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Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings: Positional Guide, Advice for Fantasy Playoffs

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2017

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, left, is greeted by quarterback Jared Goff, right, after Gurley scored a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Week 16 in the NFL is upon us, and if you have been able to navigate a largely unpredictable fantasy season to remain in the hunt and playoff-bound, congratulations.

If the 2017 season has taught us anything, it's that the players you expected to dominate en route to a fantasy championship have not always been as consistent or reliable as you thought, while dark horses have surged to the forefront and guided you to the postseason.

Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers were injured, while last year's top two draft picks, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, have been among the top fantasy starts at quarterback. Adam Thielen came from out of nowhere in Minnesota, while stud wideout Julio Jones has been largely inconsistent.

The only thing predictable about fantasy football this year, like the real-life NFL, was the unpredictable.

With Week 16 upon us and immortality among friends, colleagues, co-workers and strangers from around the globe up for grabs in the fantasy playoffs, target these players and reap the bragging rights victory will bring you.

All stats via Yahoo unless otherwise noted.

     

Quarterbacks

1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccanneers

2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

3. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

4. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

5. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins

6. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles

7. Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

8. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets

9. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

10. Blaine Gabbert, Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Giants

     

John Froschauer/Associated Press

Watch: Jared Goff

As the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams have leaned heavily on running back Todd Gurley II late in the season, quarterback Jared Goff has been asked to do less. The result, an average of only 14.52 fantasy points a week. Those are not impressive, especially from a QB expected to be a legitimate No. 1.

Against a Titans pass defense ranked 25th in the league, Goff will have a good opportunity to improve those numbers.

Factor in the second week back for his favorite target Robert Woods, and increasing chemistry with both Sammy Watkins and rookie Cooper Kupp, and you have the makings of an explosive passing game Sunday.

Especially considering how likely it is that the Titans' third-ranked rush defense will key in on Gurley.

     

Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Sleeper: Blake Bortles

The Jacksonville Jaguars have ridden a stingy defense and a solid rush game to a playoff berth for the first time in a decade, but down the stretch, it will be the play of quarterback Blake Bortles that determines just how far the upstart team can make it in the playoffs.

The much-maligned quarterback, and deservedly considering his lack of consistency, completed 21-of-29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. It was his third game with multiple scores through the air and over the last four weeks, he has averaged 20.16 passing yards.

Yes, longtime fantasy owners are aware of the danger that exists in trusting Bortles to provide you a win or two but the Jaguars quarterback has been steadily improving, and his play will only get better as he builds confidence for himself.

Expect him to be able to do just that against San Francisco 49ers defense that has been among the worst passing defenses all year long.

      

Running Backs

1. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

2. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons

3. Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts

4. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

5. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins

6. Dion Lewis, New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills

7. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons

8. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

9. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccanneers

10. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets

11. Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

12. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

13. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs

14. Rod Smith, Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

15. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns

16. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins

17. Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers

18. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles 

19. Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

20. Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

    

Jason Behnken/Associated Press

Watch: Devonta Freeman

The Atlanta Falcons offense still feels sluggish compared to the unit that rolled into the playoffs, won the NFC Championship and came within seconds of defeating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl last year but Week 15 saw the re-emergence of Devonta Freeman as one of the most dynamic and dangerous playmakers in the league.

The running back accounted for 126 yards on the ground, 68 through the air and found the end zone once as he carried the Falcons on his back to a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night.

Against an aggressive Saints defense that has shown vulnerabilities against the run, the opportunity for big plays will be there for Freeman. It will be up to head coach Dan Quinn and the impressive offensive line to continue putting them back in the position to let him lead his teammates to victory and into the postseason as Atlanta seeks to defend its NFC title.

Start him Sunday if he is on your roster. If not and he is somehow inexplicably available on waivers, grab him. Not only will he help you earn a big playoffs victory, he will also be the centerpiece of the Falcons offense in the coming weeks and the player around whom all revolves.

      

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Sleeper: Alfred Morris

Against Seattle in Week 15, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams scored four times total. The Rams lined up, pounded the rock at a once-intimidating Seahawks defense and proved they could out-physical a team once defined by its physical dominance.

Morris is no Gurley and will not have the receiving numbers he did. However, as a player who will spark the passing game and allow Dak Prescott to execute play action and exploit the beaten and battered Seahawks secondary that is without Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The veteran back is invaluable and could play a huge role for a Cowboys team still in the playoff hunt.

Do not start him if you have any sort of depth at the position and have a more attractive option, but if you are in need of a running back with the potential for a solid day and a score or so, pick him up.

     

Wide Receivers

1. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets

2. Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

3. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

4. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons

5. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

6. Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles

7. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs

8. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins

9. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

10. Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers

11. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

12. Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos

13. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

14. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

15. Robby Anderson, New York Jets vs. Los Angeles Chargers

     

Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

Watch: Keenan Allen

Though he was shut out against Kansas City and Washington the last two weeks, Keenan Allen was in the middle of a monster run the three weeks that preceded those games, recording three-straight double-digit-reception games and scoring in each of them.

With a poor passing defense coming up Sunday afternoon—a defense giving up 234 yards in the air and 27 touchdowns through 15 games—look for the skilled wideout to bounce back and torch the unit to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that Allen records another double-digit game and, this time, scores three times for a rare hat-trick.

     

Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

Sleeper: Mike Wallace

The veteran speedster may not be the surefire fantasy starter he once was, but against one of the worst defenses in professional football, he is worth your consideration this week. His Baltimore Ravens travel to Indianapolis to face a poor Colts passing defense.

One of Joe Flacco's favorite targets, Wallace will not wow anyone with his stat line. However, his ability to stretch the field, against a Colts team that has been picked apart all season, will make him an attractive player off the bench for deeper fantasy teams.

As Flacco looks to heat up amid a postseason push for the Ravens, expect to see Wallace become an integral part of the offense and improve on the eight fantasy points he has averaged over the last four weeks.

       

Tight Ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills

2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins

3. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

4. Trey Burton, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

5. Evan Engram, New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

6. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Rams

7. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccanneers

8. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

9. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

10. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

      

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

Watch: Greg Olsen

As the Carolina Panthers continue to get hot down the stretch, look for Cam Newton's safety blanket to play a key role in the team's game against a beaten-down and frustrated Buccanneers team.

The Bucs are the worst pass defense in the entire NFL, giving up 271.3 yards a game. Against a team that presents both a capable running game and a scrambling quarterback, it will be hard-pressed to cover the many options coming out of the backfield and, thus, leave someone with the stature of an Olsen open and able to make bigger plays down the field.

No, Olsen may not be Gronk or Travis Kelce, but he still exploits the middle of the field and has been Newton's favorite target for the majority of the 2015 Most Valuable Player's career. Expect him to continue his return to form against a depleted and defeated Buccanneers squad.

      

Don Wright/Associated Press

Sleeper: Vance McDonald

With Antonio Brown out due to injury, Ben Roethlisberger will lean on other players to help generate offensive output. Defenses will be a bit more confident in covering Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster, leaving a big tight end like Vance McDonald open for Roethlisberger to find in key situations.

The former San Francisco 49er has been a solid addition to the offense but is still in search of a breakout game.

Against a reeling Houston Texans squad that has not been the same offensively or defensively since the ill-timed injury to rookie phenom DeShaun Watson, McDonald will have that opportunity.

Do not start him expecting jaw-dropping numbers, but he could be a strong candidate for a score near the goal line if the Steelers can exploit that Texans defense like they should.

     

Defenses

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

2. Los Angeles Rams

3. Baltimore Ravens

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

5. Los Angeles Chargers

6. Chicago Bears

7. Washington Redskins

8. Kansas City Chiefs

9. Carolina Panthers

10. Minnesota Vikings

       

Kickers

1. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

2. Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

3. Phil Dawson, Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Giants

4. Chris Boswell, Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans

5. Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins

6. Josh Lambo, Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers

7. Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

8. Jake Elliott, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders

9. Matt Prater, Denver Broncos vs. Washington Redskins

10. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

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