Whether you are competing for a championship, 3rd Place, or some sort of incentive in your league’s consolation bracket this week, I applaud you (and thank you!) for reading fantasy football articles all the way through Week 16. I do not feel it is hyperbole to say that this has been the most unsteady and abnormal season I have ever played in, so the fact that your team is still standing is an accomplishment itself. The most successful fantasy managers this season were those who were able to stay fluid with their lineups/ roster moves, stock up on depth, and receive a dash of injury luck. Although those characteristics are typical of prosperous teams most years, the intensity level was cranked up to “11” since COVID affected everything from schedules/ bye weeks to sudden and unexpected player absences late in the week. Even when I was just a fresh-faced fantasy football rookie drafting Steve Slaton (!) in the first round in 2009, I never would have expected a season as challenging as this one.
Now that I am done reminiscing about trivial matters like Steve Slaton’s sophomore season, it is time to discuss your championship week matchup. Unless you play in a dynasty or keeper league, Week 16 will be the last ride for your battle-tested 2020 fantasy squad. However, just because it is your last game does not mean you shouldn’t still do a little roster maintenance. The first priority, as usual, is ensuring that you have the strongest lineup possible and contingency plans for any players who are questionable heading into their game. The second priority is optional, though highly encouraged, and that is the chess move fantasy players call “playing defense.” It is the process of reviewing your opponent’s roster to identify any positional weaknesses, comparing that to the list of available players at that position, then putting those high-upside available players on your team so that your opponent cannot use them against you. There is nothing unethical or cheap about it; you made it to the championship because you are an awesome fantasy manager, and this strategy can be part of your winning formula. Feel free to release any players you would label a “handcuff” or “stash” because they will not do you any good in redraft leagues.
Thank you all so much for sticking with me this season. Whether you are a fantasy football rookie or “OG” fantasy veteran who has been around long enough to remember Steve Slaton’s electric rookie season, I genuinely hope that I have been able to help your team in some way this year. Let’s go get this championship!
* Players marked with an asterisk below can also be found in the priority waiver wire adds article referenced at the end. If anyone featured below is at risk of not playing or is relegated to a bench role late in the week, I will do my best to keep you all updated on Twitter (@BrandonMillerFB). All players below are under 65%-rostered as of 12/23/20.
Jeff Wilson Jr. (RB, San Francisco 49ers)
Wilson finds himself right back atop the RB streamer list after stepping up for San Francisco in Week 15. Even though Raheem Mostert was ultimately able to play on Sunday to split touches with Wilson, the latter still rushed 16 times for 60 yards and a score. Both Mostert and Wilson left the game at various points with ankle injuries, but Wilson is the more optimistic of the two heading into Week 16 (Mostert was sent to IR with a high-ankle sprain). Make sure to monitor his status heading into championship week, but Wilson will range from Flex to RB2 status if he is active. He is expected to receive 15+ touches alongside his role getting high-value carries near the endzone.
*Tony Pollard (RB, Dallas Cowboys)
Although Pollard has some standalone value as an RB3/RB4 if he ends up sharing backfield duties with Ezekiel Elliott, he would rise to the heights of an RB2/Flex if Zeke is reported to either be limited or out. Other top RB streamers like Wilson (above) or Darrell Henderson Jr (likely to get the majority of carries for the Rams) would be safer adds up front, but I feel Pollard has the highest upside among all streamers if he is named the starter. Last week, Pollard came through for fantasy managers with 12 carries for 69 yards and six catches on nine targets for 63 yards, along with two rushing scores. The potential upside he brings could win you a championship (if named the starter), making him a priority add if for no other reason than to prevent your opponent from reaping the rewards.
Other names to consider (in order): Darrell Henderson Jr, Salvon Ahmed (if no Myles Gaskin), Damien Harris (55%-rostered ESPN), Ito Smith, Gus Edwards, Lynn Bowden Jr., Latavius Murray (low-Flex/ RB4), Giovani Bernard, Benny Snell Jr (if no James Conner), Phillip Lindsay (monitor status and Melvin Gordon status), Zack Moss, James White, Frank Gore.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR, New Orleans Saints)
Sanders’ 76 receiving yards in Week 15 was his highest since Week 5; a respectable total considering it was Drew Brees’ first week back as he shook off some rust. With Michael Thomas headed to the IR for the next three-plus weeks, Sanders will slot in as the Saints’ top pass-catcher against an exploitable Vikings defense on Friday. I see him as a fairly safe Flex play with WR2 upside in PPR leagues if he nears double-digit targets.
*Russell Gage (WR, Atlanta Falcons)
While Russell Gage has not proven to be the most consistent fantasy contributor this season (even without Julio Jones active for the Falcons), he is certainly turning it up recently. He has seven-plus targets in four of the last five games and touchdowns in two of the last three, so it would not be surprising to see him approach double-digit targets in a game the Falcons will need to pass a lot as they aim to keep up with the Chiefs. If Julio is active, I would bump Gage down to the WR4/WR3 tier, but if it is just him and Calvin Ridley, I think you could do worse than using Gage as a Flex in PPR leagues.
Other names to consider (in order): Curtis Samuel (60%-rostered Yahoo, #1 priority if available), Nelson Agholor, Keke Coutee, Tim Patrick, Michael Gallup, Rashard Higgins, John Brown (monitor status), Allen Lazard, Mike Williams, Michael Pittman Jr., Sterling Shepard,. Jerry Jeudy, Chad Hansen, Darius Slayton, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Christian Kirk, Gabriel Davis, Jakobi Meyers, Darnell Mooney, KJ Hamler, Breshad Perriman, Sammy Watkins, Jalen Reagor, Keelan Cole Sr.
Austin Hooper (TE, Cleveland Browns)
There is a decent chance that Hooper is available as a streamer after going through a rough patch in the middle of his season due to a stretch where the Browns played several games in poor weather conditions. He is also recovering from an appendectomy and neck injury in recent weeks, which has further limited his activity in a string of disappointing performances. With the Browns offense now firing on all cylinders (notably Baker Mayfield and the passing game), Hooper was able to turn in his best performance since Week 6 (caught five of six targets for 41 yards and a touchdown in Week 15). Now that our golden goose Logan Thomas is just past the roster-percentage threshold for this article, Hooper is the top TE streamer for championship week.
Other names to consider (in order): Jordan Reed, Dalton Schultz, Cole Kmet, Jonnu Smith, Hayden Hurst, Jared Cook, Irv Smith Jr, Tyler Higbee, Zach Ertz, Jordan Akins.
Accountability is everything, so here’s a quick look back at last week’s recommendations
Jeff Wilson Jr. (RB, San Francisco 49ers): Wilson finds himself as the top RB streamer featured for the second-straight week. He is a back-end RB2 for Week 16.
Lynn Bowden Jr. (RB/WR, Miami Dolphins): With Miami’s top three pass-catchers out of the lineup, Bowden collected six of seven targets for 37 yards along with one rush for nine yards. It was a solid floor in PPR leagues, so he amounted to someone who was not great but still held steady. I called a Twitter audible to Tony Pollard Sunday morning, who had an outstanding spot-start in place of Ezekiel Elliott.
Nelson Agholor (WR, Las Vegas Raiders): While I fully understand that excuses and “almosts” do not award fantasy points, Agholor had an okay game (caught four of eight targets for 49 yards) that could have been much better. I will not blame it on Derek Carr (groin) leaving early, because backup Marcus Mariota looked plenty capable under center. Still, the eight targets are encouraging in a game where Agholor dislocated his pinkie and had a couple near-misses that would have taken his stat line to the next level. I think he is fine to roll out for Week 16 championships as a WR3/ Flex with boosted value in PPR leagues.
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, Indianapolis Colts): This one was a flat-out bummer. Although a non-T.Y. Hilton Colts WR stepped up to have a solid day as expected, it was Zach Pascal, the guy nobody started, who stepped up for Indianapolis (five catches for 79 yards and two TDs). Meanwhile, Pittman finished with just two catches on three targets for 19 yards. He is firmly outside the circle of trust for championship week.
Logan Thomas (TE, Washington Football Team): The featured TE in this article for two-straight weeks had his best game of the season, hauling in a tremendous 13 catches on 15 targets for 101 yards and a score. Unless you roster an elite option at TE, there is no question Thomas should be in your lineup once again in Week 16.
Make sure to check out Myles Nelson’s priority waiver wire adds article every Tuesday for more insights on who you should be submitting claims for heading into each Wednesday. Good luck in Week 16!
(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)