Fantasy Football: Week 15 Tiers

Many fantasy owners focus a bit too literally on expert rankings. Our rankings can definitely be used for “start or sit” decisions, especially as a tie breaker between two similar players. If we rank two players very closely together, however, we are not necessarily intending to make a bold call such as “Player A is a much better option than Player B this week.” We are making that call, though, if we project and rank the players quite far from each other. This is why we prefer to look at “tiers” – any two players within a tier are essentially coin tosses. However, the rank within the tiers is meaningful. Only if two players are ranked in different tiers, are you definitively better off (in theory) taking the higher ranked player.

Here are our Week 15 Tiered Rankings (standard scoring)

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Matt Ryan
Kirk Cousins
Russell Wilson
Aaron Rodgers

Tier 2

Cam Newton
Tyrod Taylor
Andrew Luck
Dak Prescott
Derek Carr
Carson Palmer
Drew Brees
Tom Brady

Tier 3

Joe Flacco
Jameis Winston
Ben Roethlisberger
Philip Rivers

Tier 4

Eli Manning
Marcus Mariota
Alex Smith
Colin Kaepernick
Matthew Stafford
Sam Bradford
Andy Dalton

Tier 5

Blake Bortles

Tier 6

Brock Osweiler
Trevor Siemian
Carson Wentz

Tier 7

Matt Moore
Robert Griffin III

Tier 8

Bryce Petty
Matt Barkley

Tier 9

Jared Goff

This is another tricky week for QBs. People are surely going to be overthinking things just because the stakes are much higher now in the fantasy football playoffs. Instead of beating a dead horse by pointing out that Tom Brady has a brutal matchup I’d like to point out how to break down these decisions. It’s important to understand the different layers of a player’s expectations and how each player differs in that regard. Each player has their own unique “ceiling” and “floor” – not to mention their “average” projection can be farther off of their “median” projection. To put this simply – I base my rankings strictly off of my projections. By doing this I am essentially saying for Aaron Rodgers this week his projection is 18.4 standard fantasy points since if this week were to play out in full 1,000 times that his average fantasy score would be roughly 18.4 points. This certainly doesn’t mean that I expect him to get exactly 18.4 and anything he gets above or below that my projection can be classified as “bad”. We must embrace the randomness and volatility in this world and especially when it comes to fantasy football.

Having said that, looking at Tyrod Taylor’s projection of 17.3 points this week, he comes in higher ranked over Tom Brady at 16.4. So I’m saying to start Tyrod over Tom Brady, right? It’s not quite that simple actually. A lot of Tyrod’s production comes from his legs whereas Brady’s comes from his passing stats. Rushing stats are much more volatile week to week but also hold a lot of value in fantasy football scoring. Because of this, Tyrod stands to have much more inconsistent results which makes his potential for a real high scoring week (his ceiling) and a low scoring “dud” of a week (his floor) a greater gap then someone as consistent as Tom Brady. When it comes to making a sit/start decision in a tradition h2h season long fantasy format, you are more concerned about taking the player who has a higher floor – especially at the QB position. Since this is most likely a must-win week, don’t plan on pulling your hair our deciding to play Tyrod over Brady or Joe Flacco over Big Ben. In these tight decisions let’s just put the QB we drafted earlier in our drafts (for a reason) lead us to victory this week. Just keep in mind that their matchups aren’t ideal so we need to temper expectations some.

Running Backs

Tier 1

David Johnson
Le’Veon Bell

Tier 2

Ezekiel Elliott

Tier 3

LeSean McCoy

Tier 4

Latavius Murray
Devonta Freeman
Spencer Ware
Jay Ajayi

Tier 5

Jeremy Hill
Jordan Howard
Rob Kelley

Tier 6

Bilal Powell
Demarco Murray
Thomas Rawls
Lamar Miller

Tier 7

Doug Martin
Carlos Hyde
Jonathan Stewart

Tier 8

Tevin Coleman

Tier 9

Jerick McKinnon
LeGarrette Blount
Kenneth Farrow
Frank Gore
Kenneth Dixon

Tier 10

Todd Gurley
Mark Ingram
Isaiah Crowell
Ryan Mathews
Rashad Jennings

Tier 11

Justin Forsett
Terrance West
Matt Asiata
T.J. Yeldon
Theo Riddick

This week I feel like it’s a bit more beneficial if I spend use this space to help point out strategy at the position this week as opposed to cut and dry black/white decision making. The guy I’m highlighting at RB this week is Kenneth Farrow. We have already received the news that Melvin Gordon is set to miss this week. Kenneth Farrow is next up on the depth chart and while most people don’t have a clue who the UDFA out of Houston is – he is someone I am going to plug in this week in my fantasy football playoff team(s) in need. Most people can’t stomach the fact that they might have to play an undrafted RB with 36 career carries and 0 TDs. Let me help you feel a bit more relaxed about having to pull the trigger this week.

Some of the all-time fantasy football legends were undrafted: Arian Foster, Priest Holmes, Kurt Warner, Wes Welker…to name a few. Don’t let his draft status deter you. Go check out some of his YouTube highlights to see how he destroyed at the college level. To be fair, about 80-90% of the clips are just brutal college defense and weak attempts at tackling. Nonetheless, he has the physical ability to do some damage with the 15-20 touches he is likely getting this week. Unless you have DJ, Le’Veon, and Zeke as your RBs you can’t expect 100+ yards and multiple TDs each week. We are just begging for a 60-70 total yards with MAYBE a TD sprinkled in for Farrow this week and you should be in a better position to win. Yes, Ronnie Hillman could steal some passing down work. Yes, Rivers may just end up throwing it 60 times. I’ve seen all the reasons people are shying away from Farrow – and rightfully so. I just think that with their 5-8 “lost” season, they may be more inclined to audition Farrow to see if he can be a part of their RB plans for next year. If anything, give him some in-game experience to get better at pass protection as opposed to getting a look at journeyman Ronnie Hillman some work when we already have plenty of film on him to know what he can and cannot do. I am starting Farrow with confidence this week but not holding him to the lofty expectations I expect from someone like Le’Veon Bell.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1

Antonio Brown
Odell Beckham Jr.

Tier 2

Mike Evans

Tier 3

Jordy Nelson

Tier 4

Larry Fitzgerald
Doug Baldwin
T.Y. Hilton
Dez Bryant
Emmanuel Sanders
Michael Crabtree
Tyrell Williams
Demaryius Thomas

Tier 5

Julio Jones
Brandin Cooks
Amari Cooper
Jamison Crowder
Davante Adams
Sammy Watkins
Tyreek Hill
Julian Edelman
Rishard Matthews
Stefon Diggs
Michael Thomas
Jarvis Landry
Mike Wallace
DeAndre Hopkins
Steve Smith Sr.
Alshon Jeffery
DeSean Jackson

Tier 6

Golden Tate
Terrelle Pryor Sr.
Kelvin Benjamin
Willie Snead
Dontrelle Inman
Taylor Gabriel
Kenny Britt
Adam Thielen
Ty Montgomery
Pierre Garcon
Marqise Lee
Malcolm Mitchell
Ted Ginn Jr.
Marvin Jones Jr.

Tier 7

Corey Coleman
Robby Anderson
DeVante Parker
Tyler Lockett
Jordan Matthews
Donte Moncrief
Brandon Marshall
Sterling Shepard
Cameron Meredith
Brandon LaFell
Cole Beasley
A.J. Green
Randall Cobb
Kenny Stills
Allen Robinson
Anquan Boldin
Chris Hogan
Will Fuller

The WR strategy I’m highlighting this week is how to handle Julio Jones. It is very important to stay up-to-speed on his status if you own him in season long. There is absolutely no reason to be making your decision set in stone this early in the week though. The nature of his injury is likely going to make him a true game-time decision again this week. This means that even Julio himself probably doesn’t know if he will be able to play or how effective he will be. It’s a highly risky situation even if he is active, but we all know he is good enough to take on that risk. Due to some cruel scheduling by the NFL for this game -they play in the afternoon games despite being a home team in the eastern time zone. This means you shouldn’t be making sit/start plans 3 days in advance – you need to be making back up plans. So all this means is that you need to add or save a WR that plays in the afternoon games or later in the event you won’t be using Julio. A player like Taylor Gabriel is ideal for this since he stands to gain the most if Julio is ruled out or is expected to be severely limited.

Tight Ends

Tier 1

Travis Kelce

Tier 2

Greg Olsen
Jordan Reed
Tyler Eifert
Jimmy Graham

Tier 3

Delanie Walker
Kyle Rudolph
Antonio Gates

Tier 4

Cameron Brate
Martellus Bennett

Tier 5

Ladarius Green
C.J. Fiedorowicz
Zach Ertz
Jason Witten
Eric Ebron
Jermaine Gresham
Coby Fleener

Tier 6

Dennis Pitta
Hunter Henry
Vernon Davis
Jack Doyle
Daniel Brown

Antonio Gates is 2 TD shy of tying Tony Gonzalez for most TDs by a tight end. I feel like Rivers may start forcing him the ball in the red zone as soon as this week. Hunter Henry’s run of 2 catches 15 yards & a TD may come to an end this week if my theory is correct.

Kickers

Tier 1

Matt Bryant

Tier 2

Dustin Hopkins
Dan Bailey
Steven Hauschka
Justin Tucker

Tier 3

Cairo Santos
Chandler Catanzaro
Sebastian Janikowski
Josh Lambo
Kai Forbath
Nick Novak

Tier 4

Adam Vinatieri
Mason Crosby
Dan Carpenter
Stephen Gostkowski
Graham Gano
Brandon McManus
Wil Lutz
Phil Dawson

Tier 5

Robbie Gould
Randy Bullock
Matt Prater
Caleb Sturgis
Chris Boswell
Roberto Aguayo
Nick Folk
Andrew Franks
Ryan Succop

Tier 6

Jason Myers
Connor Barth
Cody Parkey
Greg Zuerlein

Defense

Tier 1

Buffalo Bills
Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers

Tier 2

Baltimore Ravens
Houston Texans

Tier 3

Minnesota Vikings
Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Giants
New York Jets
Pittsburgh Steelers

Tier 4

Arizona Cardinals
Atlanta Falcons

Tier 5

Oakland Raiders
Dallas Cowboys
Denver Broncos
Jacksonville Jaguars
Washington Redskins
Cincinnati Bengals
Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles

Tier 6

Chicago Bears
Indianapolis Colts
New Orleans Saints
Tennessee Titans
Los Angeles Rams

Tier 7

Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers