Week 17 brings the end of the NFL regular season. In most leagues, the fantasy football season is over by now. If your league is one of those leagues, I hope that you were victorious. If not, I suggest looking into some NFL playoffs fantasy football leagues, they are very fun. For those whose leagues are still playing meaningful fantasy football in week 17, I really want to stress one thing. Beware of teams have little to play for this week. The reason that fantasy football championships are largely played in week 16 is because many times, the game doesn’t come down to who has the best fantasy team but rather who has the best fantasy team comprised of players on NFL teams that still care. Looking at the standings after week 16, the list of teams with something to play for is pretty short. In the NFC, Philadelphia and Minnesota have both clinched first-round byes and Philly can’t lose its home field advantage. The entire NFC South minus Tampa Bay is still playing for something with New Orleans and Carolina yet to determine a division winner and Atlanta trying to hang onto the final wildcard spot. The Rams are still in the hunt for a first-round bye and Seattle remains the lone team on the outside looking in but with a chance to actually get in. Every other NFC team is out at this point. On the AFC side, the Patriots and Steelers are vying for home-field advantage. Baltimore and Tennessee are trying desperately to hang onto their wildcard spots with the Chargers and Bills having a chance to usurp them. Kansas City and Jacksonville clinched the division titles for their respective divisions but cannot catch the Steelers or Patriots. That makes the Chiefs and Jaguars a dangerous proposition this week. Everyone south of the Bills in the standings is also playing for pride or draft picks. Whether it’s a playoff team with nothing to gain in week 17 resting starters or a team who is out of it not playing guys who are nicked up but would otherwise play, there’s plenty of risk in this week. Ideally, your starting lineup is composed of players from teams who are playing meaningful football so that you can rule out “coach’s decision” as the reason your guy might not perform.
Nick Kwiatkoski did his part in the Bears’ effort to keep Cleveland on track for their perfect season by chipping in 8 total tackles. His 13 fantasy points were right on the average that the Browns have allowed to opposing ILBs. Telvin Smith was able to contribute a bit more in week 16 after his return to the lineup from a concussion injury in week 15 left a bit more to be desired. Smith scored 7 total tackles in a surprising loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Jatavis Brown wasn’t the high scorer I expected him to be as musical chairs for ILBs continued for the Chargers. Brown scored only 3 total tackles as Korey Toomer and Hayes Pullard were the stars of the show against the Jets in week 16. Sneaky play Cory Littleton proved to be a quality addition out of nowhere when fantasy owners needed one the most. The unheralded reserve ILB scored 7 total tackles, a sack and an interception in a winning effort against the Titans. That performance was a top 10-20 effort in many owners’ title game. Hopefully you were able to get him in the lineup.
Anthony Walker/Antonio Morrison IND LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3/Dynasty Stash
A 5th round pick out of Northwestern, Anthony Walker was selected in this year’s draft. He and a returning Jon Bostic were the only additions to a depleted Colts linebacking corps that lost Edwin Jackson to injury in the preseason. Bostic and 2016 4th round pick Antonio Morrison handled most of the snaps for 2017 with Bostic handling the higher volume of snaps. However, Bostic’s long-documented injury issues have once again caught up with him. Bostic was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury prior to the Colts’ Week 16 game against the Ravens. Morrison played 95% of the snaps and managed to turn in 9 total tackles with that playtime. Walker drew into 75% of the Colts’ snaps and turned in 8 total tackles and a blocked punt. Both performances were quality outings in balanced and tackle-heavy leagues. Both linebackers are very young with Morrison at 23 years old and Walker at 22 years old; either would be a solid dynasty add. The Texans aren’t the best matchup but they are committed to the run and they should be decent in week 17.
Marquis Flowers NEP LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2 – LB3/Dynasty Stash
Kyle Van Noy’s injury has thrown the Patriots’ linebacking corps for a bit of a loop. The upside to any Patriots linebacker is the pass rushing upside. Van Noy had 5.5 sacks in 12 games and Eric Lee has 2.5 sacks in 4 games. Next up was former Bengal Marquis Flowers. Flowers scored 10 total tackles and 2.5 sacks on 79% usage against the Bills in week 16. That usage was the highest of all Patriot linebackers. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Bill Belichick continues to use Flowers as he was used in week 16 but the upside is very high as you can see. The Jets visit the Patriots in week 17 to cap off the season. New England sacked Josh McCown 4 times in week 6 and next week is likely to be worse as long as New England continues to play their starters.
Kelvin Sheppard NYG LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Kelvin Sheppard is one of the last men standing in the Giants’ injury-ridden linebacking corps. Sheppard played 100% of the snaps against the Cardinals and was able to turn in 9 solo tackles with that usage. This recommendation is simply based on opportunity. The next highest usage linebacker for the Giants was Devon Kennard at 51%. Washington visits the Giants in week 17 to close out their season. While Washington hasn’t been the best matchup, they are providing 14.5 fantasy points to opposing ILBs over their last three games.
Defensive linemen plays
Anthony Lanier was able to salvage an otherwise weak outing of 1 total tackle, 1 pass defensed against the Broncos with a fumble recovered. Depending on your scoring, that line was either passable or below average. Adam Gotsis didn’t perform any better as the sophomore defensive end out of Georgia Tech failed to make the score sheet despite a high 75% usage.
Jurrell Casey TEN DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Jurrell Casey might not actually be a free agent in your leagues but he’s a free agent in enough leagues that he’s worth mentioning. I’ve been guilty of digging too deep in weeks’ past so I’m going to raise my sights and hopefully hit of the last round of recommendations despite defensive end being a nightmare to navigate this time of year. Casey is a high usage end that is going to receive top billing on the Titans’ defensive line regardless of opponent and who is available. The Titans can do this because not only can Casey make an impact in the pass rush, he is also a sure tackler against the run. This leads him to statlines like the one he posted in week 16 against the Rams; 6 total tackles and a forced fumble. The Rams put their entire offense through their backs which is similar to how many games that the Jaguars, the Titans’ week 17 opponent, have played this year have worked out. Tennessee needs this game badly, look for Casey to get used early and often. His higher usage and the Jaguars desire to run the ball should lead to a high tackle floor for Casey with some big play upside.
Solomon Thomas SFO DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3/Dynasty Stash
Solomon Thomas and the 49ers have the opposite plight to the Titans in that they just finished playing (and defeating) the Jaguars in week 16 and visit the Rams in week 17. Thomas has had an up and down rookie year with San Francisco but has been thrust into heavy usage since the 49ers bye week, playing no less than 69% of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. I’ve liked Thomas since the start of the year as a defensive end with run stuffing abilities along with some decent pass rushing acumen. San Francisco’s return to a 4-3 defense certainly bodes better for Thomas’ long-term value than the previous 3-4 would have. The Rams are looking to sneak into a first-round bye and although they don’t seem to have much of a match in the 49ers on paper, San Francisco has never lost with Jimmy Garropolo starting at quarterback for them. Look for Thomas to get looks early and often in both run support and in pass rush.
Takkarist McKinley ATL DE – 4-3 DE Value: Dynasty Stash
While former UCLA Bruin Takk McKinley saw some increased usage during Vic Beasley’s missed time due to injury early in the year, his snap counts are typically hovering around 10-25 snaps per game these days, hardly enough to put up any fantasy worthy numbers. That said, the rookie has a promising 6 sacks to go along with 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovered on his season thus far. Holding McKinley back is Adrian Clayborn and Brooks Reed. Between the two of them, there are 50-70 snaps per game being taken up. Clayborn is a UFA in 2018 and his six pack of sacks against Dallas might be enough to entice some big dollar offers to lure him away. Brooks Reed is signed for another 2 years after 2017 but could be cut with little dead money if the Falcons would like to move on. McKinley is a great stash for next year for that reason alone.
Defensive back plays
Adrian Phillips broke hearts this week as he did not reprise his role of 3rd safety/hybrid linebackers to meaningful production in week 16 against the Jets. His line of 1 tackle, 1 pass defensed was not enough to convince anyone that he deserves fulltime consideration in fantasy lineups going forward. Andrew Adams was serviceable with 5 solo tackles despite Landon Collins (ankle) suiting up. Collins was unable to finish the game against the Cardinals with a forearm injury so Adams so his snaps from Collins anyways. Darian Thompson scored a pedestrian 4 solo tackles in the same game. Rodney McLeod scored 6 total tackles and a fumble recovery as a solid option against the Raiders on Monday night.
Adrian Colbert SFO S – 4-3 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
2017 7th round pick out of Miami, Adrian Colbert has been pressed into starting duty after Jaquiski Tartt went on injured reserve in week 10. Colbert hasn’t been the best since being promoted to a starter but has played 100% of the 49ers defensive snaps in every game he has started. In week 16 against the Jaguars, Colbert scored 6 solo tackles. In fairness, the 49ers played 90 snaps which is very high but with the Rams hosting San Francisco in week 17, there is a chance of another high volume game. While Eric Reid is the better option, Colbert is a high usage target who has very low ownership. I’m not sure that I like him as a future target with other options in the fold however.
Chris Conte/TJ Ward TBB S – 4-3 SS/FS Value: DB2 – DB3
With rookie 2nd round pick Justin Evans being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, room has opened up within the safety ranks for the Buccaneers. Chris Conte and TJ Ward are the benefactors of the playing time against the Panthers in week 16. Conte played 91% of the snaps at strong safety and was able to turn in 9 total tackles and a pass defensed. Ward played 100% of the snaps at free safety and was able to turn in 9 total tackles. New Orleans visits Tampa Bay in week 17. New Orleans offered up 10 total tackles and a pass defensed to Keanu Neal in week 16 and I think that Tampa Bay receives a similar offering to their safeties in week 17.
Delano Hill/Tedric Thompson SEA S – 4-3 FS/SS Value: Dynasty Stash
Very few teams in the NFL rely on both of their starting safeties like the Seahawks do. In addition, very few teams spend the amount of money they do on their starting safeties. However, Earl Thomas made waves on Sunday by asking Jason Garrett to “come get me”. While Thomas is actively backpedaling those comments, the fact remains that the Seahawks are likely to need a replacement for Thomas soon. His deal runs out after 2018. Richard Sherman was actively being shopped prior to the 2017 season. All of Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas missed time this year due to injuries with the former two players’ ailments being of the season-ending severity. Seattle knows that they are unlikely to keep everyone, hence the drafting of two safeties in the 2017 draft (3rd round – Delano Hill, 4th round Tedric Thompson). Bradley McDougald is doing a bang up job replacing Kam Chancellor but is a free agent after 2017 and likely has played himself into a payday elsewhere. Hill is the bigger man and more likely to fill the Chancellor role whereas Thompson would be more likely to cover Thomas’ role. I’m using a taxi squad spot on one or both of these guys as long as I have the room.