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Winner winner, chicken dinner

Posted Dec 26, 2017

Week 16 wrapped up the fantasy football season for most, making cheerful winners of some, and salty losers of others

 

With the fantasy football championship now decided for everyone except those few leagues that didn’t get the memo about teams sitting their stars in Week 17, the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for the 2017 season is over. The question now is, were you feasting on a “chicken dinner” (for those of you that know what PUBG is) for Christmas, or did you peck at that crow you were forced to eat?

Did you play Blake Bortles like I suggested, or did you fall into the trap of playing Drew Brees and/or Matt Ryan hoping for a high-scoring shootout? Were you lucky enough to have Todd Gurley this season, or were you stuck with David Johnson on Injured Reserve all season? Did your kicker (Harrison Butker, 18.00 fantasy points) outscore every WR in the NFL except Larry Fitzgerald? Well, let’s go over some of those winners and losers from the final week of the fantasy season now!

 

Winners

Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Bortles’ fantasy week is summed up by the old saying, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” The Jaguars QB finished with 382 passing yards, 31 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a 2-point conversion.

Those numbers were enough to rank Bortles #1 for QBs in Week 16. It wasn’t a bad way to finish the season for a QB nobody wanted, until they stopped hating the Jaguars and embraced the new-look Jaguars. Bortles finished his fantasy season with 3,529 passing yards, 313 rushing yards, 23 total TDs (21 passing, 2 rushing), and 11 INTs, and the #8 rank for fantasy QBs this season.

Whatever you think he is, or isn’t, he IS a QB1 in fantasy football for 2017!

Jimmy Garoppolo – 49ers: Jimmy G. didn’t light up the box score with record-breaking passing numbers, but he did enough to finish Week 16 as the #5-ranked fantasy QB. Garoppolo finished 21 of 30 passing for 242 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT against the Jaguars.

Garoppolo heads into Week 17 with 1,268 passing yards, 6 TDs (5 passing, 1 rushing), and 3 INTs as a 49er. If he can do this with the group of WRs he has to throw to, imagine what he can do with a quality group of guys out wide! The 49ers have found their answer at QB.

Dion Lewis – Patriots: Had Todd Gurley not gone all MVP on the league in Week 16 (276 total yards, 2 TDs), Dion Lewis had a real chance at finishing as the #1-ranked RB. Lewis carried the ball 24 times for 129 yards and a touchdown, then chipped in 5 catches for 24 more yards and another TD.

All told, Lewis finished with 43.52 fantasy points in PPR formats for Week 16. If you remember, I recommended Lewis as one of my RB starters this week because I knew all that Mike Gillislee talk was just that – talk! Did you trust me, or did you listen to the “experts” over at ESPN, Yahoo, or NFL.com? 

Giovani Bernard – Bengals: Giovani Bernard didn’t get the start with Joe Mixon back from his concussion, but Bernard finished the game as the lead back after Mixon was injured early in the 1st quarter. Bernard took over and didn’t look back, toting the ball 23 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. Bernard also reeled in 7 of 7 targets for 52 yards, adding to his PPR value this week.

Bernard’s role for the future is up in the air with Mixon taking over at RB. Maybe he sticks as the passing-down back for the Bengals, but Mixon showed this season that he can be an every-down back in the NFL. Stay tuned all those in keeper leagues. 

Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals: Fitzgerald is as timeless as the sea, drawing 15 targets in Week 16, reeling in 9 of them for 119 yards and a touchdown. Even with nobody you want at QB throwing to him, Fitzgerald proved with this performance he is still as good as any WR in the NFL.

Fitz is a sure-fire 1st ballot Hall of Fame player, and said he will take some time this offseason to decide on his future. My guess is his 2018 fate will rest in the hands of what the Cardinals have at QB. If Carson Palmer laces up the cleats for one more run, I’d bet Fitzgerald comes back for his last hoorah as well.

Jakeem Grant – Dolphins: The little-known, and zero-owned WR from the Dolphins came through with a monster game against the Chiefs pass defense this week, hauling in 4 of 6 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown.

The 107 yards were 107 percent better than his entire 2016 season, as he didn’t record a single catch for a single yard. Grant’s normal role is that of a return specialist, a role that is unlikely to change next year. Maybe he gets a few targets in Week 17 for those still playing, but I wouldn’t bet my season on him. Be aware, and beware.

Keelan Cole – Jaguars: Cole burst onto the fantasy football scene back in Week 13 when he racked up a 3/49/1 line against the Colts. That isn’t hard to do against the Colts secondary, I will give you. But he followed that effort with a 3/99/1 line against the Seahawks, and a 7/186/1 line against the Texans after that.

With Cole sporting a 3-game scoring streaking heading into Week 16, he was someone I was high on when recommending waiver wire picks for those in need of a streaming option at WR. Cole did me proud as he hauled in 6 passes for 108 yards this week. He didn’t score, but 6 catches and 108 receiving yards is not something you find on the waiver wire in Week 16!

What the Jaguars do this offseason with the WR depth chart is going to be interesting, so keep an eye on the transaction report to know who to draft, and where to draft them in 2018.

Antonio Gates – Chargers: While I recommended Dion Lewis, I advised people to stay away from Antonio Gates because he is now a TD-or-bust TE for fantasy purposes. Gates came through for those of you that didn’t listen to me this week, catching 6 of 8 targets for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Gates finishes the 2017 season as the #1 TE for Week 16, a rank he hasn’t held since possibly Week 13 of the 2016 season (8 of 13 targets for 94 yards and a TD). He’ll be in the HOF with Fitzgerald on his first try, and this was a great way to finish off his fantasy football career.

Arizona Cardinals defense: The Cardinals did a number on the Giants this week, beating them 23-0 at home. The offense accounted for 2 TDs and a field goal, but defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche came up with an Eli Manning fumble, and rumbled 21 yards for his first career touchdown.

The Cardinals shut out the Giants, so that is worth 14 points in most formats right there. Add in the 2 sacks, 2 INTs, fumble recovery, and defensive touchdown, and you have all the makings of a #1 defensive ranking this week for the Cardinals in standard scoring formats.

 

Losers

Matthew Stafford – Lions: Stafford went to Cincinnati this week and didn’t do his fantasy owners any favors by throwing for just 203 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT. The lack of stats ranked Stafford as the #22 QB for Week 16.

Stafford finishes the fantasy season just outside the QB1 ranks with 4,123 passing yards, 26 TDs, and 10 INTs. He is no longer a plug-and-play QB1 without Calvin Johnson, so draft him next season as your backup unless the Lions make some kind of splash in free agency this offseason.

Russell Wilson – Seahawks: Russell, Russell, Russell, where did we go wrong this week? Well, the Seahawks offensive line is a good place to start, with Wilson running for his life from the word “hike.” Wilson was able to throw 2 TDs this week, which saved his fantasy owners from a complete disaster. But other than that, his Week 16 performance was a complete waste, with 93 passing yards (no, that isn’t a typo) and 30 rushing yards.

While some fantasy leagues do count sacks as a negative for QBs, it’s a good thing they don’t count the yards also lost, because Wilson lost 33 yards on his 3 sacks. The simple reality is that if the Seahawks don’t fix their offensive line via free agency, the draft, or in trades, Wilson is going to be hurt and may never be the same QB. Be aware of that situation when drafting Wilson in 2018.

Derrick Henry – Titans: Despite being owned in over 70 percent of fantasy leagues this season, and projected to be a top-70 fantasy player in the preseason, Henry has managed to finish the 2017 fantasy football season as the #31-ranked RB in PPR formats.

Henry capped off his 2017 fantasy campaign by running the ball 8 times for 25 yards, and catching his lone target for 6 yards. Henry is one of those RBs that has to be owned just in case something happens to DeMarco Murray, but also can’t be played because you don’t know if he will get you 2 fantasy points, or 20. If nothing changes next season with the Titans backfield pecking order, Henry will once again be nothing more than an elite handcuff.

Devonta Freeman – Falcons: Devonta Freeman could have had a fairly solid fantasy day, had he not had several runs called back due to offensive penalties. But as it stands, Freeman finished Week 16 with a measly 56 totally empty yards.

It wasn’t like Freeman could have had 150 yards or anything, but the Falcons did him no favors by picking the worst possible plays to get caught for penalties. Freeman is clearly the lead back in Atlanta, but draws another tough matchup against the Panthers in Week 17 as the Falcons try to secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.

Devin Funchess – Panthers: There is a reason why I never bought into the Devin Funchess fantasy hype after he took over as the No. 1 receiver for the Panthers. Why? Because he isn’t even a guy you can plug into your No. 2 WR role and feel comfortable! It also doesn’t help that Cam Newton has thrown for more than 250 yards only 3 times this season.

Funchess was able to draw just 4 targets against the Bucs dead-last pass defense this week, catching 3 of them for 11 yards. The Bucs didn’t suddenly figure things out and come together to shut down the Panthers. No, the Panthers just aren’t a great offensive team, with Newton clearly a shell of his former self as a passer.

Jordy Nelson – Packers: As I knew he would, Nelson finished Week 16 with a YPR (yards per reception) average that looked more like a running back’s YPC (yards per carry) average. Nelson’s 3 catches for 11 yards gave him a VERY modest YPR of 3.7, a number that is unheard of for a team’s No. 1 WR! 

Thankfully Nelson has to endure only one more week of Brett Hundley at QB this season. He will likely drop a few spots in the 2018 fantasy drafts based on this year’s performance. But as long as both he and Aaron Rodgers are healthy, I’d feel confident taking him as my No. 1 WR next year in PPR formats.

Kyle Rudolph – Vikings: Perhaps Rudolph should have worn his red nose on Sunday, because Case Keenum clearly couldn’t find him while making his rounds in Green Bay. The Vikings TE finished Week 16 with 1 catch for 8 lonely yards.

As far as TEs go in fantasy football, Rudolph was a quality one this season, finishing with 56 receptions, 529 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns. If you don’t like burning early picks on guys like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, Rudolph is a quality TE you can get in the later-to-middle rounds. Keep an eye on him if you miss out on Gronk and Kelce next year.

Baltimore Ravens defense: Week 16 sure wasn’t a good one for the top-end fantasy defenses, with the Jaguars and Ravens coming up short of their owners’ expectations. The Ravens were a defense we had high expectations for as they were at home, taking on a Colts offense that has given up the 3rd-most fantasy points this season to defenses.

In the end, the Ravens allowed 16 points to the Colts offense, while netting their owners just 2 sacks and a blocked kick. Their 5.00 fantasy points this week rank them just inside the top 20 fantasy defenses, something no owner wants to see.

If guys like Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young can come back next season healthy, the Ravens should have no problems being one of the better fantasy defenses in 2018. Keep an eye on them this offseason when planning your defensive strategy next draft.

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