Week 16 is championship weekend for many fantasy leagues and as such, it needs very little introduction. Owners of championship teams tend to have guts, guile and a little luck over the course of the season that carries them through to the end. Hopefully your team is still one of the remaining ones left. With this week’s games likely being the last of your fantasy season, make sure that your team is ready to go. Don’t fall prey to not replenishing your bench simply because it’s the last week as you never know who will carry the questionable tag into Sunday. The last thing I’ll mention is that if you aren’t in a keeper league this year and someone is deemed “Out”, that’s a free roster spot to not only beef up your roster but also block your opponents from doing the same.
Ramik Wilson was a quality option for fantasy teams in week 15 against the Tennessee Titans. The sophomore LB from Georgia scored 7 solo tackles and a fumble recovery in a losing effort. Mike Hull and Stephone Anthony did not start for their respective teams as the Dolphins and Saints were able to work regulars starters Kiko Alonso and Craig Robertson back into their respective starting lineups. Alonso logged 6 total tackles in an ugly Saturday night game against the Jets and Robertson scored 3 total tackles and a fumble recovery in a shootout with the Cardinals. Edwin Jackson logged 7 total tackles (6 solo) and played every snap in a beatdown of the Vikings. Rookie Antonio Morrison also scored 4 solo tackles on about 60% of the snaps. Week 14 options Corey Nelson and Todd Davis each scored 13 total tackles in a tough loss to the Patriots.
Sio Moore ARI LB – ILB 3-4
Sio Moore has been around the block this year. Starting with the Raiders, he was traded to the Colts prior to the start of the season. He was cut along with Antonio Cromartie in an effort to change up an awful defense and managed to catch on with the Chiefs. Despite a depleted ILB corps, Moore was cut by the Chiefs on November 1 and didn’t sign with the Cardinals until Nov 22. The former third round pick out of Connecticut now finds himself in a similar position to at the start of the year; in the starting lineup. With Deone Bucannon’s season over with a high ankle sprain, the reeling Cardinals started Moore beside Kevin Minter against the Saints in week 15. That game was by far the biggest shootout of the week and both Cardinal LBs piled up the tackles with Minter logging 10 solo tackles, 1 assist and 2 PDs and Moore scoring 11 solo tackles and 1 PD on 100% of the snaps played. With Moore not having starter’s snaps or production since week 4, Moore’s availability should be high in most any league. The Saints game will have boosted up tackle numbers in their game that the Seahawks, the Cardinals week 16 opponent, will not be able to match. However, full time snaps breed opportunity and if the Cardinals are willing to continue to give Moore a full complement, you need to consider starting him.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Jerrell Freeman CHI LB – ILB 3-4
Week 15 was the last week for Jerrell Freeman’s PED suspension so he should be good to go in week 16. Prior to his suspension, Freeman was averaging 9.75 total tackles per game over his last 4 games. The Bears are currently 3-11, good for second worst in the NFC. That said, there is risk of his spot or fulltime snaps being in danger as the Bears may look to mix in some young talents if games get out of hand. However, Chicago has had four weeks to evaluate John Timu and rookie Nick Kwiatkoski so they likely will just stick with their veteran defensive leader. Week 16 sees the Washington Redskins visit the Bears in Soldier Field which should be an above-average matchup. Freeman may have been given up on by shallow bench or injury-ridden rosters because of his suspension and as such, may be one of the better free agents available in week 16, if only for one week.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
Jatavis Brown SDC LB – ILB 3-4
One of the bigger finds in the early part of the fantasy season was Jatavis Brown. Between week 3 and 8, the fourth round rookie was a top 3 LB in almost all formats, posting 45 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 sacks and 3 PDs. Unfortunately, a knee injury put Brown on the shelf for four weeks. He returned in week 14 to a part time snap count and to played closer to full time snaps in week 15 against the Raiders, yielding 11 snaps to Korey Toomer. The rookie pulled down 6 total tackles and a PD. The Browns in week 16 aren’t a great matchup for tackles but they are for sacks which Brown has been fairly proficient at over his young career. Brown has great keeper value in any league that allows a look at a player next year. If you were depending in Korey Toomer or Denzel Perryman over the past few weeks or have otherwise lost a contributor at LB, you need to add Brown and consider starting him next week.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB1 to High-end LB3; Keeper value
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Gerald Hodges/Michael Wilhoite SFO LB – Nick Bellore, a quality free agent pickup earlier in the year, will finish the year on injured reserve after an elbow injury derailed his first foray into starter’s snaps. Gerald Hodges figures to be the first up to replace him in terms of snap counts but not likely in terms of leadership on the field. Hodges was inactive against the Falcons in week 15 as Devonta Freeman ran roughshod over them because of a team rule violation. This immaturity has been a theme in Hodges’ young career so far but the 49ers’ cupboard is pretty bare at ILB with no less than three LBs on IR at the position. Michael Wilhoite will likely see some significant snaps alongside Hodges as well but his impact fantasy-wise despite multiple opportunities to contribute has been weak. The Rams and Seahawks close out the schedule for the 49ers and while neither is the best matchup, tackles will be available for the LB who gets the snaps.
Paul Worrilow ATL LB – The rarely seen second sneaky play of the week goes to former LB1 Paul Worrilow. After losing his starting job to rookie Deion Jones, Paul Worrilow has backed up both MLB and WLB this season. Rookie De’Vondre Campbell hasn’t been the picture of health this year and his latest ailment (concussion) took him out of week 15’s romp over the 49ers. Worrilow covered for Campbell at WLB for about 67% of the Falcons’ defensive snaps, logging 3 total tackles and 2 PDs. With the Falcons needing to travel to Carolina in week 15, the potential for tackles is high if Worrilow ends up drawing a start.
Defensive Linemen Plays
While David Irving of the Cowboys stole the show with 2 sacks of Jameis Winston, last week’s recommendation of Benson Mayowa yielded 5 total tackles. High tackle yield ends are my favorite because even if you don’t get sacks, they still contribute to your team. Romeo Okwara failed to log more than 2 total tackles is his second starting effort for the Giants. The weaker output was due to a reduced snap count (58%) as well as a credit to the Lions who protected Matt Stafford very well on Sunday, allowing only one sack to the Giants as a whole. Mario Addison scored 2 solo tackles against the Redskins on Monday night football in a night that didn’t feature many sacks at all.
Patriots pass rush NEP DL – DL 4-3
I think that the imploding Jets are in for a world of hurt in week 16 where they visit Foxboro and the New England Patriots. The Patriots are playing great football and will be able to expose just how bad the Jets have become this year. Bryce Petty is likely to get back into the lineup as his chest injury turned out to be a bad bruise. THis is actually better for Patriots pass rushers as I see the knock on Petty as being a proclivity to hold onto the ball too long. I expect that New England won’t hold back in their blitz packages in an attempt to force some turnovers. Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long has all been playing equally in terms of snaps but I think that Chris Long has less upside because of a propensity to play on early downs. On the flip side, New England seems to give Flowers the best chance to succeed with the limited rushes he gets. In terms of priority, I like them in the order I have them listed.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Mid DL3
Seahawks pass rush SEA DL– DL 4-3
I realize that I’m going to get lambasted a little bit for giving out two general recommendations but the matchups are good and this time of year yields little in terms of clearcut options. The last time the Cardinals played the Seahawks this year, the Seahawks logged 4 sacks. That game was in Arizona whereas this one is in Seattle. I’m not saying that Arizona will implode in this one but this is the time of year where you don’t exactly get maximum effort from teams that are out of it. Arizona strikes me as maybe being one of those teams in a hostile environment. In terms of who I like, I have Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh and Michael Bennett (who I think is still less than 100%). Give one or more of them a look in this game as I expect sacks to be liberal on both sides in this one.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL1 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
William Hayes/Eugene Sims LA DE – With Robert Quinn done for the year with a concussion, Eugene Sims has been getting the lion’s share of defensive end snaps with William Hayes not far behind him. The Rams pass rush is a far cry from the imposing unit that it used to be but sacks and impact plays are still there to be made, especially in week 16 against a 49ers team that has lost 13 games in a row. Ethan Westbrooks take more snaps that I’d like which is what keeps this recommendation lower than what it should be but I like either to come away with an impact play on the weekend.
Defensive Back Plays
Hopefully you were able to get Anthony Harris into your lineup because he was the top defensive back tackler in the NFL in week 15 with 15 total tackles (9 solo) and a PD. His matchup is just as good in week 16 with the Packers hosting the Vikings so I’d continue to roll with him. Roman Harper got another start for the Saints over a suspended Kenny Vaccaro but failed to deliver another good outing with only 3 solo tackles on 80% of the defensive snaps. Nate Allen was serviceable at strong safety for the Raiders in a win over the Chargers in week 15 with 6 total tackles and a PD. Jaquiski Tartt put forward another quality game with 8 total tackles (7 solo) against the Falcons. He remains a solid option going forward as the interior of the 49ers defense continues to deteriorate.
Keith Tandy/Bradley McDougald TBB S – FS/SS 4-3
Both Bucs safeties were in this article a couple weeks ago and since then, Keith Tandy has been among the best fantasy safeties in football with 23 total tackles (17 solo), 3 PDs and an interception. Playing the Saints and Cowboys in weeks 14 and 15 helps with that however. The good news for would-be fantasy owners is that the Bucs play the Saints again in week 16. What has been most interesting is that Buccaneers have left Tandy in as the starting free safety despite previous starter Chris Conte’s return to health. Despite all of these things, Tandy remains unowned in a vast majority of leagues. Bradley McDougald has played second fiddle to Tandy over the past couple weeks but his line has been solid if unspectacular with double digit fantasy points in each of his last 5 weeks on tackles and PDs alone. He is a DB3/flex option with a higher floor than most but a shorter ceiling as well. The matchup is as good as it gets with the Bucs visiting the Saints in New Orleans so get your Bucs safeties in your starting lineup.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Mid DB3
Jahleel Addae SDC S – SS 3-4
Ever since Addae’s return from a collarbone injury that caused him to miss 8 games, he has been the best tackler on the Chargers with 32 total tackles and 2 PDs including another 8 solo tackles. The Browns in week 16 aren’t a great matchup but can be scored on from the safety position. Despite no Bills safeties scoring double digit fantasy points in week 15, four safeties in the Browns’ previous 3 games did score at least ten points. Addae isn’t afraid to play around the line so my guess is that he continues to find a way to get his tackles. Just don’t expect much in terms of splash plays. Those haven’t really been his calling card in his NFL career.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Byron Jones DAL S – FS 4-3
Byron Jones, the less publicized safety for the Cowboys, is liable to be busy in week 16 with the NFC North division leading Detroit Lions in town. Barry Church is still the Cowboy safety to own but Jones isn’t really that far behind him in terms of tackles and playmkaing ability. Matt Stafford didn’t exactly look sharp in a tough loss to the Giants and he will need to get back to throwing well to come away with a win against the Cowboys so look for volume tackles and some PDs/INTs to carry the day for Jones. Stafford is still top 10 in the league for passing attempts and the Lions won’t be able to run their way to a win in Dallas.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Vernon Hargreaves TBB CB – Hargreaves has been a solid play in CB-required leagues as one of a handful of rookies to receive full time snaps in their first year. Usually that corresponds to tackles as veteran QBs tend to pick on them while the rookie acclimates to the NFL. It has been a pretty good year for Hargreaves as he has averaged 4.5 tackles per game this year with 6 PDs and an interception. That lone interception came against the Bucs week 16 opponent, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints offense looked as dangerous as ever against a defense that had been typically tough on passing offenses throughout 2016 in the Arizona Cardinals in week 15. Look for Hargreaves to see more than a few footballs head his way on Sunday.