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Fantasy Football: Week 16 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 16 Tiered Rankings (standard scoring)

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Drew Brees
Andrew Luck
Tom Brady

Tier 2

Aaron Rodgers
Kirk Cousins
Matt Ryan

Tier 3

Derek Carr
Ben Roethlisberger
Cam Newton
Jameis Winston
Russell Wilson
Marcus Mariota

Tier 4

Dak Prescott
Philip Rivers

Tier 5

Tyrod Taylor

Tier 6

Matthew Stafford
Colin Kaepernick
Eli Manning
Robert Griffin III
Blake Bortles
Andy Dalton
Joe Flacco

Tier 7

Sam Bradford
Tom Savage
Matt Barkley
Carson Palmer

Tier 8

Trevor Siemian
Alex Smith
Carson Wentz

Tier 9

Matt Moore
Jared Goff
Bryce Petty

Order is restored at QB this week. The past couple of weeks we have seen elite QBs in tough spots with weaker QBs in great spots which had been complicating our decision making quite a bit. This week we get Brees in a good spot at home, Brady against the burnable Jets secondary, and Big Ben finally at home. Jameis Winston is the only real sneaky QB1 this week in a potential shootout at the Superdome. I would not want to be in the position of having to choose him or Russell Wilson vs. Ari this week, it’s that close. In 2 QB leagues we have some decent options in Tier 6. I like RG3 this week as a potential streamer there but pay attention to the developing story that Cody Kessler has actually led the team in 1st team practice snaps this week. With them having absolutely nothing to play for besides trying to not go 0-16…who knows if they’ll pull some stunt like using each QB for a half? Don’t let the Matt Moore 4-TD game hype lead you too astray this week. He isn’t even an option this week @Buf and enjoyed quite a bit of TD “luck” based on his low volume of pass attempts last week.

Running Backs

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell
Ezekiel Elliott

Tier 2

David Johnson

Tier 3

LeSean McCoy

Tier 4

Jordan Howard
Demarco Murray

Tier 5

Todd Gurley

Tier 6

Latavius Murray
Spencer Ware
Devonta Freeman
Carlos Hyde
Jeremy Hill
Lamar Miller
Rob Kelley
Thomas Rawls
Jonathan Stewart
LeGarrette Blount
Bilal Powell
Jay Ajayi
Doug Martin
Mark Ingram

Tier 7

Ty Montgomery*
Frank Gore
Kenneth Farrow

Tier 8

Ryan Mathews
Isaiah Crowell
Terrance West

Tier 9

Justin Forsett
Adrian Peterson
Rashad Jennings
Kenneth Dixon
T.J. Yeldon
Tevin Coleman

Tier 10

Dion Lewis
Tim Hightower
Paul Perkins
Jerick McKinnon
Duke Johnson Jr.
Chris Ivory
Dwayne Washington

Tier 11

Charles Sims
Rex Burkhead
Darren Sproles
Devontae Booker
Jalen Richard

Tier 12

Robert Turbin
James White
Derrick Henry

*Also may be eligible as a WR. I would recommend using him as a WR if you can.

RB sees quite a bit of shake up this week as a lot of the studs are in tough spots while certain fantasy disappointments such as Todd Gurley have dream matchups. It’s unlikely many Todd Gurley teams somehow managed to make it to their league’s championship – but if so, he has a great chance to help bring home the trophy for them this week with a dream matchup against the 49ers sieve-like run defense. I tend to get a lot of slack for having Spencer Ware as a RB1 most weeks. Truth is, the negative opinion on him is mostly due to over reacting to short term results that have unfortunately seen him have some bad TD luck. The touches have been there, the yardage has been there to an extent as well, and the Chiefs don’t allow Alex Smith to have much TD share most weeks. The excess TDs usually funnel to Ware but has seen Char West and Tyreek Hill score rush TDs each since his last one. I can see the tide shift back in his favor and if he weren’t stuffed twice on the Titans goal line last week people might be much higher on him this week. It’s funny how such small margins of having a huge fantasy week can cloud the general consensus opinion. I tend to focus on what is predictive of future success and is why I stand pat that Ware is a fringe RB1 again this week. Let’s hope he doesn’t reward his owners with a lump of coal this week.

I’m guessing the Chargers don’t trot Melvin Gordon out there this week in a lost season. He is 3 yards shy of a 1k yard season so I can see them possibly letting him heal up enough to give him a few carries next week and reach that milestone. This means that we may need to rely on Kenneth Farrow’s bankable volume again this week in desperate spots. Again, my whole point isn’t that Farrow is some 2nd coming of Adrian Peterson, he certainly isn’t. However, in a season like this where RBs are scarce and more teams have 2 or even 3-way RBBC it’s nice having a RB who can get you 15-20 touches. I was simply driving that point home as opposed to having the masses almost “scouting” the player and saying his “pass protection woes may limit his work”. Just have to be careful over analyzing situations like that. The Chargers literally don’t have any other options. His only competition is Ronnie Hillman who we have plenty of film on and is considered to be poor in pass protection. Might as well see if the rookie, in Farrow, can improve on that with live game action. I’d be worried about his fumbling issue last week costing him some snaps but the matchup against the Browns should help negate that somewhat. Remember, we aren’t starting him over Carlos Hyde or anything. We aren’t even expecting much more than 60 total yards from him. We are simply plugging him in over a Darren Sproles type at the Flex if we are thin at RB.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1

Odell Beckham Jr.
Antonio Brown
Mike Evans

Tier 2

Jordy Nelson
T.Y. Hilton
Julio Jones

Tier 3

Brandin Cooks
Michael Crabtree
Julian Edelman
Ty Montgomery
Dez Bryant
Demaryius Thomas

Tier 4

Michael Thomas
Doug Baldwin
A.J. Green
Emmanuel Sanders
Dontrelle Inman
Tyrell Williams
Larry Fitzgerald
Rishard Matthews
DeAndre Hopkins
Golden Tate
Kenny Britt
Davante Adams
Alshon Jeffery
Willie Snead
Amari Cooper

Tier 5

Jordan Matthews
Jarvis Landry
Tyler Lockett
Mike Wallace

Tier 6

Jamison Crowder
Sammy Watkins
Terrelle Pryor Sr.
Malcolm Mitchell
DeSean Jackson
Allen Robinson
Steve Smith Sr.
Robby Anderson
Ted Ginn Jr.
Pierre Garcon
Kelvin Benjamin
Cameron Meredith

Tier 7

Taylor Gabriel
Stefon Diggs
Marqise Lee
Sterling Shepard
Jeremy Maclin
Chris Hogan
Tavon Austin
Marvin Jones Jr.
Brandon Marshall
DeVante Parker
Kenny Stills
Cole Beasley
Tyreek Hill
J.J. Nelson

The status of Julio Jones and A.J. Green will shape the landscape at WR for Week 16. Julio has a fantastic matchup but is hard to trust after missing 2 straight games with a toe injury. If either are active you almost have to roll the dice on them. Even if they play “limited snaps” you have to keep in mind that they will most likely see high leverage snaps which will include obvious passing downs and/or red zone opportunities. They likely aren’t going to send Julio out to run block on majority of his “limited” snaps, these teams aren’t stupid. Pretty much all 3 main Saints WRs are in-play this week. I also think Inman/Tyrell make for safe WR2 this week against the Browns. Amari Cooper has been a pretty big disappointment in my eyes. He is way too inconsistent to even be in the WR1 discussion and his scary low floor has me thinking he’s more of an elite WR3 this week. Not sure if he’s even due for positive TD regression since Carr seems to look for Crabtree and even Seth Roberts when they near the goal line. DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson are in similar spots as Todd Gurley this week. They have been the biggest non-injury related busts of 2016 but are in spots to at least make up for it if their teams somehow made it this far. ARob is much more of a desperation Flex play but the Titans are one of the better teams to target with pass catchers as of late. It would be sweet, sweet justice if ARob goes off for 200 yards and 2 TD this week to help win Toilet Bowl matchups.

Tight Ends

Tier 1

Greg Olsen
Travis Kelce

Tier 2

Cameron Brate
Delanie Walker
Kyle Rudolph
Jimmy Graham

Tier 3

Tyler Eifert
Zach Ertz

Tier 4

Antonio Gates
Martellus Bennett

Tier 5

Jordan Reed
Jason Witten
Eric Ebron
Coby Fleener
Vernon Davis
Ladarius Green
Jack Doyle

Tier 6

Ryan Griffin
Hunter Henry
Charles Clay
Jared Cook
C.J. Fiedorowicz
Jermaine Gresham
Gary Barnidge

My Antonio Gates needing 3 more TDs to break the all-time record narrative has fallen flat. I even called out Hunter Henry last week saying his run of 2/20/1 was over. Well, he stuck it to me with a 3/37/1 last week. My theory still stands and I like Gates against the Browns defense that Rivers will take out his frustration of the last few weeks out on. Cameron Brate poses some serious sit/start decisions this week as he is not only a reliable option now but he gets the Saints. I’d even consider starting him over Jimmy Graham if I was forced to today. Jordan Reed can’t be relied upon in championship matchups. Stay on top of the news but at this point you need them to force feed him a TD in order to pay off. He isn’t going to be able to rack up enough yards to provide the safe floor we want from him. On a side note, it is hilarious how we pretty much have a 3-way TEBC in Indy. Any given week either Doyle, Allen, or Swope can be fantasy relevant. Doyle is the only one I’d even consider but do not recommend playing that game of Whack-a-Mole right now. Very worried about Ladarius Green this week considering it’s believed that his lengthy absence this year was due to his concussion history rather than his off-season ankle surgery. It’s also a concern for players in the concussion protocol this week since most teams play on Saturday this week – giving them one less day to reach clearance. Green doesn’t play until Sunday but I think they hold him out as a precaution due to his personal history.

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski
Matt Bryant
Sebastian Janikowski
Graham Gano
Dan Bailey
Adam Vinatieri

Tier 2

Dustin Hopkins
Steven Hauschka
Josh Lambo
Wil Lutz
Mason Crosby

Tier 3

Ryan Succop
Nick Novak
Roberto Aguayo
Cairo Santos
Justin Tucker
Greg Zuerlein

Tier 4

Randy Bullock
Caleb Sturgis
Robbie Gould
Dan Carpenter
Phil Dawson
Matt Prater
Connor Barth
Chris Boswell
Jason Myers
Brandon McManus

Tier 5

Kai Forbath
Cody Parkey
Chandler Catanzaro
Andrew Franks

Tier 6

Nick Folk

Again, I don’t need to be reminded that I have Justin Tucker way too low. I don’t just hand pick my K rankings I let my model do them for me. Believe me, I have incorporated as much as I can to give Tucker a boost this week. I have him rated out as pretty much the greatest K of all-time by a wide margin. Have to remember that the one thing that he can’t control….the Raven’s needing to drive down the field enough, stall, and then give him a FG opportunity is VERY luck driven. I’m pretty much factoring in that they almost intentionally do that at this point. He is also at Heinz Field which data will tell you it is the toughest place to kick. The Ravens also have a low team total that is under 20 points and are underdogs on the road which may cause them limited scoring chances and even put into a spot where a field goal won’t cut it and must go for it instead. Of course….after all of this I’m just guessing that Tucker will end up with 5-6 field goals. He defies all logic at this point. Start him if you have him.

Defense

Tier 1

New England Patriots

Tier 2

Kansas City Chiefs

Tier 3

Seattle Seahawks
Tennessee Titans

Tier 4

Green Bay Packers
Buffalo Bills
Los Angeles Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants
San Diego Chargers
Denver Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals
Washington Redskins

Tier 5

San Francisco 49ers
Dallas Cowboys
Oakland Raiders
Houston Texans

Tier 6

Miami Dolphins
Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Baltimore Ravens
Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville Jaguars
Chicago Bears

Tier 7

Detroit Lions
Indianapolis Colts
New York Jets