Sneaky Starts: Week 16

Sneaky Starts: Week 16

By John Paulsen (Director of Forecasting), last update Dec 21, 2012

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and has finished in the Top 6 in seven of the last eight years. Cumulatively, John has been the most accurate expert from 2010-17 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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As injuries pile up, all but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough -- a waiver wire or bench player who is capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.

Week 15's Sneaky Starts included Russell Wilson (QB1), Sam Bradford (QB4), Colin Kaepernick (QB5), Ryan Tannehill (QB10), Knowshon Moreno (RB7), Vick Ballard (RB22), Shonn Greene (RB29), David Wilson (RB30), Michael Crabtree (WR2), T.Y. Hilton (WR9), Cecil Shorts (WR21), Brian Hartline (WR30) and Dennis Pitta (TE1).

At 4for4, we use Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA) by position heavily in our rankings and analyses. For more detail, click here.

Note: These recommendations do not override our weekly rankings, which are updated throughout the week and weekend.


Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson should continue to be solid starts even though the matchups aren't great in their head-to-head matchup on Sunday night. The pass defenses aren't elite, however. Over the last 10 weeks, the Seahawks are #12 in QB aFPA, while the 49ers are #11. Both players are a threat to run, which gives them both a solid baseline in terms of fantasy points.

Sam Bradford tore it up against the Vikings in Week 15 (377 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) and has another nice matchup this week against a Buccaneers secondary that got torched by the Saints. Bradford is averaging 243 yards and 1.7 TDs in his last six games.

Chad Henne should post some good garbage time stats against the Patriots, who are #24 in QB aFPA. He should attempt 40+ passes on Sunday. Nick Foles (vs. WAS, #26), Jake Locker (@ GB, #14) and Ryan Tannehill (vs. BUF, #21) are also decent desperation starts.


Knowshon Moreno has graduated from Sneaky Start University, but he has another nice matchup (vs. CLE, #8 in RB aFPA) and has been averaging 27 touches over the last four games. Reggie Bush seems to be finishing strong after a midseason swoon. In his last four outings, he has averaged 88 total yards on 17.5 touches and two of those games were pretty tough matchups against the Seahawks (82 yards, TD) and the 49ers (103 yards). The Bills are #23 in RB aFPA.

Vick Ballard is averaging 19.0 touches for 105 total yards in the last two games, but hasn't found the endzone since Week 13. That could change against the Chiefs if he gets the goal line work after Mewelde Moore's fumble in Week 15. DeAngelo Williams is also getting a consistent workload lately, and has scored TDs (on two dumpoff-and-runs) in the last two weeks. He's averaging 108 total yards and 0.7 TDs on 18.7 touches over the last three weeks, though he's unlikely to get any goal line work with Mike Tolbert (also a sneaky play) and Cam Newton vulturing carries in close. The Raiders are #26 in RB aFPA. (Update: Jonathan Stewart returned to a limited practice on Friday and would put a dent in Williams' sneakiness if he's able to play.)

Mark Ingram is an interesting start against the Cowboys (#22 in RB aFPA) given his recent play (55 rushing yards and 0.5 TDs in his last six games on 4.7 YPC) and a new knee injury to Pierre Thomas. If Thomas (and Chris Ivory) can't play, Ingram should easily see 15+ carries on Sunday.

If Alex Green (concussion) is able to play, he'd be a decent flex start against the Titans, who are last in the league in RB aFPA. But he hasn't yet practiced this week, which means the Packers will turn to a RBBC of Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris. Grant figures to get the lion's share of touches in this scenario, but Harris seems to be the more explosive back.


Cecil Shorts is a fringe WR1 play this week against the Patriots (#30 in WR aFPA), but he's only currently starting in 30% of ESPN leagues. He is the #12 WR in PPG, and is averaging 90 yards and 0.6 TDs in his last eight games. Justin Blackmon should also make some noise as the Jaguars inevitably play from behind.

James Jones can disappear at any moment, but he is the WR16 on the season thanks to four multi-TD games on the year and 12 TDs total. He should find the endzone again against the Titans, who are #23 in WR aFPA.

Nate Washington stands to benefit from the likely absence of Kendall Wright, who could miss Week 16 with a cracked rib. In 22 games over the last two years where Washington has seen at least six targets, he has averaged 4.5 catches for 63 yards and 0.4 TD, which would equate to WR23 numbers this year. The Packers aren't a great matchup for Washington, but Tennessee will probably be in catch-up mode for most of the game, so he's a threat for a nice garbage time line.

T.Y. Hilton is averaging 3.7-66-0.7 in his last seven games and that includes a weird Week 10 line against the Jaguars where Hilton was targeted just once and failed to catch a pass. The Chiefs are a mess so don't be surprised if Hilton gets behind the defense for at least one long catch.

Two pretty deep plays this week are Brandon Gibson and Riley Cooper. Gibson has a great matchup with the Buccaneers (#32 in WR aFPA) and has caught 12 passes for 176 yards and a TD in the last two games, seemingly retaking the WR2 job from Chris Givens. (Givens' presence makes Gibson a scary play.) Meanwhile, Cooper has turned 16 targets into 7-57-1 in the last two weeks and has a nice matchup against the Redskins this week. Jason Avant should be a decent play as well, mainly in PPR formats.

He has a tough matchup, but Rod Streater has been hot with 12 catches for 258 yards and a TD in his last three games. If the Panthers focus on Denarius Moore, Brandon Myers and Darrius Heyward-Bey, Streater should be able to post another solid line.


Dennis Pitta has five TDs in his last six games and 12-171-3 in his last two. He has a decent matchup with the Giants in Week 17, so he's a low-end TE1 start given the lack of consistency at the position this season.

Brent Celek (concussion) is back. With Clay Harbor done for the year, he should be able to produce against the Redskins (#30 WR aFPA), in what could turn into a shootout.

Tony Scheffler only managed 3-36 against the Cardinals despite the Lions trailing most of the day, but he did see seven targets and is likely in for a similar workload against the Falcons this week, especially if Brandon Pettigrew is sidelined again, as it appears he will be.

From a fantasy standpoint, Dallas Clark was a semi-bright spot (8-42) in the black hole of suckiness that was the Tampa Bay offense in Week 15. In PPR formats he has scored 10+ points in four of his last five games, and he has a pretty nice matchup against the Rams in Week 16.

Marcedes Lewis only has four catches for 12 yards in his last two games, but if the Patriots try to double both Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, Lewis should be able to do some work over the middle. He had three straight solid games in Weeks 11-13 (11-164-2 in that stretch).

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