The Yays and Nays: Our Week 16 Fantasy Football Projections and Top Plays
With most leagues now entrenched in fantasy playoffs, let’s, for the final time, revisit a concept we’ve done twice before. Here are six numbers that have defined the fantasy football season. After that, we’ll dive into some yays and nays for the weekend games.
That’s how many players have scored 330 or more PPR points. Neither of them is a quarterback. No other position player has reached the 300-point threshold yet. That’s how dominant Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp have been all season.
Taylor leads all running backs in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, though Derrick Henry has requested an asterisk here given the state of play through Halloween. Kupp leads all wide receivers in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. It’s as simple as this: If you have either of those players, you likely made your league’s playoffs.
That’s how many of the top eight overall running backs had an ADP of RB10 or worse. Meaning, in 10-team leagues, all six were available in the second round and in the case of a few of them, way beyond. Taylor (RB10), Najee Harris (RB11), Joe Mixon (RB13), Leonard Fournette (RB32), and James Conner (RB35) are five of the top seven running backs.
Cordarrelle Patterson is RB8 on the year and his ADP (RB88 and/or WR99) is a hoot to look back on. Getting an undrafted player like Patterson and having him provide RB1 value is a league-winning combination. And for all the fantasy managers that chose to execute a wide receiver heavy draft strategy, players like Fournette, Conner and Patterson were available late in drafts to round out an excellent roster.
That’s how many PPR points TE1 has scored this season. And if it stands for the remainder of the season, for the first time in a half decade, it won’t be Travis Kelce. Because TE1 through 15 weeks is Mark Andrews.
Andrews leads all tight ends – and is tied for second in the NFL – with 13 touchdown burns, which measures how many touchdowns a player could have scored with on-target throws from the quarterback.
Andrews has only scored eight touchdowns this year, and the numbers indicate that Andrews has been slightly unlucky to not score more. For reference, Kelce has seven touchdowns this season and seven touchdown burns. Since Week 10, Andrews only has one game with fewer than 15 PPR points. He’s right alongside Kelce as the best fantasy tight end entering Week 16.
That’s how many rushing touchdowns Deebo Samuel had scored heading into Thursday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. To put that in perspective, only one other wide receiver had more than one – Jarvis Landry with two. Every other wide receiver in the NFL had combined to score 11 touchdowns.
Over his last four games (heading into Thursday), Samuel only had one game in which he recorded more than 25 receiving yards and had no receiving touchdowns in that stretch. And despite all of that, he’s still WR5 on the season. He had a rushing touchdown in five straight games and been nothing short of dynamic for the San Francisco 49ers in securing his first Pro Bowl bid.
That’s how many PPR points Hunter Renfrow scored in Weeks 12 through 14. His 30 receptions during that stretch were more than any other wide receiver and he turned those 30 receptions into 100 receiving yards during each of the three games.
On the season, Renfrow has risen all the way to WR12, after entering the season as WR84. He is the only top-20 wide receiver to have an ADP worse than WR50. In most leagues, he went undrafted. Now, in the fantasy playoffs, with his high weekly floor, he’s become a key cog on many playoff teams.
That’s how many turnovers the Dallas Cowboys defense has forced. Additionally, the Cowboys have scored two more defensive touchdowns than any other team. And yes, the Cowboys (the Cowboys!) are the top-ranked fantasy defense.
As the league-leading total indicates, the Cowboys have been excellent all season at forcing turnovers. But it’s been especially deadly over the last three weeks, led by the clear favorite for defensive rookie of the year, Micah Parsons, when it’s forced four turnovers in each game and not allowed more than 17 points in a single game. This week, the Cowboys have our highest projected total of interceptions. They’re a no-doubt top-three defense this week.
As always, let’s jump around and evaluate some Week 16 projections gathered from some of the top data-driven projections available using several of our AI-powered models.
Note: The ranking to which we compare ours in this piece is the expert consensus ranking (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Thursday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Additional Note: With COVID numbers spiking, there’s always a chance these players could be impacted. As of this writing, none of these players are in the health and safety protocols.
Jalen Hurts, QB (PHI) vs. NYG (ECR: 7, Our Rank: 1): For the second straight week, our models are significantly higher on Hurts than industry consensus. Last week, Hurts’ ECR was eighth and our models had him as QB4. He finished as QB3.
When discussing why our models were so optimistic about Hurts, we highlighted his success on the ground being a major advantage. After two more rushing touchdowns last week, he now has 10 on the season.
His ECR again slots him in as a low-tier QB1. This time, our models are even more aggressive. He’s our top-ranked quarterback of the week. Why? Because of his rushing, of course. He’s our top projected rusher for a quarterback, and his chances of a rushing touchdown are higher than any quarterback – and the third highest of any player, just behind Taylor and Alvin Kamara after Dalvin Cook tested positive for COVID. Hurts is a strong candidate to severely outperform his ECR for the second straight week.
Michael Carter, RB (NYJ) vs. JAC (ECR: 26, Our Rank: 16): This is where we get into some worrisome territory. Because yes, our models are confident that relying on the New York Jets offense this week is prudent.
Coming off an injury, Carter split carries with Tevin Coleman last week, with each recording eight in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. A week further removed from injury, Carter is going to take more of the Jets’ backfield touches this week. We’re projecting him for 13.7 carries. And when Carter touches the ball, he’s productive.
Forcing missed tackles at a better rate than any running back with 100 or more carries other than Nick Chubb, Carter is going to produce strong numbers this week. He’s a solid RB2 option, with the potential to finish in the top 10 if he can get into the end zone.
D.J. Moore, WR (CAR) vs. TB (ECR: 28, Our Rank: 12): If you’ve read us with consistency, you know that our models have been lower on Moore than the industry consensus all season. For this key playoff week, however, Moore makes our yay list for the first time, after three previous appearances as a nay.
Moore’s received double-digit targets each of the last three games and ranks seventh overall in the NFL in targets. So why is Moore’s ECR more equivalent with a borderline player and not a main target in a team’s passing game? Because he’s only scored one touchdown since Week 4 and doesn’t have a game with more than six catches since he had three games with eight catches in the first four weeks.
Last week, WR12 scored 18.80 points. Moore has scored more than 14 points without a touchdown four different times this season. That’s right in the range our projections have him this week. He’s currently being described as a game-time decision, but if he plays, he’s a high-end WR2 this week.
Kenny Golladay, WR (NYG) vs. PHI (ECR: 53, Our Rank: 21): A name that has been on the peripheries for fantasy managers all year, Golladay sports our biggest difference between ECR and projections this week.
After scoring 12 touchdowns in a breakout season with the Detroit Lions in 2019, Golladay has only managed two touchdowns in his next 16 games – none with his new team, the New York Giants. Well, he’s 21st in our rankings because he’s got the highest touchdown projection of any player outside the top 20. And with eight targets and zero (!) receptions in the red zone this season, he’s due for some positive regression to the mean.
Golladay is a risky play because he hasn’t recorded more than three receptions in a game since he came back from injury in Week 9. But with all of the COVID absences surging through the NFL, Golladay’s higher chances of scoring a touchdown makes him WR2 worthy and a smart replacement if necessary.
Kirk Cousins, QB (MIN) vs. LAR (ECR: 13, Our Rank: 20): If Hurts is a great play almost entirely because of his rushing output, Cousins falls in the opposite category. His lack of rushing ability lowers his floor, requiring him and the Minnesota Vikings to have a dynamic passing day for him to be a viable fantasy quarterback.
How dynamic? Well in the nine games that Cousins hasn’t accounted for three total touchdowns, his average fantasy output has been 15.17 fantasy points. And his average weekly finish has been QB17. In his five games with three or more touchdowns, he’s averaged 25.14 fantasy points and his average weekly finish has been QB5.
Well, the Los Angeles Rams have been strong on defense all season. They rank fourth in yards allowed per play.
And the only quarterback who has accounted for three touchdowns in a single game against them is Aaron Rodgers. No one is mistaking Cousins for Rodgers. Cousins is unlikely to reach three touchdowns. As a result, our projections expect Cousins to struggle to a finish as a low-end QB2.
Javonte Williams, RB (DEN) vs. LV (ECR: 12, Our Rank: 24): In games that both Melvin Gordon and Williams have played since Week 6, Williams has yet to receive more carries than Gordon in any single outing. This, despite Williams averaging more yards per carry (4.8-4.4) and more yards after contact (2.64-1.83) per rush.
Ultimately, that makes this projection simple. It will be extremely difficult for Williams to produce near-RB1 value while only being the recipient of 12 touches. Unless he unexpectedly bucks a trend that has been consistent for the Denver Broncos all season, Williams will likely be productive enough with his touches to produce an RB2 performance, but not more than that.
CeeDee Lamb, WR (DAL) vs. WAS (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 24): As is often the case with projecting the Cowboys offense, the lack of a true hierarchy in the offense limits the upside of all of the players on a weekly basis.
In his last three games, Lamb has registered at least six catches. In the game before that, he finished with three catches for 14 yards. He also has games with two catches for 13 yards (Week 4) and two catches for 23 yards (Week 9). In total, Lamb has only had six games where he was the highest-scoring Cowboys wide receiver – which doesn’t even take into account Dalton Schultz or the run game.
Our projections expect a relatively equal output from the three main weapons on the Cowboys offense. Amari Cooper is projected for 57.6 receiving yards, Lamb’s total is 53.5, and Michael Gallup falls just short of that at 51.9. They’re one of two teams (Cincinnati Bengals) with three wide receivers all projected to record 50 yards. As a result, Lamb’s prospects of finishing as a top-10 wide receiver on the week are diminished.
See you in the fantasy championship, and we’ll get back to our Best DFS value plays next week. Happy holidays to all!
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Design by Briggs Clinard.