Fantasy News & Analysis

Week 16 fantasy football rankings overview

Dec 13, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s preview of the Week 16 NFL slate, I'm highlighting key insights for every game I didn't break down in PFF’s huge NFL Week 16 Preview

I'll identify sleepers, busts, DFS picks and waiver-wire options with consideration for injuries and other fantasy-relevant news and notes. It’s a behind the curtains look into my Week 16 fantasy rankings.

CINCINNATI BENGALS @ HOUSTON TEXANS

In the two games this season that Deshaun Watson has had a healthy Brandin Cooks but no Will Fuller, Cooks has averaged 23.4 fantasy points and 24.3 expected fantasy points per game. 

Both marks are slightly better than his splits with Fuller through the first 12 weeks of the season when he averaged 23.2 fantasy points and 20.4 expected fantasy points per game. And that’s despite the fact that he has faced the Colts in both of those contests — Indianapolis has PFF’s ninth-highest-graded defense this season. 

Watson seemingly gets the job done as long as he isn’t completely devoid of weapons, and he should be set to post a top-five quarterback performance this week versus the Bengals. 

The Texans’ quarterback ranks inside the top-five in almost every statistical category for QBs throwing from a clean pocket, and that’s exactly what he should see on Sunday. The Bengals rank dead last in pressure rate this season. 

Cooks still needs to be firmly in lineups despite the fact that he has not “hit” in either game operating as the team’s defacto No. 1 wide receiver. Cooks is tied with Keke Coutee in targets in two games without Fuller, but he’s the clear front-runner in terms of air yards. 

What’s most striking about Coutee is the chemistry he has with Watson. The QB has a 141.5 passer rating and has only thrown one uncatchable pass Coutee’s way.

Houston has struggled to run the ball all season regardless of opponent, so expect Watson to lean on his two top pass-catchers.

We could also see a productive game from tight end Jordan Akins. It’s been back-to-back weeks with six targets and 9.3 expected fantasy points for him. Akins' overall usage is encouraging, and the matchup in Week 16 warrants DFS consideration at $3.3K on DraftKings

The Bengals have allowed the third-most receiving yards to tight ends in 2020. 

The Texans’ tight end also ranks eighth in routes run over the past three weeks, so he will have his chances to haul in passes from Watson.

David Johnson is an RB1 this week after he commanded 11 targets and went for over 100 yards in Week 15. DJ has gotten the volume all year long and would maintain a high ceiling as a pass-catcher should Duke Johnson Jr. be sidelined for another week.

He will fall in the ranks if Johnson is deemed healthy because the Texans’ run game cannot be trusted in any matchup. Houston ranks 29th in rushing yards created before contact.

Johnson scored over 20 fantasy points for the first time on DraftKings last week because of the insane usage as a receiver. 

The Texans DST at $2.8K also needs to be in strong consideration because of the matchup versus Ryan Finley. He obviously shocked the world by helping the team knock off Pittsburgh last Monday night, but I am not betting on a repeat performance. 

In their two previous games, the Bengals allowed an average of 16 fantasy points to opposing DSTs. 

Giovani Bernard regained his role as the team’s bell-cow running back on Monday, playing 63% of the snaps and owning an 82% opportunity share. It’s clear the coaching staff has all but forgiven Gio for his fumble the week before — he is a solid RB2 option this week versus the league’s second-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position.

He looks like a cash-game lock on DraftKings at just $4.8K with his projected workload and supremely soft matchup. 

NEW YORK GIANTS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

Daniel Jones is trending in the right direction to play this Sunday, and that would be a blessing for the team's skill positions. Big Blue’s offense was severely limited with Colt McCoy under center, so getting Jones back at least raises the ceiling of some of his pass-catchers.

The last time we saw Evan Engram play with a healthy Jones he finished as the TE4 on the week. He’s hard to get away from in general because of the sheer volume he sees weekly. He is tied with Sterling Shepard in targets (27) over the past four weeks. 

The tight end deployment in the offense has also changed because Engram is being used way more often downfield. His average depth of target has risen from 5.8 to 10.1 in the last four weeks. 

Wayne Gallman Jr. saw his lowest carry total (nine) of the season in Week 15 and posted his first dud fantasy outing since becoming the starter in New York. The offense can’t create enough scoring opportunities for Gallman to take advantage of, and the lack of touchdowns is tanking his fantasy stock.

There’s also the potential for Devonta Freeman to return to the lineup, which would further muddy the Giants’ backfield and make Gallman extremely difficult to trust as nothing more than a low-end RB2. 

His touches and fantasy points have decreased in each of his last four games. 

Darius Slayton stood out in my high-value targets article this week, so I am intrigued by him with Jones coming back. The Giants’ outside receiver has underperformed versus expectation in his last four weeks because the opportunities have been there. 

The Ravens have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks. Baltimore has been dealing with a plethora of injuries in its secondary. 

Golden Tate is also dealing with a calf injury. If he's out, I think we would see more targets for Slayton. He notoriously sees spikes in production whenever Tate or another Giants primary pass-catcher misses time. 

Lamar Jackson has hit his stride over the past three weeks, scoring more fantasy points than any other quarterback over that time span. But we can't ignore his cupcake schedule — Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville. 

New York has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to QBs this season and will be getting Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Without him last week, Baker Mayfield became the first quarterback to throw for two touchdowns and 250-plus passing yards against the G-Men. That’s why Jackson sits as QB7 in my quarterback rankings. 

Oct 4, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (27) carries the ball against the Washington Football Team at FedExField. Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This also makes Marquise Brown nothing more than a WR3 despite his recent stretch of production. Over the past four weeks, Brown ranks 10th in team air yard share (39%) and No. 2 in the NFL in target share (39%).

His shares in the offense are slightly inflated because the Ravens have been missing pass-catchers the last few weeks, but that didn’t impact him last week when he compiled six catches for 98 yards on seven targets. 

J.K Dobbins (54% snap share, 14 carries) led the backfield over Gus Edwards (40% snap share, nine carries) in Week 15, but both backs were involved throughout. Dobbins came away with the lone carry inside the 5-yard line, which is the most important takeaway for fantasy managers. The rookie remains a locked-and-loaded mid-range RB2 for Week 16 in a tough matchup.

New York boasts PFF’s fourth-highest-graded run defense this season.

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ NEW YORK JETS

The Browns will be undermanned on the offensive line when they face-off against the Jets this weekend, which could make it difficult for them to run the ball successfully. But New York was just forced to place Quinnen Williams on injured reserve, and his absence could be huge for Nick Chubb.

Williams ranks third in the NFL in run-stop percentage and first in total defensive stops among interior defensive linemen. 

I love Chubb in DFS tournaments this week because his salary ($7,800) will make him the perfect pivot off a chalky David Montgomery ($7,700). I suspect he might also be low-owned because the Jets have been generally strong against RBs this season. 

Mayfield was listed as a “start” in my start 'em or sit ‘em column for Week 16 because he should have his way against the Jets’ porous secondary. That makes all of his pass-catchers viable DFS options, but I particularly like Rashard Higgins ($4,800) and Donovan Peoples-Jones ($3,800) due to their cheap price tags. 

Higgins has at least 65 receiving yards in five of the team’s six games that occurred in normal weather conditions and ranks inside the top 20 in total air yards among all players since Week 12. 

DPJ has averaged 13.1 fantasy points per game in any contest where he has played at least 57% of the team’s snaps. Considering former No. 3 wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge came back from injury and was regulated to bench duties, we can safely assume Peoples-Jones will be playing a 50%-plus snap share in Week 16.

Fantasy managers playing in championship games hopefully aren’t relying on any Jets, but they are firmly in play as bring-back options in DFS stacks. Jamison Crowder is the most expensive at $4,500 based on his team-leading 23% target share the last four weeks. 

But that's hardly enough of a difference versus Breshad Perriman (20%) and Denzel Mims (17% in just three games) to be worth paying up for, especially considering both Perriman and Mims are seeing a much higher percentage of the team’s air yards.

Perriman has shown a higher ceiling — 30 fantasy points scored in Week 9 — than Mims this season, so I’d be looking to pair Perriman at $3,800 as my primary bring-back if I'm able to find the extra $200 to do so. 

Not to mention this is a Perriman revenge game. Did you forget he was a Brownie back in Mayfield’s rookie season? 

DENVER BRONCOS @ LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Melvin Gordon is my RB15 on the week — he has been heating up over the last three weeks. The Broncos’ running back has averaged 17.1 fantasy points per game, 6.7 yards per attempt and he now gets a plus-matchup versus the Chargers.

L.A. has allowed the 10th-most rushing yards (4.3 yards per attempt) and the second-most red-zone touches to RBs over the past four weeks. MG3 scored twice last week and should see more opportunities to find the end zone in Week 16.

He should also be plenty involved in the passing game, further raising his fantasy floor. Gordon caught four balls last week and accumulated a season-high six receptions the last time he faced the Chargers back in Week 8.

There isn’t anything about this matchup that warrants taking a dart-throw on any of the Broncos’ trio of WRs. We can’t buy into Jerry Jeudy’s production the last time he played L.A. because Tim Patrick was not healthy in that game.

The target share is dead even between Patrick and Jeudy over the past four weeks, so it’s not worth trying to decipher the situation. The only edge that Jeudy has is in terms of air yards share (29%), but the air yards the rookie has been seeing are anything but first class. 

Inaccurate air yards — also dubbed “prayer yards” — are not worth chasing. Sixty-five percent of Jeudy’s air yards have been deemed uncatchable over the past four weeks. That’s most in the NFL. No thanks. 

Noah Fant has averaged nine targets and 13.5 expected fantasy points per game in his last two healthy games, so fantasy managers relying on the second-year tight end should start him with confidence this week.

Just last week we saw Darren Waller destroy the Chargers’ secondary to the tune of nine catches for 150 receiving yards. 

Nov 29, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Bills Stadium. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When the Broncos and Chargers first played this season, Justin Jackson amassed 20 touches for over 140 yards from scrimmage. That should translate to a successful outing for Austin Ekeler, who has had more time to recover from his quad injury that may have limited him last Thursday night.

He is fully off the injury report and should be viewed as a top-eight RB for Week 16. Denver has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs over the past two weeks. 

Ekeler ranks top-eight and not top-five because we saw Kalen Ballage get high-value touches near the goal line last week. 

Tyron Johnson would greatly benefit from the absence of Keenan Allen. Over the past two weeks, Johnson has averaged 16.3 fantasy points and six targets per game on a plus-65% snap share. He’s only $4,000 on DraftKings this week and would be a plug-and-play option versus an extremely banged-up secondary that has allowed the most fantasy points to WRs over the past two weeks. 

But I think I’d still prefer to get Mike Williams in my lineup at just $4,500 because he is fully off the injury report and is way overdue to score. The big-bodied wide receiver hasn’t found the end zone since Week 11 and has a 38% end-zone target share.

Big Mike went off the last time he played Denver with five catches for 99 yards and one touchdown.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ DALLAS COWBOYS

There’s only one quarterback that I would start over Jalen Hurts this week. His name is Patrick Mahomes. Send  tweet

At just $7K on DraftKings, I’d argue Hurts is still not priced appropriately, and sharp DFS players should be all over him in a plus-matchup versus Dallas. 

Per Ian Hartitz’s weekly look at every NFL backfield, Miles Sanders managed 90 total yards and posted his second consecutive week with a snap rate of at least 80%. That is the exact bell-cow usage fantasy managers die for, so it’s hard to get away from him as an RB1 versus Dallas — the Cowboys have allowed the third-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks.

But remember that running QBs tend to throw to their running backs less than their statuesque QB counterparts. Don’t expect Sanders to see consistent targets as long as Hurts in under center, which is why he remains outside the top-five.

Hurts attempted 44 passes last week and Sanders saw just two targets. The majority of Hurts’ passes went to fellow rookie Jalen Reagor. The first-year receiver commanded a team-leading nine targets and 126 air yards. 

The matchup with Dallas presents a smash spot for Reagor. In Week 15, the Cowboys allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs. He has a ton of upside at $4.6K on DraftKings and looks like the perfect stacking partner with Hurts. 

This matchup overall looks primed to be a great game stack in DFS with a 49.5 projected total and the fact that Dallas should be able to score points on this Eagles defense.

The PFF projections love Andy Dalton as a top-12 option. I'm not willing to rank him that highly, but this tells me that there is a sneaky upside when it comes to his pass-catchers and other offensive weapons. 

Michael Gallup has had a 2020 season to forget, but he’s caught fire of late, scoring double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games while also leading the team in target share (21%). He has commanded six end-zone targets over that span, and I love him versus a banged-up Eagles secondary in Week 16.

Gallup caught seven balls for 61 yards on 12 targets the last time he played Philadelphia, and the Eagles have allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks.

But the true ceiling play has to be Amari Cooper, who leads the team in air yards and ranks second in end-zone targets over the past four weeks. Darius Slay has hardly been his lockdown self in 2020, so with Cooper back at home I expect him to bounce back from his two-catch performance last week. 

All three of Cooper’s 20-plus point fantasy performances this season have come at Jerry World.

Tight end Dalton Schultz predictability did nothing last week in a tough matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers. But what’s most important is that his usage (36 routes run, most on the team) is unheard of coming from a tight end.

Chasing routes runs for tight ends has proven favorable in past weeks, with the prime example being Logan Thomas, so don’t be afraid to click the button on Schultz, who ranks fourth in the NFL in routes run among TEs since Week 2.

The Eagles haven’t been particularly great versus TEs this season. The last time Schultz played Philly he caught six balls for 53 yards on eight targets. 

LOS ANGELES RAMS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

I listed both Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett as “sits” this week, so naturally I am not high on any part of the Seahawks offense. Chris Carson is a volume-based mid-range RB2 based on his protected workload, and D.K. Metcalf is outside the top-12 because of how great the Rams have been at defending wide receivers this season.

L.A. has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to WRs this year and held Metcalf to just 28 receiving yards the last time these teams faced off. Since that game, Metcalf has finished as a top-15 wide receiver just once. 

Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are often viewed as 1A/1B commodities in the Rams’ offense, but it’s been clear over the past four week that Woods is the featured player in this offense. He ranks seventh in the NFL in target share (30%) and has more than doubled Kupp’s air yards.

Sep 13, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods (17) makes a catch during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Woods is a clear must-start WR1 option this week while Kupp falls into the low-end WR2 territory considering the Seahawks’ recent resurgence on defense. No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks than Seattle. 

The Seahawks have been much worse covering tight ends, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to the position over the past four weeks. Tyler Higbee emerged as the No. 1 tight end for the Rams last week in a plus matchup versus the Jets, and he has always been involved when playing the Seahawks.

Before last week, his season highs in targets and receiving yards were against Seattle, and last season he went for over 100 yards against his NFC West rival. 

TENNESSEE TITANS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

The Titans rank in the bottom 10 in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs (fifth), RBs (10th) and WRs (seventh) over the past four weeks. So, as always, lock Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones into all lineups in leagues of all shapes and sizes.

Jones specifically could be in for a huge workload because Jamaal Williams isn’t practicing with a thigh injury. After he left last week’s game, Jones played a season-high 90% snap share, which all but locks him into top-five running back production.

It’s taken longer than many fantasy managers would have liked, but we are starting to finally see Allen Lazard return to form. He was playing on a pseudo pitch count the last few weeks coming back from injury and was operating as the No. 3 wide receiver behind Marquez-Valdes Scantling.

But that wasn’t the case Thursday night when he played 77% of the snaps and posted highs in targets (six), catches (five) and yards (56) since his injury. Meanwhile, MVS’s snap rate fell to sub-65% for the first time since the start of 2020, and he only saw one target. 

Tennessee has allowed the third-most fantasy points to the WR position this season, so I love Lazard as an upside play in Week 16.

Jonnu Smith is such a difficult tight end to trust on a weekly basis, and I’d be looking for alternatives. In his last four games, his expected output is 7.4 fantasy points per game, which ranks 19th amongst tight ends. 

That’s hardly enough conviction to feel like fantasy managers can’t do better, especially considering the Packers have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to TEs over the past four weeks. 

I don’t have Derrick Henry as my No. 1-ranked running back this week because there’s a non-zero chance the game script lowers his fantasy ceiling. If the Packers’ offense starts out hot — no team has scored more points in the first half of games than Green Bay — that could make it much tougher for the Titans to rely on the ground game, especially when they have an efficient passer in Ryan Tannehill.  

Green Bay’s ability to get up on teams and render opposing run games obsolete is the reason why they have allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards to RBs over the past four weeks. The two biggest RB performances they have allowed since Week 6 — Dalvin Cook (55.6) and Ronald Jones (29.10) — occurred in games they lost.

They are currently 3.5-point favorites at home this week. 

BUFFALO BILLS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Even though Josh Allen had his worst fantasy outing of the season against the New England Patriots back in Week 8, he’s just been too impressive to put on the bench. Since coming off the bye week, Allen leads all QBs in fantasy points per game (26.4) and expected fantasy points per game (24.9), indicating that his stellar performance is not a fluke.

Also, factor in that Stephon Gillmore won’t be around to help slow down the Bills’ quarterback and fantasy managers shouldn’t have any concern about Allen. Without Gillmore, the Patriots gave up 27 fantasy points to Joe Flacco. ELITE JOE FLACCO, PEOPLE.

Cole Beasley should also be started because he should see plenty of volume in this game. The Bills’ slot wide receiver has seen 10-plus targets in four of his last five games, and New England is a slot funnel defense. The Patriots have faced the eighth-most targets to slot WRs since Week 11 and their primary slot cornerback has been targeted on 21% of his coverage snaps. 

That’s tied for the highest amongst CBs in coverage this season.

Buffalo Bills rookie running back Zack Moss ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-21 win over the New England Patriots in Orchard Park on Nov. 1, 2020.

I also don’t mind chasing a plus-matchup with Zack Moss, who is coming off arguably his best game of the season. He rushed for 81 yards on 13 carries last week and was solid in his last contest versus the Patriots.

He toted the rock 14 times for 81 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns the last time these teams squared off. New England has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks, so view Moss as a low-end RB2 option that can surely be started if necessary. 

As is par for the course, there are not many options to turn to in fantasy with the Patriots. But one of the lone bright spots has been Sony Michel, who leads the NFL in yards per attempt (5.7) among RBs with at least 50 carries this season.

I understand that YPC is not the greatest predictor of future success, so let's also consider Michel’s yards after contact per attempt (3.6), which ranks sixth in the league. 

The Bills still own PFF’s worst-graded run defense this season (38.7). Michel could surprise folks if Damien Harris is out again. 

The same could be said for Jakobi Meyers should the Patriots be caught chasing points as seven-point home underdogs. Meyers ranks fifth in the NFL in team target share (31%) and team air yard share (41%) over the last four weeks, ensuring he will be the featured option in the Patriots passing “attack.” 

The second-year WR had six catches for 58 yards on 10 targets the last time he faced Buffalo. He’s also the least likely candidate to see any coverage from Tre’Davious White because Meyers plays more than half of his snaps from the slot (58%). 

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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