Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 12: Josh Downs, Zach Charbonnet, and Jayden Reed Are Quality Starting Options

There are still plenty of fantasy football sleepers you can confidently put in your starting lineup for Week 12 -- don't let their points sit on your bench!

The fantasy football playoffs are right around the corner, but with league trade deadlines either quickly approaching or already passed, managers dealing with injuries heading into Week 12 may need some off-the-radar starting options to fill out their fantasy lineup.

Well, with all 32 teams in action this week, let’s take a closer look at some quality starting options outside of the obvious names heading into Thanksgiving week.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Sleepers | Quarterbacks

Gardner Minshew | Indianapolis Colts vs. TB

The Indianapolis Colts’ passing game has tapered off just a bit over the last three contests after back-to-back 300+ yard performances. Well, one way to cure an ailing passing game in 2023 is to play a Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary that is giving up an average of 270 passing yards per game.

The Colts love to run the football with RB Jonathan Taylor but could find trouble dominating the line of scrimmage against a stingy Tampa Bay rush defense.

Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs are both a bad matchup for the Buccaneers’ banged-up secondary — which may be without starting cornerback Jamel Dean, who picked up a foot/ankle injury against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday — and has given up over 300 yards through the air to three of their last four opponents. Minshew is a fringe top-15 play in Week 12.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Sleepers | Running Backs

Kareem Hunt | Cleveland Browns @ DEN

Despite being the far less explosive option in the Cleveland Browns’ backfield, Kareem Hunt has still managed to see 10+ carries in six straight games in an offense that clearly wants to run the football and play defense with a rookie quarterback under center.

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The Denver Broncos defense has certainly played much better since getting off to a historically rough start this season — even managing to give elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen some issues over the last month — but they have still been getting gashed against opposing rushing attacks.

They have allowed over 170 yards rushing in each of their last two games, which should give Hunt a decent fantasy floor in Week 12.

Zach Charbonnet | Seattle Seahawks vs. SF

Some fantasy football managers have stashed Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Zach Charbonnet away on their fantasy bench with the potential for RB1 upside if an injury were to happen to Kenneth Walker.

Well, fantasy managers got their first glimpse into Charbonnet’s capabilities as a leading back when Walker suffered an oblique injury on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

Sure, 69 total yards on 21 total touches weren’t exactly earth-shattering, but he managed to produce 12.9 fantasy points in PPR formats by catching all six targets, which speaks to his three-down skill set.

The Seahawks had no reservations whatsoever about giving him 15 carries when Walker went down, and he should be considered an RB2 option this week, even against a tough San Francisco 49ers defense, if Walker is unavailable.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Sleepers | Wide Receivers

Jayden Reed | Green Bay Packers @ DET

Green Bay Packers rookie WR Jayden continues to make the most of his modest amount of opportunities in 2023. He generated 92 total yards — 46 receiving and 46 rushing — and a score against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Oddly enough, Reed actually led the team in rushing after RB Aaron Jones went down with a knee injury, which could give Reed a slight bump in fantasy value with a couple of extra touches a week in the form of carries should the Packers be without Jones for an extended period of time for the remainder of the season.

Reed may not possess an elite fantasy ceiling, but his consistent and versatile role in this Packers offense makes him a viable Flex option against the Detroit Lions in Week 12.

Josh Downs | Indianapolis Colts vs. TB

After bursting onto the fantasy scene with an eye-opening five receptions for 125 yards and a score against the stingy Browns defense back in Week 7, Indianapolis Colts WR Josh Downs has caught just three passes for 50 yards combined over the last two games.

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What has been even more concerning is his significant drop in offensive snaps and target share during that span. He’s failed to see more than 25% of the offensive snaps over the last two games, which has led to him seeing just four targets. Now, Downs was dealing with a knee injury, which certainly could’ve played a major role in his significant drop of involvement in the Colts passing game.

Well, his dynamic, big-play capabilities from the slot have been an Achilles heel for a Bucs defense that is allowing an average of 33.4 fantasy points per game against WRs this season. Expect a bounce-back performance from a healthier Downs in Week 12.

Demario Douglas | New England Patriots @ NYG

The New England Patriots passing offense has mostly featured a forgettable cast of fantasy characters this season, but I would caution fantasy managers not to overlook Pats rookie WR Demario Douglas in deeper PPR leagues.

The injury to WR Kendrick Bourne has opened the door for the rookie wideout to see an expanded role in the Patriots’ passing attack over the last month of the season, which peaked with a career day from Douglas against the Colts in Week 10 with six receptions for 84 yards on eight targets.

His performance against Indy wasn’t his only productive outing over the last three games. He has caught a minimum of five passes in three straight games. Sure, the yardage totals haven’t been gaudy, but his role in this offense has clearly expanded.

He appears to be the most reliable fantasy option from this passing offense moving forward. Expect Douglas to give you a reliable fantasy floor in PPR formats and could finish inside the top 20 at the position if he manages to find the end zone against the New York Giants in Week 12.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Sleepers | Tight Ends

Michael Mayer | Las Vegas Raiders vs. KC

The Las Vegas Raiders passing game is certainly a work in progress, with rookie QB Aidan O’Connell throwing four interceptions over the last two games, but he seems to have developed a quick chemistry with another rookie in this offense.

Michael Mayer has seen five targets in two consecutive outings, which has seen him score at least eight fantasy points in PPR formats in two straight contests. If you are desperate need of TE in Week 12, Mayer may be worth a look if the Raiders find themselves throwing the ball more than 40 again when they face off against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday.

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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