Skip to main content

Week 16 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Players flying under the radar this week who might be able to help you win your fantasy matchup.

This is it, Week 16! If you’re reading this, you made it to your league’s championship game. Or maybe you’re scouring the world wide web for some cheap Week 16 DFS plays. Either way, I’m glad you’re here since I get depressed by the idea that I'm typing these words into the void.

Week 16 is when things start to get a little wacky. A few more teams have been eliminated from the playoff hunt, so players are starting to get shut down for the season. Or consider Todd Gurley, who has some inflammation in his knee. The Rams play the Cardinals this week—do they rest Gurley for the postseason knowing they can beat Arizona without him, or do they ride their star running back since they are still fighting for home field advantage? These are the questions that try men’s souls.

If you have a player whose availability is dicey this week, give yourself an option or two in case he doesn’t play. If you’ve been carrying two quarterbacks or tight ends, pick your starter for this week and drop the other to open up a bench slot and give yourself an out heading into Week 16.

A great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.

Last week, I discussed Josh Allen, Justin Jackson, Damien Williams, Elijah McGuire, Jaylen Samuels, Dante Pettis, Robby Anderson, Mike Williams, Robert Foster and Chris Herndon in this space. Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 16.


Sam Darnold, Jets (vs. Packers, 20th in QB aFPA)

The just-officially-eliminated Packers have been burned by the three competent quarterbacks they’ve faced in the last four weeks. Mitchell Trubisky (235 yards and two touchdowns), Matt Ryan (262 yards and two touchdowns) and Kirk Cousins (342 yards and three touchdowns) all went over the 19.0-point mark in fantasy scoring. Meanwhile, Darnold is coming off of 253-yard, two-touchdown game against the Texans, and he has at least 18.0 fantasy points in three of his last four home games. Throw in a budding rapport with Robby Anderson, and we have the makings of a solid fantasy outing.

Taylor Heinicke, Panthers (vs. Falcons, 30th in QB aFPA)

The Panthers have decided to shut Cam Newton down for the season. Heinicke will draw the start Sunday, but the Old Dominion product is largely an unknown from an NFL standpoint. In the preseason, he completed 24 of 36 passes for 323 yards (9.0 YPA) and two touchdowns against one interception. He also rushed five times for 23 yards and a score. That 7.2 pass-to-rush ratio would fall between Jameis Winston (6.9) and Blake Bortles (7.4) this year, so Heinicke can add points with his legs. He’s obviously a risky start, but there’s some upside here due to the competence he showed in the preseason and his home matchup against the Falcons. Consider this news a slight downgrade for the entire offense, though we weren’t expecting Newton to tear it up this week given his shoulder injury.

Elijah McGuire, Jets (vs. Packers, 19th in RB aFPA)

I was questioned several times on Twitter about my “too-high” ranking of McGuire last week, specifically in PPR formats. But he delivered to the tune of 71 total yards and a touchdown on 21 touches. This serves as a reminder that when we’re looking for production from strange places, just follow the volume. McGuire now has two straight games with 14.1 or more fantasy points and is primed for a third as the Packers limp into MetLife Stadium his week.

BELLER: Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings

Kalen Ballage, Dolphins (vs. Jaguars, 10th in RB aFPA)

Frank Gore is out for the remainder of the year, and it was Ballage—not Kenyan Drake—who took over as Miami’s primary runner last week against the Vikings, gaining 123 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He caught 64 passes in his final two seasons at Arizona State, so he’s a capable receiver, as well. The matchup against the Jaguars isn’t great, though Jacksonville has been much better at home than on the raod this season

Jeff Wilson, 49ers (vs. Bears, 6th in RB aFPA)

On Sunday, Matt Breida tweaked his ankle for the 43rd time this season, so keep an eye on his availability this week against the Bears. If he’s out, Wilson should once again take the reins in the San Francisco backfield. In Week 13 against the Seahawks, he turned 23 touches into 134 total yards, and with Breida out in Week 14 against the Broncos, Wilson turned 24 touches into 96 yards. The Bears defense is formidable, but Chicago has yielded an average of 128 rushing yards in its last four road games.

Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie, Bills (at Patriots, 18th in WR aFPA)

In his last five games, Foster has gone for 3-105 (receptions-yards-touchdowns), 2-94-1, 1-27, 7-104 and 4-108-1. That 1-27 line against the Dolphins underlines his floor, as is often the case with big-play receivers. However, that game came before the Bills cut Kelvin Benjamin, and Foster’s snaps subsequently doubled after that move. His matchups against New England’s outside corners aren’t great, but I’ll typically side with the receiver who has four 90-plus-yard games in his last five outings. As for McKenzie, he’s more of a high-floor PPR play at this point. He has 14 catches and two touchdowns in his last four games.

Dante Pettis, 49ers (vs. Bears, 13th in WR aFPA)

Pettis is on a tear, so he’s not all that sneaky anymore. He has posted consecutive lines of 4-77-1, 5-129-2, 3-49-1 and 5-83 in the last four weeks, making him the No. 3 receiver in standard and the No. 7 receiver in PPR formats in that time. The Bears aren’t a great matchup for receivers, though Pettis will see a lot of Prince Amukamara and new slot corner Sherrick McManis. These aren’t matchups to fear.

Josh Reynolds, Rams (at Cardinals, 19th in WR aFPA)

Reynolds generated 70 yards on five catches against the Eagles, but his 12 targets were the most surprising part of his game log. If Patrick Peterson travels with Brandin Cooks—he didn’t shadow Julio Jones last week, for what it’s worth—then Reynolds would avoid his coverage for most of the day.