Sleeper fantasy football performances of Week 17: Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez strive for relevance
A couple of formerly notable quarterbacks had decent performances this week. Will they be helpful next season?
The true surprises of the season’s last few weeks are guys we will forget about by the first few weeks of next season — see Jerrel Jernigan or Da’Rick Rogers in 2013. When teams fall out of it and/or resort to unknown names, it isn’t always (often) a harbinger of greatness to come.
Instead, for this week’s breakdown of the “sleepers,” I’m highlighting a few mid-range names. These guys might have been notable in the past, or have been around but not necessarily prominent. Their performances in Week 17 and/or in recent weeks might bear the tidings of 2015 improvement.
At the end of the season, you aren’t looking for sleepers anymore. But soon enough, it’s going to be August, and you’ll be doing draft prep. Maybe you’ll think back on 2014′s version of Rogers and have to decide what was real. The general rule of thumb? If you have to remind yourself who the guy was to begin with, pump the brakes.
These guys aren’t those guys, though. Let’s look at it:
Sleeper quarterbacks in Week 17
Eli Manning, NYG (429 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 interception, 19 fantasy points)
Manning had six games of 20-plus fantasy points this season, but also had four games in the single digits. That’s basically old hat for Manning, but when I look at him now, I see a guy with 68 fantasy points over the last three weeks. With Odell Beckham Jr. now in the fold, Victor Cruz theoretically coming back healthy, and a running-back duo of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, I wonder how highly we need to value Manning next year. Is he a top-10 fantasy quarterback for 2015? I think he is.
Mark Sanchez, PHI (292 passing yards, 2 passing touchdown, 1 interception, 22 rushing yards, 19 fantasy points)
It’s hard to imagine the Eagles going into 2015 with Sanchez at quarterback. It’s slightly more believable that Nick Foles could be the team’s starter again, though honestly, I don’t think there’s a significant difference in talent between the two. Still, both have been fantasy-relevant in Chip Kelly’s system; it looks like any moderately competent quarterback could be. So what Week 17 for Sanchez tells me is that, whoever is throwing the ball for Philadelphia next season, it’ll be a guy I will take a long look at.
Sleeper running backs in Week 17
Terrance West, CLE (94 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 12 receiving yards, 16 fantasy points)
Bill Belichick holds the “messing with fantasy owners” crown now and forever, but Mike Pettine has been making a run at the throne with his usage of West and Isaiah Crowell (and Ben Tate, while he was there) this season. Every time we think we know who the Browns‘ No. 1 running back is, the other guy pops up and leads the way for a game or two. West — who went without a touch a week ago — had 18 carries and three targets Sunday, compared to five touches for Crowell. We’ll need some clarity out of the duo before we can guess at their respective values at all for next season.
Matt Asiata, MIN (91 rushing yards, 17 receiving yards, 10 fantasy points)
I guess I owe Asiata a little apology. I spent the early chunk of the season going on and on about how he isn’t an NFL-caliber running back. But since Jerick McKinnon was lost for the year and the job became Asiata’s once and for all, he’s produced really well — 55 fantasy points in five games, including 44 in his last three. A big part of that is his usage — with no one else really available to carry the ball for Minnesota, it’s quantity-over-quality — but whatever it is, Asiata’s had a productive season. The Vikings will almost certainly get a new running back for 2015 (at the least, McKinnon will be back), which will hamstring Asiata’s value.
Sleeper wide receivers in Week 17
Rueben Randle, NYG (158 receiving yards, 15 fantasy points)
I really don’t know what to make of Randle now. It had been an awful season for him, despite a load of targets, because he wasn’t catching the ball. But the last two weeks, he’s shown flashes of what made him interesting a year ago, putting up 34 fantasy points combined in Weeks 16 and 17. Unfortunately for Randle, he’s unquestionably behind Odell Beckham Jr. in the New York pecking order, and Victor Cruz returns next season. Is he trade bait? A No. 3 receiver? Not as good as he’s looked lately? No bleedin’ clue.
Reggie Wayne, IND (91 receiving yards, 9 fantasy points)
At a glance, this season-ender for Wayne looks invigorating. The veteran had six fantasy points combined in the five weeks before Sunday, but 91 yards? Heck, that’s respectable. Only, 80 of those 91 yards came on a single play — Wayne had only two catches — and that one play cost Wayne the rest of the game when he came up lame on what could have been an even longer play. The veteran is headed toward free agency after a bad season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he hangs it up.
Sleeper tight end in Week 17
Jeff Cumberland, NYJ (23 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, 8 fantasy points)
Cumberland finished 2014 on a decent note, with touchdowns in back-to-back games to end the season. Rookie Jace Amaro never really popped on the season, and Zach Sudfeld doesn’t look like he’ll become anything special, so Cumberland was the scorer down the stretch. Still, those two games came on the heels of a full season with 181 yards and a single score; don’t let the last two weeks cover over a pitiful first 15.