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Fantasy football 2023 Week 13 sleepers: Feeling DangeRuss?

Way back in August when you were drafting your fantasy teams, you may or may not have noticed that six teams were on a bye in Week 13. Even if you did, how seriously did you consider the implications? Probably not too seriously. After all, Week 13 was a lifetime away. Who needs to worry about that? It's a mild annoyance but won't be a problem. I'll have a playoff spot wrapped up by then, anyway.

Life comes at you fast. Week 13 is here, and you don't have a playoff spot locked up yet. You might even be on the playoff bubble. Now those six teams taking the week off truly create a bye-pocalypse. This week, it's not just about fielding a full lineup, it's about winning. The sleepers column understands. And it's here to help. These are the weeks that truly matter. Here are some names to lead you through them.


Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos DEN · QB

When it came to the Broncos this year, I truly had no clue what to make of them. They couldn’t be as bad as they were last year, right? After all, things improved after Nathaniel Hackett was let go. But was Russell Wilson washed? Everything else in the offense hinged on the answer to that question. Turns out, Russ isn’t totally washed. He might just be dry-cleaned. After a good start to the season, Wilson did level off a bit. But over the past month he’s played clean, if not spectacular, football.  

He'll have to be a little closer to spectacular if the Broncos want to keep their winning streak going. The Texans can score points and should move the ball, even against a much-improved Denver defense. The upside is that Houston has allowed more than 340 passing yards in two of its last four games. If the Broncos get into a higher-scoring game against the Texans, it only increases Russ’ chances to throw the ball. He’s got high-end QB2 potential in Week 13.

Deep sleeper ...

Gardner Minshew
Indianapolis Colts IND · QB

The floor is low and the ceiling … well, it’s also low. But there are six teams on a bye, including a pair of top 10 quarterbacks. That opens the door for us to think a little more creatively with our sleeper options. Hello Gardner Minshew! Minshew has been a reasonably good steward of the offense in place of Anthony Richardson, even if the fantasy numbers haven’t been great. 

This week offers an opportunity for Minshew. When the Colts and Titans faced off in Week 5, the journeyman took over for an injured Richardson and went 11-of-14 for 155 yards. It was also the game that unleased Josh Downs. With Michael Pittman and Downs now locked in as Indy’s top two targets, Minshew could have one of his better days against one of the NFL’s more lackluster pass defenses. Don’t go crazy with your expectations, but Minshew is a good option for two-QB formats.

Running backs

Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT · RB

This feels like chasing the points after last week’s 99-yard rushing performance. Maybe it is. But it’s also following the trends. Najee Harris has continued to be Pittsburgh’s leader in rushing attempts -- even with Jaylen Warren taking over the “starting” job. We can debate all day about who is the more talented of the two running backs, but it appears that a change of offensive play-callers hasn’t changed the distribution of labor -- which is why Harris gets the edge over Warren this week.

The Cardinals have been generally bad against fantasy running backs this year, allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to the position. They have been particularly bad in the ground game. The Redbirds have surrendered the second-most rushing yards and second-most rushing scores to running backs this year. With Harris getting the edge in carries overall and the majority of the (admittedly sparse) work inside the 5-yard line, he’s the Steelers’ back with RB1 upside in Week 13.

Rhamondre Stevenson
New England Patriots NE · RB

No matter who’s been at quarterback, New England has been inept. Rhamondre Stevenson has been the most consistent option in that inept offense. By nature of playing in such a punchless attack, Stevenson’s ceiling has been lower. Yet, to his credit, he’s still been a top-20 PPR back this season. Recently, Bill O’Brien seems to have realized that ‘Mondre is the best chance for the Pats to move the ball. As such, the back has logged over 100 scrimmage yards in three straight games and topped 20 fantasy points in two of them. 

That usage -- and the production -- should continue this week. The Chargers’ run defense has faltered continuously this season. The pass defense hasn’t been much better. Regardless of whether Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe (or someone else) is playing quarterback, Stevenson will be the focal point of the game plan against a defense that’s vulnerable to running backs. With a number of quality RBs on bye, Stevenson could be a low-end RB1 this week.

Deep Sleeper ...

Rico Dowdle
Dallas Cowboys DAL · RB

As Tony Pollard has gotten hotter, Dowdle’s role has dwindled. Last week, he had just three carries. It was a sharp drop from Weeks 10 and 11, when he had a combined 20 totes, plus two targets. Even with fewer opportunities in Week 12, Dowdle still found the end zone and nearly scored 10 fantasy points.  

Overall, Dowdle has been efficient with his opportunities, averaging 4.6 yards per touch with three scores this year. This week, he and the Cowboys take aim at the Seahawks' porous run defense. It’s been a soft unit against the run all year and was just brutalized on Thanksgiving night by Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers run game. Pollard will lead the way again in the Dallas ground assault, but Dowdle should see enough quality chances to be a flex option in deep leagues.

Wide receivers

Deebo Samuel
San Francisco 49ers SF · WR

Two things can simultaneously be true: Deebo Samuel is a very good player for the San Francisco 49ers, and Deebo Samuel isn't a great player for fantasy football managers. He's had more games with fewer than 12 points than he's had games with more than 20 points. But anyone who's watched the Niners can attest to what he means to the offense. Look no further than Brock Purdy's midseason slump. Deebo's absence wasn't the entire reason. But it certainly didn't help matters. 

This week, Deebo has a chance to smite two birds with one stone. Or maybe just smite one bird a second time. After calling James Bradberry “trash” this offseason, Samuel can back it up against a still-suspect secondary. Deebo also has the chance to post 20-plus fantasy points in consecutive weeks for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3. Deebo should get strong WR2 consideration in all formats.

Elijah Moore
Cleveland Browns CLE · WR
Los Angeles Rams
2023 · 5-6-0

This is not the first time Elijah Moore has made it into this space. At this point, it might be a bit of wishcasting. After Moore left New York for Cleveland, we hoped he would blossom into the type of playmaker we envisioned when he was drafted. No such luck. While his target share has remained steady regardless of the quarterback, he’s topped out at 60 receiving yards in a game (Week 11) with just one touchdown on the year. 

Why should it be any different this time? Well, there’s a new quarterback with Dorian Thompson-Robinson in concussion protocol. At the time I’m writing this, we don’t know whether P.J. Walker or Joe Flacco will get the start. But either way, it’ll be a quarterback with whom Moore has had recent success. More than half of his catches in 2023 have come with Walker on the field. More than one-third of Moore’s 2022 receptions with the Jets were with Flacco at the helm. Add that to a Rams defense that has allowed four receivers to finish in the top 35 in the past two weeks. The ceiling won’t be high for Moore this week, but a WR3 finish isn’t out of the question.

Deep sleeper ...

Jonathan Mingo
Carolina Panthers CAR · WR

Suggesting a Panthers wide receiver? Yep, I’m just as surprised as you. Carolina is battling with New England for the title of “league’s least productive receiver corps.” The Patriots probably win simply because Adam Thielen’s surprising success is messing it up for the Panthers. So maybe Carolina actually has two wins this year. 

As for Jonathan Mingo, the rookie hasn’t done much to garner fantasy attention this season. He’s second on the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards … but is a distant second to Thielen in every one of those categories. However, he had one of his better games last week. His route participation has fluctuated -- though never dropping significantly -- but his target share has been above 20 percent for three consecutive weeks. On Sunday, he gets another pass funnel defense in the Buccaneers. Who knows exactly what the Panthers' passing game will look like after Frank Reich's departure, but with six teams on a bye, Mingo has deep league value as a flex option.

Tight ends

Tommy Tremble
Carolina Panthers CAR · TE

There’s been a lot of change in Carolina this week. Head coach Frank Reich and a pair of assistant coaches were let go. Control of the offense reverts to the once and future play-caller, Thomas Brown. Meanwhile, the Panthers have lost four in a row with an attack that ranks among the worst in the NFL. But there is a silver lining … of sorts. 

Carolina has its first meeting with division-rival Tampa Bay in Week 13. The Bucs have been a disappointing pass defense this season, ranking 30th in the league. They’ve been particularly poor against tight ends. Over the past month, Tampa has given up the second-most receptions and receiving yards to the position. Tommy Tremble has generally contributed little to Carolina’s meager passing game, but he is behind only Adam Thielen in the touchdown department. An end zone trip is all a tight end streamer needs for a successful week. In that regard, Tremble has TE2 upside. 

Deep Sleeper ...

Chigoziem Okonkwo
Tennessee Titans TEN · TE

Entering the season, many fantasy analysts -- including yours truly -- liked Okonkwo to be a tight end sleeper. That hasn’t come close to fruition. Even with our diminished expectations for the Titans offense, we’ve still been disappointed. Tennessee hasn’t had much passing volume and entered Week 12 with the fewest pass attempts of any team in the league. It has compounded the problem by having one of the NFL’s lowest completion percentages. 

But there is a silver lining for Okonkwo. He had one of his better games of the season in Week 12. His 45 receiving yards were a season high. He has also had a higher targets per route run percentage since Week 8. This week, Okonkwo and the Titans are hosting a Colts defense that has been very forgiving against tight ends this year. Understand that the ceiling isn’t very high, but this could be a week Okonkwo lands as a high-end TE2.


Last week, many wondered “how much worse can the Jets offense be with Tim Boyle at quarterback?” The answer is: much worse. Things like 99-yard pick sixes on Hail Marys are (hilarious) flukes that aren’t likely to be duplicated. The rest of it -- stagnant offense, sacks, turnovers -- are very much in play with Boyle under center. 

We’ve been targeting the Jets offense with streaming D/STs ever since Aaron Rodgers went down. That effort will only intensify for the rest of the season. Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t just a pity pick for the Falcons. Atlanta made life tough on the Saints last week with a lot of quarterback pressures and a couple of takeaways. Don’t be surprised if there’s more of the same this week.

We don’t know who the Patriots’ starting quarterback is going to be. From the looks of it, neither do they. Mac Jones started Week 12 and made it all the way to halftime, when he was replaced by Bailey Zappe. Though if past is prologue, Bill Belichick doesn’t have much faith in Zappe either. One thing we know for certain is that New England’s offense is bad either way. 

That’s good news for anyone streaming defenses. The Pats can’t move the ball, they can’t score points and their quarterbacks have struggled with turnovers. The Chargers have had their share of issues defensively, but this is a chance for them to get right. If Los Angeles can score points and make New England (even more) one-dimensional, it will give its defense an even bigger advantage. 

Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for and a man who has put on some extra pounds in the last few weeks. He should probably hide the old Halloween candy. Send him your snacking faux pas or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.

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