To those whose championship games ended up being decided this past week, hopefully you were victorious. To those whose championship games are yet to come, I wish you the best of luck. And finally to all readers of this column, I wish you happy holidays and hopefully will see you again next year as this week marks the final entry of this column for the year. With any luck, you were able to use the recommendations noted in here to make your fantasy team better and win a few matchups that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Outside of a few returns from injury that wiped out any contribution from Kelvin Sheppard and Jason Trusnik, the free agent report was very solid in last week’s recommendations. Nick Moody replaced Chris Borland in the lineup for the 49ers and played well with 7 solo tackles. Gerald Hodges continued his solid play with 6 solo tackles against the Dolphins. Sneaky plays Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee were both very good against Houston but not for the reasons I expected. Despite starting a third string QB in Case Keenum, Houston did not allow a sack to either pass rusher. Suggs logged 7 total tackles and McPhee scored 6 total tackles and a PD.
Michael Wilhoite SFO LB – ILB 3-4
Wilhoite has taken a back seat to Patrick Willis or Chris Borland depending on the game but the fact remains that for the most part, he has left Navorro Bowman owners wanting in terms of fantasy production. With both Willis and Borland injured in week 16, Wilhoite logged 9 total tackles alongside Nick Moody’s 7 solo tackles in a loss to the Chargers. Wilhoite appears to be the player that the 49ers would rather have on the field on both base defense and subpackages. As such, Wilhoite should possess the most upside. The 49ers host the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals in week 17 and figure to run the ball and utilize short passes to protect rookie quarterback Logan Thomas. Give Wilhoite a look for week 17 only but assume that he will not carry value next year upon Bowman’s return to the lineup.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Manti Te’o SDC LB – ILB 3-4
Going into the season, most pundits (myself included) had Donald Butler as the more valuable ILB from the Chargers and Manti Te’o was a secondary option at least for a few years. Butler has been inconsistent and somewhat injury prone and apparently the Chargers are close to washing their hands of him. Butler is now on injured reserve after a few weeks of being fazed out of the base defense. Former golden domer Manti Te’o figures to be the best bet to take over as a leader of the Charger defense for both the remainder of this year as well as next year. Te’o logged 11 total tackles and a sack against the 49ers in week 16. I like his chances in week 17 as well against the Chiefs.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3; potential low-end LB1 next year.
Jameel McClain/Mark Herzlich NYG LB – MLB/WLB 4-3
This is a pure numbers play. Following the Eagles as a method to get some tackles isn’t exactly rocket science. The volume has been there all year including last week where Washington LBs combined for 36 total tackles. Yes, you read that correctly, thirty-six total tackles. McClain at middle linebacker is the safer play but almost much more likely to be owned. Mark Herzlich is likely more available given his recent return from injury. McClain represents LB1 potential this week whereas Herzlich is closer to an LB2
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB1 to Mid LB2 (McClain), Mid LB2 to Mid LB3 (Herzlich)
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Vince Williams PIT LB – This one is a bit risky but deeper leagues can count on Williams being more available than many recommendations are. Former Seminole Vince Williams is holding down the inside linebacker position alongside Lawrence Timmons despite first round rookie Ryan Shazier returning from a knee injury. This might be a “bring the injured guy along slowly” situation or a combination of good play from Williams and shaky play from Shazier. Either way, Williams represents a decent play against Cincinnati in week 17 if he sees the snaps he needs to score.
Defensive Linemen Plays
There was nothing earth shattering at defensive line this week. It was interesting to see a couple household names in Osi Umenyiora and Corey Liuget completely disappear on the stat sheet except for a splash play touchdown.
Sneaky play Kerry Wynn was a monster recommendation in week 16. Those who were able to get him into their lineup were treated to 3 solo tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception. You can’t ask for much more than that in your championship game. Shallow league play Chandler Jones was somewhat disappointing with 5 total tackles and Frostee Rucker was a non-factor in a Seattle blowout with a single tackle.
Quinton Dial SFO DT – NT 3-4
One of the nice surprises this year for an otherwise maligned San Francisco 49er defense is the late season emergence of second year nose tackle Quinton Dial. Over Dial’s last four game, the former member of the Alabama crimson tide has 20 total tackles and a sack. With offensive lines needing to account for so many different options on the 49ers, Dial has become a decent option for leagues that reward a defensive lineman who have a high tackle floor. With a rookie under center for Arizona playing on the road, Dial and the rest of the 49ers have a decent chance to get some splash plays.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Sealver Siliga NEP DT – DT 4-3
Sealver Siliga had a pretty solid week in week 15 with 6 total tackles and a sack against the Chargers but it was hard for me to recommend the 4 year practice squad journeyman when he only played 41% of the defensive snaps. However, in a week 16 tilt against the Jets, the Patriots seemed to be playing much more 3-4 than in their previous games this year. Sealver ended up playing 75% of the snaps and responded with a great game (8 total tackles and a sack). It’s tough to say how the former Ute figures into the Patriots long-term plans but he has certainly been part of their short-term plans.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Timmy Jernigan BAL DT– I expect that Cleveland’s meltdown continue in Baltimore to finish the year. No matter who the quarterback is for the Cleveland Browns, I don’t expect the Ravens to give very much quarter. Look to 2nd round rookie Timmy Jernigan to make an impact and potentially add to his 4 sacks this year.
Defensive Back Plays
While a handful of players in the top 10 for defensive backs this week were tackle dominated, another handful of DBs ended up posting top 10 games with big plays. Guys like Antoine Bethea, Aqib Talib and Dre Kirkpatrick all put up monster games on the back of interception returns for touchdowns. While those are tough to predict, owners will certainly take those plays when they present themselves.
The recommendations from week 16 were fairly solid yet unspectacular. Bradley McDougald delivered the performance we expected him to with the prime matchup against the Packers. His 9 total tackle, 1 PD performance was a far cry from 15 total tackles in week 15 but it’s hard to complain with 20 points in the bank from a relative unknown. George Wilson had a great start to the Thursday night game with 6 solo tackles out of the gate but disappeared in the second half. It felt like there were more tackles to be had there. Andrew Sendejo (3 solo tackles) was back to second string as Robert Blanton managed to return from injury earlier than expected. Kemal Ishmael did not receive all of the snaps as William Moore gave it a go against New Orleans but Ishmael managed to log 4 total tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Coty Sensabaugh put forth a disappointing 5 total tackle performance in a game that saw fewer tackle opportunities than expected.
Da’Norris Searcy BUF S – SS 4-3
Searcy returned from an injured hamstring in week 16 in fine fantasy form with 11 total tackles in a week 16 loss to the Raiders. Tom Brady might not play the entire game in a week 17 clash between the Bills and Patriots but Searcy remains a solid play as an in-the-box safety against a quality offense in the Patriots. Jimmy Garoppolo has proven to be very efficient running the Patriot offense as well in the two times he was given opportunity to do so.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB2
Antwon Blake/Will Allen PIT CB/S – CB/SS 3-4
Digging a little deeper here, Antwon Blake has put together 3 games in a row with over 10 fantasy points, mostly from tackles replacing Brice McCain as the number 3 CB. He is strictly a numbers play that stands to do well if the Bengals (week 17 opponent for the Steelers) fall behind. Will Allen is pinch hitting for Troy Polamalu who is out with a knee injury and could see a fair amount of action in coverage of Jermaine Gresham. Both make decent plays this week.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Will Hill BAL S – SS 3-4
Will Hill appears to be separating himself from the pack in terms of snap count and production in what amounted to a very messy Baltimore safety situation this year. Although he has proven to be one of the more knuckleheaded players in recent memory, the former Gator still possesses NFL talent. In addition, a full time Ravens safety is almost always a quality player to own on an IDP squad. Give Hill a look against Cleveland in week 17 and consider stashing him on keeper/dynasty teams in case he can win/keep the job outright next year.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Darius Slay DET CB – It’s not an amazing find to recommend a CB2 against the Packers but here it is. Slay is on a decent stretch of fantasy production averaging over 5 tackles and 2 PDs a game. He also scored 6 tackles and a PD against the Packers in week 3. Bank on the second year man out of Mississippi State to give you some tackles in week 17.