Sleepers are a big part of why a select few owners in each league are now in the postseason.
It is one thing to draft well. It is another to be smooth at the waiver wire.
Heck, it is simple to ride superstars. But to properly identify sleepers beforehand and reap the benefits of extensive research? Straight skill.
This skill will come into play more than ever now that fantasy playoffs are here. Every team has a loaded lineup, so an ability to differentiate between sleepers and duds will decide most matchups.
Below, we have removed the legwork involved. Sleepers sure to produce are bountiful in Week 14.
Note: All point totals for ESPN standard-scoring leagues. Points against stats from ESPN.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. MIN)
It has been next to impossible to recommend Joe Flacco all year, hence why he is only owned in 53.4 percent of leagues. The Baltimore Ravens signal-caller has been a complete dud behind a woeful line combined with his lack of targets.
While Flacco has been unreliable, he will easily be a top performer at his position in Week 14.
The Minnesota defense goes out of its way to make any and all comers look like an All-Pro. The defense gives up the most points to the position with an average of 20.4 per game. It has allowed six quarterbacks to score 20 or more this season, and three of its last four games have resulted in 22 or more points for opposing passers.
While it goes against everything owners have read all season, Flacco needs to be in lineups Sunday.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions (at PHI)
Joique Bell has emerged in recent weeks as a reliable fantasy option based on the defense he encounters.
Most reliable sleeper?
Mired in a pass-happy attack, Bell has not seen reliable touches all season. But in recent weeks, that has changed. Bell has nine or more carries in three of his last four games. The result has been 14 or more points in two of his last three.
This bodes well for Bell as he and the Lions travel to Philadelphia. Bell received 19 carries last week—his highest total by far since Week 3—against a weak Green Bay defense and notched 94 yards and a touchdown.
Philadelphia has a similarly weak defense that has allowed opposing rushers to tally 12 or more points in three of the last four games, with highs of 25 and 32. Bell will have wide-open running lanes as the Eagles scramble to stop the pass. He is a quality start in all formats.
Harry Douglas, WR, Atlanta Falcons (at GB)
Harry Douglas is an absolute PPR stud.
Douglas is a safe bet in all formats this weekend. The Louisville product has six catches or more in his past four games. This can even be stretched to say five of his last six.
Seven or more points in his last three is not a bad number for Douglas, but it is one sure to rise against a miserable Green Bay defense. The Packers allow an average of 24.3 points to the position and have allowed 27 or more in four of their last five games.
Roddy White is back to football relevancy thanks to his 10 catches for 143 yards last week. In other words, Green Bay will have fewer resources to throw in Douglas’ direction. He is primed for a major day.
Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams (at ARI)
As Rotoworld’s Adam Levitan illustrates, St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook has had a down year after his Week 1 explosion against Arizona:
In Week 1, Jared Cook put 7/141/2 on ARZ. Since then, he’s topped 50 yards just once and has two TDs. ARZ getting ravaged by TEs all year.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) December 2, 2013
Well, Arizona is on the menu once more. While Cook’s outburst was not indicative of how well he would play all season, it was telling as to just how horrible the Cardinals are at defending the position.
The Cardinals give up the most points to the position at an average of 13.7 per game and have allowed 11 or more in three straight weeks.
If Cook is going to become relevant again, it will come this weekend against a familiar foe. He must be in all lineups.