Sneaky Week 16 Fantasy Football Starts: Philip Rivers, Noah Fant, more

Players flying under the radar this week who might be able to help you win your fantasy matchup.
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A fantasy championship is so close you can almost taste it! Week 16 presents its own unique set of challenges for fantasy managers. Can you trust underperforming big-name players with everything on the line? Will teams like the Ravens rest their starters in the second half if the Patriots lose on Saturday? There are some under-the-radar options that can help you win your league this week. Here are some players who are sneaky starts in Week 16.

QUARTERBACKS

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins

Look who’s back on this list again this week after another 20-point performance. Fitzpatrick has turned into a pretty reliable option for those lacking a true superstar at the position. He’s got everything you want: volume, production and a dynamic weapon at wide receiver. Fitzpatrick is averaging 37.7 attempts per game since Week 7, never throwing fewer than 33 passes in any game in that timeframe. Over the last four weeks he’s averaging 22.2 points per game, the eighth-best output at the position. DeVante Parker, sans Adam Gase, is developing into the star player many thought he would be when he was drafted out of Louisville. On top of all that, the Dolphins take on the Bengals this week. Cincinnati ranks as the ninth-best defense for fantasy QBs to face this season. Fitzpatrick, Miami’s leading rusher this season, is a borderline QB1 in 12-team leagues this week.

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Rivers has been brutal this season for fantasy managers after being a very solid low-end QB1 option that you take late in drafts for the last handful of years. He’s the QB20 this season, averaging just 16.2 fantasy points per game with only four 20-plus point performances this season. However, there are a few factors in his favor this week that could have him flirting with the 20-point plateau again this week. Oakland’s secondary isn’t great to begin with and has been ravaged by injuries throughout the season. The Raiders allow the third-most points to fantasy QBs this season. The average point total for fantasy QBs over the last four weeks against them is 23.5. Rivers has to avoid throwing multiple picks, something he couldn’t do in the first meeting this season, but if he does he should be in line to challenge QB1 territory. Plus, there may be a little extra motivation for the 38-year-old. There’s a good chance this is the last home game for Rivers as a Charger. Go out with a bang.

RUNNING BACKS

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers are going to be forced to use their running backs more in the passing game this week with wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller all out with hamstring injuries. Head coach Bruce Arians said as much on Tuesday. While Jones hasn’t been used heavily as a receiver this season, he did have that eight-catch game against the Cardinals in Week 10. That’s the game fantasy managers hope to get from Jones in Week 16. The Texans are beatable on the ground too if Tampa Bay chooses to go that route more often because of all the injuries. The Texans allow the sixth-most points to fantasy RBs this season. The Buccaneers are going to put up points and the production has to come from somewhere. Jones could be featured heavily in this game.

Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles

Scott is carving out a nice little role in the banged up Eagles offense as of late. He has 29 touches over the last two weeks with a combined 38.3 fantasy points in PPR leagues. Jordan Howard’s status remains unchanged, meaning he still hasn’t been cleared for contact and will likely not play in Week 16. Scott’s 13 catches over the last two weeks have been a huge boost for his fantasy value, and that volume shouldn’t change even if Nelson Agholor returns this week. The Cowboys are right around league average against fantasy RBs as a whole and in average receiving yards allowed to RBs. A 20-point game is probably asking too much, but there’s no reason Scott can’t score in double figures for the third straight week and finish among the Top 30 RBs.

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

Cohen ranks as an RB2 in PPR leagues over the last six weeks with an average of 12.8 points per game. Mitchell Trubisky is looking his way a ton lately. Cohen has 16 targets and caught 13 of them over the last two weeks. The game script looks like it could be very favorable for him as well, with Patrick Mahomes rolling into town. If the Chiefs put up points early and often, Cohen is going to get a huge snap share, lining up in the backfield and outside as the Bears throw to try to mount a comeback. The Chiefs allow the third-most points to fantasy running backs this season to boot. You can read more about why I like him as a starter this week here.

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions

There’s no guarantee Johnson will play, but if he does he’s worth throwing into a flex spot if you don’t have other reliable options. Detroit’s backfield has been a mess since he went down, but let’s not forget the type of numbers Johnson produced over the last two seasons when healthy. Johnson was the RB23 in PPR formats before being injured in the first quarter of his Week 7 game against the Vikings, averaging 13.2 fantasy points per game. Last season, he finished as the RB18 with an average of 13.9 fantasy points per game. The Broncos aren’t a favorable matchup for fantasy RBs, but they’ve been taken advantage of in two of the past four weeks. If Johnson is active, he should get the majority of the carries with Bo Scarbrough’s status up in the air.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

The Steelers undoubtedly have a great defense, but I’m not shying away from Crowder this week. Sunday night’s performance against the Bills aside, the Steelers are better against outside receivers than slot ones. Crowder will likely have the easiest matchup on the field among the Jets’ receiving corps one week after gashing the NFL-leading Ravens with a 6/90/2 performance. There were three down weeks leading into that 27-point prime time performance, but the target volume has remained pretty consistent. Crowder is averaging 7.3 targets per game over the last 10 weeks and has 27 in the last three weeks. Sam Darnold has historically played better at home than on the road, so I’d expect the Jets offense to play fairly well in this game despite the tough matchup. Crowder has five touchdowns in his last seven games and is a solid WR3 this week.

Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins

Given how he played last week it’s difficult to consider McLaurin a “sneaky” play in Week 16, but he’s still available in about one-third of leagues and only started in about 24% of NFL.com lineups last week. He’s not just a decent start this week, he’s a must-start. I have McLaurin ranked as a top-20 wide receiver this week at home against a very beatable Giants defense. Dwayne Haskins isn’t playing great, but he’s playing better lately. McLaurin has been open for weeks, but Haskins was simply missing throws. Over the last two weeks some of those open TD overthrows have turned into scoring plays. His target volume is worrisome, but always bet on the talent. The Giants can’t cover him and he has a very good chance to extend his touchdown streak to three games. Get him in your lineup.

Breshad Perriman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like McLaurin, Perriman seems like an obvious name but that doesn’t bear out in the numbers. He too is a top-20 wide receiver this week but is only owned in somewhere between 10% and 45% of leagues depending on where you play. I understand wanting to roll with the players that brought you to the dance, but name value means nothing at this point in the season. Production is all that matters. Perriman is coming off a three-touchdown, 34.6-point fantasy day and is pretty much the only receiver left standing for Jameis Winston against a vulnerable Texans secondary. Perriman is going to get plenty of looks, and he’s had a lot of success when he’s gotten target volume. Perriman has four games this season with six or more targets. His average point total in those games is 19.6 fantasy points. Take out last week and he’s still averaging 14.6 fantasy points per game in those other three games. Perriman can help you win a championship. Don’t leave him on your bench or waiver wire.

Will Fuller V, Houston Texans

This is the hail mary play for those of you who earned a few upset wins in the fantasy playoffs and are now facing one of the top two managers in your league. Fuller’s floor is as low as his ceiling is high. But if you need an advantage as an underdog this week it’s worth playing Fuller and hoping for the best. No team in the NFL allows more points to fantasy WRs than the Buccaneers. Their secondary gets punished on a weekly basis. Fuller’s speed is going to be a problem for Tampa Bay. Keep in mind that the Buccaneers not only put up plenty of points on offense, they stop the run very effectively on defense. That combination is a recipe for success for all Texans WRs, as Deshaun Watson will be forced to throw a ton in a highly-important game for Houston. Fuller has matchup-winning potential this week, but comes with more than a fair share of risk.

TIGHT ENDS

Jacob Hollister, Seattle Seahawks

Hollister plays the Cardinals this week. Do I really need to say more? This stat bears repeating: Arizona is allowing 18.8 points per game to TEs this year. That’s 2.5 more points per game than Travis Kelce, the No. 1 overall player at the position. Ricky Seals-Jones just scored two touchdowns against them. Players like Ross Dwelley, T.J. Hockenson, Greg Olsen and Will Dissly have had big games against them this season. The latter name is what fantasy managers should look to as a comparable for this game. Dissly had a 7/57/1 performance against the Cardinals in Arizona back in Week 4. Hollister can match those numbers at home this week and is a borderline TE1.

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

Fant is flying under the radar a bit right now because he’s a little banged up and the Broncos’ offense stalled in the snow at Arrowhead Field last week. However, we’ve seen Fant and fellow rookie Drew Lock develop some chemistry over the last two weeks. Fant had a 4/113/1 performance two weeks ago and a 2/56/0 game last week where he missed an entire quarter. The Broncos are back at home this week and are facing a Lions defense that ranks in the middle of the pack against fantasy TEs this season. The weather should be beautiful in Denver and the entire Broncos offense should bounce back. Fant is a borderline TE1 this week as well.