Fantasy News & Analysis

Early waiver wire targets and biggest risers/fallers in fantasy football following NFL Week 16

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) hands the ball to Jacksonville running back Dare Ogunbowale (33) in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford. Nyj Vs Jax

Only Monday Night Football remains on the 2021 NFL Week 16 slate, so many fantasy football managers will now be turning their gaze to Week 17 in their attempt to take home the championship.

It’s important not to overreact to individual stat lines. For example, some players scored two touchdowns this week yet probably won’t do that again this season, while other players saw the field for most of their team's snaps but couldn't quite make it to the end zone.

Remember: chase the usage, not the box score.

Here are some early waiver wire targets, as well as the biggest risers and fallers from NFL Week 16. For a more detailed 32-team view of the week, including snap counts, check out the Complete Week 16 Fantasy Football Recap.

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Waiver Wire Targets

RB Dare Ogunbowale, Jacksonville Jaguars: James Robinson quickly exited the game after suffering a serious-looking, non-contact Achilles injury, and Ogunbowale took over as the lead rusher for Jacksonville. Ogunbowale has typically served as a receiving back, but that didn’t stop Jacksonville from giving him the ball 17 times on the ground. He also scored the Jaguars' only offensive touchdown. Anytime you can get a back who is almost assured double-digit carries, he’s worth having on your roster. 

The Jags have a favorable matchup against the Patriots next week, and the combination of volume and matchup could be enough to make Ogunbowale a fantasy starter.

RB Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders was the clear lead back for Philadelphia despite not practicing all week because of a quad injury. He had a solid start to the game, recording 45 yards on seven carries, but he suffered a hand injury late in the first half that kept him out the rest of the game. Initial reports indicate that he'll be questionable next week.

All three other backs played some snaps in the first half, but Howard took on the role of top backup, ending the day with 37 yards on nine carries. Both Howard and Boston Scott are worthy waiver wire pickups in case Sanders isn’t able to play next week. Howard is the favorable option, as he should lead the team in carries and has better odds of scoring a touchdown.

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WR Isaiah McKenzie, Buffalo Bills: The Bills didn’t have Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, who were both out due to COVID-19. Neither player is vaccinated, making it more likely they miss next week’s game, too.

McKenzie took over as the team’s slot receiver and put together a dominant performance, ending the day with 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. It’s possible — even if either of the starters returns that — they continue to rely on McKenzie next week. Bills wide receivers have a very favorable matchup against the Falcons' secondary next week, so whoever is available should have a big day.

Buffalo Bills Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Isaiah McKenzie 67 43 12 1
Stefon Diggs 65 42 13 0
Emmanuel Sanders 65 45 3 0
Jake Kumerow 17 10 2 0
Isaiah Hodgins 3 0 0 0
Total 79 49 41 26

TE Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts: Jack Doyle suffered a leg injury on the second offensive snap of the Colts' Saturday night game and was quickly ruled out. This allowed Alie-Cox to play significantly more than usual, and he caught two passes for 42 yards. The Cardinals have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season, so it’s understandable that he didn’t produce at a high level despite his increased playing time.

Next week, the Colts play the Las Vegas Raiders, who has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends. He would be a great waiver option for fantasy managers who need a tight end if Doyle misses next week.

Biggest Risers

RB Michael Carter, New York Jets: The Jets had all of their running backs healthy for the first time in a long time. Carter played a season-high 74% of offensive snaps despite the other backs being available, leading to a 118-yard performance on 16 carries. Carter will be a borderline fantasy starter next week with a tough matchup against Tampa Bay. He will be a highly drafted player in 2022 redrafts.

RB Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams: WithDarrell Henderson out, Michel raised eyebrows in Week 13 by putting up the first 100-yard rushing game by a Rams back all season. Henderson returned last week, but Michel retained the starting job.

After Sunday's performance, he now has an even stronger hold of the job. Henderson saw his first carry of the game in the fourth quarter and suffered a knee injury on that play. Michel, on the other hand, gained 131 yards on 27 carries and scored a touchdown.

Michel is now a must-start player next week, while Henderson should only be held onto in case Michel lands on the COVID list. The Rams put Cam Akers on the active roster before this game, but he’s doubtful to play next week.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool you can use to help set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage, or the individual defenders.

WR Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens: The first-round rookie's playing time has been limited throughout the season anytime Sammy Watkins has been healthy. Watkins missed last week while on the COVID list, and Bateman played over 70% of offensive snaps for the first time in his career. Watkins was back this week but only played three offensive snaps. This allowed Bateman to see over 70% of offensive snaps for the second straight week, and he caught four of the five passes thrown his way for 26 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t great numbers, but the Ravens were using their third-string quarterback.

This might not mean much for 2021 but makes it more likely Watkins leaves in free agency this offseason, making Bateman a clear starter in 2022.

Baltimore Ravens Snaps Routes Run Targets
Marquise Brown 54 41 9
Rashod Bateman 48 40 5
James Proche 28 26 8
Tylan Wallace 27 21 2
Miles Boykin 3 1 0
Sammy Watkins 3 2 0
Total 59 43 37

Biggest Fallers

RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Barkley's rushing production has been rapidly declining over the past month, and he managed a disappointing 32 rushing yards on 15 carries in Week 16.

The Giants turned to Devontae Booker more often than usual and even turned to Booker for the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, giving him a clear lead in snaps for the game. It will be difficult to start the former All-Pro next week, and he will be one of the biggest high-risk, high-reward players in 2022 redraft leagues.

RB Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons: The league’s all-time greatest kick returner made his mark over the first half of the season as a receiver, scoring five receiving touchdowns in the first eight weeks with three games over 80 yards. He hasn’t been nearly as involved in the passing game over the last six games, with only five receiving yards over the last three games.

Patterson's fantasy value seemed safe, as he has consistently handled double-digit carries over the past month. However, he only managed 14 rushing yards on seven carries yesterday — he and Mike Davis saw nearly identical usage, but Davis was more effective. It’s worth considering benching Patterson in the fantasy championship round.

Atlanta Falcons Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Mike Davis 26 12 1 7
Cordarrelle Patterson 25 13 1 7
Qadree Ollison 1 0 0 0
Total 46 27 21 18

TE James O’Shaughnessy, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars tight end was a popular waiver wire target for those hurting at tight end this week. He had been the clear receiving tight end for Jacksonville in an offense that liked to throw to the position.

This week, the Jaguars changed their strategy, with Jacob Hollister splitting the receiving role with O’Shaughnessy. A lot of his lost snaps came in 12 personnel, and the team used more 12 personnel than usual, with multiple wide receivers missing. Even if they use 11 personnel more often next week, the Patriots have allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year. He can be dropped in favor of a different waiver wire option.

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