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Fantasy Injury Updates: With Broncos QBs out, WR Kendall Hinton and RB Royce Freeman loom as potential Week 12 sleepers

Even by 2020 standards, this is a good one. On Saturday night, the NFL ruled all of the Broncos quarterbacks — Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles — ineligible after it was determined they were in close contact with Jeff Driskel, who had tested positive for COVID, while not wearing masks. Running back Royce Freeman had been tabbed as the “emergency QB,” but reports soon surfaced that former Vanderbilt quarterback and current Denver practice-squad WR Kendall Hinton would likely handle the most snaps in Week 12 against the Saints. Either way, this has created a unique situation for fantasy football owners, as Hinton and Freeman could be intriguing sleepers while players such as WR Jerry Jeudy and TE Noah Fant become easy “sit ’em” calls.

Below, we’ll break down all the fantasy fallout from this situation. For updates on injured RBs Austin Ekeler, Raheem Mostert, Giovani Bernard, and more, click here; for the latest on banged-up pass-catchers Julio Jones, Adam Thielen, Hayden Hurst, Jerry Jeudy, and more, click here; for news on Zach Ertz, go here; for the Week 12 weather forecast, click here. For all the latest fantasy updates, follow us on Twitter @SN_Fantasy.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Should you start Kendall Hinton in fantasy this week?

Obviously, Hinton is a complete wild card. The 23-year-old practice-squad WR has no NFL stats to his credit, but in four years as quarterback at Wake Forest (22 games), he completed 53 percent of his passes for 1,504 yards, eight TDs, and seven INTs. He also ran for 872 yards on 186 attempts (4.7 yards per carry) in that span, though keep in mind sacks count toward a player’s rushing stats in college. During the final season of his five-year career (he had a medical redshirt season), he shined as a receiver, catching 73 passes for 1,001 yards, so clearly he has good mobility. 

It’s unclear just how much Hinton will play at QB, though NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday night that Hinton will “play plenty” Of course, he might not throw many passes, but at least he’ll be taking the snaps. Obviously, Denver will have to significantly streamline its playbook, so Hinton likely won’t be called on to throw downfield much, if at all. However, he has upside as a wildcat QB runner, and if he can post, say, 40 yards on the ground and even just 75 yards through the air, that’s a seven-point fantasy day, which isn’t horrible for a WR3 in standard leagues (though not so much in PPR formats).

If Hinton can add even one touchdown to that mix, he’s easily worth a WR3 spot, and if he has a better rushing or passing day than we expect, then he would easily pay off as a starting WR or flex. However, there’s also the chance he throws an INT or loses a fumble, so he’s not exactly a “high-floor” guy, which is how we normally think of running QBs, especially if they’re eligible at another position.

Ultimately, Hinton doesn’t have a high ceiling unless he’s somehow able to score multiple touchdowns. That seems unlikely, but it’s not as unlikely as Hinton starting a game as an NFL quarterback, so who knows what to expect? It’s probably best to leave him on your bench or waiver wire, but if your roster has been decimated by injuries, then you could do worse than having a quasi-QB starting for you as a WR3 or flex in a deep league.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Is Royce Freeman a fantasy sleeper in Week 12?

Freeman has taken wildcat snaps in the past for the Broncos, but he’s yet to throw a pass in the NFL. Even with this unique situation, that’s unlikely to change, but if Denver decides to roll with Freeman as the nominal QB more than Hinton, than the third-string RB would have some potential flex value. 

It’s likely Freeman would be facing some stacked fronts, so it’s tough to imagine him gaining a ton of yards, but volume is volume, and he would likely finish the day with 10-plus carries. However, because reports seem to indicate that Hinton will play more, Freeman isn’t worth considering unless news out of Denver changes.

WEEK 12 FANTASY: Sleepers Busts Start ’em, sit ’em

Start or Sit: Broncos offensive players

Regardless of who Denver plays at QB, its pass-catchers can’t be trusted. That includes Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant, who likely won’t see many passes — at least, many accurate passes — thrown their way all day.  It’s entirely possible New Orleans jumps out to a huge lead and plays soft defense in the fourth quarter, leading to some garbage points for these receivers, but fantasy owners can’t count on that. Jeudy, Fant, Tim Patrick, and KJ Hamler are all best left on fantasy benches.

Running backs  Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay should see more carries, but given the stacked fronts they’re sure to face, the extra volume will only help so much. They also are less likely to score, giving them even lower ceilings than before. You can use both as flex backs, at least in standard leagues, but both are risky. The same is true for kicker Brandon McManus, who likely won’t get many scoring chances.

New Orleans’ D/ST was already a great play this week, though this news might actually lower their ceiling for turnovers and sacks. Still, New Orleans is a must-start in a game where Denver will struggle to score double-digits.

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