Sneaky Starts: Week 16
All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
Like Thanksgiving’s iteration of this article, this will be an abbreviated version, so let’s get right to it.
Taysom Hill (vs. MIA, 13) finally had a bad fantasy outing as the Saints’ starter, scoring just 9.5 fantasy points as the Bucs contained his rushing yards pretty well. He was also the victim of positive game script since the Saints won, 9-0. Update (12/24): Hill is on the reserve/COVID list so he's out this week. Look elsewhere.
Jimmy Garoppolo (@ TEN, 18) had a “floor” game against the Falcons, throwing for just 235/1 against the Falcons while his running backs (including Deebo Samuel) did most of the work. The Titans are a pass funnel defense, so Jimmy G should bounce back with a solid outing.
Justin Fields (@ SEA, 8) has scored at least 16.9 fantasy points in the last four games where he was able to both start and finish. The Seahawks are a little stingy against the pass, but Fields is still a big threat as a runner.
Matt Ryan (vs. DET, 19) has had a tough stretch of mediocre production, but the Lions are a nice matchup and the Falcons’ implied total of 24.5 points indicates the Falcons’ offense will be productive at home.
Rashaad Penny (vs. CHI, 18) only out-touched DeeJay Dallas by a 13-to-11 margin, but it demonstrates how quickly the Seahawks will turn to the “hot hand” in any given situation. Penny should draw another start against the Bears, however.
Jeff Wilson (@ TEN, 1) handled 23 of the team’s 27 backfield touches, but that doesn’t include Deebo Samuel, who continues to see a 6-8 carry role as Wilson’s part-time backfield mate. Keep an eye on Elijah Mitchell’s status; he may be able to return this week and that would certainly hurt Wilson’s Sneaky Start status.
D'Onta Foreman (vs. SF, 11) turned 24 touches into 135 total yards against a very bad Pittsburgh rush defense, giving him 309 total yards and a score in his last three games. The matchup isn’t great, but the touches should be there.
Sony Michel (@ MIN, 21) drew another start and looked better than Darrell Henderson en route to 20 touches for 115 yards against Seattle on Tuesday night. Henderson saw eight touches, so this may be the sort of ratio we see in the Rams backfield for the remainder of the season, assuming Michel continues to play well.
Devin Singletary (@ NE, 17) handled 23 of the team’s 24 backfield touches in Week 15, so it seems that the Bills have finally settled on Singletary as their featured back. The Patriots have given up an average of 147 yards and 0.60 touchdowns to opposing backfields since Week 10.
Rhamondre Stevenson (vs. BUF, 26) is coming off a poor outing against the Colts, who basically shut down the entire New England offense. If Damien Harris remains out, Stevenson will be startable against a Bills defense that has yielded an average of 157 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns to opposing backfields since Week 10, including 224/1 to the Patriots in Week 13.
Craig Reynolds (@ ATL, 25) has handled 40 of the team’s 57 backfield touches in the last two games. Jamaal Williams has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list, so he may play a factor, but Reynolds’ role seems semi-secure for now.
Michael Carter (vs. JAX, 10) out-snapped Tevin Coleman 44%-to-30% but only out-touched Coleman 9-to-8. Zach Wilson didn’t target him much (2) in the passing game. I’m expecting this workload split to continue in the short term.
Duke Johnson (@ NO, 4) turned a career-high 23 touches into 127 yards and two touchdowns as the Dolphins eased Myles Gaskin back into the fold after his stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Johnson’s performance means that he’s likely to once again lead this backfield in a tough matchup against the Saints.
Samaje Perine (vs. BAL, 2) will be a decent spot start if Joe Mixon’s ankle doesn’t allow him to play in Week 16. Early word on the ankle seems to be positive, so for now I’m assuming that Mixon will be able to play.
Gabriel Davis (@ NE, 3) was a Sneaky Start last week and delivered a rapturous 5-85-2 on seven targets. He posted 5-43-1 and 2-30-1 in the previous two games, so he’s a favorite red zone target for Josh Allen. With Cole Beasley out, he’s a threat for double-digit targets in a tough matchup with the Patriots. Update (12/24): Davis landed on the reserve/COVID list, so he's out this week and probably next week as well. Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie should pick up the slack. Sanders has a knee injury but the team is optimistic that he'll be able to play.
Russell Gage (vs. DET, 17) has cleared 62 yards in four straight games. He has two touchdowns in that span and has seen a total of 44 targets in the last five games.
Allen Lazard (vs. CLE, 15) would benefit if Marquez Valdes-Scantling (reserve/COVID-19) is unable to get cleared in time. Equanimeous St. Brown missed Week 15 with a concussion but he should serve as the No. 3 WR if he can play against the Browns. (If not, Juwann Winfree could get the call.)
Update (12/24): With Mike Evans ruled out, Tyler Johnson should serve as the Bucs' WR2 alongside Antonio Brown. Johnson should replace Chris Godwin in the slot. Johnson posted 4-41 on seven targets last week and had 5-65 on six targets back in Week 8.
Update (12/24): Braxton Berrios is worth a start with Jamison Crowder out for Week 16. In the seven games that Berrios has played without Crowder over the last two seasons, he has averaged 5.1 catches for 49 yards and 0.29 touchdowns per game.
Josh Reynolds (@ ATL, 31) has cleared 52 yards in four straight games and has two touchdowns in that span. Jared Goff is on the reserve/COVID-19 list but is reportedly “feeling fine,” so perhaps he’ll be able to play in Week 16.
Marquez Callaway (vs. MIA, 29) saw nine targets in Week 15 after seeing four targets in five straight games. Taysom Hill is unpredictable as far as how he divvies up his targets, but Callaway might be able to post another good fantasy line against the Dolphins.
Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle (vs. PIT, 6) would likely serve as the team’s top two targets if Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are unable to get cleared from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time to play.
Evan Engram (@ PHI, 32) has seen at least five targets in four of his last five games and has a great matchup with the Eagles. On paper, he’s a Sneaky Start, though it’s been a disappointing season for the entire Giants’ offense.
James O’Shaugnessy (@ NYJ, 24) has four catches in back-to-back games and has a good matchup with the Jets, who have yielded 5.0-60-0.50 to the position since Week 10.