Koerner’s Week 16 Fantasy Football Tiers: This Is No Time to Get Cute
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Baker Mayfield, David Johnson and Amari Cooper
- Sean Koerner -- the No. 1 in-season fantasy football ranker in 2015, 2016 and 2017 -- takes a detailed look at his Week 16 tiers for every position: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, defense and kicker.
- Use the strategies outlined below to build the most optimal starting lineup for your fantasy football team.
Below you’ll find my tiers for Week 16 fantasy football. These are based on standard scoring and cover every position.
As a reminder, these tiers are not updated after publication. If you want my most up-to-date rankings for PPR, Standard and Half-Point PPR leagues, check out this post.
Patrick Mahomes (@ SEA)
If there’s one thing to nitpick on about the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy football, it’s his lack of rushing stats from the past two games. He has zero combined rushing yards in those games. C’mon Mahomes!
Andrew Luck (vs. NYG)
Drew Brees (vs. PIT)
Russell Wilson (vs. KC)
This is a solid group to be relying on in your fantasy football finals matchup this week. Each QB possesses` a high floor/ceiling combo this week.
Brees may have been underwhelming for fantasy owners as of late. He has failed to clear 205 passing yards in four straight games, while throwing for multiple touchdowns in just one of those games.
Keep in mind that the Saints just played three straight road games. Brees is historically much better at home, and he gets the Steelers this week. We should see Brees bounce back in a big way.
Dak Prescott (vs. TB)
Ben Roethlisberger (@ NO)
Deshaun Watson (@ PHI)
I view Prescott as more of a high-floor play this week. Think of him as being a lock for right around 15-18 fantasy points with a great matchup at home.
The Cowboys should control this game, so I don’t expect a ton of passing yards from Dak, but I can’t see him flopping in this spot either. If you are an underdog and in need of a higher upside option, you can choose someone from Tier 4 below, as there isn’t much of a drop-off.
Tom Brady (vs. BUF)
Aaron Rodgers (@ NYJ)
Mitch Trubisky (@ SF)
Jared Goff (@ ARI)
Kirk Cousins (@ DET)
Baker Mayfield (vs. CIN)
Matt Ryan (@ CAR)
It’s important to not let the final week of fantasy football cause us to panic and make stupid decisions. We have to stick with the process that got us here. This week, like all others, we aren’t trying to be perfect.
We will likely have a player or two on our bench outscore someone in our starting lineup. There is still a good deal of variance/luck involved in fantasy that we can’t overcome. But as long as we are making decisions that are more likely to work out, we will win more often in the long run.
I can see people wanting to start Josh Allen over someone like Goff.
Using Goff’s past three games as a sample size, I have no argument to use in his favor. Unfortunately, we can’t just use the average score from the past few games for our Week 16 score, so building sound projections should be our main focus.
I know this all may sound obvious and we know this subconsciously, but I think it’s critical to drive it home in a week like this, when people often go against this philosophy and it costs them.
Goff has completely fallen apart in December. He has one passing touchdown to seven interceptions. Playing on the road against the Cardinals as two-touchdown favorites might allow the Rams to just run it and win easy.
But I’m thinking with Todd Gurley banged up, Sean McVay could use this spot to gameplan Goff to have a big game to get his confidence back before heading into the playoffs.
There are rumors that the Packers could shut down Aaron Rodgers as soon as this week. It’s pretty simple: if he plays, start him and if he sits, well … don’t start him.
If you own Rodgers, you must add the top available quarterback as a backup plan, just in case.
Lamar Jackson (@ LAC)
Lamar Jackson relies on a positive game script to rack up designed runs. In a matchup the Ravens could end up trailing heading into the fourth quarter, it will be interesting to see how he handles a situation where he is forced to throw more.
It could elevate his ceiling in a sense, as I’m sure we will still see him scramble a ton, only to put up more passing stats. But his floor is a bit scary this week considering a healthy Joe Flacco is his backup.
I can see a scenario where the Ravens turn to Flacco to operate a more pass heavy offense if they are down by two scores.
Ultimately, I put all my time in my projections/rankings to let you know where he stands in sit/start decisions, but just realize Jackson is a high risk/reward play this week.
Jameis Winston (@ DAL)
Nick Foles (vs. HOU)
Philip Rivers (vs. BAL)
The late-season heroics of Nick Foles are happening again this year. He managed to lead the Eagles to a stunning victory against the Rams as nearly two-touchdown underdogs.
This home matchup against the Texans is not an imposing one, as Houston has been creamed via the pass for this month.
Foles is a late-season steal in two-quarterback leagues and would make for the ideal backup plan for Rodgers owners.
Marcus Mariota (vs. WAS)
Josh Allen (@ NE)
Allen is the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy football the past four weeks. This is purely due to his three-game stretch during which he rushed for at least 99 yards in each game.
I am a bit worried novice fantasy owners will plug him into their starting lineups this week and get burned.
Don’t get me wrong, he has one of the highest ceilings at the position, but also a lower floor. The best way to think about it is that he probably won’t single-handedly win your matchup for you, but he could lose it.
The quarterback position is one where we just want to get at least 15 points and anything else is icing on the cake.
Allen has been looking for his initial read, but if that’s covered, he has just taken off running. I have a feeling Bill Belichick will gameplan in a way that could force Allen out of that process, making him much more likely to have a floor game.
To be clear, my projections try to balance out ceiling/floor so I’m not saying he will for sure have a floor game here; instead, his rank reflects where I think his risk/reward balance out.
Derek Carr (vs. DEN)
Case Keenum (@ OAK)
We have now entered two-QB-league-only plays. Both quarterbacks have lost their top receiver this season and are making the most of it. Keenum is a bit higher in my rankings than usual this week because of the matchup.
Sam Darnold (vs. GB)
Nick Mullens (vs. CHI)
Eli Manning (@ IND)
Ryan Tannehill (vs. JAX)
Matthew Stafford (vs. MIN)
Darnold showed some sneaky rushing ability in Week 15 that puts him on the two-QB map this week. He is still a work in progress, but could end his rookie season on a high note.
He’s facing a defeated Packers team that will not make the playoffs this season. Their lack of motivation could allow him to put up useful fantasy numbers again at home this week.
Seeing Darnold build chemistry with a playmaker like Robby Anderson is boosting his upside, as well.
Josh Johnson (@ TEN)
Taylor Heinicke (vs. ATL)
Cody Kessler (@ MIA)
Jeff Driskel (@ CLE)
Johnson has some upside with his rushing ability, but if he is forced into a negative game script where he has to throw, I think it could get ugly.
If you are in a deep two-QB league where it’s only a one-point penalty for an interception, you could do worse.
Johnson is the last quarterback I can make a case for playing in any format.
Josh Rosen (vs. LAR)
This is another week where I don’t think the Cardinals let Rosen play the whole game. If they get down big again, there’s no reason to let their rookie quarterback have Aaron Donald & Co. chasing him around.
Based on standard scoring; +/- indicates how many Tiers up/down each player would move in a PPR format.
Ezekiel Elliott (vs. TB)
Todd Gurley (@ ARI)
Zeke’s fantastic matchup, coupled with Gurley being pretty banged up heading into a game the Rams should win easy, makes Elliott my No. 1 RB this week.
We will need to monitor Gurley closely, but I think he should be fine; if he is playing, he needs to be in all lineups.
Christian McCaffrey (vs. ATL)
With Cam Newton being shut down, there is a chance that the Panthers also limit McCaffrey’s workload this week. This is currently where I have him ranked, but that could drop if/when I start lowering expected workloads for running backs out of the playoff picture.
With CMC, it doesn’t matter; even if he’s limited in any way, he is a rock solid RB1. This applies to running backs further down where it may impact sit/start decisions.
Reminder: This piece is mostly about mid-week ranks/strategy but you ultimately need to use my updated rankings before locking in any lineup decisions as they can change drastically from now until kickoff.
Saquon Barkley (@ IND)
Nick Chubb (vs. CIN)
Barkley is in the same boat as McCaffrey. The Giants have no reason to give him a full workload. We are at the point of the season where any serious injury will put a player’s Week 1 status for the 2019 season in doubt.
As the league begins to make smarter data-driven decisions, I think teams shutting down players to preserve their health for the following season will only become more common.
Chubb is in a smash spot. The Browns are nearly double-digits favorites (follow live odds here throughout the week) and still have a chance to make the playoffs. Couple this with a fantastic matchup, and he is a top-five back for finals week.
I try to educate everyone on how to use a strategic mindset and find an edge quickly in crucial situations. As soon as the news broke that Carlos Hyde was being traded to the Jaguars, there were three different initial reactions from fantasy owners:
- How does this impact Carlos Hyde? Is he going to get enough touches this on the Jaguars to start him this week? Or any week going forward? Do I drop him?
- Does this mean Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury is worse than we thought? Is this a sign he will be out two or three more weeks at least?
- Nick Chubb is now the starting running back for the Browns by default. I need to go grab Nick Chubb in any league he is still available
Be person three. While all three reactions are strong takeaways from the news, the first two offer no immediate value and are merely things to ponder. The third was a reaction that had an immediate action required and the faster you came to this conclusion, the more likely it was you were able to snag Chubb before someone else.
It likely did come down to mere minutes or even seconds to beating others in adding him. This likely caused quite a few people to single handedly win their league this year.
I tried to help by tweeting out to go get Chubb immediately, but regardless, it’s important to react to breaking news in a way that you can immediately have control over and benefit from
Alvin Kamara (vs. PIT) +1
After a three-game scoring drought, Kamara finally reached the end zone again in Week 15. His yardage totals have been a bit disappointing of late which has made him rely on scoring to return RB1 value in non-PPR formats.
The home matchup against the Steelers should be a shootout so his touchdown odds are elevated in my model this week.
Melvin Gordon (vs. BAL)
Phillip Lindsay (@ OAK)
Joe Mixon (@ CLE)
Gordon should return this week and be trusted enough to roll out in the champ.
Lindsay has slowed down big time the past two weeks. I think we all knew he was not going to be able to sustain his ridiculously high yards per carry rate, but he has regressed to way below average. Look for him to bounce back against the Raiders this week.
Derrick Henry (vs. WAS)
Dalvin Cook (@ DET)
Chris Carson (vs. KC)
David Johnson (vs. LAR)
Henry has launched himself into the RB1 discussion as he followed up his 17/238/4 rushing line Week 14 with a 33/170/2 line in Week 15.
The Titans featured Dion Lewis as their lead back for most of 2018, but as we enter the final weeks of the season with opposing defenses wearing down, it makes sense to unleash a human bulldozer like Henry in a run-heavy approach.
In a must-win game at home, favored by 10 over the Redskins, we can expect another big workload for Henry.
Marlon Mack (vs. NYG)
Tevin Coleman (@ CAR)
James Conner (@ NO)
Elijah McGuire (vs. GB)
Jamaal Williams (@ NYJ)
Leonard Fournette (@ MIA)
Mack is in a smash spot here; he should be a lock for close to 20 touches in a positive game script. Coleman owners have an easy decision to make with this this week now that Ito Smith was placed on injured reserve.
He is a high-end RB2 this week with RB1 upside.
Conner is set to return from his ankle injury, but we need to wait and see how effective he will be before locking him in. With Aaron Jones on IR, Williams is now the lead back for the Packers and makes for a great low-end RB2 play.
Fournette had his workload limited last week as the Jaguars start preserving him for next season. For someone who’s fantasy value is tied to his high volume, this is a big blow to his value heading into the championship week.
Sony Michel (vs. BUF)
Tarik Cohen (@ SF) +1
Cohen is a bit of an anomaly, as he is able to put up consistent value with only 10-15 touches. This is purely driven by his talent and playmaking ability, so he is someone we can rely on each and every week.
Michel’s value gets a bit of a boost this week as the Pats are 13-point favorites at home and should use a run-heavy attack to put the Bills away.
Mark Ingram (vs. PIT)
Gus Edwards (@ LAC)
Lamar Miller (@ PHI)
Jordan Howard (@ SF)
James White (vs. BUF) +1
Doug Martin (vs. DEN)
Miller was forced to leave Week 15 with an ankle injury and likely caused quite a few teams an opportunity to advance to the finals.
With so many top players putting up duds in Week 15, it’s quite possible for some teams to have survived even with his 0.8 fantasy points.
Miller is someone in the sit/start range dealing with an injury who I am monitoring closely.
Be sure to check my updated rankings over the weekend once we have a better idea of his health.
Kalen Ballage (vs. JAX)
Spencer Ware (@ SEA)
Peyton Barber (@ DAL)
Josh Adams (vs. HOU)
Matt Breida (vs. CHI)
Damien Williams (@ SEA) +1
Kenyan Drake (vs. JAX) +1
This tier will be very volatile in my rankings as we learn more about each backfield. Adam Gase mentioned that Drake’s workload was not limited due to injury in Week 15 even after Frank Gore left the game with what turned out to be a season-ending injury.
Look for Ballage to take over the workhorse role, along with goal-line back duties, and for Drake to assume his usual role of being the main pass catching back.
Adrian Peterson (@ TEN)
Dion Lewis (vs. WAS)
Theo Riddick (vs. MIN) +1
LeSean McCoy (@ NE)
Jalen Richard (vs. DEN)
Kenneth Dixon (@ LAC)
Jeff Wilson (vs. CHI)
Zach Zenner (vs. MIN)
Austin Ekeler (vs. BAL)
I would only feel comfortable with this tier in deeper leagues. With Kerryon Johnson placed on IR, Riddick is a decent play in PPR formats.
It’s worth pointing out that he has failed to score this year, which is a bit puzzling and I guess he has two weeks left to use whatever touchdown dance he may have been planning this season.
Zenner seems to have taken over as the between-the-tackles runner for the Lions over LeGarrette Blount. I would be very hesitant to rely on him in the Finals, as his floor is quite low if he fails to score for the third straight game.
Nyheim Hines (vs. NYG)
Trenton Cannon (vs. GB)
Jaylen Samuels (@ NO)
LeGarrette Blount (vs. MIN)
Wendell Smallwood (vs. HOU)
Duke Johnson (vs. CIN)
Samuels exploded for 172 total scrimmage yards in Week 15. It may allow the Steelers to be a bit cautious with Conner returning from a fairly serious ankle injury this week.
Stay tuned as Samuels could shoot up my ranks if we get any word this is turning into a running back by committee or if there is any chance Conner can’t suit up this week.
DeAndre Hopkins (@ PHI)
Davante Adams (@ NYJ)
Michael Thomas (vs. PIT)
Julio Jones (@ CAR)
With no clear-cut No. 1 WR this season, we have a much tighter group up top that causes a log jam in Tier 1. As always, I’m not here to pick apart their matchups, as they should be started in 100% of leagues.
Let’s save our time/energy worrying about tougher decisions this week.
Antonio Brown (@ NO)
Tyreek Hill (@ SEA)
JuJu Smith-Schuster (@ NO)
T.Y. Hilton (vs. NYG)
Adam Thielen (@ DET)
Amari Cooper (vs. TB)
Robert Woods (@ ARI)
Patrick Peterson never covers the slot, so Woods should have the best matchup for the Rams this week. With Gurley hobbling a bit, I can see them peppering Woods with even more targets underneath. He certainly deserves to be in this WR1 Tier.
Cooper has a great matchup on paper, but there’s reason to believe the Cowboys don’t need him to go off to win. Also worth pointing out that after being a sieve the entire first half of the season, the Bucs have not allowed a 100-yard receiving game in the second half of the season.
Brandin Cooks (@ ARI)
Stefon Diggs (@ DET)
Keenan Allen (vs. BAL)
Mike Evans (@ DAL)
Julian Edelman (vs. BUF)
Keenan Allen suffered a game-ending injury before he could record a reception in Week 15. Similar to Lamar Miller, there is a chance Allen didn’t cause his owners to be eliminated in the playoffs, as it was a very low-scoring week.
We will need to monitor him closely this week and check my updated rankings once it’s closer to lock to see where he ends up once we know more about his health.
Odell Beckham (@ IND)
Tyler Lockett (vs. KC)
Kenny Golladay (vs. MIN)
Beckham is in a similar situation as Allen where I’m just putting him in as a placeholder assuming he plays at less than 100% health. Unlike Allen, OBJ’s team has zero playoff hopes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit again this week.
Alshon Jeffery (vs. HOU)
Doug Baldwin (vs. KC)
Jarvis Landry (vs. CIN)
All three receivers were drafted as WR2s back in August. For various reasons, all three have failed to live up to their draft stock in 2018, but are all trending up and carry the WR2 value you were banking on heading into the fantasy football championship week.
Allen Robinson (@ SF)
Josh Gordon (vs. BUF)
Robby Anderson (vs. GB)
Corey Davis (vs. WAS)
D.J. Moore (vs. ATL)
Dante Pettis (vs. CHI)
Calvin Ridley (@ CAR)
Chris Godwin (@ DAL)
Mike Williams (vs. BAL)
Anderson is clicking with Darnold right now. He is always a high-upside play, but we haven’t been able to trust him quite yet this year. However, heading into Week 16, his floor is high enough to warrant WR3 treatment with a WR2 ceiling.
I’m expecting DeSean Jackson to sit again this week, so take Godwin’s rank with a grain of salt. If DJax were to return, Godwin will drop in my ranks and may not be reliable enough to start this week.
Williams could shoot way up if Allen is ruled out for the Chargers this week. He should not be available in any leagues.
Larry Fitzgerald (vs. LAR)
Josh Reynolds (@ ARI)
Courtland Sutton (@ OAK)
DaeSean Hamilton (@ OAK)
Adam Humphries (@ DAL)
Tim Patrick (@ OAK)
Jordy Nelson (vs. DEN)
Kenny Stills (vs. JAX)
Demaryius Thomas (@ PHI)
Robert Foster (@ NE)
Curtis Samuel (vs. ATL)
Dede Westbrook (@ MIA)
Antonio Callaway (vs. CIN)
Golden Tate (vs. HOU)
Pretty interesting to see three Broncos wide receivers all right next to each other in my projections.
I would describe this situation as musical chairs; they are all so close that we know at least one of them will put up fantasy value, we just can’t be sure as to who it will be. As a result, there will be one or two who put up a dud since the Broncos’ offense can’t carry three receivers to all hit value in one week.
I would consider Foster the most overlooked player in fantasy football right now. With the projections process I have each week, I’m able to pick up on players whose value could soar before the public catches on.
I tried to sound the alarms on Foster last week by saying he was a high upside gamble worth taking. He rewarded those who took a chance with a 4/108/1 line.
Foster started out as a one-trick pony who only went deep, but the past few weeks, his route tree has become very balanced. I would compare it to what we saw from Marquise Goodwin in 2017.
One other thing that could help his value this week is that he plays the Patriots. I mentioned earlier that Belichick will likely force Josh Allen to beat them with his arm. If this theory holds true, it could result in an extra couple of targets for Foster.
Sterling Shepard (@ IND)
Mohamed Sanu (@ CAR)
Taylor Gabriel (@ SF)
Isaiah McKenzie (@ NE)
John Ross (@ CLE)
Tyrell Williams (vs. BAL)
Randall Cobb (@ NYJ)
Jamison Crowder (@ TEN)
Taywan Taylor (vs. WAS)
Zay Jones (@ NE)
Michael Gallup (vs. TB)
Tre’Quan Smith (vs. PIT)
David Moore (vs. KC)
Shepard will shoot up my rankings if Beckham is ruled out again. We discussed Ross quite a bit on this Week’s Fantasy Flex Pod. With Tyler Boyd now likely done for the season, we should see John Ross become the No. 1 WR for the Bengals.
I mentioned on the pod that if he can’t put up production these next two weeks, I think it might be time to move on from him long term. We’ve seen a trend that if a first-round talent like Ross doesn’t show a certain level of on-field production in his first couple seasons, he rarely pans out.
Travis Kelce (@ SEA)
Congrats if you spent an early draft pick locking in the top tight end this season. This position has been so brutal that it’s only enhanced Kelce’s value. He is two points clear in my (standard scoring) projections this week of the No. 2 tight end.
Zach Ertz (vs. HOU)
Eric Ebron (vs. NYG)
George Kittle (vs. CHI)
I fully expect Ertz and Ebron to bounce back this week after putting up duds in Week 15.
Kittle has a brutal matchup this week, as the Bears have yet to allow any tight end to go for 50-plus receiving yards on the season.
He is essentially matchup-proof at this point, and I expect Kittle to be the first tight end to eclipse 50 yards against them this year.
Rob Gronkowski (vs. BUF)
Jared Cook (vs. DEN)
Both tight ends carry a ton of upside. While they also can put up a dud any given week (like they did in Week 15), we just have to keep in mind that they are still elite options for their position.
Don’t overthink it this week. If you have either one of these guys, you are starting him.
Evan Engram (@ IND)
David Njoku (vs. CIN)
Cameron Brate (@ DAL)
Jaylen Samuels (@ NO)
Jimmy Graham (@ NYJ)
Vance McDonald (@ NO)
Trey Burton (@ SF)
Austin Hooper (@ CAR)
Christopher Herndon (vs. GB)
Kyle Rudolph (@ DET)
C.J. Uzomah (@ CLE)
Samuels became the “cheat code” I was talking about last week on TE-eligible sites, as I had him ranked as my No. 2 tight end. He did not disappoint as he ended up being the top scoring tight end of the week and was a full five points higher than runner up Garrett Celek.
I’m ranking him here as if Conner returns this week and splits some of his work with Samuels.
In the event Conner is ruled out, there is a chance Samuels ends up being my No. 1 ranked tight end. Check my updating rankings to see where I have him once it’s time to lock in sit/start decisions.
Ian Thomas (vs. ATL)
Vernon Davis (@ TEN)
Matt LaCosse (@ OAK)
Ricky Seals-Jones (vs. LAR)
Anthony Firkser (vs. WAS)
Gerald Everett (@ ARI)
Blake Jarwin (vs. TB)
All of these desperation-play tight ends have some sneaky appeal this week. Keep in mind that you are ultimately trying to get lucky and pick the one who scores a touchdown.
Everett may have the highest upside of the group, as it appeared that Goff has started to lean on him more to possibly get out of his funk. Everett — who Sean McVay once compared to a young Jordan Reed — has seen seven targets in back-to-back weeks.
Greg Zuerlein (@ ARI)
Adam Vinatieri (vs. NYG)
Wil Lutz (vs. PIT)
Stephen Gostkowski (vs. BUF)
Harrison Butker (@ SEA)
Dan Bailey (@ DET)
Brett Maher (vs. TB)
Sebastian Janikowski (vs. KC)
Justin Tucker (@ LAC)
Chris Boswell (@ NO)
Matt Bryant (@ CAR)
Ryan Succop (vs. WAS)
Mason Crosby (@ NYJ)
Mike Badgley (vs. BAL)
Jake Elliott (vs. HOU)
Greg Joseph (vs. CIN)
Cody Parkey (@ SF)
Matt Prater (vs. MIN)
Brandon McManus (@ OAK)
Robbie Gould (vs. CHI)
Jason Sanders (vs. JAX)
Jason Myers (vs. GB)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (@ PHI)
Cairo Santos (@ DAL)
Daniel Carlson (vs. DEN)
Chandler Catanzaro (vs. ATL)
Randy Bullock (@ CLE)
Aldrick Rosas (@ IND)
Kai Forbath (@ MIA)
Steven Hauschka (@ NE)
Tennessee Titans (vs. WAS)
Los Angeles Rams (@ ARI)
New England Patriots (vs. BUF)
Chicago Bears (@ SF)
Dallas Cowboys (vs. TB)
Minnesota Vikings (@ DET)
Miami Dolphins (vs. JAX)
Cleveland Browns (vs. CIN)
Indianapolis Colts (vs. NYG)
Green Bay Packers (@ NYJ)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs. BAL)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. HOU)
Atlanta Falcons (@ CAR)
Jacksonville Jaguars (@ MIA)
Denver Broncos (@ OAK)
Houston Texans (@ PHI)
Washington Redskins (@ TEN)
New Orleans Saints (vs. PIT)
Detroit Lions (vs. MIN)
Oakland Raiders (vs. DEN)
San Francisco 49ers (vs. CHI)
Carolina Panthers (vs. ATL)
Baltimore Ravens (@ LAC)
Cincinnati Bengals (@ CLE)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ DAL)
New York Jets (vs. GB)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ SEA)
Seattle Seahawks (vs. KC)
Arizona Cardinals (vs. LAR)
New York Giants (@ IND)
Buffalo Bills (@ NE)
Pittsburgh Steelers (@ NO)