post-catch producers. He’s also highly reliable, snagging 75.0 percent of his intended looks. Knowing Denver’s struggles defending the middle of the field — the Broncos have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to TEs this season — McDonald is a strong bet to again finish inside the TE top-10. (FF: 4 recs, 52 yds, td, 13.2 fpts)

DST: Buffalo Bills (vs. Jax; $14)Blake Bortles is a modern day Mark Sanchez, a player with a turnover knack. Sometime in the near future, Mark Snyder will laughably also sign him out of desperation. Four times this season defenses have crossed the 10 fantasy point mark against them. The Bills will have their hands full defending Leonard Fournette. They have coughed up 4.20 yards per carry to RBs. But with ball hawk Tre’Davious White lurking (0.46 yards per snap allowed) and knowing Bortles has routinely succumbed to intense pressure (64.1 clean pocket%), Buffalo is an undervalued Week 12 option. (16 PA, 334 YDSA, 4 SCK, 3 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: 30-49

Brad record: 53-69 (WK11: 5-6; W – Lamar Jackson, Peyton Barber, Josh Adams, Kerryon Johnson, Josh Reynolds; L – Rashaad Penny, Cole Beasley, Doug Martin, BAL D/ST, Jeff Heuerman, Sammy Watkins)

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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