With most fantasy leagues ending in Week 16, a season's worth of effort ended for fantasy owners around the world. You either won your league title and have bragging rights for a year, or you missed the bullseye and have seven months to figure out where you went wrong. No matter where you fell in the standings, it was a season to remember!
Looking at just this week, the upsets around the league also sent ripples throughout fantasy leagues with studs putting up dud performances. The Panthers came out flat and ended their undefeated run; Ben Roethlisberger failed to move the ball effectively, causing the Steelers to lose to the Ravens; Eli Manning went all Eli Manning and played pitch 'n catch with the Vikings defense; Aaron Rodgers' erratic season came to an even more disappointing finish in fantasy football; and last, but not least, the Jaguars offensive players came up HUGE for fantasy owners when they needed them most!
I could go on and on, but then I would have nothing to talk about below.
Kirk Cousins – Redskins: I will be the first to admit that I was wrong about sitting Cousins this week. Even though he had historically been worse on the road than at home, he came out swinging against the Eagles and finished with 365 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 2-point conversion.
All totaled, Cousins ended Week 16 as the #1-ranked fantasy player overall. He's still a QB2 until the Redskins fix the offensive shortcomings.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Bortles and Drew Brees slugged it out on Sunday, with Bortles finishing #2 overall, and Brees #3 overall. Bortles completed 27 of 35 passes for 368 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs. It was a nice way to cap off a season in which fantasy owners were able to grab their team MVP off the waiver wire.
Bortles will enter the 2016 fantasy draft as a second-tier QB in my books, right behind guys like Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton. That's pretty amazing considering he went undrafted in most of the 2015 leagues!
Tim Hightower – Saints: Hightower is another one of those players you picked up off the waiver wire, and rode all the way to the finish line. This week he finished as the #1 RB in all formats thanks to his 122 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. It was his first 100-yard game since Week 14 of the 2010 season, so one has to wonder if he stole Doc Brown's time machine and replaced himself with the 2010 version of himself.
Nevertheless, Hightower helped a lot of fantasy owners win their league title this week. His future is unclear, but he ended this season as a must-own/must-start fantasy RB!
Karlos Williams & Mike Gillislee – Bills: It's not often you see two RBs on the same team make the winners list, but the Bills racked up rushing numbers against a Cowboys team that is already looking at the list of 2016 draftees. Williams ran the ball 17 times for 76 yards and a touchdown; not to be outdone, Gillislee turned his 9 carries into 93 yards and a touchdown.
Williams also chipped in 21 yards receiving, with Gillislee kicking in 16 receiving yards. With a healthy LeSean McCoy also in the backfield next year, it's hard to know exactly what Williams' (and Gillislee for that matter) role will be. Be aware and beware.
Allen Robinson & Allen Hurns – Jaguars: Robinson and Hurns have been fantasy studs all season long, so Week 16 was sure to be no different against the Saints generous secondary. Robinson hauled in 6 of 9 targets for 151 yards and a touchdown, while Hurns turned on the burners and put up 8 catches, 102 yards and 2 TDs. Robinson is tied for the NFL lead for receiving TDs at 14, and Hurns sits tied for 5th place with 10 TDs of his own.
It's amazing to see what these two sophomore WRs have done, considering that Robinson was a 2nd-round pick and Hurns was undrafted. Robinson is in the round 1 discussion for next year's fantasy draft, while Hurns is a legit WR2 pick in the 3rd or 4th round.
Dontrelle Inman – Chargers: Inman was a jack of all trades this week, playing both WR and safety for the injury ravaged Chargers. While he didn't make any plays on defense, he was able to lead the team in receiving thanks to his 8 receptions (13 targets), 82 yards and 1 touchdown. Inman finished as a top-10 fantasy WR this week, but was owned in under 10 percent of fantasy leagues.
Inman was forced into a role this season with injuries to Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson, so don't head into next season thinking he is anything more than WR depth on fantasy rosters.
Jordan Reed – Redskins: Reed has been a fantasy beast for the past three weeks, putting up a total of 25 receptions, 333 yards and 5 TDs! This week he accounted for 9 of those receptions, 129 of those yards and 2 of the TDs as the Redskins decimated the Eagles on the road.
Reed is a TE1, even with the question marks at QB. Kirk Cousins has shown flashes of being a quality QB, but he needs to spend the offseason honing that ability. With Robert Griffin III gone this offseason, Cousins will enter 2016 as the undisputed starter baring an unforeseen circumstance.
Zach Ertz – Eagles: Ertz was the benefactor of an out of control game in which the Eagles were forced to throw from far behind. Because he saw a league-high 17 targets this week, he was able to put up 13 catches for 122 yards at a position that is already boom-or-bust. He did fail to score, and lost a fumble, but that won't matter given the contrast between TE1s and TE2s in fantasy football.
Ertz will not be anything more than a dart-throw TE in fantasy leagues as long as the Eagles have a rollercoaster offense and a debatable QB.
Indianapolis Colts defense: I'm sure there weren't many fantasy teams in the finals that were playing the Colts defense, considering that they are owned in less than 20 percent of leagues worldwide. While the Colts defense has been terrible this season, they were able to shut down the Dolphins offense down this week while tacking on plenty of stats for fantasy owners.
The Colts limited the Dolphins to just 12 points, while amassing 6 sacks, one of which was for a safety, and an interception. It was easily their best fantasy game of the season, but I wouldn't trust them in Week 17 any more than I did to do this in Week 16 (not at all).
Tom Brady – Patriots: Brady had his worst game of the season this week, managing to complete just 22 of 31 passes for 231 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Considering he was without Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola at WR, it shouldn't really surprise people that he had this type of performance against the Jets' stingy defense.
Fantasy owners had a good ride with Brady, it just ended with a disappointing game in an already tough matchup. He'll enter next year as one of the first QBs taken off the board.
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: Big Ben had the perfect chance to come up HUGE for fantasy owners, facing the 8th-worst fantasy defense against QBs this season. Instead, the Steelers' entire passing attack looked unprepared and out of its element. Roethlisberger finished as the worst [starting] fantasy QB this week by throwing for just 215 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs.
It could have been worse for him, though, as he had a pick-six on the goal line called back thanks to an offsides call against the Ravens. Injuries killed his fantasy value this season; but, if everyone is healthy to start next season, he'll again be a sleeper on draft day.
Aaron Rodgers – Packers: Playing on the road is never easy, and facing the Cardinals and their stellar defense makes it even harder. Rodgers was the embodiment of terrible, throwing for 151 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. While that is bad, the offensive line did him no favors by giving up 8 sacks. Rodgers also lost 2 fumbles that were returned for touchdowns.
The touchdown came with the Packers trailing by 31 points, so essentially garbage time. The INT looked like something a kid would do on Madden on rookie level. The only good news for fantasy owners that play through Week 17 is the Packers/Vikings game was moved to Sunday night, so they get a few extra days to prepare this week.
Chris Ivory – Jets: Ivory started the season as the one of the hottest RBs in the league, averaging 115 yards and a touchdown through Week 6. However, since then he posted just a single 100-yard game (101 in Week 14) and scored 3 touchdowns over the next 10 games. This week he managed just 38 yards on 11 carries, and 4 yards receiving on 4-of-4 targets.
Ivory has been running on fumes for weeks now, so it is hard to trust him to finish out this season if you are still playing games. Next year, he'll be back on the RB2 map for drafts.
Matt Forte – Bears: It's been a hard season for the versatile Bears RB with injuries to himself and teammates hurting his production following Week 1 when he rattled off 141 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards and a touchdown. This week Forte was again dealing with back problems in the 2nd half of the game, which limited him to just 11 carries for 54 yards, and 3 receptions for 23 yards.
Next week is going to be Forte's final game in a Bears uniform, and his 2016 fantasy value depends on where he lands. He is a dual-threat RB, so you need to keep an eye on him this offseason.
Antonio Brown – Steelers: When your QB makes this list, it is hard for you as the star WR to stay off it. Brown was able to draw 11 targets on Sunday, but he turned those into just 7 receptions, 61 yards and no TDs. The only redemption for Brown is in PPR formats, where his 7 catches got him 7 additional points.
Brown had a record-setting season, becoming the 2nd player (Cris Carter is the other) to reach 120 receptions in back-to-back seasons. Brown is still in the argument for the #1 WR in fantasy football, and is without a doubt a top-3 pick in PPR formats next year.
Mike Evans – Buccaneers: Evans had a golden opportunity this week to finish the fantasy season with a boom against a leaky Bears secondary. But instead of doing that, Evans and Jameis Winston found each other for just 4 completions, 61 yards and no endzone visits. He would have had a 69-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter, but couldn't reel the ball in on what was a football 101 catch.
Evans is clearly the Bucs' No. 1 WR, but he isn't the plug-and-play WR1 many websites try and bill him to be. While his talent is undeniable, he is getting a reputation for being unreliable in games when he should dominate.
Greg Olsen – Panthers: Olsen should have been a top-tier fantasy TE this week, given the fact that the Falcons are the 4th-worst fantasy defense against TEs this season. That didn't happen as the Panthers apparently thought they would just walk across the finish line. Olsen had his second-worst game of the season in Week 16 as he managed just 40 yards on 4 receptions.
What is sad is the Panthers' loss this week could cost them the No. 1 seed in the playoffs if they lose again next week. Olsen is clearly a TE1, and the Panthers are going to come out swinging against the Bucs in Week 17.
Carolina Panthers defense: The Panthers defense has been gold this season, having just five games when they scored fewer than 10.00 fantasy points. This week, however, they seemed to look past the Falcons and managed just 2 sacks and 1 recovered fumble, while giving up 20 points.
They are still an elite fantasy defense, but owners need to beware next week as the Bucs give up the 13th-most fantasy points to defenses. Oh, and don't discount the hype of the spoiler tag the Bucs are sure to hear about all week long, either.