Fantasy Rankings & Championship Tiers: Make Your Start/Sit Decisions For Week 16 Playoffs

Fantasy Rankings & Championship Tiers: Make Your Start/Sit Decisions For Week 16 Playoffs article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, Derrick Henry

It all comes down to this week.

To help you start making start/sit decisions for your fantasy football championship(s), I’ve outlined the early version of my Week 16 rankings into tiers so you can better visualize the drop-off in expected production at each position.

As always, there will be a ton of volatility in how I adjust my rankings up until kickoff — and with Friday and Saturday games, we have more windows to consider than usual — so be sure to check my updated rankings before making final decisions involving certain players. I’ll also publish an updated version of these tiers before Sunday’s main slate kicks off, but for now, let’s dive into the initial version of my Week 16 tiers!

Fantasy Rankings & Tiers

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QB | RB | WR | TE | K | DEF

Quarterback Tiers

Tier 1

Patrick Mahomes (vs. ATL)
Jalen Hurts (@ DAL)

Congrats if you managed to add Hurts in Week 14 (or earlier) — he’ll become a “league winning” in-season pickup with another QB1 finish this week. Mahomes would probably be the only QB I would start over Hurts.

Tier 2

Kyler Murray (vs. SF)
Lamar Jackson (vs. NYG)
Deshaun Watson (vs. CIN)
Josh Allen (@ NE)
Aaron Rodgers (vs. TEN)

This tier of remaining elite QB1s all have plus matchups and can be played with confidence in fantasy football championships.

Admittedly, one of my concerns for drafting Allen this season was his Week 16 matchup against the Patriots. Now it’s an unimposing matchup that’s only improved as a result of Stephon Gilmore’s season-ending injury. Bills wide receiver John Brown is likely to return from injured reserve to suit up on Monday, which should help elevate Allen’s already elite floor/ceiling combo.

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Tier 3

Tom Brady (@ DET)
Justin Herbert (vs. DEN)
Russell Wilson (vs. LAR)
Ryan Tannehill (@ GB)

Wilson looked like a league winner after posting QB1 overall numbers over the first half of the season. However, since Week 9, he’s posted only QB14 numbers in large part to Pete Carroll reverting to his conservative approach. Wilson is a fringe QB1/2 in what should be a tough matchup against the Rams.

Tier 4

Mitchell Trubisky (@ JAX)
Drew Brees (vs. MIN)
Tua Tagovailoa (@ LV)
Matt Ryan (@ KC)
Jared Goff (@ SEA)
Baker Mayfield (@ NYJ)

I love this tier in 2QB/Superflex formats, but I would be worried if you’re relying on any of them in 1QB formats. They all have great matchups but also possess a reasonably low floor. Ryan’s final rank will rise or fall based on Julio Jones’ status.

Tier 5

Matthew Stafford (vs. TB)
Andy Dalton (vs. PHI)
Marcus Mariota (vs. MIA)

Mariota managed to post the QB8 score for Week 15 despite not entering the game until the second quarter. He flashed his rushing upside in this offense with nine carries for 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground. A lot of his rushing production seems sustainable, considering it came from designed plays. It doesn’t hurt that Mariota plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Mariota will be a streaming option this week if Derek Carr is unable to suit up.

Tier 6

Teddy Bridgewater (@ WAS)
Kirk Cousins (@ NO)
Drew Lock (@ LAC)
C.J. Beathard (@ ARI)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. IND)
Gardner Minshew (vs. CHI)
Philip Rivers (@ PIT)

Everyone in this tier is a low-end QB2 option this week. Beathard makes for an intriguing QB2/Superflex play if you’re looking for upside. There’s a chance George Kittle returns, which will only elevate Beathard’s projection.

Tier 7

Alex Smith (vs. CAR)
Cam Newton (vs. BUF)

Tier 8

Sam Darnold (vs. CLE)
Ryan Finley (@ HOU)
Daniel Jones (@ BAL)

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Running Back Tiers

Tier 1

Alvin Kamara (vs. MIN)
Dalvin Cook (@ NO)
Derrick Henry (@ GB)

Tier 2

David Montgomery (@ JAX)
Austin Ekeler (vs. DEN)
Aaron Jones (vs. TEN)

Montgomery has finally become an every-week RB1 play. He draws another great matchup against the Jaguars and should see 20-plus touches. Cordarrelle Patterson suffered a knee injury in Week 15 that could limit him on Sunday, which would only further elevate Monty’s floor/ceiling combo.

David Montgomery
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Pictured: David Montgomery

Tier 3

Leonard Fournette (@ DET)
Josh Jacobs (vs. MIA)
Nick Chubb (@ NYJ)
Jonathan Taylor (@ PIT)

Ronald Jones is expected to miss his second straight game, which means we can trust Fournette as an RB1 option. It’s a smash spot against the Lions, and Fournette could end up posting one of the top overall RB scores for the fantasy football playoffs. Congrats if you’ve been stashing Fournette on your bench all season for this moment — another example of why carrying as many high-upside backups on your bench is a league winning strategy every season.

Tier 4

Chris Carson (vs. LAR)
D’Andre Swift (vs. TB)
David Johnson (vs. CIN)
Miles Sanders (@ DAL)
Mike Davis (@ WAS)

David Johnson will get a slight boost if Duke Johnson is unable to return for Week 16.

Davis gets yet another start for the injured Christian McCaffrey. Davis was a “league winner” in the sense that he helped get teams to the fantasy playoffs, but his production has dropped off lately with backup Rodney Smith stealing more passing down work.

Tier 5

J.K. Dobbins (vs. NYG)
Jeffery Wilson (@ ARI)
Melvin Gordon (@ LAC)
Kenyan Drake (vs. SF)
Kareem Hunt (@ NYJ)
Tony Pollard (vs. PHI)
Le’Veon Bell (vs. ATL)
Darrell Henderson (@ SEA)

Wilson is now the lead back in San Francisco, with Raheem Mostert placed on season-ending IR. I’m expecting Wilson to inherit a true workhorse role in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and to dominate rushing attempts, goal-line carries and even passing usage.

Last week, Wilson led the team with 43% routes run. We rarely get to see a true workhorse back in this 49ers offense, but when we do, it makes for a reliable RB1/2 option.

nfl-prop-bets-picks-eagles-vs-49ers-sunday night football-week 4-2020-1
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images. Pictured: Jeff Wilson

Gordon is peaking at the right time. He’s posted the overall RB8 numbers over the past three games and has the #RevengeGame narrative for him this week.

Tier 6

Antonio Gibson (vs. CAR)
J.D. McKissic (vs. CAR)
Giovani Bernard (@ HOU)
Ezekiel Elliott (vs. PHI)
Chase Edmonds (vs. SF)

The running back situations in Arizona, Dallas and Miami are too murky to be making any sit/start calls mid-week. Let’s revisit these in Saturday’s tiers update once we know more.

Gibson returned to practice on Wednesday, but it’s unclear how effective he’ll be if he suits up. Toe injuries can be devastating for a running back, and I would be very cautious with him. We should know more later in the week so consider his rank to be a placeholder for now.

McKissic would shoot up to Tier 4 or 5 if Gibson is unable to suit up.

Tier 7

Myles Gaskin (@ LV)
Ito Smith (@ KC)
Nyheim Hines (@ PIT)
Wayne Gallman (@ BAL)
Salvon Ahmed (@ LV)
Dare Ogunbowale (vs. CHI)
Gus Edwards (vs. NYG)
Zack Moss (@ NE)
Devin Singletary (@ NE)
Lynn Bowden (@ LV)
James Conner (vs. IND)
Malcolm Brown (@ SEA)

I am currently projecting the Jaguars backfield as if James Robinson will be out. Dare O would be the priority add and provide RB3/Flex value. I would say it’s better than a 50/50 chance Robinson ends up playing this week, in which he will be a no-brainer RB1/2. As with nearly every RB this week, let’s take a “wait and see” approach before locking him into our lineups.

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Tier 8

Phillip Lindsay (@ LAC)
Latavius Murray (vs. MIN)
James White (vs. BUF)
Benny Snell (vs. IND)
Frank Gore (vs. CLE)
Rodney Smith (@ WAS)

Tier 9

Darrel Williams (vs. ATL)
Damien Harris (vs. BUF)
Sony Michel (vs. BUF)
Kalen Ballage (vs. DEN)
Jamaal Williams (vs. TEN)
Devine Ozigbo (vs. CHI)
Todd Gurley (@ KC)
Duke Johnson Jr. (vs. CIN)
LeSean McCoy (@ DET)

Michel would leap a tier or two if Harris is unable to suit up.

Ito Smith has been called the Falcons’ “lead runner” by interim head coach Raheem Morris. That should make it pretty easy to leave Gurley on our bench — I labeled him a “must fade” in drafts specifically because we couldn’t trust him to provide much value in the playoffs. That prediction appears to have come to fruition.

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Wide Receiver Tiers

Tier 1

Davante Adams (vs. TEN)
Tyreek Hill (vs. ATL)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs. SF)

Tier 2

Allen Robinson (@ JAX)
Stefon Diggs (@ NE)
Calvin Ridley (@ KC)
A.J. Brown (@ GB)
D.K. Metcalf (vs. LAR)

Tier 3

Keenan Allen (vs. DEN)
Brandon Aiyuk (@ ARI)
Justin Jefferson (@ NO)
Robert Woods (@ SEA)
Terry McLaurin (vs. CAR)

McLaurin has been able to provide WR1/2 value his entire career, despite poor quarterback play. I’m afraid if the Football Team has to turn to Taylor Heinicke under center this week, his rank would plummet. Prepare to have a backup plan if either Haskins (strip club) or Alex Smith (calf) cannot suit up this week.

nfl-odds-picks-bengals-vs-washington-betting-week-11-2020
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Terry McLaurin.

Tier 4

Tyler Lockett (vs. LAR)
Adam Thielen (@ NO)
Jarvis Landry (@ NYJ)
Cooper Kupp (@ SEA)
Diontae Johnson (vs. IND)
Corey Davis (@ GB)
Mike Evans (@ DET)
Brandin Cooks (vs. CIN)
Marvin Jones (vs. TB)
Amari Cooper (vs. PHI)
Robby Anderson (@ WAS)
Chris Godwin (@ DET)

Diontae Johnson was able to overcome his issue with drops to record eight catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in Week 15. He’s too good for the Steelers to keep off the field, even if he drops the occasional pass.

Marvin Jones is peaking at just the right time and ranks ninth among WRs over the past three weeks. The Bucs are a pass funnel matchup and have allowed four different WRs to post 130 or more yards over the past four games.

Tier 5

Emmanuel Sanders (vs. MIN)
Tee Higgins (@ HOU)
Juju Smith-Schuster (vs. IND)
CeeDee Lamb (vs. PHI)
Julio Jones (@ KC)

Jones is pushing to return this week, but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play through a hamstring injury that has robbed his 2020 season. Even if he’s able to suit up, it’s going to be difficult to trust him in a championship matchup. I would only roll him out there if you’re a considerable underdog and need to take a shot at his massive ceiling.

We should have a better sense of his status later in the week, but I would be making backup plans for him (like you have been doing all season).

Tier 6

Curtis Samuel (@ WAS)
Jamison Crowder (vs. CLE)
DeVante Parker (@ LV)
D.J. Moore (@ WAS)
D.J. Chark (vs. CHI)
T.Y. Hilton (@ PIT)
Antonio Brown (@ DET)
Marquise Brown (vs. NYG)
Tyler Boyd (@ HOU)
Cole Beasley (@ NE)
Keke Coutee (vs. CIN)

There are a lot of high-floor options in this WR3 Tier. Marquise Brown sticks out like a sore thumb because he has (by far) the highest ceiling but also the lowest floor.

fantasy-football-breakouts-players-picks-marquise brown-2020
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Marquise Brown

We have to remember that in head-to-head formats, whether it’s in DFS or season-long fantasy football, our goal is to outscore our opponent (not every other teams in our league). Therefore I would prefer options like Cole Beasley and Keke Coutee over Brown because we can rely on them for at least a handful of points. But if you’re thin at WR or otherwise looking for upside because you’re a decent sized underdog, by all means, go with Brown.

Tier 7

Russell Gage (@ KC) (-)
Tim Patrick (@ LAC)
Chase Claypool (vs. IND) (+)
Rashard Higgins (@ NYJ)
Allen Lazard (vs. TEN)
Chad Hansen (vs. CIN)
Michael Gallup (vs. PHI)
Laviska Shenault (vs. CHI) (-)
Jerry Jeudy (@ LAC)
Nelson Agholor (vs. MIA)
Sterling Shepard (@ BAL)
Christian Kirk (vs. SF)

Tier 8

Jakobi Meyers (vs. BUF) (-)
John Brown (@ NE)
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (vs. TEN) (+)
Michael Pittman Jr. (@ PIT)
Breshad Perriman (vs. CLE)
Denzel Mims (vs. CLE)
Darius Slayton (@ BAL)
Sammy Watkins (vs. ATL)
Darnell Mooney (@ JAX)
K.J. Hamler (@ LAC) (+)
Mecole Hardman (vs. ATL) (+)
Keelan Cole (vs. CHI)
Cam Sims (vs. CAR)
Mike Williams (vs. DEN) (+)
Kendrick Bourne (@ ARI)
Tre’Quan Smith (vs. MIN)
Golden Tate (@ BAL)

(+) High ceiling: Lean if you’re an underdog and need upside
(-) High floor: Lean if you’re a favorite and need to lock in a handful of points

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Tight End Tiers

Tier 1

Travis Kelce (vs. ATL)

Tier 2

Darren Waller (vs. MIA)

Tier 3

Mark Andrews (vs. NYG)

standard te rankings-fantasy-draft
Silas Walker/Getty Images. Pictured: Mark Andrews

Tier 4

T.J. Hockenson (vs. TB)
Logan Thomas (vs. CAR)

Thomas has been white-hot and has posted the third-most points for tight ends over the past three weeks. Like Terry McLaurin, we can only trust Thomas if either Haskins or Smith is under center. If they have to turn to Heinicke, Thomas could fall to Tier 6 (check my updated tiers later in the week before making any decisions).

Tier 5

Robert Tonyan Jr. (vs. TEN)
Dallas Goedert (@ DAL)
Jared Cook (vs. MIN)
George Kittle (@ ARI)
Noah Fant (@ LAC)
Hunter Henry (vs. DEN)
Rob Gronkowski (@ DET)
Evan Engram (@ BAL)

Kittle could make his return this week. He’ll likely be a high risk/reward type of play, but it would be hard to sit him in the finals. Even in limited playing time, Kittle can produce elite TE1 numbers.

nfl-odds-picks-49ers-vs-rams-spread-sunday-night-football-week-6-2020
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images. Pictured: Georg Kittle.

Tier 6

Dalton Schultz (vs. PHI)
Jonnu Smith (@ GB)
Cole Kmet (@ JAX)
Tyler Higbee (@ SEA)
Mike Gesicki (@ LV)
Austin Hooper (@ NYJ)
Jordan Akins (vs. CIN)
Hayden Hurst (@ KC)
Irv Smith Jr. (@ NO)
Eric Ebron (vs. IND)
Zach Ertz (@ DAL)

This “streaming” tier is full of potential options. Schultz offers some upside if Michael Gallup isn’t able to play through a hip injury. It could result in an extra target or two for Schultz.

Gesicki is questionable with a shoulder injury. His health could send him up or down a tier heading into Saturday.

Tier 7

Dawson Knox (@ NE)
Tyler Eifert (vs. CHI)
Gerald Everett (@ SEA)
Drew Sample (@ HOU)
Cameron Brate (@ DET)
Jimmy Graham (@ JAX)

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Kicker Tiers

Tier 1

Ryan Succop (@ DET)
Wil Lutz (vs. MIN)
Harrison Butker (vs. ATL)
Justin Tucker (vs. NYG)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs. CIN)
Jason Sanders (@ LV)
Cairo Santos (@ JAX)

Tier 2

Brandon McManus (@ LAC)
Matt Prater (vs. TB)
Michael Badgley (vs. DEN)
Cody Parkey (@ NYJ)
Robbie Gould (@ ARI)
Daniel Carlson (vs. MIA)
Mike Nugent (vs. SF)
Tyler Bass (@ NE)
Mason Crosby (vs. TEN)
Greg Zuerlein (vs. PHI)
Jason Myers (vs. LAR)
Rodrigo Blankenship (@ PIT)
Younghoe Koo (@ KC)
Austin Seibert (@ HOU)
Joey Slye (@ WAS)

If you have Koo, just play him — the position is a closer to a coin flip than most and tiers matter much less for kickers than others.

Tier 3

Stephen Gostkowski (@ GB)
Nick Folk (vs. BUF)
Jake Elliott (@ DAL)
Matt Gay (@ SEA)
Dustin Hopkins (vs. CAR)
Graham Gano (@ BAL)
Chris Boswell (vs. IND)
Aldrick Rosas (vs. CHI)
Chase McLaughlin (vs. CLE)
Dan Bailey (@ NO)

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Defense Tiers

Tier 1

Baltimore Ravens (vs. NYG)
Cleveland Browns (@ NYJ)
Houston Texans (vs. CIN)

Tier 2

Chicago Bears (@ JAX)
Buffalo Bills (@ NE)
Arizona Cardinals (vs. SF)
Washington Football Team (vs. CAR)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. ATL)
Miami Dolphins (@ LV)
Philadelphia Eagles (@ DAL)
New Orleans Saints (vs. MIN)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ DET)

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Lavonte David

Tier 3

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. DEN)
Indianapolis Colts (@ PIT)
Carolina Panthers (@ WAS)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. IND)
Los Angeles Rams (@ SEA)
Seattle Seahawks (vs. LAR)

Tier 4

Dallas Cowboys (vs. PHI)
Denver Broncos (@ LAC)
Las Vegas Raiders (vs. MIA)
San Francisco 49ers (@ ARI)
Cincinnati Bengals (@ HOU)
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. CHI)
New England Patriots (vs. BUF)
Green Bay Packers (vs. TEN)
New York Giants (@ BAL)
New York Jets (vs. CLE)

Tier 5

Minnesota Vikings (@ NO)
Detroit Lions (vs. TB)
Tennessee Titans (@ GB)
Atlanta Falcons (@ KC)

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