Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits and sleepers

Fantasy football is a passion for many. Sometimes that passion causes fantasy managers to make emotional decisions even when the datas suggest otherwise. Each week during the 2023 NFL season Liz Loza will attempt to strike a balance between what the data states and what the heart wants. This is called Facts vs. Feelings.

You guys “getting it all in before the year is over?” Because I’m not. I don’t actually understand what that means. Taxes aren’t due until April. Schools don’t open up until January. And dieting is futile over the holidays.

What exactly are we trying to squeeze into the end of the year? Some arbitrary goals that we set 11½ months ago? If those haven’t been reached yet, then it’s not going to happen. Certainly not over the last two weeks of the calendar year, which are also the busiest for most American families (the Elf on the Shelf shuffling alone is a full-time job).

What I am trying to get in before New Year’s Eve are some fantasy victories, though. The playoffs are a minefield of overthinking and apprehension. This past weekend I started Josh Allen over Jake Browning and, as a result, did not advance to the semis. But you know what? I can live with it. I danced with the one who brought me and, while Browning saved me during Allen’s Week 13 bye, the fates were not as kind two weeks later. That’s the way it goes.

We can study all the facts and mull big feelings, but at the end of the day (or season, or year) one axiom rings true — getting to the fantasy playoffs demands skill. Surviving them requires luck.

So, here’s to getting lucky, finishing strong, and releasing yourself of all the other noise.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Buccaneers: Mayfield has, undoubtedly, gifted the nearly 20% of fantasy managers brave enough to stream him plenty of good fortune over the past two weeks. The former first overall pick has recorded more than 20 fantasy points and achieved top-12 FF QB finishes in back-to-back efforts. While he’s coming off a season-best outing (381 passing yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs!!!), Mayfield, 28, has consistently produced over the course of 2023.

He has been thriving in the red area of the field (Mike Evans’ 16.1% TD rate certainly helps). Mayfield has registered multiple passing TDs in six of his past eight games (and 16 spikes in all eight of those outings). In fact, he ranks inside the top 10 signal-callers in passing scores, having posted 24 on the season. Additionally, his efficiency has improved (or at least helped to thwart his “reckless” reputation) as his 3 TD:1 INT ratio is ranked fourth among qualified QBs behind only Dak Prescott, Brock Purdy, and C.J. Stroud.

Coming off a record-setting effort in which he became the first visiting player to ever post a perfect passer rating at Lambeau Field, Mayfield has earned top-10 QB consideration for fantasy purposes. I don’t know if I’d have the emotional fortitude to start him ahead of Patrick Mahomes, but I’d ride with Baker over Tua Tagovailoa or Geno Smith (in a plus matchup).

Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers: While Mike Evans has been an absolute star for the Bucs and fake football investors, getting Godwin more involved has been a point of emphasis over the past two weeks. Full disclosure, he was on the Facts vs. Feeling short list heading into Week 15. Like a genius, however, I chose to roll with DeAndre Hopkins.

Maybe I should have listened to Godwin’s wife (wives always know). Mariah DelPercio assured social media followers that her husband was healthy enough to garner a larger role in the offense after drawing just three looks versus Carolina in Week 13. Sure enough, Godwin’s targets jumped to 11 the following Sunday. Godwin, 27, has now recorded double-digit looks in back-to-back outings, despite having registered no more than seven since Week 7.

With Godwin assumedly back to full health, in the good graces of the coaching staff, and coming off of a season-best 10 grabs for 155 yards (25.5 FPTs), the Bucs versatile pass-catcher is back in must-start territory. Facing an exploitable Jaguars secondary that’s allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing WRs, Godwin projects to deliver top-25 fantasy wide receiver numbers.

Terry McLaurin, WR, Commanders: McLaurin’s dynasty investors have long lamented the subpar quarterbacks to which their receiver has been attached. There were fleeting moments over the top half of the season that suggested, perhaps, Sam Howell might be an upgrade (or, at the very least, not a downgrade) to McLaurin’s stock. Any optimism, however, fully evaporated when the talented wideout posted a bagel on three targets versus Miami in Week 13.

True to the organization’s OMG-are-you-kidding-me-?!!? nature, McLaurin bounced back with a season-best 6-141-1 stat line in Week 15. Except, like all things in our Nation’s Capital (even though the team played at SoFi) appearances can be deceiving. Only 48 of McLaurin’s total yards occurred with Howell under center. The other 93 yards (along with McLaurin’s third TD of the season and his first since Week 8) came in the final eight minutes of garbage time when Jacoby Brissett came off the bench and added a much-needed spark to the offense.

The odds of McLaurin producing big numbers in a consecutive effort are slim to none (and slim just walked out that door). Not only did Ron Rivera announce that Howell would be the starter in Week 16, but the Commanders will also be on the road versus the Jets. New York has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs (even after Jaylen Waddle’s monster effort last weekend). As such, McLaurin is expected to languish on the WR3/WR4 bubble for fantasy purposes.

De’Von Achane, RB, Dolphins: Achane’s explosiveness has been a fantasy story lines for much of the season. That’s what happens when an electric rookie posts triple-digit yardage in three consecutive efforts before spraining his knee five weeks into his first pro campaign. Not surprisingly, however, Achane’s trademark efficiency has begun to wane as the year drags on and injuries mount. The former Aggie has averaged 4.5 yards per carry since coming off IR. That wouldn’t be so bad, of course, if his opportunities were voluminous.

Raheem Mostert is the Dolphins RB1. The vet has managed at least 17 touches in back-to-back outings. Meanwhile, Achane has recorded exactly 12 touches in each of his last two efforts. Additionally, Mostert’s offensive play percentage has topped Achane’s by at least 16% in each of those games. It is true that Achane has bested Mostert in terms of receiving work, registering at least three catches in three straight. However, that makes him more of a change-of-pace or third down option, not this team’s backfield leader.

There’s no disputing Achane’s usability. His upside is too tempting to sit (especially in the semis). Yet, expectations should be managed. Consider the 22-year-old an RB2 in a tough matchup versus Dallas. That way the worst that happens is that you end up happily surprised.

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Panthers: Speaking of surprises, Hubbard has posted double-digit fantasy points for four straight weeks and closed out Week 15 as a top-20 fantasy contributor at the position. This situation is (and has been) giving more twilight than dead zone. The ghost of Miles Sanders was released into the fantasy ether over two months ago, but the subsequent coming to life of Hubbard was not anticipated.

Hubbard has managed at least 95 scrimmage yards for three straight games. He’s also cleared 21 carries over those three consecutive efforts. In fact, he’s the only player in the NFL to register that kind of volume for three weeks in a row over the course of 2023.

Clearly, the new coaching regime has decided to lean on the run, which has benefited the third-year RB and his fantasy investors. That’s a trend that figures to keep Hubbard on the RB2 radar versus Green Bay in Week 16. The Packers have the sixth-most run-on defense in the league, allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs.

Jameson Williams, WR, Lions: Adding stash players might not seem as essential in the semis, but keying in on upside is never a bad idea. Jameson Williams is brimming with it. His big play ability hasn’t always been on display this year, but his opportunities have been growing. A week after Dan Campbell talked up the second-year speedster — vowing to get the talented WR more involved — Williams drew a career-high seven looks and managed his second-highest snap percentage of the season.

Part of fantasy prognostication is anticipating a boom (or a bust) before it happens. That’s a tricky venture over the fantasy playoffs, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Williams could be on the precipice of a breakout. His upcoming matchup certainly sets the stage for a spike in production. The Lions will head to Minnesota to battle their divisional foes in a dome. The Vikings have allowed the second-most catches and third-most yards after the catch to opposing wide receivers. Consider Williams a Hail Mary flex for points-chasing purposes.

Tucker Kraft, TE, Packers: Sleepers — especially tight ends — are useful nearly every week. And Tucker Kraft has certainly been utilized by the Packers as of late, recording double-digit fantasy points in back-to-back outings. Since fellow rookie TE Luke Musgrave has been sidelined, Kraft has found the end zone in two of his past four efforts. The South Dakota State product has additionally benefited from Christian Watson’s absence, soaking up high-value red zone looks. In fact, his five red zone looks since Week 12 are tied for the second-most among tight ends (behind only Sam LaPorta).

Kraft’s matchup versus Carolina isn’t a gimme on paper. However, the Panthers gave up five of six balls for 98 yards to Atlanta’s tight end tandem (ugh, it still hurts to write that) last Sunday. Additionally, tight ends facing Carolina have been targeted a healthy 13 times. Kraft figures to remain in the streaming conversation. He’s a top-15(ish) fantasy tight end play for Week 16.

Follow Liz on social @LizLoza_FF

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *