Fantasy Football Week 16: Biggest Sleepers at Every Position
It's Week 16 of the 2020 NFL season. In most season-long leagues, it's championship week, meaning there couldn't be a worse time for the injury bug to bite. Unfortunately, the bug does not care.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas went on injured reserve ahead of last weekend's slate with an ankle setback. Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters running back Joe Mixon, who's out with a foot injury, won't come off IR this week. Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey? He's not expected to return from a quad injury either.
So there's a good chance that some of the top players you drafted to help win a championship won't be available to deliver one. That's no reason to throw in the towel, though. With a couple of key waiver-wire pickups, it's still possible to field that title-winning fantasy squad.
You'll find three sleeper suggestions for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends below. All players were rostered in less than 55 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Thursday afternoon.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hasn't been perfect, but he's been mostly good when presented with favorable matchups. Against the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago, for example, he threw for 316 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for another score.
Fortunately, Tagovailoa has a favorable matchup this week, as the Dolphins will face the sinking Las Vegas Raiders, who have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
Tagovailoa should top the 200-yard passing mark, and while he isn't a true dual-threat quarterback, he should have some rushing upside.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
While Mitchell Trubisky's rise hasn't been as sudden as Hurts', it's been equally unexpected. Left for dead when Nick Foles was named the Chicago Bears starter before Week 4, Trubisky has risen from the ashes and emerged as a viable fantasy option.
Two weeks ago, against the Houston Texans, Trubisky threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns and added 23 yards on the ground. He could be in store for similar numbers this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jacksonville has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Trubisky is rostered in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues and 24 percent of ESPN leagues.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Las Vegas Raiders
Unlike the above pair, Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn't have a favorable matchup. He'll be up against a Dolphins defense that has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points (tied) to opposing quarterbacks.
However, if Mariota runs as he did against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, he could still help steal a title. Playing in relief of Derek Carr, who was out with a groin injury, Mariota threw for 226 yards with a touchdown and a pick and rushed for 88 yards and another score.
Carr practiced in full Wednesday. Still, this situation will bear watching. If Mariota gets the start, he'll be worth a pickup. He's available in at least 95 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris missed Week 15 because of an ankle injury. If he can't go against the Buffalo Bills on Monday, Sony Michel should become a fine flex option. Sans Harris, Michel started against the Dolphins and finished with 74 rushing yards and eight receiving yards on one reception.
While the Bills defense has been playing well, this isn't a disastrous matchup. Buffalo has allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Presumably, New England will employ a run-heavy approach—as it has for most of 2020—which should lead to plenty of opportunities for Michel.
He's rostered in 18 percent of Yahoo leagues and 19 percent of ESPN leagues.
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Miami Dolphins
Dolphins starting tailback Myles Gaskin returned to practice from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, which means he may be available to face the Raiders on Saturday night. It'll be worth keeping an eye on his status and scooping up teammate Salvon Ahmed in the meantime.
Ahmed was fantastic in the starting role last week, racking up 122 rushing yards and a touchdown while catching a pass for five more yards. If Ahmed gets the start again—or if Gaskin is at less than 100 percent—he should be a solid play against the Raiders.
Las Vegas has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2020. Ahmed is rostered in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues and 34 percent of ESPN leagues.
Frank Gore, RB, New York Jets
Let's be clear: New York Jets running back Frank Gore isn't a particularly high-end play. His best days are behind him, and he has a tough matchup against the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.
However, Gore's workload could be enough to warrant an emergency flex play with a title on the line. If the Jets hope to pull off the upset—as they did against the Los Angeles Rams last week—they're going to have to keep Baker Mayfield and Co. off the field. This will likely mean a lot of handing off to Gore.
Against the Rams, Gore carried the ball 23 times. He only produced 59 yards on the ground, but he did catch a pass and find the end zone. If New York can keep the game close, it won't be a shock to see Gore again top the 20-carry mark.
Sometimes, it only takes opportunity to engender a surprise fantasy performance. Gore should get plenty of opportunities against the Browns. He's rostered in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues and 23 percent of ESPN leagues.
Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns
For an example of opportunity leading to fantasy success, look no further than Browns wideout Rashard Higgins. He got a bigger role in the Cleveland offense after Odell Beckham Jr. went down for the season in Week 7 with a torn ACL, and he has shone.
In his past four games, Higgins has caught 17 passes for 254 yards and two scores.
He has established himself as one of Mayfield's most trusted targets, and he's poised to have another strong game this week against the Jets. New York has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.
Higgins is rostered in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues and 22 percent of ESPN leagues.
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons wideout Russell Gage isn't quite the can't-miss play Higgins appears to be—on paper, at least. His opportunities will hinge on the status of Julio Jones, who might return from a hamstring injury.
"He is a little bit closer," interim coach Raheem Morris said Wednesday, per Jason Butt of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Gage won't have an ideal matchup against a Kansas City Chiefs team that has allowed the third-fewest points to opposing wideouts. However, he could still be serviceable. Gage caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown last week. He is rostered in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues and 25 percent of ESPN leagues.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Meanwhile, Kansas City wideout Mecole Hardman projects as a boom-or-bust play against Atlanta. He hasn't produced more than 40 receiving yards in a game since Week 9, though he did have a touchdown catch last week. And the Chiefs may go with a more pass-heavy approach with Clyde Edwards-Helaire nursing ankle and hip injuries.
Hardman could also be used to supplement the running game. He had one carry last week, albeit for negative-five yards.
Fantasy managers couldn't ask for a better matchup either. No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing receivers than the Falcons. Starting Hardman will be a gamble, but the payoff could be huge. He is rostered in 26 percent of Yahoo leagues and 24 percent of ESPN leagues.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Finding a starting-caliber tight end this late in the season can be tricky. Fortunately, the Cowboys' Dalton Schultz is still available in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues and 69 percent of ESPN leagues.
Schultz has an attractive matchup, too, as the Eagles have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points (tied) to opposing tight ends. His strong string of play should continue in Week 16.
While Schultz had just two receptions for 14 yards last week, he did find the end zone. He had caught at least four passes in five of his six games before Week 15, and he should be considered a relatively high-floor play.
Austin Hooper, TE, Cleveland Browns
While Austin Hooper hasn't been the fantasy stud in Cleveland that he was in Atlanta, he was a big factor in Week 15. He caught five passes for 41 yards and a score last week against the New York Giants and could see a similar role this week against the Jets.
New York has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends by a pretty significant margin. Tight ends have averaged 12.1 points against the Jets and 10.3 points against the closest team, the Chicago Bears.
Hooper should be considered a boom-or-bust play, but that's what managers should expect to find late in Week 16. He is rostered in 53 percent of Yahoo leagues and 54 percent of ESPN leagues.
Jordan Akins, TE, Houston Texans
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins is also a boom-or-bust play, though he's one who mostly boomed in Week 15. Against the Indianapolis Colts, he caught five passes for 50 yards. Incredible numbers? No, but if you're picking late in the waiver order—and presumably you are, if you're still in the winner's bracket—Akins may have to do.
The good news is Akins has a favorable matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals this week. Cincinnati has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points (tied) to opposing tight ends in 2020.
Cincinnati proved against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Monday that they're willing to put up a fight in a lost season, so don't expect the Texans to just salt the game away on the ground. Akins should get some opportunities in the passing attack, and he just might turn those into a couple of big plays.
Akins is rostered in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues and 5 percent of ESPN leagues.
*Points allowed and roster percentages from FantasyPros.
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