Week 12 of the NFL season is as good of a week as any to find a fantasy sleeper who can turn into a fantasy star.
Now that trading deadlines have passed in most fantasy leagues, the only ways owners can improve their lineups are by picking up players available on the waiver wire; or by sticking the bottom-of-the-barrel boys on their rosters in their lineups because these players might have increased roles and/or are facing subpar defenses.
So here are four fantasy sleepers that will turn into fantasy stars this week:
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills (WR)
To say Johnson has had a disappointing season is akin to saying "Cloud Atlas" is a confusing movie.
Johnson, coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard years and ranked by many fantasy experts as a top-20 wide receiver entering the season, has not recorded a 100-yard game yet and only has one touchdown over his last seven contests.
Good news for Johnson owners, though! Buffalo plays at Indianapolis this weekend, and that is destined to be a high-scoring shootout considering both teams have below-average pass defenses that belong in the Big 12 conference.
I think Indianapolis will have a second-half lead, and Buffalo will be throwing often in the third and fourth quarters. I also think that Johnson will find openings throughout Indy’s suspect secondary. Now is the time for Johnson to finally have his first 100-yard game.
Jalen Parmele, Jacksonville Jaguars (RB)
Not be confused with former Miami Dolphins jack-of-all-trades Bernie Parmalee, Parmele has gone from an unknown third-string back to one of the most popular pickups in fantasy football in less than a week’s time.
Parmele came out of fantasy Siberia to carry the ball 24 times for 80 yards against the Houston Texans in last Sunday’s slobberknocker. The little-known running back is a stocky dude who can run between the tackles and has underrated pass-catching ability.
Rashad Jennings blew his chance to be a fantasy savior once Maurice Jones-Drew went down with an injury by running like he was wearing lead-lined sneakers. Averaging less than three yards per carry only cuts it if you're Chris Johnson in September. Now Parmele gets to fill MJD’s shoes, at least for this week.
Parmele is matched up against a Tennessee Titans defense that is ranked 28th against the run and has allowed backs to plow through them all season long. There is no reason to think Tennessee will pick this week to turn into a Buddy Ryan defense from the 1980s.
While the rest of the owners in your league climb over each other like crazed Black Friday shoppers to get their hands on Denver’s Ronnie Hillman and Philadelphia’s Bryce Brown, take a chance on Parmele and do not be surprised if he gets 100 total yards and a TD.
Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers (WR)
The Robert Meachem Era is already over in San Diego. The Chargers have realized why the New Orleans Saints did not break out the gumbo and beads for Meachem to convince him to stay with Drew Brees and company. With 14 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns in over half a season, Meachem is one of fantasy football’s turkeys of the year.
Alexander fits the body type the Chargers have always preferred for their wideouts. He is 6'5" and has an NBA body as much as he has an NFL body. San Diego has never been into the Wes Welker slot receiver types. The Chargers want their receivers to box out, overpower and outleap defensive backs for passes around the end zone.
Now that Alexander is starting in place of Meachem, quarterback Philip Rivers must think he has a Vincent Jackson clone on his hands. Alexander has 12 receptions for 230 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games and has quickly overtaken Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates as San Diego’s most dangerous receiver.
Look for Alexander to have a post-Thanksgiving feast against a Baltimore Ravens secondary that is missing a couple of cornerbacks. He should be able to keep his fantasy roll going and have 90 yards and a touchdown as long as Rivers throws more balls to him than Ed Reed.
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs (TE)
Kansas City is out of options. The Chiefs have no quarterbacks—fans clamored for Brady Quinn, which is like heavy metal fans clamoring for Trixter—and now they are running low on receivers. Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin may or may not play this Sunday, and multimillionaire Steve Breaston has seven receptions on the season—so only seven more than yours truly.
This basically leaves Dexter McCluster and Moeaki as the only viable targets for Quinn this Sunday versus the Denver Broncos. After not having a 40-yard game over the first six weeks, Moeaki has quietly started posting decent numbers. He has had at least 57 receiving yards in three of his past four outings, including 73 yards against Cincinnati last week.
Moeaki is not Shannon Sharpe or Kellen Winslow in their primes, but he is a steady, safe pass catcher over the middle. This is perfect for Quinn since the QB has serious problems completing passes over 15 yards and is kind of the poor man’s Jason Campbell when it comes to preferring short throws over deep throws.
I would pencil Moeaki in for six catches and 60 yards this week, so if you have tight end troubles, he is someone to sign up. And, who knows, maybe Moeaki finds the end zone for the first time in 2012. If Chaz Schilens can score, so can Moeaki.
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