Fantasy Football Week 16: Ranking Top Skill-Position Players for Playoffs

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IDecember 17, 2013

Dec 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) runs for a touchdown after catching a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Each passing week in the NFL brings new faces to the fold for fantasy football owners who are in search of replacements and can breathe new life into a fantasy team. But for owners who have made it this far into the playoffs, they likely got here due to the steady success of the top players at multiple positions.

For example, some of the best fantasy performances this season came from names like Jamaal Charles, DeSean Jackson, Dez Bryant and Vernon Davis. Workhorses that have carried fantasy teams all season are doing the the exact same thing during the playoffs.

With some leagues entering their Super Bowl and some owners simply trying to get there, here are the top 10 players at each position heading into Week 16 of the fantasy football season.

 

Quarterbacks

Top 10 Fantasy Quarterbacks for Week 16
RankingNameTeamOpponent
1Peyton ManningDEN@ HOU
2Russell WilsonSEAARI
3Philip RiversSDOAK
4Drew BreesNO@ CAR
5Cam NewtonCARNO
6Tom BradyNE@BAL
7Matthew StaffordDETNYG
8Andrew LuckIND@ KC
9Nick FolesPHICHI
10Alex SmithKCIND
NFL.com

Top-Three Breakdown

Peyton Manning can do whatever he wants over the last two weeks and will still be the No. 1 fantasy quarterback this season. Despite a hiccup against the San Diego Chargers, Manning is on track to break the touchdown record for a single season and could very well set it against the Houston Texans, who have given up 25 touchdowns on the season and have just six interceptions, which ranks worst in the NFL.

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Second-year signal-caller Russell Wilson will be relied upon heavily when the Seattle Seahawks take on the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has the best run defense in terms of yards per game (83.2) and have allowed just five touchdowns on the ground. But against the pass, Arizona is 17th in yards per game (239) and has given up 26 touchdowns this season.

Meanwhile, Philip Rivers has been playing good football as of late, but his fantasy numbers have been up and down. This week, Rivers and the Chargers face an Oakland Raiders defense that ranks 24th against the pass and just got torched by Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles on screen passes. Just imagine what Rivers could do by actually attacking Oakland's secondary.

 

Running Backs

Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for Week 16
RankNameTeamOpponent
1Jamaal CharlesKCIND
2DeMarco MurrayDAL@ WAS
3LeSean McCoyPHICHI
4Adrian Peterson (if healthy)MIN@ CIN
5Matt ForteCHI@ PHI
6Eddie LacyGBPIT
7Marshawn LynchSEAARI
8Frank GoreSFATL
9Alfred MorrisWASDAL
10Knowshon MorenoDEN@ HOU
NFL.com

Top-Three Breakdown

If anyone has a problem with Jamaal Charles being at the top of the list, do everyone a favor and head toward the door.

Charles has been carrying the Chiefs and fantasy owners all season and just single-handedly punched his owners a ticket to the next round of the playoffs with a 50-plus point performance in Week 15. Consider this: Over the last four weeks, Charles has 378 yards rushing and 272 yards receiving with five touchdowns in both categories. He now faces a Colts team that ranks 27th against the rush and 14th against the pass.

Dec 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) reacts at the end of the game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 56-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Tony Romo calling audibles in obvious running situations late in games, DeMarco Murray has been putting together solid fantasy performances for five straight games now. Murray has compiled three straight weeks of 15 or more fantasy points and has yet another favorable matchup against the Washington Redskins. While Washington ranks 17th in rushing yards per game, it has given up a league-worst 21 touchdowns on the ground this season. In comparison, the Cowboys have only given up 15.

Elsewhere in the NFC East, LeSean McCoy doesn't need a good matchup to play well, but fantasy owners will certainly take it. McCoy now has six straight performances of 10 or more fantasy points and faces a Chicago Bears defense that ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards per game and has given up an average of 22.41 points per game to running backs, according to NFL.com fantasy.

For owners worried about whether or not coach Chip Kelly will rest his starters on Sunday night if the Cowboys lose, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer provided an answer to that question:

 

Wide Receivers

Top 10 Fantasy Wide Receivers for Week 16
RankNameTeamOpponent
1Josh GordonCLE@ NYJ
2Brandon MarshallCHI@ PHI
3Dez BryantDAL@ WAS
4Calvin JohnsonDETNYG
5DeSean JacksonPHICHI
6Vincent JacksonTB@ STL
7Demaryius ThomasDEN@ HOU
8Antonio BrownPIT@ GB
9Alshon JefferyCHI@ PHI
10Keenan AllenSDOAK
NFL.com

Top-Three Breakdown

Josh Gordon is once again the No. 1 fantasy receiver this week thanks to another performance highlighted by late-game heroics. Gordon finished with 12 points in Week 15 but should be expected to put up 20 or more again when he lines up against the New York Jets. New York is allowing 255 yards per game and has surrendered 25 receiving touchdowns this season, ranking 19th and worst in the NFL respectively.

Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) warms up before the start of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I admit to making a huge mistake last week by leaving Brandon Marshall off the top 10 list. But, to be fair, I did have him in the mentions just outside of the list, noting that if Jay Cutler returned, Marshall could return to the top 10. Cutler did and Marshall has; it's as simple as that.

This week, Marshall faces off with a Philadelphia defense that ranks 31st in the league in passing yards per game (297) and gives up the most points to fantasy wide receivers, according to NFL.com fantasy.

Dez Bryant may have walked off the field before the Cowboys' epic meltdown was over, but his third straight game with a touchdown helped fantasy owners advance in the playoffs. Facing a Washington defense that ranks 21st against the pass and passing touchdowns allowed, Bryant will once again be the main target for Tony Romo. A great example would be last week when Bryant was targeted 17 times and caught 11 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.

 

Tight Ends

Top 10 Fantasy Tight Ends for Week 16
RankingNameTeamOpponent
1Jimmy GrahamNO@ CAR
2Vernon DavisSFATL
3Jason WittenDAL@ WAS
4Tony GonzalezATL@ SF
5Julius ThomasDEN@ HOU
6Jordan CameronCLE@ NYJ
7Charles ClayMIA@ BUF
8Greg OlsenCARNO
9Antonio GatesSDOAK
10Delanie WalkerTEN@ JAX
NFL.com

Top-Three Breakdown

Much like his quarterback Drew Brees, fantasy owners would be crazy to ever think of starting another tight end over Jimmy Graham. Despite being shut down for just two points against the St. Louis Rams, Graham is still expected to bounce back for another 15-plus performance. The last time he faced the Carolina Panthers, Graham scored twice on 58 yards receiving. Needless to say, he's still the best fantasy tight end.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints has a pass broken up by  Mike Mitchell #21 of the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Vernon Davis has been one of the most dependable tight ends in the league this year and has a great matchup this week against the Atlanta Falcons. Expect Davis to catch a touchdown in his fifth straight game and put up another double-digit point performance as one of Colin Kaepernick's favorite targets.

With four touchdowns in his last four games, Jason Witten deserves the No. 3 spot on this list. The Cowboys face a Redskins defense that has surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points on average to tight ends (9.58), so expect Witten to put up another week with double-digit points.