Week 16 is championship week in most fantasy football leagues. But for every owner competing for a title this week, there are many more left pretending to care about their league’s consolation bracket. Regardless of where you fall, this week’s sleeper list will give you some under-the-radar players who aren’t getting the love they deserve but still make intriguing championship options. Before we get into that, a quick recap of our hits and misses from Week 15 (and their performances in ESPN standard leagues).
Hits: Colin Kaepernick (17), Taylor Gabriel (12), Bills Defense (10),
Misses: Jerick McKinnon (6), Tevin Coleman (5)
Meh: Joe Flacco (12), Pierre Garcon (7), Ladarius Green (7),
Marcus Mariota has been one of the best under-the-radar fantasy football players all season. But thanks to two straight clunkers, his starting rate has plummeted below 25% in Yahoo leagues.
His recent struggles can be contributed more to matchups against Kansas City and Denver than anything else. And most importantly for Mariota, he led Tennessee to victory in each of those games, giving the Titans wins in four of their last five.
Mariota threw for 270 yards and two scores last time out against the Jaguars. He brings a high floor, and a reasonable ceiling for owners still debating a quarterback in Week 16.
Jameis Winston goes into this one looking for some fantasy redemption after laying an egg against the Saints in Week 14. But in a game with an over/under at 52.5, Winston should have plenty of opportunity to reward the 34% of Yahoo owners rolling the dice on him this Saturday.
New Orleans has given up the NFL’s second most passing yards in 2016, though they fall in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed. Winston has struggled recently, but he’s taken a huge step forward in 2016 and has the Bucs in position to make the playoffs for the first time in years. In what figures to be a shootout, I look for Winston to post a line of around 250 yards and two touchdowns, making him worth a start in a lot of formats.
I’ve had Tennessee’s rookie running back on this list more times than I probably should have this year. I guess I’m a sucker for Heisman Trophy winning physical freaks like Henry, despite his 6% starting rate.
Either way, the inevitable decline in usage for DeMarco Murray has paid dividends for Derrick Henry, who has three touchdowns in the Titans’ last three games. And since seeing just three carries in Weeks 6 and 7 combined, he’s had at least eight touches in his last five games.
Jacksonville’s run defense isn’t terrible, but they rank in the bottom half of the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns allowed. With Tennessee figuring to control game flow and possession, I expect there to be enough carries to go around for both Henry and Murray.
Over his last four weeks, Terrance West ranks among the top of all fantasy running backs. The matchup with Pittsburgh this week isn’t great, but the Steelers have surrendered the sixth most fantasy points to opposing running backs in standard leagues. Add in a few monster games opponents have put up against them, and I think West is a much better play than his 19% starting rate would suggest.
Baltimore has been committed to the run recently, so there are plenty of carries to go around for both West and Kenneth Dixon. West still remains the lead back – even though there’s not a clear difference – and he has more than 13 carries in all but two games since Week 9.
Britt has been the lone bright spot in an otherwise entirely unexciting Rams’ offense. But despite his 67 catches and nearly 1,000 yards receiving, his starting rate has hovered around 30% on Yahoo for much of the year.
San Francisco’s defense has been very generous to opposing wide receivers, surrendering the second most touchdowns to the position and the fourth most fantasy points in standard Yahoo formats. I can’t see how anyone in a three-WR league can leave him on the bench in Week 16.
Tom Brady has turned to Mitchell to replace the injured Rob Gronkowski as New England’s primary downfield option. And Mitchell has responded, posting four straight big games before registering just one catch for 14 yards on Sunday.
But the matchup for Mitchell and the Patriots is much better this time around. The Jets have given up the tenth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and the 27 receiving touchdowns allowed ranks near the bottom of the NFL. Much like Britt, I think Mitchell makes a great WR3 option in Week 16, even though he’s being started by less than 20% of Yahoo fantasy owners.
Despite disappearing for much of the middle part of 2016, Hunter Henry has returned as a focal point of the Chargers’ offense. He’s scored in each of their past two games, and he has four touchdowns over the last five weeks.
Any offensive player matching up against the Browns’ defense immediately jumps into starting consideration. That’s probably most applicable for tight ends, as Cleveland’s extremely weak linebacking corps has struggled to defend the position all year. I love Henry this week for any owner without a top 5-6 fantasy tight end, and he deserves way better than a starting rate in the single digits.
No NFL defense has been more productive over the past four weeks than the Giants. They’ll make the short trip to Philadelphia for this week’s Thursday night matchup, and I expect New York to completely overwhelm rookie quarterback Carson Wentz the same way they did Dak Prescott in Week 14.
Philly’s offense hasn’t looked as bad lately as they did mid-season, but they still haven’t been good. It should be enough to make New York one of the best fantasy options in the Championship this week, and much better than the 24% starting rate would indicate.