What Are the Comfort Levels for Fantasy Studs Heading into Week 16?

Richard Janvrin@@RichardJanvrinFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2017

What Are the Comfort Levels for Fantasy Studs Heading into Week 16?

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    A commonly used phrase in fantasy football is "play your studs."

    For Week 16, that may be the best idea. But it doesn't take away the point that, hey, these studs might not be your best overall bet on a week-to-week basis.

    Week 16 is the championship week in most leagues. That could cause some trepidation. Why would someone ever sit Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in the championship?

    Sometimes, you need to face the facts: Regardless of how much of a stud a player is, some matchups and trends cannot be ignored.

    We'll examine another seven studs this week. Let this be a guide for what to do with these players as you attempt to win your league's fantasy title.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins

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    We've reached the point of no return with Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake.

    What does that mean? For the rest of 2017, he is an absolute must-start. And he's matchup-proof.

    No matter the opponent, Drake gets plenty of touches, which he translates into a lot of fantasy points. Even against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium in Week 16, Drake is a bona fide RB1 in all formats.

    With so many injuries at running back and the fact that the Dolphins find themselves trailing quite often, Drake is in a win-win situation, regardless of game flow.

    Start him in the championship, no matter what.

    Comfort Level: Weird to be so confident in a Dolphins player, isn't it?

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

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    The Zeke truck's back, and it's better than ever. For Christmas this year...

    Sorry, that jingle gets stuck in my head this time of year—but it makes sense for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He's playing on Christmas Eve and will be trucking the Seattle Seahawks defense all afternoon.

    Losing Zeke for four weeks must have been horrible for owners (I know it was for me!), but if you have Zeke heading into your championship, my goodness, did you make out well.

    Zeke is fresh and ready to run all over the Seahawks. He'll be a top-three running back this week.

    Comfort Level: Cozy enough to wear a crop top while I open gifts.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

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    In Week 15, Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a tough matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he still managed to go for 80 yards and a touchdown.

    However, he only caught four passes on 13 targets. That's not very efficient, but it shows that Hopkins will always get the majority of the Texans' passing volume.

    That will be the case again in Week 16, in a tough matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Texans should be trailing for quite a bit in this game, which is even better for Hopkins—regardless of who's throwing him the football.

    Hopkins is a target machine. That won't change. Ever.

    Comfort Level: Hopkins could have one leg and I'd still feel fine.

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

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    Five receptions for 98 yards. That's what Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones totaled against the New Orleans Saints at home just two weeks ago.

    This time, the Falcons will be in the Superdome. Will that make a difference? That remains to be seen, but Jones and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore have gathered a bit more info on one another. Who do you favor here?

    I'm going with Lattimore. Jones' line from the last matchup isn't a bad one, but it's not ideal from someone who was likely your first-round pick, especially in the championship game. Don't expect much more than a quality WR2 game from Jones.

    Comfort Level: The same as Week 14—Jones doesn't always produce superstar numbers against stud corners. 

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon may not exactly be a fantasy stud in 2017.

    However, should Mixon be active for Week 16, he'll go up against the Detroit Lions. This is a great matchup for opposing running backs, as the Lions ranked 28th in DVOA against the run through Week 14. But Mixon has a fellow ball-carrier to worry about.

    In Mixon's two-game-plus absence, Giovani Bernard has been averaging over 16 touches per game. He may still get the majority of the snaps if his counterpart returns.

    The Bengals' 5-9 season has been disgraceful, so they could sit Mixon for the remainder of the season and get their young stud running back healthy for 2018.

    A lot to pay attention to as this develops. 

    Comfort Level: Not ideal.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

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    In his first game back from a broken collarbone suffered in Week 6, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers produced a solid fantasy stat line against Carolina, with 290 passing yards and three touchdowns. But he was also erratic (26-of-49) and threw three interceptions.

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said that Rodgers was "sore," hinting there's a chance he could sit this week.

    Rodgers will want to suit up in Week 16, though, as the Packers host the Minnesota Vikings, the team that he broke his collarbone against.

    However, he may not be 100 percent, so we could very well see a game plan focused on running back Jamaal Williams, with the Packers playing ball control and thereby limiting Rodgers' fantasy output.

    Then again, as with Mixon, we don't even know if he'll play for sure.

    Stay tuned.

    Comfort Level: Similar to how Rodgers' collarbone feels today. Not great.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    With the issues surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant in 2017, we've seen rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster grow as a player. Thus, we've seen some excellent play and fantasy output.

    Against the mediocre Houston Texans secondary in Week 16, Smith-Schuster will get a chance to repeat his success. Without Antonio Brown (ruled out due to leg injury), Smith-Schuster should be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's No. 1 target.

    This game will likely revolve around running back Le'Veon Bell, but when Big Ben lets it rip, more often than not, it will head the USC product's way.

    This could be a top-five week in PPR leagues for Smith-Schuster.

    Comfort Level: No AB, no problem.


    Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders.