Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 17: Start Drake London, Cam Akers; Sit Tom Brady, Christian Watson
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady.
A number of shocking things have happened over the first 16 weeks of the season, and setting fantasy lineups might be a serious chore with the sheer number of injuries and befuddling situations.
Below are some players at each position you should start in your do-or-die Week 17 playoffs, as well as some players you should consider sitting based on matchups, injuries and trends.
Week 17 Start 'Em
Quarterback to Start
Gardner Minshew II, Eagles (vs. Saints)
Minshew exceeded expectations in his first start of the season. He completed 24-of-40 attempts for 355 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and was the QB5 for the week.
Serving as a lifeline to Jalen Hurts managers in a pinch, Minshew should be more than a one-week fill-in with Hurts officially listed as doubtful. Minshew should be considered a low-end QB1 assuming he starts against the Saints' middle-of-the-road pass defense.
Daniel Jones, Giants (vs. Colts)
Jones bounced back from a subpar fantasy performance and was the QB9 in Week 16. He completed 30-of-42 attempts for 334 yards, one touchdown, one interception and rushed four times for 34 yards against the Vikings. It was his fourth top-12 finish over the last seven games.
Like Minshew, Jones was a popular one-week substitute for Hurts or Lamar Jackson managers still clinging to hope. Jones is a viable low-end QB1 against the Colts, who are pedestrian against the pass.
Wide Receivers to Start
Garrett Wilson, Jets (at Seahawks)
Garrett Wilson took a huge hit with Zach Wilson under center. He struggled in what should have been an easy matchup in Week 16 against the Jaguars' pass defense (31st per DVOA) as the Jets only managed to score three points. Wilson caught 4-of-9 targets for 30 yards and was the WR73 in half-PPR scoring.
The good news is that Zach Wilson is back on the bench with Mike White cleared for contact. White offers significantly more upside for the entire Jets offense.
Garrett Wilson should be considered a WR2 with WR1 upside against the Seahawks, who rank 21st in pass DVOA.
D.J. Moore, Panthers (at Buccaneers)
Moore is back on track with Sam Darnold quarterbacking the Panthers. He caught 5-of-6 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown in Week 15 and was the WR13 in half-PPR scoring. He followed that up in Week 16 with five catches on seven targets for 83 yards and a touchdown (WR9).
Moore has been feast-or-famine all year with more famine than feast. I expect him to continue this hot streak, however, opposite a quarterback with whom he has good chemistry in this do-or-die NFC South showdown against the Buccaneers.
The last time these two teams met, Moore caught 7-of-10 targets for 69 yards and a touchdown and was the WR8. He is a WR2 with upside in Week 17.
Drake London, Falcons (at Cardinals)
It's apparently not all doom and gloom with Desmond Ridder taking over for Marcus Mariota. The offense seems to have struggled, though London has been remarkably good.
He caught 7-of-11 targets for 70 yards in Week 15 against the Saints and was the WR41 in half PPR. He caught 7-of-9 targets for 96 yards the following week and was the WR27.
This is especially impressive considering Ridder has attempted fewer than 30 passes per game on average. London should be regarded as a WR3/flex option this week given his hefty target share and opponent as the Cardinals rank 19th in pass DVOA.
Jahan Dotson, Commanders (vs. Browns)
Dotson, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel each had nice games in the Commanders’ Week 16 loss to the 49ers. Dotson drew a team-high nine targets and caught six of them for 76 yards and a touchdown, finishing as the WR12 in half-PPR scoring.
I was actually wary of starting Dotson against San Francisco’s No. 1 defense, per DVOA, but he outperformed expectations. It was his third game in a row with at least 14 fantasy points and a touchdown.
He missed a chunk of time earlier in the year, but in the 10 games he has played, Dotson has finished as a top-22 receiver or better in six of them. He should be considered a WR3 or better the rest of the season with the Browns and Cowboys to finish out the year.
Running Backs to Start
Cam Akers, Rams (at Chargers)
If you somehow persevered riding the Cam Akers rollercoaster this season, congratulations, you are finally being rewarded.
Since Week 13, Akers is the RB3 in half-PPR scoring after a monster Week 16 performance against the Broncos. He rushed 23 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 29 yards, finishing as the RB1.
Akers gets a sweet Week 17 matchup against the Chargers, followed by an ever better one in Week 18 against the Seahawks. The Chargers rank 28th in rush DVOA and have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs this year. Akers is a RB2 with RB1 potential for your fantasy championship.
Brian Robinson Jr., Commanders (vs. Browns)
Robinson struggled — as expected — against a stout San Francisco run defense that ranks first in rush DVOA. He logged 22 carries for 58 yards and was the RB37 in half PPR. If it's any solace, Antonio Gibson did even worse.
The good news is Robinson and the Commanders get a matchup on the polar opposite end of the spectrum this week against the Browns, whose defense ranks 30th in rush DVOA and has allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs. Robinson should bounce back as a RB2 for Week 17.
Tyler Allgeier, Falcons (vs. Cardinals)
Allgeier followed up his massive Week 15 performance with another solid one against the Ravens. He rushed 18 times for 74 yards and caught 4-of-5 passes for 43 yards, finishing as the RB12 in half-PPR scoring.
It appears that Allgeier has emerged as the favored rusher over Cordarrelle Patterson, who logged eight attempts for 17 yards and caught a pass for 14 yards in the effort. Some of this could be related to Desmond Ridder taking over for Marcus Mariota and the team leaning on a more traditional run game as a result.
Allgeier could absolutely log RB2 numbers against the Cardinals, who rank 27th in rush DVOA and have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs.
Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs (vs. Broncos)
After back-to-back RB1 finishes, McKinnon came back down to Earth against the Seahawks. He rushed five times for seven yards and caught three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown — his sixth in four games — and finished as the RB21 in half-PPR scoring.
Rookie Isiah Pacheco remains the favored option on the ground, but he didn't really capitalize on the juicy matchup, tallying just 58 rushing yards.
This will be a time share for the remaining two games, with McKinnon as the favored fantasy back given his usage in the passing game. Both should be viable starts this week against the Broncos, who were just lit up by Cam Akers.
Tight Ends to Start
Taysom Hill, Saints (at Eagles)
Despite no targets in the Saints’ Week 16 win over the Browns, Hill still managed to finish as the TE8. He rushed nine times for 56 yards and a touchdown, his third in three games. It was his fourth top-12 fantasy finish in the last five games and seventh this season.
Hill remains one of the high-upside tight end options and a more reliable one given his consistent usage as a running back. He is a TE1 in Weeks 17 and 18 against the Eagles and Panthers — both of which have below-average defenses against the run.
Cole Kmet, Bears (at Lions)
Kmet has been unremarkable of late after a mid-season breakout. He has just 52 receiving yards combined since the Bears' Week 14 bye with one top-12 finish in the last five games.
The good news is that when these two teams last met in Week 10, Kmet exploded for 74 yards and two touchdowns and finished as the TE1 for the week.
The Lions rank 28th in pass DVOA and have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position, which should vault Kmet back into the fringe-TE1 conversation.
Defense to Start
Chargers (vs. Rams)
The Chargers defense is coming off of their best fantasy showing all season. They held the hapless Colts to just three points in Week 16 and forced three interceptions and a whopping seven sacks — good enough to finish as the DST2 for the week.
Overall, the Chargers DST has been below average through 16 weeks. That said, they get to face the Rams, who are a top-three matchup for opposing defenses.
The Chargers are tied for the third-most interceptions, second-fewest offensive yards (behind only the Texans) and seventh-fewest offensive points.
Week 17 Sit 'Em
Quarterbacks to Sit
Tom Brady, Buccaneers (vs. Panthers)
Brady failed to capitalize on a soft matchup in Week 16 against the Cardinals. He completed 32-of-48 attempts for 281 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and finished as the QB17.
Brady has been unpredictable all season. Last year, he was the overall QB3; this year, he is the QB14 with just four top-12 finishes in 15 starts. He can't be trusted this week — even against the Panthers.
The future Hall of Famer struggled the last time these two teams met in Week 7, when he logged no touchdowns and finished as the QB21. Brady is a high-end QB2 with a wide range of outcomes.
Geno Smith, Seahawks (vs. Jets)
Smith has hit a bit of a speed bump in the last two weeks. In Week 15, he completed 31-of-44 attempts for 238 yards and one touchdown against the 49ers (QB15). In Week 16, he completed 25-of-40 attempts for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Chiefs (QB18).
Prior to that, Smith had finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in five consecutive games. I do not envision a bounce back this week against the Jets, who have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank sixth in pass DVOA. Smith is a high-end QB2 in this tough matchup.
Wide Receivers to Sit
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs (vs. Broncos)
Smith-Schuster was disappointing in a soft Week 16 matchup against the Seahawks. He hauled in 3-of-4 targets for 27 yards and was the WR58 in half-PPR scoring. In the two weeks prior, he tallied 19 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Smith-Schuster has been unpredictable all season with three top-seven finishes and eight finishes outside the top 36. He is a super risky play against the Broncos, who rank fourth in pass DVOA thanks in large part to No. 2-ranked cornerback (per PFF positional grades) Patrick Surtain II.
Surtain is unlikely to shadow Smith-Schuster, who often plays out of the slot, but he could absolutely impact his overall performance. Smith-Schuster is a low-end WR2 with downside in Week 17.
Darius Slayton, Giants (vs. Colts)
Slayton had a decent outing against the Vikings in Week 16. He caught 4-of-6 targets for 79 yards and finished as the WR33 in half-PPR scoring.
My concern is that he was the fourth-most targeted pass-catcher on the team behind Isiah Hodgins, Richie James and Saquon Barkley. Hodgins caught 8-of-11 targets for 90 yards, Hodgins caught 8-of-12 for 89 yards and a touchdown and Barkley caught 8-of-10 for 49 yards.
Slayton's snap share remains high despite his dwindling target share. I am concerned about trusting him, even as a WR3 this week against the Colts, who are above average in pass DVOA and have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers.
Marquise Brown, Cardinals (at Falcons)
It feels borderline sacrilegious to even mention Brown's name on the sit side of this column — especially against the Falcons. From Weeks 1 through 5 (prior to his injury), Brown was the WR6 in half-PPR scoring. He returned from injury in Week 12 (right before the Cardinals' bye week) and has not looked the same since.
In fairness to Brown, the quarterback situation has deteriorated with Kyler Murray out for the year and Arizona now on their fourth-string quarterback.
Backup Colt McCoy is still in concussion protocol, third-string QB Trace McSorely is awful and the team has now resorted to fourth-stringer David Blough.
Brown was held to three catches for 57 yards in Week 16, which was his best yardage game since returning. I have little faith in him this week, even in this plus matchup against the Falcons. He is a WR3 with a wide spectrum of potential outcomes.
Christian Watson, Packers (vs. Vikings)
Watson had a midseason breakout (starting against the Cowboys) which went on until the Packers' Week 14 bye. Since then, he has cooled off significantly as the WR51 and WR41 in half-PPR scoring in Weeks 15 and 16.
Watson was injured last week in Miami with a hip injury. He missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and only logged a limited practice on Friday, which leaves significant question marks for his status.
He seems to be a bit feast or famine to trust, even if he plays in this favorable matchup against the Vikings, who rank 24th in pass DVOA. He is a boom-or-bust WR3/4 option with a low floor.
Running Backs to Sit
Zonovan Knight, Jets (at Seahawks)
Knight had a nice three-game stretch from Weeks 12-14 as the Jets' starting running back. But since then, he has just four cumulative fantasy points in half-PPR scoring in the last two weeks and has finished as the RB58 and RB66.
Knight's drop in production could definitely have something to do with Zach Wilson filling in for Mike White.
White is back, however, just in time for this favorable matchup against the Seahawks. Still, I have a difficult time trusting him for the fantasy finals given his lack of recent usage and effectiveness. He is a low-end RB3 with downside.
Raheem Mostert, Dolphins (at Patriots)
The Dolphins went right back to a time share with Jeff Wilson Jr. back in Week 16. Mostert was out-snapped by Wilson by a count of 30 to 26 and shared touches evenly (10 each) against the Packers.
I have little faith in the Dolphins' tepid run game with Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) ruled out. The matchup is not favorable either as Miami will take on a Patriots defense that ranks 10th in rush DVOA with the second-fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs behind only the 49ers.
Both Mostert and Wilson are low-upside RB3s in this messy situation.
Jamaal Williams, Lions (vs. Bears)
Williams was the RB10 in half-PPR scoring from Weeks 1-13. He has fallen into a bit of a slump over the past three weeks, finishing as the RB42, RB50 and RB61 — even against a hapless Panthers defense last week.
He tallied just seven carries for a measly 11 yards, which was a season low for the sixth-year veteran. D'Andre Swift was just as ineffective with 12 yards on four carries.
Williams actually performed quite well when these two teams first met in Week 10. He tallied 16 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown and was the RB17. This week's matchup is good against the Bears, but I still cannot envision a scenario where I would feel good about rolling Williams out as a RB2.
He is a RB3/flex option in light of the Lions' struggling run game.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons (vs. Cardinals)
Patterson's role is on the decline. He saw a season-low 37% of snaps (not counting the game in which he was injured in Week 4) and had just eight carries for 17 yards in Week 16 against the Ravens. Allgeier, meanwhile, saw 18 carries for 74 yards and was more involved in the passing game.
Patterson seems to be less of a fit for the Desmond Ridder scheme than he was with Marcus Mariota. Even in this soft matchup against the Cardinals' run defense, I am very hesitant to start Patterson in light of his waning role.
Tight Ends to Sit
Gerald Everett, Chargers (vs. Rams)
There was a brief period when Everett was considered a top tight end threat on a high-powered offense. The Chargers offense has stumbled of late, however, with Justin Herbert recording just two touchdowns (and three interceptions) over the last four games and no touchdowns in the last two.
Herbert's struggles have clearly impacted L.A.'s offense and Everett's fantasy production. In the last three weeks, Everett has finished as the TE14, TE21 and was not targeted at all in Week 16. He also has not found the end zone since Week 4, which is brutal considering the position is touchdown dependent.
Everett is a low-upside start with a literal nonexistent floor against the Rams, whose defense is above-average against tight ends.
David Njoku, Browns (at Commanders)
Njoku — like many tight ends — has been up-and-down all season. He has five top-eight finishes in 12 starts, but he seems to have struggled with the switch from Jacoby Brissett to Deshaun Watson.
Since Watson has taken over, Njoku has finished as the TE3, TE27 and TE37. He caught just 2-of-5 targets for 14 yards last week against the Saints and could struggle once again with the Commanders on deck.
Washington ranks in the top six in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and are middle-of-the-road against the pass overall. Njoku is an unpredictable, low-end TE1 with downside.
Defense to Sit
Bills (at Bengals)
The Bills were the DST1 coming out of drafts according to FantasyPros' ADP after finishing in the top four in 2021. Overall, they are on track to finish in the same ballpark (DST5 through 16 weeks), but have certainly had their ups and downs.
In fact, they have finished outside the top 12 in seven of 15 games. I could definitely envision some struggles this week.
Cincinnati ranks top seven in total offensive yardage, top six in points and are tied for the sixth-fewest giveaways this year. Even if the Bills have brought you this far, you may want to consider a streaming option with a better matchup for your fantasy Super Bowl.