Weekly recommended fantasy football free agent pickups. The fantasy championship is upon us.
- Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- You probably don’t want to be relying on a rookie who’s been inconsistent the last few weeks in your fantasy football championship game. Nevertheless, famous Jameis is still putting up points most weeks, and Winston and the Bucs have the below average Chicago Bears defense during the week 16 championship matchup. The floor is low, but the ceiling is quite high. If you’re an underdog and your regular QB is a no-go (say, if Brees can’t play this week), Winston makes a defensible upside play.
- Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
- Kirk Cousins led all quarterbacks in scoring a week ago, and he’s only been getting better each week. In fact, at this point it may be safe to call Cousins an average quarterback. He’s been getting more consistent with his deep ball as well. The Redskins have an enormously important game this week on the road against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, and while relying on Cousins is always a bit scary, that’s mitigated by his improved play of late and the Skins’ “must-win” status – wouldn’t you rather rely on a team that has to win at the end of the season, and not one just playing out the string?
- Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
- With Thomas Rawls out for the rest of the fantasy season, the Seahawks picked up two high-upside running backs who’ve never translated their athleticism into consistent production in Bryce Brown and Christine Michael. Michael looked great week 15, and earned most of the carries in the second half and will likely earn most of them again week 16. While this may still be a committee, Michael has the upside, given his team’s proficiency and his own athleticism, to be a solid RB play in the championship game.
- Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers
- At 14-0, the Panthers will likely rest their beat-up workhorse Jonathan Stewart another week. Artis-Payne should lead the Panthers backfield in his absence. Tolbert will steal some goalline work, and Fozzy Whittaker may be in the mix still, but the lead back for the Panthers against the Falcons defense is an inherently valuable proposition.
- Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
- OK, so you’ve learned not to trust the Lions’ offensive line to produce running lanes by now. Fine. But hear me out – Abdullah has the 49ers pitiful defensive unit week 16. If you need to hit a homerun this week , and have been bitten with injuries at running back, Abdullah is a high risk/high reward play to do something special. He’s also coming off his best ground game of the year week 15.
- Jerrick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings
- Adrian Peterson rolled his ankle up week 15, and although he returned against the Bears, his status for this Sunday night’s game is not 100% guaranteed. I expect Adrian Peterson to play (he’s a freak of nature, after all), but McKinnon would have a scrumptious matchup against the G-men stop unit should Peterson sit this one out.
- Shane Vereen, New York Giants
- Odell Beckham’s suspension was upheld for week 16. That will mean trouble for the Giants offense, and likely an early deficit. Enter Shane Vereen, the Giants’ pass-catching and hurry-up offense specialist. It’d be a truly speculative play, but the game flow of this one should favor Vereen ex ante.
- Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers
- Ginn has caught 2 touchdowns in each of the last three games. You’ll have to sweat out the perception of a nonexistent floor, but his floor may actually be rising as Newton’s favorite target behind G-Reg. Ginn can hit one out of the park for you if you need a new flex and are an underdog in your championship match-up.
- Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans
- Zach Mettenberger will quarterback for the Titans with Mariota shut down for the year with an injury. This is a big bump down for the Titans’ prospects in real football, but just fine for DGB in fantasy – Mettenberger has aired it out downfield more than Mariota and won’t be afraid to let ‘er rip towards his imposing, but raw, deep ball target.
- Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
- The Steelers offense is unstoppable right now, most recently evidenced by the destruction of Denver’s number one ranked defense in week 15. Wheaton finished with 6 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown, and has generally seen an uptick in targets with enough of them to go around for the Steelers offense, even with Brown and Bryant well ahead of him in the pecking order.
- Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins
- Matthews should return from his rib injury this week (he practiced Wednesday), and could supplant Devante Parker in the number 2 wide receiver role again, at least for this season.
- Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks
- With Russell Wilson the best quarterback in football the last month, all Seattle receivers receive a big boost. While Baldwin and Lockett should already be snatched up in your league, Kearse may be on the waiver wire and represents a low floor, high upside dart throw.
- Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
- Former second round draft pick Zach Ertz went off for 8 catches, 78 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals week 15, and has generally been seeing increased volume as of late. Expect a high target count to continue against Washington.
- Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
- With Martellus Bennett on injured reserve, and with Bennett unlikely to return to the Bears next year, expect John Fox and co. to feed decent target levels Miller’s direction, in case he could be an answer to the question of next season’s starter at TE for Chicago. Fire him up if Alshon Jeffrey can’t play this week.
- Will Tye, New York Giants
- Larry Donnell, the Giants’ regular starting tight end, is on injured reserve and will therefore miss the rest of the season. Tye has been arguably a better receiver since taking over, and now Odell Beckham will miss the fantasy championship with a suspension. While the Giants’ offense will be somewhat limited as a result, Tye could serve as the number two (or one) option in the passing game as a result of the suspension.
(This list only includes defenses owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues in order to limit it to likely streaming candidates)
- Detroit Lions (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
- The Lions’ defense has been an above-average unit over the second half of the season, and it does not appear to be a fluke. Darius Slay and Ezekiel Ansah give this team a star on the defensive line and secondary, respectively. And now Blaine Gabbert is coming to town, only one of the worst starting quarterbacks of our generation. I’m starting the Lions D in my own fantasy championship with confidence.
- Minnesota Vikings (vs. New York Giants)
- The formerly strong Vikings defense has been beat up recently and not been performing quite as well lately, so keep tabs on the Sunday statuses of Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith. Most of their key defensive personnel should be back week 16, however, and face the Odell Beckham-less New York Giants.